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Columbia Missourian

Panel held in Columbia on Honduras while diplomats encourage dialogue

By Michelle Kanaar
October 30, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Virginia Druhe, a St. Louis resident, traveled to Honduras as part of a delegation from Witness for Peace in September. She went to protest President Manuel Zelaya's removal and ask for his reinstatement.

COLUMBIA —MU Students for Progressive Action and members of the Columbia Peace Coalition held a panel on Wednesday night in Columbia to promote knowledge and discussion of Honduras and its people after the coup on June 28 that deposed President Manuel Zelaya. A U.S. delegation is currently in Honduras encouraging dialogue between dueling factions in an effort to legitimize the November election.

Among the panelists was self-identified peace activist Virginia Druhe, a St. Louis resident who traveled to Honduras as part of a delegation from Witness for Peace in September. She went to protest Zelaya's removal and ask for his reinstatement.

While there, the delegation accompanied marchers, acting as observers and as human barriers between the marchers and the police. Druhe said the members of The National Resistance Front Against the Coup d'Etat were eager to have internationals among their ranks as a means for protection.

"We met with people who had received death threats. We met with people who had seen their friends murdered, ... and their tension was very real," Druhe said Thursday morning. But Druhe said she never felt in danger, because her United States citizenship was apparent. 

She said the experience left her feeling hopeful because "people that are willing to (protest) can't be stopped in the end — the individuals can be stopped but the movement will persist."

Druhe said the goals of the Witness for Peace delegation were two-fold: to accompany the people of Honduras during a difficult time and to bring back word of the situation.

On Wednesday, a senior U.S. delegation asked Honduras' rival factions to be more flexible about ways to resolve the coup-torn country's 4-month-old crisis and urged them to return to the negotiating table.

Talks between representatives of the interim government and Zelaya have broken over a key point — whether Zelaya will be reinstated — with the previously scheduled election looming.

Tom Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, led the U.S. delegation, which included his department's No. 2, Craig Kelly, and Dan Restrepo, President Barack Obama's point man on Latin America to the National Security Council.

The delegation arrived in Honduras on Wednesday and met with Zelaya at the Brazilian Embassy, where he has been holed up since sneaking back into the country on Sept. 21. The delegation met later with interim President Roberto Micheletti, as well as with negotiators for both sides.

After the meeting, Zelaya said the U.S. officials "have not changed their position" in opposing his ouster. "Shannon expressed his desire for an agreement as soon as possible ... on my reinstatement."

Micheletti said Tuesday that talks should resume after the Nov. 29 elections and that the balloting will resolve the crisis — despite warnings from Zelaya and a number of countries that they will not recognize the election if Zelaya is not back in office by then.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.