Monday, October 26, 2009

U.S. officials step up pressure on Honduras coup leaders

Will leaders of the June coup that ousted Honduras' democratically elected leftist leader finally give in to international pressure and reinstate President Manuel Zelaya? That question took on increased significance this week after word that U.S. Secretary of State had telephoned the head of the interim government, former conservative legislator Roberto Micheletti, and Zelaya, prior to dispatching top officials to try to resolve the crisis. Clinton told Micheletti about "increasing frustration" in the United States and Latin America about the failure of months of negotiations to make any progress in returning Zelaya to power, according to the New York Times. Zelaya was removed from office June 30 by the Honduras military and forced into exile. Coup leaders accused Zelaya of plotting to change the country's constitution to extend his term in office beyond its January expiration, as his outspoken supporter in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, had already accomplished. National elections are scheduled in November. Zelaya secretly returned to Honduras on Sept. 21 and has been living in Brazil's embassy in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, under threat of arrest by coup leaders. The Obama administration condemned the coup in June but has since been accused across Latin America of failing to do enough to return Zelaya to power, the Times said. The interim government has been blamed for refusing to compromise and for repression of the press, human rights activists and supporters Zelaya, who hold daily demonstrations outside the Brazilian embassy, the Times said. But Micheletti has so far adamantly refused to agree to any deal that would return Zelaya to power. A U.S. State Department official told the Times that Clinton pressured Micheletti to resolve the crisis by the November election. “The purpose [of the call] was to remind him there were two pathways to the elections -- one where Honduras goes by itself and the other where it goes with broad support from the international community,” the official said. But the crisis also has led to friction in the U.S. Congress, where Democratic Party leaders have called for more U.S. pressure on the interim government to give up power and Republican Party leaders have demanded U.S. President Barack Obama reverse his condemnation of the coup.

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