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Honduran bishops oppose Zelaya's return, urge respect for rule of law

Catholic World News - July 06, 2009

The Catholic bishops of Honduras have urged the people of that country "to overcome emotional reactions and to seek the truth" in the midst of a political crisis that began with the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.

In their July 3 statement, which was delivered to a television audience by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran hierarchy steered clear of partisan politics, but insisted that the rule of law should be upheld. The bishops called attention to the fact that President Zelaya was removed from office on the basis of a valid court order. They noted that "the institutions of the Honduran democratic state are valid and that what is has executed in juridical-legal matters has been rooted in law."

Supporters of Zelaya have accused the Catholic bishops of favoring-- and perhaps even actively supporting-- the move to unseat the Honduran leader. The bishops denied that accusation, stressing that they were interested only in promoting justice and the rule of law.

However, Cardinal Rodriguez did urge Zelaya not to attempt a return to Honduras-- a move the ousted leader had promised. The cardinal explained that he feared Zelaya's return could trigger a bloodbath.

Military leaders removed Zelaya on June 28, and forced him to leave the country. The bishops, in their July 3 statement, said that the people of Honduras deserve a full explanation for that sequence of events.

At the same time, the bishops said that the outside world must recognize that their country's crisis did not suddenly erupt when Zelaya was removed from office. Zelaya had been charged with abusing his office as he sought to consolidate power and move Honduras toward the left, with strong support from Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez. The bishops had been critical of the president prior to his removal.

In their July 3 message the bishops appealed to the Organization of American States: "we ask that you pay attention to all that was happening outside the law in Honduras, and not only what happened starting on June 28." The intent of that sentence was clearly to call attention to the extra-legal machinations by Zelaya, which prompted the court to order him removed from office.

In an equally clear reference to the bellicose statements by Venezuela's Chavez, the bishops went on to say: "The Honduran people are also asking why the warlike threats against our country have not been condemned" by international leaders.

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