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Honduras Responds to Brazilian Threats by Suspending Civil Rights

September 28th, 2009
Honduras Police

Honduras Police

The government of Honduras added some dramatic color to its faceoff with Brazil this Sunday warning Brasília that the Brazilian government will lose its diplomatic immunity in 10 days if it doesn’t do one of two things: hand over deposed president Manuel Zelaya to a Honduran tribunal or grant the ousted leader asylum in Brazil.

The last threat was in response to Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who earlier, from Venezuela, talked tough saying he wouldn’t comply with any Honduran ultimatum.

But more dramatic than anything was Honduras decision to suspend for 45 days some constitutional rights. A just-issued presidential decree restricts freedom of circulation and expression and public gatherings are forbidden.

The edict orders the closing of all public institutions taken by demonstrators as well as of media outlets that offend human dignity, civil servants or violate the law. People considered suspect can be detained by the military forces.

On Saturday, the de-facto government of Roberto Micheletti had threatened Brazil with “additional measures” if in ten days it didn’t heed Honduras demand to take Zelaya out of the country or deliver him to the Honduran Justice. Itamaraty, the Brazilian foreign ministry, told reporters that it wouldn’t even respond to the intimidation because it didn’t recognize the legitimacy of the Micheletti administration.

The leadership in Tegucigalpa took several steps this weekend showing that it won’t be intimidated by Brazil either. They seem to be getting tougher. Besides giving Brazil a ten-day ultimatum, the Micheletti government demanded that Spain, Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico, which broke relations with Honduras, return their diplomatic credentials.

Those countries were also ordered to remove all symbols that identify them as having diplomatic status from the buildings they used. The Honduran government has also expelled four OAS (Organization of American States) representatives who tried to enter the country Sunday.

Honduran authorities say they want Zelaya to answer to some crimes, including treason. Until Saturday, however, they were denying that they would invade the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa in order to arrest the deposed leader.

Brazilian congressmen are planning to go Tuesday to Honduras on a mission. Their objective, they say, is to find out how are conditions inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Since Brazil has cut its relations with Honduras the legislators intend to use an Air Force jet to fly to a neighboring country and then take a commercial flight to Honduras.

It’s doubtful that the Micheletti administration will let a Brazilian military plane in when Brasília doesn’t recognize that government.

Micheletti’s main complaint is that the Brazilian embassy has become a Zelaya headquarters to instigate violence in the country.

Carlos Lopez Contreras, Honduras’s interim foreign minister, argued that Honduras did not defy the international community when it denied entry to OAS representatives. “They had been warned to not come to Honduras now,” he said.

This Monday will mark the third month that Zelaya was removed from the presidency and the government is getting ready to clamp down on protests against the de-facto regime.

Zelaya contributed to raise the climate of tension by asking his supporters to launch a final offensive to return him to power. According to religious leader Andres Tamayo, rural workers from around the country are marching towards the capital Tegucigalpa. .

“A national call was made to farmers and workers from other sectors to gather in Tegucigalpa and some have already started those demonstrations. Farmers are traveling on their own or using public transportation, because if they come in groups, the police and the Army will stop them in checking points.”

In a communiqué Saturday night Zelaya told his followers: “We are making a patriotic call to resistance in all national territory.”

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