Honduras: US cable blasts coup leaders’ “backroom deals”

A US diplomatic cable released by the WikiLeaks group on Jan. 29 has raised new questions about possible corruption in the de facto regime that ruled Honduras between the June 28, 2009 coup against then-president José Manuel (“Mel’) Zelaya Rosales and the Jan. 27, 2010 inauguration of current president Porifirio Lobo Sosa.

The confidential Feb. 20, 2010 cable by US ambassador Hugo Llorens deals with a concession for the José Cecilio del Valle dam and hydroelectric plant near Nacaome, in Valle department in southern Honduras. The Honduran Congress passed a law on Jan. 16, 2010 granting the concession to a consortium including the Italian companies Italian Industrial Agency SRL and B&P Altolumie SNS, and the Honduran firms Hidrocontrol S.A. and Desarrollo y Construcciones y Equipos S.A. De facto president Roberto Micheletti Bain signed the bill on Jan. 20, and it was published in a special edition of the government gazette with only about 20 copies, apparently to keep the law from attracting attention. This maneuver with the gazette and the hurried way the law was passed did in fact draw attention, and the new Lobo administration put the project on hold.

Ambassador Llorens wrote in the cable that “[a]ccording to [US] Embassy sources, Micheletti was one of the Honduran partners in the consortium granted the concession. The chief actors included [then-Congress president José Alfredo] Saavedra, Micheletti Minister of Public Works Saro Bonanno, and Micheletti intimates Johnny Kafati and Roberto Turcios. It is inconceivable that this deal could have been put together without Micheletti’s knowledge.” Llorens then commented: “While Micheletti and his colleagues portrayed themselves as practitioners of efficient and honest government in contrast to President Manuel Zelaya’s chaotic administration, they appear to have cut a significant number of backroom deals, which were egregious even by local standards. The approval of a huge hydroelectric deal, with such little benefit to the state, just a week before the regime left office is the prime example.”

Micheletti reacted to the leaked cable during a Feb. 15 conference organized by the rightwing Civic Democratic Union (UCD)—entitled “Antidote to 21st Century Socialism”—by announcing that that he would sue Llorens in US courts as soon as the ambassador left office and no longer enjoyed diplomatic immunity. The Honduras Culture and Politics blog noted that a private communication between Llorens and his employer, the US government, could hardly be considered either slander or defamation in the US: “This is a lot of bluster and bravado with no legal basis under US law.” (Honduras Culture and Politics blog, Feb. 16; El Heraldo, Tegucigalpa, Feb. 17)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 20.

See our last posts on Honduras and WikiLeaks in Central America.

See also our feature, WikiLeaks Honduras: State Department Busted on Support of Coup