Honduras military seeks peaceful solution to crisis

IN yet another drama, the general who oversaw the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya has implored all sectors of Honduran society to join in resolving the country's deepening crisis in a message that seemed aimed at calming an uproar over a government order suspending civil liberties.

Gen. Romeo Vasquez's comments on Channel 5 television, according to the Associated Press (AP) yesterday came hours after interim President Roberto Micheletti said he would accept congressional calls for him to reverse the emergency decree suspending civil liberties that he had announced on Sunday.

Micheletti also said he would allow an Organization of American States (OAS) team whose arrival was blocked this weekend. The OAS hopes to convince the coup leaders to bow to international demands they reinstate Zelaya, who was arrested and expelled from the country on June 28.

Micheletti's backpedalling reflected the largest public show of dissent within the ranks of his supporters to date. Conservatives expressed fear that Sunday's decree would endanger the November 29 presidential election, which they consider Honduras' best hope for regaining international recognition.

The message by Vasquez seemed aimed at easing domestic and international protests that escalated after the government imposed the restrictions in response to Zelaya's surprise return home.

The decree suspended freedoms of speech and assembly and allowed warrantless arrests. Officials also closed dissident television and radio stations and expelled OAS employees.

Honduras' interim president promised to restore civil liberties and allow into the country an Organization of American States mediation team, quickly backpedalling from tough measures amid criticism from his own allies that he had gone too far in his fight to stay in power.

Zelaya, speaking via telephone to a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, deplored the decree, which suspended freedoms of speech and assembly and allowed warrantless arrests. He called it proof "this is a fascist dictatorship that has repressed the Honduran people."

The interim government said the measures were needed to counter calls for civil war by Zelaya's supporters.

The reversals came in a roller-coaster 24 hours.

Micheletti first gave the Brazilian government a 10-day ultimatum to get rid of Zelaya - who has been holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa since sneaking back into the country September 21 - warning Brazil it would have to take down its flag and remove the embassy crest. Then on Monday, Micheletti said he wanted to send "a big hug" to Brazil's president and pledged nothing would happen to the diplomatic mission.

Ahead of the three-month anniversary of the June 28 coup that ousted Zelaya, officials restricted free speech and the right to assemble, closed dissident television and radio stations and expelled OAS employees. But they revoked the measures on Monday and said an OAS delegation would be welcome to help mediate talks scheduled for early October.

Micheletti said he had been swayed by a delegation of congressional leaders who asked him to revoke the decree. He acknowledged his government was concerned about the decree's affect on the election, in which all the major candidates oppose Zelaya's policies.

Thousands of Zelaya supporters had responded to his call for a "final offensive" against the government. That and Zelaya's presence in the country had rattled interim authorities.

Source: The Guardian