Wed, Jul 01, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Zelaya promises Honduras return

AFP , TEGUCIGALPA

Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya vowed to return to Honduras as angry supporters clashed with riot police near the presidential palace.

Zelaya told a meeting of regional leaders in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua he planned to travel yesterday to Washington, where US President Barack Obama has denounced the coup as illegal.

From there he would go to New York and address the UN General Assembly. The UN held emergency talks on Monday on the crisis.

And he added: “I go to Tegucigalpa on Thursday,” thus setting up a potentially explosive showdown with the newly installed interim administration of congressional leader Roberto Micheletti.

Zelaya also accepted the offer of Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, to accompany him back to Honduras, along with leaders of other friendly countries who may wish to travel with him.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged Zelaya to meet with Obama, saying the US president’s attention to the matter could “deliver a major blow” to those who ousted Zelaya.

In Washington on Monday, Obama told reporters: “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there.”

He called for international cooperation to solve the crisis peacefully.

In Tegucigalpa itself, hundreds of angry Zelaya supporters, defying a government curfew on Monday, erected barricades near the presidential palace.

They threw rocks and Molotov cocktails and used pipes and metal bars against shield-bearing riot police. The security forces cracked down with tear gas and gunfire, a photographer said.

The violence, the most serious unrest in years in the country, left several demonstrators and security forces injured.

Zelaya was deposed on Sunday when troops bundled the 57-year-old out of his bed in pajamas and whisked him away to exile in Costa Rica.

Just hours later, the Honduran Congress swore in its speaker, Micheletti, as the interim president until elections in January.

Politicians, business leaders, most communications media and a good part of the population have applauded Zelaya’s overthrow, despite the violent street protests.

Micheletti brushed off international condemnation of the takeover, insisting he “had come to the presidency not by a coup d’etat but by a completely legal process as set out in our laws.”

The military moved against Zelaya after he pressed ahead with plans for a referendum on changing the Constitution to allow him to run for a second term in November elections.

But it was almost uniformly condemned in Latin America, the US and Europe.

Meeting in Managua, the Rio Group, an organization of 22 Latin American countries, condemned the coup and called for Zelaya’s “immediate and unconditional” reinstatement.

They also said they were recalling their ambassadors, as did Mexico and Chile.

Neighboring countries in Central America agreed to isolate Tegucigalpa politically and economically, ordering the regional bank to suspend loans and payments.

Russia and Canada have joined the growing list of nations speaking out against the overthrow, and the European Commission called an urgent meeting with Central American ambassadors to consider the future of trade talks.

Also See:

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/archives/2008/05/20/2003447565">Foreign affairs spokesman admits Honduras gaffe

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