Hondurans facing hardship as standoff continues

Hungry Hondurans scrambled through looted shops and lined up for food during a break in a long curfew called to halt violence that erupted with the return of the country’s deposed leftist president.

Troops and police ringed the Brazilian Embassy where ousted President Manuel Zelaya took shelter on Monday after returning home in a daring challenge to the interim government that threw him out of the country at gunpoint in June and that vowed to arrest him if he leaves the shelter of the diplomatic mission.

Most other Hondurans were trapped as well, cooped up in their homes since Monday evening by a government order to stay off the streets – an order ignored by some looters and pro-Zelaya protesters.

Schools, businesses, airports and border crossings closed, though the coup-installed government suspended the nationwide curfew for six hours yesterday so that businesses could open briefly and people could buy what they needed. The government announced late yesterday it was lifting the curfew as of this morning.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva used the podium at the UN General Assembly in New York to demand Mr Zelaya be reinstated as Honduras’ president and the US State Department in Washington called for restraint by both sides.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the US, which still has contact with Honduran officials, had helped persuade authorities to restore water and power at the Brazilian Embassy and had helped evacuate some Embassy staff.

But on a street in Tegucigalpa, Lila Armendia peered out warily through her wooden gate at a scene of burning trash bins placed by protesters.

“It’s scary to go out,” she said.

Being stuck inside her home is no good either. “It’s like being in jail,” said the 38-year-old seamstress.

People determined to stock up for the uncertain days ahead trudged past bandana-masked youths sitting on boulders they had used to block roads.

About two dozen people at a supermarket littered with overturned shelves hunted through shards of glass and smashed potato chip packages for undamaged food.

Thousands of Zelaya supporters marched in the direction of the Brazilian Embassy but were blocked by soldiers and riot police who used tear gas to disperse them after the protesters threw rocks and broke the glass windows in storefronts.

Police said they arrested 113 people after scores of business were looted as protesters skirmished with officers throughout Tuesday night.

Mr Zelaya told the Argentinian cable channel Todo Noticias that 10 of his supporters had been killed, though he gave no details. Authorities said there were no deaths at all, though they said one person suffered a gunshot wound.

Dr Mario Sanchez at the Escuela Hospital in Tegucigalpa said three people were treated for gunshot wounds there, however.

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