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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2010

BEFORE THE 'COUP'

A secret cable from the U.S. Embassy in Honduras described former President Manuel Zelaya as a corrupt politician with links to organized crime a year before President Obama rushed to his defense after the Honduran Congress and courts removed Mr. Zelaya from office and created a diplomatic crisis in the Western Hemisphere.

In one of his last acts as U.S. ambassador in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, Charles A. Ford in May 2008 prepared an assessment of Mr. Zelaya for incoming American Ambassador Hugo Llorens, calling the leftist leader an old-fashioned Latin American strongman, or "caudillo," and comparing Mr. Zelaya to a "rebellious teenager."

"There also exists a sinister Zelaya, surrounded by a few close advisors with ties to both Venezuela and Cuba and organized crime," Mr. Ford said in the cable released over the weekend by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

"Due to his close association with persons believed to be involved with international organized crime, the motivations behind many of his policy decisions can certainly be questioned.

"I am unable to brief Zelaya on sensitive law-enforcement and counter-narcotics actions due to my concern that this would put the lives of U.S. officials in jeopardy."

Mr. Ford also noted that while Mr. Zelaya portrays himself as an advocate for the poor, his "principal goal in office is to enrich himself and his family."

Despite Mr. Ford's assessment of Mr. Zelaya, Mr. Llorens defended the Honduran leader a year later when the Honduran government forcibly removed him from the presidency, accusing him of violating the constitution.

In June of 2009, Mr. Obama described the action as a "coup." The United Nations also denounced the Honduran government, and the Organization of American States suspended Honduras from membership.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

Defense Minister Pieter De Crem of Belgium, who attends a performance of the Royal Symphonic Band of the Belgian Guides at the Kennedy Center with 50 surviving veterans of World War II's Battle of the Bulge.

Tuesday

Ambassador Henryk Litwin, undersecretary of state of the Polish Foreign Ministry; Cornelius Ochmann of the Bertelsmann Foundation in Belgium; Ambassador Henryk Szlajfer, special adviser to the Polish Foreign Ministry; Karsten D. Voigt, former coordinator for German-American cooperation at the German Foreign Office; and Marcin Zaborowski, director of the Polish Institute for International Affairs. They discuss German and Polish policies toward Russia in a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Alan Duncan, Britain's minister of state for international development. He addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Wednesday

Leopoldo Lopez, former mayor of the Chacao Municipality of Caracas, Venezuela, and national coordinator of Popular Will, a prominent opposition movement against President Hugo Chavez. He addresses the Inter-American Dialogue.

Thursday

Tony Blair, former prime minister of Britain, who addresses the Center for Global Development on his efforts to promote development and democracy in Liberia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

Karel De Gucht, European commissioner for trade, who addresses the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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