Honduran interim government reinstates curfew

Honduras’ interim government suggested that backers of ousted President Manuel Zelaya were taking up arms to return him to power and itreinstated an overnight curfew it had lifted only days earlier.

Interim President Roberto Micheletti said Wednesday that forces he didn’t identify “were handing out some guns” to foment rebellion.

A day earlier, Zelaya said Hondurans have the right to launch an insurrection against an illegitimate government — referring to a clause in the country’s constitution — and warned he would pull out of talks to solve the crisis if the interim government does not quickly leave.

“There are reports, I don’t know if they are real, I haven’t been officially informed, that there is a group of armed people and that Zelaya is going to enter over the Nicaraguan border this Saturday,” said Micheletti, the former congressional leader who was sworn in to serve out the final six months of Zelaya’s term following the June 28 coup.

He added that “we still have confidence that this problem will be resolved through dialogue.” Talks on ending the crisis are scheduled to resume Saturday, mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

But a government statement read on television said a midnight-5 a.m. curfew was being imposed starting Wednesday night. It cited “continuing and open threats by groups looking to provoke disturbances and disorder.”

On Sunday, officials had lifted a similar curfew in force since the coup, saying they had civil unrest under control.

Earlier Wednesday, Micheletti offered to step down “if at some point that decision is needed to bring peace and tranquility to the country.” But he said that hinged on guarantees that Zelaya would not return to power.

Zelaya was not immediately available for comment, but the offer appeared unlikely to resolve the crisis over the coup, in which soldiers seized Zelaya and hustled him out of the country on a plane.

If Micheletti were to resign, under Honduran law the presidency would pass to Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera. The Supreme Court backed the coup, ruling that Zelaya had violated the law by attempting to hold a vote about whether to write a new constitution.

Many Hondurans viewed the proposed vote as an attempt by Zelaya, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to end a ban on re-election and pave the way for his return to power.

Zelaya denies he was seeking another term.

The interim president has threatened to jail Zelaya, a wealthy rancher who shifted to the left after being elected, if he comes back to Honduras.

Demonstrations for Zelaya’s return continued in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday and his supporters called for labor strikes.

Labor leader Israel Salinas, one of the main figures in the pro-Zelaya movement, told thousands of demonstrators who marched through the capital that workers at state-owned companies plan walkouts later this week.

He said protest organizers were talking with union leaders at private companies to see if they could mount a general strike against Micheletti. Salinas also said sympathetic unions in neighboring Nicaragua and El Salvador would try to block border crossings later this week “in solidarity with our struggle.”

Demonstrators threw rocks at a government building that houses the country’s women’s institute, but no injuries were reported.

“We are going to install the constitutional assembly. We are going to burn the Congress,” protest leader Miriam Miranda vowed.

Two earlier rounds of talks in Costa Rica failed to produce a breakthrough. Arias, who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ending Central America’s wars, has urged Zelaya to “be patient.”



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