Honduras to let Zelaya leave country for Mexico

/ Source: The Associated Press

Honduras' interim government said Wednesday night it has authorized ousted President Manuel Zelaya to leave the country and go to Mexico, and a Mexican official confirmed talks were under way on that possibility.

No final deal appeared to have been worked out, and there was no indication Zelaya was preparing to leave his refuge in the Brazilian Embassy.

Zelaya told Radio Globo that he was negotiating what he called a "consensual solution" to his stay in the embassy, where he has been holed up — surrounded by soldiers — since slipping back into Honduras on Sept. 21 in a failed effort to regain his office and prevent last month's election to choose his successor.

Zelaya said he had talked with both Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Dominican President Leonel Fernandez. The talks apparently centered on a dignified solution for Zelaya, who has refused any form of political asylum that might hinder his efforts to drum up opposition to the forces that removed him from the presidency in a coup June 28.

Seeking 'negotiated solution'
Zelaya said he wanted "a negotiated solution ... that respected the law, and respected my office" as president.

He suggested he wanted a status that would "allow me to continue my (political) actions abroad." He operated a sort of government-in-exile from other Latin American nations after being ousted.

"I will not accept any political asylum," Zelaya said, adding that he wanted "hospitality, as a guest, to continue my actions."

Oscar Raul Matute, the interim interior minister, said Mexico had filed paperwork asking that Zelaya be granted safe conduct out of Honduras but failed to include whether Zelaya would be traveling to Mexico recognized only as a Honduran citizen being given refuge or as a president. He said Mexico was asked to file new documents.

"If the government of Mexico wishes to give him asylum, we will consider that petition as long as that petition fulfills all the requirements," Matute told CNN en Espanol.

That was a different take on the situation than offered earlier in the evening by a spokesman for the Honduran Foreign Ministry, Milton Mateo.

Mateo also said Mexico had asked for a safe-conduct pass for Zelaya, who has been charged by the interim government with abuse of power, but he said the pass had been signed and would be delivered to the Brazilian Embassy. Zelaya said he hadn't received it.

Mateo said the Mexican government had sent an airplane to pick up Zelaya and his wife, Xiomara, and two of his children.

Title an issue
A Mexican government official, who agreed to discuss the issue if not quoted by name, said the possibility of bringing Zelaya to Mexico was being explored, but could not confirm any arrangements had been made. The official said a plane had apparently been sent or would be sent to Honduras as a result of the talks, but provided no details.

The official agreed the talks had centered on exactly what title Zelaya would be given — whether that of a "guest" of the Mexican government, or some other term.

On Tuesday, Porfirio Lobo, the man who won Honduras' Nov. 29 election to succeed Zelaya, said he supported amnesty for Zelaya and for all of those involved in the coup that deposed him.

Lobo will not take office until Jan. 27, when Zelaya's term ends.

In the meantime, Zelaya would have to deal with interim President Roberto Micheletti, who ringed the Brazilian Embassy with soldiers and pledged to arrest Zelaya if he left the compound — though he also hinted recently that he would be open to letting Zelaya leave for exile or political asylum in another country.

Hope for reconciliation process
Although Zelaya has refused to recognize the election, Lobo has said he hopes to open dialogue with the deposed leader and start a national reconciliation process after he takes office.

Lobo's options, however, are limited. Even once in office, he cannot grant Zelaya amnesty from prosecution. That power belongs to the same Congress that voted 111-14 this month against restoring Zelaya to office to serve out his term.

Zelaya faces abuse of power charges for ignoring a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum on changing the constitution. The dispute led to the coup.

Western Hemisphere countries united to condemn Zelaya's ouster but are divided on whether to recognize Lobo's election.

The United States, which cut off some aid over the coup, and a few countries in Latin America have said Hondurans had the right to choose a new leader in regular elections that had been scheduled before Zelaya's overthrow.

Other nations, however, including Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, have rejected the election, saying that would legitamize Central America's first coup in two decades.