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Could Honduras crisis prompt a power grab in Nicaragua?

Strongarm tactics used during the seven-month political crisis in Honduras set a bad example for the region's other fragile democracies and could lead to a power grab in Nicaragua, critics say.

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As Honduras begins to return to normal under democratically elected President Porfirio Lobo, who took office Jan. 27, the political crisis sparked by last summer’s military ouster of President Manuel Zelaya appears to be fading into history as another chapter in Central America's tumultuous past.

But Honduras’s seven-month experiment with de facto governance under conservative interim President Roberto Micheletti may have lasting political repercussions in the region, even after Honduras has healed and moved on.

In neighboring Nicaragua, for instance, critics charge that President Daniel Ortega is using the Honduras episode as a cudgel – and a justification – for eroding the checks and balances of his country's fragile democracy.

“What happened to President Manuel Zelaya could happen to [you] next,” Ortega warned the opposition following Honduras’s presidential elections on Nov. 29, 2009.

And like the case of Honduras, he warned, international mechanisms for dealing with a democratic crisis, such as the Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), have already proven ineffective.


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