Washington, November 19, 2009- Three Heritage Foundation scholars have been tabbed to serve as international observers for the Nov. 29 presidential election in Honduras. All three speak fluent Spanish.
The three Heritage representatives are:
- Ray Walser, Heritage's senior policy analyst for Latin America. Walser previously served 27 years in the U.S. Department of State, including assignments in Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Nicaragua.
- Jim Roberts, an expert on Latin American economic issues. A 25-year veteran of the State Department, Roberts' Foreign Service career included embassy assignments in Mexico, Panama, and Haiti, a detail to the U.S. Trade Representative's Office to work on Central America and the Caribbean, and D.C. desk officer duties on Latin American trade issues.
- Israel Ortega, an expert on Latin America and Hispanic media in the U.S. A Capitol Hill veteran, Ortega formerly served a legislative aide to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Ranking Member of the House International Relations Committee.
Walser and Roberts were selected as observers by the Union Civica Democratica of Honduras. The Permanent Council for Civic Society (http://www.forosociedadcivil.hn/), a pro-democracy nonprofit based in Honduras, tabbed Ortega for the assignment.
The Heritage scholars join a delegation of former heads of state and dignitaries from Europe, Latin America and the U.S. serving as independent monitors of the election process. The international observers are tasked with making sure the upcoming elections are conducted freely and fairly.
The much anticipated presidential election comes on the heels of a contentious internal struggle, triggered by the June 28 ouster of President Manuel Zelaya. The Honduran Supreme Court and Congress stripped Zelaya of his power when he refused to drop his bid to overturn constitutional term limits on the presidency.
Zelaya's expulsion touched off international as well as internal protests. The Honduran Congress is currently reviewing a U.S.-brokered agreement that would let Zelaya complete the remaining three months of his term on the condition that he respect the outcome of the forthcoming election.
"We are excited to be able to play a role in this historic election," Ortega said. "The Heritage Foundation is firmly committed to advancing freedom, democracy and liberty across the world, and we look forward to witnessing democracy in action in Honduras."