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Was there a coup in Honduras? The answer divides a nation.

How one political party president tries to keep his organization from splintering.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 7, 2009



Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Was it a coup – or not?

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The answer to this question is a jagged new fault line that is tearing through Honduran political parties, government and social organizations, and families.

Congressman Jorge Aguilar, the president of the Innovation and Unity Party (PINU), finds himself straddling the divide, desperately trying to keep his political party from fracturing further.

On a recent morning, he interrupts an interview to take an urgent call: the executive director of the PINU party has just been on the air condemning the June 28 removal of President Manuel Zelaya as a "coup."

Mr. Aguilar calls the radio program immediately, to clarify that the comments are not official party line, but one party member's personal opinion.

PINU has two members in Congress and each – like many of the PINU voters – have lined up on the opposite side of this issue. And suddenly Aguilar, whose job once centered on campaigns and internal party affairs, is now more of a mediator, a buffer, and a damage controller.

"This situation is polarizing everyone," Aguilar says, a heavy look on his face. "Some people think what happened was a coup, others don't. This could fracture our party."

Honduras is a nation divided. After its president was unceremoniously flown out of the country, a new government was sworn in hours later. On Monday, the airport was shut down for 48 hours and protest marches continued in the capital. The Associated Press reported that Mr. Zelaya was flying back to Washington Tuesday to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But if the crisis centers at the highest levels of government, it has also spilled down into the nation's entire political establishment. And from the vantage of a social democratic party president, who fields concerns from members who support the ouster, condemn it, and all the shades of gray in between, the repercussions of this division could be felt for far longer than the immediate crisis itself.

Emergency party meeting

Like the rest of society, Aguilar awoke a week ago Sunday to find out that his president had been deposed and sent to Costa Rica in his pajamas after refusing to back down from plans to set up a constituent assembly, which many claim had the ultimate aim of removing term limits for presidents.

As Aguilar voraciously devoured the news that morning – going out to listen on his car radio when the electricity went out – his first thought was of PINU, one of the smaller parties on the Honduran political scene that includes members whose ideologies veer right and left.

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