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Zelaya is negotiating departure to Mexico

The ousted leader, holed up for months in the Brazilian Embassy, has refused to seek political asylum, saying he wants to travel as the legitimate president of Honduras.

December 10, 2009|By Alex Renderos
  • At Manuel Zelaya's request, Mexico requested safe passage for him and dispatched a presidential jet to fetch him. Honduran officials agreed and issued a travel document -- but then added a caveat: Zelaya could transit only as a private citizen seeking political asylum. He refused.
At Manuel Zelaya's request, Mexico requested safe passage for him… (Andres Conteris / AFP/Getty…)

Reporting from San Salvador — Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is negotiating plans to leave the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital, where he took refuge 2 1/2 months ago, and head to Mexico, an associate said late Wednesday.

The de facto government, which has threatened to arrest Zelaya, issued a safe-passage document to allow him to leave the country, said Victor Meza, who served as Zelaya's interior minister.

But the plans still could go awry.

Zelaya refuses to seek the political asylum that would allow him to make the trip safely, Meza said.

He wants to travel as the legitimate president of Honduras, which the de facto government will not allow.

"There is still nothing certain," Zelaya said in an interview with CNN's Spanish-language service.

Mexican officials also cautioned that a deal was not yet final.

Earlier Wednesday, Meza said by telephone from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, that Zelaya was expected to emerge from the embassy and be transferred to Mexico late Wednesday or early today.

"The last details are being finished for a plane from the Mexican government to land [in Tegucigalpa] and take President Zelaya and his family to Mexico City," he said.

Later, Meza said negotiations could take longer than expected.

Television images from the streets around the embassy, which has been surrounded by Honduran soldiers since Zelaya arrived, showed photographers and journalists gathered. Soldiers were moving metal barriers.

Zelaya was ousted in a military-backed coup June 28 as he attempted to have voters polled on whether they wanted to change the constitution, an effort deemed illegal by the nation's courts and Congress.

Leaders of the de facto government, including its leader, Roberto Micheletti, have resisted international pressure to reinstate the ousted president.

Zelaya was deported to Costa Rica in the coup but sneaked back into Tegucigalpa on Sept. 21.

Renderos is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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