Special Briefing
Teleconference Background Briefing by Two Senior Officials
Washington, DC
June 28, 2009


OPERATOR: Good afternoon, and thank you for standing by. I would like to remind all parties that your lines have been placed on listen-only until the question-and-answer portion of today’s conference. This call is being recorded. If you should have any objection, please disconnect at this time.

I would now like to turn to the call over to Mr. Ian Kelly, your spokesman. Thank you, sir. You may begin.

MR. KELLY: Thanks. Well, listen, thank you. Thank you all for joining us today on this conference call. We have two senior Administration officials with us on the line to discuss the political developments in Honduras and the U.S. diplomatic response to those developments.

Just a reminder, this conversation is on background, with any attribution to Senior Administration Officials. We’ll start with brief remarks, and then after those remarks, we’ll go to your questions. So, Mr. Senior Administration Official Number One.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Great. Thank you very much. I mean, all of you are familiar with the events of this morning and as they played out in the course of the day, and probably also familiar with the statement released by the White House from the President and also from the State Department from the Secretary. In addition to those statements, we’ve been working in the OAS Permanent Council towards a consensus resolution that will condemn the effort to depose President Zelaya of Honduras, calling for his return to Honduras and for full restoration of democratic order. Although that resolution is not done yet, but I think it shows how quickly the OAS under the leadership of a variety of key countries, the United States included, has responded to this event and how relevant the OAS, and in particular the Inter-American Charter, has been in determining how the OAS and the regional countries respond to this kind of event.

Obviously, this has been an event that has been a long time in brewing. We and other regional partners have worked very hard to try to address the underlying causes of it, to address the political polarization in Honduras, and especially to facilitate dialogue between competing institutions to ensure that there was a democratic resolution of the differences in Honduras and a resolution that respected constitutional order.

It’s profoundly regrettable that that was not the case and that this morning the military moved against President Zelaya, detaining him, and then expelling him from the country to Costa Rica. As noted, we’ve condemned this action. We view President Zelaya as the constitutional president of Honduras, and we’ve called for a full restoration of democratic order in Honduras. And we will continue to work with our partners in the OAS and elsewhere to ensure that that happens, but then also to begin to address the underlying political polarization and problems that led to this.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I just wanted to briefly add to those comments to note that there are some who are trying to convert this into a bilateral question. It’s very important to recognize that there are multilateral efforts underway here, and ultimately the answer is going to rise in a resolution of the political tensions that led us to this moment among the Honduran institutions themselves that the outside international community, working through the Organization of American States, working collaboratively, can help that process along. But this is not a process that should be interfered with bilaterally by any country in the Americas. That has been very clear from our position and should be the position of all governments in the Western Hemisphere that this is a situation that needs to be resolved free from external influence and interference.

MR. KELLY: Okay, we’re ready to go to your questions, if you could identify yourself and your media organization when you ask the question.

OPERATOR: Thank you, sir. At this time, anyone wishing to ask a question or make a comment, please press *1 on your touchtone phone and please be sure your line is unmuted and record your name at the prompt. One moment for the first question, sir.

Our first question comes from Elise Labott. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: Thanks. This is Elise Labott with CNN. Thanks for doing this. I know you say that this is a – it has to be dealt with internally, but I was wondering, given the presence of U.S. troops in the country, whether you’ve been in touch with the military. It sounds like the military has been kind of restricted to the barracks. So are there any discussions with the military right now, and are you working with them to try and find some compromise? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: By the military, you mean U.S. military or Honduran?

QUESTION: Well, no, I mean, is the U.S. military making contact with the Honduran military at this point? I mean, whether the – where are your – I mean, obviously, since the president – and it sounds like the foreign minister has been detained too, maybe – I mean, what are your contacts with the Honduran government right now?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We do not have military-to-military communications at this point. At the beginning of the day, the Honduran armed forces were taking calls from our Embassy as we were condemning this act, and – but they have ceased to take those calls.

QUESTION: So how are you – I mean, what is your communication with the government right now since you’re not talking to the military? And what is the situation with the foreign minister? Was he detained as well?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We believe the foreign minister was detained. I don’t have independent confirmation of that; however, our ambassador in a public press conference called for the release of all officials who have been detained, demanding that Honduran authorities release them immediately.

We have been attempting to communicate with especially members of congress and others who have been driving this process, and insisting that they need to step down and restore full democratic and constitutional order.

QUESTION: But you haven’t heard back from them?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean, they haven’t done that yet, so --

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Cal Woodward. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: Associated Press. Just to be clear, are you – is the U.S. Government calling for the return of the president?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Correct.

