Honduras suspends civil liberties, closes media stations
(MCCLATCHY) Honduras — The de facto government that’s in power in Honduras closed down television and radio stations Monday morning that are aligned with ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
Zelaya condemned the action in a brief statement and called on foreign governments to show their displeasure.
“The government is nervous,” Carlos Montoya, formerly a senior member of Zelaya’s government, said in an interview. “We don’t want violence. We’re asking for dialogue.”
The moves by interim President Roberto Micheletti came hours after the government announced a decree suspending constitutional civil liberties, an attempt to keep supporters of Zelaya off the streets Monday.
Zelaya, who’s been holed up at the Brazilian Embassy for the past seven days with about 70 supporters and journalists after his clandestine return to Honduras, had called on his supporters to launch “a final offensive” Monday.
It’s not clear whether Zelaya meant this as a show of support or an effort to cause the Micheletti government to buckle and allow him to return to power.
Either way, the moves signal a hardening line by the Micheletti government and seem likely to provoke a strong reaction from leaders throughout the world who deem him to be holding power illegally after he took office June 28.
The Micheletti government refused to allow four diplomats to enter Honduras on Sunday. They were from the Washington-based Organization of American States and had come to Honduras to organize an upcoming OAS mission.
OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza called the decision “incomprehensible” and added in a statement, “Actions like this one adopted today by Honduran authorities of the de facto regime create serious difficulties for those trying to create social peace in Honduras.”
The Micheletti government on Sunday gave Brazil 10 days to hand over Zelaya, who’s wanted on charges of corruption and abuse of power, or send him to another country.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva swatted aside the demand, saying that his government “doesn’t accept ultimatums from coup-plotters.”
Honduras’ interim foreign minister, Carlos Lopez Contreras, suggested Sunday night that his government might feel legally empowered to seize the embassy after 10 days since Brazil has said it no longer has relations with Honduras.
Government troops have surrounded the embassy since early last Tuesday morning, when they used riot sticks and tear gas to route Zelaya supporters who were camped outside.
In a nationally broadcast announcement Sunday night, the government said it had suspended civil liberties “to guarantee peace and public order in the country and because of the calls for insurrection that Mr. Zelaya has publicly made.”
The decree prohibits unauthorized gatherings and permits the police to arrest “any person who poses a danger to his own life or those of others” without the warrant that’s usually required.
It also allows the government to close TV and radio stations temporarily that “attack peace and public order.”
Two stations that were closed Monday morning — Radio Globo and Channel 36 — consistently broadcast anti-Micheletti news but had been allowed to operate, except for a brief interruption, since June 28.
Honduras’ Congress elevated Micheletti to the presidency after soldiers whisked Zelaya out of the country following a court order calling for his removal from office for violating the constitution.
Brazil, the rest of Latin America, the United States and European nations have been calling Zelaya’s ouster an illegal “coup” and have been pressing Micheletti to restore him to power.
These nations have said that not reinstating Zelaya would encourage coups in the region.
Micheletti and his supporters say he took office after a legal transfer of power.
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