Honduras Gets Ultimatum From American Nations
Mr. Zelaya speaking Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly, where he found support.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
The Organization of American States on Wednesday gave Honduras three days to restore the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, or face suspension, as the interim leader of the country defied international condemnation of the coup that led to his appointment and said only force could unseat him.
Calling Mr. Zelaya’s overthrow an “old-fashioned coup,” the organization’s secretary general, Miguel Insulza, said: “We need to show clearly that military coups will not be accepted. We thought we were in an era when military coups were no longer possible in this hemisphere,” The Associated Press reported.
Jorge Taiana, the foreign minister of Argentina who presided over the special session in Washington of the 34-nation assembly, said that if the diplomatic approach did not prevail within 72 hours, the organization would “have to take the decision to suspend Honduras in its rights and duties in this organization.”
Mr. Zelaya arrived late Tuesday to address the organization to solidify support for his return to Honduras, which he was forced by the army to leave on Sunday. Earlier, Mr. Zelaya met with leaders in New York, where the United Nations General Assembly denounced his ouster as a coup and demanded his immediate return to office.
As international condemnation builds, Roberto Micheletti, the interim leader of Honduras appointed by the Congress after the coup, has grown even more insistent that he is the nation’s rightful leader.
Mr. Zelaya “has already committed crimes against the Constitution and the law,” Mr. Micheletti told The Associated Press in an interview late Tuesday. “He can no longer return to the presidency of the republic unless a president from another Latin American country comes and imposes him using guns.”
The remarks set the stage for an expected showdown on Thursday, when Mr. Zelaya has said he will return to reclaim leadership. The presidents of Argentina and Ecuador have said they will accompany Mr. Zelaya, along with officials of the O.A.S. and the United Nations.
The standoff, which began early Sunday when the army seized the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa, the capital, and compelled Mr. Zelaya to board a plane to Costa Rica, continued to build through the early hours of Wednesday, when the O.A.S. condemned the coup in the strongest of terms.
In a sharply worded resolution, concluded after marathon talks that began Tuesday afternoon, the organization called the coup an “unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order.” The envoys demanded Mr. Zelaya’s immediate and safe return to power, and issued an ultimatum to Honduras, saying that it will expel it from the organization if Mr. Zelaya is not returned to power.
The organization “condemns vehemently the coup d’état staged against the constitutionally established government of Honduras, and the arbitrary detention and expulsion from the country of the constitutional president, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales,” the resolution said.
As diplomatic tensions rise, Spain’s Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday that it would recall its ambassador from Honduras to protest the coup. A number of other countries, including France, have already recalled their ambassadors.
Mr. Zelaya was ousted amid a confrontation over his bid to rewrite the constitution so he could run for a second term, a move Mr. Micheletti has said was a bald ploy to hold on to power.
“No one can make me resign if I do not violate the laws of the country,” he said in the A.P. interview. “If there is any invasion against our country, 7.5 million Hondurans will be ready to defend our territory and our laws and our homeland and our government.”
“If he comes back, he will be arrested,” said Mr. Micheletti in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Paìs published on Wednesday.
“He is facing charges. He has exceeded the constitution and called an illegal referendum.”
Alberto Rubí, the Honduran attorney general, said Tuesday that the charges included treason and abuse of authority.
The new foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, went further in a television interview, accusing Mr. Zelaya of permitting drug traffickers to use Honduras as a base to smuggle cocaine from South America to the United States, an accusation that aides to Mr. Zelaya called a tall tale intended to smear him.
The United States said it saw no acceptable solution to Mr. Zelaya’s ouster other than returning him to power. The State Department spokesman, Ian C. Kelly, told reporters that Washington was still reviewing whether to cut off aid to Honduras as a result of the crisis.Sharon Otterman reported from New York, and Marc Lacey from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.