BUENOS AIRES – Deposed Honduran President Mel Zelaya says his country is already embroiled in a civil war as a result of the June 28 coup in Tegucigalpa and he vows to return to the Central American nation this week to reclaim his office.
“I am already initiating my return. I will do it sometime after Wednesday via any of the points on Honduras’ borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua,” he said in an interview appearing in Tuesday’s edition of the Argentine daily La Nacion.
The international community has increased pressure on the head of the “interim” Honduran government, Roberto Micheletti, to accept a Costa Rican proposal aimed at resolving the crisis.
The plan put forward by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias calls for Zelaya to return and serve out his term, which ends in January, and includes a political amnesty that would protect both the coup plotters and the ousted head of state, accused of various offenses by the junta.
The restored head of state would head a national unity government and the presidential and congressional elections set for Nov. 29 would be moved up to October.
Under the Arias initiative, Zelaya would also have to abandon his hopes to hold a referendum on convening an assembly next year to rewrite the Honduran constitution.
The Honduran military – almost a law unto itself under the current constitution – dragged Zelaya from the presidential palace and put him on a plane to Costa Rica just hours before voters were supposed to cast ballots in a non-binding plebiscite on the idea of revising the national charter.
While Zelaya accepted Arias’ plan, Micheletti asked for time to consider the proposal, even as he and members of the junta have continued to rule out the reinstatement of the elected head of state.
“The mediator (Arias) gave the coupsters 72 hours to accept the mandate of the Organization of American States, that is: the restitution of the legitimate president,” Zelaya told La Nacion by telephone from Nicaragua.
The 72-hour period expires Wednesday.
Regarding criticism of the U.S. response to his ouster, Zelaya said he was “very satisfied with the role of President Obama,” who “has been very consistent in his position of condemning the coup and supporting the legitimate president elected at the polls.”
Zelaya declined to specify where and how he planned to make his second attempt to return to Honduras.
His first try, on July 5, was thwarted when the Honduran military blocked the runway at Tegucigalpa’s Toncontin International Airport and fired on tens of thousands of Zelaya supporters gathered there, killing at least one person.
“The Honduran people are moving to the borders so that, once the 72-hour period expires, we can enter through any of the border points,” he said.
“God alone can stop my return. And I can assure you that God is not with the coupsters; he is on our side. My entry into Tegucigalpa will be tremendous,” Zelaya said.
“A window always remains open” for a negotiated solution, he said, though adding that the de facto regime in Tegucigalpa will not bend because it represent
s “an oligarchy which has exploited this country for decades and is not thinking of now giving up that power it has violently won.”
The coup enjoys support from much of the Honduras business community, unhappy with Zelaya for enacting a 60 percent hike in the minimum wages for workers in the hemisphere’s third-poorest nation.
“Anyone who is in Honduras can see that that confrontation, that civil war, already began,” Zelaya said.
In Tegucigalpa, the Micheletti regime said Tuesday that it ordered all personnel at the Venezuelan Embassy to leave the country within 72 hours.
The junta’s foreign minister, Martha Lorena Alvarado, told reporters the move was in response to “threats” from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close ally of Zelaya.
In the immediate aftermath of the coup, Chavez said he would respond with force to any attacks on Venezuelan diplomats or other nationals in Honduras. Since then, he has predicted civil strife in the Central American if Zelaya is not reinstated.
The first secretary at the Venezuelan mission in Tegucigalpa, Ariel Vargas, confirmed to Efe that he and his colleagues had been ordered to leave the country.
“I have already sent that information to Caracas and I am awaiting instructions,” he said, adding that the Micheletti regime was in the process of shutting down the Honduran Embassy in the Venezuelan capital.
Micheletti announced last week that he was firing 16 Honduran diplomats who refused to acknowledge the new regime, including the envoy to Venezuela, German Espinal. EFE