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Government blocks pro-Zelaya protests amid clamp down

The Honduran de facto regime has silenced opposition media and clamped down on protests by supporters of deposed president Manuel Zelaya who has taken refuge at the Brazilian embassy after sneaking back into the country.


AFP - The Honduran regime silenced the opposition media and clamped down Monday on protests by supporters of deposed president Manuel Zelaya, holed up for a week in the Brazilian embassy here.

With troops and anti-riot police deployed across the capital and the closure of the two main dissident media outlets, Zelaya's supporters struggled to answer his call to converge on Tegucigalpa exactly three months after his ouster.

Several hundred protestors, many with tape stuck over their mouths, gathered at the Pedagogical University in Tegucigalpa to plan their next moves faced with the crackdown.

Around 20 anti-riot police and soldiers stormed the Globo de Tegucigalpa radio at dawn and took it off the air. Soldiers also surrounded TV satellite channel Cholusat, which had already lost its signal.

It was "a blow to the resistance because we can't communicate," union leader Juan Barahona told AFP.

"We're going to meet with the leadership to see if we can find a different way to demonstrate."

Zelaya, who took refuge in the embassy after making a surprise return to the country last week, issued a cry for help, telling AFP by telephone: "The international community has to react immediately."

But while Latin American countries repeated calls to restore Zelaya to the presidency, a senior US official criticized Zelaya's return, branding it "irresponsible."

"The return of President Zelaya to Honduras, absent an agreement, is irresponsible and serves neither the interests of the Honduran people nor those seeking a peaceful reestablishment of a democratic order in Honduras," said Lewis Amselem, a US representative to the Organization of American States.

The previous conflict mediator, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, called for both sides to sign his San Jose accord, which includes the restoration of Zelaya to the presidency.

The leaders who took power after a June 28 coup upped the ante on Sunday, threatening to close Brazil's embassy for harboring Zelaya and denying entry to four mediators from an OAS delegation.

"Things are going to get worse before they get better," Chilean John Biehl, the only member of the delegation who managed to enter the country, told AFP on Monday.

OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza may visit Honduras, along with six or seven regional foreign ministers, midweek, Biehl added.

The Honduran regime, which has been under growing fire for its heavy-handed clampdown since Zelaya's ouster, had sought to postpone the OAS mission.

New restrictions, including a ban on non-authorized gatherings and permission for arrests without warrants, were set to last 45 days.

"We're faced with a military regime," Andres Pavon, president of the country's human rights committee, told AFP on Monday.

The UN Security Council has warned the regime headed by Roberto Micheletti not to harass the Brazilian embassy, as officials have complained it was "under siege."

A UN official warned Monday that it would be a "disaster" if the regime removed the embassy's diplomatic status, as they have threatened to do.

They said they were not planning to invade the embassy, which is surrounded by troops and anti-riot police.

Some 60 people who remain inside, including Zelaya, journalists and Brazilian diplomatic staff, have suffered power and water cuts and an alleged gas attack.

The possibility of November presidential elections serving as a way out of the crisis appeared increasingly unlikely, many observers said, after the United Nations last week froze its technical support for the poll.

The de facto leaders are seeking to arrest Zelaya, known for his trademark white cowboy hat, on charges of treason and abuse of authority.

They allege Zelaya, who veered to the left after his election and forged an alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, ignored court orders to drop plans for a constitutional referendum that could have given him another term.

Two people have been killed in pro-Zelaya protests since the start of last week according to police.

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