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Obama: Ouster of Honduran president Zelaya was coup

1U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the joint statement at the Cabanas Cultural Center in Guadalajara, Mexico, while attending the North American Leader’s Summit, August 10, 2009.

Obama: Ouster of Honduran president Zelaya was coup

GUADALAJARA, Mexico (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Monday it was hypocritical for critics of Washington’s response to a coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to demand a more forceful U.S. role in returning him to power.

Zelaya, an ally of anti-U.S. leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said last week the United States needs “only tighten its fist” to evict the de facto government installed after he was overthrown in June.

“The same critics who say that the United State has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say we are always intervening and the Yanquis need to get out of Latin America,” Obama said told a closing news conference at a U.S.-Mexico-Canada summit in Guadalajara.

“You can’t have it both ways,” he insisted, without naming names. “We have been very clear in our belief that President Zelaya was removed from office illegally, that it was a coup and that he should return. We have cooperated with all the international bodies in sending that message.”

The Latin American left had bitterly criticized Washington over the decades for intervening in the region’s affairs through military force, covert action and economic pressure.

Obama, who took office in January, has promised to forge a relationship with Latin America based on mutual respect.

Obama told reporters in Washington last week he had no quick way to resolve the political crisis in Honduras and that the United States would not take unilateral action.

“If these critics think that it’s appropriate for us to suddenly act in ways that in every other context they consider inappropriate, then I think that what that indicates is that maybe there’s some hypocrisy involved in their approach to U.S.-Latin American relations,” Obama said on Monday.

Mediation efforts by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias have so far failed to achieve Zelaya’s return.

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Ousted Honduran president issues talks ultimatum

in.reuters.com

Ousted Honduran president issues talks ultimatum

TEGUCIGALPA/MANAGUA- july 14- Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya warned on Monday he will deem mediation talks over the country’s political crisis “failed” unless he is reinstated at the next meeting, likely this weekend.

Mediator Costa Rica said on Monday it may call Honduras’ interim government and Zelaya’s negotiators within eight days for fresh talks. One of Zelaya’s negotiators, Milton Jimenez, said the next round would be held on Saturday or Sunday.

The talks began last week and stopped after two days, making scant progress.

Zelaya insists on his reinstatement after the June 28 coup. But Roberto Micheletti, installed as interim president by Honduras’ Congress, is adamant Zelaya cannot return to power under any circumstances because was seeking to illegally extend his rule through the lifting of presidential term limits.

No foreign government has recognized Micheletti as president. The United States, the Organization of American States and the U.N. General Assembly have called for Zelaya to be restored to office after the coup in the impoverished Central American country.

“We are giving an ultimatum to the coup regime, that at the latest in the next meeting this week in San Jose, Costa Rica, they should carry out the expressed (OAS and U.N.) resolutions (to reinstate me),” Zelaya told a news conference in Managua.

“If not, then this mediation will be considered to have failed,” he added, wearing his trademark white cowboy hat.

DIPLOMATIC TEST

A spokesman for Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, confirmed the mediator intended to issue a fresh invitation to the two sides “within a period of eight days” but could not give a precise date.Time was on the interim government’s side, said Mark Ruhl, a Honduras specialist at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

“The longer this goes on, the better it is for Micheletti. The downside is if the United States decides to squeeze the government financially. But if you were Micheletti, why would you leave?” he told Reuters.

Honduras, which exports bananas, coffee and textiles, has a long history of coups, returning to democracy only in the 1980s after 20 years of mainly military rule.

The Honduras crisis is a diplomatic test for U.S. President Barack Obama after he vowed a fresh start with Latin America, where Washington has in the past been accused of backing coups and dictatorships that served its interests. Obama has condemned the Honduras coup as illegal.

Micheletti on Sunday held out the possibility of an amnesty for Zelaya if he returns home quietly and faces justice. It appeared to be the interim government’s first conciliatory offer to help defuse the worst crisis in Central America since the Cold War.

Zelaya dismissed the gesture.

“I don’t accept either trials or amnesty. I won’t accept a pardon from anyone because I have not sinned,” he told Reuters in Managua.

Outside the public prosecutor’s office in Tegucigalpa on Monday, protesters held up banners that read “No amnesty for Mel’s government,” referring to Zelaya by his nickname.

CALL FOR SANCTIONS

Hondurans are striving to return to their normal lives after the coup, which caused a jump in prices for basic goods.

“The people are accepting (the new government) because of their daily needs. You have to eat,” said Encarnacion Borjas, a Zelaya supporter who oversees maintenance at a church in Tegucigalpa, as he watched a game of street soccer.

