Honduras spurns OAS as tensions mount with Brazil

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – The de facto government of  Honduras denied entry yesterday to an Organization of American  States delegation as tensions mounted with Brazil, which has  given refuge to ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

The group of OAS officials had hoped to help broker a  solution to Honduras’ political crisis but was turned back at  Tegucigalpa’s international airport, a move likely to further  isolate the de facto government headed by Roberto Micheletti.

Hours earlier, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da  Silva said he would ignore a 10-day deadline set by Micheletti  to decide what to do with Zelaya, who is holed up in Brazil’s  embassy in Honduras.

“Brazil will not comply with an ultimatum from a government  of coup mongers,” Lula told reporters at a summit of African  and South American leaders in Venezuela.

Lula also demanded an apology from Micheletti, who issued a  harsh statement late on Saturday warning that his government  would be forced to take action if Brazil does not define  Zelaya’s status soon.

Zelaya was overthrown in a military coup on June 28, but on  Monday he returned from exile, sparking a tense standoff with  the de facto civilian government that has promised to arrest  him on charges of treason.

Brazil had said Zelaya can stay as long as necessary, but  Micheletti told the South American heavyweight to either grant the  deposed leftist political asylum or hand him over to Honduran  authorities to be prosecuted.

“We urge the Brazilian government to define the status of  Mr. Zelaya in a period of no more than 10 days,” the de facto  government said in a statement. “If not, we will be obliged to  take additional measures.”

It did not say what those measures might be, but said  Brazil must guarantee its diplomatic mission is not used by  Zelaya to “incite violence.”

Since Monday, hundreds of soldiers and riot police have  surrounded the embassy where protesters have mounted almost  daily marches to demand Zelaya be reinstated.

“If they enter by force, they will be committing an act  that contravenes all international norms,” Lula said of the  security forces outside the building.

Zelaya urges ‘final
Zelaya, a logging magnate who is rarely without his  trademark cowboy hat, urged his followers to descend on the  capital to pressure for his return.

“I call on you to mobilize throughout Honduras, and that  everyone who can come to Tegucigalpa to fight in the final  offensive,” he said in a statement on local Radio Globo.

The United Nations Secu-rity Council on Friday condemned  harassment of the Brazilian embassy. Brazilian officials say  food and supplies have only occasionally been allowed in and  troops have blasted the building with high-frequency sounds.

Zelaya upset conservative elites by allying himself with  Venezuela’s socialist Presi-dent Hugo Chavez. He demands to be  restored to power, but the de facto government says  presidential elections in November will resolve the crisis.

The showdown in Hon-duras is shaping up as U.S. President  Barack Obama’s first diplomatic test in Latin America, a region  where Washington’s influence has waned in recent years.

Obama has cut some U.S. aid to Honduras since the coup and  pushed for Zelaya’s return, but several Latin American leaders  say he has not done enough to broker a solution.

Brazil, which has sought to assert itself as a regional  leader under Lula, has backed Zelaya from the outset but was  reluctant to take a leading role in a crisis outside its  traditional sphere of influence in South America.

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