Hondurans Stage Dueling Presidential Protests Thousands of protesters took to the streets Thursday in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa to hold demonstrations in support of the two men who have laid claim to the nation's presidency.
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Hondurans Stage Dueling Presidential Protests

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Hondurans Stage Dueling Presidential Protests

Hondurans Stage Dueling Presidential Protests

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Madeleine Brand.

There are dueling presidents in Honduras. One of them, Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a June coup; the interim president is Roberto Micheletti. This week, Zelaya snuck back into the country and is now hold up in the Brazilian embassy. Today, he told a radio station that he met with someone in the new president's office to begin a dialogue that might break the political impasse.

Meanwhile today, after a nationwide curfew was lifted, thousands of Hondurans took to the streets to support either Zelaya or Micheletti. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Tegucigalpa.

(Soundbite of protesters)

Unidentified Group: Honduras, Honduras.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Protesters dressed in white chanted in front of the United Nations headquarters out with Zelaya and viva Micheletti. Some held signs saying, Micheletti is my president. Others banners accused Zelaya of being a puppet of Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez.

Mr. ANTONIO RIVERA (Leader, National Party): My name is Antonio Rivera. I'm the minority leader of the National Party congressman. I am supporting the democracy. We don't want dictatorship here. We don't want Chavez. We don't want Zelaya back in our country.

BEAUBIEN: Congressman Rivera, along with most of these other backers of de facto President Micheletti says the ouster of Zelaya was not coup. On June 28, soldiers burst in to President Zelaya's bedroom, forced him at gunpoint onto a plane and dropped him in his pajamas at the airport in Costa Rica. Rivera says that Zelaya was removed for violating a direct order from the Honduran Supreme Court. He says the mistake was rather than arrest Zelaya, the military threw him out of the country.

Mr. RIVERA: That was a big mistake. We are paying for that mistake because they qualify taking Zelaya to Costa Rica as a military coup, and it's not a military coup. The big characteristic of a coup, you dissolve the three branches, a military taking power as long as he wants. That's does happen in our country.

BEAUBIEN: Rivera says all the other branches of government retained their powers and the leader of Congress, Micheletti, who was next in line to the presidency was elevated to that office.

As Rivera and thousands of others were calling for Zelaya to leave, a group of Zelaya supporters were calling for Micheletti to be ousted. The Zelaya followers had taken over the streets in front of the national university. The university had just reopened after being shut for two days. But in the middle of the day, classes were canceled again. Masked protesters were burning tires and constructing barricades on the roadway, while riot police in gas masks lurked just down the hill.

Ms. CRISTINA RIVERA (Protester): (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: It was a military coup no matter how you look at it, says Cristina Rivera and she says she considers Manuel Zelaya to still be her president.

Ms. RIVERA: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Zelaya was elected as our president, she says. Micheletti is the imposed president, forced on us by the rich and the powerful.

The political crisis in Honduras shut down the country for several days this week. Public schools remained shut. The airports have reopened, but international flights haven't resumed. At the El Amatillo border crossing between El Salvador and Honduras, hundreds of tractor-trailers, some of which had been waiting for several days to cross were backed up for miles. Manuel Maroquin from Guatemala was hauling a truck loaded with Pepsi Cola.

Mr. MANUEL MAROQUIN (Truck Driver): (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: He says this is a huge problem. It's a waste. We are trying to work, and we are losing money. It's a waste for everyone. The effects of this crisis, which has dragged on for three months, are being felt not just throughout the Honduran economy but throughout the whole region.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Tegucigalpa.

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