Honduras limits freedoms

The de facto government of Honduras suspended constitutional guarantees indefinitely late Sunday, outlawing public gatherings and making it easier for the army to make arrests.

The measure, announced on a nationwide simultaneous television and radio broadcast, came on the eve of a potentially enormous march by ousted President Manuel Zelaya’s supporters. From his refuge at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, Zelaya called on people to take to the streets today to mark the three-month anniversary of his ouster.

The army took Zelaya from his home June 28 and put him on a flight to Costa Rica, after courts accused him of violating the constitution by trying to make it possible to serve a second term. He sneaked back into the country last week and holed up at the embassy. With universal international backing, he is fighting to reclaim his office.

Earlier Sunday, Honduras expelled diplomats from the Organization of American States, which has been attempting to mediate the crisis, and gave Brazil 10 days to turn over Zelaya or face unspecified retaliation.


Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said his government would not be cowed by ultimatums from “coup plotters.”

Acting Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez said OAS officials had failed to give advance notice of their arrival. He suggested that if Brazil doesn’t recognize the de facto government, the embassy should remove its flag and shield and revert to a private office -- which presumably would eliminate the diplomatic status that protects Zelaya from arrest.

Zelaya and his followers are living in conditions that a visiting doctor described as deteriorating. Several in the embassy are ill with flu-like symptoms, the doctor told The Times.

Honduras’ acting rulers have said that if they can, they will arrest Zelaya, a timber magnate who gradually turned to the left and alienated the nation’s elite. The rulers have accused him of inciting violence from within the embassy.

Sunday’s announcement went beyond the curfews that acting President Roberto Micheletti had imposed. The new measures make it easier for authorities to shut down radio or television stations deemed to be favoring Zelaya.

On Sunday evening, Channel 36, a pro-Zelaya television station, abruptly disappeared from the air.


Renderos is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City contributed to this report.