Talks could end crisis in Honduras
US urges other countries to support effort
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Allies of Honduras’ ousted President Manuel Zelaya say US-backed talks in Costa Rica today may be the last chance to avert a clash, perhaps even civil war.
Zelaya is threatening to return to his homeland with or without an agreement on ending the standoff and has said Hondurans have a constitutional right to launch an insurrection against an illegitimate government.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called for nations to support the talks that are being mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for helping to end Central America’s wars.
He also appeared to allude to remarks by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a Zelaya ally who has called the negotiations a US-backed trap and said yesterday, “In the next few hours, Zelaya will enter Honduras and we’ll see what the guerrillas are going to do’’ about it.
“No country in the region should encourage any action that would potentially increase the risk of violence either in Honduras or in surrounding countries,’’ said Crowley.
Interim President Roberto Micheletti has said Zelaya might try to sneak in by crossing Nicaragua’s jungle-cloaked border with Honduras, but the ousted president apparently was still in Nicaragua’s capital yesterday.
Zelaya told Venezuelan state television late Thursday that the weekend talks hold out a moment of hope for a solution, but he was still readying for a return.
“I am preparing various alternatives: by air, by land, and others,’’ he said.
In Honduras, meanwhile, about 2,000 Zelaya supporters blocked two highways connecting Tegucigalpa to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts for several hours yesterday.
American Airlines temporarily suspended its two daily US flights to the capital because of the political crisis, an airline spokeswoman said. Continental and Delta continued flights.
Arias has presented a series of possible compromises to both camps, but indicated a power-sharing deal in which Zelaya could return to serve out the rest of his term with limited power would dominate the talks.
Arias said discussions also will cover possible amnesty for Zelaya.
The Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Zelaya before the coup, ruling his effort to hold a referendum on whether to form a constitutional assembly was illegal. The military decided to send him into exile instead on June 28 - a move that military lawyers themselves have called illegal but necessary.
Many Hondurans viewed the proposed referendum as an attempt by Zelaya to push for a socialist, Chavez-style model of governing.
Arias said yesterday that both camps have “softened, and I think we are going to find more flexibility.’’ In the first round of talks the two sides agreed only to meet again.