Honduran coup leaders faced further isolation yesterday after blocking ousted president Manuel Zelaya from flying into the capital’s airport, where soldiers killed two of his supporters, police said.
Zelaya’s attempt to return came as tensions reached breaking point, with tens of thousands of his supporters massed at the heavily militarized airport.
As soldiers fired shots and tear gas at rock-throwing protesters, two people died, police said. The local Red Cross reported one death.
Moments later, Zelaya’s plane swooped over the runway as military vehicles blocked it from landing.
“I’m doing everything I can,” Zelaya said live on Venezuela’s Telesur TV. “If I had a parachute, I would immediately jump out of this plane. From tomorrow the responsibility will fall on the powers, particularly the United States.”
International pressure was set to increase on the heels of aid freezes, ambassador withdrawals and temporary trade blockages.
The Organization of American States (OAS) voted to suspend Honduras late on Saturday, in the first such move since the exclusion of Cuba in 1962.
After the dramatic attempt to land in Tegucigalpa, Zelaya met with OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza and the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay in neighboring El Salvador late on Sunday, before heading to Nicaragua.
Insulza said at a joint news conference that he was prepared to continue working on resolving the crisis.
“I’m prepared to continue with all the diplomatic steps,” Insulza said. “We don’t aim to intervene, but to comply with the norms that all the countries have adopted.”
In a first sign of possible dialogue, interim leaders said they had put forward an offer for dialogue in “good faith” with the OAS after they previously said they were pulling out of the body ahead of the country’s suspension.
However, interim Honduran president Roberto Micheletti — who took over hours after Zelaya was whisked away — also said that no one would pressure him.
Zelaya warned against further violence.
“I call on the armed forces to lower their rifles against the people ... I ask, beg and order them not to repress the Honduran people any more,” Zelaya said in El Salvador.
It was unclear how many people had been injured and detained in the clashes amid growing indignation from international rights groups.