High Noon in Honduras
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Both sides are preparing for high noon in Honduras this weekend, as President Manuel Zelaya plans to return to his country and coup leaders vow to arrest him immediately if he does.
Zelaya was abducted by hooded members of the armed forces on June 28 and flown to Costa Rica. The coup established itself in power, anointed by a National Congress at odds with the president.
Since then, the drama moved from this small, impoverished country to the international stage. Zelaya traveled to Managua to attend a meeting of the Central American Integration System, where he picked up formal statements of support from Central American nations, the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), the Group of Rio, and the whole alphabet soup of integration groups in the region.
From there, the newly famous president flew to New York for an appearance before the General Assembly of the United Nations, which also called for his immediate reinstatement. Zelaya met again with the OAS on July 1, which issued an ultimatum to the coup to restore him in power in 72 hours or face suspension from the 34-nation bloc.
Zelaya had planned a return to his country for July 2, but postponed his return to allow the period to pass as international diplomacy went into overdrive. "The OAS has called for 72 hours and we agree with this decision," Zelaya stated. That places his return date for this weekend. Zelaya has refused to give details on the exact date or how he will return, saying he does not want to tip off armed forces leading the coup.
Meanwhile, self-styled “president” Roberto Micheletti has stated to the press that Zelaya “will never return” and refused to negotiate reinstatement. The coup issued arrest orders against Zelaya on 18 charges that include betrayal of the country and failure to fulfill his duties.
The Honduran crisis came to a head over a nationwide non-binding referendum called by President Zelaya to determine if citizens should vote in November elections on calling a Constitutional Assembly to remake the country’s magna carta. The courts and the Congress ruled the poll illegal and when the president proceeded to carry out the vote, the armed forces moved in to take control.
All Sides Dig In
Supporters of the coup, opposition forces and the international community have all been busily working to consolidate their ranks over the past few days. On July 2, social organizations of workers, farmers and citizens held a massive march through Tegucigalpa, where they delivered a message of gratitude for support for democracy at the offices of the United Nations.
Henry Alegria, interviewed by phone amid shouting demonstrators, affirmed that despite arrest orders, movement leaders are still safe and the ranks of the opposition are growing. Although the army has blocked pro-Zelaya groups from traveling to the capital in some places, so far there has been little bloodshed. Alegria noted, “They are using other kinds of tactics, like the curfew and accusing anti-coup leaders of crimes. “
The coup declared a “state of exception”, the equivalent to a state of siege, on July 1 suspending basic civil liberties including freedom of assembly, freedom of transit and due process and justifing search and seizure without a warrant. The press has been placed under tight controls, with some media—including international media—shut down completely at times.
Honduran human rights leader, Bertha Oliva , stated “With the suspension of these articles, they officially make us all vulnerable and justify their actions against basic human rights.” Oliva called for urgent support from the international community.