TEGUCIGALPA — Supporters of deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya have warned an interim government crackdown on opposition media could derail talks scheduled to resume on Tuesday and aimed at resolving the months-old political crisis.
"It is a really appalling issue, something right out of a dictatorship," said Sunday Rafael Alegria, a leading coordinator of protests against the ouster of Zelaya, the elected president.
A government decree published in the official Gazette Saturday gave authorities the right to "revoke and cancel" licenses of radio and television stations considered to be a threat to "national security" and accused of spreading "hatred."
Last month, the government of Roberto Micheletti, which came to power as the result of a June 28 military coup, already shut down Radio Globo and Channel 36 television seen as close to Zelaya and restricted freedom of assembly and movement.
The new decree gives the coup leaders legal grounds for future similar measures, according to analysts.
"The new decree is simply aimed at silencing us once and for all," said Channel 36 director Esdras Lopez. He charged that Micheletti was trying to keep the television channel for his own use.
Saturday Zelaya and the interim government agreed to create a joint cabinet and ditch an amnesty for coup leaders, one of the negotiators announced.
But both measures remain dependent on Zelaya's return to the presidency, still far from certain four months into the standoff that emerged from the coup.
Union leader Juan Barahona, one of Zelaya's top three negotiators, told a rally of hundreds of the president's followers Saturday that the joint cabinet, if indeed formed, would be made up of ministers from both governments.
A diplomatic delegation from the Organization of American States left Honduras Thursday without resolving the political impasse between Micheletti and Zelaya, who was forced out of the country at gunpoint.
A rancher known for his trademark white cowboy hat, Zelaya veered to the left after his election and alarmed conservatives by aligning himself with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. They feared Zelaya was seeking to change the constitution to allow himself to seek reelection.
The Zelaya camp, Barahona added, opposed amnesty because such a move would mean "amnesia, forgetfulness and forgiveness, and we cannot condone the coup."
Zelaya for his part said Sunday that he had never asked for an amnesty because he did not need it.
"A proposal to include it in the deal came from the other side," he told AFP.
Talks are set to resume Tuesday, with OAS diplomats maintaining that progress has been made, though the key issues have not yet been addressed.
"If after all of this, they say that there is not going to be reinstatement (of Zelaya), what difference does it make if we made progress on anything else?" Barahona asked.
"Tuesday, we are going to get at that key point in detail. If on October 15 we do not have a deal, the talks will have failed."
Tensions in the capital rose Sunday after shot were fired against the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference and a seminary located in a southern suburb of Tegucigalpa.
Nobody was hurt, but a police spokesman said political motives had not been ruled out.
The Episcopal Conference had spoken in support of the June 28 military coup, and Honduran cardinal Oscar Rodriguez had unsuccessfully urged Zelaya not to return to the country.
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