DeMint says Obama has changed Honduras policy

WASHINGTON — An outspoken critic of the Obama administration's handling of the crisis in Honduras late Thursday dropped his opposition to two State Department nominees, saying that the administration has reversed course.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint said on the Senate floor that he'd spoken with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who told him that the administration would recognize the election Nov. 29 in Honduras, "regardless of whether former President Manuel Zelaya is returned to office."

"I am happy to report the Obama administration has finally reversed its misguided Honduran policy and will fully recognize the Nov. 29 elections," DeMint said, noting that the stance means he'll lift his objection to the nominations of Arturo Valenzuela to be assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs and Thomas Shannon to be the U.S. ambassador to Brazil.

At Valenzuela's confirmation hearing July 8, DeMint argued that the administration had made the wrong call by pushing for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya's return to power.

DeMint said Thursday, however, that he'd spoken with Clinton and Shannon, who'd told him that the U.S. would recognize the outcome of the Honduran elections regardless of whether Zelaya is reinstated.

"I take our administration at their word that they will now side with the Honduran people and end their focus on the disgraced Zelaya," DeMint said.

Zelaya's supporters have promised to disrupt the elections if he doesn't return to office, and almost all foreign governments have said they won't recognize the winner of the presidential election unless Zelaya is allowed to finish serving his term.

Shannon, the State Department's top Latin America diplomat, seemed to undercut that position Tuesday, however, when he told CNN en Espanol that last week's agreement between Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti meant that the Obama administration would recognize the winner regardless of whether the Honduran Congress voted to restore Zelaya.


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