QUESTION: Thank you. And while I’ve got you, should Americans there be taking any special precautions for their safety?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Our Embassy has released a Warden Message to U.S. citizens inside of Honduras explaining events and urging them to be careful in their movements. Obviously, at this point in time, we’re evaluating the situation on the ground. But given the nature of this event and given the potential for conflict, we would urge great caution.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Mark Mazzetti. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: New York Times. Hi, guys. You said earlier, at the beginning of the call, that this was an even that was a long time in brewing. Can you say what U.S. officials had done in recent days to try to prevent this from taking place?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean, first of all, remember, it’s not just us. You know --

QUESTION: Right --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: -- as the second Administration official noted, this has been a brewing conflict that has caught the attention and the concern of the OAS, of ourselves, and of the Central American – the other Central American countries and the European Union embassies inside of Honduras. And we’ve been working in concert with them in an effort to facilitate dialogue among the different and competing institutions, and especially to try to address the larger issue of political polarization inside of Honduras. I mean, I don’t want to go into great detail in terms of everyone we spoke to and every action we took, but we were consistently and almost constantly engaged over the last several weeks with our partners working with Hondurans trying to ensure that the political conflict around this survey that President Zelaya had proposed was resolved in a peaceful way that respected the democratic institutions and the constitutional order of Honduras.

QUESTION: You said a few minutes ago that you were in constant (inaudible) with the military and that they stopped taking the calls. (Inaudible) U.S. and allies been in regular contact with the military over the last few days to again prevent this from happening?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yes. We have been in contact with all Honduran institutions, including the armed forces.

QUESTION: Okay.

OPERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question comes from Juan Lopez. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: Yes, CNN Espanol. The congress already acted in Tegucigalpa. They say they have a resignation letter. They made the president of the congress the new president. Does the U.S. recognize this president? Is there any possibility that Mr. Zelaya resigned as a condition for being allowed to leave for Costa Rica?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We recognize Mel Zelaya as the democratically elected and constitutional president of Honduras. We see no other.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: And you will – to add – and you will see that as the position of the entire inter-American system --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: -- when the OAS Permanent Council resolution comes out later this afternoon?

QUESTION: And the OAS on Friday asked the Secretary General to create a commission, but the commission hadn’t even been created or (inaudible) or was on its way to Honduras. Was there a delay on the part of the OAS in taking action? The U.S. had already taken action last week.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, remember, the OAS has had officials in Honduras, and these officials have been working in an effort to reduce the tension inside of Honduras. But the decision last week was to go to Honduras after Sunday; in other words, they were looking at arriving tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Andrea Mitchell. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: NBC News. Hi, can you respond to Miguel D'Escoto’s statement today (inaudible) saying that, quote, “(inaudible) action (inaudible) part of a new policy, a new U.S. policy, in other words, (inaudible) that the army in Honduras has a history of (inaudible) collaboration with the United States (inaudible) condemn the (inaudible) the President and the Secretary of State (inaudible) but can you at least respond to the concerns expressed by the (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’m sorry, the contact there is very bad.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I missed most of that.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I’m asking if you could respond to Miguel D’Escoto’s statement today expressing concerns that the United States policy is not at all clear and, quote, he said, “Many are now asking if this coup is part of this new policy,” in other words, a U.S. policy, as it is well known that the army in Honduras has a history of total collaboration with the United States. Can you respond to that and how you feel about D’Escoto’s comments?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: The position of the United States Government has been very clear. It’s reflected in the statement put out earlier today by President Obama and the statement put out earlier today by Secretary Clinton and what you’ve heard on this call of condemning these acts, calling for the restoration of democratic order in Honduras, in accordance with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And again, this is not a question that should be reduced to a bilateral question of people who want to look at the region through models of the past, but rather understanding that this is a challenge that faces the entire inter-American community and one that the inter-American community is responding to.

QUESTION: So does –

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’m sure Mr. D’Escoto made those statements because he didn’t understand what was happening on the ground. But you know, aside from the statements that we have made, I think anybody in Honduras at all familiar with what we’ve been doing would recognize that we have been working very hard to promote a peaceful democratic resolution of this political impasse. But more importantly, in the aftermath, aside from our statements, we’ve been working in the OAS to fashion a consensus resolution. We’ve been reaching out to the Central American countries as they find ways to respond to this in a way that supports democracy. And we’ve been communicating with President Zelaya.

