Thursday, July 1, 2010

Honduran suspicions of US complicity in the coup (part one)

Adrienne Pine on provides links to new articles on the website of the Frente de Resistencia, along with audio links and emails circulating that relate to suspicions of US foreknowledge about the coup d'etat of June 28, 2009.

This is the kind of discussion that US commentators routinely reject out of hand as too fantastic to be given any attention.

But in my experience, the Hondurans who are taking these questions seriously are not impressionable: they include a wide range of highly educated people who find it hard to credit that the US was taken entirely by surprise and had no knowledge of the planned coup in time to intervene. This leads to the conclusion that the US did know, and chose to look the other way or even actively endorse the coup.

Concretely, people point to the various meetings Ambassador Hugo Llorens had with parties to the coup in the weeks leading up to June 28. The fact that the plane that illegally carried Manuel Zelaya to Costa Rica landed at Palmerola (Soto Cano) air base, where US forces are stationed, without encountering any reaction, is seen as particularly suspicious.

The current stories come from a new source: ex-Zelaya minister Rolando Valenzuela, who was fatally shot on June 17. The death has been reported as resulting from an argument of a personal nature with Carlos Yacaman, now being sought for the crime.

Shortly before his death, Valenzuela gave an interview to a San Pedro Sula radio station. And that is what has inspired the current return to the nagging question of what Hugo Llorens knew, and when he knew it.

Here are our translations of the first of two articles posted by the FNRP; the second will follow in its own blog post.

Regardless of how likely readers think it is that US officials were part of the planning of the coup, or knew in advance, we would underline that what matters here is that Hondurans in resistance have so much distrust of the US. There is a reason why the US-supplied map to put the coup behind is viewed skeptically: it is called history.

North American ambassador did know about the coup and was part of the conspiracy

The North American ambassador accredited to Tegucigalpa, Hugo Llorens, did know about the coup d'Etat against Manuel Zelaya Rosales, the ex-minister of the Zelaya administration, Roland Valenzuela, revealed days before his death, in an interview broadcast by the journalist Ernesto Alonso Rojas, in a local radio station of the city of San Pedro Sula.

Fifteen days after the assassination of the ex-minister of the National Program of Sustainable Development (PRONADERA), at the hands of the businessman Carlos Yacaman Meza, the interview has circulated on different networks on the Internet, in which he signals in a clear way that the North American ambassador participated directly in the planning of the coup d'Etat and expressed his fear that he could be assassinated for the interview.

The interview, taped the first of May and broadcast by Radio Internacional of San Pedro Sula, regained importance after President Zelaya accused the US of forming part of the coup d'Etat, and Ambassador Llorens appeared denying his participation.

But Valenzuela related in detail how the Ambassador did participate in the coup and how the 10th of June of 2009, the then-president of the National Congress Roberto Micheletti, converted into dictator the 28th of the same month, sent the draft of the decree that would remove Zelaya from office to the North American ambassador to ask his opinion.

According to the story of the ill-fated ex-minister, despite the fact that it was still the 10th of June, the decree carried the date the 28th of June, with the following message for the ambassador, "Ambassador Llorens, this is the decree that Micheletti delivered to me, some opinions are lacking but it requires your immediate opinion."

Valenzuela pointed out as well that the decree sent to the ambassador carried the signature of the congress members Ricardo Rodriguez, Liberal party member and present Sub Procurador of the Republic, Toribio Aguilera Coello, PINU member presently congress member, Rolando Dubon Buezo, Nacional party member and still congressman, Rigoberto Chan Castillo, Nacional party member now secretary of Congress and Gabo Alfredo Jalil Mejia who served as Minister of Defense in the Micheletti regime.

In accord with the interview the person who supposedly sent the decree to the North American ambassador was Jacqueline Foglia Sandoval, a Honduran ex-military, graduate of West Point, who served as attaché of defense in the Honduran embassy in Washington, and as a member of COHEP (Honduran Council of Private Enterprise), among other organizations.

"What did ambassador Llorens have to do walking around, getting involved in the internal affairs of Honduras, giving opinions on a draft document that is the removal of president Zelaya" the ex minister asked in the conversation with the journalist Rojas.

Hillary Clinton promised to restore Zelaya

Valenzuela went further by affirming that the North American Secretary of State promised Zelaya to restore him in power on the first visit that he made to Washington after being overthrown.

