Brazilian military police evicted 45 Vietnamese refugees from the gardens and front steps of the U.S. consulate here late this afternoon, but the Vietnamese later moved back onto the consulate grounds.
The refugees, who want visas to immigrate to the United States and financial help, locked arms and resisted police efforts to eject them after they moved back to the consulate this evening. Brazilian sympathizers brought them water, and they vowed to spend the night.
Before today's effort by military police to evict the demonstrators they had camped outside the consulate for a week under a yellow and red-striped South Vietnamese flag and misspelled banners reading "Who maded war in Vietnam?" and "We are the victims of U.S. betrayals in Indochina." After a heavy rain, five of 15 children in the group were hospitalized with fevers Sunday.
The consulate has denied the Vietnamese entry visas to the United States, and consular officials have denied requests for money on the grounds the refugees already have permanent resident visas in Brazil.
"We fight against the Communists, but the U.S. abandon us at the last hour when we were still on the battlefield," said one protester, Nguyen Ngoc Trang, 27, a South Vietnamese Army veteran.
"Brazil is good country, but we cannot raise our families on minimum salary."
Brazil's minimum salary is $25 a week. The five families in the sit-in are among 60 "boat people" who came to Brazil over the past two years after being rescued by Brazilian ships in the South China Sea.
Brazilian television and newspapers gave daily coverage to the protest which had transformed the cramped, but well-manicured grounds of the beachfront consulate into a refugee camp with men, women and children sleeping on cardboard and bamboo mats.
On the first day of the sit-in, the consulate released a note expressing "personal sympathy" for the Vietnamese, but in a note distributed today consular authorities said the demonstration "is unjustified and serves no purpose."
Consul Samuel Lupo said he was concerned about the building's security. The consulate's marble facade is still stained by a molotov cocktail thrown last month only a few hours after a Vietnamese picket line disbanded. Also last month, two people were injured when some Vietnamese broke into the Rio offices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, demanding more money.