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Rights activist who protested Honduras coup killed

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduran police promised to thoroughly investigate the killing of a gay rights activist who joined in protests against the June coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

The anti-coup National Resistance Front said gunmen in a car shot Walter Trochez on Sunday as he walked in downtown Tegucigalpa. Friends rushed him to a hospital, where he died.

"Trochez was an active militant in the resistance and an example of the fight against the dictatorship," the group said in a statement released on the day the victim was buried.

The front, which until recently staged daily protests to demand Zelaya's restoration to the presidency, blamed the attack "on the repressive forces that the oligarchy uses to stop the demands of the Honduran people for liberty and democracy."

Police spokesman Orlin Cerrato said Tuesday that the case was "being exhaustively investigated." He named no suspects but dismissed the possibility that police were involved.

The front claimed that Trochez, 27, was often harassed and threatened by police and soldiers because of his activism on behalf of homosexuals.

A Honduran rights group said Trochez was briefly kidnapped Dec. 4 by four masked men who beat him. The assailants threatened to kill Trochez because of his participation in the anti-coup movement, the International Observatory on the Human Rights Situation said.

International rights groups have denounced widespread repression under the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti, the former congressional leader who took power after soldiers ousted Zelaya on June 28. The coup came after the president continued a campaign to change the constitution despite the Supreme Court ruling his effort illegal.

Several anti-coup activists have been killed during protests, while security forces have raided the offices of groups opposed to the Micheletti government. Police say the raids are part of investigations into homemade bombs that have periodically exploded in the Central American country since the coup.

There also have been a string of killings of government security officials and relatives of politicians, including a nephew of Micheletti, but there is no indication those slayings related the coup. Political assassinations are not uncommon in Honduras, which has one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America, much of it related to the drug trade.

Months of international pressure failed to restore Zelaya to finish his four-year term, which ends Jan. 27. Diplomats are now focused on producing a deal that would allow Zelaya to leave Honduras without being arrested on treason and abuse of power charges.

On Monday, the United States and Brazil urged Micheletti to step down, saying his resignation would allow Zelaya safe passage out of Honduras.

Micheletti dismissed that idea Tuesday. He told HRN radio he planned to stay in power until the new president-elect, Porfirio Lobo, takes office next month. Lobo, a wealthy conservative rancher, won the Nov. 27 presidential election, which had been scheduled before the coup.

Zelaya, who is holed up in the Brazilian Embassy, vowed in a statement not to renounce his claim to the presidency.

Last week Micheletti's government stopped two attempts by Zelaya to leave Honduras because the ousted leader refused to concede he is no longer president.

Late Tuesday, the Micheletti government said it would seek Honduras' withdrawal from a Venezuela-led trade bloc known as ALBA. The government will introduce a motion in Congress on Wednesday to have Honduras drop out of the bloc, said chief Cabinet minister Rafael Pineda.

Honduras joined ALBA in August 2008 as Zelaya sought closer relations with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — an alliance that alienated the Honduran business community and most of Zelaya's own political party.

Chavez stopped oil shipments to Honduras to protest Zelaya's ouster.

"The decision was made because some presidents who belong to ALBA. have been disrespectful and offensive against a friendly country like Honduras," Pineda said.


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