TEGUCIGALPA - Honduran police on Wednesday began evicting supporters of toppled President Manuel Zelaya from government office buildings where they had holed up for three months to protest his ouster in a military coup.
Zelaya, who riled conservative lawmakers and business leaders with his ties to Venezuela's socialist government, was overthrown by the army in June. He sneaked back into the country and took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy a week ago.
The crackdown came after de facto leader, Roberto Micheletti, issued a decree suspending civil liberties, shut two media stations loyal to Zelaya and warned Brazil it had 10 days to hand over Zelaya to authorities or give him political asylum.
Riot police surrounded the National Agrarian Institute in Tegucigalpa early on Wednesday and cleared out 57 Zelaya supporters from the two-story building, where farm workers had protested since the June military coup.
This is part of the decree, clear out government buildings, police spokesman Orlin Cerrato said. We are looking at other institutions that were taken over.
A Reuters reporter at the site saw police leading about 10 people from the building.
Soldiers ousted Zelaya at gunpoint on June 28 and sent him into exile after the Supreme Court ordered his arrest. His critics say he broke the law by pushing for constitutional reforms they say would have lifted term limits. Zelaya denies wanting to stay in power.
The de facto government is under mounting pressure from the international community and even some local supporters to restore civil liberties and negotiate an end to a three-month crisis triggered when Zelaya was ousted.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Micheletti on Tuesday to lift the restrictions and stop threatening Brazil's embassy.
Regional powerhouse Brazil rejects Micheletti's deadline and wants more international pressure to force a solution. The United States has demanded Honduras roll back the emergency measures but also has criticized Zelaya's return without a prior agreement.
Both sides are deadlocked over how to resolve the crisis. Zelaya insists he must be restored but Micheletti says he must face charges of treason and insists on elections in November.
(Reporting by Esteban Israel; writing by Patrick Markey in Tegucigalpa; Editing by Bill Trott)