Latin states still divided over Honduras presidential win by Lobo

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Latin American states emerged from the Mercosur summit in the Uruguayan capital bitterly divided over the Honduran presidential elections but also split on pragmatic steps like trade and economic collaboration.

The two-day summit, originally called by the regional trade pact to finalize the details of commodity trade and other commercial collaboration, was dominated by the participating leaders' rejection of the Nov. 29 presidential election in Honduras that sealed the fate of ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya.


President-elect Porfirio Lobo offered reconciliation and a return to normalization soon after his election, but his pleas were ignored by critics of the election outcome.

Lobo was elected president amid expectations right up to the last minute that Zelaya would be reinstated for the duration of the poll to lend Lobo's election international legitimacy in accordance with the constitution. But the deal for Zelaya's short-term return to power did not go through, and the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti went ahead with the vote.

Zelaya was ousted from power and exiled at gunpoint to Costa Rica on June 28 after the Supreme Court took exception to his calls for a referendum that could have extended his term in office beyond January 2010.


The ousted president sneaked back into Honduras in September and is currently staying at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital; his next move far from certain. Analysts said Zelaya was considering whether to stay in Honduras or to accept offers of asylum in Brazil as a VIP guest of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Zelaya has declared he will fight on for his return to the presidency and has urged Latin American governments to ignore the election of Lobo as president.

Mercosur heads of state condemned Lobo's election as a major blow to the democratic values of Latin America. But they did not specify what action they would take against Honduras.

The statement at the end of the summit was signed by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Brazil's Lula da Silva, Paraguay's Fernando Lugo, Uruguay's Tabare Vazquez and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

The five leaders said they could not accept Lobo's win as the elections were held in "an unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal atmosphere."

No one is sure how Honduras will react as its Mercosur neighbors continue to take a tough line over Lobo's election. Outgoing de facto President Micheletti has said Honduras will not bow to outside pressure.


At the Montevideo conference, Vasquez read out the statement before handing over the Mercosur chairmanship to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez for the next six months.

In contrast to the Mercosur hard line, the elections have been received as a way forward in Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Peru -- countries that backed the Obama administration's bids for a compromise solution.

Analysts said pragmatic Latin American leaders like Brazil's Lula appear to have been swayed by populist heads of state like Chavez. Honduras already rates as one of the poorest countries in Latin America and has been hit hard by the crisis since Zelaya's ouster.

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