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Protests erupt after Honduras coup

world Updated: Jun 30, 2009 00:17 IST
Protests erupt after Honduras coup

Shots were fired near the presidential palace in Honduras where protests erupted after the army ousted and exiled leftist President Manuel Zelaya on Sunday in Central America’s first military coup since the Cold War.

Hundreds of pro-Zelaya protesters, some masked and wielding sticks, set up barricades of chain link fences and downed billboards in the centre of the capital, Tegucigalpa, and blocked roads to the presidential palace.

Reuters witnesses heard shots outside the presidential palace that apparently came from a truck arriving at the protest, and an ambulance arrived at the scene. It was not clear who fired the shots or whether anyone was hurt. One witness said shots were fired only in the air.

Zelaya, in office since 2006, was ousted in a dawn coup after he angered the judiciary, Congress and the army by seeking constitutional changes that would allow presidents to seek re-election beyond a four-year term.

Congress named an interim president, Roberto Micheletti, who announced a curfew for Sunday and Monday nights. The country’s top court said it had told the army to remove Zelaya.

The coup was strongly condemned by Zelaya’s regional ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — who has long championed the left in Latin America. Chavez put his military on alert in case Honduran troops moved against his embassy or envoy there.

US President Barack Obama’s administration, the European Union and a string of other foreign governments also voiced backing for Zelaya, who was snatched by troops from his residence and whisked away by plane to Costa Rica.

The Organisation of American States demanded Zelaya’s immediate and unconditional return.

Honduras, an impoverished coffee, textile and banana exporter with a population of 7 million, had been politically stable since the end of military rule in the early 1980s.