Honduras' de facto government turns away diplomats

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 27, 2009 

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- The government of de facto President Roberto Micheletti Sunday refused to allow four diplomats from the Washington-based Organization of American States to enter Honduras — including one from the U.S. — because of these countries' recent diplomatic moves against the small Central American nation.

The move marks the first time Honduras' de facto government has denied entry to diplomats and is the latest sign that Micheletti is refusing to budge amid growing international pressure to reinstate deposed President Manuel Zelaya, who was removed from power in June. Zelaya sneaked back into the country a week ago and has been holed up in the Brazilian Embassy with about 70 supporters.

OAS General Secretary Jose Miguel Insulza said he couldn't understand the decision, because the group was supposed to serve as an advance team for an upcoming OAS mission.

"Actions like this one adopted today by Honduran authorities of the de facto regime create serious difficulties for those trying to create social peace in Honduras," Insulza said in a statement.

Honduras also gave Brazil 10 days to stop harboring Zelaya at the embassy.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said his government "doesn't accept ultimatums from coup-plotters."

Though electricity and water have been restored, and international groups are providing food to Zelaya and his allies, the conditions inside the embassy are increasingly difficult. The Honduran government has said it won't breach international law by trying to grab Zelaya inside the embassy, so for now, he seems likely to stay.

The U.S. has joined Latin American nations — including Brazil — in calling for Zelaya's reinstitution. The administration has cut aid and revoked visas to visit the U.S. by Honduran politicians and business leaders who're seen as supporting the alleged coup. The Obama administration, as well as Latin American and European governments, have said that not restoring Zelaya to power would encourage future coups in the region.

For his part, Micheletti says what happened wasn't a coup but a legal transfer of power.

Although Zelaya has several thousand supporters who march for him every day in Tegucigalpa, the capital, he has yet to demonstrate the type of backing that could shake an intransigent government.

Published news accounts in Honduras have reported that Zelaya hoped a groundswell of popular support would greet his clandestine return, possibly even forcing Micheletti to slink from power.

However, Sunday's developments seem to reflect the Micheletti government's belief that Zelaya lacks popular support in Honduras and is left with a weak hand to play.

(Frances Robles of the Miami Herald contributed to this article.)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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