Honduras Reinstates Curfew, Warns of Action

Honduras' interim government warned of armed actions to return ousted President Manuel Zelaya to power and reinstated an overnight curfew it had lifted only days earlier.

Roberto Micheletti, the former congressional leader chosen by lawmakers to serve out the final six months of Zelaya's term following the June 28 coup, said Wednesday that forces he didn't identify "were handing out some guns" to foment rebellion. A day earlier, Zelaya said Hondurans have the right to launch an insurrection against the government.

"There are reports, I don't know if they are real, I haven't been officially informed, that there is a group of armed people and that Zelaya is going to enter over the Nicaraguan border this Saturday," Micheletti said.

He added that "we still have confidence that this problem will be resolved through dialogue." But a few hours later, a government statement read on television said a midnight-5 a.m. curfew was being imposed starting Wednesday night. It cited "continuing and open threats by groups looking to provoke disturbances and disorder."

On Sunday, officials had lifted a similar curfew in force since the coup, saying they had civil unrest under control.

Micheletti had sought to defuse the standoff with Zelaya's supporters earlier Wednesday by offering to step down "if at some point that decision is needed to bring peace and tranquility to the country." But he said his leaving office hinged on guarantees that Zelaya would not return to power.

Representatives of Micheletti were to deliver the offer to resign to the Organization of American States. It was unclear if the OAS had received the proposal.

Zelaya was not immediately available for comment, but the offer appeared unlikely to resolve the crisis over the June 28 coup, in which soldiers seized Zelaya and hustled him out of the country on a plane. Talks on ending the crisis are expected to resume Saturday in Costa Rica.

If Micheletti were to resign, under Honduran law the presidency would pass to Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera. The Supreme Court backed the coup.

Zelaya has insisted that he intends to return as president, saying that point is not open to negotiation.

Micheletti, a member of Zelaya's own political party, was named by lawmakers to serve out the presidential term after Zelaya was accused of violating Honduran law by ignoring the courts and Congress in pressing ahead with plans for a constitutional referendum viewed by many as a power grab. Zelaya denies he was seeking to change the constitution so he could serve another term.

The interim president has threatened to jail Zelaya, a wealthy rancher who shifted to the left after being elected, if he comes back to Honduras.

Demonstrations for Zelaya's return continued in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday and his supporters called for labor strikes.

Labor leader Israel Salinas, one of the main figures in the pro-Zelaya movement, told thousands of demonstrators who marched through the capital that workers at state-owned companies plan walkouts later this week.

He said protest organizers were talking with union leaders at private companies to see if they could mount a general strike against Micheletti. Salinas also said sympathetic unions in neighboring Nicaragua and El Salvador would try to block border crossings later this week "in solidarity with our struggle."

Tempers were high during the five-hour protest. Demonstrators threw rocks at a government building that houses the country's women's institute. Police showed up but no injuries were reported.

"We are going to install the constitutional assembly. We are going to burn the Congress," protest leader Miriam Miranda vowed.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is mediating talks aimed at resolving the impasse, but Zelaya has grown frustrated by the lack of progress.

The talks are scheduled to resume Saturday after two earlier rounds failed to produce a breakthrough. Arias, who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ending Central America's wars, has urged Zelaya to "be patient."