Grenade fired at building with Honduran ballots

AP News
Posted: Nov 13, 2009 2:42 PM

Assailants fired an anti-tank grenade toward the building housing ballots for the upcoming Honduran presidential elections, which are taking place under the shadow of a four-month crisis caused by a coup, police said Friday.

The grenade overshot the target, exploding 550 yards (500 meters) from the building in the capital of Tegucigalpa, police spokesman Orlin Cerrato said. Residents in several neighborhoods heard the explosion Thursday night, but there were no damages.

Police believe the building housing election material was the intended target because the surrounding buildings are mostly residential. They said the Russian-made, rocket-propelled grenade was likely launched by inexperienced people.

"The intention was to destroy election material to sabotage the elections," Cerrato said.

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya is urging the international community not to recognize the Nov. 29 election if he is not reinstated beforehand.

The government that took power in the June 28 coup is hoping the election will end the country's diplomatic isolation.

Election commission official Enrique Ortez urged citizens not to let fear keep them away from the polls.

"The electoral process will go on," he said in an interview with Channel 5 television. "We have to overcome fear and show up massively."

Several Latin American countries have warned they will not recognize the elections if they take place under the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti. The Organization of American States has warned that it will not send election observers if negotiations between the feuding sides remain paralyzed.

The United States, which has suspended most development aid to the Central American country, is trying to revive a U.S.-brokered accord that had called for the formation of a unity government and for the Honduran Congress to decide whether Zelaya should be restored to power.

Zelaya declared the pact a failure when Micheletti announced the formation of the unity government even though the deposed president had not submitted candidates. Zelaya accused Micheletti of maneuvering to stay in power by forming the unity government before Congress had voted on whether to restore Zelaya to power.

Neither Zelaya nor Micheletti are candidates in the election, which had been scheduled before the coup. The two leading contenders have urged the international community not to punish the next Honduran government for the coup.

Soldiers ousted Zelaya for disobeying a Supreme Court order to drop a referendum to ask Hondurans if they wanted an assembly to rewrite the constitution. Opponents accused Zelaya of planning to extend his time in office by lifting a ban on presidential re-election; Zelaya denies that was his intention.

Although Congress had voted to back Zelaya's ouster, the deposed president had agreed to the terms of the U.S.-brokered accord when leading lawmakers indicated they would not stand in the way of a negotiated solution to the crisis.

Congressional leaders have since hinted, however, that there may be no vote on Zelaya's return until after the election. Lawmakers say they are waiting for an opinion from prosecutors and the Supreme Court, which had ordered Zelaya's arrest before the coup.


Associated Press Writer Freddy Cuevas contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS that the grenade was fired with a launcher, instead of hurled.)