MONTEVIDEO - Leaders of five key South American countries vowed Tuesday not to recognize last month's presidential election results in Honduras, which they condemned as "illegal."
The presidents of the four permanent members of the Mercosur trade bloc -- Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay -- as well as the leader of Venezuela, condemned Honduras' first, post-coup elections last month, because balloting took place without the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
In a statement released after a summit here, the leaders said that because Zelaya "had not been reinstated to the duties to which he was democratically elected... (we) completely reject the November 29 elections."
Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup last June, remains holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa under threat of arrest, after Congress last week voted against bringing him back to the presidency. His term in office was to have ended on January 27.
The joint statement, read out by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and signed by the five heads of state, underscored their "strongest condemnation of the coup in Honduras" and rejected the "unacceptable, serious violations against the human rights and freedoms of the Honduran people."
The declaration added that the Honduras elections had been conducted "in an unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal" manner, and were a blow to the region's democratic values.
The United States and the European Union have hailed the elections as a first step forward out of the five-month crisis. Costa Rica, Panama and Peru also have backed the polls.
Honduras's military ousted the left-leaning Zelaya on June 28 with the backing of the courts, Congress and business leaders, because of his plans to alter the constitution, which was viewed as a bid to extend his term in office.
Meanwhile, the winner of the November 29 election, president-elect Porfirio Lobo, told a news conference Monday that he hoped foreign countries would "open up a little" to Honduras, which had suffered widespread international condemnation and aid freezes after the coup.
Lobo was set to meet in Santo Domingo Thursday with Dominican President Leonel Fernandez. Lobo was expected to ask Fernandez to help mediate in the lingering Honduran political crisis, Dominican media reoprted.
Lobo will arrive in the Dominican capital from San Jose, where he was to meet first with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on a tour to rally support for his bid to lead Honduras.