Honduran leader marks 1st year amid protests

President Porfirio Lobo completed his first year in office Thursday with greater international recognition, as well as persistent domestic protests by supporters of ousted former leader Manuel Zelaya, who called Lobo's performance "discouraging and negative."

Lobo said the world isolated Honduras following the June 2009 coup that ousted Zelaya. But he says the country's increasing recognition since then "makes me view the future with optimism."

More than 100 countries now recognize Honduras, but it still has not been readmitted to the Organization of American States. Lobo won 2009 elections that had already been scheduled at the time of the coup.

Zelaya's term ran out in January 2010, and since then he has lived in the Dominican Republic. He has said he wants to return, but first wants arrest warrants against him dropped.

Zelaya faces charges of fraud, usurping powers and falsifying documents, which he calls politically motivated.

Lobo said Thursday "I don't want anybody in jail for political reasons."

In a statement from the Dominican Republic, Zelaya wrote that "through the course of these 12 months, the tendency has been for the government to worsen conditions in the country."

He accused Lobo's administration of showing "a complete absence of sensitivity to the indescribable suffering of the majority of the people."

Honduras has suffered a stubborn economic downturn and a wave of violent crime, with 6,200 murders in a country of 7.7 million inhabitants, a homicide rate of about 77 per 100,000, among the highest in the hemisphere.

Zelaya supporters marched through several major cities, including Tegucigalpa, the capital, on Thursday, to demand Zelaya be allowed to return.

The government has said he is welcome to do so, but must face charges.