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Government shuts down radio station and restricts civil liberties

Honduras's de facto government has shut down a leading opposition radio broadcaster ahead of planned protests in support of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, who has taken refuge at the Brazilian embassy after sneaking back into the country.


Reuters - Honduras' de facto government on Monday sent troops to shut down two local media stations loyal to ousted President Manuel Zelaya as it dug in to resist international pressure to return him to power.

Zelaya was overthrown in a military coup on June 28, but he secretly returned from exile and sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy last Monday, sparking a tense standoff with the de facto civilian government that has promised to arrest him.

Hundreds of soldiers and riot police have surrounded the embassy for the past week, while Zelaya urges his followers to take to the streets to demand he be restored to power in the coffee- and textile-producing country.

Representatives of the Organization of American States will hold an extraordinary session on Monday to discuss the Honduran face-off. Honduras denied entry on Sunday to an OAS delegation seeking to broker a solution to the crisis.

The raids on Radio Globo and Cholusat Sur television -- both critical of the de facto government -- came early on Monday, said Radio Globo director David Romero, and followed a decree allowing suspension of some civil rights and media.

Both stations have been taken off air several times since the coup.

"Troops assaulted the radio, took over the station and took it off the air," Romero said.

Reuters reporters at the site said police and troops had cordoned off the building and the offices of Cholusat Sur, which has been off the air since late Sunday.

The crackdown came hours before Zelaya followers plan a march in Tegucigalpa in what the toppled leader has called the "final offensive."

Showdown, sanctions

Honduras' tough stance sent a clear message it would not allow the leftist's return to power. But the measures and an ultimatum to Brazil to resolve Zelaya's status or close its embassy may increase international condemnation of Honduras, which has already faced cuts in some overseas aid and funding.

"It would be a terrible mistake on the part of the de facto government, they would be condemning themselves more than they already have," Zelaya told reporters on Sunday.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he would ignore a 10-day deadline set by de facto leader Roberto Micheletti to decide on the fate of Zelaya, a logging magnate who often wears a cowboy hat.

The United States has called for Zelaya's reinstatement in a bid to end the worst crisis in Central America in years. The standoff also is a test of the Obama administration's pledge of engagement with Latin America.

Soldiers toppled Zelaya at gunpoint and sent him into exile in his pajamas after the Supreme Court ordered his arrest. His critics say he broke the law by pushing for constitutional reforms they saw as a bid to change presidential term limits and extend his rule. Zelaya denies wanting to stay in power.

Zelaya had upset conservative elites by allying himself with Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez. He demands to be restored to power, but the de facto government says presidential elections in November will resolve the crisis.

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