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Honduran’s Zelaya president vows to return

Tuesday, June 30th 2009 - 15:22 UTC
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Zelaya says he will be back Zelaya says he will be back

The Honduran president ousted by a military coup and forced into exile has said he will return home on Thursday. Speaking in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, late on Monday, Manuel Zelaya said: “I go to Tegucigalpa on Thursday. I'm the elected president, I will fulfil my four-year term.”

He said he had accepted an offer by Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organisation of American States, to be accompanied to Honduras after they attend talks on the crisis in Washington on Wednesday.

Zelaya's announcement before regional leaders came as soldiers and riot police confronted his supporters in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, firing tear gas into a crowd massed outside the presidential palace earlier on Monday.

Protesters were calling for the reinstatement of the president who was forced into exile in Costa Rica after a coup on Sunday.

Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Tegucigalpa late on Monday, said the army appeared to be in control of the capital and the streets were much quieter than earlier in the day.

An information blackout was being enforced in the country to prevent any pro-Zelaya media outlets from broadcasting, but if news of Zelaya's intended return got out, more people would very likely take to the streets, she said.

Riot police and soldiers had earlier moved against curfew-defying protesters at the presidential palace but were at first repelled by them throwing rocks.

They then fired tear gas against the protesters and beat some of them, our correspondent said.

Roadblocks were set up soon after the military forced back the demonstrators, she added.

Protesters hurt

Cristian Vallejo, a Red Cross paramedic, said he had taken 10 protesters to hospital, most of them with injuries from rubber-coated bullets.

At least 38 demonstrators have been detained by the security forces, said Sandra Ponce, a human rights prosecutor.

Zelaya was forced from power by the military on Sunday, on the same day that he tried to push ahead with a referendum on changes to the constitution.

The military, legislature and courts had already declared Zelaya's move to hold the non-binding public vote illegal.

They each said that Zelaya was looking to extend his rule by changing the national charter to allow himself to run for a third term in office.

Zelaya, whose four-year term was set to expire in January, had dismissed the claims, saying that constitutional changes were necessary to improve the lives of Honduras' poor.

Regional condemnation

The removal of Zelaya from the presidency has been denounced by countries allied to the sacked left-wing leader.

Members of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (Alba), which includes Venezuela and Bolivia, said on Monday they would withdraw their ambassadors from Honduras.

Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's president, said at the meeting in Manague that El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala would cut trade with Honduras for at least 48 hours.

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, told Alba members: “We're ready to support the rebellion of the Honduran people.”

Barack Obama, the US president, on Monday criticised the Honduran military's removal of Zelaya.

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

“It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections.

”The region has made enormous progress over the last 20 years in establishing democratic traditions... We don't want to go back to a dark past.“

Interim president defiant

Zelaya was taken by soldiers from his home in his pyjamas on Sunday and sent to Costa Rica.

Roberto Micheletti, the former parliamentary speaker from the same Liberal party as Zelaya, was sworn in by congress as Zelaya's replacement just hours after the coup.

He said Zelaya was not ousted through a coup but through ”a completely legal process as set out in our laws“.

”What we have done here is an act of democracy, because our army has complied with the order of the court, prosecutors and judges,“ Micheletti said.

But Zelaya said he had been a ”victim of kidnapping“ when Honduran soldiers raided his home earlier in the day.

”They came to my house in the early hours of the morning and firing guns, they broke the doors with bayonets and threatened to shoot me,“ Zelaya told Venezuela's Telesur television station.

Calling for ”peaceful resistance“, he said he did not ”think that the whole army supported this interruption of the democratic system by capturing a president elected by the people”.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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