Connect to share and comment

Tension rises as coup plotters refuse to budge

Ousted Honduran president vows to return, as replacement leader threatens his arrest and claims drugs link.

A soldier rests near the presidential house in Tegucigalpa July 1, 2009. The Honduran interim government defied international pressure on Wednesday and vowed there was "no chance at all" of ousted President Manuel Zelaya returning to office. (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Flanked by soldiers, amid a huddle of blue-and-white Honduran flags, the bespectacled de facto president of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, raised his hands to supporters and gave his best war talk.

“No other nation can interfere with our destiny,” he said to a thunderous cheer. “In this country, we are seven-and-a-half million soldiers.”

Micheletti’s speech at the rally June 30 illustrates his increasingly radical line since being sworn into office after the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was flown out of the country at gunpoint.

The international community has united in condemning the June 28 ouster of Zelaya and refusing to recognize the Micheletti administration.

On Wednesday morning, the Organization of American States gave Honduras an ultimatum:  Reinstate Zelaya within 72 hours or be expelled from the organization.

But in every action taken and statement made, the silver-haired Micheletti has signaled that he won’t budge an inch, even if it means turning Honduras into a pariah nation facing crippling sanctions.

And there are no signs of any cracks in the alliance backing the new regime, which includes almost the entire Congress, the Supreme Court and the army.

Such a hardline position raises the specter that the first Central American coup in almost two decades will lead to a return to the violence that dogged the region during the Cold War.

Military checkpoints and curfews have already become a grim routine in this sweltering Central American capital.

Meanwhile, Zelaya loyalists have been taking to the streets in the hot afternoons, repelling attacks of tear gas and baton charges from police and soldiers.

The exiled Zelaya himself is no hardline revolutionary. A 56-year-old rancher, he took power in 2006 after a centrist campaign for the Liberal Party.