The leader of the coup in Honduras is having second thoughts, even as violence and repression continues to wrack the troubled Central American nation - and the Obama Administration struggles to find a middle path, and a new outlook for the hemisphere.
The AP reports that de facto president Roberto Micheletti, who led the military coup that packed off his elected predecessor in his pajamas at gun-point, is now open to ceding office back to the man he ousted, Manuel Zelaya. According to the report: "Zelaya left the Nicaraguan town of Ocotal, where he had settled his government-in-exile, to meet in the Nicaraguan capital with U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens, according to Kathleen Boyle, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua. She had no information on the content of the discussions. It was unclear whether Zelaya planned to return to Ocotal, where hundreds of his supporters are camped out in shelters."
This is a good sign for settling the crisis, and restoring democracy to Honduras, where big business interests and land-owners backed the illegal, violent coup. And it's also a decent sign that the Obama Administration may be starting to eat its own cooking - putting more meat behind its condemnation of the month-old coup. Its initial plan for mediation led by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias - along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's criticism of Zelaya's Nicaraguan gambit (which appeared to work in putting pressure on the rump regime) - seemed tepid, designed to balance traditionally reactionary U.S. policy toward leftist politicians in the hemisphere with a new willingness to talk about changing the old rules.
The Administration's bi-partisan instincts are being tested as well by the latest from Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican foreign policy veteran who wrote to Secretary Clinton this week asking for a clarification of the Administration's policy in Honduras - and threatening to "delay a Senate vote on the nomination of Arturo Valenzuela to be assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, the senior diplomat in charge of Latin America at the State Department."
But another Senator, former Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry, strongly endorsed the Obama mediation route - aimed at restoring President Zelaya to power through ongoing negotiations. Meanwhile, another protester was shot in Honduras today. And the path of President Obama's first major test in this hemisphere continued to wind.