Honduras de facto leader lifts ban on media, protests

Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:04pm EDT
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By Mica Rosenberg and Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - The de facto Honduran government relaxed curbs on protests and opposition media on Monday as crisis talks dragged into a third week with no deal on toppled President Manuel Zelaya's return to power.

Zelaya, forced out of the country by soldiers in a June 28 coup, slipped back into Honduras last month and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy. De facto leader Roberto Micheletti responded by deploying soldiers around the embassy, imposing restrictions on press freedoms and banning large marches.

Micheletti promised to lift the emergency measures on October 5 after strong international criticism, but the decree was only finally reversed in the official gazette on Monday.

A pro-Zelaya radio station, which had its offices raided by masked soldiers after the decree, began broadcasting in the morning and a shuttered television channel was getting ready to go back on the air, the radio station's director said.

Negotiations on how to resolve Central America's worst political crisis in decades began again on Monday. The Organization of American States' insistence that Zelaya be reinstated is the main sticking point in talks.

Micheletti's negotiators said on Friday the Supreme Court should decide if the leftist can return to office.

But the same court ordered Zelaya's June ouster, saying he violated the constitution by seeking to allow presidential re-election, and is seen unlikely to let him back.

The coup has brought back memories of Central America's ugly past of civil wars and state-backed violence in the 1970s and '80s. It is a foreign policy headache for U.S. President Barack Obama, who promised better relations with Latin America.   Continued...

<p>Supporters of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya hold Honduran flags while shouting slogans against Honduras' de facto leader Roberto Micheletti outside a hotel in Tegucigalpa October 16, 2009. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas</p>