Memo Reveals US State Department Knew Honduras Coup Was Illegal, Did Not Follow Own Advice

Leaked Cable, Early During Coup, Defined Removal of President Manuel Zelaya as Illegitimate

Less than month after the coup d'état that removed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya from office at gun point, the US Embassy in the country's capital sent a memo to State Department headquarters in Washington DC ripping apart arguments used by the coup plotters.
“...The military and/or whoever ordered the coup fell back on what they knew – the way Honduran presidents were removed in the past: a bogus resignation letter and a one-way ticket to a neighboring country,” reads a confidential cable from Tegucigalpa, signed by US Ambassador Hugo Llorens (pictured right) and published today by the organization Wikileaks.
The agency did not heed the warnings written by Llorens. The document, which was sent to the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the military, is in contrast to the State Department's position to back a coup supporter to be the future president of the country months after the memo was sent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was later found to be involved in giving millions to the coup regime through a US government-financed corporation she helped manage.
In the July 9, 2009 document, titled “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” Llorens writes that after consulting legal specialists and analyzing the country's constitution it's clear that “the actions of June 28 can only be considered a coup d'etat by the legislative branch, with the support of the judicial branch and the military, against the executive branch.”

On that date soldiers forced their way into the democratically-elected president's home in the capital and put Zelaya on a plane to San José, Costa Rica after the country's Supreme Court had issued a secret arrest warrant. “Accounts of Zelaya's abduction by the military indicate he was never legally 'served' with a warrant; the soldiers forced their way in by shooting out the locks and essentially kidnapped the President,” Llorens says in the memo. 
Zelaya's alleged “crime” according to coup backers was proposing to have a vote to create an assembly to rewrite the country's constitution. Later that day the National Congress passed a resolution to remove Zelaya from office, while presenting a fake resignation letter. Roberto Micheletti, President of the National Congress, was declared the new president of a de facto government run by coup supporters. 
The cable says “it is not clear” that promoting a vote to change the constitution is unconstitutional, and that regardless of the legal arguments, the armed forces are not allowed to execute judicial orders and Congress had no authority to remove Zelaya from office.  
“Zelaya's arrest and forced removal from the country violated multiple constitutional guarantees, including the prohibition on expatriation, presumption of innocence and right to due process,” Llorens writes. “Furthermore, a source in the Congressional leadership told us that a quorum was not present when there [sic] solution was adopted, rendering it invalid. There was no recorded vote, nor a request for the 'yeas' and 'nays.'”
Despite calling the Micheletti government “illegitimate” and the coup a product of a “hasty, ad-hoc, extralegal, secret, 48-hour process,” it was Llorens and the State Department who later began to support the coup. The US-financed Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which had “hands on” management by Clinton on its board of directors, gave $6.5 million to the coup regime after Zelaya was ousted. The agency then backed coup supporter Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo as the winner of a presidential election held five months after Zelaya was removed. Lobo denied a coup had taken place, and as president he later gave amnesty to everyone involved in plotting it. 
In other words, while it is now clear that the State Department knew the coup was illegitimate and unconstitutional, why did the agency get so involved with funding the coup regime and backing one of its key supporters in elections that were marked by well-document abuses and fraud?
That question could be answered soon. The cable in one of hundreds from Honduras that will be made available over the next few months according to Wikileaks, and they may explain the State Department's handling of the first Latin American crisis under the Obama administration.


Will those other cables become public? Maybe not.

As I track this story, it's very clear to me that the Honduras story is disappearing from the media. I can't  find it in Der Spiegel or Le Monde. On the NYT, the cable doesn't come up under a general search, though it is still up on the website if one goes through all the cables. I can't even find it at The Guardian. Their geographical map of the story doesn't include Honduras as a cable source. El Pais covered it as a one-day story. GoogleNews shows only the LAT, Miami Herald, McClatchy/Kansas City Star, CNN International, and the Latin American Herald Tribune alone among major English language media covering the story.

I think it's an important story, and possibly even the most important story of the Wikileaks. As you point out, the tone of the cable is aggressive, as though Llorens is responding to an attempt by Shannon to whitewash the coup. But it also suggests that Llorens may not have expected the coup to use the blunt methods of machinegunning the presidential palace and kidnapping. Much less conspicuous methods had worked so nicely with Aristide. As I noted in my piece on Daily Kos (see part V here), the coup appeared to follow three separate tracks: a pseudo-legal track from State, a Congressional Republican track, and a military/intelligence track. 

Whatever track a coup takes, the US Ambassador is not supposed to be cut out of the loop. That he was, and that State and the White House seemed to be ambivalent about what they were going to do about the coup suggests to me that the military/intelligence people did this on their own initiative. This would mean that they have clearly broken free from civilian control.

In my estimation, this story is going to be buried if people do not express their interest to the media. I urge all readers/publishers of Narconews to talk to their media contacts and ask for more information and focus on the Honduras coup. 



Thank you Narco News for publishing the news of the Honduran coup and ist aftermath, and also Charles (commentator) for his concern for the poor nation, the people and more timely so... the missing wikileak cables. They may be suppressed but the one cable that was released and contains the legal analysis of the coup from U.S. Ambassador in Tegucigalpa, Hugo Llorens is particularly helpful for ousted President Manuel Zelaya and his legal battle before the International Criminal Court of Justice in the Hague, against the coup leaders, meaning the Dictator Micheletti, the military and the oligarchs who masterminded and financed the coup and who later hired Washington lobbyists to "educate" members of congress unaware of the geographical location of Honduras, thus convincing them of the "good coup"  was a effortless. The Justice of the International Criminal Court has found grounds to investigate the facts of the coup and the coup leaders should be in fear for this Attorney is widely known for his outstanding work in Argentina, where he put police and military officers behind bars for their crimes during the military dictatorship in the 80s. It may take some time, but at the end I am confident that justice will prevail.

Add comment

Our Policy on Comment Submissions: Co-publishers of Narco News (which includes The Narcosphere and The Field) may post comments without moderation. A ll co-publishers comment under their real name, have contributed resources or volunteer labor to this project, have filled out this application and agreed to some simple guidelines about commenting.

Narco News has recently opened its comments section for submissions to moderated comments (that’s this box, here) by everybody else. More than 95 percent of all submitted comments are typically approved, because they are on-topic, coherent, don’t spread false claims or rumors, don’t gratuitously insult other commenters, and don’t engage in commerce, spam or otherwise hijack the thread. Narco News reserves the right to reject any comment for any reason, so, especially if you choose to comment anonymously, the burden is on you to make your comment interesting and relev ant. That said, as you can see, hundreds of comments are approved each week here. Good luck in your comment submission!

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

User login


Reporters' Notebooks

name) { $notebooks[] = l($row->name, 'blog/' . $row->uid); } } print theme('item_list', $notebooks); ?>

About Erin Rosa


Erin Rosa is a writer from Denver, Colorado based in the Western Hemisphere.