Monday, November 2, 2009

Honduras Congress not yet called back into session

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The leadership of Honduras' Congress will meet Tuesday to begin consideration of an accord that could reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya, but no date has been set for bringing the issue to the floor.

Congressman Carlos Lara Watson told HRN Radio late Monday that he and other legislative leaders would decide when to submit the measure to the full Congress for debate. He said the leaders also would consult the courts and prosecutors.

Under the U.S.-brokered pact, lawmakers must decide on whether Zelaya should serve the remaining three months of his term, a decision that could end the country's debilitating, 4-month-old political crisis.

Congressional president Jose Alfredo Saavedra said earlier Monday he would not be rushed despite calls from diplomats not to delay the vote. He said he wanted to consult first with the Supreme Court, which ordered Zelaya's June 28 ouster.

"Once congressional leaders understand the reach of the pact, once they understand its dynamics, then we'll decide what path to follow," Saavedra told HRN radio.

While the legislature backed Zelaya's ouster, congressional leaders have since said they won't stand in the way of an agreement that ends Honduras' diplomatic isolation and legitimizes a presidential election planned for Nov. 29.

The international community has threatened to not recognize the vote if Zelaya is not reinstated.

About 300 Zelaya supporters, who have said they will boycott the election if he is not returned to power, demonstrated at the congressional building Monday.

"We want our president to return and help fight the poverty that we have here," said Juan Sanchez, a 55-year-old unemployed farmworker. He said the group of Zelaya's supporters planned to stay outside Congress indefinitely.

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos were expected to arrive in the Central American country Tuesday accompanied by high-level officials from the Organization of American States.

The two were named to a four-member commission that is to monitor implementation of the pact. The other members will be representatives from Honduras' two major political parties.

The commission will monitor the creation of a power-sharing government, encourage all factions recognize the November elections and ensure the military is put under the command of electoral officials to safeguard the vote's legitimacy.

As part of the accord struck Friday, the commission will also monitor the creation of a truth commission assigned to investigate the coup that ousted Zelaya, who was rousted from his bed by soldiers and flown to Costa Rica.

Zelaya has been inside the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa since Sept. 21, when he made a surprise return to the Honduran capital.

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