"Hillary Clinton on the first visit of president Zelaya swore to president Zelaya that they were going to restore him and afterward they went looking for a position so that the dictatorship could perpetuate itself in power".

Valenzuela affirmed that the restitution of President Zelaya did not happen, "because the gringos betrayed us, because the gringos always betray us... they play a role, saying to us that they are going to aid us and on the other hand they say to Micheletti, hang on, Micheletti, hang on, we aren't going to remove you".

They never restored Zelaya.

Who is Jacqueline Foglia Sandoval

Foglia is singled out by Valenzuela, as the person charged with coordinating and operating the coup d'Etat, "she is the one that coordinated what would be delivered to each one of those that served as executors of the coup, what they should do and say, and what they wanted them to declare", and proposed as an example what she said to the then-Procurador General of the Republic, Rosa América Miranda de Galo.

"Attorney this is the cuarta urna decree, it is published now, you have to declare it illegal".

The 11th of May of 2009, the Court of Administrative Disputes in Tegucigalpa, declared the petition to nullify the survey of the 28th of June presented by the Special Attorney Against Corruption, Henry Salgado, admissable. Three days later the Procuradora General, Rosa América Miranda, cleared it at trial, leaving defenseless the government of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

Foglia Sandoval also is singled out in the report "The Facts Speak for Themselves" of the Commissioner of Human Rights, Leo Valladares Lanza, of being part of the battalion 3-16, which in the 1980s was in charge of assassinations and disappearances of Hondurans.

Enjoying the luxury of Dubai the overthrow of Zelaya started

The ill-fated minister revealed how six major businessmen came together at a fair in the city of Dubai, in the bar of a hotel, saying that "Zelaya has to be removed, we cannot support him anymore".

According to the declarations of Valenzuela the conspiracy to remove President Zelaya began in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in the distant Middle East, immediately after the project of the cuarta urna was announced.

A group of businessmen that were participating in an international fair, who Valenzuela did not identify, decided in that meeting that they were going to remove Zelaya from power and then they articulated and paid a lobbyist in Washington, identified only with the last name of Smith, to begin to discredit the government of Zelaya, a job that cost them four million dollars.

Perhaps Valenzuela was referring to the firm of lobbyists Smith, Dawson and Andrews with its headquarters in Washington.

According to the story, it was in the same reunion that the decided to name Jacqueline Foglia as the coordinator and person in charge of logistics to prepare the overthrow of Zelaya.

Marcia Villeda faked the signature of president Zelaya

In one part of the interview, Valenzuela mentions how the coup d'Etat was planned in congress and in one of the many meetings of the conspiracy, the then and present congress member Marcia Facusse de Villeda was ordered to obtain documents for the accusations against Zelaya.

And about the falsification of president Zelaya, Valenzuela said without subterfuge that it was Marcia Facusse de Villeda who was charged with faking the signature of the president.

In the extensive interview that Valenzuela gave days before his death, he confessed that when Zelaya named him as minister of Pronadera, he knew nothing about agriculture; he criticized the role of the fuel transnationals, the system of administration of justice, as well as the role of personages such as Carlos Flores, who he singled out as involved directly in the coup d'Etat.

Valenzuela will not be able to testify before the Truth Commission because of his assassination in cold blood, in the city of San Pedro Sula, but without knowing his declarations it will be a good contribution to the knowledge of the truth, although now, Valenzuela is dead.


Xilip said...

Cross posted on a new Central America solidarity blog:

Thanks for the translation!

Anonymous said...

You know from my analysis that I think it's very likely that elements of the US government were behind the coup, and that Llorens was well-aware of what was happening. But I am left nonplussed by this article.

First, there are a couple of typos that make reading this post confusing (the coup was in 2009, not 2010, and Valenzuela was murdered in 2010, whereas the text makes it sound as if he was murdered before the coup).

The interview leaves many questions unanswered. How did Valenzuela learn about the meeting in Dubai? How does he know about the existence of a draft impeachment resolution? Why would a draft have signatures rather than signature lines, and why would it be given a specific date? How does he know of Hillary Clinton's promise to Zelaya? Mysterious documents delivered by a bartender? Why is this emerging now rather than when it could have made a difference? Why has Zelaya not spoken of this? Certainly I may have missed something amid the inside baseball and the talkovers, but I didn't hear answers to these questions.

