Through a Wikileaks leaked U.S. diplomatic telegram (backup link using the IP number) from Tegucigalpa on July 23, 2009, we now know what the ambassador, Hugo Llorens, reported home regarding what he considered a coup.
First he reports the facts as he saw them. I note that he left out the fact that the Supreme Court had ordered president Zelaya to stop his activities with the referendum that he had planned for June 28th, and to report how he had obeyed the order no later than June 25th (see point 6). The president’s failure to submit that report on June 25th constituted a prima facie failure to obey the order. Llorens was thus wrong as regards the facts when he wrote to Washington that Zelaya’s breaking the law was “alleged but not proven”.
Whereas Llorens reported that it was just suspected that Zelaya might violate the court order by holding the referendum on June 28, he was in fact already in defiance of a court order by not submitting the report. The court case had played out, which Llorens either missed or chose to omit.
Regarding the arrest order for the president, he is implicitly dismissing it, by saying that the military does not have the authority to carry out judicial orders. He does not say whether he thinks that it was issued on the date that appears on it, or after the fact with a false date; he just says that they don’t have the authority, and that they did not act as if executing a judicial order of arrest on the morning of June 28th.
In his comments, Llorens speculates that they fell back to the old-fashioned ways of dealing with an unwanted president when the democratic institutions seemed unable to come up with a way to deal with the situation. He also expresses the hope that the prosecution of the militaries may open the door for a way out of the conflict. As we know, they were prosecuted in January, 2010, but it didn’t change the game – probably for coming way too late, and for the militaries to be let off the hook way to easy.
There is of course no arguing that the handling of the matter was poor. Llorens himself admits that they probably had due cause for the arrest and prosecution of the president (something that the U.S. did not admit publicly), so one cannot but be angry at the incompetence of those who deposed Zelaya. However, that incompetence in the execution can not justify Zelaya’s crimes, or render them null and void. Each crime must be handled independently by the courts.
The bottom line is that Hugo Llorens misled Washington, to the detriment of Honduras, but to the benefit of Zelaya. However, what is most misleading is the omission of any mentioning of Llorens’s own participation.
When reading the telegram one gets the image that Llorens tried to figure out what happened post facto. The truth is, though, that Hugo Llorens very much was a participant in the events that culminated June 28th. He participated in several meetings the week before, according to my sources who were in those same meetings. However, he does not pretend to know anything about that in this telegram. It definitely leaves me with a feeling that he was being disingenuous to his own boss. (In early July he was suspected of having alerted Zelaya about the legal proceedings against him, and his imminent arrest; this cable mentions neither any legal proceedings nor his knowing about them.)