Published on
Times Online/UK

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Prevented from Returning

Hannah Strange in Tegucigalpa

Supporters of Manuel Zelaya carry the body of the shot protester. (Photo: Jose Cabezas)

The military government of Honduras tightened its grip on power last night as
it prevented the ousted President from landing in the capital and fired on
protesters who had gathered to support him.

Manuel Zelaya's jet circled over Tegucigalpa as he begged the Army to let him
land, but troops blocked the runway with military vehicles and unleashed
live rounds and teargas on the ground, killing at least one protester and
injuring dozens. Mr Zelaya was forced to divert to Nicaragua.

Stephen Ferry, a photographer working for The Times, was at the airport
in the capital where the Army fired on protesters. "I saw a kid being shot
in the head, I think he is dead," Mr Ferry said. "There are lots of injured
- I don't know how many. They just opened fire - it was completely

Jorge Alberto Vasquez, a 27-year-old farmer, described how he had carried the
boy's body from the scene. "He was about fifteen or sixteen. He had been
shot in the head. I carried him the length of two blocks . . . We were all
calm, then the army started shooting into the crowd."

He said that four people had been killed, although this was not confirmed.

The crowd threw stones, a couple of times stopping to cheer as a plane flew
low overhead, at 5.20pm local time. Mr Zelaya had promised a triumphant
return, saying in a mid-air interview with the Venezuelan network Telesur:
"The blood of Christ sustains me . . . No one can oblige me to turn around."

But the interim government, led by Roberto Micheletti, a former Congressional
Speaker, ordered the Armed Forces to divert the aircraft. The miltary had
seized power last week in a coup after Mr Zelaya tried to change the
consitution to allow him to run for another term. Yesterday Mr Zelaya
travelled with the president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto
Brockmann, a group of Honduran diplomats and a priest.

The Presidents of Paraguay and Argentina and a group of journalists trailed Mr
Zelaya in separate aircraft.

About ten thousand protesters marched to the airport despite the Micheletti
government's announcement, facing riot police and soldiers, who set up
blockades throughout the city. The demonstrators, some masked, pressed up
against riot shields, demanding they be allowed through to greet the man
they still hoped would come. "You are Honduran too!" some shouted.

One by one, each line of troops retreated, the victorious marchers cheering as
they ploughed through to the next.

Some soldiers seemed demoralised, uncertain of how to deal with the situation.
One, who declined to give his name, told The Times that he could not see how
the crisis would be resolved, as "neither side is willing to give".

The interim government is not recognised by internationally and was suspended
from the Organisation of American States yesterday after ignoring an
ultimatum to reinstate Mr Zelaya.

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