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CENTRAL AMERICA: Honduras Pushing for End to Isolation

Danilo Valladares

GUATEMALA CITY, Apr 20 2010 (IPS) - More than nine months after the coup d’etat that overthrew the government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, the country is still isolated and remains outside of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Only around 30 countries worldwide have officially recognised the administration of right-wing President Porfirio Lobo since he took office in January.

His government’s latest attempt at reintegration in the international community was a summit meeting scheduled for Apr. 11 in Guatemala, to be attended by Lobo and host President Álvaro Colom and their counterparts Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Mauricio Funes of El Salvador.

But the attempt at reconciliation was cancelled at the last moment because of “scheduling conflicts” faced by Funes, according to the Salvadoran government.

The chief aim of Funes and Colom was to try to bring Honduras back into SICA, the main Central American integration body. To that end, they have to convince Ortega, the only Central American leader who has not yet recognised Lobo, the winner of the November elections held under the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti.

SICA is made up of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The Dominican Republic is an associate member.

“The governments of this region are trying to get Nicaragua to take a more flexible stance, so Honduras can return to SICA and later to the OAS – organisations that put relations with Honduras on hold during the crisis,” Renzo Rosal, assistant director of the Central American Institute for Political Studies, told IPS.

Honduras was suspended from the OAS and SICA following the Jun. 28 coup triggered by Zelaya’s attempt to organise a non-binding referendum on electing a constituent assembly to reform the constitution, which was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and Congress.

Honduras’s reinsertion in SICA is not a question of “forgive and forget,” but of the need to hold in-depth discussions on certain issues first, Rosal said.

“Issues that should be discussed are the role of the Honduran army in a democratic society; the historical two-party system in Honduras; the reconstruction of the social fabric; and the role that the OAS and SICA should play to help solve conflicts like the one in Honduras,” the political scientist said.

Although Lobo met with Ortega on Apr. 9 in Managua, he did not manage to get the left-wing Nicaraguan leader to formally recognise his government.

“We have agreed not to avoid the word ‘unity’, which is of vital necessity – unity in the Central American region,” was the most promising remark made by Ortega in this regard.

In a statement issued by Managua after their meeting, representatives of leftist parties, including the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) headed by Ortega, said they had decided “not to recognise the de facto government of Honduras.”

Nevertheless, the Honduran leader was optimistic. “Relations with Nicaragua will be normalised, just as we will restore our ties with other countries. There is no reason for ties to be cut off, especially not among the countries of Central America,” Lobo said on Apr. 9.

Ángel Orellana, a former lawmaker with Honduras’s centre-right Liberal Party, told IPS that until the events surrounding last year’s coup are clarified, Honduras should not be allowed back into SICA or the OAS.

He said the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission formally established this month by Lobo would be vital towards that end, in order to “clarify the events” of and leading up to Jun. 28.

“A bad precedent could be set if the commitments outlined there are not fulfilled and everything that happened is simply pardoned,” Orellana said.

Central American political analyst José Dávila told IPS that the relative “openness” expressed by Ortega with regard to recognition of the Honduran government is positive, because “Honduras’s isolation affects Central America” as a whole.

“The fight against drug trafficking, organised crime and poverty and for sustainable human development requires all Central Americans to be united on strategic issues, above and beyond ideological questions,” Dávila said.

In the meantime, Costa Rican president-elect Laura Chinchilla told Lobo during an Apr. 12 visit to Honduras that she supported the country’s return to the SICA and the OAS.

“We will be advocating, as we have up to now, the full and total reincorporation of our beloved sister republic of Honduras in all of the region’s bodies,” Chinchilla said.

Guatemalan legislator Félix Ruano, a member of the congressional commission on regional integration, told IPS that the government should reconsider recognition of Honduras and should seek a consensus on the issues of immigration and international cooperation.

Funes has announced a special SICA meeting in El Salvador for Jul. 20, by which time he hopes “Honduras will be fully integrated in SICA.”

“The aim is to evaluate the progress made by the Central American regional integration process and outline directions to be taken to strengthen the process,” the left-leaning Salvadoran leader said.

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