- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras | Ousted President Manuel Zelaya announced Saturday that he would return to Honduras to try to retake office following the military-backed June 28 coup, despite the interim government’s insistence that he faces arrest and trial.

Honduras rebuffed demands by the international community to reinstate Mr. Zelaya in the name of constitutional order, thrusting the poor Central American nation deeper into political crisis and isolation.

The Organization of American States met in Washington to consider suspending Honduras’ membership because of the coup - though even before the emergency session, Honduras’ interim government decided to pull out of the OAS rather than meet demands to reinstate Mr. Zelaya.

Mr. Zelaya called on supporters to prepare to greet him at the airport, and on Saturday more than 10,000 supporters of the ex-president gathered near the heavily guarded presidential palace and pledged they would be ready if Mr. Zelaya returns.

“We are going to show up at the Honduras international airport in Tegucigalpa with several presidents and members of international communities, and Sunday we will be in Tegucigalpa,” Mr. Zelaya said in a taped statement posted on the Web sites of the Telesur and Cubadebate media outlets.

Mr. Zelaya’s vow to return sets up a showdown between supporters of the ousted president, who hail mostly from the country’s poor and middle class, and largely well-to-do backers of the coup that ousted him, who have held their own daily marches in support of Roberto Micheletti, the congressional president tapped by lawmakers to finish out the six months left in Mr. Zelaya’s term.

The new government has imposed a nightly curfew and limited Hondurans’ constitutional rights during it, but grenades have exploded almost daily outside government buildings and businesses nonetheless.

The Micheletti government has charged Mr. Zelaya with 18 criminal acts including treason and failing to implement more than 80 laws approved by Congress since taking office in 2006, and has vowed to arrest him if he returns.

Mr. Zelaya asked supporters to remain peaceful.

“I ask all farmers, residents, Indians, young people and all workers’ groups, businessmen and friends … to accompany me on my return to Honduras,” he said. “Do not bring weapons. Practice what I have always preached, which is nonviolence. Let them be the ones who use violence, weapons and repression,” he said, adding, “I hold the coup plotters responsible for the lives of each and every person.”

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza made personal appeals to leaders of the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court Friday, but failed.

In a letter to Mr. Insulza read on state television Friday night, Mr. Micheletti wrote: “The OAS is a political organization, not a court, and it can’t judge us.”

“The government rejects the attempts of the OAS to impose unilateral resolutions,” said the letter read by Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Lorena Alvarado.

The military ouster came after Mr. Zelaya pushed for a referendum on constitutional reform that the Supreme Court, the attorney general and Congress had all said was illegal.

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