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Honduras leaders under pressure as U.S. revokes visas
Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:23pm EDT
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By Claudia Parsons
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras' coup leaders came under new pressure on Tuesday to allow ousted President Manuel Zelaya's return to power as the United States revoked visas for four members of the de facto government.
Washington has refused to recognize the government led by Roberto Micheletti, who took over when Zelaya was toppled in a June 28 coup, and it already had cut $16.5 million in U.S. military aid to the Central American country.
Zelaya had asked President Barack Obama to revoke U.S. visas for the coup leaders and he quickly welcomed the move.
"They are isolated, they are surrounded, they are alone," the deposed leftist said of the coup leaders.
"This is a coup that has been dead from the start, so they will have to abandon their position of intransigence in the coming hours," he said in Nicaragua, where he is camped out near the border with Honduras.
Micheletti's government, backed by the Supreme Court and Congress, has refused to bend to international condemnation of the coup. It insists that Zelaya cannot come back and serve his remaining six months in office.
Zelaya, an ally of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, was ousted as he sought a referendum to change the constitution, a move the Supreme Court ruled illegal. Zelaya's critics say he was trying to extend presidential term limits so he could be re-elected, but he denies the claims.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has mediated talks between both sides, but the negotiations so far have failed.
Arias, who will host a regional heads of state meeting in northern Costa Rica on Wednesday, said he supported the U.S. move to strip some Micheletti officials of their visas as a way to pressure those holding power to reopen dialogue.
"If the pressure keeps rising with drastic measures, the de facto government in Honduras will possibly be more compelled to sit down at the table again," Arias told reporters.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said official diplomatic visas had been revoked for four individuals. "We don't recognize Roberto Micheletti as the president of Honduras, we recognize Manuel Zelaya," he said.
Kelly did not name those affected but said the diplomatic visas of others in government also were being reviewed.
Representative Connie Mack, a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives who visited Honduras over the weekend, told Reuters it was his understanding that two of the people who had their U.S. visas revoked were Tomas Arita Valle, the Supreme Court justice who signed the order for Zelaya's arrest, and Jose Alfredo Saavedra, president of the Honduran Congress.
Mack criticized the move as intimidation.
Two others who confirmed they had their visas revoked were human rights ombudsman Ramon Custodio and Adolfo Lionel Sevilla, defense minister in the interim government. Continued...
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