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Manuel Zelaya


Manuel Zelaya

Manuel Zelaya

(Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Who is he?:

The son of a wealthy businessman, and a businessman in his own right, who became president of Honduras in January 2006 and was driven from the country in June 2009 when he pressed forward with a constitutional referendum -- deemed illegal by the country's supreme court -- that would have allowed additional presidential terms.


Sept. 20, 1952, in Catacamas, Honduras. His father, Jose Manuel Zelaya, Sr., was one of eight convicted of killing up to 15 social activists in the 1975 Los Horcones massacre.

Personal life:

Married since 1976 to Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, with whom he has four children. Zelaya himself was the oldest of four children. Zelaya uses the nickname "Mel" that his father used, as well.

Political affiliation:

Liberal Party, though Zelaya lost much of his party's support during his presidential term.


Zelaya came to politics after working in his family's business in ranching and logging, promising to clean up the streets in a law-and-order campaign. He narrowly defeated Porfirio Lobo of the ruling National Party in 2005, assuming the presidency in 2006. His support began to erode within his party as the support of Latin American leftists such as Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales grew; Zelaya issued an unpopular edict in 2007 making all TV and radio stations carry two hours of government propaganda each day. The following years he took Honduras into the leftist Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas alliance.


The international community, United Nations and Organization of American States recognized the legitimate rule of Zelaya even as Honduras' Congress swore in an interim leader, Roberto Micheletti, who insisted that Zelaya would be arrested should he attempt to return to Honduras. Zelaya, particularly with the assistance of leftist Latin American leaders, is insistent on returning to rule in Honduras. The unrest in the country threatens to engulf other nations.


"Today I feel like I have sufficient spiritual strength, blessed with the blood of Christ, to be able to arrive there and raise the crucifix." -- Zelaya from his plane on July 5, 2009, as he unsuccessfully tried to return to Honduras
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