Monday, July 6, 2009

Honduras: Zelaya's Plane Kept From Landing

Honduran ex-president Manuel Zelaya's plane was prevented from landing at the airport in that country's capital city today. This came after the OAS (Organization of American States) had condemned his earlier expulsion from that country by what was seen as a military coup. However, after the expulsion, a civilian government was installed in that central American country. The Obama administration wasted little time in condemning the new government in Honduras and throwing its support behind the would be leftist dictator, Zelaya, who is a close friend of Hugo Chavez. Obama on this one as shown his willingness to support a leftist dictator who was deposed by his own legislature and supreme court. If any doubts remained about the political leanings of BHO these doubts are no longer in question. Obama had previously stated during the Iranian protest that he would not inject himself into the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, it now seems he has stepped back from that earlier position to help one of his communist friends in Latin American. Maybe he thinks this will give him a boost in his upcoming meeting with Putin in Russia.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Ousted President Manuel Zelaya was kept from landing at the main Honduras airport Sunday because the runway was blocked by groups of soldiers with military vehicles, some of them lined up against a crowd of thousands outside. His Venezuelan pilot circled around the airport and decided not to risk a crash.

Zelaya landed in Nicaragua and vowed to try again Monday or Tuesday in his high-stakes effort to return to power in a country where all branches of government have lined up against him, including the military that shot up his house and sent him into exile in his pajamas a week earlier.

"I am the commander of the armed forces, elected by the people, and I ask the armed forces to comply with the order to open the airport so that there is no problem in landing and embracing with my people," Zelaya said from the plane. "Today I feel like I have sufficient spiritual strength, blessed with the blood of Christ, to be able to arrive there and raise the crucifix."

But interim President Roberto Micheletti insisted on preventing the plane from landing, and said he won't negotiate until "things return to normal."

"We will be here until the country calms down," Micheletti said. "We are the authentic representatives of the people."

Micheletti also alleged that Nicaragua is moving troops to their border in an attempt at psychological intimidation, and warned them not to cross into Honduras, "because we're ready to defend our border." Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega called the allegation "totally false."

Violence broke out among the huge crowd surrounding the airport, with at least one man killed — shot in the head from inside the airport as people tried to break through a security fence, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene. At least 30 people were treated for injuries, the Red Cross said, after security forces fired warning shots and tear gas.

When Zelaya's plane was turned away, his supporters began chanting "We want blue helmets!" — a reference to U.N. peacekeepers.

His next destination was likely to be El Salvador, where the presidents of Argentina, Paraguay and Ecuador and the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, flew from Washington and were awaiting his arrival.

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Zelaya won wide international support after his military ouster, but the presidents decided against flying on Zelaya's plane, citing security concerns. Flying with Zelaya were close advisers and staff, two journalists from the Venezuela-based network Telesur, and U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, a leftist Nicaraguan priest and former foreign minister.

Honduras' new government has vowed to arrest Zelaya for 18 alleged criminal acts including treason and failing to implement more than 80 laws approved by Congress since taking office in 2006.

Despite a Supreme Court ruling, Zelaya had also pressed ahead with a referendum on whether to hold an assembly to consider changing the constitution. Critics feared he might press to extend his rule and cement presidential power in ways similar to his ally Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

But instead of prosecuting him or trying to defeat his referendum idea at the ballot box, other Honduran leaders sent masked soldiers to fly Zelaya out of the country at gunpoint, and congress installed Micheletti in his place.

The military solution prompted condemnation at the United Nations and the OAS suspended Honduras in response. Many called it a huge step back for democracy, and no nation has recognized the new government. President Barack Obama has united with Chavez and conservative Alvaro Uribe in criticism.

Without OAS membership, the isolated interim government faces trade sanctions and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidized oil, aid and loans.

Micheletti's vice foreign minister, Martha Lorena Alvarado, said the interim government sent the OAS a letter expressing "willingness to conduct conversations in good faith." In Washington, senior Obama administration officials took that as a positive sign.

Speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the State Department, the officials said the United States and other OAS member countries are coordinating contacts and outreach to facilitate a resolution, despite their insistence on having no formal relations with the interim government.

The immediate concern, however, was avoiding more bloodshed. Both critics and supporters of Zelaya have staged large demonstrations. The country's Roman Catholic archbishop and its human rights commissioner urged Zelaya to stay away to avoid provoking them.

Zelaya has drawn most of his support from the working and middle classes of this impoverished nation, while his opponents are based in the ranks of the well-to-do, although the increasingly leftist approach of the wealthy rancher had eroded his popular support.

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