Honduras's Ousted Leader Calls U.S. Response Tepid

By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 6, 2009

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 5 -- Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya told the Mexican Congress on Wednesday that the Obama administration has offered only a weak response to leaders of the de facto government that toppled him a month ago.

Zelaya, who has been traveling the hemisphere to garner support for his return to power, spoke to the Mexican Senate after being warmly greeted by President Felipe Calderón, who promised to help him.

"The United States has acted tepidly, it has to be said, and we don't know what is going to happen," Zelaya said. "President Obama is coming to Mexico in a couple of days, and he will have a talk with President Felipe Calderón, who has given us all his support."

Calderón and Obama are to meet this weekend at the North American Leaders' Summit, along with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Although the agenda is expected to focus on economic issues, the environment and Mexico's fight against the drug cartels, the coup in Honduras is likely to come up.

At a news conference after his address to the Senate, Zelaya said that "the United States could end the coup in five minutes . . . with only one hand" if it applied pressure to Honduran business interests. Zelaya told reporters that 70 percent of the Honduran economy depends on trade and funds from the United States.

On Wednesday, a State Department official sent a letter to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) that suggested the Obama administration was taking a go-slow approach.

"Our policy and strategy for engagement is not based on supporting any particular politician or individual. Rather, it is based on finding a resolution that best serves the Honduran people and their democratic aspirations," wrote Richard Verma, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs.

"We have rejected calls for crippling economic sanctions and made clear that all states should seek to facilitate a solution without calls for violence and with respect for the principle of nonintervention," he said. The letter was obtained by the Reuters news service.

Also Wednesday, the Organization of American States said it will send a delegation to push the interim Honduran government to negotiate with mediators. An earlier mission failed to break the stalemate.

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