UPDATE: Honduran President Is Ousted in Coup
LATER — Facing South tells us that at least two leaders of the coup were apparently trained at a controversial Department of Defense school based at Fort Benning, Georgia “infamous for producing graduates linked to torture, death squads and other human rights abuses.”
The Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted by the army on Sunday after pressing ahead with plans for a referendum that opponents said could lay the groundwork for his eventual re-election, in the first military coup in Central America since the end of the cold war.
The Obama administration recognizes ousted President Manuel Zelaya as the only constitutional president of Honduras, a senior administration official said on Sunday.
“We recognize Zelaya as the duly elected and constitutional president of Honduras. We see no other,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters in a conference call organized by the U.S. State Department.
A second official on the same conference call stressed that the United States strongly backed efforts by the Organization of American States to forge a resolution condemning a coup d’etat ousting Zelaya on Sunday and calling for him to be reinstated.
BBC has updates, too.
UPDATE — Obama weights in:
“I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya,” Obama said in a written statement.
“As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference,” Obama said.
Honduran soldiers detained leftist President Manuel Zelaya on Sunday in a constitutional crisis over his attempt to win re-election, government officials said.
Troops took Zelaya, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, from his residence to an unknown location, Eduardo Reina, the president’s private secretary, told Reuters.
He said shots were fired during the incident, but that could not be independently confirmed.
“We have received reports that he was taken to a military air base,” Rafael Alegria, a senior government official, told pro-Zelaya television station Channel 8.
The move comes days after the president sacked the armed forces chief, who had refused to back the referendum plan.
Mr Zelaya, elected for a non-renewable four-year term in January 2006, wants a vote to enable him to seek a new term.
A reporter for the Associated Press news agency said he had seen dozens of soldiers surround the president’s house on Sunday morning and about 60 police guarding the house.
Gen. Romeo Vasquez Velasquez had said the military was caught in a difficult position because the Supreme Court had ruled earlier that the poll is illegal but Zelaya was going ahead with the vote and had instructed the armed forces to provide security.
The court ruled 5-0 that Zelaya violated the general’s constitutional rights by firing him without cause, said magistrate Rosalina Cruz.
The military chief said after he was fired that he respected the president’s decision to dismiss him, but he could not violate a Supreme Court order last week that prohibited the military from supporting the poll.
“We are soldiers and we have to comply with our responsibilities,” Vasquez said Thursday.
But on Friday, he said he never carried through on his threat and that the general had not been fired. “I didn’t do it,” he said.
Still, Zelaya referred to the court as the “Supreme Court of Injustice” after their ruling.
Mr. Zelaya has few supporters among the country’s politicians, but is popular among the poor for his ramped-up social spending. His own Liberal Party has already chosen another candidate for the November election and asked the president to step aside.
“Zelaya has provoked this institutional crisis,” said Michael Shifter, a Latin America analyst at Washington’s Inter-American Dialogue. “He seems to have a very strong appetite for power. He’s trying to be the victim, but he won’t get a lot of sympathy by defying the country’s institutions.”
The European Union condemned the military action and asked that constitutional order be returned.