Porfirio Lobo has been sworn in as the new president of Honduras but Brazil adamantly continues refusing to recognize the election that made him the new Honduran leader. According to Brazilian authorities at the time Lobo was elected Honduras was ruled by a de facto government that had overthrown a democratically elected president.
But, as they say, time goes by and things change. The coup was in June, the election was in November and it is now January. And next month there will be a Group of Rio meeting in Mexico, a good time to change position.
Lobo has been inaugurated now. The deposed president, Zelaya, is expected to leave the Brazilian embassy where he has been holed up since September and travel to the Dominican Republic.
Lobo promises an amnesty for all those involved in the June coup, including Zelaya who is accused of bringing this about by trying to make illegal changes in the constitution.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, and the Foreign Affairs Advisor, Marco Aurélio Garcia, have all been firmly opposed to any dealings with what they see as an illegitimate government in Tegucigalpa.
But Lobo did get 55% of the vote in what observers say was a fair election. And the Rio Group meeting between February 20 and 23, on the beach at Cancun, may be the place to accept that time does go by and things do change.
Garcia, however, says that Brazil will continue to strongly oppose coups and all antidemocratic activities anywhere in Latin America.
Zelaya, ousted last July in a military-backed coup, said on Tuesday that he had accepted an invitation from Dominican President Leonel Fernandez to leave the country with him following the inauguration of his successor.
“I am going to take up his invitation and leave with him (Fernandez), logically with the approval of the government of Lobo Sosa,” Zelaya told the local radio station Globo. He anticipated he plans to reside in Mexico.
Zelaya made a surprise return to the Central American nation on September 21 in a bid to wrestle power back from Micheletti, taking up refuge in the embassy of regional powerhouse Brazil.
This effort and subsequent attempts to be temporarily reinstated as president ahead of Lobo’s swearing-in have ultimately proved unsuccessful.
An angry Zelaya issued a parting shot against the “political persecution” that he said was forcing his departure, accusing Honduran judges in particular of treating him unfairly. He also promised to return at an unspecified date.
Zelaya’s departure and the swearing-in of Lobo cap months of political turmoil that have gripped Honduras since Zelaya was ousted in a Supreme Court-Congress coup on June 28 executed by the military.
Zelaya was originally elected as a moderate conservative but took a sharp turn to the left while in office, aligning himself with Venezuela’s populist leader Hugo Chavez and the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative) group which among other benefits provides to its members Venezuelan oil on long term.
Elected in 2006 for a non-renewable four-year term, he was ousted after forging ahead with controversial plans to hold a referendum to change the constitution so that he could extend his stay in office.
The country’s top court previously ruled the move was illegal, and was part of the bloodless coup during which Zelaya was bundled in his pajamas onto a plane bound for Costa Rica.
Lobo said last week that Zelaya, his family and their entourage could leave Honduras with no fear of being arrested.
The United States condemned the June 28 coup and called but failed to have Zelaya reinstated. It has since recognized Lobo’s election, as have several other Latin American countries, although the majority refuses to accept the election results held under a de facto government.
Meantime Honduras Supreme Court cleared military commanders of abusing their power by expelling then-President Manuel Zelaya from the country last June. The Court dismissed the charges brought by state prosecutors against the six commanders.