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Mediation stalls in Honduras as leaders refuse Zelaya's return

One month after Costa Rica's president arrived to negotiate an end to the standoff, most of Honduras's top leaders are steadfastly opposed to the return of deposed president Zelaya.

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Still, the opposition to a deal is intense, with news reporting slanted against Zelaya and virtually no public opinion leader voicing support.

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"He'd breach the agreement, and nobody would stop him," said Adolfo Facusse, the president of the Honduran National Industrial Association.

That sentiment is based on the events leading to Zelaya's ouster, which began in March when Zelaya announced he wanted to consult the public on whether to rewrite the Constitution to permit a president to succeed himself.

The move alarmed the country's elite because it resembled acts by Mr. Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Ecuador's Rafael Correa to extend their stays in office.

In time, Honduras' attorney general, Congress and Supreme Court ruled that the vote was illegal because the Constitution contains an unusual clause mandating that any president who tries to extend his term must step down.

Zelaya ignored the opposition, and fired the armed forces commander June 24 after the commander questioned the legality of Zelaya's order to distribute the ballots despite the ruling that the referendum was illegal.

The next day, Zelaya led several thousand supporters to an air force base to seize the ballots, as troops stood by.

"If we didn't have any doubts about what was happening, that ended there," said Maria Eugenia Landa Molina, a Liberal Party member of Congress who once backed Zelaya but who now says he must never be allowed back into office.

Since his ouster, Zelaya has traveled to the US, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, and Chile to rally support to get the Micheletti government to bend. Each of those countries has voiced support for his return but stopped short of real action.

Zelaya said this week that the US has such influence over Honduras's economy that Obama administration officials could put him back in power if they enacted tough economic measures. The administration has refused, however, to take anything more than symbolic measures and accused Zelaya of "provocative actions" that prompted his ouster.

Zelaya has tried to mobilize a popular uprising, but that movement seems to have little broad-based support, despite marches this week that attracted up to 10,000 people from throughout Honduras.

That makes the Arias plan the best hope for his return, though it's hard to find anyone among his opponents willing to contemplate his return. They're skeptical he'd follow the Arias dictate that he renounce efforts to change the Constitution.

"I saw Zelaya change when he got too close to Chávez," said Marcia Villeda, another Liberal Party member of Congress who once supported Zelaya. "He fell in love with power and lost his perspective."

"Every day that passes, the chances for Zelaya's return dim," said Julio Raudales, a former senior government official. "Getting someone to replace Micheletti is much more likely than having Zelaya return under the Arias plan."

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