Library of Congress stands by report on Honduras coup

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 29, 2009 

WASHINGTON -- Congress's law library is rebuffing calls from the chairmen of the House and Senate foreign relations committees to retract a report on the military-backed coup in Honduras that the lawmakers charge is flawed.

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 deposed president Manuel Zelaya from office.

A spokeswoman for the Law Library of Congress -- one of six Library of Congress agencies -- said Thursday that the research agency stands by the report and that Librarian of Congress James Billington is preparing a response to the lawmakers.

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

Republicans amped up their criticism Thursday of the Obama administration's Honduras policy, asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate the State Department's role in the crisis in Honduras. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said members of the Honduran congress told visiting members of Congress that the U.S. ambassador to Honduras was trying to put "Zelaya cronies" into government posts.

"There seems to have been a pattern of aggressive involvement by our ambassador to actively try to violate the law and the constitution," he said. A spokesman at the State Department declined to comment Thursday.

Kerry and Berman maintain 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."

Republicans, who've criticized the Obama administration for not recognizing the de facto Honduran government, accused the chairmen of looking to stifle dissent.

The report at one point concludes that "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."

Kerry and Berman said they weren't seeking to "prejudice the judgments of the Law Library experts" but were asking that Billington "ensure that the Law Library promptly follow up on this important communication with the outside experts, integrate those facts and views presented that are valid into its analysis and issue a corrected, inclusive version of the paper."

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

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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