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Protesters march after rivals abandon talks


Latest update : 2009-07-12

Thousands of protesters supporting Honduran President Manuel Zelaya held rallies on Friday after Costa Rican-mediated talks between the deposed president and rival de facto leader Roberto Micheletti were abandoned without reaching a deal.

AFP - Thousands of supporters of Honduras's ousted president held rallies on Friday, as talks in Costa Rica between his representatives and the rival de facto government ended without a breakthrough.

Two days of talks mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias between aides of Zelaya and interim Honduran leader Roberto Micheletti ended late Friday with no breakthrough, but Arias insisted that both sides agreed to talk again soon.

Around 4,000 people calling for the return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya blocked the road leading north from the capital Tegucigalpa to Honduras's economic capital San Pedro Sula for around two hours.

Protests also took place in San Pedro Sula, Choluteca and Puerto Cortes, the latest in a wave of demonstrations since Zelaya was abducted and hauled out of Honduras by the army on June 28.

Zelaya and Micheletti kicked off the talks on Thursday -- but in a sign of their mutual hostility, they never met face-to-face, preferring to speak to Arias separately before flying out of the country the same day.

Speaking to reporters in the Dominican Republic, Zelaya hailed the talks as a small first step toward "the restoration of the elected president."

But Micheletti, who flew to Tegucigalpa late Thursday, insisted he remained the "constitutional president."

Organization of American States chief Jose Miguel Insulza told Chilean radio "there is still intransigence on both sides."

The rival leaders had told him "that the positions have become much more rigid," added Insulza.

Zelaya, who had to abort an attempt last Sunday to land in Tegucigalpa when soldiers and army vehicles blocked the runway, vowed to return to Honduras and sweep aside the interim government.

"Even though my return didn't happen, everything this regime is doing is null and void, and constitutes a crime," he said.

Zelaya has the support of most Latin American states and US President Barack Obama's administration.

The United States has suspended military ties with Tegucigalpa and is warning it could sever 200 million dollars in aid. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have frozen credit lines for the impoverished country.

Amid Zelaya's Latin American allies, Venezuela has halted its oil deliveries to Honduras, while Nicaragua denied Micheletti permission to fly through its airspace for the Costa Rica meeting.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticized the talks, telling reporters he thought Zelaya had made too many concessions to "the usurper" Micheletti and that the talks were "a big mistake that comes from the north," a reference to the United States.

He also warned that what happened in Honduras was encouraging alleged coup plots underway in Venezuela, Guatemala, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

The firebrand leftist leader, who has often been in Washington's crosshairs, called Washington's pointman for Latin America, Thomas Shannon, late Thursday to discuss the Honduran political crisis, the US State Department said.

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Chavez's criticism was "premature."

"It's unclear what President Chavez thinks he's for and against. I believe at various times the Venezuelan government has been supportive of a process that would lead to President Zelaya's return," Crowley said.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, meanwhile, said he had "some unconfirmed information that drug kingpins were involved in Honduras's coup d'etat." He also claimed the United States had an unspecified role.

Zelaya, a wealthy rancher who moved sharply left after taking power in January 2006, raised hackles among his country's ruling elite by trying to bypass congress to hold a referendum on rewriting the constitution.

He has denied charges that the move was a bid to lift the one-term presidential limit so he could seek re-election this year.

Date created : 2009-07-11