The Cable

State Department changes tack on Honduras

After weeks of little progress, the State Department is reversing its policy of freezing out the de facto regime in Honduras. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with both current leader Roberto Micheletti and ousted President Manuel Zelaya over the weekend and a full administration team will travel to Tegucigalpa later this week. The delegation ...

After weeks of little progress, the State Department is reversing its policy of freezing out the de facto regime in Honduras. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with both current leader Roberto Micheletti and ousted President Manuel Zelaya over the weekend and a full administration team will travel to Tegucigalpa later this week.

The delegation will consist of Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Tom Shannon, principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Craig Kelly, and National Security Council Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs Dan Restrepo, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Tuesday.

The administration has been quietly communicating with the Micheletti regime recently, after initially siding with Zelaya, who has come under criticism for his increasing strange behavior since he returned to Honduras and decided to hide out in the Brazilian Embassy.

The new engagement comes as the two battling sides in the Honduran political dispute seem to be nearing an agreement after weeks of intense negotiations.

The delegation "will urge both sides to show flexibility and redouble their efforts to bring the crisis to an end," Kelly said, adding that progress was made as recently as this morning. Clinton decided to get involved after seeing what was then regarded as an impasse last Friday.

Elections in Honduras are planned for Nov. 29 and the need to properly prepare is what’s driving the timeline, according to Kelly.

"In order for it to be seen as legitimate and for the authorities down there to conduct a completely open and transparent electoral process, that there needs to be some time. And this is precisely why we see some urgency in this," he said.

The fate of Shannon’s nomination to become ambassador to Brazil and Arturo Valenzuela’s nomination to replace Shannon hang in the balance as well. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, has said he would release his holds on the two after the administration comes out in support of the elections.

The two sides are working off the San Jose Accord document, but have been stuck on the issue of what Zelaya’s role would be if and when the truce is signed.

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