07.08.09

Statement On The Crisis In Honduras

Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. President, I want to speak briefly about the current political crisis in Honduras.  Vermont and Honduras have had a long, close relationship through the Partners of the Americas, and many Vermonters regularly travel to Honduras to engage in health care and other humanitarian and development work in rural communities.

Last week a lawfully elected President - Manuel Zelaya - was forcibly removed from office and flown to a neighboring country by the Honduran military.  The military and the Supreme Court apparently believed that President Zelaya was acting in a manner that was contrary to the Honduran Constitution.  While such an accusation is troubling, military coups cannot be condoned, particularly when Honduras’ Constitution contains provisions to handle such concerns -- impeachment, for one.  

The sooner the Honduran military reverses course and allows President Zelaya to return the better it will be for Honduras and all of Central America.  He has pledged to leave office at the end of his term, unlike other Latin American leaders who seem to believe constitutions are to be amended with the stroke of a pen so they can remain in office.  When President Zelaya returns, if there is credible evidence that he broke laws, he should be held accountable in accordance with the laws of the country. 

While I condemn the actions of the Honduran military I applaud the efforts of the Organization of American States, with the support of the Obama Administration, to defuse this situation diplomatically.  Removing Honduras’ membership and beginning to impose sanctions in concert with widespread international condemnation is the appropriate response. 

We should also recognize that the people of Honduras appear to be deeply divided over President Zelaya.  Rural Hondurans in particular have been dissatisfied with his performance as President.  When he returns to office I hope he reconsiders his priorities and focuses his efforts on improving the lives of the people of Honduras who are most in need of the government’s assistance. 

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