Honduras Congress rejects Zelaya

December 3, 2009 12:00 am

, TEGUCIGALPA, Dec 3 – Honduran lawmakers late on Wednesday roundly rejected the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya during a heated debate revisiting details of the June 28 coup which polarized the nation.

The vote came as Honduras was in limbo, three days after conservative Porfirio Lobo won a controversial presidential election held under the de facto regime.

Lobo is under pressure to resolve the five-month crisis, and many Latin American governments have warned they will not restore ties broken over the coup unless Zelaya is allowed to finish his term, which ends January 27.

The vote, however, put an end to a US-brokered crisis deal between Zelaya and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti, who took over after the coup.

It raised further questions about the future of Zelaya, who has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy under threat of arrest since September.

A total of 111 lawmakers from the 128-member body voted against Zelaya\\\’s reinstatement, after nine hours of debate.

Despite angry speeches from several deputies who slammed the coup, only 14 lawmakers backed Zelaya\\\’s return. Three others were absent.

Zelaya said that he was "disappointed" with Lobo after the Congress vote.

Lobo\\\’s National Party, with 55 seats in Congress, voted against Zelaya\\\’s return.

Lobo has not spoken out on the issue but says he seeks national reconciliation.

"I call on the people to keep fighting the dictatorship," Zelaya said after the vote, speaking on local Radio Globo.

His rival Micheletti was meanwhile set to return to the helm of the country after stepping down briefly over the elections.

The grey-haired de facto leader said Wednesday that Zelaya was "history."

As lawmakers debated Zelaya\\\’s fate, security forces faced off with scores of Zelaya supporters outside.

The Congress, along with the Supreme Court, business leaders and the military, had backed Zelaya\\\’s expulsion over his plans to change the constitution, which they saw as a bid to undo term limits.

Before Wednesday\\\’s vote, lawmakers had received advice from the attorney general and the Supreme Court, which has said that criminal charges against Zelaya still stand.

Zelaya also suffered from splits within his Liberal Party which has a majority in Congress but is deeply divided over his swing to the left under the influence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The United States, a key business partner and donor, and the European Union, also a key donor, said they saw the weekend polls as an important first step forward out of the crisis, but many in Latin America, starting with powerhouse Brazil, said they served to whitewash the coup.

Rights groups said the elections were marred by the lack of international consensus, and slammed a military crackdown on journalists and activists since the coup.

The Organization of American States (OAS), which suspended Honduras after the coup but has been divided over the crisis, was due to consider a response to the elections on Friday.


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