TEGUCIGALPA – The Honduras government announced Monday the lifting of a state of siege imposed 10 days ago.
“We have revoked the (state of siege) decree in the Council of Ministers,” the former head of Congress and now head of government, Roberto Micheletti, told a press conference in the capital.
“Everything, the entire decree, is completely revoked,” he said, accompanied by several members of the cabinet and by U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Micheletti also said that those responsible for expelling Zelaya from Honduras on the day of the putsch would be “punished” for their “error” in exiling the ousted head of state to Costa Rica.
While stressing the end of restrictions on constitutional freedoms, he said that the two pro-Zelaya media outlets shut down under the state of siege would have to apply to the courts for the restoration of their broadcasting licenses.
A coordinator of the National Resistance Front against the Micheletti government, Rafael Alegria, told Efe the cancellation of the state of siege was “a triumph for the people and the popular resistance.”
“We are demonstrating that the people are not disposed to tolerate dictatorships of any kind, nor disposed to give up the rights won more than 50 years ago,” he said.
Dozens of pro-Zelaya supporters gathered Monday outside the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa to demand former president Mel Zelaya’s reinstatement and a new constitution for Honduras.
Zelaya secretly slipped back into Honduras two weeks ago and remains holed up at the Brazilian mission in the capital, which is surrounded by troops and police and has been sporadically bombarded with acoustic weapons and gases.
He marked the passage of 100 days since the coup by renewing his call for the Micheletti government to immediately sign the San Jose Accord.
Proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the accord calls for Zelaya to return and lead a national unity government for the few months left in his term, and for a political amnesty that would protect both the current government and the ousted head of state, who stands accused of various offenses.
Micheletti has thus far flatly rejected the reinstatement of the elected head of state, although he has shown some signs in recent days of being willing to compromise.
The Organization of American States announced that senior officials from 10 OAS member-nations and Spain will travel to Honduras on Wednesday to promote a dialogue between Zelaya and the Micheletti government.
In the eyes of most Hondurans, Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup. The soldiers who escorted Zelaya from the presidential palace were enforcing a Supreme Court order of arrest after Zelaya refused to comply with their earlier order banning his planned referendum on revising the constitution to allow for unlimited presidential terms.
The Organization of American States, the United States and the European Union have been pressing Micheletti to accept the San Jose Accord, a proposal put forward by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.
The plan calls for Zelaya to return and lead a national unity government for the few months left in his term, and for a political amnesty that would protect both sides in the dispute.
Time is running out before presidential elections scheduled for Nov. 29, as both the European Union and Washington have said they will not recognize the winner of that balloting unless Zelaya is restored to office beforehand.