Coup leader willing to hold early election

Honduras tries to fend off sanctions but rejects calls to re-instate ousted President

The self-declared leaders of Honduras showed signs of softening yesterday, indicating a willingness to bring presidential elections forward or even hold a plebiscite on re-instating the man they ousted last weekend.

First murmurs of possible compromise emerged from Tegucigalpa just hours before the scheduled arrival of the head of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, who had given the coup leaders until today to reverse course or face sanctions.

Before the visit, Mr Insulza said he was not prepared to negotiate or meet with the interim government headed by Robert Micheletti, who has been declared president. "I cannot say I am confident," he said. "I will do everything I can but I think it is very hard."

There had been plans for President Manuel Zelaya to return to the capital this weekend, but Mr Micheletti flatly stated that he would be arrested should he set foot in Honduras.

Mr Zelaya came to power in 2006 as the leader of the centrist Liberals but he subsequently allied himself with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and tacked leftwards. Already at odds with the country's business elite, he then began moves to change the constitution to allow him to run for a second term. Congress and the courts supported his removal from the presidential palace at gunpoint on Sunday.

But the overthrow of Mr Zelaya has triggered unusual unity in the hemisphere. Even the US and Venezuela have united to demand his re-instatement. Honduras has seen ambassadors withdrawn and trade barriers thrown up against it. The streets of the capital have been the scene of clashes between supporters of the coup and Zelaya loyalists and there were fears last night of fresh violence.

Mr Insulza said: "We hope the coup leaders recognise the damage they are doing to the country and the world and allow the return of President Zelaya."

Asked about bringing forward elections planned for November, Mr Micheletti said he would have "no objection if it would be a way of resolving these problems".

He did not rule out a referendum on restoring Mr Zelaya to power either but said it would be hard to organise. There was little change in tone, however, when it came to Mr Zelaya personally. "For the peace and calm of the country I would prefer he does not come in," Mr Micheletti told Honduran radio. "I do not want even one drop of blood spilled in this country."

The country itself seems split on the issue. Before his rude awakening and involuntary dispatch to Costa Rica on Sunday, Mr Zelaya had not only earned the wrath of the other main institutions of government but had also seen his approval rating among voters slump to 30 per cent or less. Mr Chavez moved to lower the temperature of the crisis after indicating earlier this week that he was prepared to invade Honduras after his ambassador was briefly detained.

He indicated instead that he was talking about ending the standoff with contacts in Honduras and outside it. "We are in contact with people inside and in various parts of the world," Mr Chavez said. "Of course, one wants to do more but that country has its sovereignty and we have to respect it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there