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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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Venezuela’s Chavez blasts U.S., allies on Honduras

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Venezuela’s Chavez blasts U.S., allies on Honduras

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday the United States wanted Honduras’ de facto government to consolidate power and win upcoming elections but that he would recognize only the government deposed in a coup last month.

Chavez, a socialist anti-U.S. firebrand, said the United States and its regional allies were stalling the return of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, his ally.

“What they are trying to do is freeze the battle until the election in November, when the coup (leaders) will wash their hands,” Chavez told the national assembly in the capital, Caracas.

“Any government that comes out of that coup, that comes out of elections even, we will never recognize it as the government of Honduras,” Chavez said.

The United States, the United Nations and Latin American presidents have roundly condemned Zelaya’s forced removal from power on June 28 and demand he be reinstated.

But Chavez said a mediation process by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias had been a trap and that the de facto government should not have been given recognition by inviting it to the negotiating table.

“What the government of the United States and its allies want is simply for the coup (leaders) to consolidate themselves and be recognized, if not by law, then de facto,” Chavez told legislators.

Zelaya, a timber magnate known for his trademark cowboy hat, had angered the traditionally conservative ruling elite and business interests in Honduras by allying himself with Chavez.

The interim government of Roberto Micheletti insists Zelaya was acting illegally by trying to extend term limits and his removal was in accordance with Honduran law. It accuses Chavez of instigating violence in Honduras.

Chavez applauded Zelaya for taking a symbolic step inside Honduran territory on Friday and ridiculed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for saying the move was reckless.

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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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