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Zelaya Ends Self-Exile and Returns to Honduras

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Former President Manuel Zelaya ended his self-imposed 16-month exile in the Dominican Republic and flew back to Honduras yesterday aboard a plane belonging to Venezuelan state-run airline Conviasa. The flight, which originated in Managua, Nicaragua, landed at 2:20 pm at Tegucigalpa's Hernán Acosta Mejia Air Base -- the base where Mr. Zelaya was taken after his overthrow on June 28, 2009 and subsequently flown to Costa Rica. Mr. Zelaya was accompanied by members of his family, including his wife, Xiomara, and daughter, Hortensia, along with several members of his former government, including ex-Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, ex-Mayor of San Pedro Sula Rodolfo Padilla Sunseri, and ex-Minister of the Presidency Enrique Flores Lanza. Also joining Mr. Zelaya was Salvadoran priest Andrés Tamayo, who was expelled from Honduras by former President Roberto Micheletti, and a delegation of foreign government officials, including Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro, Colombian Senator Piedad Córdova, former Panamanian President Martín Torrijos, and former commander of El Salvador's Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMNL), Nidia Díaz.

Wearing his trademark white Stetson, Mr. Zelaya addressed thousands of his supporters. He thanked President Porfirio Lobo and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for their roles in facilitating his return. He struck a conciliatory tone, saying, ""The problem of poverty, of corruption... will not be solved with violence, but through more democracy, greater citizen participation and better transparency."

"I come to look for gaps, openings... I come to join you. There is wisdom in finding openings and working for political reconciliation, which is important," said Mr. Zelaya. "Honduras has never had the possibility of becoming a participatory democracy as it does now."

Mr. Zelaya concluded his improvised speech in a more combative tone, emphasizing, "Through our resistance, we will take power in the country. We resisted and we will overcome and we have overcome... this is a victory for the nation."

Estimates of the number of people who arrived to welcome Mr. Zelaya ranged from 30,000 to 40,000 at 11 am, when Mr. Zelaya's flight was originally scheduled to land. (5/29/11)

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