TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Former President Manuel Zelaya will likely return to Honduras within a month, ending his exile nearly two years after the coup that ousted him, an aide and a key supporter said Wednesday.
Conditions are right for Zelaya to return this month from the Dominican Republic after the Honduran Supreme Court dropped corruption charges against him, said Rasel Tome, a top aide of the former president.
"He has the will and desire to return to his homeland," Tome told The Associated Press.
Zelaya's return could pave the way for Honduras to be reincorporated into the Organization of American States, which suspended the Central American country following the June 2009 coup. The United States and many other countries in the Americas have long since restored diplomatic ties with Honduras, but other nations, including Venezuela and Brazil, have balked.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was confident the OAS would restore Honduras.
"Now that the obstacles to former President Zelaya's return to Honduras have been removed, I am confident that we will soon welcome Honduras back as a full member of the inter-American system," Clinton said Wednesday at the 41st Conference on the Americas in Washington. "That is a step that is long overdue."
Juan Barahona, a leader of the pro-Zelaya National Popular Resistance Front, said Zelaya plans to return to Honduras before the June 5 OAS General Assembly meeting in El Salvador.
"The day and hour that he will return has not been determined, but we will announce it publicly so that a massive number of people can welcome him at the airport," Barahona said.
Zelaya was ousted by the military in a dispute over changing the Honduran Constitution. International sanctions and months of negotiations led by the U.S. and the OAS failed to persuade an interim government to restore Zelaya to power.
Current President Porfirio Lobo was elected in November 2009 elections that had been scheduled before the coup. The U.S. and other countries restored ties shortly after Lobo took office in January 2010.
But Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua and Ecuador have opposed restoring Honduras to the OAS unless Zelaya can return from exile without facing the threat of prison.