The Obama Administration has made serious mistakes in its handling of the crisis in Honduras where it supports the return of the deposed president, Mel Zelaya. The Administration categorized the removal of Zelaya as a coup when, in fact, the Honduran military has had no role in governing the country.  The Honduran Congress and Supreme Court abided by their Constitution and rule of law and ousted Zelaya because he had violated the law. As a result, the crisis in Honduras today is almost unmanageable. So what does this behavior reveal about Mr. Obama’s respect for the separation of powers, as Mary Anastasia O’ Grady from the Wall Street Journal accurately points out, that he would instruct Secretary of State Clinton to punish an independent court because it did not issue the ruling he wanted? [1] Is this administration forcing a foreign nation to violate its own laws?

It astonishes legal experts and independent observers that President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and their advisors have chosen to ignore a serious factual report filed at the Library of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that states “Available sources indicate that the (Honduran) judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system,” [2] writes CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez in her report.

Why is this administration siding with Zelaya and his main supporter, Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez? Chavez is known to be hostile towards the U.S while working closely with Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is on the brink of obtaining a nuclear weapon and has established a bank in Venezuela with Chavez to avoid the sanctions already imposed against Iranian financial institutions responsible for transferring funds to Tehran’s nuclear program. Actually, the Obama Administration and the Chavez regime sponsored a UN resolution that condemned the government of Honduras for legally removing Chavez’s puppet “Mel” Zelaya.

What is even worse, the State Department has suspended $30 million in aid to Honduras for standing by their constitution and has stripped current President Roberto Micheletti and fourteen members of the Supreme Court who ruled against Zelaya of their U.S. visas.

Since people are often policy, who are the individuals on the Obama team responsible for shaping our Latin American policy and specifically for the misguided decisions made regarding Honduras.

The Obama Latin America Team is composed of: Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs; Frank Mora, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs and most importantly Dan Restrepo, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at The National Security Council.  Thomas Shannon, who was also Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the second Bush term, seems to have a kind of get along -go along approach with regards to Latin America. Indeed, some of Mr. Shannon’s highlights include:

  • In Honduras: remaining silent as Manuel Zelaya attempted to subvert democratic institutions and the Honduran Constitution and as the Congress and Supreme Court worked to remove Zelaya legally from office, the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa and Shannon worked diligently to dissuade the Honduran Congress and protect Zelaya. [3]
  • In Venezuela, Mr. Shannon constantly promoted cooperation between the U.S. and Chávez relating to the drug trade despite evidence-and objections from other U.S. agencies-that the Venezuelan government itself was facilitating narcotics trafficking.  Mr. Shannon also denied support to Venezuela’s civil society and sat by as Chavez dismantled the country’s democratic institutions.  Today, the Mayor of Caracas still cannot get into his office to perform his duties.  In all this, Mr. Shannon’s rationale for shunning Venezuela’s civil society has been that the U.S. and Venezuela have a strategic relationship based primarily on energy. [4]
  • In Nicaragua, Mr. Shannon advocated the continuation of U.S. aid to the Sandinista government despite evidence of overwhelming fraud in the 2008 mayoral race in Managua.  Meanwhile, Mr. Shannon has sought to cut support to Nicaragua’s civil society, in order not to ‘antagonize’ President Ortega. [5]
  • In Bolivia, when President Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador and DEA from the country, Mr. Shannon was against waiving trade preferences and U.S. aid.  Instead, he advocated that the Bush Administration sign a document by President Morales, which was essentially a ‘mea culpa.’ The U.S.  State Department’s Legal Advisor at the time overruled him and the U.S. didn’t sign the document. [6]
  • In Ecuador, Mr. Shannon has sought to accommodate and improve relations with President Correa despite his dismantling of democratic institutions and evidence that President Correa has connections to the FARC. [7]

However, since assuming the presidency in January of 2009, the Obama White House mainly follows the expertise of Mr. Daniel Restrepo on issues pertaining to Latin America.


Dan Restrepo and The Center for American Progress

Prior to moving to the National Security Council, Dan Restrepo was the director of the Americas Project at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank, whose President and Chief Executive Officer is John Podesta, who served as chief of staff to then President Bill Clinton. This think tank has become so influential making personnel appointments in the Obama Administration that Time Magazine recently declared “there is no group in Washington with more influence at this moment in history.” [8]

One of CAP’s main contributors is billionaire speculator, George Soros. In fact, some independent groups that are more transparent, such as the Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center, criticize the Center’s failure to disclose its contributors, particularly since it is so influential in appointments to the Obama administration.


Dan Restrepo, Honduras and Chavez

Restrepo’s complete lack of judgment with respect to issues in Latin America, especially with regards to Chavez, put the region, the US and its interests at risk. He actually thinks Chávez is only a nuisance and not a national security threat, despite the fact that Chávez said during a recent visit to Iran — his eighth since taking office — that he is discussing with Iran the creation of a “nuclear village” in Venezuela, which he claimed will be for “peaceful purposes.” And there are recent claims made by New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau that Iran may be using Venezuela for “building and storing” weapons of mass destruction. So what does Restrepo think about the Iran-Venezuela nuclear cooperation? He actually “hopes that all countries in the Americas respect international rules, and their international responsibilities regarding nuclear energy.” So, according to him, the U.S. should keep hoping and do nothing in the meantime.

Why are Obama and Restrepo so eager to return Zelaya to power despite the overwhelming evidence against him? (For the case against Zelaya please See “The Americas Report” August 4, 2009 titled “All that is wrong with Insulza and the OAS.”)

