A Solution in Honduras

It looks like the political crisis in Honduras has been resolved. Ousted President Manuel Zelaya and his rival, Mr. Roberto Micheletti, reached agreement last week on a deal that will allow the deposed president to complete his term and permit the country to hold elections to replace him later this month. The agreement is a victory for constitutional order in Honduras and may even provide a foundation for broader national reconciliation. It is also a victory for the United States, whose energetic diplomacy produced the deal.

The crisis began four months ago on June 28 when Mr. Zelaya was roused from his bed in the early morning hours by the military, bundled onto a plane and sent to Costa Rica. He was charged with ignoring a Supreme Court order to abandon a planned referendum that would have allowed him to rewrite the country's constitution. His opponents allege that Mr. Zelaya was plotting a "coup" by changing the charter and lifting the ban on presidential re-election, an accusation that Mr. Zelaya denies.

Equally significant for his detractors was the increasingly close relationship the president had forged with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Mr. Chavez is a leftist firebrand who styles himself the regional leader of socialist forces throughout Latin America. It is hard to imagine a relationship that would provoke greater anxiety and anger in Honduras.

After his ouster, regular marches by Mr. Zelaya's supporters had paralyzed the Honduran capital. Most foreign governments refused to recognize the new administration and imposed sanctions on the new government. Mr. Micheletti recognized that he did not need a second president to focus opposition to his government and was adamant that Mr. Zelaya not return, even blocking the runway when a plane carrying the deposed president attempted to land, forcing it to return. For Mr. Micheletti and his supporters, an election scheduled for Nov. 29 would resolve the crisis when a new president was selected.

Mr. Zelaya insisted that he had to complete his term in office if any election was to be legitimate. On Sept. 21, the ousted president sneaked back into the country and took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy, where he was surrounded by troops who blasted the building with noise to keep inhabitants from sleeping and promising to arrest the president if he left the premises.

The standoff was resolved last week when the two sides agreed to a deal in which Mr. Zelaya would return to office, both sides would recognize the results of the November ballot in which neither he nor Mr. Micheletti would run, a truth commission would be set up to investigate the events of the last four months, and a unity government would ensure that the deal is implemented. Foreign governments also promised to honor the results of the upcoming election and lift sanctions they had imposed. The deal must get the stamp of approval from the Honduran Supreme Court and the national legislature must also agree. It is not clear what happens if either rejects the accord, but they have little reason to do so.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias played an important role in bringing the agreement about. Mr. Zelaya called the agreement "a triumph" for democracy. Allowing Mr. Zelaya to serve out his term preserves the Honduran constitutional order and should serve as a reminder to all would-be usurpers that coups are no longer business as usual in Latin America.

It was the unwavering demand by the members of the Organization of American States (OAS) that the constitution be upheld that produced this agreement. Sanctions — a heavy burden on one of the region's poorest states — along with persistent negotiations by the OAS pushed the two sides together. But when OAS-brokered talks broke down, the U.S. stepped in to close the deal. Senior U.S. diplomats increased pressure on the Micheletti government, demanding that Mr. Zelaya be allowed to return if the election results were to be honored. U.S. influence remains strong in Honduras and sanctions were taking a toll. The looming elections and the prospect of an independent commission also reduced hostility to Mr. Zelaya's return: There is less concern now about him rigging the ballot.

The deal helps shore up the U.S.' democratic credentials in Latin America. Washington was charged with turning a blind eye to "friendly" coups when it looked the other way when Mr. Chavez was briefly overthrown a few years ago. That tarnished the U.S.' image in the region. Standing up for Mr. Zelaya, despite the support Mr. Micheletti enjoyed among conservatives in the U.S. Congress, helps Washington reclaim the moral high ground and undercuts popular leftists like Mr. Chavez.

Now the Honduran Congress needs to approve the deal and the election campaign can resume without the taint of a coup. Equally important will be the work of the truth commission, which may provide some reconciliation for a society that is deeply divided. That is the best insurance that there will be no coups in Honduras' future.

The crisis began four months ago on June 28 when Mr. Zelaya was roused from his bed in the early morning hours by the military, bundled onto a plane and sent to Costa Rica. He was charged with ignoring a Supreme Court order to abandon a planned referendum that would have allowed him to rewrite the country's constitution. His opponents allege that Mr. Zelaya was plotting a "coup" by changing the charter and lifting the ban on presidential re-election, an accusation that Mr. Zelaya denies.

Equally significant for his detractors was the increasingly close relationship the president had forged with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Mr. Chavez is a leftist firebrand who styles himself the regional leader of socialist forces throughout Latin America. It is hard to imagine a relationship that would provoke greater anxiety and anger in Honduras.

After his ouster, regular marches by Mr. Zelaya's supporters had paralyzed the Honduran capital. Most foreign governments refused to recognize the new administration and imposed sanctions on the new government. Mr. Micheletti recognized that he did not need a second president to focus opposition to his government and was adamant that Mr. Zelaya not return, even blocking the runway when a plane carrying the deposed president attempted to land, forcing it to return. For Mr. Micheletti and his supporters, an election scheduled for Nov. 29 would resolve the crisis when a new president was selected.

Mr. Zelaya insisted that he had to complete his term in office if any election was to be legitimate. On Sept. 21, the ousted president sneaked back into the country and took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy, where he was surrounded by troops who blasted the building with noise to keep inhabitants from sleeping and promising to arrest the president if he left the premises.

The standoff was resolved last week when the two sides agreed to a deal in which Mr. Zelaya would return to office, both sides would recognize the results of the November ballot in which neither he nor Mr. Micheletti would run, a truth commission would be set up to investigate the events of the last four months, and a unity government would ensure that the deal is implemented. Foreign governments also promised to honor the results of the upcoming election and lift sanctions they had imposed. The deal must get the stamp of approval from the Honduran Supreme Court and the national legislature must also agree. It is not clear what happens if either rejects the accord, but they have little reason to do so.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias played an important role in bringing the agreement about. Mr. Zelaya called the agreement "a triumph" for democracy. Allowing Mr. Zelaya to serve out his term preserves the Honduran constitutional order and should serve as a reminder to all would-be usurpers that coups are no longer business as usual in Latin America.

It was the unwavering demand by the members of the Organization of American States (OAS) that the constitution be upheld that produced this agreement. Sanctions — a heavy burden on one of the region's poorest states — along with persistent negotiations by the OAS pushed the two sides together. But when OAS-brokered talks broke down, the U.S. stepped in to close the deal. Senior U.S. diplomats increased pressure on the Micheletti government, demanding that Mr. Zelaya be allowed to return if the election results were to be honored. U.S. influence remains strong in Honduras and sanctions were taking a toll. The looming elections and the prospect of an independent commission also reduced hostility to Mr. Zelaya's return: There is less concern now about him rigging the ballot.

The deal helps shore up the U.S.' democratic credentials in Latin America. Washington was charged with turning a blind eye to "friendly" coups when it looked the other way when Mr. Chavez was briefly overthrown a few years ago. That tarnished the U.S.' image in the region. Standing up for Mr. Zelaya, despite the support Mr. Micheletti enjoyed among conservatives in the U.S. Congress, helps Washington reclaim the moral high ground and undercuts popular leftists like Mr. Chavez.

Now the Honduran Congress needs to approve the deal and the election campaign can resume without the taint of a coup. Equally important will be the work of the truth commission, which may provide some reconciliation for a society that is deeply divided. That is the best insurance that there will be no coups in Honduras' future.

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