Honduras' Zelaya stuck in embassy for Christmas

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will spend Christmas with his family stuck inside the soldier-ringed Brazilian Embassy where he has been holed up for months after being toppled in a June coup.

The more than 100 troops surrounding the diplomatic compound in Tegucigalpa will allow Zelaya’s relatives to bring him a Christmas meal of traditional dishes from his native Olancho province, where he made his name as a logger and rancher.

“For Christmas, the army has told me they will let my mother and my children in and we will be here saying a prayer for the Honduran people,” Zelaya told Reuters in a phone interview from the embassy complex where he has spent the last three months.

Zelaya, who was toppled on June 28 when soldiers roused him from bed and flew him to exile, has been mired in political limbo since he snuck back into Honduras in September. His future is unclear since Honduras elected a new president in November.

The de facto government appointed after the coup and the military strictly control who and what is allowed inside the embassy sheltering Zelaya, his wife and a diminishing band of supporters.

No Christmas tree, decorations or festive lights have been brought in to brighten their spirits for the holiday season.

“No family would want to go through what we are going through unless they were perverse, cruel or heartless,” Zelaya said.

His children will likely bring him a meal of pork and a local variety of tamales -- corn cakes wrapped in banana leaves -- accompanied by a traditional wine made in Olancho from a tropical palm tree called coyol, an aide said.

Zelaya was ousted after he angered business leaders and more conservative members of his party by moving closer to Venezuela’s firebrand leftist president, Hugo Chavez.

His critics accused him of seeking to change the constitution to extend his term in office, which was to end in January, and the Supreme Court and Congress ordered his ouster.

In November, Honduras elected opposition leader Porfirio Lobo as president in a vote that some European and Latin American countries refused to recognize as it had been organized by an internationally shunned de facto government.

The United States, which tried and failed to push for a negotiated settlement between Zelaya and the de facto leaders, said the election was an important step toward ending the crisis.

Lobo, who will be sworn in as president on January 27, has said he would extend a vague political amnesty to Zelaya and everyone involved in the coup without giving specifics on how Zelaya will be allowed to leave the embassy.

The Honduran Congress voted against Zelaya’s return to office and talks this month to give him asylum in Mexico broke down.

Writing by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Catherine Bremer