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Honduran de facto leader orders curbs lifted
Mon Oct 5, 2009 9:50pm EDT
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By Miguel Angel Gutierrez
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - De facto Honduran leader Roberto Micheletti on Monday ordered an end to curbs on civil liberties and the media that shut down two broadcasters loyal to ousted President Manuel Zelaya and drew strong international criticism.
The move could smooth the way for talks this week with foreign ministers from the Organization of American States to try to resolve the three-month-old political crisis.
It will be several days, however, before public protests are permitted again and the two shuttered media outlets reopen, and Zelaya, who is holed up the Brazilian embassy, accused the caretaker government that replaced him of playing games.
"Micheletti is still mocking the Honduran people and the international community," Zelaya told Reuters by telephone.
"His position is simply one more maneuver," he said, adding that the international community should be firmer about making the de facto leader adhere to dates.
Micheletti, under international pressure to lift the curbs imposed under an emergency decree in late September, said the restrictions would end once the mandate to do so is published in the country's official journal in the coming days.
"It is completely overturned," Micheletti told a news conference on lifting the emergency decree.
The standoff since Zelaya was toppled and forced into exile on June 28 is Central America's worst crisis in years and has become a test for U.S. President Barack Obama after he promised a new era of engagement with Latin America.
Although their key demands remain unchanged, both Zelaya and Micheletti say they are ready for talks. Zelaya wants to be unconditionally reinstated, while Micheletti says he must face the courts and is resisting pressure to restore him to power.
Analysts saw Monday's move as a positive step.
"There is a change in Micheletti due to the pressure on him. Lifting the decree was a concession. At least it's an advance in this crisis," said Efrain Diaz of the nongovernmental Center for Human Development.
FIRST STEP FOR TALKS
Zelaya had insisted on scrapping the curbs -- which allowed the caretaker leadership to ban public protests and suspend freedoms of speech, association and movement -- as a first step for talks between the two sides.
Tensions flared after Zelaya slipped back into the country two weeks ago and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa with his wife and scores of followers.
Micheletti's decree shut a pro-Zelaya television channel and a radio station that resorted to broadcasting via the Internet from a safe house. Troops and police in riot gear have ringed the Brazilian mission to curb pro-Zelaya protests. Continued...
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