Protests Erupt Following Zelaya’s Return

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Protests Erupt Following Zelaya's Return

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya holed up in Brazil’s Embassy in Honduras’s capital while soldiers and police dispersed his rock-throwing supporters with tear gas and water cannons.

Tegucigalpa was locked down under a curfew Tuesday, while international airports remained closed. Honduras’s interim government temporarily cut off power, water and telephone contact with the Brazilian Embassy where Mr. Zelaya took refuge Monday after he slipped secretly into Honduras in an attempt to reclaim the presidential seat.

In an interview with a radio station Tuesday, Mr. Zelaya said, “The coup mongers have shown their claws.” Despite previous statements that he had returned to Honduras to seek dialogue, Mr. Zelaya called on his supporters to defy the government. “Citizens should not obey a usurper government,” he said.

As police clashed with demonstrators Tuesday, some gas canisters landed inside the embassy where Mr. Zelaya, his wife and at least 70 supporters have taken refuge. Tegucigalpa police spokesman Jorge Daniel Molina said 49 people had been detained in the disturbances, while 23 — including 10 police officers — had suffered slight injuries. Mr. Molina said the situation was under control, but the curfew, which was expected to be lifted Tuesday evening, was extended an additional 12 hours.

The de facto government said it is willing to talk to Mr. Zelaya if he recognizes the legality of the country’s presidential elections scheduled for November, Reuters reported. “I will talk with anybody anywhere at any time including with former President Manuel Zelaya,” de factor ruler Roberto Micheletti said in a statement read out by Carlos Lopez, the interim govenment’s foreign minister.

Nevertheless, Mr. Lopez said Mr. Micheletti’s offer to talk to Mr. Zelaya “in no way includes (an offer) for Mr. Zelaya to return as president.” Mr. Lopez said the offer to dialogue could not void the Honduran Supreme Court’s issuing of an arrest warrant for Mr. Zelaya “nor the charges he faces in our independent judicial system.”

In Washington, Mr. Zelaya’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, Carlos Sosa, said Mr. Zelaya had returned in an attempt to “force a political solution [to the crisis]. Being in Honduras facilitates things.”………………..

Late Monday, the Honduran government said that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias would no longer be authorized to serve as a mediator in the crisis. Shortly after Mr. Zelaya’s ouster June 28, Mr. Arias drew up a road map to try to settle the dispute. But the Micheletti government says the main point of the Arias plan — the return of Mr. Zelaya as president — is unacceptable.

Mr. Zelaya, a close ally of Venezuela’s [socialist] President Hugo Chávez, was ordered arrested by Honduras’s Supreme Court after he pushed for a constitutional rewrite that critics said would have allowed him to stay beyond his term. The soldiers sent to arrest him feared his detention would spur bloodshed and instead put him on a plane to exile.

Mr. Zelaya’s return to Honduras appeared to be a setback for the U.S.’s efforts to find a way out of the impasse. Mindful of the U.S.’s history of backing right-wing military coups, the Obama administration has cracked down on the Micheletti government. In doing so, it has angered many Hondurans, traditionally among the U.S.’s closest allies, who feel that the armed forces, following a court order, saved Honduras from a Chávez-inspired blueprint to stay in power.

Among other pressures, the U.S. has suggested it may not recognize the results of elections scheduled for Nov. 29, which the Honduran interim government hopes will provide a way out of the country’s current isolation.

The State Department called on both sides to maintain calm Tuesday and avoid incidents that could provoke violence.

In New York, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called on Mr. Zelaya to refrain from doing anything that would lead the interim government to storm the embassy. Mr. Micheletti said his government doesn’t intend to confront Brazil or enter its embassy, saying Mr. Zelaya could stay in in the embassy for “five to 10 years” if he wants to.

Mr. Micheletti, who rejects claims that Mr. Zelaya’s ouster was a coup, has said Mr. Zelaya should surrender to Honduran authorities to face charges that include treason and abuse of authority. He has asked Brazilian authorities to hand over Mr. Zelaya.

The move appears to undermine Brazil’s ability to negotiate with the Micheletti government, which now views Brazil as partisan, since by default Brazil has become Mr. Zelaya’s chief international sponsor in Honduras.

Given the latest twist, Mr. Shifter, the analyst, said he believed Mr. Zelaya could be in the Brazilian Embassy for a long time. “Maybe he should take up samba lessons,” he said.

Source: StudentNewsDaily

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