DeMint hints at releasing holds, sees movement in U.S. policy on Honduras

DeMint hints at releasing holds, sees movement in U.S. policy on Honduras

Jim DeMint is ready to release his holds against two top administration Latin America appointees, the South Carolina senator told The Cable, and he predicts the State Department will soon recognize the upcoming Honduran elections as legitimate.

In an exclusive interview, DeMint said he was seeing signs of movement from the State Department related to U.S. policy toward Honduras and that he had come close to an agreement over his hold in his meeting earlier this week with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon.

"We got a lot of agreement in the area of coming to terms with recognizing the upcoming elections there," DeMint said of his meeting with Shannon."That’s what I’m waiting for from our government, signals that we’re going to recognize those elections and move forward."

"I’m anxious to release both of the holds, but I’m not going to do that until I see some positive movements from the administration," he added.

DeMint is singularly holding up Shannon’s nomination to become ambassador to Brazil as well as the nomination of Arturo Valenzuela to take Shannon’s post. Shannon just returned from Honduras, where he met with de facto regime leader Roberto Micheletti as part of an Organization of American States delegation.

The State Department had been freezing out the Micheletti government, refusing to deal with its leaders directly and even pulling their visas to visit the United States. But as Micheletti gets closer to an agreement with ousted former President Manuel Zelaya, DeMint said the State Department would have no choice but to adjust its approach.

DeMint credited the congressional delegations that have visited Tegucigalpa, including one he led personally, with loosening the State Department’s stance. He predicted that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would come out in support of the elections once the two sides in Honduras come to terms, but noted that Shannon wasn’t yet ready to go that far.

"He realized that it is essential that these elections go forward and are recognized," DeMint said of Shannon. "But he did not say they are ready to recognize them."