Image: Manuel Zelaya
Orlando Sierra  /  AFP - Getty Images
Manuel Zelaya, the ousted Honduran president, greets supporters at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa on Monday.
updated 9/21/2009 9:55:02 PM ET 2009-09-22T01:55:02

Deposed President Manuel Zelaya made a dramatic return to Honduras' capital on Monday, taking shelter from arrest at Brazil's embassy and calling for negotiations with the leaders who forced him from the country at gunpoint.

The interim government ordered a 15-hour curfew, but thousands of Zelaya supporters ignored the decreed 4 p.m. shutdown and remained outside the embassy, dancing and cheering.

Others in the capital started rushing home, lining up at bus stands and frantically looking for taxis.

The leftist leader's homecoming creates a sharp new challenge for the interim government,   which has threatened repeatedly to throw him in jail if he returns.

His supporters chanted, "Yes we could! Yes we could!"

Zelaya told The Associated Press that he was trying to establish contact with the interim government to start negotiations on a solution to the standoff that started when he soldiers who flew him out of the country on June 28.

"As of now, we are beginning to seek dialogue," he said by telephone, though he gave few details. Talks moderated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias have been stalled for weeks over the interim government's refusal to accept Zelaya's reinstatement.

He also summoned his countrymen to come to the capital for peaceful protests and urged the army to avoid attacking his supporters.

"It is the moment of reconciliation," he said.

Security Vice Minister Mario Perdomo said checkpoints were being set up on highways leading to the capital to keep out Zelaya's supporters from other regions, to "stop those people coming to start trouble."

The government of interim President Roberto Micheletti, who took power after Zelaya's ouster, said the curfew would continue to 7 a.m. Tuesday due to "the events of the last few hours." Micheletti, who has promised to step aside following scheduled presidential elections in November, made no other comment on Zelaya's return.

The interim government was caught off guard by Zelaya's appearance. Only minutes before he appeared publicly at the embassy, officials said reports of his return were a lie.

Zelaya's presence could revive the large demonstrations that disrupted the capital following the coup and threatens to overshadow the presidential election campaign.

Coup has shaken relations with Washington
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged both sides to look for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

"It is imperative that dialogue begin, that there be a channel of communication between President Zelaya and the de facto regime in Honduras," Clinton told reporters on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly session in New York. 

The U.S. State Department announced Sept. 4 that it would not recognize results of the presidential vote under current conditions. The coup has shaken up Washington's relations with Honduras, traditionally one of its strongest allies in Central America.

The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, called for calm and warned Honduran officials to avoid any violation of the Brazilian diplomatic mission. "They should be responsible for the safety of president Zelaya and the Embassy of Brazil," he said.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin said neither his country or the OAS had any role in Zelaya's journey before taking him in.

"We hope this opens a new stage in negotiations," Amorin said. He also warned: "If something happens to Zelaya or our embassy it would be a violation of international law," which bars host countries from arresting people inside diplomatic missions.

Honduras' Foreign Relations Department criticized Brazil, saying it was violating international law by "allowing Zelaya, a fugitive of Honduran justice, to make public calls to insurrection and political mobilization from its headquarters."

Micheletti urged Brazil in a nationwide radio address to turn Zelaya over to Honduran authorities.

In the days following the coup, at least two of the thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets were killed during clashes with security forces. Thousands of other Hondurans demonstrated in favor of the coup.

The country's Congress and courts, alarmed by Zelaya's political shift into a close alliance with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba, backed Zelaya's removal.

He was arrested on orders of the Supreme Court on charges of treason and abuse of power for ignoring court orders against holding a popular referendum on reforming the constitution.

Micheletti said Zelaya sought to remove a ban on re-election — grounds for immediate removal from office under the Honduran constitution. Zelaya denies any such plan.

International leaders were almost unanimously against the armed removal of the president, alarmed that it could return Latin America to a bygone era of coups and instability. The United States, European Union and other agencies have cut aid to Honduras to press for his return.

‘Evaded a thousand obstacles’
Zelaya said he had "evaded a thousand obstacles" to return, traveling 15 hours by land in different vehicles. He declined to give specifics on who helped him cross the border, saying that he didn't want to jeopardize their safety.

His staunch supporter, Chavez, described the journey: "President Manuel Zelaya, along with four companions, traveled for two days overland, crossing mountains and rivers, risking their lives. They have made it to Honduras."

If the interim administration attempts to imprison Zelaya, protesters who have demonstrated against his ouster could turn violent, said Vicki Gass at the Washington Office on Latin America.

