Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya announced yesterday that he would officially end his 30-year affiliation with the Partido Liberal (Liberal Party). Zelaya ran on the Partido Liberal ticket when he was elected president in 2006, but later accused the party’s leadership of having a hand in the military coup d’état that deposed him in 2009.
The coup was ordered to prevent Zelaya from seeking to change the constitution in order to run for another term as president. Still, Zelaya suspects his former party’s involvement. “We have renounced the party that committed the coup,” said the former president in an interview with Radio Globo referring to the Partido Liberal. In a press conference also on Monday, Zelaya went on to say that there will never be justice in Honduras over the coup and he called for the reform of the country’s two-party system, comprised of the Partido Liberal and the conservative Partido Nacional (National Party).
Last May, Zelaya signed an agreement brokered by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that allowed him to legally return to Honduras for the first time since the coup. Following his return, Zelaya founded the Partido Libertad y Refundación (Liberty and Refounding Party – Libre) in August. Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro de Zelaya is likely to participate in Honduras’ primaries in November as Libre’s first presidential candidate.
President Porfirio Lobo arrived early this week on his first visit to the United States since he won Honduras’ presidential elections in November 2009. On Tuesday, he spoke at the University of Miami, which followed earlier stops in New Orleans to meet with business leaders and build relationships with local universities.
High on the president’s foreign policy agenda are the reinstatement of Honduras in the Organization of American States (OAS) and greater diplomatic recognition of his administration’s legitimacy by other Latin American countries. He is also preparing for the start next week of a truth commission, which will investigate events surrounding the 2009 coup that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.
Reports surfaced Monday that President Barack Obama had for the first time phoned President Lobo to discuss the situation in Honduras. President Obama commended Mr. Lobo for his "leadership in his first months in office in promoting national reconciliation and restoring democratic and constitutional order in Honduras," according to a White House statement. Mr. Lobo’s message to his U.S. audiences: ``My duty and my mandate are clear: to unite my people. And I will do it,'' Lobo says, ``I will get everybody who was fighting in 2009 to hug. They will. It's important for them to reconcile.''
The Truth Commission mandated by last year’s Tegucigalpa / San José Accord now appears ready to get to work in Honduras, but controversy has already ensnared it. Supporters of last year’s coup are demanding that the government let sleeping dogs lie, while their opponents fear that the Commission will fail to deliver an honest account of the coup.
Meanwhile, the Commission already appears to be hedging on how much truth it will deliver, another troubling sign for a country where sunlight has never been in greater demand.
Signed on October 30, 2009, the Tegucigalpa / San José Accord once promised the end of Honduras’ political crisis. The Accord failed, however, because it did not stipulate a deadline for the congressional vote on Manuel Zelaya’s restitution, which ultimately led then-President Zelaya to pull his support. Meanwhile, de facto President Roberto Micheletti and key international players—including the U.S. government—clung to the Accord, claiming it was still in effect. Since President Porfirio Lobo took office in late January, he has maintained this line and worked tirelessly to restore international recognition to the Honduran government. The formation of the Truth Commission represents a crucial final step along this path, and the eight-month process stands ready to begin on May 4.
But Lobo’s government faces significant pressure from various sectors of Honduran society. Coup supporters have already said that they have no faith in the process, arguing that it is nothing more than a show for the international community. As has been true since last year’s coup, the Honduran Right continues to call for “national unity” and “consensus,” which in this case appears to mean a Truth Commission that does not rock the boat. Right-wing opponents have also lobbied to exclude human rights violations from the Commission’s purview, which have continued after Lobo took office.