12 October 2009

Honduras Coup Boss Pays Out To Lobbyists

The de facto government of Honduras spares no expenses in its “defence of democracy”. It has signed an agreement with a lobbyist firm to clean up its image in Washington and handed over public resources to business organisations for its executives to travel to the United States and Europe (those that still have visas) to defend the coup.

Deputy Marvin Ponce still cannot shake hands properly after the police broke his arm in a demonstration. But with the left he shows two notes signed some days ago by the minister of the presidency of the de facto government, Rafael Pineda Ponce. In the first order to the Central Bank is the transfer of 2.5 million lempiras (a little more than $130,000) to the private account of the National Association of Industries, headed by the businessman Adolfo Facussé, an enthusiastic promoter of the return of President Manuel Zelaya to power (only for an hour, to go straight to justice and house arrest). The resources, according to the text, “will be destined to financing of activities directed at strengthening democracy and national dialogue”.

The second orders the transfer of a little more than $130,000 from the budget of the Commission for Strengthening Institutions, to the lobbyist firm Chlopak, Leonard, Schecter and Associates, with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. The first payment is contracted for an amount of $292,000.

The contract hopes to “count on the consultancy services of a public relations business specialised in managing special political situations, with the end of implementing a strategic communication plan to achieve a better position for the government before world public opinion”, according to the copy of a document sited by the agency, AFP. The document was registered by the U.S. firm with the Department of Justice division of lobbyists for foreign governments on 18 September, says the agency.

Facussé was detained at Miami airport in the middle of September and sent back to Honduras. This is how it came to be known that the U.S. government had cancelled the visa. Others, who can travel, have spent the government’s dollars to go to the United States and Europe, perhaps to return the money spent by businessmen in the campaign against Zelaya before the coup and later in organising the “white marches” in favour of the coup government.

The investment has borne fruit. According to a report in the New York Times, Micheletti’s government has already spent some $400,000 on lawyers and lobbyists, which has had the effect of forcing “the Obama Administration to send contradictory signals about its position in relation the de facto government, which has interpreted them as encouraging signals. It has also delayed two important State Department appointments for the region”.

In the campaign, the newspaper goes on, “are linked law firms and public relations agencies with close links to the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Senator John McCain” (former Republican candidate and an important figure in the Senate Foreign Relations committee).

According to the Honduran newspaper, Tiempo, Facussé accepted having received the funds and said that these could not be reimbursed “because these are for promoting democracy, unless the government is against democracy”.

Marvin Ponce says that, in any case, the government “can spend people’s money in what it wants”, but in the case of an international contract it is obliged to have a tender “and it was a direct allocation” destined to “show the coup in a good light”.

Source: La Jornada

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