QUESTION: Do you consider Mr. D’Escoto’s statements unhelpful? Do they undermine U.S. policy and create more suspicions about any U.S. role?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’ll have to leave that to Mr. D’Escoto to describe why he would say this. But ultimately, you know, we think our actions speak for themselves and they speak very loudly.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Marc Lacey. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: I’m with the New York Times. Is the U.S. Government calling this and considering this a coup d’état? Can you talk about the use of language? Some other governments have called it that.

And then second, can you give us details on how many U.S. soldiers, troops are in Honduras and what their role is there? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, the U.S. troop presence in Honduras is largely contained to Joint Task Force -Bravo operating out of Soto Cano Air Base. They provide airlift support for operations throughout Central America and the Caribbean Basin, largely for humanitarian purposes. I don’t know the exact number of airmen we have at that base, but they’re there for humanitarian purposes.

And I’m sorry, what was the first part of your question?

QUESTION: Coup d’état.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I believe the word “coup” will be used in the OAS resolution. And I would certainly characterize a situation where a president is forcibly detained by the armed forces and expelled from a country an attempt at a coup. We – I mean, we still see him as the constitutional president of Honduras. So it was an attempt at a coup. We don’t think it was successful.

OPERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question comes from Maria Pena. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: Yes, with EFE News Services. And thank you for taking my call. I take it that they’re all calling it a coup because the congress in Honduras has already approved the new president, Roberto Micheletti. But my question is – you’ve already answered that the U.S. is only looking at accepting President Zelaya as the president, the constitutional president in Honduras. So now my question has to deal with what the Honduran ambassador at the OAS said this morning. He said that for now, Honduras is not asking the U.S. for military assistance. But my question to you is that in the event that the constitutional order is not restored and they don’t allow President Zelaya to come back, would you consider a request for military assistance, or what would you consider to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, again, it wouldn't just be us. I mean, similar situations have happened in the past. There was something similar in Guatemala in which an elected president was deposed, and the region got turned against Guatemala very quickly in a way that Guatemala could not sustain and so had to back down. And I think that what you’re going to see over the next several days is a consensus throughout the Americas that this was an illegal and illegitimate act that cannot stand.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I think you’re also going to see, consistent with the President’s statement earlier today, the call for peaceful dialogue to resolve this through diplomacy. We very much believe that this is a situation that can be solved without recourse to the hypothetical that you laid out, and we are working very hard to ensure that that occurs.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Rubén Barerra. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: Notimex. Sorry, I just have one quick question, and it basically is that there is a call from the OAS to call for an emergency meeting of the foreign minister in Washington next week. (Inaudible) President Obama will be leaving on Sunday to Russia. And the question is if that meeting is called, will Secretary Clinton will be attending?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, we’re still working on the Permanent Council resolution, so we don’t know if that’s a reality yet. But obviously, we would be participating.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Rosiland Jordan. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: Yes. Al Jazeera English. First, I wanted to find out whether the U.S. Government has been in touch with President Zelaya since he was flown to Costa Rica. I also wanted to find out that since Secretary Clinton was in the – in country just about a month ago, whether she had any conversations with President Zelaya about the political impasse. And if so, did she make any offer of assistance at that time to him and to his government?

And finally, is there any response from the U.S. Government to Hugo Chavez’s claim that this was a U.S.-inspired coup d’état?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: In regard to the first question, yeah, we have been in touch with President Zelaya both from here in Washington and also from Tegucigalpa, not only in terms of talking to him but also trying to find ways to ensure the safety and well-being of his family.

In regard to the Secretary’s trip to San Pedro Sula to participate in the OAS General Assembly, the meetings there were largely focused on the broader issue of the OAS General Assembly and the different mandates that had emerged from the Summit of the Americas. She did have an opportunity to meet with President Zelaya twice, and President Zelaya did talk somewhat about the internal dynamic in Honduras.

But I think what’s important about the Secretary’s time in Honduras was a reaffirmation of the Administration’s commitments to the Inter-American Democratic Charter and to the democratic vocation of the Organization of American States. And as the Secretary and her team worked on the resolution related to Cuba, our insistence that the OAS reaffirm its commitment to democracy and reaffirm its commitment to the belief of democracy being a fundamental requirement for membership in the OAS has been proven wise because it is the Inter-American Democratic Charter that is being used now to interpret events in Honduras and to guide the region as it responds to events in Honduras.

