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EXCLUSIVE: Ousted Honduran leader accused of theft
Question of the Day
Honduran officials are investigating allegations that President Manuel Zelaya and his chief of staff stole millions of dollars from the central bank before the military ousted Mr. Zelaya last month, according to a senior Honduran official, government documents and other evidence.
A security video from the Central Bank of Honduras made available to The Washington Times shows officials entering the bank June 24 and withdrawing large amounts of Honduran currency. The money was driven to the office of Mr. Zelaya’s chief of staff, Enrique Flores Lanza, according to depositions by three witnesses to Honduran prosecutors.
Government documents and testimony by the three say that about $2.2 million was taken.
The video, originally aired in Honduras, has not been previously reported by U.S. media.
An additional $550,000 was withdrawn hours later from the central bank by order of Mr. Lanza, according to bank documents obtained by The Times.
Two Honduran political opponents of Mr. Zelaya with knowledge of the transactions said Mr. Zelaya planned to use the money in connection with a referendum that if successful would have permitted him to serve a second term as president. The Honduran Supreme Court and Congress ruled the referendum illegal because the constitution limits presidents to a single term.
The military removed Mr. Zelaya and flew him to Costa Rica on June 28. Roberto Micheletti became interim president.
The two Zelaya opponents, who include a senior Honduran official, spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity because of concerns for their safety amid a fluid situation in their country.
Attempts to reach Mr. Zelaya and Mr. Lanza were not successful.
In Washington, Mr. Zelaya and his ousted government continue to be represented by the Honduran Embassy, where Juan Carlos Montoya is acting as a spokesman on behalf of the deposed president.
“There are no checks and balances,” Mr. Montoya said. Leaders of the interim government “control the media and own the three branches of the state. The day of the coup d’etat, they sent Mr. Zelaya away instead of holding him for a trial. Nothing that comes out of the de facto government has credibility.”
Mr. Montoya also charged that the interim administration “has entered into people homes without warrants and seized bank accounts because they don’t support [the interim government]. They can say whatever they want about that video, and they could easily be manipulating it for their own gain.”
The coup has been denounced by the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Obama administration and especially the governments of Venezuela and Cuba, which had backed the populist Honduran president.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has been trying to mediate between Mr. Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti. The Arias plan would allow Mr. Zelaya to serve out the final months of his term, hold elections in October, provide amnesty to political opponents and include their representatives in a reconciliation government.
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