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Honduras suspended from OAS

  • Story Highlights
  • Organization of American States suspend Honduras in wake of coup
  • Thousands of supporters at airport for return of ousted president Jose Zelaya
  • Organization of American States wants Zelaya restored to power
  • Newly installed president says Jose Zelaya will be arrested upon return
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Organization of American States suspended Honduras late Saturday because the nation's new leaders refused to reinstate ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya.

Zelaya's supporters burn tires Monday near the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa.

Ousted Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya appears Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly.

Zelaya was removed by the military on June 28 and flown to Costa Rica. Congressional leader Roberto Micheletti was sworn in as provisional president later that day.

The OAS set a Saturday deadline for Honduras to return Zelaya to power or be suspended from the 35-nation hemispheric organization. Honduran officials told OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza on Friday that they would not allow Zelaya to return to power.

Thousands of protesters demanding the return to power of ousted Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya pushed through riot police at Tegucigalpa's airport and surrounded the terminal Saturday, but there were no reports of violence.

The airport continued to operate, CNN Correspondent Karl Penhaul reported.

Zelaya, a leftist who took office in 2006, says he will return to Honduras on Sunday. Micheletti has vowed to have Zelaya arrested if he returns.

"I am simply defending a system," Zelaya told the OAS delegates early Sunday, after the 33-0 vote to suspend Honduras.

Among the delegates were two heads of state: Presidents Christina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina and Fernando Lugo of Paraguay.

"I am here not only as president of the republic of Argentina, but also as part of a delegation who was the object of coups in Argentina," Fernandez said.

Lugo also spoke in favor of restoring Zelaya and democracy to his nation.

"I come from Paraguay, a country that has had the long night of dictatorships," Lugo said. "I come here with a pain, but also with a hope."

Micheletti repeated in an interview with CNN en Español on Saturday night that a coup did not take place. What happened, he said, was a constitutional transfer of power authorized by the nation's congress.

But Micheletti is swimming against world opinion.

The U.N. General Assembly condemned the coup last week and demanded that Zelaya be reinstated.

The European Union and other nations have recalled their ambassadors from Honduras, and the United States and the World Bank have suspended some aid.

Honduran officials have said the Central American nation was prepared to withdraw from the OAS rather than reinstate Zelaya.

"If the Organization of American States doesn't deem Honduras worthy of membership of the Organization of American States, then Honduras would renounce with immediate effect the inter-American charter," said Deputy Foreign Minister Marta Lorena Alvarado.

At the center of the dispute was a referendum Zelaya had vowed to carry out even after the country's supreme court and congress found it illegal. The nonbinding referendum could have led to the creation of a constitutional assembly to modify the country's charter to allow the president to run for re-election.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Zelaya ally, won a similar referendum this year, and many Hondurans thought Zelaya was trying to maneuver a way to seek re-election in November. Zelaya has denied that was his intent.

Zelaya narrowly won the presidency in 2005, with 49.8 percent of the vote to 46.1 percent for Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo.

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After 18 years of nearly uninterrupted military rule, Honduras returned to civilian control in 1981. Since then, the military has not seemed interested in holding power in the nation of more than 7 million people, about 70 percent of whom live in poverty.

Military interventions were once common in Latin America, but civilian governments have held sway since the 1980s. Before Sunday, the only other barracks revolt this decade was an unsuccessful 2002 coup attempt against Chavez, when the military displaced him but backed down days later and allowed his reinstatement.

CNN's Tom Watkins contributed to this report

All About HondurasOrganization of American StatesJose Manuel ZelayaRoberto Micheletti

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