Latin leaders unite against junta in Honduras

Leftists are urging Hondurans rise up against the coup leaders while conservatives denounce Sunday's ouster of President Zelaya.

By , Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Leaders of Latin America's left, right, and center met in the Nicaraguan capital Monday to speak in one voice of support for deposed Honduran President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya, who was ousted by military force Sunday.

The group of presidents and representatives of 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries roundly condemned Sunday's coup and announced a series of economic and political sanctions against Honduras as reprisal for what they're calling the illegitimate installation of a "usurper" government.

Brazil and the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), a regional leftist trade bloc, announced the removal of their ambassadors to Honduras, while neighboring Central American countries announced a 48-hour embargo on overland trade. All said they would never recognize the de-facto Honduran government, and called for the immediate and "unconditional" reinstitution of Mr. Zelaya.

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Zelaya, a wealthy rancher who has championed the poor, said late Monday that he would accept an offer by Organization of American States Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza to accompany him back to Honduras. He said he wanted to go on Thursday, after attending a meeting of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to seek support from its 192 member nations.

Leftist leaders call on Hondurans to rise up

The countries of ALBA called for "insurrection" in Honduras, urging civilians and lower ranks within the military to rise up against the coup leaders.

"We will do everything to overthrow this government," Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez thundered. "We have to support the rebellion in Honduras."

Mr. Chávez, who himself led a failed 1992 coup attempt in Venezuela – seven years before being elected democratically – called the Honduran coup leaders "puppets" and "gorillas." Following the brief detention and alleged beating of the Venezuelan Ambassador to Honduras on Sunday, Chávez warned the coup leaders that if they touch his envoy again it would be "cause for war."

Regional leaders find unity

On the other end of the spectrum, Costa Rica's more conservative and unflashy President Oscar Arias, said his 20-year-old "dream of a demilitarized Central America still makes sense."

"I wanted to make Central America the first demilitarized zone in the world," said Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership role in helping to end the Central American wars in the 1980s.

But beyond Latin America's complex divisions based on political ideology and cult of personality, regional leaders have shown a rare spirit of cooperation and unity in their common condemnation of the coup in Honduras. If the coup is successful, several leaders warned, it could have devastating consequences for regional stability and unravel more than a decade of plodding yet timid progress toward institutional democracy in Latin America.

More to come?

"This would cause a domino effect in the whole region," said Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom, whose own government almost fell amid civil unrest last May.

Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández warned that if the coup is consolidated in the coming days or weeks, it could become "contagious" and spread to other countries facing similar political polarization. He said the countries of the hemisphere need to stop the coup in its tracks to "prevent what could happen in another one of our countries."

Both Chávez and Cuban President Raúl Castro, the other star of Monday's political theater in Managua, spoke of other alleged plots to kill or depose of Latin America's leftist leaders in recent years. Chávez said he had to skip the June 1 inauguration of El Salvador's new left-leaning president, Mauricio Funes, because Venezuelan intelligence uncovered an alleged plot to shoot down his plane with a rocket.

Mr. Castro, for his part, warned Ecuador's leftist president, Rafael Correa, who earlier this month joined ALBA, that he could be the next target for a coup.

Castro also called on President Barack Obama to do more to help the situation and to show his support with "actions, not words."

Zelaya, meanwhile, thanked all of his regional counterparts for their support and said he will travel Tuesday morning to Washington to speak before the Organization of American States (OAS), which has already called for action to be taken "as quickly as possible."

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