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A coup without friends

Analysis: Unanimous condemnation of Honduran takeover highlights new US stance in the Americas

A man on crutches walks in front of soldiers guarding the National Congress building in Tegucigalpa June 30, 2009. Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said he will return to Honduras on Thursday with the leaders of Argentina and Ecuador and the heads of the U.N. General Assembly and the Organization of American States. (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)

HAVANA — When Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was roused from home by military officers Sunday morning and sent off to Costa Rica in his pajamas, the banana-republic days of crude political succession seemed to be back in the Americas.

Then something different happened: Condemnation and scorn rained down on Honduras’ coup plotters from every corner of the hemisphere, uniting leaders from conservative Colombian President Álvaro Uribe to Cuba’s Raúl Castro to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Opposition to the Honduran coup has forged rare consensus among nations with a fractious past of bitter divisions, while injecting a new sense of purpose into regional organizations, like the Organization of American States, whose legitimacy has been recently questioned by some of its member nations.

More than anything, the episode seems destined to strengthen Hugo Chávez and other leftist leaders who responded swiftly and decisively in support of Zelaya — and whose affinity with the Honduran president was cited by coup supporters as a justification for his removal in the first place.

And there’s surely more to come.

On Thursday Zelaya is planning a dramatic return to Honduras accompanied by other Latin American heads of state, José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of Organization of American States, and Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, president of the United Nations General Assembly.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York Tuesday, Zelaya called the coup against him “an act of aggression attacking the democratic will of the people.” The assembly then approved a one-page resolution agreeing that none of its 192 member states would recognize a government led by anyone other than Zelaya.

His rivals in Honduras remained defiant, though, as Roberto Micheletti, sworn into the presidency by the Honduran Congress following the coup, threatened to arrest Zelaya when he returns Thursday, setting up a showdown.

Micheletti told Colombia's Caracol Radio Tuesday that Zelaya had violated the constitution and that his court-ordered removal was legal. Tensions in Honduras had been building for weeks as Zelaya, whose four-year term expires in January, sought to hold a non-binding referendum on lifting presidential term limits.