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New Honduran President Tries to Restore Order as Opposition Mounts

July 2, 2009 at 10:27 AM EDT
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Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya took to the streets of Tegucigalpa, as the new president began appointing Cabinet members and boosted efforts to maintain order.

RAY SUAREZ: Supporters of the ousted Honduran president fanned out in the streets of Tegucigalpa today and faced off against government forces.

Manuel Zelaya’s loyalists hoisted signs labeling the new president a traitor and chanted slogans as police looked on.

Zelaya was ousted Sunday. He had tried to organize a referendum to end the constitutional limit on his presidential term. That enraged the country’s congress and armed forces. The army stormed the presidential palace, removed him from office, and sent him to Costa Rica.

Honduras’ new president, Roberto Micheletti, has already begun to appoint new cabinet ministers. The country’s congress has approved a nightly curfew and 24-hour detention rules to keep the peace.

On Tuesday, Micheletti said the old president was not welcome back.

ROBERTO MICHELETTI, President, Honduras (through translator): He had already violated the constitution and the laws. He cannot return as the president of this country unless a president from a Latin American country puts him there forcibly by arms.

RAY SUAREZ: Condemnation of the forced ouster of Zelaya has been swift and unrelenting from both the United States and the Organization of American States. The 27 member states of the European Union have withdrawn their ambassadors.

On Tuesday, Zelaya received a standing ovation at the United Nations as he criticized the new regime.

MANUEL ZELAYA, President, Honduras (through translator): Dictatorships repress, as has been the case in Honduras today. A dictatorship has now been established. Repression has been established in the country. I fought for the reversal of this system, and the people fought for the overthrow of the system, but the elite refuses us.

RAY SUAREZ: In Latin America, some of Zelaya’s strongest backing has come from Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and other leftist leaders. The United States, which has had close ties with Honduras and its military, has insisted Zelaya is the constitutional leader of the country and that military action was not warranted.

On Monday, President Obama labeled Zelaya’s removal “not legal.”

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition.

RAY SUAREZ: Zelaya postponed today’s planned return to Honduras as representatives from the Organizations of American States headed there to negotiate a settlement that would include reinstating Honduras’ elected president.