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Honduras apologizes after expelling Brazil consul

January 31st, 2010

Manuel Zelaya

Honduras’ new government fired its top immigration official Friday after a Brazilian diplomat was denied entry into the country.

The government offered apologies to Brazil after immigration officials gave “undignified treatment” to consul Francisca Francinette Melo when she arrived in Honduras earlier in the day.

The interior and justice minister, Africo Madrid, said the Brazilian diplomat arrived on a flight from Miami but was denied entry and put on another flight back to the United States.

He said Nelson Willy Mejia, the head of Honduras’ immigration agency, was dismissed because of the incident.

Madrid said the immigration agency apparently acted on standing orders left over from the administration of interim president Roberto Micheletti, who left office Wednesday when President Porfirio Lobo was sworn in. Micheletti was named by Congress to fill in after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup June 28 in dispute over changing the constitution.

“The foreign minister has expressed the most sincere apology to the people and government of Brazil, and the international community, for this incident,” Madrid said.

Lobo is trying to re-establish diplomatic relations damaged by the removal of Zelaya, who took refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, leading to a bitter breakdown in relations between the two nations.

Madrid said he hoped Melo would return, noting that “this action could place at risk Honduras’ policies and international position.”

Brazil was one of the strongest critics of Zelaya’s ouster, which was widely condemned around the world.

Brazil and many other Latin American nations also have said that Lobo’s election in a November vote lacked legitimacy because the elections were held under the coup-installed government.

The military flew Zelaya into exile, but he slipped back into the country in late September and holed up in Brazil’s embassy while trying unsuccessfully to head off the election of his successor. Zelaya left the country Wednesday after Lobo’s inauguration.

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