After six hours of debate, the Honduran congress rejected the reinstatement late on Wednesday of former president Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a June 28 coup that divided the nation.
REUTERS - The Honduran Congress voted on Wednesday not to allow the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, a move that closes the door on his return to power after he was toppled in a June coup.
Congress was deciding Zelaya's fate as part of a U.S.-brokered deal between the deposed leftist and the country's de facto leaders who took power after the coup. The agreement left it up to Congress to decide if Zelaya could return to the presidency until the end of his term in January.
The United States was hoping for Zelaya's reinstatement but Honduran lawmakers resisted international pressure, with more than two-thirds of the 126 members in session voting against Zelaya's return to power. Only 11 backed him as the vote carried on late into the evening.
Hundreds of the toppled president's supporters protested outside the chamber.
Zelaya has been holed up inside the heavily guarded Brazilian Embassy since he slipped back into Honduras in September, with soldiers threatening to arrest him if he steps outside. The vote throws his future into question.
Opposition candidate Porfirio Lobo won a presidential election on Sunday, which was scheduled before the coup, that could allow Honduras to move on from the five-month crisis and focus on a new leader.
The United States quickly recognized the results but said the vote was only a partial step toward restoring democracy.
The stance has split the United States from Latin American powers like Brazil and Argentina that say it is impossible to recognize an election organized by a de facto government.
Lobo hails from the traditional ruling elite and is set to take office on Jan. 27. Zelaya being locked out of office amounts to a victory for the coup leaders, some analysts say.
Zelaya was rousted from his bed by soldiers and sent to Costa Rica on a military plane on June 28 after he angered business leaders and members of his own party by moving closer to Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez.
The Supreme Court ordered his arrest, charging him with violating the constitution and Congress voted to strip him of his powers after he was already exiled. Critics say he was aiming at a constitutional overhaul in an attempt to stay in power, a charge he denies.
Lobo's conservative National Party took a firm stance against Zelaya in Wednesday's session.
"If we reinstate Zelaya, it will be worse for the country, the crisis would continue, and democracy would once again be in danger," National Party congressman Victor Barnica said.
Date created : 2009-12-03