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Tension rises as coup plotters refuse to budge

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

However, he soon formed a close alliance with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and began to imitate his popular tactics: giving social programs to the poor and blaming the nation’s problems on the rich oligarchs — whom he dubbed the “elite group.”

His policies, such as raising the minimum wage by more than 50 percent, won him applause from the nation’s impoverished majority.

“In this country, the rich have always robbed from us,” said Raquel Huerta, a 39-year old factory worker, marching down the street chanting “Zelaya” at an impromptu rally. "And when we finally got a president who gave something back to us, they took him away."

Detractors of Zelaya say his policies and rhetoric drove a polarizing wedge through the country of banana plantations and sweat shops.

“He became a hardline communist. He wanted to turn Honduras into a country with a Soviet-like system,” said Carlos Joya, a 22-year old student attending the Micheletti rally.

As the global recession hammered Honduras and crime kept rising, the establishment moved firmly against Zelaya.

The flashpoint came in June when he called for a nonbinding referendum on changing the Constitution to allow presidents to run for a second term.

His detractors said he was trying to become a dictator. The Supreme Court ruled the vote illegal.

When Zelaya said the vote would go ahead anyway, soldiers went into his house at the crack of dawn and flew him out of the country in his pajamas. Micheletti, the house speaker, was sworn in hours later.

The next few days are crucial.