Honduras proposes solution

WASHINGTON — A delegation representing the leader of the de facto government of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, has proposed to end the political crisis that has divided the country by allowing the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, to return to power under certain conditions.

People close to the talks aimed at resolving the crisis cautioned that while the proposal had been signed by Micheletti's foreign minister, Carlos Lopez Contreras, it was still a work in progress. It had not been fully endorsed by Micheletti himself, they said.

According to a draft of the proposal, provided to the New York Times by U.S. congressional staff members and confirmed by people close to the talks, Micheletti's delegation has proposed that the country's next presidential election, scheduled for Nov. 29, be pushed ahead by one month and that the Honduran armed forces be assigned to guarantee the security and transparency of the voting. The draft would also prevent Zelaya from seeking constitutional changes that would allow him to run for a second term.

The plan also calls for a truth commission to investigate the acts that led to Zelaya's removal, and the establishment of an international commission to monitor the elections.

The most significant point in the proposal calls for Zelaya to resume the presidency until the end of his mandate in January. On June 28, troops rousted Zelaya out of bed and put him on a plane that left the country.

A congressional staff member wrote in an e-mail message that the plan had potential and that Micheletti was discussing it with several of his supporters on Tuesday night. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The officials also cautioned that the proposal had not been endorsed by President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, who is mediating a settlement to the crisis.

After two formal rounds of talks and numerous marathon meetings away from the negotiating table, Micheletti has so far refused to accept any compromise that would allow Zelaya to return to power. And while officials said he had shown some flexibility behind the scenes, his public statements have suggested that he was nowhere close to changing his position.

On Tuesday, his position seemed only to harden further. The Associated Press reported that Micheletti's government ordered Venezuelan diplomats out of the country, accusing them of interfering in Honduran affairs. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a staunch critic of U.S. policy in Latin America, has been one of Zelaya's most outspoken supporters.

In Washington, Zelaya's ties to Chavez, who is accused by critics of undermining democratic institutions in his own country, have set off a fierce debate on Capitol Hill, where conservative Republicans view Zelaya as more of a threat to democracy than those responsible for his ouster. Meanwhile, Democrats want Zelaya to be returned to power.

The proposal being considered Tuesday night was the first sign — though hardly a clear one — that Micheletti's position may be softening under mounting international pressure. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Micheletti on Sunday night, and the European Union announced on Monday that it had suspended about $90 million in aid.

In addition to calling for Zelaya's return as president, the proposal would also establish a "verification commission," made up of monitors from the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union to make sure that parties on both sides complied with the terms of the agreement.

Honduras proposes solution 07/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 1:06am]

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