Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hondurian President Kidnapped....

TEGUCIGALPA -- The Honduran army ousted leftist President Manuel Zelaya and exiled him on Sunday in Central America's first military coup since the Cold War, after he upset the army by trying to seek another term in office.

U.S. President Barack Obama and the European Union expressed deep concern after troops came for Zelaya, an ally of socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, around dawn and took him away from his residence.

Speaking on Venezuelan state television, Chavez - who has long championed the left in Latin America - said he would do everything necessary to abort the coup against his close ally.

A military plane flew Zelaya to Costa Rica and CNN's Spanish-language channel said he had asked for asylum there.

Pro-government protesters burned tires in front of the presidential palace in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, and two fighter jets screamed through the sky over the city.

Honduras, an impoverished Central American country, had been politically stable since the end of military rule in the early 1980s, but Zelaya's push to change the constitution to allow him another term has split the country's institutions.

Zelaya fired military chief Gen. Romeo Vasquez last week for refusing to help him run an unofficial referendum on Sunday on extending the four-year term limit on Honduran presidents.

Zelaya told Venezuela-based Telesur television station that he was "kidnapped" by soldiers and called on Hondurans to peacefully resist the coup.


The EU condemned the coup and Obama called for calm.

Honduras was a staunch U.S. ally in the 1980s when Washington helped Central American governments fight left-wing guerrillas.

"Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference," Obama said.

It was the first successful military ouster of a president in Central America since the Cold War era. An opposition deputy said Congress would chose Roberto Micheletti, the head of Congress, as acting president later on Sunday.

The country's Supreme Court last week came out against Zelaya and ordered him to reinstate fired military chief Vasquez. The court said on Sunday it had told the army to remove the president.

"It acted to defend the rule of law," the court said in a statement read on Honduran radio.

The global economic crisis has curbed growth in Honduras, which lives off coffee and textile exports and remittances from Honduran workers abroad. Recent opinion polls indicate public support for Zelaya has fallen as low as 30 percent.

Honduras, home to around 7 million people, is a major drug trafficking transit point.

It is also a big coffee producer but there was no immediate sign the unrest would affect production