Ousted president Zelaya makes brief return to Honduras

July 24, 2009

Nearly four weeks after his ouster, Manuel Zelaya briefly set foot on his native Honduran soil Friday in a second chaotic attempt at returning to restore his presidency.

“We´re trying to break this impasse with the coup leaders who broke the democratic order in Honduras,” he told a Nica Times correspondent on the scene at the Nicaraguan border. “We won´t give up.”

Zelaya left Managua Thursday in a caravan to Estelí, a Nicaraguan town near the northern border with Honduras, where he spent the night planning his highly publicized re-entry. Honduran soldiers stood along the border poised to block Zelaya´s entry or arrest him if he tried.

Surrounded by large unruly group of supporters and journalists, Zelaya briefly stepped several meters over the border early in the afternoon. Once across, he stood beside a large sign that read “Welcome to Honduras,” while nearby Honduran soldiers and police looked on tensely. After a brief standoff, Zelaya returned to Nicaraguan soil.

The de facto government of Roberto Micheletti spoke out against Zelaya´s move, accusing him of provoking a possible “bloodbath” in the Central American nation. Micheletti issued a curfew near the Honduran border starting at noon, newswire AFP reported.

Zelaya wasn´t arrested because “he put one foot in, and left” the country, Micheletti´s deputy security minister, Mario Perdomo, told The Associated Press. “And he did this in a dead zone of the border, which we tolerated.”

Honduran armed forces had prevented Zelaya´s prior attempt at returning by airplane on July 5, one week after they raided his home and forced him into exile in Costa Rica. Since his ouster, the leader has been on a continuous tour of the Americas, garnering considerable support for his return mission, particularly in ALBA ally nation Nicaragua.

“I like to have a mobile government, I don´t like to sit still,” Zelaya said, donning his trademark white cowboy hat.

Zelaya would not say how long he planned to stay in Nicaragua, but U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told AFP that they were expecting Zelaya to visit Washington on Tuesday “for further discussions.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced disapproval of Zelaya´s dramatic move.

“President Zelaya´s effort to reach the border is reckless. It does not contribute to the broader effort to restore democracy and constitutional order in the Honduras crisis,” Clinton said Friday, according to AFP.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who on Wednesday announced a 12-point roadmap for an end to the stalemate in Honduras, echoed Clinton ´s words, saying Zelaya´s move was not the way to reconciliation.

Arias´ plan, dubbed the San José Agreement, which was sketched from two rounds of negotiations in the Costa Rican leader´s living room, still awaits signatures from both of the rival Honduran factions.

But Arias continues to stand by his accord, telling reporters Friday, “I don´t think the agreement is one of the solutions (for ending the stalemate) … it is the only solution.”

The de facto Honduran government said in a statement it wishes to stay the path toward negotiations, calling Arias´ plan “a firm step in the search for a solution,” according to newswire EFE.

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