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Honduras leaders under pressure as U.S. revokes visas
Tue Jul 28, 2009 3:23pm 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 had already 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," Zelaya 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 the Nicaraguan town of Ocotal near the Honduran border
The de facto Honduran government, backed by the Supreme Court and Congress, has so far not bent to international condemnation of the coup and it insists that Zelaya cannot come back and serve the remaining six months in office.
It says Zelaya, an ally of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, violated the constitution by trying to organize a referendum on presidential term limits. He denies this.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has mediated talks between both sides but the negotiations have so far failed, with Micheletti refusing to back down.
"We don't recognize Roberto Micheletti as the president of Honduras, we recognize Manuel Zelaya, and so in keeping with that policy of non-recognition, we have decided to revoke official diplomatic visas, or A visas, of four individuals who are members of that regime," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in Washington.
OTHER VISAS UNDER REVIEW
Kelly did not name the Hondurans affected but said the diplomatic visas of other members of the government were also being reviewed.
"It is part of our overall policy toward the de facto regime," he said, adding that the measure was taken to support mediation efforts to end Central America's worst crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Zelaya has in recent days questioned whether the U.S. government was doing enough to push for his return.
He wrote to Obama urging him to impose sanctions directly against the coup leaders and members of Micheletti's government, including the cancellation of their U.S. visas and a ban on their bank transactions.
Zelaya said as many as 1,000 of his supporters have made the trek to join him in Nicaragua, dodging road blocks and a curfew in the border region of Honduras. Security forces have succeeded in keeping thousands more from the border. Continued...
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