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Showdown looms in Honduras

Interim President Roberto Micheletti vows to have ousted President Manuel Zelaya arrested if he returns Thursday. Hondurans are concerned about foreign intervention.

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Chávez also called for a UN intervention in Honduras and said that he would like to accompany Zelaya upon his scheduled return to Tegucigalpa over the weekend, "but I shouldn't, because they say I was responsible" for Zelaya's push to reform the Constitution.

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Chávez said if he were to accompany Zelaya, it could "provoke" a violent response, which he wants to avoid. Plus, he said, "there could be sharpshooters that take advantage of the moment to kill me."

Chávez warned that if the Honduran military or coup leaders respond aggressively or violently toward Zelaya's announced return, "we won't remain with our arms crossed."

"There is a red line, and if it is crossed, there is no return," Chávez said. "If there is aggression against the [Zelaya] delegation, it would open another door that I don't want to talk about."

"They are responsible for what could happen," Chávez said.

Some Hondurans protest Chávez 'bullying'

Those who are opposed to Zelaya say that, in many ways, they are more opposed to Chávez.

Protests in favor of the coup have condemned Chavez's bullying more than Zelaya's move to call a constituent assembly to possibly amend the Constitution and be able to run for reelection.

"They wanted to put communism here," says Ebin Guerrero, a taxi driver in Tegucigalpa. "Zelaya did not start out as a leftist, but he got brainwashed by Chávez."

Mr. Guerrero says that Honduras joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), a regional leftist trade bloc, was the breaking point for him.

Concerns Chávez could spark more tension

Chávez has meddled in domestic politics across the region, becoming allies with left-leaning leaders. In some elections, conservative candidates have used Chávez as a figure to scare away voters.

Even some left-leaning candidates, such as Rafael Correa in Ecuador, have sought to distance themselves from Chávez leading up to voting day. But fear of Chávez has taken on a new meaning here in Honduras. "We know it was not just Zelaya leading the country, Chávez was here, too," says Guerrero.

He and others interviewed say that they worry that Chávez will provoke more tension in the country.

Already, ALBA has said it will not recognize Honduras under the new government, nor will it continues to sell oil at discounted prices.

But Michael Shifter, at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, says that events in Honduras also present Chávez a perfect public relations opportunity.

"He can point to Honduras and say, 'the right wing is still alive and well,' " Mr. Shifter says. "In some ways, this is a gift for Chávez."