The former president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, has returned to the country amidst threats of arrest. Zelaya managed to stay under the radar as he sneaked back into his embattled country, eventually turning up at the Brazilian Embassy on Monday.
"I'm here unarmed and ready to engage in dialogue," Zelaya
told Venezuela's Telesur television network. "I'm the president legitimately elected by the Honduran people."
The unexpected return gave renewed fervor to Zelaya's supporters, who have been protesting since his illegal ouster by a military coup nearly three months ago. Many rushed to the gate of the Brazilian embassy as word spread of his return. Shouting "¡Sí se puede!'' they created a human shield around the building to keep police and armed forces at bay.
Although José Miguel Insulza, secretary of the Organization of American States, called on interim President Roberto Micheletti's government to ensure the safety of Zelaya, it should not have been necessary. International law prevents Honduran forces from arresting Zelaya at a foreign embassy since the grounds are considered sovereign Brazilian territory.
Foreign Minister Celso Amorim shared that Brazil received Zelaya's request to enter its embassy in the Honduran capital city of Tegucigalpa only an hour before his arrival. "They told us that President Zelaya was in the immediate area, they asked us if he could come to the embassy and we gave the authorization," said Amorim.
Micheletti has shown little willingness to give up his power even while the U.S., Latin American and European governments insisted that he comply with an agreement crafted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. Concerns that Zelaya's return may disrupt the next presidential elections in Honduras—currently scheduled for Nov. 29—are on the rise.
The political turmoil in Honduras's crisis began when Zelaya insisted on holding a public referendum to determine the citizen's willingness to rewrite the country's constitution. The move made business and conservative political leaders nervous, who were already uneasy about Zelaya's close alliance with socialist President Hugo Chávez. The supreme court ruled the referendum illegal, but were usurped by a military coup that removed Zelaya from power only a few hours before the vote was to be held.