OAS Demands Honduras Restore Ousted President The Organization of American States has set Saturday as the deadline by which Manuel Zelaya be returned to power. OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza is scheduled to arrive in Honduras on Friday to push for the ousted leader's reinstatement.
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OAS Demands Honduras Restore Ousted President

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OAS Demands Honduras Restore Ousted President

OAS Demands Honduras Restore Ousted President

OAS Demands Honduras Restore Ousted President

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All week, the streets of Honduras have been alive with demonstrations. Off the main square of the capital Tegucigalpa, protesters carry banners and pictures of their ousted leader.

The want Manuel "Mel" Zelaya reinstated. The tall, mustachioed president with the white Stetson was toppled from office last Sunday. Troops snatched him from the presidential palace, and put him on a plane to exile. Those who removed Zelaya, then quickly swore in Roberto Micheletti as president and believed that was that.

But the United Nations, the Organization of American States and individual governments from France to Argentina have clamored for Micheletti, the former president of the Congress, to step aside. Something Micheletti has defiantly vowed he won't do.

The most vocal opposition to Micheletti came from Zelaya's close ally and benefactor, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who vowed in a speech to overthrow Micheletti.

The Obama administration response has been more nuanced — condemning Zelaya's overthrow but calling for negotiations to restore the constitutional order. The United States operates vital regional anti-drug operations from Honduras, and is an important buyer of the country's textiles, coffee and bananas.

At the rose-colored presidential palace, a gurgling fountain belies the sometimes frantic efforts of Micheletti's government to consolidate its hold. The newly-appointed president shuttles from one meeting to another, where ministers and other officials are sworn in.

New Finance Minister Gabriela Nunez is among them. She insists that Zelaya's ouster was not a coup, and certainly nothing like the frequent overthrows that marked the '70s and '80s in Latin America.

She explains that in this case a civilian government took power, as opposed to a military government, and plans elections. Nunez adds Zelaya was an unpopular leader anyway. She charges he had violated the constitution by planning a referendum that would have been a first step toward extending his rule. She says he had to be stopped.

American diplomats told NPR that the United States strongly disagrees with that interpretation. So much so, that the ousted president's wife and son are staying in the ambassador's residence in Tegucigalpa.

The U.S. says the non-binding referendum would have posed little threat to the constitutional order. And those diplomats say there's little evidence that Zelaya had violated the constitution.

The head of the Organization of American States Jose Miguel Insulza is to arrive in Honduras Friday to demand that Zelaya be returned to power. If it doesn't happen by Saturday, the OAS is prepared to suspend Honduras from the organization. That would make the country a pariah state and result in the end of aid programs.

Among those protesting for the return of the ousted president was Antonio Valle. He says he had to hit the streets because he wants to see Zelaya back in power. And he says those who ousted him violated the law and belong in jail.

Valle acknowledges that it could be a hard-fought battle to get Zelaya back in the presidential palace.