SCENARIOS-Honduras in limbo as crisis talks break down

Source: Reuters

TEGUCIGALPA, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Talks between ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the country’s de facto leaders collapsed this week, throwing efforts to resolve a political crisis sparked by a June 28 coup back to square one. Attempts to reach a deal between Zelaya and the caretaker government of Roberto Micheletti, installed after the coup, have repeatedly snagged over whether the leftist president can return to power to complete his term, which ends in January. A fast-approaching presidential election set for Nov. 29 will likely go forward with or without an agreement. Zelaya, who has been holed up the Brazilian embassy since sneaking back into the country last month, says the vote will be illegitimate if he is not restored first. Here are some possible outcomes going forward: STAND-OFF DRAGS ON, CANDIDATES STEP IN Micheletti, appointed by Congress after soldiers rousted Zelaya from his bed and flew him into exile, claims the leftist was legally deposed for violating the constitution with a plan to hold a vote gauging public support for extending presidential term limits. Micheletti is sticking hard to his position that Zelaya cannot come back. He has stood firm against outside pressure as the United States stripped visas from the coup leaders and cut aid. But the two leading candidates in the election want the new government to be recognized internationally and might be hesitant to receive the presidential sash from Micheletti. Zelaya split his Liberal Party by cozying up to socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez but still has wide popular support. Micheletti, also from the Liberal Party, has angered some in Congress with a recent decree, now lifted, that curbed civil liberties and temporarily shut down pro-Zelaya news outlets. The two leading candidates, Liberal Elvin Santos and Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo from the National Party, could step in with a plan to offer some sort of amnesty to both sides, but so far neither has dared to put forward such a plan. ELECTION BOYCOTT, REPRESSION RAMPS UP Supporters of Zelaya are threatening to boycott elections if he is not returned to office and some leftist candidates have pulled their names off the ballot in protest. Human rights groups accuse the de facto rulers of major abuses, including deaths, and say a free and fair election is impossible with police restrictions on rallies and major media outlets controlled mostly by Micheletti supporters. If no deal is reached, international election observers may refuse to come in November and the de facto leaders could step up repressive tactics against the opposition. The risk is an irregular election that would be a black spot on the new government’s mandate. OUTSIDE WORLD STEPS IN BEHIND A NEW PLAN The special envoy sent by the Organization of American States to support the talks, John Biehl, said he was leaving Honduras after the dialogue broke down. But on his way out, he said the OAS had not given up on a negotiated settlement. A delegation from the Carter Center met with Micheletti and Zelaya this week and said a partial political agreement ahead of the vote could open the door to international observation and recognition of the election process. Micheletti’s negotiating team says the de facto leader would step down if Zelaya agrees to do the same to make way for a coalition government, a solution that would likely be supported by foreign governments. For now, Carter Center representatives and the OAS remain concerned about intransigence on both sides and have not yet decided if they can send election observation missions.(Writing by Mica Rosenberg, Editing by Sandra Maler)
spotted by RS

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