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(Washington, DC) - The Organization of American States (OAS) must act quickly to push for the reestablishment of democracy in Honduras after a military coup, Human Rights Watch said today.

The coup took place this morning, when members of the Honduran military reportedly arrested democratically elected president José Manuel Zelaya. Human Rights Watch called on the OAS to urgently apply the body's Democratic Charter to the situation in Honduras.

"The OAS has a key role to play now. It must rapidly find a multilateral solution to this breach of democracy in Honduras," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "To allow this coup to stand would be a huge step back from the progress that the region has made towards democracy in recent decades."

In Latin America, Human Rights Watch said, increased protection of human rights has gone hand in hand with the strengthening of democracy.

According to news reports, tension between Zelaya and the military and Supreme Court had been mounting all week. Zelaya had called for a nationwide poll today on a variety of issues, including the possibility of calling for a constituent assembly to modify the Constitution to allow the president to run for another term. The military opposed the poll, which the country's Supreme Court had ruled illegal.

"No matter how complex or deep the political polarization in the country, political problems must be addressed by democratic means, not by force," said Vivanco.

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