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Honduras sees slow buildup to endorsement of election

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, April 30 (UPI) -- Honduras is receiving a gradual endorsement of the election that brought Porfirio Lobo to power as successor to ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya and his nemesis Roberto Micheletti.

Lobo announced he would be participating in the May 18 summit in Madrid of leaders of the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean. It will be something of a coming out party for the leader and a return to the international stage for a country pretty much ignored by much of Latin America and the global community since Honduras' November 2009 election.

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Analysts saw U.S., EU and Spanish diplomacy behind the move.

Lobo said he was officially invited to the event in in March and then received a telephone call from Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who told him, "We will be waiting for you."

The crisis unleashed by the June 28 ouster of Zelaya by Micheletti, apparently acting on the advice of Honduran judiciary and with the support of the legislature and military, damaged the Honduran economy and its international standing. The Obama administration and European Union slapped sanctions on the Micheletti regime to try to secure a compromise.

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The solution they favored would have had Zelaya reinstalled as president and overseeing the Nov. 30 election to give it legitimacy.

Zelaya refused to go along with the formula and chose instead to continue his campaign for return to power from his make-shift headquarters in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where he took "shelter" after sneaking back from exile.

Lobo's election triggered a new round of recriminations and was rejected outright by most Latin American governments. Much of the public rhetoric was seen by analysts as righteous posturing, with a nod to Zelaya. As widely predicted Lobo began to be accepted gradually as part of an accomplished fact.

The return of Honduras to the international community was welcomed by analysts and received with relief in the capital as a way out of the crisis. Although sanctions have been lifted and aid packages restored, Honduras is still limping back to economic and diplomatic recovery, and progress has been slow.

Lobo's government is still not recognized by most of the international community, an indication that the United States, European Union and friends of Honduras such as Spain face a task ahead of the country's slow rehabilitation.

But, aside from the phone call from Moratinos, Lobo has had phone calls from U.S. Presidient Barack Obama, his senior aides and EU officials.

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For his part, Lobo took the unusual step of inviting the international community to send representatives to next Tuesday's launch of a truth commission. Zelaya's ouster deeply divided the country and events after the coup remain shrouded in mystery. Critics cite widespread human rights violations as Micheletti sought to silence the supporters of Zelaya.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva questioned Lobo's decision to grant amnesty to officials and military personnel involved in the coup and not extend the pardon to Zelaya, who flew to exile in the Dominican Republic after Lobo's election.

Micheletti's camp always argued that Zelaya was removed because of his attempted tinkering with the constitution to give him another term. Zelaya also lost friends in Washington because of his anti-U.S. rhetoric while in power and frequent political flirtations that appeared to push socialist agenda.

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