Ousted president Jose Manuel Zelaya has returned to Honduras, a Honduran diplomat in Washington told CNN on Monday.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed Zelaya was in Honduras, but could provide no further information. “We have confirmed that he is in Honduras,” Kelly told journalists, adding the State Department was trying to find out more details of Zelaya’s whereabouts. Enrique Reina, the Honduran ambassador to the United States, told CNN en Espaol that he could not divulge exactly where Zelaya was for security reasons. Rodolfo Pastor, the charge d’affairs of the Honduran Embassy in Washington, said Zelaya was at the United Nations offices in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. But Rebeca Arias, coordinator for the United Nations in Tegucigalpa, denied the leader was in the building. “He’s not here,” she said, adding that Zelaya had called her late Monday morning and told her that he was in the country and would inform her within a few hours where he was. Zelaya’s announced return comes as the United States has stepped up its call for the current Honduran government run by de facto leader Roberto Micheletti to restore Zelaya to power.
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Kelly on Monday reiterated the U.S. position on Zelaya, saying, “We believe that he’s the democratically elected and constitutional leader of Honduras.” Zelaya was seized by the Honduran military in his pajamas and sent into exile on June 28. Earlier this month, the United States revoked the visas of the beleaguered country’s leader, Roberto Micheletti, 14 supreme court judges and others. The United States also said it was terminating all non-humanitarian aid to Honduras in a bid to pressure the interim government to end the political turmoil and accept the terms of the San Jose Accord, which was brokered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. The accord calls for Zelaya’s return to power. The political crisis stemmed from Zelaya’s plan to hold a referendum that could have changed the constitution and allowed longer term limits. The country’s congress had outlawed the vote and the supreme court had ruled it illegal. Micheletti and his supporters say that Zelaya’s removal was a constitutional transfer of power and not a coup. The United Nations has condemned Zelaya’s ouster and does not recognize Micheletti’s government. While the United States has called Zelaya’s removal a coup, it has not formally designated it a “military coup,” which, under U.S. law, would have triggered a cutoff of all non-humanitarian aid. Senior State Department officials said the Obama administration was reluctant to make the formal designation in order to preserve its flexibility for a diplomatic solution. A presidential campaign in Honduras kicked off this month. However, the United States said it would not support the outcome of the elections unless Zelaya was restored to power.