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Suspend Honduras from CAFTA, Dominican Leader Says

Latin American Herald Tribune, Caracas

Suspend Honduras from CAFTA, Dominican Leader Says

29 August 2009

SANTO DOMINGO – Dominican President Leonel Fernandez said on Wednesday that Honduras should be suspended from the U.S.-Central America trade accord until the de facto regime in Tegucigalpa agrees to reinstate ousted President Mel Zelaya.

Denying the post-coup government the benefits of DR-CAFTA, which links the United States, the Dominican Republic and five Central American nations, is an “infallible formula” for resolving the Honduran crisis, Fernandez said.

Suspend Honduras from the trade pact “and President Zelaya returns in two or three weeks,” the Dominican head of state said during a speech in Santo Domingo.

He offered the proposal after noting that the United States announced Tuesday a temporary suspension of the issuance of all but immigrant and emergency visas for Hondurans, a move apparently targeting the mainly affluent supporters of the de facto regime.

Fernandez lamented the failure of efforts by the Organization of American States to convince the post-coup government led by Roberto Micheletti to accept the return of Zelaya.

A delegation of OAS foreign ministers visited Honduras this week in an ultimately fruitless bid to persuade Micheletti to accept the San Jose Accord, a set of proposals put forward by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias in his capacity as mediator.

Arias’ plan calls for Zelaya to return and serve out his term, which ends in January 2010, and for a political amnesty that would protect both the coup plotters and the ousted head of state, accused of various offenses by the Micheletti regime.

Zelaya would head a national unity government and the general elections now scheduled for Nov. 29 would be moved up to October.

“We are not facing a problem only of Honduras, but of all of the Americas and of the world,” Fernandez said Wednesday, warning that if allowed to stand, the coup in Tegucigalpa could spur a “cascade of collapses of democratic governments.”

He said that such a development would mark a regression compared with “all we have achieved in 30 years.”

“Never before have we witnessed a period of three consecutive decades of democracy” in Latin America, Fernandez said. “What we are asking for is a return to the constitutional order and democracy.”

The Micheletti government says Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup, insisting that the soldiers who dragged him from the presidential palace on June 28 were simply enforcing a Supreme Court ban on the president’s planned non-binding plebiscite on the idea of revising the constitution.

While the coup leaders accuse Zelaya of seeking to extend his stay in office, any potential constitutional change to allow presidential re-election would not have taken place until well after the incumbent stepped down. EFE