Honduras elects new president in blow to Hugo Chavez
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras | Honduran President-elect Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa lost little time in signaling to the world community that he is reaching out to resolve the legitimacy issue stemming from the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya.
Vote totals available last week gave Mr. Lobo, the candidate of the center-right National Party, a landslide win of 55.7 percent to 38.6 percent for Elvin Santos of Mr. Zelaya’s Liberal Party.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal estimated voter turnout at more than 60 percent.
Mr. Santos, who served as Mr. Zelaya’s vice president before resigning to accept the Liberal nomination last year, joined other prominent Liberals in supporting Mr. Zelaya’s forcible removal on June 28 for purportedly trying to alter the constitution to remain in power.
Mr. Santos conceded defeat at 11:30 p.m. Nov. 29. He, too, seemed to be urging an end to Honduras’ international isolation.
“Today Honduras tells the world that we Hondurans, who may live in a little country in the heart of Central America but who have big hearts, know how to solve our problems peacefully and democratically,” he said.
Moments later, in front of cheering supporters, Mr. Lobo said of his opponent, “Elvin has acted with stature and patriotism.”
Mr. Lobo, who turns 62 this month, said he would form “a government of national unity and reconciliation. There is no more time for divisions. Let’s all move forward together for Honduras. Our government will be for everyone without regard to political colors.”
From his refuge in the Brazilian Embassy, where he has been holed up since Sept. 21, Mr. Zelaya said in an interview with Radio Globo in Tegucigalpa that his call for a boycott was successful despite the high turnout. This, he said, was because many voters abstained when casting their ballots.
Hugo of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.
Mr. Lobo is the eighth president elected since democracy was restored 28 years ago and the third from the National Party. He is a wealthy rancher and a University of Miami business graduate.
Although both traditional parties are essentially center-right and controlled by the country’s oligarchy, Mr. Zelaya, a populist, moved the country sharply to the left and brought it into Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Alternative for Latin Mr. Zelaya fell apart. Mr. Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti blamed each other for the failure.
The hemisphere is sharply divided over whether to recognize Mr. Lobo’s government if Mr. Zelaya is not reinstated first.
The Honduran National Congress is scheduled to vote on his reinstatement tomorrow, but he has now disavowed interest in returning to power.
Moreover, the Supreme Court ruled 14-1 on Nov. 26 that he should first respond to outstanding criminal charges against him.
Mr. Zelaya’s push for a referen-
“They wanted to turn Honduras over to Chavez,” Juan Manuel Zelaya, a news editor with Radio CHN, said of overthrown President Manuel Zelaya. “Hondurans don’t want that. We want a Honduras that is free and independent. We may not have the best constitution in the world, but we don’t have the worst, either.”
Llorens on Nov. 30 declared the election “free and transparent” and called for renewed dialogue between Mr. Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti.
He said the United States would work with the new government “in a very constructive way, and we’ll seek the manner to reestablish the strong ties that the United States and Honduras have always had.”
The United States accounts for 62 percent of Honduran exports and 50 percent of its imports. Honduras, a Virginia-sized republic of 7.8 million people, is one America (ALBA).
The heavy turnout and Mr. Lobo’s convincing victory present a dilemma for the Washingtonbased Organization of American States, which expelled Honduras for refusing to reinstate Mr. Zelaya and refused to send official observers for the election. The OAS announced it would “examine” the election results before determining whether to readmit Honduras after Mr. Lobo is inaugurated on Jan. 27.
The United States did not send observers because a deal it brokered that would have reinstated dum to eliminate the single-term limit for the presidency prompted the Supreme Court to issue a warrant for his arrest. Soldiers flew him out of the country instead of taking him to jail.
Mr. Zelaya has indicated he will leave the Brazilian Embassy and seek political asylum in neighboring Nicaragua.
Besides Venezuela, Brazil and Nicaragua, other regional countries refusing to recognize the election results include Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala and Paraguay.
Only four — Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Peru — have acceded to President Obama’s call to recognize the results in order to “start from zero” and resolve the crisis.
Mr. Lobo said Nov. 30 that France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates had informed him they would recognize his government.
The attitude among many Hondurans seems to be that it is best to move forward and close the Zelaya chapter.
Miguel Veraona, who said he has driven a taxi for 18 years, said Mr. Zelaya “was a good president. He worked for the poor, not for the rich, which is why the rich guys threw him out.”
Still, Mr. Veraona said, “With the election, there is no point in bringing him back now. No one wants that.” He said he voted for Mr. Lobo. “He’s a strong man, and that’s what we need to deal with crime,” he said.
Honduras has one of the world’s highest murder rates and has been plagued for years by organized gangs. One factor in Mr. Lobo’s landslide victory was his promise to get tough on crime.
Juan Manuel Zelaya, a news editor with Radio CHN and no relation to the deposed president, faulted Mr. Zelaya’s intransigence for the failure to end the crisis.
“They wanted to turn Honduras over to Chavez,” he said of the Venezuelan president. “Hondurans don’t want that. We want a Honduras that is free and independent. We may not have the best constitution in the world, but we don’t have the worst, either.”