Asked in a recent meeting in the press room at the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa about the accuracy of the New York Times claim that the coup government has spent at least $400,000 USD thus far on a “high-profile lobbying campaign” in the US, coup president Roberto Micheletti is reported in La Tribuna as responding that “the calculations have already been made and we know perfectly well how much is being charged,” before confirming that the estimated sum sounds fairly accurate. Not explained is whether Micheletti believes that the fact that he knows how much he is paying justifies the undertaking, or why there has been incessant golpista complaining about Honduran President Mel Zelaya’s past allocation of funds for domestic projects.
According to Micheletti, the hiring of Washington firms like the Cormac Group and Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates is completely consistent with “what the law says we can do” and is not so much a campaign as a presentation of information his government thinks the US should know. As for domestic projects currently being pursued in Honduras, these include a promise made by Micheletti to improve press room conditions at the presidential palace and a Forbes.com article by Claudia Rosett reproduced on page 10 of the October 10 edition of La Tribuna along with the specification “Paid political advertisement” in the top right corner.
Distraction from the specification is provided by stylistic inconsistencies in the layout of the article, such as that its English title “Win Over Washington One Nuke at a Time” has merely been halfway translated as “Una victoria sobre Washington Nuke At A Time.” Readers casually scanning the paper might thus misinterpret the victory over Washington and the sizable photograph of Zelaya and Micheletti shaking hands on a couch to mean that Micheletti’s 400,000-dollar lobbying campaign has produced a Honduran solution to the Honduran problem.
A closer read reveals that former Wall Street Journal writer Rosett has composed the article as a memo to Micheletti from the “Hope and Change Global Consulting Service in Washington, D.C.” – the fictitious nature of which hopefully indicates that it has not factored into Micheletti’s PR budget. The memo begins by commiserating with the coup president’s plight as global pariah following the legal and constitutional removal of Zelaya and informing him that “[r]ight now, your cachet at the White House ranks somewhere below that of the Dalai Lama and the International Olympic Committee.” Instead of suggesting that concern for human rights or athletics might bolster Micheletti’s standing, however, Rosett advises him to abandon his quest for democracy and to consider three contemporary models for assuring acceptance in Washington.
The first model Rosett has concocted is translated as the “Método Mullah Mad,” in which “Mullah Mad” turns out to be not some lesser-known figure in Afghanistan but rather a result of the failure to fully translate “The Mad Mullah Method” – i.e. the Iranian policy of seducing the Obama administration via mushroom cloud preparations. Other Iranian diplomatic tactics cited by Rosett include “funding, training and equipping a number of terrorist groups,” which is apparently more effective than simply providing already-trained terrorist groups from Colombia with security jobs in Honduras – a post-coup arrangement confirmed by the United Nations and the president of the Honduran Congressional Security Commission.
Rosett’s other two models are drawn from North Korea and Venezuela. The latter seems to offer the most seamless transition for the Micheletti regime given Rosett’s focus on Venezuelan media closures, although the regime may have to learn to enact said closures based on media failure to renew broadcasting licenses. None of the three models advocates high-profile lobbying campaigns in the US, suggesting further US indifference to truly democratic methods.
After concluding that Micheletti simply doesn’t have “that messianic, radical zing” that the US finds so attractive – notwithstanding the fact that he was reported in El Heraldo in September as declaring that any invasion by the international community to remove him from power would result in the realization that God was on the side of Honduras – Rosett offers five paragraphs of suggestions for the coup president based on lessons from her three-model scheme. Suggestions include inviting the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear program to Honduras to experience the nightlife –although Rosett forgets to remind Micheletti not to schedule any curfews during his visit – and postponing the November elections, “preferably in rolling six-month increments.” La Tribuna somehow neglects to highlight the latter suggestion in bold.
Rosett is identified at the end of the article as “journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies,” with a visit to the organization’s website producing the unsurprising information that the FDD’s listed programs have names like “Center for Terrorism Research,” “Future of Terrorism Project,” and “Coalition Against Terrorist Media.” The site designer might have done well, however, to at least refrain from including the definition of terrorism as “the deliberate use of violence against civilians to achieve political objectives,” so as to render more difficult its application to Honduran events like the shooting of anti-coup teachers in the head.
The FDD claims to attach great importance to investigative journalism, despite the fact that historical preoccupations with the word “terrorism” have not generally been accompanied by a prioritization of investigation over fear-mongering, and that the practice of investigative journalism has not generally been accompanied by the label “Paid political advertisement.” As for payments allegedly received by current members of the FDD’s Board of Advisors with previous stints on the US Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, Rosett fails to suggest the “Richard Perle Model” to Micheletti, according to which Perle would advocate a Honduran invasion of Iraq in accordance with his own financial interests.
A different Honduran model is offered by the New York Times, which proposes the simpler sequence: “First, depose a president. Second, hire a lobbyist.” Regarding the financial interests of the benefactors of the latter half of the sequence, the paper does not explain whether 400,000-dollar payments to US lobbying firms figure into the coup government’s reported claim that Honduras has lost $400 million due to international sanctions. As for other institutions recently contracted as a supposed guard against further loss of Honduran material assets, Micheletti denies in the October 10 edition of La Tribuna the existence of Colombian paramilitaries employed in the country’s private security sector.
It begins to appear that Claudia Rosett is following a self-prescribed “Colombian Paramilitary Model” if we consider that the paramilitary raison d’être is to act on behalf of government designs without implicating the government itself. Rosett’s commitment to the model is, however, called into question by the fact that paid political advertisements are always more effective when they chronicle the merits of those they are advertising rather than the controversial attributes of those they are not.
First published in Narco News, 17 October 2009