Friday, 23 October 2009

Brazil Foreign Affairs Adviser Faults Obama's Handling of Honduran Coup

EFE. October 22, 2009.

BRASILIA - The top foreign affairs adviser to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Wednesday that Barack Obama's administration "should put more pressure" on the de facto regime in Honduras to agree to the reinstatement of ousted President Mel Zelaya.

A month after Zelaya, who was sent into exile after the coup, slipped back into Honduras and took up residence at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Marco Aurelio Garcia said that Lula's government still hopes for "firmer" action from the United States.

"The ideal would be that President Obama takes a more active position in the search for a political accord" in Honduras, Garcia told TV Brasil.

"I believe the United States could put more pressure on the putschists," Lula's aide said, though adding that "Latin America is not a priority for the United States now, because it's a region at peace."

Obama condemns Zelaya's ouster and calls for his reinstatement, but is so far unwilling to exercise the enormous leverage that Washington has over Honduras, a nation whose economy is almost entirely dependent - through trade, aid and remittances - on the United States.

Garcia also insisted Wednesday that the Brazilian government has "acted correctly" and in defense of democracy and the rule of law by giving Zelaya sanctuary at the embassy.

After acknowledging that some members of Brazil's foreign service were initially uncomfortable with the decision, Garcia said: "The diplomats know an embassy is not just for political gatherings and receptions."

The Honduran de facto regime contends Zelaya's ouster was not a coup, insisting that the soldiers who dragged him from the presidential palace and put him on a plane to Costa Rica were simply enforcing a Supreme Court ban on the president's planned non-binding plebiscite on the idea of revising the constitution.

Though the coup leaders accuse Zelaya of seeking to extend his stay in office, any potential constitutional change to allow presidential re-election would not have taken place until well after the his term ends in January.

Time is running out to settle the conflict before Honduras' Nov. 29 presidential elections, as both the European Union and Washington have said they will not recognize the winner of that balloting unless Zelaya is restored to office beforehand.

Though Zelaya has accepted the conditions suggested by mediators, the coup regime is balking at restoring the elected president. EFE