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In Mexico, ousted Honduran leader boosts bid to go home

Manuel Zelaya's visit with President Calderón could mark a new strategy to distance himself from his leftist ally, Hugo Chávez.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / August 4, 2009

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon shakes hands with ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya (l.) after a news conference at Mexico's presidential residence in Mexico City Tuesday. Zelaya is on a two-day official visit to Mexico.

Henry Romero/REUTERS


Mexico City

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya began another wave of travel this week to shore up support for his return to Honduras, meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón at the presidential palace in Mexico City today.

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And the Organization of American States (OAS) this week is planning a diplomatic mission aimed at persuading the Honduran interim government, which took over after Mr. Zelaya was arrested June 28, to accept a mediated solution to Central America's worst political crisis in decades.

But more than a month after Zelaya was deposed by the Honduran military – with international condemnation and millions withheld in aid failing to budge the interim government – hopes are not high that this new diplomatic front will change the political narrative.

Still, the visit today with Mexico's conservative president, and renewed diplomatic efforts, could mark a new strategy to distance Zelaya from his leftist ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and appeal to more right-leaning bases both in Honduras and beyond.

"Many conservatives, not just in Honduras, but conservative elements in the US [and elsewhere], fear that the return of Zelaya is the return of the project of Hugo Chávez, that everyone is doing the bidding of Hugo Chávez," says Christopher Sabatini, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly in New York. "If they can take that stain away that is in many ways their best bet."

At a ceremony in Mexico City, Zelaya, donning his trademark white cowboy hat, stood with President Calderón – both leaders reiterating their mutual support for the return of constitutional order to Honduras.

Zelaya was arrested on order by the Supreme Court after moving forward with plans to hold a nonbinding vote to consider constitutional change, a move that the Supreme Court had previously declared illegal and that was also rejected by the Honduran Congress. Many critics feared Zelaya was attempting to pave the way for his reelection, an intent that he denies.