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PENPIX-Main players in Honduras coup crisis talks

July 18 (Reuters) - The two rivals in Honduras’ political crisis -- deposed President Manuel Zelaya and the interim president installed by Honduras’ Congress, Roberto Micheletti -- have agreed to a second round of talks in San Jose, Costa Rica, on Saturday, mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

A first round of talks last week ended without progress, and there has been little sign since then of common ground between the two sides.

Zelaya, ousted in a June 28 military coup, has said he will not accept any resolution to the crisis unless it includes his return to the presidency. Micheletti has made some overtures but has adamantly refused to consider reinstating Zelaya.

The two men are not expected to meet face to face in the talks, sending high-level delegations instead.

Here are brief portraits of the main players involved:


* A wealthy logging executive who wears a cowboy hat with his suits, Zelaya, 56, won a surprise victory as a moderate liberal in the 2005 presidential election. Originally close to Honduras’ ruling elite and known as a guitar-strumming motorbike rider, he moved further left politically and sought financing and energy deals with Venezuela, forging close ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and echoing his populist rhetoric.

His efforts to extend term limits for the president were considered unconstitutional by his critics and sparked the coup, when the army arrested him and sent him on a plane to Costa Rica in his pajamas on the morning of a vote seen as a step toward extending his mandate.

Zelaya has said he is open to a diplomatic solution to the political crisis but that he would only accept a plan that includes his reinstatement as president.

A recent poll showed he was more popular than his opponent, with 46 percent of public support compared with 30 percent for Micheletti. His supporters took to the streets before the weekend talks, blocking major highways on Friday, including the northern access into the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Zelaya attempted to return home on July 5 but failed when troops prevented his plane from landing. Holed up in a hotel in Nicaragua’s capital, he vowed to return but would not say when or how he would do so.


* Micheletti, 60, is a veteran of Zelaya’s Liberal Party who was head of Congress when he was picked by the assembly as interim president until elections scheduled for November.

A centrist who mixes social programs with deep conservative beliefs, he was formerly an ally of Zelaya but opposed his shift to the left and now has the backing of the business and political elite. Micheletti has said the removal of Zelaya saved Honduras from “Chavismo,” a term for the style of socialism championed by Chavez.

Micheletti maintains the ouster of Zelaya was a legal transition of power and that Zelaya cannot be allowed to resume his post as president because he violated the constitution and defied the Supreme Court.

In the days leading up to Saturday’s talks, he said he would be willing to call early elections and even resign as part of a solution to the crisis, provided Zelaya agreed not to seek a return to power. He would also consider granting an amnesty to Zelaya for his alleged political crimes, should he return.


* Arias, 68, is an experienced mediator who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to help end civil wars and insurgencies raging in several Central American countries during the Cold War, when the United States tried to counter Soviet and Cuban influence in the region.

Reviving faltering internationally backed peace efforts with the so-called Arias Plan, he persuaded the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to sign the 1987 Esquipulas II Accords that played a role in helping end years of conflict.

He is serving his second term as president of Costa Rica, a relatively prosperous and peaceful Central American country that abolished its army in 1948. He won a 2006 election after serving as president from 1986 to 1990.

Arias said he would propose a coalition government in Honduras leading to the elections and an amnesty for politicians on both sides of the power dispute. (Reporting by Claudia Parsons and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Peter Cooney)