Honduran forces tighten border to stop Zelaya


Honduran troops and police tightened the border with Nicaragua on Friday against an attempt by deposed President Manuel Zelaya to enter the country after he was removed in a military coup and sent into exile.

Security forces fired tear gas at dozens of pro-Zelaya supporters trying to reach the border to greet the president near the coffee town of El Paraiso, said Reuters reporter Esteban Israel, who witnessed the scene.

The leftist president, toppled on June 28, has sworn to return to Honduras from northern Nicaragua this weekend but the de facto government that replaced him says he will be arrested if he steps on Honduran soil.

Troops killed a Zelaya supporter at the Tegucigalpa airport in a previous attempt by the president to return to the country earlier this month.

“We have to reverse this coup and I plan to do it peacefully. With my presence in Honduras, the people will surround me and the soldiers will lower their rifles,” Zelaya said in neighboring Nicaragua.

The United States and Latin American governments have demanded Zelaya’s reinstatement but Honduran interim leader Roberto Micheletti insists he will be detained for violating the constitution and other charges if he returns.

The U.S. State Department said it backed a Costa Rican plan to end the crisis which calls for Zelaya to return, but advised the president not to enter Honduras without a political deal.

“Any step that anyone takes, either the parties directly or the countries in the surrounding area, any step that would add to the risk of violence in Honduras or in the area, we think would be unwise,” said department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

ZELAYA HEADS FOR BORDER

Talks this week in Costa Rica about the standoff — Central America’s worst political crisis in 20 years — appear to have fallen apart, raising the threat of violence inside Honduras.

Zelaya left the Nicaraguan town of Esteli for the border driving a jeep but it was not clear when his convoy would try to enter Honduras.

Micheletti, appointed president by Congress hours after the army exiled Zelaya, said the ousted leader would be arrested for violating the constitution and other charges.

“The return of ex-president Zelaya isn’t possible because it would be illegal and we have to respect the law,” he told the Chilean newspaper La Tercera.

The Honduran Congress will meet on Monday to discuss a proposal by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to end the crisis. It is likely to reject a demand to reinstate Zelaya, mistrusted by the ruling elite which accuses him of trying to extend presidential term limits.

U.S. President Obama has condemned the coup, cut $16.5 million in military aid and threatened to slash economic aid. Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Latin America and a coffee exporter, could be hard hit by any further sanctions.

Zelaya’s approval rating had fallen to about 30 percent but many in the poor countryside still support him.

Reuters.com

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