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Hardline Brazil Hints It Might Cave In on Its Honduras Position

December 1st, 2009

lula_estorilHonduras’s president elect Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo struck a conciliatory tone the day after being chosen to lead its country. In need of the world’s good will after the previous president was ousted generating a series of international boycotts Lobo talked about doing everything he can to get Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to recognize his government.

“I wanted to be able to call president Lula today,” he told reporters this Monday, November 30, in his first press conference following his Sunday victory. “We will call looking for him as many times as necessary so that he will comprehend and understand us.”

Lobo has already talked to several Latin American leader including Oscar Arias, the president of Costa Rica, José Miguel Insulza, the Organization of American States secretary general and also the presidents of El Salvador and Guatemala, Mauricio Funes and Álvaro Colom respectively.

The new president was very clear that there is only one nation that’s really important and it’s not Brazil: “Although all the nations are important, there is no doubt that the most important country is the United States.” It’s to the US that Honduras sends 40% of all its exports. Besides, about 1 million Hondurans live in the US, from where they send much of the money that moves the country’s economy.

Due to pressure mainly from Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva the leaders participating in Portugal in the Ibero-American Summit were not able to issue a communiqué on the Honduran elections on Monday. The text being negotiated should condemn what is seen as coup d’état by those who overthrew president Manuel Zelaya but not the elections held on Sunday.

Enrique Iglesias, the Ibero-American secretary general, said that he is “optimistic” regarding the tone of the final declaration. “We wish to know the meaning of Porfirio Lobo’s election,” stated Iglesias.

The Ibero-American summit brought out in the open the split of the international community on what is happening in Honduras. President Oscar Arias after defending the elections and recognizing the new president charged the Brazilian government with incoherence since it accepted without questions the results of the Iranian elections:

“The are many countries from the international community that accept the elections in Iran, which were questioned, elections we know were not clean, that everybody knows were not transparent,” he stated.

Brazil saw the generalized accusation as a personal one and Marco Aurélio Garcia, Lula’s adviser for international affairs called the charges without merit, adding:

“This comparison, apart from indelicate, is unfound. The elections in Iran were summoned by the Iranian government, over which there wasn’t any contention. The elections in Honduras were summoned by a government responsible for a coup. If he wishes to make a comparison president Arias should look for a more consistent example.”

Later Garcia hinted that the Brazilian government might be trying to find a way out of the dead-end it has placed itself in. In a softer tone, very different from recent declaration from Brasília, the presidential aide said that from now on relations with Honduras would depend on the behavior of the president elect.

For Garcia there were two important points that Brazil would be paying attention to: the respect of president Lobo for the OAS and the percentage of voters that went to the ballot boxes.

“It will be very important the attitude of Mr. Porfirio Lobo, who was elected in this election, regarding the OAS, if he is going to talk to the secretary general of the OAS, if he is going to consider the OAS as a legitimate negotiator, in contrast with how the coupist government of Mr. Micheletti acted. This collection of signs and gestures is what is going to allow us to evaluate the situation and define what will be the next steps,” explained Garcia.

“We are getting out of an election that took place yesterday, we don’t even know the turnout rate. Some say that the abstention rate was as much as 70%, others say that it was 55% and we need to analyze that, because this is going to influence on legitimizing the process.”

Garcia added that, in spite of considering the election illegitimate, the Brazilian government couldn’t just act indifferently if there are data that show “a very heavy popular participation”. “A thing is for us to consider the elections illegitimate as a procedure, another thing is to disregard it as a political fact.”

The U.S. State Department called Sunday’s election an important but insufficient step, to end the political crisis in Tegucigalpa. U.S. officials have stopped short of recognizing opposition candidate Porfirio Lobo as Honduras’s next president.

But it recognized that Lobo had an “ample victory” and praised the voting as having met international standards for fairness and transparency.

The US says Honduras must still take steps toward political reconciliation before it can rejoin the community of nations.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela said that more steps were needed given the seriousness of the June 28 coup:

“For the countries of the Hemisphere and for the United States, to work towards the restoration of Honduras to the Organization of American States (OAS) later on, Honduras must do more than just this election,” said Valenzuela.

“It must follow a process of national reconciliation through a government of national unity, and that’s what we’re urging the Honduran leadership to engage in. The people of Honduras want nothing less,” he concluded.

Written by Émerson Luiz

http://www.brazzilmag.com


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