"There's a saying about Honduras that people can argue in the morning and have dinner in the evening, but I'm not sure this will happen in this case," said Gass. "It's been 86 days since the coup. Something had to break and this might be it."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Coup in Honduras

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  1. The de facto leader of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, seen here, Oct. 29, agreed to a deal that is likely to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Honduran soldiers arrive to the square where a military perimeter has been installed around the Brasilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa on Thursday, Sept. 24. Honduras' interim government on Thursday lifted a nationwide curfew but maintained a siege of the embassy where deposed President Zelaya has taken refuge. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Supporters of Honduras' interim President Roberto Micheletti shout during a demonstration in front of the local United Nations office in Tegucigalpa Sept. 24. (Henry Romero / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Hordes of people fill the aisles of a supermarket to buy food during a break in the curfew imposed by the Honduran goverment in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Hondurans scrambled through looted stores and lined up for food on during the break in a long curfew called to halt violence that erupted with the return of the country's deposed president. (Ulises Rodríguez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Residents buy supplies at a supermarket during a break in a curfew imposed by the interim government in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A boy walks past burning garbage and a shopping cart from a looted supermarket used as part of a roadblock after riots in El Pedregal in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, center, meets with supporters, at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday. Honduras' de facto leader Roberto Micheletti has offered for the first time to hold direct talks with Zelaya to resolve a political stand-off even as soldiers surrounded the embassy where he took refuge. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of the Honduran army are lined up in the surroundings of the Brazilian embassy in an effort to drive away supporters of deposed Honduran president in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A supporter of Honduras's ousted President Manuel Zelaya sits on a rock in a road block during a protest in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Soldiers take cover during clashes with supporters of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at El Pedregal neigborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Tuesday, Honduran soldiers surrounded the Brazilian embassy where Zelaya is holed up seeking reinstatement, driving off protesters who had massed there overnight. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Supporters of Honduran ousted President, Manuel Zelaya, clash with police during a riot at the El Pedregal neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Gustavo Amador / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Supporters of Honduras's ousted President Manuel Zelaya chant slogans against the interim government during a protest in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Police uses water canons against supporters of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya during clashes near the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday. (Fernando Antonio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya greets supporters at the Brazilian Embassy in capital Tegucigalpa on Sept. 21. Zelaya made a surprise return to the country almost three months after soldiers expelled him in a coup. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A Zelaya supporter shouts slogans against interim President Roberto Micheletti in front of a row of riot police during a demonstration in Honduras' capital Tegucigalpa on Sept. 18. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A Zelaya supporter hits Ramon Velasquez, vice-president of Honduras' Congress, during a protest in Tegucigalpa on Aug. 12. (Edgard Garrido / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Honduras' interim leader Micheletti talks to journalists outside the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa on Sept. 21. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. University students throw rocks at riot police at a roadblock at the National University in Tegucigalpa on Aug. 5. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Police fire tear gas during a protest by university students supporting ousted President Manuel Zelaya at the National University in Tegucigalpa on Sept. 16. (Edgard Garrido / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