And in regard to President Chavez’s statements, I think our actions speak very loudly that we’re committed to democratic principles and processes and constitutional order, and that we live by those principles.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Julio Marenco. Please state your affiliation, sir.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m with La Prensa Grafica of El Salvador. I would like to know if you foresee any sanctions against the new government in Honduras. You say you don’t recognize them.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, we’re not – as noted, we’re not talking about sanctions right now because we think this can be resolved through dialogue. And I think that once the forces that have conducted this act in Honduras recognize and understand how isolated they are and how committed the region is to restoring democratic order, that they’ll see they have no choice but to do so.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Mary Beth Sheridan. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: Washington Post. There was a report in El Pais newspaper this morning – actually, it was an interview with President Zelaya, in which he said that there had been a coup plot afoot in recent days and it was only stopped by actions of the U.S. Embassy. Can you tell us about that or tell us if that’s not correct?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think the only thing we can say at this point is that we were very clear with the different sectors of Honduran political life and Honduras’s different political institutions that any resolution to the political conflict in Honduras had to be democratic and constitutional, and that we would not abide or support any extra-constitutional actions.

QUESTION: Okay. But you were in touch – with the military, was there that conversation with the military?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: On several occasions.

QUESTION: And how recent?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t have – I can’t tell you the most recent, but it was fairly recent.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Dmitri Kirsanov. Please state your affiliation, sir.

QUESTION: I’m with ITAR-TASS, the Russian news (inaudible). Gentlemen, I’m sure you’re aware of the statements made by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who basically threatened military intervention in Honduras. I was wondering if you are in contact with him about that.

And secondly, I’m afraid I didn’t quite understand – are you saying that there is a possibility of President Obama canceling his trip to Moscow over some emergency meeting at the OAS?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: To answer the second question first, no. I think the question was whether that trip would interfere with the Secretary of State’s travel plans.

QUESTION: Okay, sir.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: So just leave that very clear that no one is saying that.

And on the first question, again, the call here from President Obama and from many leaders in the hemisphere have been for this situation to be resolved through peaceful dialogue, free of outside interference in the internal affairs of Honduras by other countries unilaterally. The United States firmly supports that position and will continue working to advance that position to ensure that this, again, remain a situation that is resolved peacefully and free from outside interference.

QUESTION: But are you speaking with the Venezuelan authorities?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We have several ways to communicate with Venezuela. But we don’t believe Venezuela is planning on sending any troops. Venezuela is participating in the OAS process and working towards a peaceful resolution. They have no intention of introducing troops.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Bill Schmick. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: I’m with Bloomberg. And I don’t cover State, and I just wonder, do you plan to identify yourself for somebody who doesn't recognize voices?

MR. KELLY: I think not.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: That’s the whole meaning of background.

QUESTION: No, I understand the meaning of background. But you know, in other places, they tell you who – they at least tell you who’s talking.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. This is Ian Kelly. If you want to contact me separately, I’ll be glad to talk to you.

QUESTION: Okay. How do I do that?

MR. KELLY: Well, we can talk after the conference.

QUESTION: Thank you. That’d be fine.

OPERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. Our next question comes from William Booth. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: Washington Post. What is the State Department’s feeling about the survey or the vote that the president of Honduras was going to (inaudible) today?

And the second question is – you’ve been discussing sort of the internal dynamic in Honduras and the various players. Could you just give us a little help and a little tutorial who you think the principal actors in this coup was? Was the military an actor or an instrument? Could you help us understand a little bit your perspective on what happened this morning in Honduras?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, in regard to the survey or poll that President Zelaya had proposed, we viewed this as an internal domestic Honduran issue that needed to be resolved by Honduran institutions. The fundamental political divide within Honduras was whether or not this effort by President Zelaya was seen as constitutional and legal, or whether it was seen as illegitimate and unconstitutional. And several institutions, including the public ministry, which is their equivalent of attorney general, the supreme court, and the congress had declared this survey to be illegitimate and illegal.

But we were trying to find ways to – along with our partners, to bridge the gap that existed and to ensure that the final decision that was made about this polling was done in a way that was peaceful and respected democratic values and the constitutional processes.

Obviously, it was the armed forces that detained the president today and expelled him from the country. But as we’re seeing now with the naming of an interim president by the congress, this was an effort that has included other political institutions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Kirit Radia. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: ABC News. Actually, just if I can go back to the last thing that you said there. You said other political institutions. Could you be a little bit more specific as to who you think was orchestrating this?

A couple other things on this. There’s a lot of Honduran media are reporting on a so-called resignation letter that was written by President Zelaya. What’s your view on that?

And then are you at all considering removing your ambassador at this point?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, in regards to the last point, the presence of our ambassador is an important means and mechanism of communication of U.S. interests and purpose, so we don’t have the purpose or intent of removing him at this point in time.

