The Honduran military prevented ousted president Manuel Zelaya from landing in the country’s capital on Sunday, one week after Zelaya was deposed in a coup. Tensions flared at the heavily-militarised Tegucigalpa airport between soldiers and Zelaya supporters, leaving two dead, witnesses say.
“The demonstration started early in the day in a festive atmosphere, with tens of thousands of people marching towards the airport,” says FRANCE 24’s Ioan Grillo, reporting from Tegucigalpa in the wake of the protests.
“But about 30 minutes before Zelaya was due to land, protesters sought to cut a hole in the fence. Soldiers then fired indiscriminately at the crowd,” he says. “The firing continued on and off for about 30 minutes.”
Speaking live from his jet, Zelaya assured protesters he was doing everything he could to return to the country. "If I had a parachute I would immediately jump out of this plane," he said.
The leftist Honduran president was pushed out of power on June 28 after a dispute about presidential term limits.
Zelaya landed in El Salvador late on Sunday to meet with regional allies, including the presidents of Ecuador, Paraguay and Argentina.
Under international pressure
Earlier on Sunday, the Organisation of American States suspended Honduras for refusing to reinstate Zelaya, its strongest move against a member state since Cuba was excluded in 1962.
Since the coup, the impoverished South American country has also been hit by regional trade blockades and an international aid freeze. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Zelaya supporter, has threatened to suspend key shipments of oil to Honduras.
Honduras’s interim government, installed hours after the coup, says it was justified in ousting Zelaya because he had tried to bypass the country’s supreme court and organise a referendum to remove a ban on presidents serving more than one term.
Underscoring regional tensions stoked by the coup, the country's interim president, Roberto Micheletti, said small groups of Nicaraguan troops were moving near their mutual border, although they had not crossed it.
He urged Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a leftist ally of Zelaya, to respect Honduran sovereignty. Ortega, whose country shares a border with Honduras just south of Tegucigalpa, called the charge "totally false."