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Brazil in Honduras: All Bark, No Teeth. Sole Aircraft Carrier Is Out of Commission

September 26th, 2009
Brazil's only aircraft carrier the São Paulo

Brazil's only aircraft carrier the São Paulo

Brazil has been playing superpower the whole week in Central America after having decided to shelter deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. President Lula has warned the government of Honduras to respect the integrity of the Brazilian diplomatic mission in the country.

President Micheletti has been apparently accommodating up to now. What can Brazil do, however, if the Honduran forces decide to storm the embassy? Brazilian experts in defense agree that is very little that the Lula administration can do to impose its will.

Brazil’s only aircraft carrier the São Paulo, built in 1960, would be useless. Twelve of the 14 planes carried by that war vessel, bought second hand from France in 2000, are not able to fly and there is no money to buy the spare parts they need.

It would take several weeks for the Brazilian Navy to arrive at the Honduran shores with a few modest war ships. While the US has 62 Marines guaranteeing the embassy in Brasília, Brazil has a single guard in its Honduran embassy, unarmed.

In a speech to the UN Security Council, in New York, this Friday, Brazilian Foreign minister Celso Amorim said that Brazil is “deeply worried” with the possibility that the acting government of Honduras may threaten the Brazilian embassy inviolability and might stage a military action to arrest deposed president Zelaya.

“This is not mere suspicion,” said the minister. “We have concrete evidence about this possibility.”

Amorim told his audience that an officer from the Honduran Justice went to the Brazilian embassy building with a search warrant but was denied entrance by the Brazilian workers there.

The minister also revealed that the de-facto government in Honduras sent a message to Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in which the Brazilian embassy is mentioned as “one of the facilities the Brazilian government still maintains in Tegucigalpa.’ The document seems to indicate that the embassy has lost its diplomatic status.

Amorim also denounced the intimidation used against Zelaya and some 70 people staying with him in the Embassy. The building has suffered intermittent cut of electricity, water and telephone. People inside the diplomatic compound have also been subject to loud music, in a maneuver similar to the one used by the United States when it captured dictator general Manuel Noriega in Panama when he was then sheltered at the Nicaraguan embassy.

Said Amorim “Since the day it started housing president Zelaya in its facilities, the Brazilian embassy has been surrounded It has been being subjected to harassment and intimidation acts by de-facto authorities. Water and electricity supply was interrupted and phone lines were cut. Communications through cellular phones were blocked. Equipment emitting disturbing sounds were installed just across the embassy.”

The minister also informed “access to food was severely restricted” and that “circulation of official embassy has been hindered”.

He revealed that the diplomat in charge of the embassy business, Francisco Catunda, cannot go from the embassy to his house, in Tegucigalpa, because the Honduran militaries do not allow anyone who leaves the embassy to return to it. Amorim says that’s what has happened to Catunda’s wife.

Zelaya complained that military men who surround the Brazilian embassy have been launching harmful gases inside the building.

In Brazil, the president’s Chief of Staff, Dilma Rousseff, told foreign correspondents that Brazil is working to find a fast solution to the Honduran crisis. She wouldn’t say how fast fast was though.

“We are going to make an effort to have this conflict solved the fastest way possible. through negotiations so that the president elect can return to his post,” said Rousseff.

She also insisted that what Brazil is offering Zelaya should be called “shelter” and not “refuge” or “asylum”.

Written by Francesco Neves

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