GINGER THOMPSON. New York Times. November 10, 2009.
WASHINGTON - Under fire from allies in Latin America and on Capitol Hill, the Obama administration moved Tuesday to try to salvage the American-brokered agreement that had been billed as paving the way for a peaceful end to the coup in Honduras. Instead, the accord seems to have provided the country's de facto government with a way to stay in power until a presidential election scheduled for the end of this month.
The State Department sent Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly to Honduras on Tuesday for meetings with Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted from power as president more than four months ago, and with the head of the de facto government, Roberto Micheletti.
Senior administration officials said Mr. Kelly would try to get both men to abide by the terms of an Oct. 30 agreement that called on them to form a coalition government to run the country while the Honduran Congress prepares for a vote on whether to return Mr. Zelaya to power.
The deal began to unravel last week when the Congress announced it would postpone a vote on Mr. Zelaya's return to power until after the election. In protest, Mr. Zelaya then refused to submit names for the coalition government. And the United States, breaking with its allies in Latin America, announced it would recognize the results of the coming presidential election, even if Mr. Zelaya were not reinstated.
While the announcement was celebrated by Republicans as a "reversal" of the administration's policy, it ignited a storm of criticism from Mr. Obama's allies at home and across Latin America.
Representative Howard L. Berman, Democrat of California, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, telephoned Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg to express his concerns about the administration's handling of Honduran crisis. An aide to the congressman said, "It was not a feel-good phone call."
Frederick Jones, a spokesman for Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the senator believed that the State Department's "abrupt change" of policy toward Honduras "caused the collapse of an accord it helped negotiate."
On Tuesday, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, said that he would not send observers to monitor the presidential election, scheduled for Nov. 29. And many of the organization's 34 members said they would not recognize the election winner unless Mr. Zelaya was reinstated to complete his term.
"Paraguay is not only not going to accept the outcome of the elections, it will not even accept that the elections are held," said Hugo Saguier Caballero, Paraguay's ambassador to the O.A.S. "These elections for us simply will not exist."
Ruy de Lima Casaes e Silva, Brazil's ambassador to the organization, said the situation in Honduras seemed like a "badly written soap opera, with sinister characters played by the de facto regime, which history will judge."
The Obama administration's representative to the O.A.S., W. Lewis Amselem, said that the agreement signed in Honduras two weeks ago did not guarantee Mr. Zelaya's reinstatement, but put that decision in the hands of the Honduran Congress.
Mr. Amselem said it was not possible to translate Latin America's position on the coup into policy, noting that most of its countries had used elections to establish democratic order after coups. And he urgently pressed for a more pragmatic line.
"I've heard many in this room say that they will not recognize the elections in Honduras," Mr. Amselem said at an O.A.S. meeting in Washington. "I'm not trying to be a wiseguy, but what does that mean? What does that mean in the real world, not in the world of magical realism?"