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POLITICS: Deposed Honduran President Speaks at U.N.

Henry Parr

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 30 2009 (IPS) - Just a few days after being expelled from Honduras, the country that he was democratically elected to lead, Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales addressed the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, witnessing the unanimous passage of resolution that demands his reinstatement.

This is not the first time that an ousted leader has been given a chance to speak at the General Assembly – as Jean Bertrande Aristide of Haiti spoke in 2006, as did Sheik Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah of Kuwait in 1990.

Along with condemning the coup, and refusing to recognise the current Honduran government, the resolution also states that the General Assembly “demands the immediate and unconditional restoration of the legitimate and Constitutional Government of the President of the Republic, Mr. Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and of the legally established authority in Honduras.”

The resolution, sponsored by a large number of Latin American, Caribbean and European countries, is very much in line with the resolution of Organisation of American States (OAS) which was approved Sunday.

In the interest of expediency, Miguel D’Escoto, the president of the General Assembly, asked to waive a procedural rule that forbids a resolution to be enacted within one day of its proposal. With no votes of dissent, the resolution passed unanimously, and was met with a standing ovation.

Immediately after the resolution’s approval, Zelaya addressed the assembly, beginning by expressing his gratitude for the resolution.

“The resolution that the United Nations has just adopted unanimously with the vote of all countries that are members this august assembly expresses the indignation of the people of Honduras and of people world wide who continue to struggle for the only principles that can prevail in accordance with the United Nations charter,” he said.

“This resolution is historic,” Zelaya continued, “it is significant, and it will empower every last citizen of this world to be able to continue these great conquests of human kind.”

The president then acknowledged the support he had received from the OAS, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Rio Group, stating that, “all countries, without exception, of the Americas have expressed themselves loud and clear with regard to the acts of atrocity which occurred on Sunday the 28th of June.”

Zelaya also acknowledged the support he had received from numerous heads of state, including President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Raul Castro of Cuba.

Zelaya and his supporters consider the coup to have been in response to a non-binding referendum, a public survey, which asked, among other issues of governance, whether or not an assembly should be convened to revise the constitution.

“It was to be a massive survey, we thought we would reach one and a half million individuals,” said Zelaya. The survey was meant to “find the political temperature, to gauge what the public is thinking,” and provide some important citizen participation in government decisions.

“It is the participation of the citizenship which empowers democracy and which gives us its true significance,” he said.

“However,” Zelaya continued, “I never thought that this would constitute as a crime, and that is where the problems began. Because there were individuals who thrive on the existence of poverty they use this as their discourse.”

“A judge declared, of course his arm was twisted because the plot was already underway, this judge declared that this survey was illegal,” he added.

Since the coup there have been a number of protests and confrontations between supporters of Zelaya and the military. Zelaya commented on the current situation of the country.

“My state is now in a state of paralysis for nearly three days now. The buses carrying passengers have been fired upon, 163 people to date have been injured, arrests have been made on the streets, my ministers have been detained, forced into exile. 140 people have been beaten, the people have taken to the streets,” he said.

Zelaya also described the dramatic events of the morning of Jun. 28, when he was woken up and flown out of the country.

“Shortly after five o’clock in the morning I had been awoken by shouts, by hammering against the door below, screams, and I awoke and rose still in my night clothes, and saw an entire contingent of armed official with helmets and rifles, who pushed me out into the street jostling me… More than eight rifles were pointed at me, wearing full combat gear, with rifles and bayonets, aimed at my breast, and I was told drop that phone or we will shoot.”

Following his address to the General Assembly, Zelaya held a press conference where he declared his plans to return to Honduras on Thursday. Traveling with him will be the General Assembly President D’Escoto, the Secretary General of the OAS Jose Miguel Insulza, and the President of Ecuador Rafael Correa.

Zelaya acknowledged that “the military would be there” but that it was necessary that he go back, remarking, “I must answer my people.”

However, his plans to be reinstated and restoring order were less clear.

“When I come back, the people are going to say… commander in chief, we are at your orders,” Zelaya said.

While he did not give any examples of specific ways that he would try to regain control, he did, however, expect the current regime to acknowledge the lack of international support and withdrawal of ambassadors from countries across the globe.

Considering the United States’ checkered past with Latin American coups, Zelaya was also asked about the possibility of U.S. influence or support in the coup. Zelaya strongly denied western meddling, saying that while they have been “imperial powers,” the United States and Europe have “changed a great deal”.

Many considered his push for a revision of the constitution would result in giving him more terms as president. When asked what role he expected to play after his term ended on Jan. 27, Zelaya responded by saying, “I am a farmer, and I enjoy planting and sowing seeds that produce thousand seeds… I come from the countryside and I will return there.”

Zelaya will now travel to Washington D.C. to meet with the OAS before he returns to Honduras, and while he may not be entirely certain of the reception, Zelaya does appear to be confident about his return.

“I am going to return on Thursday because they expelled me by force and I am going to return as I always return, as a citizen and as a president,” he declared.

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