Brazil on World Stage; Economic, Olympics Success Being Eclipsed by Zelaya Flap?

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 13, 2009 | Go to article overview

Brazil on World Stage; Economic, Olympics Success Being Eclipsed by Zelaya Flap?


Byline: Luis Vieira, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil -- To the outside world, Brazil appears on a roll. In recent weeks, the country has beaten out Spain, Japan and the United States to become the venue for the 2016 Summer Olympics - the first South American country to host the games.

Brazil has taken an increasingly important place in world economic deliberations as a member of the Group of 20 industrial and developing economies. Its domestic economy appears to be recovering from crisis faster than many others.

But Brazil's decision to give refuge Sept. 21 to the ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, in the Brazilian Embassy in that Central American nation has aroused controversy and concern about whether Brazil is acting on principle or trying to curry favor with the other Latin power, Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, is a strong supporter of Mr. Zelaya.

Peruvian pundit Alvaro Vargas Llosa said Brazil was helping Mr. Zelaya to bolster its own standing in the Americas.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has maintained a dual political-ideological persona during most of his term, Mr. Vargas Llosa said. While cooperating with Washington, he has also kept an old Brazilian tradition of counterbalancing U.S. influence in the region and trying to emerge as a regional power.

He obviously thinks the alliance with the left helps him in that regard, too, he said.

Mr. Vargas Llosa , a specialist in Latin American politics and author of a book, Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, said he believed Mr. Chavez was the key international factor in Zelaya's clandestine return and that Lula was closely informed by Chavez about what was going on. [Mr. Lula da Silva] agreed to play that role.

Brazilian Foreign Ministry officials deny that their government is carrying out Venezuelan directives and say Brazil could not refuse sanctuary to Mr. Zelaya, whose ouster has been deemed illegal by the Organization of American States (OAS). The Obama administration has also called for Mr. Zelaya's reinstatement.

Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told Brazil's Globo News that the country had no role in slipping Mr. Zelaya back into Honduras but had allowed Zelaya to enter the embassy, and it is helping the dialogue.

Everybody is free to think what [he] wants. …

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