TEGUCIGALPA – Former President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown in a coup nearly two years ago, returned Saturday to Honduras after living in the Dominican Republic for a year and four months.
Thousands of Zelaya’s followers gathered around this capital’s Toncontin International Airport and exploded with joy when the Venezuelan-registered aircraft landed bringing the ex-president from Managua at 2:22 p.m.
Zelaya kissed the ground after getting off the plane at the Hernan Acosta Mejia Airbase next to the civil airport, where he was greeted by his mother, Hortensia Rosales, his sons Hector Manuel and Jose Manuel, and Honduran Planning Minister Arturo Corrales, one of the negotiators of the agreement that allowed his return.
In a brief statement to reporters, Zelaya expressed gratitude to Honduran President Porfirio Lobo and the heads of state of Venezuela and Colombia, Hugo Chavez and Juan Manuel Santos, respectively, for working out that agreement.
Accompanying Zelaya on his trip from Managua were his wife, Xiomara Castro, his daughters Zoe and Hortensia, Panama’s ex-President Martin Torrijos, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, Colombian former Sen. Piedad Cordoba, and ex-officials of the ousted Honduran government.
The ex-president planned to speak to his supporters at a meeting in a plaza south of the airport.
Afterwards Zelaya was to travel to the presidential palace, where President Lobo will host a lunch for him along with Torrijos, Maduro, Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, and the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza.
Insulza and Holguin arrived Friday in Tegucigalpa and immediately met with Lobo to discuss the possibility of Honduras being readmitted to the OAS, which suspended the country’s membership after the coup and could reinstate it on Wednesday in a special General Assembly scheduled for that day.
The ousted president left Honduras on Jan. 27, 2010, for the Dominican Republic with a safe conduct provided by Lobo, who assumed the presidency that day.
Zelaya thus put an end to being enclosed in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where he sought refuge on Sept. 21, 2009, after returning secretly to his country.
Zelaya was overthrown on June 28, 2009, hours before a non-binding referendum he called on convening an assembly to overhaul the Honduran Constitution, a charter imposed in the early 1980s by the armed forces.
The Honduran Congress, Supreme Court, military and political establishment claimed the plebiscite was illegal.
Lobo, who came to power in elections overseen by the coup regime, is recognized by the United States but not by some Latin American countries, including Brazil.