Lawmakers ask Library of Congress to retract Honduras report

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 28, 2009 

WASHINGTON -- The chairmen of the House and Senate foreign relations committees are asking the Law Library of Congress to retract a report on the military-backed coup in Honduras that they charge is flawed and "has contributed to the political crisis that still wracks'' the country.

The request, by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. and Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., has sparked cries of censorship from Republicans who say the Democrats don't like what the August report said: that the government of Honduras had the authority to remove President Manuel Zelaya from office.

Zelaya has been holed up at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa for several weeks, and high-ranking U.S. officials arrived Wednesday to try to broker a resolution.

Critics of the Obama administration -- which condemned Zelaya's removal in June -- have pointed to the report as evidence that the White House was wrong when it sided with most Latin American countries in calling for Zelaya to be returned.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., charged that "it was this administration that cut off aid to one of the poorest countries in Latin America and it was this administration that demanded Honduras reinstate a would-be dictator. Attempts like this to attack any critic and silence any opposition are harmful and should stop immediately."

Kerry and Berman, however, said the report "contains factual errors and is based on a flawed legal analysis that has been refuted by experts from the United States, the Organization of American States and Honduras.''

The chairmen charge that a key line in the analysis was based on a provision of the Honduran Constitution that was struck down in 2003 and that "critical portions rely exclusively on a single, outside individual who had previously and publicly declared his support for the coup.''

The report at one point concludes "Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.''

The Law Library is standing by its report, said Jennifer Gavin, a spokeswoman for the Library of Congress. She said the librarian was preparing a response to Kerry and Berman.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, said she was preparing her own letter to send to the Law Library to counter the chairmen's letter.

"They're trying to manipulate the legal division to suit their ideological and partisan views,'' she said.

The chairmen said in the letter they were not seeking to "prejudice the judgments of the Law Library experts,'' but were asking that Librarian of Congress James Billington "issue a corrected, inclusive version of the paper.

"The stakes are too high to allow the record to stand uncorrected,'' they wrote.

(James Rosen contributed to this article.)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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