LatAm leaders: Return ousted Honduran president

AP News
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Posted: Dec 01, 2009 4:52 PM

Honduras should return ousted President Manuel Zelaya to power, leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal said at a summit Tuesday.

Calling the June coup that forced Zelaya out "unacceptable," they said reinstating him was "a fundamental step" the Central American country needed to take to return to constitutional normality.

The coup in Honduras was Central America's first in 20 years.

The statement _ released at the end of a three-day Iberoamerican summit in Estoril, Portugal _ also said leaders at the annual meeting had analyzed Honduras' weekend election won by Porfirio Lobo, but they did not elaborate.

The final statement on Honduras seemed to reflect a clear victory for regional heavyweights Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela, who had opposed any recognition of Sunday's elections in Honduras.

Summit participants also discussed the global financial crisis and climate change, though the talks were overshadowed by efforts to reach a united stance on the Honduras crisis.

"Respect for a democratic way of life has, especially in the Latin American region, a tragic history and because of that we have to defend democracy unconditionally," Argentine President Cristina Kirchner told a press conference.

The leaders of Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica, however, had individually endorsed the election.

"Some will say (the statement) goes too far, others will say it doesn't go far enough," Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates said.

His Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said all leaders opposed the coup but that "differences centered on how we evaluated the elections and their consequences."

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said those behind the Honduran coup had no legitimacy to call elections.

"Honduras hasn't respected the most elementary principle of a return to democratic normality," he said before leaving Portugal for a state visit to Ukraine. "They could have done things normally: the president returns, calls elections and Honduras returns to normal."

Silva said accepting Honduras' current situation would encourage anyone planning a coup.

"We can't pretend nothing happened," Silva said. "If this state of affairs is allowed to remain, democracy will be at serious risk in Latin and Central America."

The summit statement also made an "energetic appeal" for Honduran authorities to ensure the safety of Zelaya, who has been staying at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa for two months.

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Associated Press Writer Barry Hatton contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS spelling of Brazilian president's name, graf 11.)