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Oscar Arias was the first head of state to call Manuel Zelaya's ouster a coup. Arias then volunteered to mediate between the exiled president and the de facto government, insisting that Honduras' road to reconciliation must be paved with Zelaya's restoration.
But now, following the United States' lead, it appears Arias sees another way forward.
Today he said Costa Rica will recognize the winner of Sunday's presidential elections in Honduras as long as they are fair. He called on other leaders, who are convening this week in Portugal for the Ibero-American Summit, to soften their hard line against the controversial vote.
“If this Sunday’s elections are transparent … I’m going to request the Ibero-American countries in this meeting in Portugal that we recognize the future Honduran government,” Arias said in a statement.
The international community — with few exceptions — had hinged its support for the vote on the condition that Honduras must allow the deposed leader to return to power, which seems increasingly unlikely. The Honduran Supreme Court recommended that lawmakers rule out his reinstatement in a congressional vote conspicuously slated for Dec. 2, after the elections.
But after Washington changed key and began to push for the elections, with or without Zelaya in office, some countries slowly followed suit. So far, Panama, Peru and now Costa Rica have publicly backed the elections. Other countries like Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala and Venezuela have said Sunday's vote will produce an illegitimate winner.
Zelaya, still holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, has accused the Obama administration of forsaking him and dividing the Americas.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, "We see the running of these elections — assuming that they're run in a fair and transparent way — we see them as an essential part of the solution of this crisis."
Arias, one of Washington's best friends in the region, went further in pressing other countries to follow the Obama administration's line.
"I'd like to ask the countries of Latin America that have said they do not want to recognize the future government (of Honduras), why do you recognize the government of Iran when the elections (there) were not clean? Why do you recognize the government of Afghanistan, when the elections were not clean?" he said during a visit in the Middle East.
“By wishing to punish the person that the Honduran people choose in the next elections, who you’re really punishing are the humble Hondurans.”