Honduras interim government rejects orders to reinstate deposed president

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The interim government of Honduras has rejected calls from the Organization of American States (OAS) and other governments to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya, who was forced out of the country on Sunday in what has been labelled a military coup.

The Organization of American States, which includes all 35 independent states of North and South America, has refused to recognize the legitimacy of the newly-installed Honduran government. On Wednesday, the organization threatened to suspend the country's membership if Zelaya was not reinstated within 72 hours.

Manuel Zaleya plans to return to Honduras within three days.
Image: Marcello Casal Jr, Agência Brasil.

The Honduran government has defied these threats, saying there is "no chance at all" of Zelaya's return to the presidency. "We are not negotiating national sovereignty or the presidency," said Enrique Ortez, interim foreign minister. Roberto Micheletti, president of the interim government, says he "won’t allow for people to call this a coup. This was a constitutional succession that happened after the Supreme Court took action."

Micheletti vowed to prosecute Zelaya under charges of treason and abuse of power if he returns to Honduras. Zelaya was accused of breaching the constitution by attempting to extend his term limits. He was arrested after the Supreme Court overturned his decision to fire the armed forces commander.

"Zelaya will be met by justice," Micheletti told reporters on Wednesday. "We would be open to dialogue but there are separate measures in our justice system that will deal with him."

Zelaya, who was flown to Costa Rica after being ousted and is now in Panama, plans to return to Honduras at the end of the three-day deadline. The Honduran ambassador to Panama, Juan Alfaro Posadas, said that Zelaya is willing to appear in court and cooperate with the interim government. "What he wants is unity ... he is willing to negotiate because he doesn’t want a divided country," Posadas said.

At an emergency session of the OAS, all other member states were in agreement over their refusal to recognize the Honduran government. Although Micheletti counts Israel and Taiwan as his supporters, a United Nations General Assembly resolution called for Zelaya's reinstatement and asked all countries to refrain from legitimizing Micheletti's presidency.

The United States has canceled its joint military operations with Honduras, and it plans to decide next week whether to cut off all aid to the country. Although the Obama administration has condemned the new government's actions, State Department officials say they want the OAS to play a larger role in mediation. "The multi-lateral route is the way to go," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.

Advancing the November 29 general election to an earlier date is an option Micheletti is considering to ease strife.