Brazil plays down Indonesia's threats

Brazil plays down Indonesia's threats
Indonesian ambassador to Brazil Toto Riyanto (C) speaks to journalists in Jakarta.

JAKARTA - The Indonesian government warned Brazil on Monday that it would pay dearly for its refusal to accept the credentials of Indonesia's ambassador to Brazil.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, however, said her country's trade value with Indonesia was less than 1 per cent of Brazil's total trade last year.

Indonesia said Brazil's move was an inappropriate and regrettable response to the execution of a Brazilian drug convict last month and suggested that Indonesia would reevaluate the ongoing procurement of primary weapons defence systems from the South American country.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said he perceived Brazil's decision to suddenly postpone accepting the credentials of Indonesia's ambassador to Brazil, Toto Riyanto, as "inappropriate".

The President ordered Toto to immediately return to Jakarta shortly after President Rousseff's refusal to meet with Toto on Friday. The diplomat has already returned to Jakarta.

The Brazilian president was outraged after her appeals to save drug smuggler Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira from the firing squad last month were rejected, including a personal telephone conversation with Jokowi. Despite her efforts, the Brazilian was executed along with an other five convicted drug traffickers.

Another Brazilian national, Rodrigo Muxfeldt Gularte, will soon face the firing squad, along with 10 other convicts, including three Indonesian murderers.

"Well, I perceive such things as inappropriate conduct," Jokowi said concerning Rousseff's move on the sidelines of a visit to Pandeglang in Banten, as quoted by Antara news agency.

Jokowi, however, refused to give a definitive answer to journalists who asked him about whether he would freeze diplomatic ties between Indonesia and Brazil, saying "well, we'll see about that later".

Jokowi met Rousseff for the first time in Brisbane, Australia when they attended the G20 Summit late last year. They will meet again in Istanbul this October for the same summit.

Separately, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the government was reevaluating the ongoing procurement of a squadron of 16 units of Brazil-made EMB-314 Super Tucano aircraft for Indonesia's Air Force.

Indonesia also ordered multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) from Brazil, an order that might also be cancelled.

On a separate occasion, Toto told the press that he would meet with Jokowi to debrief him on the incident in Brazil.

According to Toto, on Feb. 19, he received an invitation letter to a ceremony to submit his credentials on Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. A protocol officer came to pick him up and take him to the Brazilian palace for the ceremony, during which five other ambassadors submitted their credentials.

However, Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira later invited him to a separate room and told him that his credential submission was postponed.

"He only said that my credential submission was postponed. I do not know how long it will last. However, I believe we all know that it has something to do with the plan to [execute] another Brazilian national," said Toto.

Meanwhile, international media organisations quoted President Rousseff playing down the significance of her refusal to receive the Indonesian diplomat's credentials and its economic impact on the country's relations.

According to her, Brazil's trade with Indonesia was only valued at about US$4 billion(S$5.4 million), or less than 1 per cent of Brazil's total $454 billion in foreign trade last year.

Last year, exports reached $1.3 billion and Indonesia suffered a $1 billion deficit with.

"We think it is important for there to be an evolution in the situation, for us to have some clarity," Rousseff said on Friday. "What we did was delay the acceptance of his credentials, that's all", she said when explaining her decision about Toto.

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