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Votes at home don't translate to legitimacy abroad

The Costa Rican president's living room once again became a comfort zone for troubled Hondurans Tuesday.

This time, Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo sought the counsel of President Oscar Arias after winning one of the region's most controversial presidential elections in recent history. Judging by the results of the Nov. 29 poll, Lobo won over most Hondurans and his opposition National Party will enjoy a majority in Congress.

But winning votes, or even legitimacy, abroad has been another matter.

Nations including Brazil and its neighbors in the Mercosur bloc have refused to recognize the elections. They believe Honduras' vote could not have been carried out fairly because it took place under a coup government that refused to reinstate the last elected president, Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted on June 28. But Arias said, Hondurans — among the hemisphere's poorest — have been punished enough during their political crisis, particularly when nations froze much needed aid to the country in protest of the coup and the aftermath.

Arias was the first leader to cry coup after Zelaya's overthrow and served as chief mediator in the weeks following the day the exiled Honduran landed on Costa Rica's doorstep.

But last month, Arias became one of the first and few Latin American leaders to support Lobo's election.

Arias said Honduras must push the accord he helped create during those rocky San Jose talks, saying that he talked to Lobo about the need to follow through with the agreement.

"We spoke about the most important points that are outlined in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord and we consider that the de facto President Roberto Micheletti should leave his post, because that's what the international community is expecting, desiring and demanding," Arias told reporters huddled in his living room, much like the media had five months ago when Arias announced he'd start a mediation.

Another pro-Lobo politician showed up for the meeting. In a surprise visit, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli joined Arias and Lobo at the Costa Rican leader's San Jose abode. In September, Martinelli, one of the region's only conservative presidents, became probably the first head of state to publicly say his government would recognize the winner of last month's election in Honduras, as long as it was a clean one. This went against the line pushed by the Organization of the American States, which upholds the condition that Zelaya should have been returned to power first.

Critics have said elections organized by a coup government are illegitimate. However, Martinelli said other Latin American democracies have emerged from worse predicaments. He recalled Panama's emergence from war and dictatorship, and its 1989 elections, which he said Costa Rica was the first nation to support.

Lobo seems to understand the international pressure he's up against, but he told reporters Tuesday he will continue "knocking on doors."

He pledged as president to issue a political amnesty for all parties involved in the events that led up to and followed Zelaya's ouster — one of the key points of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.

However, after the Honduran Supreme Court and Congress' flat nay, the central point of that accord, Zelaya's reinstatement, is farther than ever from bearing fruit.

Where ever will the eternal guest of the Brazilian Embassy go?