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Honduras Lifts Emergency Decree

April 13, 1988

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ The government today lifted a five-day state of emergency imposed after violent, anti-U.S. demonstrations. The streets of Honduras’ two largest cities were calm.

″The causes for which the situation was decreed have disappeared and normality has returned,″ presidential spokesman Lisandro Quesada said.

Full constitutional guarantees were restored at 6 a.m.

The government imposed the emergency decree April 8 after demonstrators sacked and burned the U.S. Consulate April 7 to protest the forced deportation of an alleged drug trafficker. Five Hondurans were killed in the violence.

The decree gave police and military authorities sweeping powers of search and arrest in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, 125 miles to the north. It also permitted officials to ban public protests and restrict freedom of movement.

About 2,000 people attacked and set fire to the U.S. Consulate and offices of the U.S. Information Service on April 7. The U.S. Embassy, in the same complex, was not damaged.

Police detained at least 70 people believed involved in the attack, said Maj. Manuel Antonio Urbina, chief police spokesman. Other military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the number arrested in connection with protests in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula could reach 300.

The protests were over the April 5 arrest of Juan Ramon Matta. Honduran officials took Matta from his Tegucigalpa home in a pre-dawn raid and placed him aboard a plane to the Dominican Republic without a passport.

Dominican authorities put Matta on a flight to New York and he was arrested aboard the jet by U.S. marshals, according to U.S. law enforcement officials.

Matta, 43, is being held at a maximum-security federal prison in Marion, Ill. He faces drug charges in the United States and was wanted by U.S. officials for questioning in the 1985 slaying in Mexico of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena Salazar.

Honduran legislators denounced the action and the Foreign Ministry said it was investigating. The Honduran Constitution prohibits extradition of citizens.

Over the weekend, thousands of soldiers and police patrolled the streets of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. No incidents were reported and the troops returned to their quarters Monday.

Honduras is a staunch U.S. ally. But some Hondurans have become increasingly critical of the presence of U.S. military personnel in their country and joint U.S.-Honduran military exercises.

Honduras was used as a base by U.S.-supported Contra rebels who fought the leftist Nicaraguan government until the recent signing of a cease-fire pact in that country. The United States sent 3,200 soldiers to Honduras last month after Nicaraguan soldiers reportedly pursued Contras into Honduras.

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