Military cordon around Zelaya haven

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya has for more than a week been holed up in the Brazilian embassy in the capital Tegucigalpa. Bruno Garcez of BBC Brasil reports on the Honduran military blockade outside the mission.

President Zelaya was ousted from his position last June, for proposing a vote on constitutional change which his opponents said could have opened the way for him to run for a possible second term.

He returned to Honduras covertly on 21 September and sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy along with an entourage of over 50 people.

The interim government has been angered by the spectacle of Mr Zelaya being allowed freely to use the embassy premises to orchestrate his vigorous campaign for reinstatement.

It says it has acted according to the law throughout this crisis, and has asked Brazil either to give Mr Zelaya formal political asylum or to hand him over.

Because of tensions with Mr Zelaya's supporters, the government has instructed the military to routinely block people carrying in anything they consider might be used in a threatening manner against the authorities.

Food only goes in once it has passed by sniffer dogs and has then been hand-searched by soldiers.

Most diplomatic staff at the Brazilian embassy - as well as family members of Mr Zelaya - face these procedures on a daily basis.

A few days ago, birthday cakes were being delivered to the Honduran first lady and were only allowed into the embassy after having been cut into several slices and approved by the soldiers' and their sniffer dogs.

On another occasion, without any explanation, the soldiers prevented a blender from entering the compound, assuming perhaps that it would be used for something more sinister than mixing up your average milkshake.



The military surrounding the embassy has also prevented mattresses and sleeping bags passing through the cordon, as well as quantities of alcohol from entering the building.

Mr Zelaya's daughter, 24-year-old Hortensia, was with her parents when the ousted leader turned the embassy into his improvised headquarters, setting the scene for what has now turned into a plot that would not be out of place in a Latin American soap opera.

Manuel Zelaya's daughter, Hortensia, acting as a go-between for her father, talks to reporters in Tegucigalpa
Hortensia Zelaya has spoke of harsh security being imposed at the embassy

Since she chose to leave the premises, in order to act as her father's go-between with the outside world, she has not always been allowed back in.

Once, she passed through the first military checkpoint - there are currently three in place - but could not proceed any further, so was forced to hand over the takeaways of fried chicken, rice and soft drinks she had brought for her family and friends.

"The situation inside [the embassy] is a bit harsh. People have no place to sleep, they are sleeping on the floor.

"We have been trying to bring medicine and food, but it costs a great deal... [the soldiers] are even making the dogs sniff it," said Mr Zelaya's daughter.

"And then the soldiers try to get their fingers in, to see if there is anything in there. It is terrible, but we do what we can."

The government has now re-connected electricity and water supplies to the embassy, but the building is still without telephone lines.

After initially having used tear gas against the Brazilian compound, in the first few days of the ousted president's stay, the interim government has since backtracked and lightened its tone.

It now says that it will make no attempt to enter the embassy, even after a self-imposed deadline set for next Tuesday expires.

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