Despite the fact that what happened in Honduras was NOT a coup and that the actions taken against Zelaya were in accordance with the rule of law after he violated the Constitution by illegally trying to perpetuate himself in power with the help of Hugo Chavez, the Obama administration is sticking to its coup theory. It continues misrepresenting the facts with the help of some friendly media outlets. In addition, it has decided to ignore evidence provided by Honduras’ Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez who has charged that as President, Zelaya was involved with drug trafficking from Venezuela into the United States: “Every night, three or four Venezuelan-registered planes land without the permission of appropriate authorities and bring thousands of pounds…and packages of money that are the fruit of drug trafficking,” he said. “We have proof of all of this. Neighboring governments have it. The DEA has it,” adding that “the drugs arrive in Honduras from Venezuela, which has become a main drug transit center, and increasingly in speedboats from Colombia,” according to the Key West, Florida-based Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which coordinates drug interdiction in the region. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne in Washington said he could neither confirm nor deny the DEA investigation. [9]

It is precisely this information involving Zelaya and drugs that could give us the key answer to what is truly going on behind U.S. policy regarding Honduras.

An extremely influential figure in Restrepo’s life is Center for American Progress’ strongman George Soros, who is an advocate for the legalization of illicit drugs. In fact, Soros is a member of the board of the “Drug Policy Alliance,” a non-profit organization with the principal goal of ending the American “War on Drugs.” As a side – note, George Soros financially contributed to the political campaign of Barack Obama, together with four other family members – daughter Jennifer, sons Jonathan and Robert and wife Susan. He has also financially supported John Kerry, Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Charles Schumer, Joseph Biden, Patrick Leahy and Barbara Boxer. Soros also funded Al Gore for President.


Why is Zelaya’s return so important for Soros and Restrepo?

Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia are the region’s main producers of drugs, especially cocaine, and Mexico has become a major drug transit country and an important supplier of methamphetamine to the United States. In recent years, Honduras and other Central American nations have become major transshipment points for Colombian cocaine, particularly as Mexico’s government cracks down on cartels. So it is not surprising that one of Soros’ main interests would be to try to convince Latin American leaders that the U.S. Government’s war on drugs is wrong. Remember, he wants to legalize drugs. To this end, he is actively pushing to move away from the use of national and global law enforcement resources against the drug trade.  He is also fiercely opposed to Plan Colombia. To achieve this goal, he has purchased the services of several former Latin American government officials to campaign to end the war on drugs.

Actually, in October 13, 2008, then Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said at a Soros – funded Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy conference held in Tegucigalpa: “Drug use ought to be legalized as a way to combat violence.” He proposed creating a regional counternarcotics plan that would displace the US-led efforts in Colombia and Mexico. It was in this conference that Soros presented his plan for a paradigm shift within democracies to accommodate legalization. A few weeks later
 Zelaya appeared with Soros at a U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean conference in the Dominican Republic openly calling for the legalization of drugs – supposedly to reduce violence. [10]

Many have been asking, what is behind Soros’ obsession with drug legalization? Does he have clients in his hedge funds that have links to illegal activities? Soros has categorically denied receiving money from drug cartels or any criminal network, but the fact remains, however, that at least some of his financial operations have been based offshore, in banking and financial centers that are widely reported to be considered conducive to money laundering.  The Soros fund is based in the Netherlands Antilles, a self-governing federation of five Caribbean islands. A CIA factbook describes the region as “a transshipment point for South American drugs bound for the U.S. and Europe; and a money-laundering center.” In fact, Soros’ partner, Peter Lewis, considered by the Washington Post as “one of the country’s 10 most generous philanthropists,” was arrested in 2000 in New Zealand for “importing” drugs, including hashish and marijuana. [11]

Soros and Lewis together founded “America Coming Together”, a political organization designed to defeat George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. Both have helped bankroll a campaign to legalize marijuana, featuring a public relations effort that falsifies the dangerous nature of marijuana and presents it as “medicine.” Since 1991, Lewis has contributed $5 million to the ACLU to fight drug laws, and has made large contributions to drug “legalization” campaigns in Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Utah, Florida, Maine, and Massachusetts. [12]

While it is often difficult in determining the exact motivating factors in driving an administrations’ foreign policy, these connections are interesting to consider. That the Obama Administration chooses to go along with Zelaya, who violated the Honduran Constitution and is a protégé of Chavez and would therefore employ all the same anti- American policies, appears to be working against our own national security interests. Certainly, without Zelaya in power Chavez has lost, for now, another country to the forces of democracy.


Nicole M. Ferrand is a research analyst and editor of “The Americas Report” of the Menges Hemispheric Security Project. She is a graduate of Columbia University in Economics and Political Science with a background in Law from Peruvian University, UNIFE and in Corporate Finance from Georgetown University.



[1] Hillary’s Honduras Obsession. Sept. 21, 2009. The Wall Street Journal. Mary Anastasia O’Grady.

[2] Honduras: Constitutional Law Issues. August 2009. The Law Library of Congress.

[3] Senate Continues to hold Tom Shannon’s nomination to be US Ambassador to Brazil. October 15, 2009. Council of Americas. Liz Harper.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Why The Center for American Progress Rules. November 26, 2008. Time Magazine. Michael Scherer.

[9] Honduras Coup Leaders Headed for Faceoff. July 1, 2009. CBS.

[10] What the old media is not reporting on Honduras. July 1, 2009. The World Tribune.

[11] Who is Peter Lewis? December 3, 2003. Accuracy in the Media. By Arne Steinberg.

[12] Ibid.


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