Honduran president-elect gropes for exit in shadow of coup

18:02, December 16, 2009      

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Having been immersed in a political crisis following the June 28 coup, Honduras has been trying to seek a way out of it despite a widely unrecognized presidential election late last month.

However, the election, which was once pinned hopes on to solve the political stalemate, turned out to be controversial and further polarized the Honduran society since many countries refused to recognize it.

President-Elect Porfirio Lobo's triumph is confronted with countless doubts and challenges to restore order in the country. At least for the time being, it seems that the effects of the coup will linger on in the coming months.

A few countries, with the United States in the lead, have decided to accept the electoral results. Lobo considered that this would enable Hondurans to once again attain the country's pre-coup status quo.

With a flicker of hope, Lobo traveled to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic last week in an effort to help "normalize" ties with countries in Central America and to gain external support to avoid being isolated.

Before leaving for Costa Rica, Lobo described Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, the mediator of the Honduran political crisis, as a man with rich experience who would "help Honduras open the door at international stage."

However, Arias, as well as most members of The Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), have made it clear that the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Agreement, which included provisions for a government of national unity and Zelaya's restoration to the presidency, must be fulfilled first.

Meanwhile, Zelaya, who is staying at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, has requested to disavow the outcome of the election. He regarded it as illegitimate, being sponsored by the de facto government without certified observers and with a high abstention of 70 percent.

On Dec. 2, Honduras' congress voted not to allow the reinstatement of Zelaya, a move that closes the door on his return to power.

Some analysts said at the current stage, Zelaya has three options: to face the Honduran congress' charges of betrayal to the country, to request a safeguard to leave the country, or to request amnesty.

Mexico had formally sought to secure safe passage for Zelaya, but the offer was rejected by the deposed leader because he said it would require him to renounce his claims to the presidency. Moreover, Zelaya also had denied the other two options.

As regards the national economy, due to the domestic political stalemate, the country has not revealed an anti-crisis plan against the backdrop of the global financial crisis. The congress has not approved a general budget in the first half of 2009, and there were no regulations on spendings.

The agreements signed with international monetary authorities such as the World Bank or the Central American Bank for Economic Integration had not been enforced yet.

This produced unforeseen expenses over 300 million U.S. dollars. According to the Social Forum of Honduras' External Debt (Fosdeh), from June 28 when a military coup ousted Zelaya till Nov. 30, Honduras even lost more than 1.1 billion dollars in aid.

The organization estimated that by year-end, the Honduran economy would have decreased by 3.5 percent to 4 percent, representing 8 billion to 12 billion lempiras (about 421 million to 632 million dollars).

A drop in the imports of goods and services by 22 percent might further exacerbate the plight, while 650,000 people in the country are living in extreme poverty.

As for next year, Honduras has projected negative growth, and its external debt of 3.6 billion dollars has become almost unpayable.

Although the international community had promised Honduras a package of financial aid, Lobo announced after his overseas trip that international aid worth at least 2 billion dollars would be at stake if the political crisis in his country was not solved.

He said on Monday that the only way for the international community to open its door for Honduras is the resignation of de facto leader Roberto Micheletti, and he is ready to meet with ousted President Manuel Zelaya at any place.

In this regard, it appears as if Lobo might have found a possible exit.

Source: Xinhua
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