Thursday, July 8, 2010

Getting at the Truth of the Coup: Tiempo coverage of new documentary

Honduras' Tiempo today published an extraordinary article: extraordinary because it promotes a documentary, Detras del Golpe, that opens up a Pandora's box about the conspiracy that led to the coup d'Etat against President José Manuel Zelaya.

It sketches in connections that lead to the right wing in the US and Venezuela. These involve a very messy set of legal proceedings concerning practices in the Honduran phone company (Hondutel). This case has been used by opponents of Zelaya to discredit him and his administration. The principal figures in this story are Roberto Carmona, a Venezuelan who participated in the abortive coup against Hugo Chavez, and Otto Reich, US Subsecretary of State for Latin American Affairs under George Bush.

The story is so complicated that we hesitate to even open up this topic; but that makes it even more remarkable that a Honduran newspaper not only advertised that this documentary exists, but gave such a complete account of what it brings to light. Here are some highlights from the Tiempo coverage:
A new documentary about the coup d'Etat in Honduras opens up the participation of Otto Reich and Roberto Carmona Borjas in the conspiracy that ended with the overthrow of the constitutional president Manuel Zelaya, on 28-6-2009....

[The documentary cites Carmona and Reich denying they have any contacts]

"Carmona Borjas is a public figure in Honduras because supposedly he has an NGO that is called the Arcadia Foundation...Incorporated in July of 2007, specifically for the media campaign against the government of Manuel Zelaya" [quoting Venezuelan lawyer and investigator Arturo J. Viscarra]...

"The interest of the lawyer Carmona in Honduras is very unusual, because it is not known why a Venezuelan golpista lawyer, that has gone into exile for participating in a coup [in Venezuela], reappears afterward in Honduras speaking about corruption in the state communications business (Hondutel)", noted Viscarra.

"Roberto Carmona begins a relationship with Hondutel through a business in Miami 'LD Telecommunications'. He signs a contract for a type of service. There is a dispute about money because he wants to blackmail Hondutel, but he doesn't get away with it, so then a plan is born to destabilize the government of Zelaya accusing it of corruption in Hondutel" added the investigator.

In an interview for the documentary Carmona argues "what I did was represent the business to be able to ascertain the facts about corruption in Hondutel, that was what permitted me to open the door to bring proceedings, to be able to see how a contract for telecommunications was made"....

According to Patricia Rodas, ex-chancellor of the government of Manuel Zelaya, "the day of the coup Robert Carmona was already in Honduras staying in the hotel zone San Martin [in Tegucigalpa]. Staying in a room under another name, he was directing the operations of the coup".

The documentary includes a communication kept up between Robert Carmona and a Honduran official in which they reach an agreement on the media campaign that would be carried out.... [This Honduran official is interviewed and initially denies the documented contact but later confirms it]

The conspiracy of Reich and Carmona is confirmed in interviews with Manuel Zelaya and Rodolfo Pastor, ex charge d'affaires of the Honduran Embassy in the US.

"Robert Carmona, is the lawyer for Otto Reich, when Reich went to Honduras to sign a contract with Hondutel to arrange a telephone company, Carmona was his representative" asserted Zelaya.

"They were interested in having Hondutel opened for private investment. First they made a friendly approach, in which they even proposed a deal, when president Zelaya did not accept the proposals, then they began to attack him, from that moment you have a systematic attack on the part of Otto Reich and Carmona and the supposed Arcadia Foundation that was dedicated to make accusations of corruption" affirmed Pastor....

For her part, Bertha Oliva opines that "we do believe that Otto Reich did have a great deal of participation in the coup. He made visits before, during, and after the coup, never publicized, they were closed door".

Rodolfo Pastor notes that "he was here after the coup, both in Congress as well as present in the events where he tried to whitewash the coup, personally and with representatives"....

The supporters of the coup d'Etat have represented it as a home-grown reaction. But what has long been rumor in Honduras, and is explored in this documentary, is the role of right-wing individuals and organizations, with a mixture of ideological and economic motives to change the direction of Honduras. While there is little hope that the official "truth commission" will pursue these connections, until they are out in the open, they will be part of what divides Honduras and fuels suspicions about the coup d'Etat.

The documentary is important for that reason; but even more so, the willingness of a newspaper like Tiempo to publish these arguments.


Anonymous said...

