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Latin American Leaders Support Zelaya in UN Debate


Latin American leaders pressed for the return to office of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in their U.N. General Assembly speeches on Wednesday, as the deposed leader remained holed up in Brazil's embassy in Tegucigalpa. In his U.N. speech, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva demanded protection for his country's mission in Honduras.

The ouster of the Honduran president in June was condemned by all other member countries of the Organization of American States, or OAS. And U.N. General Assembly policy statements by several Latin American leaders on Wednesday made clear that diplomatic support for Mr. Zelaya has not diminished.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose country by tradition opens the annual General Assembly debate, warned that unless international support for Mr. Zelaya is able to force his return to office, Latin America could see a return to an era when military coups were commonplace.

"Unless there is more political will, we will see more coups, like the one which toppled the constitutional president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, who has been granted refuge in Brazil's embassy in Tegucigalpa since Monday," said Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. "The international community demands that Mr. Zelaya immediately return to the presidency of his country, and must be alert to insure the inviolability of Brazil's diplomatic mission in the capital of Honduras."

The left-leaning Mr. Zelaya was arrested and deported by the Honduran military on June 28, as he sought to arrange a referendum that could have kept him in office beyond the end of his term in January.

Honduran authorities contend that his ouster and replacement by interim President Roberto Micheletti was carried out in accordance with the country's laws. But that position was rejected by all other OAS member countries, including the United States.

In their U.N. messages, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez also demanded Mr. Zelaya's immediate restoration to power, with the Chilean leader saying Honduras' planned November elections should go forward only with, in her words, the country's "constitutional president leading this process."

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner protested water and power cutoffs this week to the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa and a local television station that reported Mr. Zelaya's return as well as a crackdown on his supporters.

She said the action by Tegucigalpa authorities was misbehavior that not even the 1980s' military dictatorships in South America would have engaged in.

"Not even in Chile under the dictatorship of General [Augusto] Pinochet, nor in Argentina under the dictatorship of General [Jorge] Videla - perhaps the most cruel dictatorships in Latin America - even then, we didn't see similar conduct with embassies that were actively working to give shelter to refugees," said Cristina Kirchner.

Ms. Kirchner warned that if multi-lateral political action fails to return democracy to Honduras, it would set "a very serious precedent" in a region where in past decades military regimes killed thousands of opponents and exiled many others.

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that Brazil has asked the U.N. Security Council to meet to discuss the safety and security of Mr. Zelaya and Brazilian facilities in Honduras, and that the United States, holder of the council's rotating presidency, is working on that request.

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