One can also play devil's advocate. What should a US ambassador do if approached for advice by one faction that wants to remove a president by due process? (yes, of course, morally and ethically he should say that the US does not involve itself in the internal affairs of another country except insofar as it involves international law, but as a practical matter, what should he do?)

I know that you are simply presenting the translation, for which I thank you, and are not endorsing Valenzuela's allegations.


RAJ said...

Reading both stories (I have not listened to the two hours of the interview), Valenzuela's knowledge came from the dossier of papers that was left by mistake at the bar of the Hotel San Martin in Tegucigalpa, picked up by someone there, and turned over to him (or someone else in the Zelaya camp).

I have now re-read both posts and see no reference to the documents being delivered by a bartender. The go-between Valenzuela identifies for the coup participants is Jacqueline Foglia Sandoval. The anonymous citizen who found the documents at the bar of the San Martin is not identified.

The implication is that the draft of the resolution was included in the dossier that was abandoned by mistake. I am about to write a post about what this document probably was, which explains why it was signed-- or at least, had this set of names on it.

Valenzuela was part of the Zelaya government, so his claim to know what Hillary Clinton said to Zelaya after the coup is in no way surprising. Zelaya has in fact said general things to the effect that Ambassador Llorens knew about the coup, and this interview is one of the first suggestions of possible sources of his belief.

Finally, thanks for the correction of my typo. But the narrative flow of the two articles, which is where the timeline of Valenzuela's murder can seem confusing, I have not altered; having decided to present these texts at all, I am presenting them in the form that is sparking reaction among Hondurans.

Again I underline: other concerned US citizens need to understand the deep level of distrust of the US that exists, because without such an understanding, our relationship with Honduras will continue to be shadowed by suspicions we are ignoring. Your reporting has been critical to this effort, of course, and I think it is up to people like you and me to now place these texts-- and the interview itself-- in context.

Anonymous said...

RAJ says, "I have now re-read both posts and see no reference to the documents being delivered by a bartender."

Yes. I inferred it from the interview, which I did listen to, but it could easily have been someone else in the bar. Either way, it's quite a tale. For a member of the Honduran military and a West Point graduate to forget sensitive papers in a bar is not impossible-- I remember all too well how John O'Neill was cashiered over leaving his briefcase unguarded-- but my eyebrows went up went I read that.

RAJ says, "Valenzuela was part of the Zelaya government, so his claim to know what Hillary Clinton said to Zelaya after the coup is in no way surprising."

My knowledge of Honduran politics is no more than an inch deep, but from Valenzuela's title, it sounded like he was a very junior member of the government. Of course, sometimes close advisers don't have lofty titles, and sometimes senior members of a government are left out of deliberations. That's probably especially true in a country where personal relationships are extremely important.

Again, I don't know who was in that meeting with Hillary, but there could not have been many members of the Zelaya government even in Washington at the time, much less at the meeting. This suggests to me that Valenzuela's statement was heard second-hand or third-hand. In diplomacy, the precise words matter greatly, since they are used as much to deceive as to inform, no matter their literal truth. I just hope that before the documents are produced, their details will have been investigated and supported independently.

I do understand about trust and how the US has fatally broken that trust through its actions with Honduras. I see it as not only a sign of, but a driving force in the decline of the American empire, one that is mirrored by the rise of Brazil and Turkey as part of a non-aligned (or less-aligned) movement.

I also understand the force of myth. It almost doesn't matter what the precise truth of things is. Valenzuela's account is plausible and explanatory of events. It expresses what Hondurans suspect even if they do not know. Since he was murdered, it is beyond challenge. It will be believed.

Thanks for your praise on my work, but we both know it's reporters on the scene like Felix Molina and Jesse Freeston, legal scholars like Edmundo Orellana, not to mention country experts like you and Adrienne who have made it even possible to write about what has been happening. All that the rest of us can do is try to get the word out.


RAJ said...

Everything Valenzuela says in his interview of course opens up the question, how could he know this? And again, still not having listened to the interview myself, I don't know if he says he heard Sec. of State Clinton make direct assurances, or simply says the assurances were made.

But on the topic of whether he was someone who would have been in a position to hear about such a meeting, despite his relatively low level appointment, there is a clear paper trail indicating he was engaged closely with Zelaya after the coup.

In July, Bloomberg News cites him in its coverage of the failed attempt for Zelaya to return by air to Tegucigalpa, and he was the source cited by other news media after that, speaking about President Zelaya's plans to return to Honduras.

