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Summit Does Not Recognize Elections in Honduras

by Mario de Queiroz

ESTORIL, Portugal - The hard-line stance taken by Brazil, Argentina and most other Latin American countries has clashed with U.S. efforts to push for international recognition of the elections organized Sunday by the de facto regime in power in Honduras since the Jun. 28 coup.

Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya stand outside Congress in Tegucigalpa December 1, 2009. Congress will meet on December 2 as lawmakers expect the Supreme Court to give an opinion next week on whether Zelaya should be returned to power until a new president is sworn in in January after the November 29 election. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo (HONDURAS POLITICS ELECTIONS) Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and Peru, the only countries in the region that called for the results of the elections to be accepted, ran up against Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's emphatic "no, no and no; categorically no."

Lula was speaking at the 19th edition of the Iberoamerican summit, annual meetings that bring together heads of state and government from 19 Latin American countries along with Spain, Portugal and Andorra.

Leaving Estoril, the beach resort 20 km from Lisbon where the summit was held, a few hours before it ended Tuesday, the Brazilian president said "we must not recognize, or even converse with," Porfirio Lobo.

Lobo, a conservative rancher, won Sunday's controversial elections in Honduras with 55 percent of the vote, five months after President Manuel Zelaya was removed from the country at gunpoint.

In the case of Honduras, "we have to be coherent: we cannot reach agreements with a supporter of the coup, pretending that nothing happened, because soon they'll start to say that everything was Zelaya's fault," said Lula.

He added that his country, Latin America's giant, with a population of 192 million people, "does not compromise with political vandalism."

In equally harsh terms, Argentine President Cristina Fernández questioned the validity of the elections and complained about "double standards" when it comes to judging leaders in the region, depending on where they stand on the ideological spectrum.

"Respect for freedom is neither of the right nor the left," said Fernández. Without naming names, she lashed out at leaders who argue that Lobo should be recognized as president-elect as a compromise solution, saying "there is no such thing as a bit more or less of democracy. It's like being pregnant: either you are, or you aren't."

With regard to democracy, "it's the same thing: either you have democracy, and all rights and guarantees are respected, or you don't have democracy," said Fernández, adding that "respect for democracy in our region has a tragic history, which means defence of democracy must be an all-out defence that makes no concessions."

The nine countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas - an alternative bloc led by Venezuela - also reiterated in Estoril that they did not accept the "illegal and illegitimate" elections in Honduras.

ALBA, which is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela, also called for those "morally responsible for the military coup in Honduras to be brought to international justice for their crimes" by an ad hoc tribunal.

Former Nicaraguan foreign minister Miguel d'Escoto, who presided over the United Nations General Assembly from September 2008 to September 2009, said the coup set an "appalling precedent" and described Sunday's elections as "illegitimate."

"What we are seeing now is that a small group of countries, unconditional allies that are heavily dependent on Washington, decided to initiate a process of recognizing the elections, but the immense majority of Iberoamerica is opposed to them," said d'Escoto, a Catholic priest.

In response to a question from IPS during d'Escoto's conversation with journalists on the role played by Costa Rican President Óscar Arias, the Nicaraguan diplomat accused the president of being "the main instrument of the United States in blocking the return of full democracy in Honduras."

Arias unsuccessfully attempted to broker an agreement between Zelaya and the de facto Honduran government of Roberto Micheletti, and his administration has now become one of the few to recognize the election of Lobo.

"Arias is a fraud," said d'Escoto, "because this Nobel Peace Prize-winner is the biggest obstacle to progress in the region and its emancipation from Washington."

Spain, meanwhile, the biggest donor to Latin America, said at the summit that it would neither "recognize nor ignore" the elections - a stance shared by Portugal.

Given the lack of agreement, the summit put out a special statement on the situation in Honduras, which condemned the coup and called for the restoration of the constitutional order and the immediate reinstatement of Zelaya until the Jan. 27 end of his term, as "a fundamental step for a return to normality."

The situation in Honduras ended up virtually monopolizing discussion at the summit in Estoril, whose main theme was to be "Innovation and Knowledge" - areas that were hardly touched on.

The 20th Iberoamerican summit, which is to focus on "Education", will take place next year in the Argentine resort city of Mar del Plata.

As on previous occasions, the Iberoamerican leaders called in their statement for the United States to "immediately" lift the nearly half-century embargo against Cuba, in compliance with 18 successive U.N. General Assembly resolutions.

The leaders also agreed to cooperate with a view to achieving a "wide-ranging, ambitious and balanced" agreement at the Dec. 7-15 15th Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Copenhagen.

The statement says the Iberoamerican countries consider it indispensable for developed countries to step up financial and technological support for developing nations, in the area of climate change.

It also states that the fight against climate change must be completely compatible with sustained economic growth and efforts against poverty, while responding adequately to the need for adaptation, especially in the most vulnerable developing nations.

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