Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya vowed to end his month-long exile by staging a dramatic border crossing from Nicaragua yesterday, defying government threats to arrest him and warnings the move will prompt bloodshed.
The plan came as international rights groups slammed the government of interim leader Roberto Micheletti for a host of human rights violations since Zelaya’s ouster on June 28, including extrajudicial executions.
Zelaya — who was sent away by the Honduran military in a move supported by the courts and Congress — said he would make his latest bid to return home after Costa Rican-brokered talks with the interim government collapsed.
He was set to travel to northern Nicaragua on Thursday and “to the border the following day,” in a move sure to inflame already heightened tensions in the small Central American nation.
The exiled president would enter Honduras “when the conditions were ready,” an adviser, Alan Fajardo, said in Nicaragua, naming the conditions as sufficient citizen participation and an element of surprise.
Earlier this month, Zelaya made an abortive attempt to land in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, but was blocked by military units deployed at the airport.
On the ground, his supporters clashed with security forces loyal to Micheletti, killing at least one person and wounding several others.
Regional powers, including the US, have backed Zelaya’s quest to regain office, but urged him not to return for fear of prompting bloodshed in a country some say is teetering on the brink of civil war.
Honduras dominated talks at a regional Mercosur summit in Paraguay on Thursday, where Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called on the country’s leaders to avoid a bloodbath.
The crisis has sent thousands of both Zelaya detractors and supporters into the streets in recent weeks.
In an increasingly polarized Honduras, Zelaya supporters called a national strike on Thursday, with teachers unions suspending classes across the country.
The 15-person team of rights representatives — from the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights, the Washington-based Center for Justice and International Law and Spain’s Federation of Associations in the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights — said there had been “grave and systematic violations” in Honduras over the last month.
The groups mentioned extrajudicial executions during curfew hours, pressure on news media opposed to Micheletti’s government and the “suspension of fundamental rights of Hondurans.”