Honduran Tensions Rise As Curfew Enforced

TEGUCIGALPA , September 21 -- An emergency curfew was put into order by the Honduran government today as tensions escalate upon the return of the country's ousted president, Manuel Zelaya. The center of the city, and particularly the area around Colonia Palmira, where Zelaya was reported to be, burst into a moving mass of traffic jams and people rushing to return home from work in advance of the 4 PM curfew.

Stores are now closed and traffic has mostly emptied off the streets but despite the swift government response to Zelaya's return the former president is continuing to speak to large crowds of followers. The interim government led by Roberto Micheletti threatened it would arrest Zelaya if he returned to the country but no such arrest has been carried out.

This is the first time that Zelaya has returned to Honduras since his June 28 removal. In recent weeks, Washington has increased pressure on the interim government to restore Zelaya to power, cutting all aid to the country and even revoking the visas of members of the diplomatic mission and some of its federal judges. Zelaya himself met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the situation.

Honduras has experienced an unprecedented polarization in the past few months, and this is plainly visible in the urban political epicenter of Tegucigapla. Political graffiti mars almost every wall of every building in the city with slogans in support of the 'golpistas', the interim government, or of the 'resistencia' of Zelaya's followers. The graffiti of one wall denounces the current interim president, Micheletti, as 'Pinocheletti', or a Pinochet-styled fascist leader, while the adjacent wall imprecates Zelaya as an extreme leftist string-pulled by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

There have been brief electricity outages and a call by Zelaya for his followers to take to the streets but other than this the curfew seems to be precipitating a relative calm.