Thousands of supporters and opponents of Manuel Zelaya have staged rival demonstrations as the ousted Honduran president held talks in Washington to rally support for his return to power.
The interim Honduran regime has been resisting domestic and foreign pressure to reinstate Zelaya since soldiers kicked him out of the country in his pajamas on June 28.
Zelaya arrived in Washington on Saturday and met with the top US official for Latin America, Thomas Shannon, and Organization of American States Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza, said Rodolfo Pastor, a senior embassy official loyal to Zelaya.
The meeting “is part of the ongoing negotiations” for Zelaya to return to Honduras, Pastor said.
The US has suspended military ties with Tegucigalpa and warned it could sever US$200 million in aid. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have frozen credit lines for the country.
The coup “is nothing but a barbaric step backward that affects all Latin American countries and even the United States,” Zelaya said in the Dominican Republic, before flying to Washington. “No one will go unpunished in the de facto government.”
The beleaguered leader continues to call for his return to power, even though his demand went nowhere in talks launched on Thursday in Costa Rica with the interim government.
Talks between representatives of Zelaya and interim Honduran leader Roberto Micheletti ended late on Friday with no breakthrough.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner who brokered the meetings, said that talks would resume soon.
Meanwhile, Zelaya’s supporters in Tegucigalpa grew more anxious, worried that the interim government was seeking to “buy time,” said Marvin Ponce, a lawmaker with the leftist Democratic Unification Party.
“We are not trying to buy time, but rather to obtain a result,” countered Carlos Lopez, who heads Micheletti’s team of negotiators.
In a bid to increase pressure on the interim leaders, Zelaya supporters renewed their blockades of roads and bridges. They also marched to the airport to pay tribute to a youth killed on July 5, when Zelaya aborted an attempt to return.