Zelaya: Honduras coup was international conspiracy

May 29, 2011 - 8:30 PM
APTOPIX Honduras Zelaya Return

A supporter holds a statue of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a crowd gathered to wait for his arrival in Tegucigalpa, Saturday May 28, 2011. The return of the former president from exile Saturday brings Honduras' nearly two-year political crisis to an end. Zelaya's comeback will also pave the way for Honduras to re-enter the international community, which near-unanimously rejected the June 2009 military-backed coup that forced him from office. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said Sunday the coup that toppled him two years ago was an international conspiracy and that some of those plotting his ouster wanted to kill him.

Zelaya ended his long exile and returned to Honduras on Saturday under a deal brokered by Colombia and Venezuela, paving the way for the poor Central American country's return to the Organization of American States and reintegration into the world community.

The former president said in a news conference at his home that the June 2009 military-backed coup that saw him whisked out of Honduras by soldiers should be investigated.

"The coup d'etat is an international conspiracy, a conspiracy that has actors in different sectors of society and should be investigated," Zelaya said without naming countries.

Zelaya has previously accused Washington of supporting the interim government of Roberto Micheletti, which replaced him after his ouster. President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials publicly criticized the coup.

During the news conference, Zelaya said Gen. Romeo Vasquez, who Zelaya tried to dismiss as head of the joint chiefs of staff, told him that the backers of the coup wanted him killed.

"He told me, 'some day you are going to understand what happened, I can't tell you, but the people who planned it contemplated your liquidation during the assault on your house and the armed forces totally opposed your assassination'," said Zelaya, adding that he has conversed with Vasquez several times since the coup.

He said he was told that the coup-plotters were angered by the negative from the armed forces and threatened to hire paramilitaries to kill him.

"The question is who are they? General Romeo Vasquez should be asked this ... who wanted to stain our country with blood that day?" Zelaya said.

A truth commission formed in May 2010 and led by former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein is scheduled to give a report on June 16 on what happened before, during after the coup. But Zelaya said he doubted that the commission would clarify everything because its members include coup sympathizers.

Zelaya was thrown out of office — and the country — 23 months ago by soldiers for ignoring a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum asking Hondurans if they wanted an assembly to retool the constitution. The opposition had called it a bid by Zelaya stay in power by allowing presidential re-election, while his supporters said the assembly was to reform Honduras' economic and political structures.

The coup drew condemnation from around the world as a reminder of Latin America's antidemocratic past of dictatorships and military coups. Honduras' post-coup interim government resisted international pressure to restore Zelaya — who took up exile in the Dominican Republic — and in late 2009 current President Porfirio Lobo was elected in a previously scheduled vote.

While some governments began recognizing Honduras after Lobo took office, Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua and Ecuador demanded that Zelaya be allowed to return home without facing criminal charges before ending Honduras' pariah status.

Honduran courts dropped the corruption charges and arrest warrants pending against Zelaya, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez brokered a deal Zelaya's safe return home.

The OAS is expected to discuss Honduras in Washington in the coming days and at the organization's general assembly in El Salvador June 5-7.