- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 26, 2009

LAS MANOS, Nicaragua | President Manuel Zelaya returned to the Honduran border Saturday and announced he would set up camp there, despite foreign leaders urging him not to force a confrontation with the government in power since last month’s coup.

Mr. Zelaya arrived at a rural frontier crossing and immediately grabbed a megaphone, shouting to a crowd of 100 supporters and about as many journalists. He vowed to wait there and demanded his family be allowed to meet him.

“We are going to stand firm,” Mr. Zelaya told the crowd, complaining that the interim government has not allowed his family to reach the Honduran side of the border so he could see them.

“Today, we are going to set up camps here, with water and food. We are going to stay here this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow morning,” he said.

Mr. Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, told CNN by telephone that she was stopped at a roadblock on a highway leading to the border and that police and soldiers would not let her and others pass.

Mr. Zelaya drove north from his hotel in the early afternoon in a white jeep, accompanied by two pickup trucks carrying his Nicaraguan police escort. It was his second largely symbolic trip to the border in as many days.

On Friday, Mr. Zelaya triumphantly lifted a chain marking the frontier and took a few strides into Honduran territory. He urged Hondurans to resist the coup-installed government before retreating into Nicaragua, less than 30 minutes after planting his cowboy boots on home soil.

Mr. Zelaya is demanding he be reinstated as president following the June 28 coup, which has been widely repudiated around the globe.

The interim government of Roberto Micheletti has vowed to arrest Mr. Zelaya and put him on trial should he try to return to Honduras.

Mr. Zelaya’s brief excursion a few feet into his homeland brought the Honduran political crisis no closer to a resolution - and irritated some foreign leaders who are trying to help him reclaim office.

Hundreds of Hondurans defied a curfew and turned out to support Mr. Zelaya at the border town of El Paraiso, clashing with security forces who fired tear gas at the crowds.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Mr. Zelaya’s trip “reckless” and said it would not help restore democratic and constitutional order.

On Saturday, a delegation of U.S. lawmakers led by Rep. Connie Mack, Florida Republican, was due to arrive on a fact-finding mission in Honduras. Mr. Mack’s office said he would be in the country through Sunday “to meet with key leaders and officials to discuss the ongoing crisis.”

Mr. Mack is among a number of U.S. conservatives who argue that Mr. Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup, but rather a legitimate reaction by courts and the Honduran Congress to Mr. Zelaya’s attempts to hold a referendum on changing the constitution.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has acted as mediator in talks aimed at resolving the crisis and last week presented a proposal that would restore Mr. Zelaya to the presidency and offer amnesty to the coup leaders. But it was rejected in Tegucigalpa, with the sticking point still being Mr. Zelaya’s return.

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