OAS suspends Honduras

WASHINGTON: The Organization of American States (OAS) has suspended Honduras from its ranks in reaction to last week’s military coup that ousted elected President Manuel Zelaya.

Zelaya, who was exiled by the coup leaders, has expressed his intention to return to his home country Sunday.

Thirty-three out of 34 members of the pan-American body, gathered here for an extraordinary session of its General Assembly, voted in favour of the suspension.

The assembly acted on the basis of Article 21 of the OAS Charter that gives member-nations the right to suspend membership of a country in case of an “unconstitutional interruption of democratic order” and when “efforts to address the situation through diplomatic means have failed.” The article was used by the organization for the first time since 1962, when Cuba was suspended from the OAS following its joining the Soviet bloc.

The resolution adopted by the General Assembly urges OAS member-nations as well as international organisations “to review their relations with Honduras.” At the same time, it asks Honduran coup leaders to respect human rights.

The measure was recommended earlier Saturday by OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, who said that “no other alternative existed” but to exclude Honduras over its refusal to reinstate Zelaya.

Throwing his backing behind the beleaguered Honduran leader, Insulza said “the de facto authorities in Tegucigalpa are not disposed to restore Zelaya.”

Insulza spoke after returning from a brief trip to Honduras on Friday during which he sought - in vain - to persuade the interim government to bring Zelaya back to power, and warned of increasing tension and polarisation.