Brazil asks for emergency U.N. meeting on Honduras, report says

Honduran troops are in force near the Brazilian Embassy on Tuesday in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Brazil wants an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the situation at its embassy in Honduras, where the ousted Honduran president has been holed up since returning to his country, the official Brazilian news agency reported.

The Honduran government isolated the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa by cutting water, power and phone lines to the building, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed to reporters Tuesday in Washington. Brazil’s foreign minister, Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim, called the action a “very serious” move that violated international law. Police said that utilities were turned off in the area surrounding the embassy to discourage looting after supporters of ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya converged in front of the building Tuesday. Maria Luiza Viotti, Brazil’s chief representative to the United Nations, asked for the Security Council meeting Tuesday, the Agencia Brasil news agency reported. About 100 people remained inside the embassy Tuesday night, many of them supporters and friends of Zelaya, Nunes Amorim said. The Brazilian foreign minister said he spoke with Zelaya and asked him not to use inflammatory language.

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Likewise, Kelly said, “The United States calls on all parties to remain calm and avoid actions that might provoke violence in Honduras and place individuals at risk or harm. We urge that all parties refrain from actions that would lead to further unrest.” Kelly said that the American Embassy in Tegucigalpa had closed, but U.S. diplomats remained in contact with both sides in the conflict. Honduras sent a letter to the Brazilian authorities Tuesday asking them either to give Zelaya asylum in their country or to turn him over to Honduran authorities. Zelaya faces charges of violating the constitution relating to a proposed referendum that was at the center of his ouster. “Unless the government of Brazil proposes another solution, its obligation is to turn him over to the relevant Honduran authorities with urgency,” the letter said. The Honduran government extended a nationwide curfew to 36 hours Tuesday as the country awaited the consequence of Zelaya’s surprise return. The curfew was scheduled to be lifted Wednesday morning. Zelaya, a centrist whose politics took a strong turn to the left once in office, was ousted in a military-backed coup in June. Despite increasing political, diplomatic and economic isolation, the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti has steadfastly resisted pressure to allow Zelaya to return to power. Micheletti maintains that Zelaya’s removal was not a coup but a constitutional transfer of power, and Micheletti thwarted two public attempts by Zelaya to return to his homeland. When Zelaya suddenly appeared inside the Brazilian Embassy on Monday, it caught everyone by surprise, even Brazilians, Nunes Amorim told CNN en Espaol. In response, Micheletti’s government ordered a curfew beginning Monday evening. Many pro-Zelaya supporters ignored the call and demonstrated outside the Brazilian Embassy. Police dispersed about 2,500 demonstrators Tuesday without causing any deaths, Micheletti said in a televised statement. But a doctor said at least 80 people were admitted to an area hospital with injuries, Marcial Torres, a Honduran journalist for the newspaper La Tribuna, told CNN. Most were released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, Torres said. After the curfew was announced Monday, the government extended it once until Tuesday evening and then again to 6 a.m. Wednesday. The result was a nearly deserted city blanketed by what Torres called a “tense calm.” Uncertainty was fueling the tension in Honduras, Torres said. Uncertainty of what Zelaya, who said he returned for “homeland, restitution or death,” has planned, and how Micheletti, who has held his ground against international pressure, will respond. “The country is paralyzed,” Torres said. Supermarkets, banks, gas stations and public transportation were closed down as were schools and universities. All flights in and out of the country were canceled Tuesday, after all four of Honduras’ international airports also were closed. The United States and Brazil have said they support dialogue between the two sides, centered on the San Jose Accord, an agreement negotiated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. But in an interview with local network Televicentro, Micheletti said Zelaya’s sudden appearance would not revive negotiations. Soldiers removed Zelaya in a June 28 coup after he tried to hold an election that day on a measure to allow a president to run for a second consecutive term. The measure would have asked Hondurans whether they wanted to place a referendum on the November presidential ballot, which would convene a constitutional assembly to consider changing presidential term limits. Zelaya’s term ends in January, and he would not have been subject to any measures adopted by the constitutional assembly. The nation’s Supreme Court ruled the June ballot initiative was illegal, and congress had decreed Zelaya couldn’t hold it. It was not publicly known Tuesday how Zelaya got into the country, and he declined to provide details, only telling CNN en Espaol that it was a 15- to 16-hour trip he took “with the help of Hondurans.”