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    A man participating in a rally supporting Zelaya lies on the ground after being shot in the head in Tegucigalpa on July 30. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Zelaya supporters protest in Tegucigalpa on June 28. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Ousted President Manuel Zelaya, center, talks to supporters in Ocotal, near the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, on July 27. (Mario Lopez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A boy cleans Honduran soldiers' shoes in Las Manos on the Honduras-Nicaragua border on July 27. (Gustavo Amador / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of the ousted president, reads Honduras' constitution to riot police blocking the crossing of Jacaliapa, west of the Nicaraguan border with Honduras, on July 27. Zelaya had set-up his roving government-in-exile in Nicaragua to launch a return to power after a coup in June. (Ulises Rodriguez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Riot police stand guard as Zelaya supporters block a road in Tegucigalpa on July 27. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Zelaya supporters push two plain-clothes police officers, right and second-from-left, during a funeral in Tegucigalpa on July 26. The ousted president's supporters identified and beat three plain-clothes policemen at the funeral of Pedro Magdiel Munoz before other Zelaya supporters intervened and guided the officials to safety. Enraged demonstrators then overturned and set on fire the patrol vehicle the policemen arrived in. (Tomas Bravo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Zelaya supporters try to overturn a car driven by a man whom they believe is an undercover police officer in El Durazno, Honduras, on July 26. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A Zelaya supporter stands next to a poster of interim leader Micheletti that reads "putschist" in El Paraiso on July 25. (Edgard Garrido / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Zelaya, top right, talks to supporters in Las Manos, Nicaragua, on July 25. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Villagers stand outside their house as riot police and soldiers stand guard at a roadblock preventing Zelaya supporters from approaching the border near El Arenal, Honduras, on July 25. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Ousted president Zelaya, right, lifts the chain that divides the border post of Las Manos, Nicaragua, with Honduras on July 24. Zelaya briefly stepped across the border in a symbolic move almost a month after soldiers sent him into exile. (Mayerling Garcia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Zelaya supporters march to the border with Nicaragua before the ousted president's arrival on July 24. (Daniel Leclair / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Zelaya, left, is welcomed by the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias in San Jose, Costa Rica, where talks between the ousted president and the Interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti were set to take place on July 9. President Arias tried to mediate the negotians, which were meant to end the political crisis that began after the coup that ousted Zelaya on June 28. (Jeffrey Arguedas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Honduras' interim President Roberto Micheletti, left, waves as he walks with Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, second right, upon his arrival at Juan Santamaria Airport near San Jose, Costa Rica, on July 9. (Kent Gilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. A vehicle set on fire by Zelaya supporter burns during a blockade on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa on July 8. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of Honduras' ousted president, center, greets supporters during a march in Tegucigalpa on July 7. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Catholics take part in a candlelight vigil in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on July 7 to protest the coup that ousted Zelaya. (Daniel Leclair / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Rebeca Murillo grieves over the coffin of her brother, Isy Murillo, 19, in Tegucigalpa on July 6. Isy Murillo was shot to death on July 5 by troops protecting Honduras' main airport during clashes with Zelaya supporters. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Zelaya supporters clash with soldiers near Tegucigalpa's airport during a protest against the coup that ousted Honduras' president in June. (Elmer Martinez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A Zelaya supporter lies dead after being shot by soldiers outside Tegucigalpa's airport on July 5. (Jose Cabezas / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Zelaya supporters cheer as the deposed president's airplane flies over Tegucigalpa's airport on July 5. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Police and soldiers block the airstrip at Tegucigalpa's airport to prevent a plane carrying ousted president Zelaya from landing on July 5. (Tomas Bravo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Thousands of Zelaya supporters wait for the ousted president's in front of Tegucigalpa's airport on July 5. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Zelaya talks with reporters outside of the Ecuadorean embassy in Washington, D.C., on July 5, after he announced plans to return to Honduras. Argentine President Cristina Ferdandez is at his left. (Jose Luis Magana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti addresses supporters during a meeting at the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa on July 3. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. A man is detained by soldiers and police officers during a protest by Zelaya supporters in San Pedro Sula on July 2. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Honduran police and soldiers prepare to charge Zelaya supporters who are being attacked with water-cannon and tear gas during a demonstration in San Pedro Sula on July 2. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Zelaya supporters errect a barricade near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on July 1. (Roberto Escobar / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Zelaya supporters demand his return to Honduras during a protest by taxi drivers in Tegucigalpa on July 1. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Zelaya supporters use an umbrella to catch donated funds during a protest near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on July 1 (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Zelaya, center, accepts a standing ovation during a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington. The OAS, the United Nations, the Obama administration and other leaders have condemned the military coup that deposed Zelaya. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. A soldier passes graffiti reading "Micheletti: You are not my president. The people," near the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Zelaya addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York on June 30. (Yanina Manolova / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. De facto leader of Honduras Roberto Micheletti, right, raises the hand of Gen. Romeo Vasquez, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on June 30. Zelaya had fired the general on June 25, but Micheletti reappointed him during a rally in Tegucigalpa. (Str / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Supporters of interim president Micheletti shout and hold national flags during a rally in Tegucigalpa on June 30. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. Hundreds of people gather at Morazan Square in central Tegucigalpa to protest against ousted president Zelaya. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. De facto leader Micheletti greets supporters in Tegucigalpa on June 30. (Str / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. A demonstrator throws a Molotov cocktail during clashes between supporters of the ousted president and armed forces in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on June 29. (Jose Cabezas / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Police take cover during clashes with of supporters of ousted the president in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Honduran riot police beat protesters during clashes on June 29. (Jose Cabezas / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. A wounded woman is taken away after violence between supporters of the ousted president and the police on June 29. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. Zelaya supporters throw rocks at police in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. A policeman leads away an injured colleague during a protest by Zelaya supporters in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Riot police disperse Zelaya supporters near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. From left, Bolivian President Evo Morales, deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa pose for a photo after the final declaration of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas group, or ALBA, in Managua, on June 29. ALBA members condemned the coup in Honduras that deposed President Zelaya the day before and ordered the removal of all their ambassadors in Honduras. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. Soldiers break into the presidential residency in Tegucigalpa on June 28. Soldiers arrested Zelaya and disarmed his security guards after surrounding his residence before dawn, about an hour before polls were to open for the non-binding referendum. Zelaya's referendum defied the courts and Congress, and his opponents said it was an attempt to remain in power after his term ends Jan. 27. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. Zelaya supporters take cover during a shooting in the area around the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa on June 28. The Honduran Congress named speaker Roberto Micheletti as the country's new interim president following Zelaya's expulsion. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. Honduran soldiers stand guard behind a fence at the presidential palace following a coup outston Manuel Zelaya on June 28. (Jose Cabezas / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. Civilians berate soldiers near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on June 28. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. Manuel Zelaya gives a press conference at the Juan Santamaria International airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, on June 28. Zelaya said soldiers rousted him out of bed, beat his body guards and arrested him in his pajamas in what he described as "a coup" and "a kidnapping." (Kent Gilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. Honduran President of National Congress Roberto Micheletti, center, takes the oath of office before assuming the position of acting president in Tegucigalpa on June 28. (Edgard Garrido / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  72. Zelaya supporters sing the national anthem outside the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Ooswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  73. Soldiers and police officers gather at the Libertad square in front of the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  74. Zelaya is welcomed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez after his arrival in Nicaragua on June 29. (Miraflores Palace via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  75. A demonstrator, draped in an Honduran flag, stands next to a bonfire near the presidential house in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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