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State Department to Zelaya: You’re on your own

It wasn’t so long ago that the State Department was refusing to come out in support of the Honduran elections (which were held last weekend). After all, it wasn’t clear that they would be free and fair and besides, the official U.S. stance had been to push for the restoration of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, ...

It wasn't so long ago that the State Department was refusing to come out in support of the Honduran elections (which were held last weekend). After all, it wasn't clear that they would be free and fair and besides, the official U.S. stance had been to push for the restoration of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, at least at first.

But that was then and this is now, and with the elections having been carried off relatively smoothly and Zelaya permanently ousted by a vote in the Honduran Congress Thursday, the State Department is now actively lobbying countries around the region to endorse the very elections that Foggy Bottom once opposed.

Sure, Zelaya was for the elections, before he turned against them. And yes, the State Department did try to work with Zelaya until he decided to sneak back into Honduras, hole himself up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, and spout crazy conspiracy theories.

It wasn’t so long ago that the State Department was refusing to come out in support of the Honduran elections (which were held last weekend). After all, it wasn’t clear that they would be free and fair and besides, the official U.S. stance had been to push for the restoration of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, at least at first.

But that was then and this is now, and with the elections having been carried off relatively smoothly and Zelaya permanently ousted by a vote in the Honduran Congress Thursday, the State Department is now actively lobbying countries around the region to endorse the very elections that Foggy Bottom once opposed.

Sure, Zelaya was for the elections, before he turned against them. And yes, the State Department did try to work with Zelaya until he decided to sneak back into Honduras, hole himself up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, and spout crazy conspiracy theories.

But the irony of the perception that the U.S. is now on the side of the regime that began the coup, and against Zelaya and the several OAS states still supporting him, was hard to ignore for the reporters who called into a conference call Thursday with three unnamed "senior administration officials."

"We remain committed to working with countries throughout the hemisphere to advance what has been and remains our central goal, which is the restoration of democratic and constitutional order in Honduras," said Senior Administration Official No. 2, acknowledging that the State Department was trying to persuade countries like Brazil and Chile to endorse the win by President-elect Pepe Lobo.

"This is a matter that we’ve been discussing not only with our Latin American partners. The Central Americans, of course, are very keen on this," said Senior Administration Official No. 1, describing the scope of American diplomatic efforts on the Honduras issue.

Senior Administration Official No. 3 said that the State Department would probably hold off on making larger decisions about restoring all ties with Honduras until Lobo takes office Jan. 27.

But what about Zelaya, who is still in hiding, hasn’t stepped outside in weeks, is apparently hallucinating, and could face prosecution if he tries to leave his protected digs? The reporters on the call seemed concerned.

"Excuse me, don’t you think you carry some kind of responsibility concerning his personal fate?" one of them asked. "I mean what is he going to do in the next days or weeks?"

"That’s something that he will have to address, and it’s something that our embassy will be working on," Senior Administration Official No. 1 said. "But it’s really — he is going to have to make a decision as to how he proceeds."

Nice. For a more complete rundown on the State Department’s evolving Honduras policy, read this.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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