Clinton Says Hemisphere Must `Move Forward,' Welcome Honduras Back to OAS

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Honduras should be readmitted to the Organization of American States, potentially putting the U.S. at odds with Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, Latin America’s largest economies.

“It’s time for the hemisphere as a whole to move forward and welcome Honduras back into the Inter-American community,” Clinton told delegates from 33 nations today in a speech at the OAS general assembly in Lima.

Honduras was expelled from the group after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in June 2009 and put on a plane to Costa Rica. Some OAS members have refused to recognize the country’s new leadership after Porfirio Lobo was elected in November, saying the ballot was administered by a coup-installed government.

“We saw the free and fair election of President Lobo, and we have watched President Lobo fulfill his obligations,” Clinton said. She added that he had formed “a government of national conciliation and a truth commission” and has shown “a strong and consistent commitment to democratic governance and constitutional order.”

Member states want Honduras to return quickly to the organization though there is disagreement on whether the membership should be conditional on allowing Zelaya to return to the Central American country without fear of arrest, Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said yesterday in opening remarks.

Last year’s OAS resolution to readmit Cuba if it meets a set of conditions could provide a framework for the readmission of Honduras, said Christopher Sabatini, a senior policy director at the Council of the Americas in New York.

Compromise Possible

“There is likely to be some sort of compromise,” Sabatini said, speaking by telephone from New York. “There could be some conditions and stipulations that will give cover for Brazil and Argentina and Mexico to climb down and save face.”

Cuba has been suspended from the OAS since 1962. The organization voted to revoke the 1962 suspension of Cuba if the country meets OAS standards for democracy and human rights.

A spokesman for Zelaya said today in a letter to the OAS that the group shouldn’t readmit Honduras while alleged human rights abuses, including killings of journalists and coup opponents, have gone unpunished.

The truth commission looking into the coup will only whitewash the overthrow of Zelaya, said the letter, written by Zelaya’s aide Rassel Tome and addressed to Insulza.

Zelaya has been in exile in the Dominican Republic since Lobo took office in January.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in February that the region shouldn’t allow Honduras to set a precedent of calling elections after a coup.

“We shouldn’t even joke about allowing military juntas to prevail,” Lula said. “Suspending Honduras was the most correct and democratic decision we made.”

Clinton is in Peru as part of a four-day trip to the region, which also includes visits to Ecuador, Colombia and Barbados.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Bristow in Lima at mbristow5@bloomberg.net; John Quigley in Lima at jquigley8@bloomberg.net

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