New Honduran President Warns Former Leader He "Will Be Sent To Prison" If He Returns - Rumors Venezuela Will Invade
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, June 30 -- The newly appointed president of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, is warning that if ousted president Manuel Zelaya attempts to return here, he will be immediately arrested and sent to prison.
"If he comes back to our country, he would have to face our tribunals and our trials and our laws," Micheletti said in an interview with The Washington Post late Monday night at his residence in the hills overlooking the capital. "He would be sent to jail. For sure, he would go to prison."
Micheletti was named the new president of Honduras by the National Congress on Sunday, hours after soldiers burst into the presidential palace, detained Zelaya while he was still in his pajamas and then put him on a plane to Costa Rica.
The new Honduran president said he did not see any way to negotiate with the Obama administration and international diplomats seeking a return of Zelaya to power because Micheletti insisted that Zelaya was guilty of crimes against the country.
"No, no compromise, because if he tries to come back or anyone tries to bring him back, he will be arrested," Micheletti said.
The streets of Tegucigalpa were empty Monday night because of a curfew, but the city is awash in rumors that Venezuela is marshaling its forces for a possible invasion. Micheletti was meeting with Honduran congressional leaders and others at his house, as soldiers stood guard outside.
Micheletti cautioned the world that his army was on alert and prepared to defend the country against any invasion.
"Our army also consists of 7.5 million people prepared to defend freedom and liberty," said Micheletti, who stressed that Hondurans were a peaceful people.
Although the United States condemned the coup, the most vocal statements of opposition -- along with threats of military intervention -- have come from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who led a summit of leftist allies in Nicaragua on Monday that demanded Zelaya's reinstatement.
"We are saying to the coup organizers, we are ready to support a rebellion of the people of Honduras," Chávez said. "This coup will be defeated."
Micheletti said, "We have fears because of Mr. Chávez. We don't know what to expect of him."
Micheletti and others in his new government say that Zelaya was acting as a strongman who was surrounding himself with leftist allies of Chavez, including the Castro brothers in Cuba and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua.
Micheletti said he was sending a delegation Tuesday to the United States to make the case against Zelaya and for the new government.
The new president said he thought his country could hold out long enough for world opinion to turn its way. Venezuela has already said it would suspend oil shipments, and Honduras's neighbors --El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua -- announced that they would stop overland trade.
"That is why I want to make a call to our allies in the United States, that they should stick with us at this very important moment in the life of the country," Micheletti said. "The economy of our country is completely destroyed -- because of the acts of the former government. If aid [from the United States and Europe] keeps coming, we will show that every little penny that we borrowed will be spent for the people of this country."
Micheletti promised that Honduras would hold presidential elections in November and that a new president would take office in January 2010. Micheletti, a leader of the Liberal Party, which is also the party of Zelaya, vowed that he would not run for president.