Ousted president returns to Honduras

Takes refuge in Brazil's embassy

The Associated PressSeptember 22, 2009 

  • The Honduran military arrested President Manuel Zelaya in June after he sought to hold a vote on whether a constitutional assembly should be convened, a move his critics said was intended to scrap presidential term limits.

    International leaders were almost unanimously against the armed removal of the president, alarmed that it could return Latin America to a bygone era of coups and instability. The United States, the European Union and others have cut aid to Honduras to press for Zelaya's return.

    Christian Science Monitor, The Associated Press

— Deposed President Manuel Zelaya made a dramatic return to Honduras' capital Monday, taking shelter from arrest at Brazil's embassy and calling for negotiations with the leaders who forced him from the country at gunpoint.

The interim government ordered a 15-hour curfew, but thousands of Zelaya supporters ignored the decreed 4 p.m. shutdown and remained outside the embassy, dancing and cheering.

The leftist leader's homecoming creates a sharp new challenge for the interim government that has threatened repeatedly to throw him in jail if he returns.

Chants of "Yes we could! Yes we could!" bellowed from the crowd outside the Brazilian Embassy.

Zelaya told The Associated Press that he was trying to establish contact with the interim government to start negotiations on a solution to the standoff that started when soldiers flew him out of the country June 28.

"As of now, we are beginning to seek dialogue," he said by telephone, though he gave few details. Talks moderated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias have been stalled for weeks over the interim government's refusal to accept Zelaya's reinstatement.

He also summoned his countrymen to come to the capital for peaceful protests and urged the army to avoid attacking his supporters.

"It is the moment of reconciliation," he said.

Security Vice Minister Mario Perdomo said checkpoints were being set up on highways leading to the capital to keep out Zelaya's supporters from other regions.

The interim government was caught off guard by Zelaya's arrival. Only minutes before he appeared publicly at the embassy, officials said reports of his return were a lie.

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