The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind-the-Scenes Finagling by State Department Stonewallers?By: COHA Research Associate Michaela D'Ambrosio
U.S. Corporate Interests at Work
Who were these outside officials who may have been involved in the planning and execution of the coup and what other possibly compromising actions may they have been associated with in recent months? Evidence points to Senator John McCain, Otto Reich, the heavily ideological policy advisor on Latin America for the McCain campaign, and Robert Carmona-Borjas, a Venezuelan lawyer, columnist and academic, all of whom may have had significant financial and politicized ties to the U.S. telecommunications industry.
U.S. Administration’s Knowledge Prior to the Coup
One also may speculate how much foreknowledge the present U.S. administration had over the planning and implementation of the coup. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs Thomas Shannon and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly were in Honduras the week prior to the coup, meeting with figures who later participated in the ousting of Zelaya.
Somewhat questionable behavior was also displayed by current U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens and former Ambassador John Negroponte. Llorens is on record as stating that, “One cannot violate the constitution in order to create another constitution,”(Eva Golinger, Washington and the Coup in Honduras: Here is the Evidence). This chiding of Zelaya is based on a false inference that he was contemplating altering the constitution in order to extend his own term, when his call for a referendum was meant to stage a consultation with the electorate in the future to discuss extending upon the one presidential term.
Following the coup, when asked by journalist Allan Fisher if he had previous knowledge of the events that took place on June 28, Llorens replied with a laugh, “No, no, not really”(Belén Fernández, U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens Discloses Secrets of the Honduran Coup). The somewhat flip nature of his reply calls into question how much U.S. officials actually knew about the planned coup. His predecessor as ambassador, several decades before, John Negroponte, shares Llorens’ casual disposition regarding Democratic niceties. Negroponte, who is famous for his selective amnesia when it came to recalling the details of his knowledge of the operations of Honduran death squads in the 1980’s during the period of the U.S.-Contra War against the Sandinistas, had visited Honduras just prior to the coup to discuss with Zelaya his opposition to turning the U.S. airbase at Palmerola into a civilian airport. He used this same trip as an opportunity to sit down with future coup leader Roberto Micheletti and other opposition members. Evidence pointing to U.S. officials having prior awareness of the coup is difficult to ignore.
Confusion as a Result of the Obama Administration’s Reaction
Finally, we are left to ponder the confusing position and the multiple shifts taken by the Obama administration over the possibility of U.S. involvement, or at least knowledge, of the oncoming coup and the State Department’s adamant insistence that unlike almost every other member of the OAS, it would not withdraw its ambassador from Tegucigalpa, nor cut off all assistance to the de facto regime. By stonewalling the issue, Washington gave immeasurably aid to the coup regime, and weakened the likelihood that the constitutionalist president of Honduras would be allowed to return.
Why did the administration wait more than two months to suspend a significant amount of aid to the interim government, which provided the Micheletti administration with precious time to consolidate its rule and use up much of the remaining period that Zelaya had left in his presidency? And why has there still been no formal recognition that June 28 was a military coup, which is a blatant violation of democracy? Perhaps these questions can be partially explained by the economic and strategic interests of those individuals and corporations referred to above. Moreover, Zelaya’s increasing use of Chavista-like rhetoric and image as a twenty-first century Bolivarian tribune, proved deeply disturbing to Washington policy makers. We are left asking the question whether it was an illusion that the Obama administration would be the New Jerusalem for progressive interests in the Americas. After witnessing the meager elements of its Cuba policy, its snarling indifference to Venezuela, and its languorous deportment to the coup makers in Honduras, we may be witnessing what could be the third term of the Bush administration.
An abbreviated version of this article will be appearing in the next issue of Interconnect, a newsletter working to build the Latin American solidarity movement.