The United States and Venezuela weighed on the escalating political drama in Honduras Monday. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for dialogue between ousted President Manuel Zelaya and the de facto government, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged it to hand power back to Mr. Zelaya.
In a surprise turn of events Monday, Zelaya snuck across the border and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy, where, under international law, Honduran officials cannot arrest him. His return comes three months after he was forced out of the country at gunpoint by his political opponents.
Some observers fear violence between Zelaya's supporters and those loyal to the interim government, headed by Roberto Micheletti. Mr. Micheletti imposed an emergency curfew Monday and insisted all was calm.
"It's imperative that dialogue begin ... (that) there be a channel of communication between President Zelaya and the de facto regime in Honduras," Clinton said after she meet Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who sought to broker a resolution to the crisis that followed Zelaya's June 28 ouster.
"It's also imperative that the return of President Zelaya does not lead to any conflict or violence but instead that everyone act in a peaceful way to try to find some common ground," she told reporters.
In a televised address Monday, Micheletti "assured all Hondurans that the unusual return of Manuel Zelaya changed nothing," according to Diario La Prensa, a Honduran newspaper [in Spanish].
Micheletti said that faced with Zelaya's presence, Honduras "was in a state of calm, with law and order preserved, and [the government] had not been informed of any disturbances or violence." …
"The presence of Mr. Zelaya in this country does not change our reality," he said, repeating, "this past June 28, Mr. Zelaya was legally removed from office by decision of the Supreme Court of Justices and the National Congress."
The Christian Science Monitor quoted an analyst saying that Zelaya's return could force a resolution to Honduras's months-long political showdown.
Some say Zelaya's return increases the prospects for violence, as it gives his supporters a physical place to rally and, consequently, butt heads with authorities and Zelaya foes. But it could also bring a solution much closer after negotiation on virtually every other front – including a high-stakes bid at reconciliation by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias known as the San Jose Accord – has thus far failed.
Zelaya has the support of Venezuela's President Chavez, according to a report in the Venezuelan daily El Universal. Chavez said he had spoken by telephone with both Zelaya and his wife.
"You can count on us. We are surprised to learn that Mel is in Tegucigalpa with you and with the people, and we demand the coupsters of Honduras to respect the president's (Zelaya) dignity, to hand the office over to him," he told Zelaya's wife.