Zelaya is running out of options, according to experts

The Miami HeraldSeptember 25, 2009 

If history is any indicator, Honduras' ousted president Manuel "Mel" Zelaya should get a change of clothes and a comfortable air mattress — his stint at the Brazilian Embassy here could go for a long spell.

The deposed president sneaked into his country on Monday to force a resolution to the political crisis that has gripped this country since he was forced into exile 90 days ago. But experts say that since Zelaya's term was set to expire at the end of this year and elections were already scheduled for November, the cowboy hat-wearing populist has few options.

With the United States' support weaker than Zelaya would like, the international community not doing much beyond offering rhetoric on his behalf, and his enemies appearing willing to call his bluff, experts say Zelaya is a man running out of time.

"The way this is going, you'll see this go on for another year," said Central America expert Manuel Orozco, of the InterAmerican Dialogue in Washington. "This is going to become a protracted crisis."

The military here spirited Zelaya out of the country three months ago at gunpoint. Authorities later produced both a resignation letter and a criminal arrest warrant charging Zelaya with treason.

The ouster stemmed from Zelaya's insistence on holding a nonbinding referendum that would have asked voters whether they supported a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution, which the Supreme Court had ruled illegal. Zelaya billed it as nothing more than an opinion poll, but the military, Congress, Supreme Court and business leaders viewed the referendum as a thinly veiled attempt to write a new constitution that could eventually allow him to stand for reelection.

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