Interim Honduras leader rejects return of Zelaya
Roberto Micheletti said ousted President Manuel Zelaya would be jailed if he came back to Honduras. He also accused the US Ambassador Hugo Llorens of tilting unfairly in favor of Zelaya.
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Micheletti wore a square-tailed tropical shirt known as a guayabera and sat in his living room. His dog was given free rein to run about until the interview started.Skip to next paragraph
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As Micheletti spoke, pro-Zelaya protesters once again blocked key streets in Tegucigalpa, the capital, and teachers continued a strike that's kept the capital's public schools closed. There were no reports of violence.
Micheletti recalled that he'd spent 27 days in prison — "because I was a democrat" — after President Ramon Villeda Morales was deposed in a 1963 coup. Micheletti had been a member of Morales' presidential honor guard.
In the 1970s, Micheletti spent five years studying and working in Tampa, Fla., and New Orleans before returning to Honduras and helping to usher in a return to democratic rule as a member of Congress, where he served 29 years. He was the president of Congress when Zelaya was deposed.
One question Micheletti wouldn't answer: Was it illegal for the military to spirit Zelaya out of the country instead of simply arresting him, as the country's Supreme Court had ordered?
"I might have committed the same mistake to avoid a bigger confrontation, a lot of bloodshed," he said.
He defended police from allegations that they've beaten pro-Zelaya demonstrators. One demonstrator on Sunday showed a McClatchy reporter a bruise on his leg, where he said police had struck him with clubs.
Micheletti said soldiers and police officers simply had been trying to defend themselves.
Micheletti also said he hoped that Llorens, who left for the United States for vacation on Friday, wouldn't return. "He hasn't been fair," he said.
The State Department issued a statement of support for Llorens on Monday.
Micheletti said he doesn't expect the Obama administration to go beyond the light restrictions it's imposed on Honduras.
"Doing so would most hurt social programs for the poor," Micheletti said, adding that the United States has been "a longtime ally."
He said he'd happily retire from politics when he'd turn over power to his elected successor Jan. 27. He said he'd return to his hometown of El Progreso. There, he said, he owns a 185-acre cattle farm and is one of 60 partners in a bus company.
Edmundo Orellana, who's been a political ally of Micheletti's at times over the years but was Zelaya's defense minister, said he thought that Micheletti meant what he said about Zelaya's return.
"When he says he feels a certain way about something, you can bet that he won't be moved," Orellana said. "He's a good friend and a bad enemy."
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