New Honduran president takes office; ex-leader goes into exile
As a new Honduran President, Porfirio Lobo, took office, disgraced and deposed former President Manuel Zelaya flew into permanent exile in the Dominican Republic this past Wednesday. An agreement, brokered earlier in the week, allowed Zelaya to return to exile and avoid a criminal trial for some of the charges that led to his ouster by the military last summer.
Zelaya, accompanied by his wife, two children and President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, left Honduras just hours after Porfirio Lobo was sworn in as president.
Under an arrangement brokered by President Fernandez, Zelaya agreed to abandon the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where he had hid since this past September, and to leave the country as President Lobo took his oath of office.
“We’ll be back,” Zelaya shouted before boarding the plane. Zeleya’s comments seemed hollow as there is little support for his return in Honduras.
Lobo, a conservative rancher elected in November, escorted Zelaya to the airport in a long caravan, according to Honduran television.
“We leave the past behind now and look toward the future,” President Lobo said after being sworn in. “But you cannot advance to the future without healing the wounds of the past.”
Lobo’s first act as president was to sign a decree granting political amnesty for Zelaya. The measure, approved a day earlier by the Honduran Congress, does not grant amnesty for embezzlement charges that the former president may face.
The Honduarn Supreme Court exonerated six top military officers, including the military chief of staff, ruling that they did not act with malice when they rounded up Zelaya on June 28 and flew him to Costa Rica. The ruling had been expected as the military officers had been acting on instructions from the Supreme Court and the Honduarn Congress. The Honduran Supreme Court ruling repudiates the claims made by Zelaya in the international press.
Later Zelaya, under cover of night and with the assistance of the Brazilian Government, snuck back into Honduras and hid in the Brazilian Embassy. Zelaya’s embarrassing bid to reclaim his office proved fruitless.
This past summer the Honduran Supreme Court ordered Zelaya’s arrest for abuse of power, treason and other charges after he refused to drop plans for a referendum that had been ruled illegal and that the Honduran Congress said was aimed at helping him stay in power beyond the one-term limit mandated by the Honduran Constitution.
At the time the Democratically elected Government of Honduras agreed with the Honduran Supreme Court and refused to reinstate Zelaya to office despite international complaints.
Inexplicably, the United States cut off aid to Honduras and yanked the visas of some Honduran officials working in the interim government, a government led by interim President Roberto Micheletti. Despite the fact that Micheletti, the second ranking member of Zelaya’s political party, a party that turned against the deposed leader and supported his ouster, was acting in a Constitutionally appropriate manner, the Obama Adminsitration sided with Zelaya and cut off aid to one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Diplomatic pressure against Honduras waned even before President Lobo won election, an election that was scheduled long before Zelaya’s arrest for illegal conduct.
There were signs Wednesday that the some of the world would soon normalize relations with the new government. In the United States, public outrage against the Obama Adminsitration’s stance in support of Zelaya had tied the Administrations hands and prevented any meaningful support for the deposed Dictator.
Obama’s ally, Dictator Hugo Chavez of Venzuella, had threatened an invasion of Honduras to restore Zelaya to power.
The leftist president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, did not attend the inauguration but has said he would restore diplomatic ties once President Lobo took office.
President Lobo said Tuesday that he expected the United States would soon restore millions of dollars in humanitarian aid.
A senior State Department official said although the U.S. government views the first moves of the new Honduran government as “positive,” no decision has been made on aid.
(CONTACT CONGRESS HERE AND DEMAND THAT HONDURAN AID BE REINSTATED NOW: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml )