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Obama Lauds Progress of Honduras on Democratic Governance

President Barack Obama reaffirmed the U.S. relationship with Honduras, saying his meeting today with President Porfirio Lobo “begins a new chapter.”

Obama said Honduras under Lobo has restored democratic and constitutional practices and that progress since a 2009 military coup “gives us great hope.”

The two leaders met at the White House for the first time since Lobo’s election in November 2009. Lobo’s predecessor, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted earlier that year in a military-backed coup. That led to Honduras’s expulsion from the Organization of American States. The U.S. supported readmission of Honduras under Lobo in June.

Lobo expressed thanks to the U.S. for that support, saying, “You were there to help us restore the family that is our nation.”

Lobo, in an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, said Honduras’s economy grew 2.6 percent in 2010, with exports 17 percent higher and a 41 percent increase in direct foreign investment. At the same time, Lobo wrote that “further American engagement” is needed in Central America to combat economic and security challenges.

In the Oval Office with Obama, Lobo said his country is threatened by the crime and violence stemming from battles among drug traffickers centered in Mexico and Colombia.

The U.S. and Honduras had $6.3 billion in trade this year through July, according to figures from the Census Bureau. The total for 2010 was $8.5 billion, an increase from $6.7 billion in 2009. U.S. exports to Honduras increased 37 percent last year from 2009. Honduras reached a free-trade agreement with Canada in August.

In its 2011 annual report on Honduras, Amnesty International said Lobo’s government hadn’t sufficiently investigated allegations of human-rights abuses, including arbitrary detention and mistreatment of protesters.

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