World News

FACTBOX: Honduras' headstrong leader Micheletti

(Reuters) - Roberto Micheletti, the headstrong veteran politician who took power in Honduras when President Manuel Zelaya was toppled, is defying international pressure to reinstate his old friend and end media curbs.

Despite repeated warnings from the United States, the European Union and Latin American governments, Micheletti appears to believe they will all buckle in the end and drop demands that Zelaya, who was ousted in a June 28 army coup, be returned to power.

Here are some key facts about the leader:

* Micheletti is one of nine children of an immigrant father from northern Italy. He joined the army and was briefly a member of an elite presidential guard. He was jailed for supporting President Ramon Villeda who was toppled in a coup in 1963.

* Micheletti is a devout Catholic. Since he took power, state television has run commercials asking Honduras to pray for peace in the poor country. Another spot praises the army and says: “In the crisis, some Hondurans are committed to you,” over a swooping helicopter.

* The leader has won local support for standing up to what some Hondurans’ see as foreign meddling. In a recent live broadcast, he scolded the top U.S. diplomat to Latin America, the head of the Organization of American States and several foreign ministers for isolating his country after the coup.

* He helped Zelaya rise to president and both men hail from the center-right Liberal Party. The two fell out after Micheletti failed to win the party’s presidential nomination for elections this year and Zelaya allied with socialist Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Micheletti says Zelaya’s ouster was legal because the president wanted to allow re-election.

* Gruff, white-haired Micheletti first joined Congress nearly 30 years ago. He supported a bill to allow presidential re-election in 1985. The proposal caused a political uproar and it was dropped when soldiers were sent to the legislature to restore order.

Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel and Gustavo Palencia, editing by Vicki Allen