Dialogue commences in Honduras crisis

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Ousted President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras said yesterday that he has met with an interim government official and begun a dialogue aimed at ending the country’s protracted political crisis.

Zelaya told Radio Globo that he met Wednesday night with an official of the temporary government that forced him out of Honduras at gunpoint June 28, but he wouldn’t name the official.

In an interview with the radio station yesterday, Zelaya said the two sides made no progress, but he called the meeting “the beginning to find peaceful solutions.’’ He plans to meet with business and social leaders this week.

Zelaya had been demanding to talk with interim President Roberto Micheletti since Monday, when he sneaked back into the country and took shelter at the Brazilian Embassy.

Micheletti’s government did not immediately comment yesterday.

Troops still surrounded the embassy, where an increasingly exhausted Zelaya, his family, and about 70 supporters remained sheltered. But life outside the gates of the two-story compound was almost back to normal yesterday: As the government lifted curfews that had paralyzed the capital for nearly three days, most children returned to school, airplanes began landing at the airport, borders were open, and downtown streets were again crammed with taxis, buses, and vendors

Some schools remained closed, but the busy streets were a dramatic shift from the period beginning late Monday, when Hondurans had to scramble through looted stores for food and police blasted water cannons and tear gas at violent demonstrations.

“It feels excellent,’’ said Dagoberto Castillo, 27, a mechanic who opened his body-repair shop for the first time this week.

Zelaya was kicked out of Honduras after the Supreme Court endorsed charges of treason and abuse of authority against him for repeatedly ignoring court orders to drop plans for a referendum on whether the constitution should be rewritten.

A report by the US Library of Congress, released yesterday by Representative Aaron Schock, an Illinois Republican, found that Zelaya’s removal from office was legal but his expulsion from the country was illegal.

Schock said at a news conference yesterday in Washington that the interim government should allow Zelaya to leave the embassy, forgoing further punishment, and allow him to live as a regular citizen. He called on the Honduran government to issue a general amnesty for Zelaya and everyone else involved in the crisis.

Micheletti has pledged to arrest Zelaya if he leaves the shelter of the diplomatic mission.

Zelaya told Radio Globo in Honduras that “calm will not return to the country as long as its president is locked up.’’

International leaders, including President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and President Obama, have called for Zelaya’s reinstatement ever since he was ousted, and his surprise arrival in Honduras has prompted new calls for Micheletti to step down.

Rene Zepeda, the interim government’s information minister, said Honduras has no intention of breaking ties with Brazil so it can go after Zelaya inside the compound.

But he added, “Brazil should make Zelaya be quiet and provide the conditions so that he can dialogue with our government instead of unleashing violence in Honduras.’’

Micheletti has said the conflict will be resolved when Hondurans elect their next leader Nov. 29, although the United States and other countries have said they may not recognize the vote if Zelaya is not reinstated.


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