He is described in October as one of those involved in the renewed negotiations reviving the San Jose Accord.

All of which suggests that during the de facto regime, he played a higher profile role than his appointment in the Zelaya administration might have suggested.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the use of Valenzuela as a source in that manner does suggest ongoing direct contact with President Zelaya. There were not all that many members of the Zelaya government, as I recall, that were used as sources, with Patricia Rodas being the point person on most issues.

I have seen Valenzuela referred to as "Minister of ... the National Program for Sustainable Rural Development (PRONADERS)". Bloomberg calls him the Housing Minister and The Torygraph calls him the interior minister (the third link is blank), all of which have different sentidos. In the Ley PRONADERS, it sounds like a sub-cabinet post. But of course agriculture is very important for Honduras, and for Zelaya, sustainable agriculture especially so.

Asking questions, I should say, doesn't imply doubt. But if, as, and when the documents do emerge, the questions I have raised and many more will be asked, most with the intent of discrediting the documents and/or the person doing the disclosure. If there are answers waiting, then the attempt to discredit will fail.


RAJ said...

Valenzuela had multiple positions in the Zelaya administration over time. He was director of PRONADERA (which is not a cabinet ministry).

But his last appointment began in March 2009, as minister without portfolio for housing. News coverage connected this service directly to funding Zelaya's government obtained from ALBA for low-income housing, which would have cost 500 Lempiras a month (about $28).

Like all of Zelaya's government, Valenzuela comes pre-discredited. In his case, he promoted a policy of cutting off electricty to people who were not paying their bills to ENEE, and then a house he owned was one of those cut off. The issue was a direct electrical connection without a meter; there are conflicting stories about whether ENEE had approved it and about Valenzuela's response when it was cut off; Valenzuela said in press reports that it was investigated by the Fiscal and no charges were brought. The scandal is routinely referred to anti-Zelaya papers as Valenzuela "stealing" power from ENEE.

None of which, of course, means he could not have served as he appears to have. But it will be mobilized against him.

Carlos Tower said...

This is a minor point given what is posted above: But, there is nothing suspicious regarding this event ("The fact that the plane that illegally carried Manuel Zelaya to Costa Rica landed at Palmerola (Soto Cano) air base, where US forces are stationed, without encountering any reaction, is seen as particularly suspicious"). It likely only appears suspicious to people who are unaware of Zelaya's use of this Presidential plane. The plane is a regular there, often housed there, usually maintained there, and periodically refueled there. Zelaya often authorized people other than himself to use the plane. And he sent the plane to collect important people, too. Everyone from Patricia Rodas to Zelaya's wife to his daughters were sent abroad on the plane, with and without Zelaya. The use of the plane near what might have been the most important day of his political career would not have seemed suspicious, certainly not to refueling teams who do not board the plane anyway (and no one normally disembarks during such a stop) and are not paid to ask questions. A Presidential Plane going to Costa Rica or Panama (assuming Soto Cano was even informed of the true final destination) could easily have been explained as a diplomatic run, OAS assistance (they were observing), or collection of outside observing parties per the Fourth Ballot project. Whether or not the Embassy knew in advance is a separate matter in the sense that regardless of if they knew the Honduran Air Force One's presence there on Base would not have been viewed as a red flag anyway.

RAJ said...

@Carlos: You give a fine rationale for why no one at Soto Cano would have questioned the presence of a plane. But this in no way addresses the suspicions that people have about possible US complicity, including those that use the refueling landing as an example of suspicious occurrences.

It isn't a problem to explain why no one would question the plane. I can make up an equally plausible explanation, based on different arguments.

But-- as those who view this as suspicious note-- the US has not addressed the question. People who doubt this was innocent believe that the news of an armed raid on the Presidential residence in Tegucigalpa would likely have already reached Soto Cano by the time the plane landed. Their position is that there is no way that the US could have been so ham-handed as not to know; and indeed, they believe very strongly that the US had foreknowledge.

As I found in the first weeks after the coup, in email exchanges with Honduran colleagues who were entertaining what I saw as the most radical and unlikely conspiracy theories, in which the coup was not just tolerated by the US presidency but planned by it, the issue is not whether one can spin out an innocent explanation.

It is whether there exists a relationship of trust that the US would not do such a thing. That trust does not exist. And it does not exist, regrettably, because of US history.