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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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Honduran rulers insist Zelaya cannot be president

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Honduran rulers insist Zelaya cannot be president

The de facto Honduran government insisted on Thursday that it would not allow ousted President Manuel Zelaya to return to office, dampening hopes of a deal to end a political crisis after last month’s coup.

Roberto Micheletti, named president by Congress after Zelaya was toppled in the June 28 coup, said he was open to dialogue to resolve the crisis but would not accept Zelaya back in power, as mediators are asking.

“I’ve clearly said it before and I say it again, if there is a solution where I have to step down I will do it willingly, but I cannot allow Zelaya to return as president,” Micheletti told reporters.

Rafael Pineda, who as minister of the presidency is No. 2 in the de facto government, told Reuters the administration was “firm, unchangeable” against Zelaya’s return to power.

In neighboring Nicaragua, the exiled Zelaya asked a U.S. delegation to step up measures against the coup leaders and vowed to take his case to the International Criminal Court.

With mediator Costa Rica’s efforts making little progress, Micheletti invited Enrique Iglesias, former Inter-American Development Bank head, to come to Honduras as a special envoy to try and rekindle negotiations.

The coup leaders are under pressure from Washington to reinstate Zelaya, and a source close to the de facto government said Micheletti might consider letting Zelaya back if there were assurances he would not try to derail democracy.

But Micheletti said on Thursday that if Zelaya came back it would be to face trial. Zelaya incited profound criticism while in office by allying with Venezuela’s firebrand President Hugo Chavez and pushing to allow presidential re-election.

“If he wants to retake control of the government, not under any circumstance,” Micheletti said.

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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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