Republicans visit Honduras despite US coup policy

October 2, 2009
Associated Press

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Four U.S. Republican lawmakers met with Honduras’ interim president on Friday in a challenge to Washington’s condemnation of the coup that brought him to power.

The brief, amicable visit with the leaders of the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya highlights a divide in Washington, where the Obama administration is working to reinstate Zelaya but many conservatives side with the government installed after soldiers arrested the president in his pajamas and flew him into exile.

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, the leader of the delegation, said before the trip that even calling Zelaya’s overthrow a coup is “ill-informed and baseless.”

DeMint and three representatives — Aaron Schock and Peter Roskam of Illinois and Doug Lamborn of Colorado — smiled for photographs in a book-lined office of the stately presidential palace with interim President Roberto Micheletti. They slipped out of the palace through a rear entrance, avoiding dozens of journalists waiting for a planned news conference that never materialized.

Wesley Denton, spokesman for DeMint, said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press that the senator’s visit was strictly a fact-finding mission and “was not to support or encourage any particular politician.” “Sen. DeMint supports full civil rights, democracy, the rule of law and he wants to see a quick resolution to the crisis, one that allows the Honduran people to resolve it through a fair and transparent process,” he said.

The delegation met with the major candidates in Nov. 29 elections that many call illegitimate, and with Supreme Court justices who are deciding whether Micheletti had the constitutional right to suspend civil liberties.

They did not meet with Zelaya, who is holed up with dozens of supporters in the Brazilian Embassy after sneaking back into Honduras. Nations around the globe have condemned Zelaya’s June 28 ouster and many, including the United States and the European Union, have suspended aid to Honduras. Washington has also revoked the U.S. visas of interim leaders.

Republicans argue the actions were a legitimate reaction to Zelaya’s attempt to hold a constitutional referendum that critics believed was an attempt to undo a prohibition on a second term. Zelaya denies that was his intention…

…”Thanks to DeMint’s intransigence, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee can’t hold hearings to receive testimony from the most knowledgeable and relevant witnesses on our policy in Central and South America,” Democratic Sen. John Kerry said in a news release…

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