Coup in Honduras sparks clashes

Ousted president vows to return home this week in defiance of takeover that forced him into exile

Honduras–Police and soldiers clashed with thousands of protesters outside Honduras’ national palace yesterday, leaving at least 15 people injured, as world leaders demanded the return of a president ousted in a military coup.

Leftist leaders pulled their ambassadors from Honduras and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala would cut trade with the neighbouring nation for at least 48 hours. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for Hondurans to rise up against those who toppled his ally, Manuel Zelaya.

“We’re ready to support the rebellion of the Honduran people,” Chavez said, though he was not specific.

Protests outside the presidential palace grew from hundreds to thousands, and soldiers and police advanced behind riot shields, using tear gas to scatter the protesters. At least 38 protesters were detained.

“We believe that the coup was not legal,” said U.S. President Barack Obama “and that President Zelaya remains the democratically elected president there.”

Zelaya said he will travel back to Honduras Thursday, in defiance of the army coup that sent him into exile. Speaking in the Nicaraguan capital, Zelaya said Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, had offered to accompany him to Honduras, after they attend talks over the crisis in Washington tomorrow. Zelaya will address the UN General Assembly today to seek support from its 192 member nations. The OAS called an emergency meeting for today to consider suspending Honduras under an agreement meant to prevent the sort of coups that have made Latin America a spawning ground for dictatorships.

But Roberto Micheletti, named by Congress to serve out the final seven months of Zelaya’s term, vowed to ignore foreign pressure.

“The country is headed toward free and transparent general elections in November,” he said. He insisted Zelaya’s ouster was legal and accused him of violating the constitution by sponsoring a referendum outlawed by the Supreme Court.


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