They certainly seem to have archived it quickly. As of 2PM Eastern, it no longer appears among the stories featured in the El Pais section.

Also, even though I have just looked at the first 8 minutes, the documentary seems to be about a lot more than Otto Reich and Roberto Carmona Borjas. I wonder if the fact that the two are foreigners to Honduras makes it a bit safer to talk about them than the Hondurans who are mentioned.


RAJ said...

Yes, the documentary is about the entire situation. But the reason that Tiempo's coverage was particularly newsworthy is that acknowledging that the coup was not just a home-grown uprising of the righteous, and beginning to pull back the lid from box the right-wing nest of connections is hidden inside, are important acknowledgments of the broader context.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm always amazed when Tiempo covers anything, RAJ. Honduran journalists who report about the coup in anything less than adulatory tones seem to have the lifespan of fireflies, a matter that I'm sure has not been lost on Mr. Rosenthal.

Part II of the documentary ventures even deeper into the rat's nest.


Carina said...

The careful editing job of interviews isn't always beneficial and at times looks suspicionu. Take the case of Thomas Dine. He is listed as former AIPAC Director which is true. The only part of the interview they use deals with Israel, neocons, etc. However, assuming the Micheletti regime contacted Dine it was not becuase they lacked pro-Israel support. The concern was what do to with or in response to Resistence Radio given that it was the means of communication not supportive or tolerant of the coup, and blatantly opposed to it - and a great deal of the work was obviously false and blatantly slander. Dine's opinion would have been important in that he was the longest serving director of Radio Free Europe and routinely dealth with pro- and anti-government claims on airwaves in ocuntries with stringent protections for political figures.

RAJ said...

About Carina's comment: in a separate comment, she states that she is informing us for the fifth time that she is not Honduran.

Sorry not to have noticed in the barely intelligible, almost incoherent rants that pass for comments the previous four times she admitted she has no basis for her idiotic opinions about Honduras.

As for example this one. I truly have not the slightest idea what this comment is intended to mean. And to be utterly clear: I am not taking an unfair jab at a non-English speaker's use of the language. I can read all the sentences and they are basically grammatical; they just make absolutely no sense.

But, she Carina likes to complain about being censored (being very much unclear on what a blog is and is not) here it is. If anyone has a clue what she is on about here, feel free to comment. I won't be responding, though, since-- as with far too many of her posts-- this is one where she reaches back to pick a fight with something that is so not current one wonders what her beef is.

If she were Honduran, I would feel obliged to try to engage with her. As she is not, I feel no such obligation.

Carlos Tower said...

It is perhaps surprising that a Honduran newspaper did this, if one assumes that newspaper has no vested interest in the outcome. But, should we assume that? El Tiempo is not some objective 3rd-party source of information. The then Secretary General of the Liberal Party Jaime Rosenthal is the man in charge and his own failed presidential attempts pale in comparison to what he has spent trying to get his son (Yanni, a Zelaya minister who resigned in 2007) into that same office. Now that there are several recent blogs on the fate of that Liberal Party, it should not be a surprise that a former party leader with a relative expected on future ballots is trying to tap an audience his opponents (journalistic & political) routinely alienate. Though not front-page news, for many years Zelaya was Rosenthal's right hand man in the sense that Micheletti was Canahuati's right-hand man. That relationship soured when Rosenthal was, in theory, replaced or second-seated with Chavez and Yanni later resigned for related reasons - but that does not mean Rosenthal has given up the idea of the Presidency for his family. To view the Tiempo family as, suddenly, award winning journalists is to miss an important point in Honduran politics: media and politics always mix and truth for truth's sake is pretty much a foreign element. O.K., that is two points, but things are rarely ever what they seem and honesty isn't always honesty for honesty's sake. Coverage might be more than it seems.

RAJ said...

A comment on a blog comment is too short to cover the complexities of Liberal Party politics. I merely will note that there is no reason to ignore the fact that Tiempo advertised this documentary.

And again: I do not believe in the concept of "objectivity". Every news medium has a point of view. But I will argue that a newspaper has to report what is happening in the world. Honduran news media commit two classes of crimes against journalism: first, crimes of commission-- editorializing in news stories (e.g. the pervasive apostrophes used to derogate political opponents), printing lies, deliberately inciting hatred.

But they also commit crimes of omission-- especially, not telling people that things are happening. So this is worth noting.