Honduras to meet Organization of American States (OAS) but tells Zelaya “don’t come”


A caretaker government in Honduras said on Thursday it was open to holding early elections to resolve the impasse over ousted President Manuel Zelaya, as the Organization of American States readied a mission to Honduras to push for his reinstatement.

Interim government head Roberto Micheletti said holding a referendum on bringing back the leftist president to serve out the last few months of his term was also possible, although it would be “difficult” to do so immediately.

Conveying a more conciliatory tone than in recent days, Micheletti said he would be “in total agreement” with bringing forward a November 29 presidential election to calm a storm of international condemnation of Sunday’s military coup.

“I have no objection if it would be a way of resolving these problems,” he told reporters.

The OAS, which groups most of the countries in the Western Hemisphere including the United States, has given the interim leadership until Saturday to restore Zelaya or be suspended from the body.

The Honduran administration has so far rebuffed any attempts to bring back Zelaya, who was ousted in a dawn military coup in a dispute over presidential term limits that has become the biggest political crisis in Central America since the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.

The coup in the impoverished coffee and textile exporting country of 7 million people has created a test for regional diplomacy and for U.S. commitment to shoring up democracy in Latin America.

OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza will visit Honduras on Friday. According to Zelaya, who arrived in El Salvador late on Thursday for talks with the government there, Insulza will deliver an ultimatum to return him to office and will not negotiate.

“We hope the coup leaders recognize the damage they are doing to the country and the world and allow the return of President Zelaya,” Insulza told Reuters in Guyana.

Honduran coup backers, headed by Micheletti, say the ouster was legal because it was ordered by the Supreme Court to stop Zelaya from seeking public support for a constitutional change to let presidents seek re-election beyond one four-year term. They say Zelaya was himself acting illegally.

FOREIGN PRESSURE

After a march by several thousand people supporting the interim government in the eastern manufacturing city of San Pedro Sula, a rival protest later broke out with supporters of Zelaya burning tires and spraying walls with graffiti.

Police and soldiers broke up the pro-Zelaya demonstration with tear gas and water cannons and detained 70 people, a police spokesman and a Red Cross worker told Reuters.

“OAS: We want democracy, not Chavez,” one banner read at the rally against Zelaya, who was unpopular with many in Honduras, particularly the wealthy conservative elite, for his alliance with Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez.

A pro-Zelaya protest in the capital, Tegucigalpa, wound down by early evening. Zelaya earlier urged demonstrators on.

“I call on the people to keep up the banners. The street is ours. They’ve taken the institutions away from us, but the street belongs to the people,” Zelaya said in Panama City.

Many Hondurans struggle to understand why foreign leaders, from U.S. President Barack Obama to most of Latin America’s presidents, have backed Zelaya.

“They have only listened to (Zelaya) abroad, they haven’t listened to the population,” said hotel worker Adela Guevara.

Zelaya’s popularity had dipped in recent polls to around 30 percent as he pushed for a vote on constitutional change.

Since the coup, Zelaya has vowed to return home to serve the rest of his term, which ends in 2010. The interim government has said he will be arrested if he comes home and there is “no chance at all” of him returning to office.

Zelaya’s wife and youngest son were staying at the U.S. ambassador’s house in Tegucigalpa.

“For the outside world, it is difficult to explain why he was taken in his pajamas at gun-point and sent into exile. But there really was no other option,” said Santiago Ruiz, who heads a local agriculture and ranchers’ association.

The European Union has condemned the coup and EU president Sweden said all the bloc’s ambassadors had left Honduras.

No foreign government has talked of sanctions against Honduras but Central American neighbors suspended border trade for two days this week. Any economic embargo could harm coffee supplies, which have so far been untouched by the turmoil.

The Honduran Congress approved a decree on Wednesday to crack down on the opposition during a nightly curfew imposed after the coup. The decree allows security forces to hold suspects for more than 24 hours without charge and formalizes the prohibition of the right to free association at night.

Reuters.com

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One Response

  1. Go ahead OAS; remove Honduras from your membership for being a democratic government and fighting for its constitution. Doesn’t anyone have any shame to be ganging up on such a poor country? And to be trying to force them to re-instate such a corrupt individual? How about the OAS gives an ultimatum to Cuba? How can any decent person even think of isolating a country and its people for doing the right thing? Shame on you all, shame on you.

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