Sunday, June 28, 2009

Honduran President Arrested

Troops in Honduras have arrested the president ahead of a referendum on plans to change the constitution.

President Manuel Zelaya's secretary said he had been taken to an airbase outside the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Mr Zelaya, elected for a non-renewable four-year term in January 2006, wanted a vote to extend his time in office.

The referendum, due on Sunday, had been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and was also opposed by Congress and members of Mr Zelaya's own party.

A reporter for the Associated Press news agency said he had seen dozens of soldiers surround the president's house on Sunday morning and about 60 police guarding the house.

Two air force fighter jets screamed over the capital, reported Reuters news agency.

'Coup plot'

The arrest comes after President Zelaya defied a court order that he should re-instate the chief of the army, Gen Romeo Vasquez.

The president sacked Gen Vasquez late on Wednesday for refusing to help him organise a referendum.

Mr Zelaya also accepted the resignation of the defence minister.

In an interview with Spain's El Pais newspaper published on Sunday, Mr Zelaya - an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - said a planned coup attempt against him had been thwarted after the US refused to back it.

"Everything was in place for the coup and if the US embassy had approved it, it would have happened. But they did not," Mr Zelaya said.

"I'm only still here in office thanks to the United States."

Mr Zelaya's arrest took place an hour before polls were due to open.

Ballot boxes and other voting materials had been distributed by Mr Zelaya's supporters and government employees throughout the Central American country.

Rumours swirled in the Honduran media about the president's fate.

"We're talking about a coup d'etat," Rafael Alegria, a union leader and Zelaya ally, told Honduran radio Cadena de Noticias, reports AP. "This is regrettable."

He reportedly said shots had been fired during the president's arrest.

Meanwhile, Honduran radio station HRN said Mr Zelaya had been sent into exile, and possibly flown on the presidential plane to Venezuela.

On Thursday, the Honduran Congress approved plans to investigate whether the president should be declared unfit to rule.

"We have tried to avoid breaching a constitutional order and sidestep a coup," said Congressional President Roberto Micheletti, a member of Mr Zelaya's own Liberal Party.

Earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had urged Honduras' leaders to "act with full respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions".

The political crisis has stoked tensions in Honduras, an impoverished coffee and banana-exporting nation of more than 7 million people.


Mark said...

I'm confused by this message; why is he claiming a coup in other media and saying here that he's still in office thanks to the US?

ShutterSparks / KW2P said...

Indeed, this is a fascinating event, not so much what happened in Honduras, which I understand and which makes sense, but in the international reaction to it, which does not make sense.

I am participating in a discussion on a message board about this whole thing where I express my observations and opinions and it's easier to refer you there than to repeat them here.

Here's the thread:

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