Honduran coup early test for Obama's Latam policy
By Ross Colvin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Honduran military's ouster of President Manuel Zelaya on Sunday could be an early test for U.S. President Barack Obama as he tries to mend the United States' battered image in Latin America, a regional expert said.
"This is a golden opportunity to make a clear break with the past and show that he is unequivocally siding with democracy, even if they (Washington) don't necessarily like the guy," former Costa Rican Vice President Kevin Casas-Zamora told Reuters in Washington.
Shortly after news of the coup broke, Obama issued a statement expressing his "deep concern" at Honduran troops arresting Zelaya at his residence and exiling him to Costa Rica. The leftist president had angered the army, Congress and the courts by pushing for constitutional changes to allow presidential re-election.
Casas-Zamora said he had heard reports that the U.S. State Department had got wind of plans for a coup and had tried to prevent it, but this could not be independently confirmed.
Obama's statement urged Hondurans to resolve the dispute peacefully but did not explicitly call for Zelaya's reinstatement as president. A senior administration official said later, however, that the United States recognized only Zelaya's government as legitimate.