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The three-month old political crisis in Honduras took an unexpected turn with the sudden return of President Manuel Zelaya to the nation’s capital. After unsuccessful OAS-supported efforts to negotiate a settlement with the de facto regime that forced Mr. Zelaya’s removal and exile in June, Mr. Zelaya returned to Honduras on September 21 and appeared in Tegucigalpa. From the Brazilian Embassy, he called for direct dialogue toward reconciliation.
Given the rising political tensions surrounding both President Zelaya’s actions in office and forcible removal, such a move could be seen as highly confrontational. The de facto regime has threatened to arrest the president if he returned, a move likely to be resisted by his supporters. Seen from another perspective, however, his presence may provide an opportunity for serious negotiations that finally bring the crisis to an end and allow Honduran leaders to focus on the many challenges facing the nation, one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
To accomplish this, all parties must work to maintain the peace by exercising restraint and refraining from any actions that could result in violence. They should also engage in dialogue.
As the duly elected president, Mr. Zelaya should be restored to office under conditions agreed to with his opponents, allowing the nation to get on with the election now scheduled for late November, followed by a peaceful transition of presidential authority. That is the clearest path for restoring constitutional and democratic order to the nation and putting the crisis behind it once and for all.