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Honduras Allows Relief, But Military Digs In

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Calm has prevailed for more than 24 hours in Tegucigalpa since Tuesday morning when the last major riots and clashes took place. The government announced via TV today, breaking all television broadcasts to display the blue-and-white Honduran flag, that the curfew will be lifted from 10 am to 5 pm. Banks are instructed to open, as are pharmacies and some shops. People have been running out of food and medicine quickly since few were prepared for ex-president Manuel Zelaya's return and the subsequent wave of government curfews.

But despite the curfew lift, there is a quiet and well organized military motion occuring in Colonia Palmira, the epicenter of the political crisis and the known location of Zelaya, who has burrowed into the Brazilian embassy there. This morning at around 7 am military helicopters hovered and circled just a few hundred feet from the ground, a distinct change from the light police choppers that have been circling at much higher altitudes. Military trucks have been bringing in additional troops and moving roadblocks around the neighborhood, seemingly in an effort of reorganization.

The recent activity might be in preparation for the large pro-government march scheduled to head towards Palmira on Thursday. While that march is in support of the interim government, the chances of counter-demonstrations and, consequently, violence, are high.

The recent emporary curfew lifts are part of a government effort to relieve the strain of living behind locked doors and sealed windows for almost three days straight but to slow the economic bleed of a national lockdown. But in addition to this, the government might also be preparing for decisive action against Mr. Zelaya as many the removed president's supporters inside the Brazilian embassy have left and Zelaya himself has shown signs of fatigue. Further, the interim government under the leadership of Roberto Micheletti is making no bones about its intent to starve Zelaya out of his diplomatic shelter.

Given Zelaya's all-in strategy of returning to Honduras, however, the political brinkmanship going on in Honduras might not go according to the government's plan. Zelaya knows this is his now-or-never moment since another bout of exile will decimate his chances of being restored to the presidency and maybe of ever returning to political life in Honduras.

If Zelaya continues to resist, the Micheletti government will be forced to take more aggressive action since it cannot withstand public opposition to the curfew and the roughly $50 million daily loss to the national economis. Any such action by Micheletti, however, will ignite a firestorm of violent opposition.

Today's curfew lift will reveal much. If the majority of the country remains quiet and orderly there might be a mellowing of the situation. If clashes erupt, the crisis will spiral.