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Support Freedom And Democracy In Honduras

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

Support Freedom And Democracy In Honduras

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Ms. ROSKAM. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Madam Speaker, a couple of weeks ago I was out with a group of Members in Congress and my BlackBerry went off. And I read my BlackBerry, and there it was: it was a message, and it said that Senator DeMint was going to be going to Honduras and the Senator from South Carolina was making that journey available to other Members of Congress who had a desire to go. And I made the decision, I said, Hey, I want to go down to see what's going on there, to see with my own eyes what's happening in Honduras.

I was joined by the gentleman from Illinois, Representative Schock; the gentleman from Colorado, Representative Lamborn. And the four of us went down on what's called a congressional delegation.

In we flew. It was a 1-day trip, a short trip. In we flew, and we landed in Honduras. And what a great privilege to meet with those people.

Let me tell you a little bit about that trip, Madam Speaker.

We met with President Micheletti and his leadership team. We met with the Honduran Supreme Court. We met with the leading presidential candidates who are running for office in the races that the gentleman from Florida mentioned that is going to convene on November 29 of this year. We met with the independent election commission, and we met with members of civil society, in other words, those people who are participants in the culture and economy and religious life of Honduras, including Americans who have lived down there, Madam Speaker, for as long as 25 years.

And as the four of us gathered and listened and asked questions of these folks who represented the leadership and a wide range of perspectives across Honduras, there is one word that comes to mind that was universal in how they were perceiving the United States of America. And that single word was ``bewilderment.''

They were bewildered because, from their perspective, they had been coloring within the lines. From their perspective, they look to the north at this Nation that they admire, this Nation
that they have a relationship with, this Nation that they look to, and yet this Nation was looking at them askance.

Now, think about that. This is a Nation, the United States of America, that is willing to enter into conversations directly or indirectly with Ahmadinejad of Iran; we're willing to enter into conversations directly or indirectly with the Castro brothers of Cuba; but we are not willing to be in a conversation with this group, this long-time ally, the country of Honduras.

Let me tell you where it breaks down from my perspective. We met with President Micheletti, and all of us who are Members of Congress and members of the general public, we've all been in meetings that have been highly manipulated and we know when there's a hustle going on, and you can kind of feel it. You know when it's scripted, when somebody is saying, Oh, you say this and you say this and you say this.

But I am telling you, in this meeting, there was a great deal of spontaneity. And that was true of all of these meetings, Madam Speaker, all five of these meetings that I just described, they were spontaneous.

And in the course of the meetings, President Micheletti admitted two mistakes. He was very transparent. He said, Look, we didn't have the authority to remove President Zelaya from the country. We didn't have the authority to do it. It was a mistake.

Now, he was charging the military base and so forth, but President Micheletti acknowledged that they didn't have the authority to do it.

He also said they didn't have the authority to shut down two television stations. They were small stations. They were broadcasting insurrection. We didn't have the authority to shut them down. It was a mistake. We

regret it. We are moving to open them up, and so forth.

But I cannot even begin to convey to you the sense of bewilderment, Madam Speaker, that the Hondurans expressed.

Here we are, Members of the United States Congress, and we're seated with the Honduran Supreme Court. And I am thinking to myself, frankly, who am I or who are we to pass judgment on the Honduran Supreme Court on how they're interpreting their own Constitution, right?

But they say to us, Look--and they made it very, very clear--we issued the order that the military followed. The military didn't tell us what to do. We, a civilian supreme court, issued the order and told them what to do. And I think that that's pivotal.

When I was down there with Representative Schock, who's joining us tonight, and others, it was clear to me there's more police officers, Madam Speaker, around the United States Capitol tonight than there are around the presidential palace around Honduras. So the characterization of this as a military coup is casting it, frankly, in a false light.

So all kinds of drama going back in the past, all kinds of situations as you look back in the past. Some mistakes, some not mistakes, some things characterized a certain way, some things not characterized a certain way.

Where do we go from here? We go to November 29.

Now we, as a country, historically, have looked to elections of a free people as the remedy moving forward. We have historically said, notwithstanding the background of a nation, if there is a free, fair, and open election, we are going to recognize and acknowledge the government that is subsequent to that.

And I wholeheartedly believe and I wholeheartedly hope that the Obama administration, Secretary Clinton will lay out a parameter by which the Honduran Government can satisfy the administration that they're going to move forward. In other words, if the Honduran people make a decision on November 29--and let's remember, President Zelaya, former President, is not going to be on the ballot; President Micheletti, who is currently in office for this collapsing duration of time, is not going to be on the ballot. It's several other individuals who campaigned, got their nominations. They're on the ballot for their parties. Those are the individuals who are campaigning for office. And when we met with those individuals, not a one of them had a suspicion that there was anything that was untoward in this upcoming election. They all felt it was going to be pure as the wind-driven snow.

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Mr. ROSKAM. Reclaiming my time, they are exactly the same candidates, absolutely.

And when Representative Schock and I met with the individuals who are those that are in charge of administering the elections, frankly, they made it very clear to us they were not happy to meet with us at the place where we had to meet. They felt like we shouldn't--they shouldn't be there in the presidential palace.

But they were humoring--they were accommodating us and being very gracious to us, but they made it very clear that they weren't happy to meet with us there. Why? Because their job is to ensure the integrity of the ballot.

So here's where we go. So we're looking at November 29, the Honduran people are going to make a decision. They're going to choose one of these nominees who has been nominated by their party, and the United States Government then is going to have a decision to make.

I think it is wise. I think it drives toward stability. I think it drives toward prosperity and toward a really good, solid foundation for us, for the American people, to recognize the legitimately elected officials of that government that the Honduran people, themselves, choose on November 29.

I think it would be a devastating mistake if we were to look the Hondurans in the eye and say, You know, we really don't care who you choose. We're going to manipulate, and we're going to decide who your next president is going to be. Heaven help us if we go that route when we're a nation that historically has stood up and has said that we're going to stand for free, open and fair elections.

I'm the first to say--and I think you are, too, Mr. Diaz-Balart--that if there were any nonsense to go on in an election, you would be the first one to jump in; but there has been no indication whatsoever, none, even from the presidential candidates who are currently running nor from the conversations that Representative Schock and I had and that I know you had with others when you went with Ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and others down to Honduras. So I think it is incumbent upon us to stand up, to stand with the Honduran people, to stand alongside them in this time of real turmoil.

In closing, I just want to make one observation. In the meeting that we had, the United States has, I think, unfortunately, cut off very pivotal aid right now to the country of Honduras. Yet, as one of the Honduran individuals said to me, You know, we can endure the lack of aid, but what good is aid to us if we give up our country?

I think, Madam Speaker, that is a good watchword, one upon which we need to rest our foreign policy, and I would encourage the Obama administration to take that to heart.

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