EU ambassadors pull out of Honduras

Move comes as deadline for reinstating ousted president nears and political tension simmers.

    International pressure has been put on Honduras to reinstate Zelaya to the presidency [EPA] 

    Grip tightenened

    Mariana Sanchez, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said that about 200 supporters of Zelaya had gathered in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, on Thursday.

    But while the city has been calm over the last few hours, the protesters told her that the authorities have sought to limit their movements and disrupt the opposition to the military-backed interim government.

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    "They say they were not allowed to gather at the plaza, where they wanted to be," she said.

    "They also complained that the security forces are not allowing people from outside the capital to join the protests."

    The apparent police pressure against Zelaya's supporters follows a vote by the legislature on Wednesday granting police expanded powers.

    The Honduran congress passed laws allowing police to arrest people in their own homes without a warrant during a nightly curfew that has been in place since Zelaya was ousted and forced into exile.

    "The deputies have decided to suspend several liberties, among them the liberties of free movement and association - people can be arrested for 24 hours without having any rights," our correspondent said.

    The congress vote came after Zelaya said he would return home after the OAS deadline expires on Saturday.

    Arrest warning

    Roberto Micheletti, the interim president, has vowed not to resign, saying that only an armed invasion would restore his ousted predecessor.

    Micheletti has also warned that Zelaya would be arrested should he return.

    Honduran police have been granted powers by congress to move against the opposition [AFP]
    Supporters of both Zelaya and the interim government have each demonstrated in cities across Honduras since Zelaya was forced out of the country on Sunday.

    Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar, reporting from San Pedro Sula, the Honduran commercial capital, said the protests were evidence that the coup had left the country deeply polarised.
    "The police said for the moment that they have avoided a full-scale confrontation, but tensions are clearly mounting and anti-riot troops have cordoned off government buildings and shielded supporters of the military-installed government," she said.

    "Zelaya supporters have called for a general strike until he returns. Many said he was a president who was helping the poor.

    "But only blocks away, others said Zelaya was a threat to democracy, too easily influenced by left-wing governments like Venezuela and trying to modify the constitution to remain in power."

    'Drugs link'

    Country facts

     Second largest country in Central America
     Population of 7.2 million
     Second poorest country in the region
     Economy forecast to grow less than two per cent this year
     Relies on money from Hondurans in the US for more than 25 per cent of its gross domestic product
     Former Spanish colony gained independence in 1821

    Micheletti has said that Zelaya was not ousted through a coup but through "a completely legal process as set out in our laws", calling the move an "act of democracy".

    Zelaya was removed from power as he was about to press ahead with a non-binding referendum on constitutional change on Sunday.

    Congress and the courts had declared the move to hold the public vote illegal, accusing Zelaya of trying to change the charter to enable him to run for a second term in office.

    Micheletti's government has also accused Zelaya of involvement in a drugs ring.

    The US has not legally classified the removal of Zelaya as a coup, as this would automatically lead to the suspension of aid to Honduras, an impoverished nation of 7.2 million people.

    But the Pentagon on Wednesday suspended joint military activities with Tegucigalpa until further notice.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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