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Coup d'Etat in Honduras Highlights Zelaya's Relationship with Chavez

The coup in Honduras that ousted President Manuel Zelaya has been widely condemned by the international community. The United States and other countries around the world are calling for his reinstatement. Among the most vocal advocates of the ousted president is Venezuela's populist firebrand leader, Hugo Chavez.

Hondurans continue to protest in the streets. Pitting supporters of exiled president Manuel Zelaya, against those favoring interim president Roberto Micheletti.

Soldiers forcibly expelled Mr. Zelaya on Sunday on charges of abusing his power. The coup seems to have had a corollary effect of further solidifying the relationship between the ousted leader and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Mr. Zelaya flew to Nicaragua the following day on one of Mr. Chavez' private jets. He met with the Venezuelan leader and other Latin American presidents.

There and on other occasions, Mr. Chavez has been vocal in demanding Mr. Zelaya's return to power.

Oil money from Mr. Chavez reportedly helped Mr. Zelaya win the 2005 election.

Analysts say Mr. Zelaya's subsequent appearances with the Venezuelan leader proves his leanings to the left. Like this appearance, celebrating Chavez' ten years in power during which he has steered his nation toward socialism

Roger Noriega, who served in the State Department during the Bush administration, says Mr. Zelaya was abusing power and Washington missed the opportunity to rein him in. "Our influence in Latin America is waning and that's a bad thing in as much as it creates a vacuum for people like Hugo Chavez who have the energy and the resources to have his way in Latin America," he said.

Supporters of Honduran interim president Roberto Micheletti say Mr. Zelaya had become too dependent on Venezuela. "We are not going to become dependent on a foreign government. We respect the government of Venezuela, but we do not enter military pacts with Venezuela," said interim Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez

Some observers say Mr. Zelaya's attempt to change the laws should serve as a lesson to others who try to tamper with democracy. "I think in the end, that attitude may come back and really be damaging to the Venezuelas and others that are sort of clearly moving in undemocratic ways," said Peter Hakim, who is with a Washington think tank.

However, for now, Mr. Chavez' outspoken support for Mr. Zelaya could boost his stature in the hemisphere should the ousted Honduran president be reinstated.