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Honduras mulls amnesty for activists

Dec. 17, 2009 at 6:36 PM   |   Comments

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Honduran President-elect Porfirio Lobo is actively considering a general amnesty for all political activists involved in the June 28 takeover that toppled Jose Manuel Zelaya and triggered an international crisis over the legitimacy of the de facto government that succeeded Zelaya.

Lobo was chosen in a Nov. 29 election that itself was marred by controversy because Zelaya, who sneaked back into Honduras from exile in September, conducted a passionate campaign for return to power from the Brazilian Embassy.

The takeover deeply divided Hondurans and led to riots, economic dislocation and partial sanctions against the impoverished state. Both the United States and the European Union drew back on aid packages as part of a diplomatic effort to try and persuade de facto President Roberto Micheletti to accept a return to constitutional government.

Zelaya and supporters are still opposed to Lobo's election, even though the new president has extended an olive branch to all critics and opponents of his presidency as well as the Micheletti regime that he will succeed in January.

Lobo and Congress President Jose Alfredo Saavedra made the announcement of a possible political amnesty as part of Lobo's avowed plan for national reconciliation in the aftermath of the divisive episode that began with the takeover and culminated in the presidential poll.

Saavedra said Congress and the executive together would seek to name a committee of experts and parliamentarians to initiate a dialogue with various political groups. He said the talks would be followed by a bill to be presented to Congress, making clear the amnesty would not be a unilateral measure by Lobo.

Neither Congress nor Lobo has specified a timetable for the amnesty to take effect.

However, Lobo made clear the amnesty would not wash away criminal acts committed by those involved and would only deal with political crimes.

Analysts said the definition of political offenses and criminal acts promised to engulf Honduras into a sensitive and fraught political debate for some time to come.

Lobo said, "We all have to forgive each other, and (with the amnesty) the sooner the better" because it's a message of prudence for the international community, MercoPress reported.

Meanwhile questions remain over the fate of Zelaya. Brazilian government officials said President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's aides had conferred with the Obama administration officials on finding a way forward to resolve the issue.

Senior Brazilian officials have called for Micheletti's early departure as the first step toward deciding what to do about Zelaya. Lula and other Latin American leaders have offered him hospitality, but the eventual fate of the ousted president remains unclear.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela met with Marco Aurelio Garcia, Lula's foreign policy adviser, to discuss the issue. Garcia told reporters after the meeting that Brazil favored a safe passage for Zelaya out of Honduras.

In addition to questions over the fate of Zelaya, Brazil and the Obama administration still need to resolve differences over the November of election of Lobo; analysts said Brazil is still hesitant to recognize Lobo's legitimacy.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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