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Honduras president warns a coup is brewing, in echo of 2009 crisis

Stringer / Reuters

Honduras President Porfirio Lobo speaks during a news conference at the Francisco Morazan Military Academy in Tegucigalpa on Friday. Lobo asserted that there is a conspiracy brewing against him that could mimic the coup that removed former president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

Honduras' president on Friday accused a group led by a powerful publishing magnate of plotting to repeat "the crisis of 2009," when his predecessor, Manuel Zelaya, was whisked out of the country at gunpoint in a civilian coup.  

President Porfirio Lobo, speaking at a military event, did not use the word coup, but referred several times to the June 2009 incident that caused a political and economic crisis in this Central American country that in many ways has still not been resolved.  

Both drug trafficking and killing have risen since then in Honduras, where two-thirds of the 8.2 million people live in poverty. With a homicide rate of 91 per 100,000 residents, it is often called the most violent country in the world.


Lobo said he knows who is meeting and how, though he did not say why they were conspiring or whether they were planning to overthrow his government. Lobo has accused groups in the past of plotting against him without providing details.  


"What they're doing is a danger to the country," he said. "These citizens have not learned. We had a crisis in 2009 and they want to repeat it in 2012."

Gen. Rene Osorio, chief of the armed forces, appeared with Lobo, saying he supports the president. He said he has provided Lobo with intelligence reports but said they are confidential.

"In the armed forces, no one is thinking about a coup d'etat," Osorio said. "We will continue to inform the president with investigation and intelligence to give him our support."

In 2009, the populist-leaning Zelaya was seized at gunpoint by soldiers and flown out of the country in a coup that had wide support among the political elites, including members of Zelaya's own political party.

Zelaya, who lived in exile but has since returned and formed his own political party, expressed support for Lobo on Friday.

"In Honduras, we have a dictatorship by the oligarchy," he said.

A rich landowner like Lobo, Zelaya angered the business elite that had run Honduras for decades with a campaign to rewrite the constitution, promising the poor they would get a voice in shaping the future of the country. He also closely aligned himself with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Zelaya was deposed when he ignored a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum on his grandiose plan.

Lobo was democratically elected in a previously scheduled election later that year and took office in January 2010.

He has been at odds with the same Supreme Court that supported Zelaya's ouster. The court shot down Lobo's plans to build private cities as a means of attracting investment and economic development. The Supreme Court next week is also expected to reject Lobo's plan to clean up the corrupt Honduran national police, which are often involved in killings and organized crime.  

Lobo said the leader of the conspiracy is Jorge Canahuati, owner of Grupo Opsa, which publishes El Heraldo and La Prensa, the country's two largest daily newspapers.

Canahuati denied any involvement in a statement published on his newspapers' websites. It called Lobo's comments reckless, unfounded and intimidating and said they are "endangering freedom of expression."

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