In regard to who these actors are, I’d prefer not to go into detail and point fingers at people because we – aside from restoring constitutional and democratic order to Honduras, there’s also the larger issue of addressing the problem of political polarization and rebuilding trust between and among institutions. And that’s going to require a lot of work by the OAS and by all interested parties, including ourselves.

QUESTION: And then on the last question about the resignation letter that’s been reported on?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: It would be hard to take that letter seriously given the circumstance that President Zelaya was in.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Elise Labott. Please state your affiliation, ma’am.

QUESTION: Oh, thanks. I’m with CNN. I just have one quick question, back on the idea of the survey. You said that you felt other institutions felt that it was illegal and unconstitutional, but did you think it was and did you advise the president not to invoke it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Again, it’s not up to us to determine what’s legal or not within the context of Honduras. It was important for us to leave this to Honduran institutions to try to resolve. And that was really our focus, the focus of the OAS, and the focus of the other countries who were interested in a peaceful resolution of --

QUESTION: Yeah, but – I’m sorry. You talk about the democratic charter of the OAS and that you want all constitutional means to be adhered to. Did you find that – or you and your partners, I mean not just the United States, but did the international community and the OAS, who’s been talking about democratic principles and the need for constitutional – adhering to the constitution, believe that it was in line with the constitution?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, again, it’s not up to us to determine what’s in line with the constitution.

QUESTION: Yeah, but now you’re invoking the – I’m sorry, but now you’re invoking the constitution to return him. So did you think that what he was doing was in line with the constitution?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No, but there’s a big distinction here because, on the one instance, we’re conducting about conducting a survey, a nonbinding survey; in the other instance, we’re talking about the forcible removal of a president from a country. So I think we can distinguish between those terms – those two in terms of what’s constitutional and what might be left to institutions.

But I think what’s important to remember about the survey is that it was just that. It wasn’t even a formal vote. It was a nonbinding survey. And the issue of whether it was legitimate or illegal did not revolve around the survey itself. It revolved around who conducted it and whether or not this could be conducted by the government and which institution in the government could conduct it, and whether or not as it’s being conducted state security forces could be used to both manage and secure the equipment that was being used for the survey and provide security. And that’s where the divide occurred within Honduras. It was about who conducted this survey, with several institutions in Honduras insisting that the Honduran Government could not conduct it, at least not in the way that President Zelaya had suggested.

And from our point of view, what was important was not inserting ourselves and trying to make a determination of what was legal or illegal, but trying to insist that the Hondurans find a way to resolve this in a way that was in accord with their constitution.

MR. KELLY: Emily, I think we have time for one more question.

OPERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question comes from Rosalind Jordan. Please state your affiliation.

QUESTION: Yes, Al Jazeera English. I was going through an October 2008 report assessing the effectiveness of the Embassy down at Tegucigalpa, and it pointed out that there were many endemic problems with Honduras that made the Embassy’s work much more difficult, notably political and law enforcement corruption, the drug trafficking problem, as well as Zelaya’s leftist political leanings. Now, granted, this report was written during the previous administration, but what I wanted to ask was had there been any concerted effort within the State Department or within the Obama Administration to assess the situation in Honduras, reassess the U.S.’s relationship with Honduras over, you know, over the next period of years, or was this simply not as much of a priority as has been dealing with the war in Iraq or Iran or anything else in the Middle East?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean, we just came from San Pedro Sula, Honduras at the OAS General Assembly, and President Obama was in Trinidad and Tobago where President Zelaya was. So since almost the beginning of this Administration, we’ve been engaged in the hemisphere in a pretty dramatic way. And President Zelaya has been present at two of these events, and the President had an opportunity to speak to him in Trinidad and Tobago, and the Secretary also. And obviously, the Secretary had an opportunity to speak with him several times in Honduras.

But again, Honduras is a country that we’ve had an important relationship with for a long time. We’ve got a free trade agreement with them through CAFTA. They’re part of the Merida Initiative. They’re part of the Millennium Challenge effort by the United States, and they also receive special status for Hondurans living in the United States through the temporary protective status program. And in that regard, I mean, Honduras has been an important partner over time. And so we’ve always been interested in the well-being of Honduras.

QUESTION: I guess the question really is: Was there enough concern about the polarization between the various political groups in country? Did the U.S. miss an opportunity to really help head off today’s events?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think we and others worked very hard to do that, but we were unsuccessful.

MR. KELLY: Any final comments from our two speakers? If not, thank you all for joining us. And just to remind, the attribution for this is Senior Administration Officials.

OPERATOR: This concludes today’s conference. Thank you so much for joining. You may disconnect at this time.




PRN: 2009/654