Manuel Zelaya, whose ouster as president almost two years ago led to Honduras’s expulsion from the Organization of American States, returned home from exile today in a move that may allow for the country’s reinstatement into the regional group.
Zelaya arrived at Tegucigalpa’s international airport from Managua, Nicaragua, in a plane belonging to Venezuelan state-run airline Conviasa. He was accompanied by his family and a delegation of international allies, including former Panamanian President Martin Torrijos and Venezuela Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.
“Thanks to your efforts I’ve been able to return to my land,” he told a crowd who had come to the airport to welcome him. Many were dressed in red in a show of solidarity with Zelaya’s National Popular Resistance Front, a coalition that advocated for his return. “Your presence here this afternoon, and international support, shows that blood was not spilt in vain.”
Honduran President Porfirio Lobo signed an agreement May 22 with Zelaya, allowing him to return from exile and help change the country’s laws. The agreement, brokered with the help of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, also guarantees that Zelaya supporters can return safely to Honduras and form a party to participate in elections.
Zelaya said on arriving he would meet with Lobo and OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza.
June 1 Vote
Chavez on his Twitter account said Zelaya’s return is a “great victory” for the people of Honduras.
“Down with dictatorships! Long live popular power! Long live real democracy!” he wrote.
The vote to restore Honduras to the OAS will occur June 1, according to a resolution passed May 24 in Washington.
Honduran soldiers put Zelaya on a plane to Costa Rica in June 2009 after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that his push to rewrite the constitution and extend presidential term limits was illegal. On May 2, a court dropped the last of the remaining charges against the former president.
Zelaya, who spent more than four months in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa after sneaking back into Honduras last year, has since remained in exile in the Dominican Republic.