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[Washington Babylon]

Honduran Kingmaker

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A fascinating piece from today’s Washington Post about Allen Andersson, the rich American who helped bring Manuel Zelaya to power in Honduras in 2005:

And then, there’s one of his all-time favorite multimillion-dollar gambits, the time he played presidential kingmaker in Honduras . . . and won. Barely noticed outside Tegucigalpa, Andersson assumed a key — many say decisive — offstage role in the 2005 election of Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, the recently deposed president of Honduras.

As Honduras convulsed this month over Zelaya’s ouster — in his pajamas — in a military coup, Andersson spoke for the first time about what he proudly describes as the “shenanigans” he orchestrated in the final days of the 2005 upset. It is a saga sprinkled with heaps of cash, private detectives, sting operations, attack ads, internecine squabbles and Andersson’s epic grudge against Zelaya’s wealthy, dashing opponent, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, whose last name means “wolf” in Spanish.

And there’s this interesting section:

The 2005 Honduran election pitted Mel Zelaya, the leftist son of a well-heeled businessman, against Pepe Lobo, the president of the Honduran congress. Lobo, the clear front-runner, was the former head of the national forestry agency in a country plagued by illegal logging of precious hardwoods, such as mahogany. Andersson had contempt for Lobo, suspecting that he surreptitiously condoned illegal logging that had decimated indigenous communities…

[Andersson] didn’t trust the Honduran media, saying it was almost completely controlled by various oligarchs. So, he took over a small newspaper, El Libertador, and encouraged tough stories about Lobo. He hired a U.S. polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, to conduct surveys. And he also funded private-eye forays in Honduras by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a nongovernmental organization with offices in London and Washington that had ferreted out illegal loggers in Asia.

The intrigue commenced: One EIA agent posing as a lumber buyer secretly videotaped a meeting in Miami with a Honduran congressional candidate, Gilma Noriega, and her father, lumber dealer Guillermo Noriega. On the tape, Gilma Noriega says payoffs to government officials can be made to ensure a steady flow of lumber, and brags that their business will be protected if her father’s best friend, Lobo, is elected. “Pepe Lobo will be our savior,” Guillermo Noriega says on the tape…

Read the rest. As I said before, Zelaya was no radical. His crime, in the eyes of those who overthrew him, was not his allegedly anti-democratic tendencies — you have to be stupid to think the Honduran elite cares anything at all about democracy — but his approval of a big minimum wage increase, which was desperately needed in a country where so many workers are poor.

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