Congressional Travel to Honduras Used to Support US Lawmaker's Business Interests

GOP Congressman Traveled With Campaign Contributors and Promoted Their Business Interests to Coup Regime

In addition to using taxpayer money to travel to Honduras to support a coup d'état, one US Congressman, Republican Dana Rohrabacher (pictured right), used the trip as an opportunity to back the business interests of his campaign contributors, according to a State Department cable recently released by WikiLeaks.

The US Embassy in Honduras assisted Rohrabacher's partners in their investment ventures, according the document, by arranging meetings between the businessmen and a US government-financed corporation that is tied to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and gave millions to the coup regime.

When Rep. Rohrabacher (Calif.) traveled to Honduras on Jan. 31-Feb. 2 he brought along some personal friends, which included “several American businessmen and investors” according to the State Department memo, written by US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens.

The president of California-based company SG Biofuels, Kirk Haney, was a part of the delegation, along with John R. Saunders, a California real estate developer who deals in antique coins. Both Haney and Saunders are campaign donors and were given the chance to advertise their businesses during discussions with top Honduran officials.

In the State Department cable Llorens writes that while in Honduras Rohrabacher “endorsed US investment and particularly lauded the benefits of the development of biofuel industry in Honduras. He enthusiastically promoted a start-up biofuel company, SG Biofuels.”

Saunders has told media outlets that during the trip he talked about “buying or at least helping arrange the sale of rare antique American coins from Honduras’s gold reserves” as he met with officials like the head of the Central Bank of Honduras.

On February 1, the delegation met with Honduran President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, who backed the June 2009 ousting of democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya and later gave amnesty to coup plotters. Zelaya was forcibly removed from office and exiled to Costa Rica in a coup that th State Department described as “illegal.” The delegation met with Lobo after the country's November presidential elections, which were held amid a climate of fraud, intimidation, and torture.

The State Department, which ended up supporting the election results of Lobo, assisted Rohrabacher's partners with doing business in Honduras. When the delegation met with Llorens, “representatives from SG Biofuels presented their proposal for initiating jatropha planting operations in Honduras,” according to the cable. “The Ambassador and Congressman Rohrabacher discussed the many ways that this serious initiative coincides with the Mission's Strategic Goals on renewable energy. ”

Llorens then arranged “break-out meetings” between SG Biofuels representatives and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US government-financed corporation that had “hands on” management by Secretary of State Clinton as it gave $6.5 million to the coup regime after Zelaya was ousted, a Narco News investigation found.

It is clear that along with backing the business interests of contributors,  Rohrabacher was there to support the coup regime on the taxpayer's dime, pledging to reinstate visas of coup plotters that the US government had revoked after Zelaya was exiled.

“Congressman Rohrabacher told [President of the Honduran Congress Juan Orlando Hernandez] that he was an emissary of Honduras' friends in Congress, in particular member of Congress Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,” says the document.  Ros-Lehtinen is a ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who also used public funds to travel to Honduras and support the coup regime after it began criminalizing dissent and shutting down media outlets.

In October Narco News first reported on government documents that showed Rep. Rohrabacher had spent $7,473 in public funds to travel to Honduras in January in order to support the coup. At that time a spokesperson for Rohrabacher told Narco News that the purpose of the trip was “to let the newly elected government know that Republicans supported them.” Republican lawmakers have spent a total of $24,720 in public funds on travel costs to support the coup government.

This is the first indication that taxpayer-funded congressional travel, generally allocated for “fact finding missions,” has been used to help out the donors of coup-supporting US lawmakers in the country.  In other words, the leaked cable raises more questions about the true motive behind the Republican lawmakers' travel to Honduras after the crisis, and any ties they may have to the  Millennium Challenge Corporation and the State Department.

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