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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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Zelaya plans return to Honduras if talks fail -wife

uk.reuters.com

Zelaya plans return to Honduras if talks fail -wife

TEGUCIGALPA – Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will seek to openly return to his country if mediation talks on Saturday fail to reinstate him, his wife said on the eve of the discussions in Costa Rica.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is due to host the talks between delegations representing Zelaya, toppled in a June 28 coup, and the interim government led by Roberto Micheletti, who was installed by Honduras’ Congress after the ouster.

“Time runs out tomorrow,” Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, told Reuters in an interview Friday in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. “He has to come back to the country. He has to come publicly.”

She gave no clear indication of the timing of his return, but said he would not negotiate on his demand to be reinstated. Zelaya had given an ultimatum that either the Costa Rica talks restored him to office or he would consider them failed.

Micheletti has so far defied international calls for Zelaya to be reinstated and ruled out his return to office. He says Zelaya was removed because he violated the constitution by seeking to lift presidential term limits.

“A dialogue cannot just be an ultimatum,” said Micheletti’s interim foreign minister, Carlos Lopez.

The entrenched positions on both sides make more difficult Arias’ task to try to find a compromise settlement to defuse Central America’s worst political crisis since the Cold War.

Earlier, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a leftist ally of Zelaya, had said the ousted president would go back to Honduras “in the coming hours,” suggesting an imminent return.

But Zelaya’s wife made clear that he was going to give the talks in Costa Rica an opportunity to reinstate him.

Zelaya is currently in Nicaragua, which borders Honduras.

Micheletti’s interim government has threatened to arrest him if he returns home.

A previous attempt by Zelaya to fly home on July 5 in a Venezuelan plane provided by Chavez was thwarted by Honduran troops who prevented the plane from landing in Tegucigalpa. At least one person was killed in clashes between troops and Zelaya supporters at the airport.

The United States, which is strongly backing Arias’ mediation efforts, urged states in the region to avoid actions that could push the situation into violence.

PROTEST ROADBLOCKS

On Friday, supporters of the ousted president, clamouring for his reinstatement, blocked major highways in Honduras, including the northern access into Tegucigalpa.

At the southern entrance to the city, pro-Zelaya protesters lifted their roadblock after police brandishing tear gas canisters gave them an ultimatum.

“We’re going to bring “Mel” (Zelaya) back,” said teacher Noemi Farias as she took part in the protests.

“Zelaya said that in the coming hours he’ll enter Honduras. We’re behind him, we have to support him,” Chavez said outside the presidential palace in Bolivia, where he had attended a meeting of leftist Latin American allies. He gave no more details about how Zelaya intended to return home.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, which has urged the rivals in the Honduran crisis to give the Costa Rica talks a chance, called for restraint. A State Department official said Chavez’s comments on Zelaya’s return were not helpful.

“The situation right now is of serious concern to us and there is a potential for severely aggravating tensions in the region should he decide to make that trip right now,” the official said in Washington on condition of anonymity.

As pro-Zelaya supporters blocked roads in Honduras, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, which groups port workers around the world, called for a blockade of ships flying the Honduran flag to protest Zelaya’s ouster.

The federation urged affiliated dockworkers to refuse to load and unload Honduran cargo ships, potentially affecting exports including coffee and textiles from the country. Cargo ships from countries around the world fly the Honduran flag as a flag of convenience.

Honduran coffee producers say 2008-9 exports have not been affected by unrest after the coup. However, blockades by protesters could complicate delivery of fertilizers to farms preparing for the upcoming harvest, they said.

Zelaya, a logging magnate who was elected in 2005 and was due to leave office in 2010, has repeated almost daily since the coup that he intends to return home “any day.”

Chavez said Honduras’ army would not be able to control popular pressure for Zelaya’s reinstatement. “What do they want? A civil war? The people will sweep them away,” he said.

The Venezuelan leader has dismissed the mediation talks in Costa Rica as “dead before they started,” and accused the United States of being behind the coup that toppled his ally — a charge denied by Washington.

Micheletti has accused Chavez of meddling in Honduras.

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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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