Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Honduran army prevents ousted President Manuel Zelaya from landing

Thousands of supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya march towards the international airport

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya said he can't land at the main Honduras airport because soldiers are blocking the runway with several military vehicles.

The pilot of his Venezuelan plane circled around the airport and decided that landing is "totally impossible" because of the trucks in the way.

Groups of police and soldiers also were stationed around the runway and the perimeter of the airfield, facing off against thousands of Zelaya supporters outside.

Mr Zelaya said he'll announce later where they'll land. A crew of the Venezuelan network Telesur is on the plane. He told them that the pilots won't risk a crash, and vowed to try again.

As the plane had approached Honduras air space, Mr Zelaya had urged the army to support him.

Mr Zelaya later landed in Nicaragua and vowed to try again in the next 48 hours in his high-stakes effort to return to power in a country where all branches of government have lined up against him, including the military that shot up his house and sent him into exile in his pyjamas a week earlier.

"I am the commander of the armed forces, elected by the people, and I ask the armed forces to comply with the order to open the airport so that there is no problem in landing and embracing with my people," Mr Zelaya had said from the plane as he made his unsuccessful approach to Tegucigalpa.

"Today I feel like I have sufficient spiritual strength, blessed with the blood of Christ, to be able to arrive there and raise the crucifix."

But interim President Roberto Micheletti insisted on preventing the plane from landing, and said he won't negotiate until "things return to normal".

"We will be here until the country calms down," Mr Micheletti said. "We are the authentic representatives of the people."

Mr Micheletti also alleged that Nicaragua is moving troops to their border in an attempt at psychological intimidation, and warned them not to cross into Honduras, "because we're ready to defend our border".

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega called the allegation "totally false".

Violence broke out among the huge crowd surrounding the airport, with at least one man killed - shot in the head from inside the airport as people tried to break through a security fence, according to a photographer at the scene.

At least 30 people were treated for injuries, the Red Cross said, after security forces fired warning shots and tear gas.

When Mr Zelaya's plane was turned away, his supporters began chanting "We want blue helmets!" - a reference to UN peacekeepers.

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