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Nearly Two Years after being Ousted in U.S.-Supported Coup, Former President Manuel Zelaya Triumphantly Returns to Honduras

Nearly two years after being ousted from power in a US-supported military coup by US- trained generals, former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has triumphantly returned to his country following a lengthy exile.

Democracy Now! reports that Zelaya returned to a massive hero’s welcome in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, where Roberto Micheletti, the man who replaced him as President, once vowed he would be arrested if he ever returned.

But after a flurry of regional diplomacy  that concluded with the signing of the Cartagena Accords in Colombia on May 22, Zelaya was permitted to return to his country with all of his political rights– and those of his National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP)– restored.

“Thanks to you, I was able to return to the land that witnessed my birth,” Zelaya victoriously declared to his supporters upon arriving home.  “Thanks to your fight. Thanks to your effort, comrade. Thanks to your effort, comrade. Thanks to your demands. Thank you.”

“I feel very full of hope and optimism and just very good feelings,” he said. “The dialogue that we have yet to come, and the political action, is possible instead of armaments. No to violence. No to military coups. Coups never more.”

But on June 28, 2009, as he was sleeping in his pajamas, President Zelaya was the victim of a military coup. Two of its leading plotters, General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez and General Luis Prince Suazo, were both trained by the United States military at the notorious School of the Americas, whose graduates have gone on to carry out more than a dozen military coups and commit some of the late 20th century’s most shocking human rights violations in the Western Hemisphere.

Zelaya had made powerful enemies among Honduras’ ruling elite and their backers on Wall Street and in Washington by rejecting the neoliberal economic policies favored by them and by trying to join the social-justice oriented, leftist Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) headed by Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. He also raised the minimum wage by 60%, pursued land reforms, provided free education and fought to eradicate childhood hunger.

He also controversially sought to amend the Constitution to allow himself to remain in power longer so he could pursue his sweeping social agenda. This was the pretext used by the coup plotters to oust him.

The United States, under new President Barack Obama, at first denounced the coup. But the Obama administration quickly recognized the coup regime of Roberto Micheletti, greatly disappointing many people throughout the region and around the world. The Organization of American States (OAS) gave Honduras the boot after the coup, but Washington cozied up to the new, US-friendly regime. In a blatant bid to establish the legitimacy of the very illegitimate government, Washington backed a highly disputed November 2009 election which saw Porfirio Lobo emerge as the country’s new leader.

Meanwhile, the human rights situation in Honduras deteriorated rapidly. As resistance to the coup grew, so did the government’s response, with private armies loyal to oligarchs like Miguel Facussé slaughtering peasants, feminists, teachers, students, homosexuals, union leaders and indigenous people with the government’s blessing.

Still, the resistance movement would not be deterred. According to Workers’ World, this International Workers’ Day, May 1, saw more than 3,000,000 Hondurans (out of a population of 8,000,000) march in an impressive display of strength and support for workers’ rights, democracy and Zelaya.

Foreign investment fled the country, with unemployment soaring to over 50%. Poverty and hunger increased. Today, one out of four Honduran children suffers from malnutrition. But Zelaya has restated his pledge to combat poverty and hunger and his renewed inclusion in the nation’s political process can only bode well for the future of the majority of Honduran people.

If the transition to stable democracy goes according to plan, Honduras should be re-admitted to the OAS before long.

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