August 2, 2009 / 1:15 AM / 10 years ago

Ousted Honduran president vows peaceful resistance

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya vowed on Saturday to return to power through peaceful means and denied he was rallying groups of armed supporters near the border with Nicaragua.

Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya, waves a Honduran flag during a march in Tegucigalpa, July 31, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Zelaya, in exile in Nicaragua, also lamented the death of one of his supporters who was shot during a protest last week. The man died of his injuries early on Saturday, as efforts to resolve the crisis over the June 28 coup remained stalemated.

“I am not forming any armed military force, although I have the means to do it because I come from a state where there are weapons everywhere,” Zelaya, a logging magnate originally from the ranching state of Olancho, told Honduran television.

“We do not use arms,” the left-leaning Zelaya said.

He later arrived at Nicaragua’s border with Honduras, the second trip there in about a week, to meet with hundreds of supporters camped out in the area. Zelaya briefly crossed into Honduras last month before returning to Nicaragua.

It was unclear how long he would remain at the border.

Roberto Micheletti, the head of a de facto government installed after the coup, said he was keeping a strong military and police presence on the southern border to counter potential armed action by Zelaya supporters in the area.

The interim leaders have said Zelaya will be arrested if he enters Honduran territory.

The deadlock in Honduras, an impoverished exporter of coffee and textiles, centers around Micheletti’s refusal to let Zelaya return to finish his term as president, as requested by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who is acting as mediator.

Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made little progress in resolving Central America’s worst political crisis in nearly two decades. The coup has also tested U.S. President Barack Obama as he tries to define his relationship with the region.

FREQUENT PROTESTS

Earlier on Saturday, Roger Vallejo, a teacher participating in a rally blocking a road leading out of the capital, Tegucigalpa, died of a bullet wound to the head after two days in a hospital’s intensive-care unit, two nurses there said.

It was the second death in the aftermath of a widely criticized military coup that exiled Zelaya and installed Micheletti, the former head of Congress, as interim president.

Soldiers and police in riot gear broke up Thursday’s rally by hundreds of demonstrators calling for the return of Zelaya.

A Reuters cameraman at the protest saw police using teargas and bullets to disperse the protesters, but the police said in a statement they did not fire the bullet that hit Vallejo.

Dozens of people were detained after the rally and at least one other person suffered a bullet wound.

Zelaya, an ally of socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has been in exile since he was captured by the army on June 28 and accused of violating the constitution by pushing to lift the country’s presidential term limits.

The deposed leader’s term was due to expire in January.

Zelaya supporters and backers of the coup and de facto government have staged frequent protests. Security forces have not disrupted pro-coup marches.

A young man was killed in early July when soldiers shot into a crowd awaiting Zelaya’s return at the airport in the capital Tegucigalpa after the army prevented his plane from landing.

Washington has revoked diplomatic visas for four members of Micheletti’s administration to pressure it to reverse the coup, which has been condemned by Latin American governments and the U.N. General Assembly. International loans and U.S. military aid have also been frozen.

Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Paul Simao

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