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Honduras dumps neighbors, opens to China and India

  |   March 16, 2011 at 5:47 PM
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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, March 16 (UPI) -- Honduras is shunning neighbors that refuse to recognize its government, questioning its legitimacy, and is reaching out instead to China and India for trade and broader relations.

In one of the first steps Wednesday, Honduras closed its embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, one of the Latin American nations continuing to deny endorsement to the post-coup government of President Porfirio Lobo.

Lobo was elected president after a constitutionally endorsed coup overthrew elected President Jose Manuel Zelaya June 28, 2009, and replaced him with coup leader Roberto Micheletti as the head of a caretaker government.

A U.S.-led compromise to let Zelaya supervise the presidential failed to hold and Lobo was elected virtually under Micheletti's regime, a point cited by countries reluctant to recognize Lobo's presidency.

Despite unsuccessful Spanish brinkmanship last year aimed at Lobo winning international recognition through EU mediation, Lobo remains isolated. The latest measures announced by Lobo signaled the government's defiance and determination to secure change on its own terms.

Officials said Honduras would close embassies in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela -- countries that don't recognize Lobo's government.

Honduran Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati said the resources assigned to Honduran embassies in those countries would be diverted to open trade offices in India, Singapore, China and Canada.

He said Honduran embassies in Colombia, Peru and Chile, which have recognized the government of Lobo, would remain open. Canahuati said that a certain degree of relations will be maintained with the rest of South American countries.

"We have to maintain relations with Latin America," the minister said. "It's better to have friends than enemies."

The opening of trade offices in India, Singapore, China and Canada would help Honduras forge closer relations that could open the way for strategic alliances the country needed to boost development and open new markets for exports.

Canahuati made the comments before traveling to neighboring Guatemala where he expects to meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of the Central America Integration System, SICA.

Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela haven't recognized Lobo's government, arguing his rule is a continuation of the anti-Zelaya coup.

However, the Lobo government enjoys support from the U.S. administration, which recognized the new government, and the Organization of American States.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is continuing to campaign for Lobo's recognition.

She said last year, "President Lobo has done everything he said he would do. He was elected through a free and fair, legitimate election. He provided political amnesty. He set up a truth commission. He has been very committed to pursuing a policy of reintegration."

Analysts said the approach to China and India could prove to be opportune for Honduras, which is rich in gold, silver, zinc and other minerals needed by the two Asian countries' emergent industrial economies.

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