Honduras Swears in Porfirio Lobo as President

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Honduras has sworn in newly-elected Porfirio Lobo as President, after months of crisis over the fate of his ousted predecessor, Manuel Zelaya.

Mr Lobo has said his first task as president will be to guarantee Mr Zelaya's safe passage out of Honduras.

The removal last June of Mr Zelaya, who is holed up in Brazil's embassy in the capital, divided opinion in Honduras and internationally.

Several nations refused to recognise the legitimacy of November's election.

Election pledge

Mr Lobo was sworn in at an open air ceremony, in the capital Tegucigalpa.

He said: "I pledge to be faithful to the republic and ensure its laws are enforced."

The newly-elected president has said he wishes to restore international ties and ensure the resumption of foreign aid, principally from the US.

"Can you imagine starting a government with a president imprisoned in an embassy. It wouldn't be fair," he said.

Mr Zelaya has indicated that he is ready to leave Honduras.

"I have an invitation... to go to the Dominican Republic and I will accept... obviously with the approval of the new government," Mr Zelaya told local radio.

His departure will mark the end of his efforts to return to office after soldiers forced him into exile at gunpoint on 28 June. He returned in secret in September and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy.

Mr Zelaya was removed amid a dispute over his plans to hold a vote on whether a constituent assembly should be set up to look at rewriting the constitution.

His critics said the vote, which was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, aimed to remove the current one-term limit on serving as president and pave the way for his possible re-election.

Mr Zelaya repeatedly said he had no interest in staying in power but wanted to rewrite an outdated constitution to guarantee fairer representation for all Hondurans.

Military cleared

His ousting provoked international condemnation but diplomatic attempts to persuade the interim government to allow Mr Zelaya to return to office proved futile.

Several Latin American countries, including Brazil and Venezuela, said recognising the election would amount to condoning a coup.

But the US argued that Hondurans had the right to elect a president in an election that was scheduled long before the crisis erupted.

While Mr Lobo faces the challenge of bringing Honduras back into the international fold, the country's institutions have taken steps to put the crisis behind them.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court cleared six military commanders of exceeding their authority when they ordered soldiers to expel Mr Zelaya.

And the Honduran Congress voted to approve an amnesty for both the military and Mr Zelaya, who had faced charges of treason.

Source URL: 
www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/27-6