Zelaya, now traveling the Americas to shore up his support, ran afoul of his political base and ruling elites in the conservative country by allying himself with Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez. Zelaya took office in 2006 and had been due to leave power next year.

Chavez has called the mediation talks in Costa Rica “dead before they started”. Zelaya has vowed to return to Honduras.

Zelaya’s foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, echoing a demand from Chavez, called on Washington to apply “effective” economic and political sanctions against the interim government, such as blocking financial transfers and reserves, and suspending U.S. visas for its members.

Micheletti on Sunday blamed Chavez for events in Honduras and for the death of a protester in clashes at Tegucigalpa’s airport a week ago when troops blocked Zelaya’s bid to return in a plane provided by the Venezuelan leader.

Micheletti has also said he would be prepared to step down as part of an eventual solution and that elections scheduled for November could be held earlier.

“If they work out a deal for Zelaya to come back, it will be just to finish his term. He won’t return in triumph. He would be the ultimate lame duck,” Ruhl said.

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Honduras lifts post-coup curfew, says calm restored

in.reuters.com

Honduras lifts post-coup curfew, says calm restored

TEGUCIGALPA – Honduras’ interim government on Sunday lifted a curfew imposed on the country since the June 28 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, saying it had succeeded in restoring calm to the nation.

The caretaker administration of President Roberto Micheletti, installed by Honduras’ Congress after the coup, announced the ending of the curfew on television and radio.

“The government was able not only to reduce crime in the whole country, but also to restore calm to the people of Honduras,” the government said in its broadcast.

Isolated by the international community after Zelaya’s ouster, Honduras is bracing for months of austerity under the weight of economic sanctions imposed after the coup.

But the announcement of the lifting of the curfew indicated Micheletti’s government felt it could control the situation in the Central American state, despite almost daily demonstrations by pro-Zelaya supporters.

The interim government, installed by Congress after widely unpopular Zelaya was booted out of the country in his pajamas last month by soldiers, has resisted international pressure and says Zelaya’s reinstatement is not negotiable.

It accuses Zelaya, who ran afoul of his political base and ruling elites in the conservative country by allying himself with Venezuela’s firebrand leftist President Hugo Chavez, of contravening the constitution and seeking to illegally extend his rule.

The impasse over Zelaya’s return has left little wriggle room for talks brokered by Costa Rica aimed at defusing one of the worst crises in Central America since the Cold War. The talks have resulted in little apparent progress, aside from an agreement to keep talking.

Micheletti’s interim government has warned Chavez and other left-wing allies of Zelaya, such as Cuba and Nicaragua, not to meddle by trying to put him back in power. Chavez has vowed to do everything possible to help Zelaya return to office.

In a sign that tensions still remained, Honduran police on Saturday detained for several hours members of TV crews of the Venezuelan state channel VTV and Caracas-based Telesur, which have been extensively covering pro-Zelaya protests in Tegucigalpa, as well as other news developments.

Venezuela’s ambassador in Tegucigalpa Jose Laguna protested at the detention, accusing the Honduran interim authorities of “constant harassment” against the Venezuelan journalists. He said the journalists were taken to their hotel.

VENEZUELA’S CHAVEZ PROTESTS

A spokesman for Micheletti, Mario Saldana, told Reuters a number of Venezuelans were arrested for “causing vandalism and traveling in a stolen vehicle.” But he said there was “no restrictions on Venezuelan journalists.”

Speaking in Caracas, Venezuelan President Chavez angrily condemned the detention of the Venezuelan journalists.

“Is this the path they want to take?” Chavez said, adding he was convinced it was the “Yankee empire” (United States) behind Zelaya’s ouster in Honduras.

But U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration was quick to firmly condemn the coup and has thrown its weight, along with the Organization of American States, behind a mediation effort by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

Zelaya, in contrast to Chavez, has praised the behavior of the Obama administration over the coup, saying it marks a clear break with Washington’s past record of supporting sometimes violent military coups and regimes that served U.S. interests.

Zelaya, bolstered by widespread international condemnation of the coup, has vowed “actions” at home and abroad to support his return, but says he will use nonviolent methods, although he also says Hondurans have the “right to insurrection”.

At least one pro-Zelaya protester was killed in clashes at Tegucigalpa’s airport a week ago when Honduran troops blocked an attempt by Zelaya to return in a plane provided by Chavez.

Micheletti, who says previously scheduled elections will be held as planned in Honduras in November, has asked citizens to prepare for several months of austerity after foreign donors and creditors suspended funds to the country after the coup.

His government estimates it already has been denied about $200 million in suspended credits.

The United States, Honduras’ biggest economic partner, has cut $16.5 million in military assistance and warned a further $180 million in other aid is at risk.

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