Baton-wielding police fired tear gas at thousands of Honduran demonstrators on Tuesday morning, chasing them away from the Brazilian embassy where the deposed President who returned to the country has sought asylum, avoiding threatened arrest.
A day after the daring return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya, the interim leaders who overthrew him cleared away Hondurans who defied a curfew to protest the June 28 coup. Thousands of Mr. Zelaya supporters spent the night outside the embassy to support the leader who had taken shelter inside.
Mr. Zelaya’s surprise arrival in Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa, will grab the attention of world leaders gathering this week at the United Nations in New York, putting renewed international pressure on the interim government to let him return to power.
So far, the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti has refused to budge, and it asked Brazil to hand him over for arrest on charges of violating Honduras’ Constutition as President. The government ordered a 26-hour shutdown of the capital beginning on Monday afternoon, closed all the nation’s international airports and set up roadblocks on highways leading into town to keep Mr. Zelaya’s supporters from staging the sort of protests that disrupted the city after his ouster.
But Mr. Zelaya’s loyalists ignored the decree and surrounded the embassy, dancing and cheering and using their cell phones to light up the streets after electricity was cut off on the block housing the embassy.
Supported by the U.S. and other governments since his ouster, Mr. Zelaya called for negotiations with the leaders who forced him from the country at gunpoint.
The country’s Congress and courts, alarmed by Mr. Zelaya’s political shift into a close alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba, joined the army in engineering the President’s removal in June.