Coup amnesty off the table as Honduras talks pause

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) – Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the interim government have agreed to create a joint cabinet and ditch an amnesty for coup leaders, one of the negotiators announced.

But the de facto government imposed new restrictions on the media aimed at controlling the flow of information about the country's political crisis.

A supporter of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya holds a portrait of Zelaya during a protest in Tegucigalpa. (AFP photo)

A government decree published in the official Gazette Saturday gave authorities the right to "revoke and cancel" licenses of radio and television stations considered to be a threat to "national security" and accused of spreading "hatred."

Last month, the government of Roberto Micheletti, which came to power as the result of a June 28 military coup, already shut down Radio Globo and Channel 36 television seen as close to Zelaya and restricted freedom of assembly and movement.

The new decree gives the coup leaders legal grounds for future similar measures, according to analysts.

Meanwhile, the creation of a joint cabinet and punishment of coup leaders remain dependent on Zelaya's return to the presidency, still far from certain four months into the standoff that emerged from the coup.

Union leader Juan Barahona, one of Zelaya's top three negotiators, told a rally of hundreds of the president's followers that the joint cabinet, if indeed formed, would be made up of ministers from both governments.

The Zelaya camp, he added, opposed amnesty because such a move would mean "amnesia, forgetfulness and forgiveness, and we cannot condone the coup.

"If after all of this, they say that there is not going to be reinstatement (of Zelaya), what difference does it make if we made progress on anything else?" quipped Barahona.

"Tuesday, we are going to get at that key point in detail. If on October 15 we do not have a deal, the talks will have failed."

The formation of a national unity government and amnesty for crimes linked to the coup were two key points of the San Jose reconciliation agenda set out in August, whose central tenet calls for Zelaya's return to office.

The discussions came ahead of a three-day pause that will prolong the uncertainty of resolving the political crisis that has paralyzed the impoverished Central American country since late June.

The resumption of talks on Tuesday will come just two days before the October 15 deadline given by the Zelaya camp for his unconditional return to power.

Reinstating him any later, supporters say, risks causing a delay in presidential and legislative elections planned for November 29.

"I do not understand the three-day break," Zelaya's wife Xiomara Castro told AFP from within the Brazilian embassy, where the deposed leader has been holed up since his surprise return to the capital on September 21.

"When there's persecution, repression, the minutes and hours count. The pause is a way to delay the process, with time passing and the president still not returning to power."

A diplomatic delegation from the Organization of American States left Honduras Thursday without resolving the political impasse between Micheletti and Zelaya, who was forced out of the country at gunpoint.

A rancher known for his trademark white cowboy hat, Zelaya veered to the left after his election and alarmed conservatives by aligning himself with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. They feared Zelaya was seeking to change the constitution to allow himself to seek reelection.

Source: AFP

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