Uneasy calm holds in Honduras

More protests but no repeat of violence as Zelaya heads to meet Hillary Clinton.

    Zelaya supporters returned to the streets on Monday but there was no repeat of Sunday's violence [AFP]

    Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera's Latin America editor, said for now, the ball was in the diplomatic court, to see if a solution to the standoff could be found.

    Zelaya is now headed to Washington, where he is expected to meet Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.

    US condemns violence

    The US has condemned the violence against protesters and reiterated calls for Zelaya's reinstatement.

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    "We deplore the use of force against demonstrators in Tegucigalpa in recent days and once again call upon the de facto regime and all actors in Honduras to refrain from all acts of violence," Ian Kelly, a spokesman for the US state department, said.
     
    The expected meeting with Clinton would be Zelaya's highest level talks with US officials since being overthrown and forced into exile on June 28, and could be a signal that Washington may be willing to provide more than just the vocal support it has been giving.

    The main airport in Tegucigalpa was the scene of extraordinary drama on Sunday as thousands of Zelaya supporters gathered there as Zelaya attempted to fly back to his country.

    But soldiers and military vehicles blocked the runway and warned off Zelaya's aircraft.

    Zelaya then headed to El Salvador to discuss his next move with other Latin American leaders.

    As Zelaya's aircraft tried to land on Sunday, the waiting crowd, egged on by Zelaya's appeals issued from the plane, tried to get on to the airstrip.

    Zelaya is set to meet the US secretary of state in Washington DC [AFP]
    Riot police fired tear gas and live rounds, killing at least one teenage boy, 16-year-old Oved Murillo, and injuring several other people.

    A Red Cross spokesman said it treated about 30 people for injuries.

    Describing the day's developments, Al Jazeera cameraman Alfredo Delara said the demonstration had been relatively peaceful until a group of about 100 protesters, mostly youth, started throwing stones and bottles at security forces and tore down a fence separating the two sides.

    Troops responded by firing their weapons for about 10 minutes, dispersing most of the crowd, he said.

    But some protesters continued to confront the troops and our cameraman witnessed at least one soldier pointing his weapon directly at the protesters and at least one person going down after being shot.

    Al Jazeera's Newman said Sunday's fatality could be a turning point for the interim government, which had been boasting for days that the coup against Zelaya had been bloodless.

    Now that there has been bloodshed, a lot of people were probably thinking that things were getting much messier than they had bargained for and support for the coup may begin to ebb, she said.

    But the military-backed interim government appeared to have a strategy to convince the international community that it is in the right, sending a delegation to Washington to speak to the Organisation of American States and US officials, she said.

    So far, however, no government in the region has been willing to talk to what has been called an illegitimate government, she added.

    Government defends move

    In a phone interview with Al Jazeera, Martha Lorena Alvarado, a Honduran minister, defended Sunday's security operation.

    Mourners preparing to bury Oved Murillo, 16, who was killed in Sunday's violence [EPA]
    "We are tying to put this country in order because Mr Zelaya wanted to have a replica of Venezuela. If you have ever been to Venezuela, you can foresee our future for the next 20 years," she said.

    "People have the right to demonstrate but they do not have the right to disrupt with rocks, destroying everything and defying the police."

    The interim government has warned Zelaya that, should he return, he will be arrested for 18 alleged criminal acts, including treason and failing to implement more than 80 laws approved by congress since taking office in 2006.

    Zelaya was removed from power as he was about to press ahead with a non-binding referendum that his domestic critics said was aimed at changing the constitution to enable him to run again for office.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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