Headstrong Honduran ruler resists world pressure

TEGUCIGALPA, (Reuters) – Roberto Micheletti, the  headstrong veteran politician who took power in Honduras when  President Manuel Zelaya was toppled, is defying international  pressure to reinstate his old friend and end media curbs.  

Despite repeated warnings from the United States, the  European Union and Latin American governments, Micheletti  appears to believe they will all buckle in the end and drop  demands that Zelaya, who was ousted in a June 28 army coup, be  returned to power.
  
He is betting that the world’s attitude toward his de facto  government will change as Honduras holds a presidential  election on Nov. 29 and the new leader takes office in  January.
  
Neither Micheletti or Zelaya can run in the election, but  Micheletti, 61, insists he will stay in power until the new  president takes over. 

“We are not afraid of the United States, or the State  Department, or Brazil, or Mexico, but we are scared of Zelaya,”  the gruff white-haired ruler told visiting foreign ministers  and the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America last week. The coup has triggered Central America’s worst crisis in  years and created a foreign policy headache for U.S. President  Barack Obama who has promised better relations with Latin  America.  

Obama cut off some aid to Honduras after the coup but has  been criticized by some Latin American leaders for not doing  more to pressure Micheletti. 
 
At home, however, some U.S. Republicans criticize Obama for  sticking by Zelaya at all. They say the ouster was legal and  stemmed the growing influence of Zelaya’s close ally,  Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez.
  
Some Hondurans share that view, saying Zelaya helped the  poor but got too close to Chavez.

They support right wing  ex-soldier Micheletti now for standing up to foreign meddling.  

“These are Honduras’ internal problems — the United States  is sanctioning us, when what Micheletti does is a benefit for  the people,” said football coach Marvin Enriquez.  

Criticized by Amnesty International for severe rights  abuses, Micheletti’s government has not yet fulfilled a pledge  made a week ago to lift controls on protests. It apparently  does not plan to allow two broadcasters loyal to Zelaya to  reopen.  

“The measures we took … put everything back to normal and  the population is calmer,” Micheletti said.  

He went even further on Friday, publishing a new law that  allows the government to close broadcasters deemed to encourage  “anarchy”.  

He accuses pro-Zelaya radio station Globo and TV’s Canal 36  of inciting vandalism and violence.  

Police and soldiers frequently break up small  demonstrations with tear gas and rubber bullets, and rights  groups say several people have been killed at protests.

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