The head of the Honduran military pledged on Monday not to use deadly force against supporters of ousted president Manuel Zelaya and said the Army supports mediation efforts to solve the political crisis.
“We will not fire on our people” Armed forces commander, General Romeo Vasquez, told Radio Globo, one of the few Honduras media outlets critical of the interim government headed by Robert Micheletti.
General Vasquez was a key figure in the June 28 ouster of Zelaya and has defended the expulsion, but has said he was only enforcing a Supreme Court ruling. Zelaya is now camped out on the Nicaraguan side of the border with Honduras from where he is plotting his return.
“The armed forces are not the ones responsible for this internal division” Vasquez said on the radio show, during which he also talked with Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro, who remains in Honduras and has been prevented from reaching the border.
The military said it backs “negotiations within the framework” of the San Jose accord that includes returning Zelaya to power in a unity government and bringing elections forward. Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, who mediated the agreement, said blood shed, is possible without negotiations.
Roberto Micheletti, now serving as interim president also said he supports negotiations led by Arias. Writing a column in the Wall Street Journal, Micheletti said negotiations are “the way forward.” But he reiterated that if Zelaya returns to Honduras, he’ll be tried for defying the country’s constitution.
“The way forward is to work with” Arias, Micheletti wrote in the newspaper.
The talks in the Costa Rica fell apart on July 19, when Zelaya rejected Arias’s 11-point proposal, citing intransigence by Micheletti’s team in San Jose. Zelaya briefly crossed the border with Nicaragua on July 24, as Honduran police stood by.
Soldiers flew Zelaya to Costa Rica on June 28 after he ignored court orders to reinstate the head of the military. The army chief had refused to help organize a poll sought by Zelaya, aimed at gauging support for changing the constitution, which the country’s Supreme Court and Congress had ruled was illegal.
Micheletti says Zelaya’s goal is to seek another term in office, which is barred by the constitution.
“We are ready to continue discussions once the Supreme Court, the attorney general and Congress analyze President Arias’ proposal,” Micheletti wrote. “Once we know their legal positions, we will proceed accordingly.”
In today’s article, Micheletti said Zelaya was removed by order of the country’s civilian leadership after violating the constitution and effectively ending his own presidency. He said Zelaya had to be taken out of the country because of “genuine fear of Mr. Zelaya’s proven willingness to violate the law and to engage in mob-led violence.”
“The armed forces are saying one thing and the civilian authorities another,” Zelaya said about the military’s statement on the San Jose accord. “They are acting incongruently.”
Since being ousted, Zelaya has visited Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador and the U.S. to build support for his return. The United Nations, European Union and the Organization of American States have backed his bid to return to power.
“The goal is a peaceful solution that is consistent with Honduran law, in a civil society where even the president is not above the law,” Micheletti wrote.
Zelaya is camping out on the Nicaraguan side of the border before planning another attempt to cross, backed by several hundred Hondurans who have trickled across the border since he called for their aid.