Soldiers arrest Honduran president

June 28, 2009 10:03:29 AM PDT
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said he was the victim of "a coup" and a "brutal kidnapping" by soldiers, and President Barack Obama said he was "deeply concerned" by the Sunday morning detention of the Central American president. Speaking from Costa Rica, Zelaya said he would not recognize any de facto government and pledged to serve out his term, which ends in January.

"A usurper government cannot be recognized, by absolutely anybody," Zelaya told a local television station at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica shortly after arriving to potentially seek political asylum. Zelaya said he was taken away from the presidential residence early Sunday while he was still in his pajamas.

"I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya," Obama said in a statement.

"As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter."

The statement said that "any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference."

Zelaya was detained shortly before voting was to begin on a constitutional referendum the president had insisted on holding even though the Supreme Court ruled it illegal and everyone from the military to Congress and members of his own party opposed it.

Zelaya was taken into military custody at his house outside the capital, Tegucigalpa, and whisked away to an air force base on the outskirts of the city, his private secretary, Carlos Enrique Reina told The Associated Press.

Tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled through the streets and Army trucks carrying hundreds of soldiers equipped with metal riot shields surrounded the presidential palace in the capital's center. About 100 Zelaya supporters, many wearing "Yes," T-shirts for the referendum, blocked the main street outside the gates to the palace, throwing rocks and insults at soldiers and shouting "Traitors! Traitors!"

It was not immediately clear who was running the government. Soldiers appeared to be in control, but the constitution mandates that the head of Congress is next in line to the presidency, followed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

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