Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Half A Million Dollars of Persuasion

The de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti Bain, and its friends, have spent slightly more than $590,307.69 in lobbying the United States goverment since June 28, 2009. That's a lot of persuasion.

$20,000 - The Honduran Association of Maquiladores hired The Cormac Group on 6/19 to lobby over US-Honduran relations. Partner John Slade and Mark Vogel worked on their behalf. On the registration form they indicate a payment of $8,000. They indicated on the termination report, filed 9/9, that they had been paid $20,000 to lobby the US House and Senate on US-Honduran relations.

So who is the Honduran Association of Maquiladores? Jesús Canahauti is its president. Danilo Canahuati is its past President. He is well known in Washington, D.C. because of having been called to testify before Congress on the labor and anti-union practices of the textile industry in Honduras. In 1995, reportedly tired of being called to Washington, D.C. he allowed the textile unions to form, with a tightly controlled mediation board to resolve all differences.

$8,000 - The Honduran Association of Maquiladores hired Vision America on 7/6 to have Roger Noriega and José Cardenas lobby for them to "support the efforts of the Honduran private sector to help consolidate the democratic transition in their country." Roger Noriega was US Permanent Representative to the OAS 2001-2003, and then was named as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs where he served until 2005. The person who filled out the form for Vision America checked that there were no foreign entities involved. The amended registration of 8/3 did identify them as a foreign entity, and indicates an $8,000 payment. On 8/3 they also filed a second quarter lobbying report that indicates they received less than $5000 by 6/30/2009. This form indicates that they did lobby the US House, Senate, Department of State, and the National Security Council to again "support the efforts of the Honduran private sector to help consolidate the democratic transition in their country." Their third quarter/termination report, also filed on 8/3 indicates a total of $8,000 in income from the Association.

$210,000 - On 7/6 CEAL, the Consejo Empresarial de America, Capitulo Honduras hired the firm of Orrick, Herrington, & Suttcliffe LLP. to lobby using Lanny Davis, Adam Goldberg, and Eileen O'Connor. Lanny Davis was a special counsel to President Clinton, and Adam Goldberg was an assistant counsel in the same office. In its registration statement, Davis said that the firm was "providing facts relating to the removal of Mr. Zelaya." While in its termination filing, he said he was paid to lobby the House, Senate, and Department of State on "US policy regarding the removal of Mr. Zelaya from Honduras." He further noted, "CEAL, Grupo Financiero Ficohsa, and Organizacion Publicitaria, all identified on LD-1, support a peaceful and democratic resolution to the Honduran constitutional crisis."

CEAL in Honduras is headed by Camilo Atala Faraja. Other top officials of CEAL listed on the organizations website include Jesús Canahuati (vice president and head of Maquiladoras Association), Victoria Asfura (ex president of Banco Central of Honduras under President Maduro, ex member of Millenium Challenge Association - Honduras board of directors), and Miguel Mauricio Facusé Saenz (Dinant, Corp., uncle of former President Carlos Flores Facussé).

Interestingly CEAL didn't pay its own bills. The lobbying form lists the Grupo Ficohsa and Organizacion Publicitaria, S.A. as the two firms dividing the bill equally. Grupo Ficohsa consists of a bank, a financial services firm, a currency exchange, and an insurance company. When we look at the Grupo Ficohsa, not suprisingly we find that Camilo Atala Faraj is President. Camilo Atala Faraj is also one of the principal investors in the national World Cup soccer team. Organizacion Publicitaria, S.A. is the parent company of the newspaper, La Prensa, owned by Jorge Canahuati Larach.

$352,307.69 - On 9/18 the de facto government signed a lobbying contract with the firm Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter, and Associates for $292,307.69 for services, with an additional $10,000 for travel per-diem, a $20,000 for costs related to the development of a web site, and $30,000 for costs related to mobilizing and communication of experts in other key countries.

Sources in Honduras familiar with the contract indicate that it outlines 10 major goals for the firm:
  1. Analyze international news coverage to understand current public opinion.
  2. Conduct a public opinion survey.
  3. Define, develop, and implement a communications plan for management of the political situation to permit the realization of the desired opinions.
  4. Identify and train spokesmen for the de facto government.
  5. Design and imlement a strategy for the pertinent communications.
  6. Implement a messaging plan with leaders of public opinion.
  7. Identify scenarios, actors, and their influence on public opinion, and their management in accord with the interests of the government of the Republic.
  8. Implement a worldwide communications campaign.
  9. Implement a positioning campaign to create a public climate open to the introduction of public proposals such as the elections of November.
  10. Design a campaign to persuade international audiences, particularly the Congress and Senate of the US, the UN, and the Central American Integration System. Also form strategic alliances with foundations or organizations.

Interestingly, the contract cites an executive decree, PCM-M-011-2009, issued on the 8th of September, that exempts it from getting competitive bids for this contract. Payment, according to the contract, was divided into three payments, each with its own milestones. The contract runs until 12/31. It sets up an account in the Banco Central with the funding. The FARA registration form indicates that they lobbying firm interacts with Javier Caceres, chief of staff of Roberto Micheletti, while the contract itself is between Rafael Pineda Ponce, a Presidential Advisor, and Peter Schechter.

Tiempo reports that on September 23 Rafael Pineda Ponce issued an order to draw the initial contract payment , $131, 538.46 from that account. At the same time, another $132,000 (2.5 million lempiras) was drawn from the same account, for payment to ANDI. Is this a payment for further, as yet unrevealed lobbying expenses?

This small group of families, the Canahuatis, the Facussés, the Faraj, are a series of intermarried families that control much of Honduran business, and clearly are willing to spend a lot of money to keep their names shiny. A half million dollars buys a lot of polish.

(Lobbying data can be queried from the Senate Lobbying Database. )

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