Domingo, 05 de julio de 2009
 
 

OAS Suspends Honduras; Zelaya's Vow to Return Stirs Controversy

 
 
 

By JOSE DE CORDOBA and PAUL KIERNAN

[The Organization of American States meets in emergency session, in Washington, to consider suspending Honduras' membership because of the coup that ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya.] Associated Press

The Organization of American States meets in emergency session, in Washington, to consider suspending Honduras' membership because of the coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

TEGUCIGALPA -- The stage was set on Sunday for a dramatic confrontation in Honduras, with plans by ousted president Manuel Zelaya to return to the country to take up his post, as the Organization of American States kicked out the Central American nation for refusing to restore him.

At an emergency meeting in Washington, 33 nations backed the resolution suspending Honduras's membership, with none opposed and Honduras abstaining. It was the first time in nearly 20 years that the OAS took such a step due to a military coup.

"The suspension takes effect immediately," Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana said, reading the resolution before the body. The move temporarily sidelines Honduras from any participation in the OAS, but obliges it to continue observing the body's rules in areas such as human rights.

It also deepens the poor Central American nation's international isolation ahead of a looming showdown on Sunday in the Honduran capital, where Mr. Zelaya plans to return despite warnings of a potentially bloody confrontation and the interim government's vow to arrest him and put him on trial.

The small country's new leaders had told the OAS that Honduras would pull out of the body rather than let Mr. Zelaya back in the presidential seat. In an odd turn of events, the OAS said on Saturday that Honduras couldn't withdraw because its provisional government wasn't recognized by the international community.

Mr. Zelaya, a Stetson hat-wearing leftist who is close allies to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, told Venezuela's state-run Telesur television network that he planned to fly to Honduras on Sunday along with Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner and Ecuador's Rafael Correa, also leftists.

"We will arrive at the international airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with several presidents, (and) members of international organizations," Mr. Zelaya told Caracas-based station Telesur, according to the Associated Press.

The country's acting leaders, however, don't appear to be bluffing about arresting the president if he returns. In the days after he was sent packing to Costa Rica by Honduras' military, the provisional government has accused Mr. Zelaya of multiple crimes, from treason to drug trafficking.

If Mr. Zelaya returns, the chances of a violent confrontation appeared high. Responding to a call by the ousted president, thousands of his supporters turned up at the Tegucigalpa airport to show their support.

Honduras' influential Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, the highest ranking Catholic Church official in the country, went on national television to urge the exiled president not to come back.

"We think that a return to the country at this time could unleash a bloodbath in the country," Cardinal Rodriguez said. "To this day, no Honduran has died. Please meditate because afterwards it would be too late."

The prelate also criticized Mr. Zelaya, suggesting the Church was throwing its weight behind the provisional government. "The day of your swearing in, you clearly quoted the three commandments of the sacred law of God: Not to lie, not to steal, and not to kill," said the Cardinal, who was seen as a leading candidate to succeed the late Pope John Paul II.

Mr. Zelaya, the son of a wealthy farmer who ran for office as a centrist, sharply polarized the country when his politics took a left turn and he aligned his government closely with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Honduras joined Mr. Chavez's trade pact, received cut rate oil from Venezuela, and embarked on an attempt to rewrite the constitution that critics say would have let Mr. Zelaya extend his term.

To that end, Mr. Zelaya wanted to hold a referendum on whether voters wanted to change the constitution. The vote was declared illegal by Honduras's Supreme Court, but the president vowed to press on. Last Sunday, the day the referendum was set to take place, soldiers stormed the presidential residence and seized the leader at gunpoint. Congress later swore in Roberto Micheletti, the president of Congress.

So far, attempts at diplomacy have failed. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza arrived on Friday for talks with leading politicians and figures like Cardinal Rodriguez. But Mr. Insulza left soon after, saying the interim government didn't want to budge. "The break in the constitutional order persists and those that did this don't seem to have any intention of reversing that situation," he told a news conference late on Friday.

Mr. Insulza said that officials on Friday presented him with a large quantity of charges against the former leader but that the diplomat still wasn't convinced the coup plotters took the right course of action. "If someone has an accusation against a president, they make them," Mr. Insulza said. "There are mechanisms to force him out of office. They have to do it in a legal way."

Some in Honduras, however, criticize Mr. Insulza for wanting to expel Honduras from the group while at the same time pushing to allow Cuba back in despite that country's Communist dictatorship.

The provisional government insists there was no coup and that the ouster of the president was legal, saying Mr. Zelaya had ignored court orders to stop the referendum, and that his arrest was ordered by the Supreme Court. But the new leaders have so far been unable to explain several key questions: Why was a court arrest warrant carried out by the military instead of the police? And why was the president exiled instead of jailed?

Since Mr. Zelaya's ouster, the army's top legal adviser, Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza has told reporters the military decided to exile Mr. Zelaya to avoid the blooshed that would have ensued had Mr. Zelaya been held for trial.

Making matters worse, the provisional government has also decreed that individuals can be arrested with no charge for up to 72 hours, extended a nighttime curfew, and cracked down on media outlets that oppose the coup. The army also appears to have limited freedom of movement. According to local media and emails sent to The Wall Street Journal, soldiers have shot out the tires of several buses packed with pro-Zelaya supporters to prevent them from coming to the capital from rural areas, where Mr. Zelaya's support is higher.

—The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Write to Jose de Cordoba at [email protected] and Paul Kiernan at [email protected]


Tags: HONDURAS OEA SUSPENDS

Publicado por Corazon7 @ 9:41
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