HAVANA – Cuban leader Raul Castro met in Havana with Manuel Zelaya, the former Honduran president who was ousted in a coup last summer, the official daily Granma reported Saturday.
The paper, which did not provide details on the meeting between Castro and Zelaya, published a photo of the encounter in which the daughter of the deposed president, Xiomara Hortensia Zelaya, and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez also participated.
Zelaya arrived Thursday on the island for a one-day visit that is part of a tour of several countries of the region and also included stops in Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua, where he presented his “reconciliation plan” for Honduras.
Zelaya’s stay in Cuba, which had not been previously announced, was to include a tour of Havana’s historic downtown and meetings with “prominent figures” on the island, Zelaya himself said on Friday.
Honduras’ ex-president currently is living in the Dominican Republic, where he arrived on Jan. 27. Before that, Zelaya had been holed up for more than four months at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa after slipping back into the country following the coup.
Zelaya, a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other leftist Latin American leaders, was dragged from the presidential palace and sent into exile last June 28, just hours before he planned to hold a non-binding plebiscite on revising the Honduran Constitution, a charter imposed on the country in the 1980s by a military junta.
The de facto regime headed by Roberto Micheletti and its apologists accused Zelaya of seeking to extend his stay in office, but any constitutional change to allow presidential re-election would not have taken effect until months – if not years – after the incumbent was due to step down in January 2010.
Many of the world’s nations refuse to recognize Honduras’s Nov. 29 election, in which Porfirio Lobo won the presidency, as legitimate.
Domestic foes of the coup, backed by human rights organizations and most foreign governments, said a free and fair vote was impossible given the repression imposed by Micheletti’s de facto regime, which killed some two dozen people, imprisoned hundreds and repeatedly shut down independent media.
Zelaya visited Cuba as president in March 2009 when he participated in an international gathering of economists and met with Cuban head of state Raul Castro and his brother and predecessor Fidel, who handed over power to his sibling after a serious illness.