Honduras to vote for new president amid coup crisis

Fri Nov 27, 2009 8:58am EST
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By Mica Rosenberg

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras chooses a new president on Sunday in an election that may defuse a crisis caused by a coup against President Manuel Zelaya, but the vote is splitting Washington and Latin America.

Neither Zelaya nor arch-rival Roberto Micheletti, the country's de facto leader, are running in the election, which could give a new president the chance to take Honduras beyond the political gridlock that has divided the Central American nation and cut off international aid.

"We see the running of these elections -- assuming that they're run in a fair and transparent way -- we see them as an essential part of the solution of this crisis," U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said this week.

Leftist Zelaya was ousted by the army in June and replaced by Micheletti who has blocked attempts backed by the United States, Latin America and Europe to have the president reinstated.

Zelaya -- now holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa -- and his supporters argue that recognizing the elections would essentially give the coup leaders victory. Zelaya is urging the vote be rescheduled.

Latin American powers like Argentina and Brazil also say an election organized by Micheletti's de facto government is not valid, possibly putting them at odds with Washington which looks likely to recognize the vote.

The Organization of American States and the independent Carter Center are not sending observer missions. Human rights groups fear there could be violence.

The two leading candidates, from Honduras' traditional ruling elite, have skillfully avoided much talk of the crisis in their election campaigns and hope Honduras will be welcomed back into the international fold after the vote.   Continued...