By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, July 4, 2009
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, July 3 -- Honduran officials said Friday that they will not restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya to power, rebuffing a last-ditch appeal by the top diplomat for the Organization of American States in face-to-face meetings.
Members of the OAS, the hemisphere's main diplomatic body, have given the new Honduran government until Saturday morning to permit Zelaya to return to office from exile. But appeals by OAS leader José Miguel Insulza, who flew to the Honduran capital Friday, appear to have failed.
Insulza met with Jorge Rivera, the head judge at the Honduran Supreme Court. Rivera told the diplomat the judiciary had already issued a warrant for Zelaya's arrest and promised that the ousted president would be immediately detained if he came back to Honduras.
"Now the OAS has to decide what it will do," court spokesman Danilo Izaguirre told the Associated Press.
Before coming to Honduras on Friday, Insulza said he did not have high hopes for success in his mission.
If the new government does not budge, the OAS has said it will suspend the country's membership, turning the impoverished Central American nation into a diplomatic pariah and denying it the loans and international aid it depends on.
On Friday, interim President Roberto Micheletti spoke defiantly at a large rally outside the presidential palace, shouting, "There was no coup!"
His supporters chanted "Democracy!" and held aloft signs that showed Zelaya in jail.
The Honduran political editorialist Jose Ramon Martinez said: "So what if they kick us out of the OAS for a few months? We're just going to stay as we are. Cuba hasn't been allowed into the OAS for 40 years, and they're doing okay. We will elect a new president, and everybody will forget all this."
Zelaya vowed he would return to Honduras, setting the stage for a regional showdown. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he would accompany Zelaya, as would Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, according to Reuters.