LAT, Arias: US Must Pressure Honduran Coup Leaders

Some people may have hoped that the problem of the coup in Honduras would magically go away once talks began between President Zelaya and leaders of the coup regime under the mediation of Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias. But of course it wasn't so and it isn't so. For the mediation to succeed, a key ingredient is required: sustained and escalating US pressure on the coup regime, until it agrees to the restoration of President Zelaya.

As the Los Angeles Times explains in an editorial today:

The coup leaders

seem to believe that if they can shoulder the hardships until November elections, all will be forgiven. Not so. The Obama administration needs to make it clear now that elections held under those conditions will not be regarded as legitimate and that such a plan would only prolong Honduras' troubles. Meanwhile, the U.S. should consider imposing sanctions on individuals involved with the coup, such as canceling visas and freezing bank accounts.

Indeed, while everybody in the U.S. supposedly loves President Arias, a Nobel laureate with a track record of helping to resolve deep conflicts in the region under difficult conditions, few people in the U.S. (with perhaps the praiseworthy exception of the LAT editorial board) seem to be listening to what Arias is saying.

As the New York Times reported Sunday (perhaps you missed this in the 17th paragraph):

[three officials close to the talks] said Mr. Arias told Mrs. Clinton that the United States had to make clear to Mr. Micheletti [head of the coup government] that elections held by an illegitimate government would themselves not be considered legitimate.

The NYT account corroborates the problem requiring US pressure as stated in the LAT editorial:

Among the most intractable of those obstacles [to a peaceful compromise], said three officials close to the talks, was Mr. Micheletti. While Mr. Zelaya indicated that he was willing to accept a compromise that would return him to office with significantly limited powers, the officials said, it appeared that Mr. Micheletti believed he could run out the clock and hold on to the presidency until his country's presidential elections in November.

Under U.S. law -- the Foreign Assistance Act -- not only is President Obama required to suspend U.S. aid in the event of a military coup; he is not allowed to resume aid until he certifies that a democratically elected government has assumed office. Not just any elections will do. As President Arias and the Los Angeles Times have said, the Obama Administration must make clear to the coup leaders that they must vacate and allow President Zelaya to return before the U.S. will recognize any subsequent election.