TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- An international mission to mediate an end to the political crisis in Honduras over the ouster of President Jose Manuel Zelaya ended in apparent failure as the interim government stood firm on keeping the exiled leader away.
The peace bid by the Washington-based Organization of American States aimed also to ease economically crippling disarray over the June 28 coup that removed Zelaya from power, sending him into exile in Nicaragua, and installed Roberto Micheletti as the new ruler.
A delegation led by Nobel laureate Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and including OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza tried and failed to persuade Micheletti to let Zelaya return to office till new elections in November.
Micheletti aides insist he is the new constitutional president and therefore cannot step aside and be replaced by Zelaya.
Micheletti remained defiant and declared his rule would not be derailed by punitive economic and trade actions from the international community.
The latest developments were farthest away so far from the compromise brokered by Arias and backed by the United States and other member states of the OAS. That plan, dubbed the San Jose Agreement, after the Costa Rican city where it came into being, imposed rules of behavior on Zelaya to prevent him from tinkering with the constitution to stay in power longer.
But after the talks between the OAS delegation and the de facto rulers led by Micheletti, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno emerged to tell reporters, "Still, Mr. Micheletti and his supporters do not have the disposition to fully accept" the deal.
In fact, analysts said, the idea of a deal never appeared to have existed in the minds of the Micheletti team, which remained unconvinced throughout. Instead, a Honduran team's preparatory talks in Washington before the mission arrived aimed to ascertain how much they could get away with, they said.
The mission arrived in Honduras Monday and immediately ran into the latest round of unrest, endemic since the June coup. A taxi drivers' protest demanded the payment of a bonus by the interim government, and supporters of Zelaya announced fresh rallies to press for his return to power.
The team met with church leaders, members of Zelaya's government and the deposed president's wife, Xiomara Castro, who has been campaigning for her husband's return.
Delegation sources said Micheletti made clear he would go ahead with the Nov. 29 elections "whether they are recognized or not." He also said Honduras could beat any economic sanctions imposed over the refusal to reinstate Zelaya.
The United States has further cut visa services for Hondurans, after a previous ban on visas for members of the de facto regime. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the visa curbs were intended to reinforce OAS efforts to persuade the de facto government to accept the San Jose deal.
"We firmly believe a negotiated solution is the appropriate way forward and the San Jose Accord is the best solution," Kelly said.