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Hondurans trickle over mountains to support Zelaya in Nicaragua

July 24, 2009

LAS MANOS, Nicaragua – With the unsigned San José Accord still in limbo and Honduras´ de facto government refusing to back down, exiled President Manuel Zelaya remained at Nicaragua´s northern border with Honduras through the weekend, vowing to return to power.

Since his few steps Friday over the Las Manos border into Honduras and back, Zelaya has stayed in Nicaragua, garnering further support a month after the military removed him from office and forced him into exile.

Hundreds of pro-Zelaya Hondurans have been crossing their border over to Nicaragua to be with the man they consider their president, despite a blockade of the border and a curfew instituted early Friday.

Passing through the mountains, women, men and youth walked for hours, often without food and water, to bypass the lines of soldiers that guard the border.

“We´re not afraid of the police,” said 23-year-old Blanca Julio Renlíquez. She arrived Friday with a group of approximately 200 people who braved the snake-infested hills.

Snakes aren´t their only danger. Jesús Sánchez, 30, said as many as 70 Honduran security officers were following his group through the mountains but never opened fire. Another border-crosser, 18-year-old Milton Rodríguez said he spent what he described as a “very cold” night on the mountain, arriving at Las Manos Saturday night in tattered, dirty clothing.

However, Honduran security forces reportedly have been cracking down on pro-Zelaya protesters inside Honduras, leading to the death of 24-year-old Pedro Muñoz, whose body was found Saturday in El Paraíso, a region near the Nicaraguan border, newswire EFE reported.

On the Nicaraguan side, the Red Cross and members of an organization called the Nicaraguan Social Movement arrived Sunday morning with truckloads of food and offering medical care to the growing group of “Zelayaistas.”

Aldo Rubio, the deputy director of a hospital in nearby Ocotal, was giving free consultations and medicine. Rubio said people have shown up with eye injuries from teargas.

At least three people were taken to the hospital for treatment of serious injuries, none life-threatening, Rubio said, adding that he believed the injuries resulted from clashes with Honduran security forces.

Meanwhile, amid sustained international pressure to agree to the terms of the San José Agreement, the de fact government in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa began showing signs favoring negotiation. The armed forces issued a statement Sunday saying that they would support any agreement resulting from the mediation process brokered by the government of Costa Rica.

De facto President Roberto Micheletti has also come out in favor of continuing dialogue. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Micheletti wrote, “The way forward is to work with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.”

Zelaya, for his part, called on leaders of the region and the United States to heighten pressure against the Micheletti administration, which he called a “dictatorship,” according to several media reports.

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