Interim Honduran Leader Vows Zelaya Won't Return

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) - The interim president of Honduras
vowed Tuesday not to resign the post he took over following a
military coup and claimed that only an armed invasion would restore
his ousted predecessor to power.

Roberto Micheletti said during an interview with The Associated
Press that "no one can make me resign," even though the United
Nations, the Organization of American States, the Obama
administration and leaders around the world have condemned the
military uprising and refused to recognize his government.

The international community has called for the return of
Honduras' democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, but
Micheletti said "he has already committed crimes against the
constitution and the law. He can no longer return to the presidency
of the republic unless a president from another Latin American
country comes and imposes him using guns."

He did not name any specific nations, but earlier Tuesday,
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said any aggression toward Zelaya
from Micheletti's government should prompt a military intervention
by the United Nations. Such aggression may happen since Zelaya
plans to return to his country on Thursday, accompanied by an
international delegation, and Micheletti's government says it will
arrest him.

Soldiers stormed Zelaya's residence and flew him into exile
early Sunday, after he insisted on trying to hold a referendum
asking Hondurans if they wanted to reform the constitution even
though the Supreme Court, Congress and the military all deemed it
illegal.

Clauses that cannot be legally altered in the Honduran
constitution limit presidents to a single, 4-year term and Congress
claims Zelaya, who leaves office in January, modified the ballot
question at the last minute to help him eventually try and seek
re-election. Chavez has used referendums to win the right to run
repeatedly.

Both Micheletti and Zelaya are members of the Liberal Party,
which controls Congress. But Zelaya has lost the support of nearly
all lawmakers, who voted to promote Micheletti from head of the
legislature to head of state to finish out Zelaya's term.

Police and soldiers have since imposed a nightly curfew which
Micheletti said would remain in place "until things get back to
normal because they have warned us that some South American
countries were going to attack us and the population has to be
ready and prepared."

"If there's an invasion against our country," he said, "we
will see 7 and a half million Hondurans ready to defend our
territory, our laws and our fatherland and government."

Micheletti now occupies the same office in the colonial-style
presidential palace that Zelaya did until last weekend. He and his
newly appointed Cabinet ministers were settling in, even as
soldiers wandered the ornate hallways and manned barricades outside
to keep Zelaya supporters away.

The interim president said he had not spoken to a single member
of U.S. President Barack Obama's government or any president in
Latin America, but he maintained that 80 percent of Hondurans
support him.

Thousands rallied in downtown Tegucigalpa, the capital, to cheer
Micheletti on Tuesday. But Zelaya supporters also protested behind
a fence soldiers hauled in to keep them from getting within two
long blocks of the presidential palace.

"I was named by Congress to represent the Honduran people," he
said. "No one can make me resign if I do not violate the laws of
the country."

Zelaya backed down from the referendum Tuesday, saying at the
United Nations that he would no longer push for constitutional
changes.

But Micheletti said giving up on modifying the constitution
would not be enough for Zelaya to avoid arrest since the former
president had "several" arrests warrants issued against him,
including some dealing with drug smuggling.

Zelaya's popularity has sagged at home in recent years and his
fiery brand of populism is similar to the kind that often irks
Washington and some in the international community. Still, the
world has lined up to support him.

Asked if Zelaya could one day return to power stronger than
ever, Micheletti said "it's not about sympathy, it's not about
being a martyr, but simply that we are following the letter of the
law which he did not respect."

He said a key goal of his short term in office will be fixing
the nation's finances, since Zelaya never submitted a budget to
Congress last September, raising questions about what he was
spending state coffers on.

Honduras holds a presidential election to succeed Zelaya in
November, but Micheletti said he would not "even seek to be a
candidate again."


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