Leftist leaders hold emergency meeting over Honduras coup
Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and other leaders met in Nicaragua Sunday night to offer a response to the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.
Facing what is perhaps the greatest challenge to regional stability since the end of the Central American wars more than a decade ago, the presidents of this tiny yet tumultuous isthmus are scheduled to meet in Managua Monday afternoon to round the wagons in defense of Honduras's recently ousted and beleaguered President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Zelaya, accused of breaking Honduran law to seek reelection after his presidential term ends in 2010, was deposed from office Sunday morning in a court-ordered military coup. The mustachioed and self-styled "cowboy president" said he was rousted from his bed around 5:30 a.m. by some 200 masked Honduran soldiers who whisked him out of the country in his presidential airplane and dumped him unceremoniously in Costa Rica's international airport, still wearing his pajamas.
In a midmorning press conference Sunday alongside Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a slightly disheveled-looking Zelaya told the press that he had been "kidnapped" but is still the president of Honduras. Back in Tegucigalpa, meanwhile, the Honduran Congress yesterday afternoon appointed legislative president Roberto Micheletti as interim president until new elections are held in November.
For most of Sunday, the power, phone lines, and international cable TV were cut or blocked throughout Honduras, keeping the majority of citizens in the dark, while tanks and armed soldiers took to the streets of the capital city. Honduras's outspoken foreign minister, Patricia Rhodes, and several dozen other government officials were taken captive. The ambassadors of leftist allied countries Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela claim to have been detained and beaten by Honduran troops before being released on Sunday.
When congressionally appointed President Micheletti finally went on television later in the afternoon, he boldly announced that Zelaya's ouster represents the will of "80 to 90 percent" of the Honduran population and hailed the military for its actions.
Latin leftists hold 'emergency meeting'
In response to the coup in Honduras, the presidents of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a leftist bloc headed by Venezuela, held an "emergency meeting" in Managua Sunday night shortly after 10 p.m. to offer "unconditional support" for their beleaguered comrade. Zelaya arrived in Managua from Costa Rica shortly before the emergency meeting, looking freshly put-together in a white guayabera dress shirt and with his hair neatly in place. He was met at the airport by allies Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Ecuador's Rafael Correa, who hugged Zelaya and slapped his back chummily.
"We have to get Zelaya's cowboy hat back; it's still intact!" Mr. Chávez bellowed. "Tomorrow we will rescue his hat!"
Calls for Zelaya's return to power
The presidents of ALBA demanded that Zelaya be returned to power immediately and without condition – a call echoed by other governments across the world, including the United States. Mr. Correa called for the punishment of those behind the coup.
Latin American representatives to the Organization of American States (OAS), which held an emergency meeting in Washington yesterday to discuss the situation in Honduras, also denounced the coup, calling it a "20- to 50-year setback" in the region's democratic advances.