NEWS ALERT (June 28): TROOPS SEIZE HONDURAN PRESIDENT IN APPARENT COUP D'ETAT
The Honduran military arrested President Manuel Zelaya and several popular leaders this morning, just as a controversial opinion poll was to take place around the country. The nonbinding poll, which the Supreme Court earlier this month ruled illegal, would have asked Hondurans if they supported holding a referendum on constitutional change alongside the November presidential elections.
Despite the Supreme Court ruling and the Honduran Congress' passage of a law Tuesday barring such a poll from taking place within 180 days of a presidential election, Zelaya distributed ballots to leaders of popular organizations, who were returning to their municipalities this weekend to carry out today's vote. The November referendum would have set the stage for the creation of an assembly to rewrite the constitution, including a possible change in presidential term limits beyond the current single four-year term.
The air force stormed Zelayaâ€™s home in the early morning hours and took the president to a military base outside of Tegucigalpa; from there he was flown to Costa Rica. Shots were reportedly fired during the incident, and the Honduran ambassador to the Organization of American States said the family reported that Zelaya had been beaten. At the same time, popular leaders were detained throughout the country, and troops have also arrested the mayor of San Pedro Sula and the Honduran foreign minister Patricia Rodas.
An electrical outage in many areas is slowing the spread of information. The news channel TeleSur reported claims that power had been deliberately cut, and a number of websites of Honduran media outlets have reportedly gone offline. Reuters reported that Honduran police fired tear gas at some 600 pro-government protesters outside the presidential palace. In an interview with TeleSur, Rodas confirmed that there is repression on the street, and she called for people to gather in their local squares to protest.
No one could be reached at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, as phone lines seemed to be down, nor at the Honduran Embassy in Washington. The European Union condemned the arrests, and the Organization of American States is reportedly holding an emergency meeting to address the crisis. Congressional President Roberto Micheletti has been sworn in as interim president.
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