Honduran Coup Leaders Block President Manuel Zelaya’s Plane from Landing

AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya attempted to return to Honduras on Sunday, but coup leaders prevented his plane from landing by blocking an airport runway with military vehicles. The scene at the Honduran airport was chaotic as thousands of Zelaya’s supporters clashed with police and soldiers, leaving at least two dead and dozens injured.

Zelaya’s plane was forced to divert to Nicaragua, where he met briefly with President Daniel Ortega. He then flew to El Salvador for consultations with the presidents of Argentina, Paraguay and Ecuador and the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, who flew there from Washington. Zelaya vows to try again Monday or Tuesday in his risky attempt to return to power. "I am the commander of the armed forces, elected by the people, and I ask the armed forces to comply with the order to open the airport so that there is no problem in landing and embracing my people," Zelaya said from the plane. "Today I feel like I have sufficient spiritual strength, blessed with the blood of Christ, to be able to arrive there and raise the crucifix."

However, interim President Roberto Micheletti insisted on keeping him out and said he won't negotiate until "things return to normal."

"We will be here until the country calms down," Micheletti said. "We are the authentic representatives of the people."

Zelaya’s supporters, who are mostly poor and working class, said they would demonstrate daily until he was reinstated. Dozens have been injured and detained in clashes with security forces. The new authorities have curbed civil liberties and muzzled the media. Shortly after Zelaya's plane was turned away, about a dozen trucks filled with police ordered everyone off the streets, imposing a sunset-to-sunrise curfew.

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