Monday, September 21, 2009
Crisis atmosphere returns to Honduras with Zelaya's return from exile
Demonstrators returned to the streets of Tegucigalpa on Monday after ousted leftist President Manual Zelaya returned to Honduras for the first time after a June coup forced him from office. Zelaya was forced to sneak back into the country and took refuge in Brazil's embassy under threat of arrest by the new conservative government, according to the Reuters international news service. Thousands of protesters defied a curfew and stayed outside Brazil's embassy in a peaceful show of support of Zelaya, who was forced into exile by the military in a dispute over term limits. Conservative legislative leader Roberto Micheletti, who was chosen to lead the interim government, has resisted worldwide calls to restore Zelaya to office. The United States, the Organization of American States and the European Union have refused to recognize the Micheletti government and have called for the restoration of Zelaya to power. "I am the legitimate president chosen by the people and that is why I came here," Zelaya told Reuters by telephone from inside the embassy. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Zelaya and the coup leaders must find a way to avoid violence in Honduras, Reuters said. "It's imperative that dialogue begin ... (and) there be a channel of communication between President Zelaya and the de facto regime in Honduras," Clinton said after a meeting with President Oscar Arias of nearby Costa Rica. But Micheletti wants Zelaya arrested on corruption charges and called on Brazil to turn him over to the de facto government. "A call to the government of Brazil: respect the judicial order against Mr. Zelaya and turn him into Honduran authorities ... The eyes of the world are on Brazil and Honduras," Micheletti said. Zelaya was due to leave office in January but his opponents accused him of trying to change Honduras' constitution to permit him to stay in office. In New York, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told Reuters he hoped Zelaya's return to Honduras would start a new stage in negotiations to end the crisis.