Honduran former president Manuel Zelaya, whose ouster almost two years ago led to Honduras’ expulsion from the Organization of American States, OAS, returned home from exile Saturday following an agreement brokered by Colombia and Venezuela
The move is expected to allow the country’s reinstatement into the regional group and even more important national reconciliation, based on the terms of the accord that opened the way for his return.
Zelaya arrived at Tegucigalpa’s international airport from Nicaragua in a plane belonging to Venezuelan state-run airline Conviasa. He was accompanied by his family and a delegation of international allies, including former Panamanian President Martin Torrijos, Venezuela Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguín.
“Thanks to your efforts I’ve been able to return to my land” he told a crowd who had come to welcome him. Many were dressed in red in a show of solidarity with Zelaya’s National Popular Resistance Front, a coalition that advocated his return. “Your presence here this afternoon, and international support, shows that blood was not spilt in vain.”
Honduran elected President Porfirio Lobo signed an agreement May 22 with Zelaya, allowing him to return from exile and help change the country’s laws. The agreement, brokered with the help of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, also guarantees that Zelaya supporters can return safely to Honduras and form a party to participate in elections.
Zelaya later in the day joined President Lobo and has a meeting scheduled with OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza. The vote to restore Honduras to the OAS will occur June 1, according to a resolution passed May 24 in Washington.
Honduran soldiers put Zelaya on a plane to Costa Rica in June 2009 after the country’s Supreme Court ruled, with support from Congress, that his push to rewrite the constitution and extend presidential term limits was illegal. On May 2, a court dropped the last of the remaining charges against the former president.
Zelaya, who spent more than four months in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa after sneaking back into Honduras last year, has since remained in exile in the Dominican Republic..
Lobo's government is now recognized by the United States, the European Union, Central American countries and Colombia but has not won entry back into the OAS.
A former businessman who sports a cowboy hat and thick moustache and is a big landowner in Honduras, Zelaya elected in 2006 fell into the arms of President Chavez unable to address the country’s soaring bills. Honduras together with Haiti and Bolivia is among Latam’s poorest country and lives off international handouts, special access to the US market and tourism.