U.S. Rep. Roskam's Honduras stance reinforced

Published: 10/4/2009 12:06 AM

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam maintained his stance against President Barack Obama's efforts in Central American Honduras after a meeting with a foreign leader not officially recognized by the United States.

Honduras' interim President Roberto Micheletti met with the Roskam and a contingent of other congressional Republicans Friday and reportedly promised to reinstate fundamental human rights in the country, such as freedom of the press and rights to assembly, by Monday.

The country has also been under a strict curfew since a coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya, chasing him out of the country and drawing condemnation from most of the international community, including the U.S. and European Union.

But Congressional Republicans, like Roskam of Wheaton, are bucking U.S. foreign policy and backing Micheletti, pinning their hopes on a promised free election set for Nov. 29.

Roskam said Saturday that his meeting with Micheletti and presidential candidates only reinforced his position. The contingent didn't attempt to meet with Zelaya, who is now holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in his country.

"They have some bewilderment at how they are being treated by the United States right now," Roskam said of the Micheletti administration and others he met.

Micheletti and supporters of the Zelaya's ouster contend the former president had to be kicked out because he was attempting to circumvent term limits. Zelaya denies the allegations. His term was set to expire in January.

Roskam and other Republicans supporting Micheletti have painted the issue as a fight between democracy and socialist dictator policies like those of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez.

"We have a lot at stake in terms of our relationship with Honduras and in particular, the stability of Central America," Roskam said Saturday.

The Obama administration's official position is to not recognize Micheletti, and state department spokesman Fred Lash said Friday it was preferred Republicans didn't meet with the leader and portray a split in U.S. foreign policy.

Roskam contends his trip was aimed at gathering facts to come up with his own position on the crisis. He said he went because of his interest in international trade as a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

"Obviously, Congress has a job of oversight," Roskam said. "We were there in that context."

Another congressional Republican delegation made a similar trip to Honduras in July and a third is planned for the near future.

Roskam says he is hoping the Nov. 29 elections will help the country "turn the page." The Obama administration and other countries have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the elections as they hope to reinstall Zelaya for the remainder of his term.

"We look at the elections as being determinative," Roskam said. "If they are open and fair, that is a remedy."

Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.