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Manuel Zelaya to attempt Honduras return

With talks stalled, the deposed Honduran president is driving from Nicaragua to the Honduran border. The government places a curfew in the area to prevent supporters gathering.

July 24, 2009|Tracy Wilkinson

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS — Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya jumped behind the wheel of a white Jeep in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua on Thursday and roared north toward the border, launching a second attempt to return home and reclaim power.

With negotiations deadlocked, Zelaya said the time had come for him to make his move. He said he hoped to cross into Honduras from northern Nicaragua on Saturday.

"We are carrying the white flag of peace," he said at a news conference before leaving at the head of a motorcade that included journalists, sympathizers and Eden Pastora, the legendary Sandinista revolutionary turned Contra counter-revolutionary, who recently joined Zelaya's cause.

Zelaya left the door open for further talks. The U.S. government and the Organization of American States support his reinstatement but urged him to wait because they fear his return may result in violence.

Honduras' de facto rulers, who ousted Zelaya in a coup on June 28, have said that if he enters the country they will arrest him for what they say is a long list of crimes.

Zelaya has called on supporters to mass at the border to greet him. Scattered groups could be seen attempting to reach the Las Manos crossing. Many were being stopped by army and police forces who were deployed in increased numbers throughout the border area. The de facto government also ordered a 6 p.m. curfew on the border region in hope of discouraging crowds. (A considerably less restrictive curfew remains in place in the rest of the country.)

Negotiations led by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a veteran mediator and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, broke down over the de facto government's refusal to allow Zelaya to return to finish his term, which was to have ended in January.

The Honduran army took Zelaya from his home last month and flew him to Costa Rica after the Supreme Court ordered his arrest. The courts and Congress had declared illegal Zelaya's push for revision of the constitution. They alleged that he would try to use the proposed amendments to extend his time in office. Zelaya has denied that.

He tried to return July 5 by flying into the Tegucigalpa airport, but the army placed vehicles on the runway and prevented his landing.

The incident triggered clashes between security forces and thousands of Zelaya's supporters who had gathered at the airport to receive him. At least one demonstrator was killed.

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wilkinson@latimes.com

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