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Timeline: The Honduran Crisis

November 12, 2009

Honduras found itself caught in an political stalemate after the June 28 overthrow of Manuel Zelaya. Explore a timeline of key dates in the months-long crisis.

June 25: Tensions flare in Honduras when President Manuel Zelaya leads supporters to air force headquarters to seize ballots needed for a June 28 referendum deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Critics say the referendum would have opened the door to a constitutional reform allowing presidential reelection. The Court also reinstates armed forces chief, Romeo Vásquez, whom Zelaya dismissed a day earlier.

June 28: Early in the morning, the Honduran military arrives at Zelaya’s home and forces the pajamaed leader into exile on a flight bound for Costa Rica. The head of Honduras Congress, Roberto Micheletti, is sworn in as interim head of state. U.S. President Barack Obama, Latin American leaders, and multilateral agencies condemn the move as a coup and call for Zelaya’s reinstatement.

July 1: The Organization of American States (OAS) approves a resolution calling for Zelaya’s reinstatement as president.

July 5: After the interim government refuses OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza’s attempts to negotiate Zelaya’s return, the agency suspends Honduras’ membership. On the same day, Zelaya departs from Washington in a Venezuelan aircraft to try to reenter Honduras. De facto leaders order military troops to block the Tegucigalpa runway, preventing the airplane from landing. Violent clashes erupt between Zelaya supporters and the authorities.

July 7: Costa Rican President Óscar Arias takes on the role of mediating the political crisis in Honduras. He joins U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington at a press conference to announce the news.

July 9: Negotiations begin in Costa Rica. Zelaya says he expects the de facto government to step down while Micheletti says he is open to negotiation but not to Zelaya’s return to power. The talks end without agreement the following day.

July 20: The European Union suspends over $90 million in aid to Honduras after talks to reinstate Zelaya fail.

July 21: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee member James DeMint (R-SC) charges the Obama administration with mishandling the Honduras crisis and places holds on the confirmations of two top State Department officials—Arturo Valenzuela for assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Thomas Shannon for ambassador to Brazil.

July 22: After talks resume in Costa Rica, President Óscar Arias presents a 12-point solution known as the San José Accord. The proposal outlines a path for Zelaya’s return to office, but with limited powers and as part of a coalition government. It also prevents him from moving forward with a constitutional reform that could enable his presidential reelection.

July 25: Zelaya briefly crosses from Nicaragua into Honduras, sparking a media frenzy at the border. He repeats the action the next day, then sets up camp on the Nicaraguan side where hundreds of supporters join him. Micheletti calls the stunt “ill-conceived and silly.” With a curfew imposed in the border area, marchers clash with military forces and the body of one Zelaya supporter is discovered showing signs of torture.

August 10: During a Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) summit in Quito, Ecuador, leaders accounce that they will not recognize any elections held by the de facto government.

August 24: An OAS delegation heads to Honduras to urge approval of the San Jose Accord. The delegation meets with representatives of the Zelaya administration, legislators, the Supreme Court, the presidential candidates, and Micheletti. Still, the delegation fails to win backing for the deal.

September 3: The United States freezes $30 million in nonhumanitarian aid to Honduras as a rebuke for the interim government’s refusal to adopt the San Jose Accord. The State Department also says Washington will not recognize elections carried out by the Micheletti government.

September 15: Supporters for each side take to the streets to mark Independence Day, demonstrating the deep polarization sparked by the crisis.

September 21: Zelaya sneaks into Honduras and takes refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, saying he traveled “through rivers and mountains” to reach the capital. Micheletti argues that the move changes nothing and his government imposes a curfew.

September 27: To restrain protests urged by Zelaya, the Micheletti government announces a decree suspending free speech, shutting down broadcasters aligned with the opposition and banning unauthorized public gatherings. The following day, Congress says it will not support the decree, reflecting rifts within the governing coalition, and prompting Micheletti to promise that the media ban would be lifted.

October 7: An OAS delegation including officials from the United States, OAS, Canada, Spain, and 10 Latin American countries convenes in Honduras to discuss the ongoing political crisis. A new round of talks begin called the Guaymuras Dialogue.

October 14: Negotiators for both sides have finally begun meeting face-to-face, but talks appear to stall again when one of Micheletti’s mediators rejects claims by Zelaya’s side that they are on the verge of a deal. That night, Honduras beats El Salvador in a World Cup Qualifying soccer match, marking its first qualification for the games since 1982.

October 18: The UN dispatches an OAS delegation to Honduras on a three-week visit to look into human rights abuses since the June 28 coup.

October 29: After U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon leads a delegation to Honduras, the two sides sign an accord to create a power-sharing government. The agreement allows the Honduran Congress to vote on Zelaya’s return to power. The Guaymuras Accord calls on both sides to recognize the results of Congress’s vote and enforce the subsequent transfer of power. The signing of the pact wins praise from the international community and is hailed as a “breakthrough” by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

November 6: Zelaya calls the latest accord “dead” when Congress takes no action on the question of his reinstatement and Micheletti forms a new government. Given that the Obama administration indicated it will recognize the November 29 elections on the basis of the accord’s signature regardless of whether Zelaya is restored, Senator DeMint lifts his holds on the confirmations of Valenzuela and Shannon. Valenzuela is confirmed the same day; Shannon faces another hold when a junior senator holds up his confirmation based on the White House’s Cuba policy. The United States finds itself increasingly isolated in its position on the Honduran elections.

November 14: Zelaya pens a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama saying he "will not accept any accord of returning to the presidency" and that to do so would validate the coup.

November 29: The National Party's Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo wins the controversial elections, winning roughly 56 percent of the vote and coming out well ahead of Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos.

December 2: Ahead of the November 29 election, Honduras' National Congress set the date of December 2 to vote on whether the deposed leader should be restored to his post. When the date rolls around, lawmakers vote 111 to 14 against Zelaya's reinstatement.