The Honduran political crisis entered its third week yesterday with no end in sight, despite the interim government’s decision to lift a curfew after a coup that removed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya from power.
The de facto government led by Roberto Micheletti on Sunday lifted a two-week-old curfew imposed to quell protests after soldiers ousted the leftist Zelaya at gunpoint on June 28.
The deposed Honduran leader was in Washington for talks with US government and Organization of American States (OAS) officials, seeking support for his return to power.
Zelaya flew to Washington following two days of failed negotiations in San Jose with the government of interim leader Roberto Micheletti mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.
Arias, who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for helping resolve bloody civil wars in Central America, suggested follow-up talks in about a week after Zelaya and Micheletti refused to meet face-to-face on Thursday.
Even Pope Benedict XVI appealed for “dialogue and reconciliation” in the crisis, which saw some 2,000 pro-Zelaya protesters take to the streets on Sunday to call for the return of their leader.
Zelaya has proposed that the next round of negotiations be held in Honduras, even though the interim government has refused to allow him to return and did not let his airplane land when he tried to fly to Tegucigalpa last week.
Micheletti imposed the curfew following the coup, saying the measure was needed to restore calm.
“By virtue of having reached the objectives of this regulation, the government announces that from Sunday, July 12, the curfew is lifted across the entire country,” said a statement broadcast on Honduran TV and radio.
A total of 1,270 people have been detained across the country for violating the measure, police said. Curfew or not, Zelaya supporters vowed to continue their protest marches and road blockades demanding that their leader be reinstated.
“We are going to continue the protests,” said Luis Sosa, a leader of the anti-government Popular Bloc. “Our commitment is to maintain them permanently until the democratic process is restored.”
In Washington, Zelaya met the top US official for Latin America, Thomas Shannon, and OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza.
Rodolfo Pastor, a Honduran embassy official loyal to Zelaya, said the meeting was “part of the ongoing negotiations” for the ousted leader’s return to power.
The foreign minister of Zelaya’s deposed administration was less than sanguine about the talks — even as she suggested that the ousted government was interested in continuing the process.
Meanwhile, Micheletti said on Sunday that Zelaya would not be allowed to return to power under any circumstances but could be granted an amnesty if he comes home quietly to face justice.
Micheletti’s overture was the first conciliatory offer from the interim authorities to try to solve the worst crisis in Central America since the Cold War, although Zelaya insists on being reinstated and has vowed to return and defy the interim government.
“If he comes peacefully first to appear before the authorities ... I don’t have any problem [with an amnesty for him],” Micheletti said in an exclusive interview at the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa in a room guarded by five heavily-armed soldiers.
While diplomatic efforts to resolve the political crisis marked time, the interim government announced on Sunday that people no longer had to stay home at night as it sought to restore some normality in a country deeply divided over the coup.