Lula faces criticism in Brazil over Honduras role

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s government is facing rising criticism at home over its handling of the Honduran crisis as senior lawmakers accuse it of allowing the ousted president to use its embassy as a political platform.

Manuel Zelaya, who was toppled as Honduran president by a coup in June, has virtually taken over the Brazilian embassy with dozens of supporters and has given numerous interviews to foreign and domestic media.

His sudden return from exile a week ago triggered violent protests in the capital Tegucigalpa and placed Brazil at the centre of the Honduran power struggle and an international diplomatic crisis.

Government and opposition legislators in Brazil’s Congress have urged President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to curtail Zelaya’s political engagement in the embassy.

“Zelaya’s political activities are unacceptable. They weaken Brazil’s position and international image,” Eduardo Azeredo, head of the Senate foreign relations committee, told Reuters.

Brazil should formally grant Zelaya political asylum, pull him out of the country and possibly bring him to Brazil, Azeredo said. Brazil would still be seen as defending a democratically-elected leader without being directly involved in the dispute, he said.

Former president and current Senate chief Jose Sarney, one of Lula’s most important allies, also criticized the government’s position.

“There’s a certain exaggeration in transforming the embassy into a campaign headquarters. This excess is not good for Brazil or Manuel Zelaya,” said Sarney, who said the embassy must abide by the rule of nonintervention in a country’s domestic affairs.

Honduras’ de facto government has given Brazil 10 days to grant Zelaya asylum and take him out of the country or hand him over for prosecution, but Lula says he will ignore the deadline.

Brazil’s major newspapers have run critical editorials and almost daily caricatures, mocking Lula’s perceived leniency with Zelaya.

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