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Zelaya heads to US for Clinton meeting

4 min

Protesters took to the streets of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa as ousted President Manuel Zelaya headed to Washington for a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a day after he was blocked from returning home.


AFP - Supporters of ousted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya took to the streets Monday after two died in clashes with the army, as the deposed leader headed to Washington to meet with Hillary Clinton.

Zelaya said in Nicaragua that he would travel later in the evening to Washington where he would hold talks with the US Secretary of State.

Several thousand of his supporters returned to the capital's streets Monday, in smaller numbers than the previous day but increasingly angry after the deaths of protesters.

"Assassins!" they shouted at a crowd of soldiers behind riot shields as they marched several hundred meters (yards) past the presidential palace.

A fake corpse covered in fake blood lay under a Honduran flag to represent the first deaths since the troubles began.

"We're going to continue with peaceful resistance despite the repression," union leader Juan Barahona told AFP.

Zelaya said in Nicaragua that he would talk to Clinton about his eventual return to Honduras.

"I will return to Honduras, there's no doubt about that," Zelaya said, adding that it was a mistake to have announced his attempt on Sunday.

Political tensions degenerated into violence Sunday as Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup a week earlier, tried to return to Honduras on a flight that the army blocked from landing in Tegucigalpa, the country's capital.

Before Zelaya's expected arrival, troops fired tear gas and opened fire on thousands of angry protesters trying to break into the airport, killing two and wounding at least two others, police said.

The move left the country's interim government more isolated than ever.

Many protesters said they hoped for more pressure from the country's traditional economic and military ally the United States, which on Monday condemned the violence and urged interim leaders and others to seek a peaceful solution following the army-backed coup.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters: "We deplore the use of force against demonstrators in Tegucigalpa in recent days."

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the Organization of American States should work to restore constitutional order, after the 34-member pan-American body suspended Honduras in a rare move at an emergency session at the weekend.

Ban said in Geneva that the OAS bloc must "take a leadership role to find the peaceful solution to that issue whereby the constitutional order can be restored."

In a first sign of possible dialogue, interim leaders on Sunday said they had put forward an offer for dialogue in "good faith" with the OAS, after they previously said they were pulling out of the body ahead of the suspension.

They also said in a statement that they had sent a commission to Washington on Monday in a bid to explain to political leaders there that there had been a constitutional succession, not a coup, in Honduras.

International pressure is increasing on the heels of aid freezes, ambassador withdrawals and temporary trade blockages.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Zelaya's key backer, has suspended key shipments of oil to Honduras.

Many here feared an increasing impact on exports -- including bananas and coffee -- as well as tourism.

The coup leaders have said they are prepared for an economic blockade of at least six months, in order to hold out until scheduled elections in November.

It was unclear exactly how many people had been injured and detained in the past week's clashes, amid growing indignation from international rights groups.

Night time curfews -- which suspend some freedoms guaranteed by the constitution -- and media blackouts have heightened tension in one of Latin America's poorest countries.

The army sent Zelaya away in his pajamas on June 28, at the height of a dispute with the courts, politicians and the army over his plans to change the constitution -- which opponents said included an attempt to stand for a second term.


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