By John Earl
Surf City Voice
Confidential State Department memos released through Wikileaks and the New York Times show that Surf City’s congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, tried to obtain special favors for his friends while undermining Obama’s foreign policy during a visit with Honduran coup d’état leaders in the later part of January and start of February last year.
A military coup had recently overthrown the democratically elected president, Manuel Zalaya, who remains exiled to this day. Representatives of the new government, under the titular leadership of President Porfirio Lobo, pressed Rohrabacher to help them restore U.S. aid that had been withdrawn because of the coup.
Based on the documents, the Times reported that “Using his status as a senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Rohrabacher cheered his hosts in Honduras by openly challenging the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda there..”
The Times also reported that “…Mr. Rohrabacher’s trip last February was different because he pushed for small, specific companies with which he had personal and political ties. The coin dealer, John R. Saunders, is a big contributor to Mr. Rohrabacher’s campaigns, dating back at least a decade. The president of SG Biofuels, Kirk Haney, is a friend of Mr. Rohrabacher’s wife and a former intern in the congressman’s office, Mr. Rohrabacher said, as well as a contributor.”
Click here to read the complete New York Times story.
Rohrabacher met with the president of the Honduran Supreme Court and congratulated the court for its ruling justifying the removal of president Zalaya from office, one memo indicates.
“He urged the Government of Honduras to eschew establishing a ‘truth commission,’ asserting that the ‘Supreme Court is the truth commission’ and that any further investigation into the events of the summer would result in continued political division and animosity in the country,” the once-secret memo says.
Rohrabacher and his “delegation,” including representatives of SG Biofuels—one of whom interned for Rohrabacher and is a friend of his wife—met with Ramon Espinoza, President Lobo’s science advisor and agricultural expert, and a government economist to discuss introducing the seed of a strain of Jatropha, a biofuel being developed for the company the University of California at San Diego, to Honduran small farmers.
Current City Councilmember James Righeimer also accompanied the congressman. Righeimer was Rohrabacher’s campaign chairman in his last two reelection campaigns.
The leaked State Department cables are reprinted below.
Date 2010-02-24 20:28:00
Source Embassy Tegucigalpa
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEGUCIGALPA 000169
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2020
TAGS: ECON, PGOV, OVIP, PREL, HO
SUBJECT: ROHRABACHER CODEL
1. (SBU) Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) visited
Honduras January 31-February 2 and called on Hondurans to
“turn the page” on the political events of the summer.
Congressman Rohrabacher commended the Honduran
people for their commitment to democracy and said he would
urge the U.S. government to re-instate revoked U.S. visas.
Congressman Rohrabacher expressed concern that
establishment of a “truth commission,” as called for by the
Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, would have the effect of
continuing to divide Hondurans. Congressman Rohrabacher,
who was accompanied by several American businessmen and
investors, endorsed US investment and particularly lauded
the benefits of the development of biofuel industry in
Honduras. He enthusiastically promoted a start-up biofuel
company, SG Biofuels. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Congressman Dana Rohrabacher visited Honduras
January 31-February 2, accompanied by President and
Vice-President of SG Biofuels, Kirk Haney and Greg
John Saunders and James Righeimer; and political consultant
Mark Klugman. The delegation met on February 1 with
Porfirio Lobo, who was accompanied by Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs Mario Canahuati; with President of Congress
Juan Orlando Hernandez; and with Science Advisor to the
President Ramon Espinoza. The delegation met on February 2
with President of the Supreme Court Jorge Alberto Rivera
Aviles. The Ambassador and the Embassy country team
provided Congressman Rohrabacher with a briefing. In
addition to these official meetings, the delegation met
independently and informally with several important actors
in the Honduran political scene including: former President
Ricardo Maduro; current Mayor of Tegucigalpa Ricardo
Alvarez; businessmen Camilo Atala, Robert Vinelli and
Richard Vinelli; and President of the Honduran Association
of Small Renewal Energy Producers Elsia Paz.
TURNING THE PAGE ON THE COUP D’ETAT
3. (SBU) Throughout his visit, Congressman Rohrabacher
stressed his great admiration for the commitment of the
Honduran people to democracy. He warned of the danger of
allowing “caudillos” or strongmen, like Cuban President
Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to
assume control and praised the recently replaced Honduran
de facto regime. (Note: Rohrabacher did not request a
meeting with Roberto Micheletti. End Note).
4. (SBU) In his conversation with President of Congress
Juan Orlando Hernandez on February 1, Congressman
Rohrabacher told Hernandez that he was an emissary of
Honduras’ friends in Congress, in particular member of
Congress Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Congressman Rohrabacher told
Hernandez he believes it is important to bring closure to
the Honduran political crisis. Hernandez agreed that
Honduras needs to put the crisis behind it, adding that the
political amnesty decree passed by the congress on January
26 will contribute to that.
5. (SBU) Hernandez told Congressman Rohrabacher that it is
difficult to understand why some foreign nations have not
recognized the government of President Porfirio Lobo.
Hernandez noted that the electoral process that led to the
November 29 general election began long before the June 28
coup d’etat and was organized by an autonomous body, the
Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Hernandez asked Congressman
Rohrabacher for assistance with resumption of U.S.
assistance. Hernandez stated that some steps on
re-engagement had already taken place, noting his meeting
with the Ambassador earlier that day. Hernandez told
Congressman Rohrabacher that all political parties
represented in congress are ready to take measures to
attract foreign investment. Hernandez said that he is
committed to modernizing the congress and requested
information about the workings of U.S. congressional
6. (C) Hernandez noted that he was scheduled to meet with
an Israeli delegation on February 5 to discuss their
concerns about Iranian contacts with Venezuelan President
Chavez; Hernandez added that he knew the U.S. was also
concerned about such contact.
TEGUCIGALP 00000169 002 OF 003
7. (SBU) During Congressman Rohrabacher’s meeting with the
President of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court
Justices on February 2, he congratulated the Supreme Court
for its actions in removing President Jose Manuel “Mel”
Zelaya from office. He urged the Government of Honduras to
eschew establishing a “truth commission,” asserting that
the “Supreme Court is the truth commission” and that any
further investigation into the events of the summer would
result in continued political division and animosity in the
country. He also explained that he would return to the US
and urge the administration to reissue visas for those
people whose visas were revoked or suspended in response to
8. (SBU) The Supreme Court Justices each took the
opportunity to thank Congressman Rohrabacher for his
comments and defended the integrity of the legal process
used to remove President Zelaya. Justice Victor Manual
Martinez Silva said that the Organization of American
States (OAS) had expelled Honduras and the European Union
(EU) had censured Honduras without even hearing their legal
justifications and he urged that international financial
sanctions be removed. Justice Rosalinda Cruz Sequiera
observed that various human rights reports, including the
Committee on Inter-American Dialogue report, contained
statements that were “completely false” in referring to the
removal of former President Zelaya as a “coup d’etat”. She
expressed the belief that history would bear out the
correctness of their actions. Vice-President of the
Supreme Court-Jose Tomas Arita Valle emphasized that the
actions taken by the court were not driven by political
interests and were practically unanimous.
SUPPORTING US INVESTMENT IN HONDURAN BIOFUEL
9. (U) Congressman Rohrabacher and members of his
delegation met on February 1 with Ramon Espinoza, an
agricultural expert who serves as science advisor to
President Lobo. Mr. Espinoza was accompanied by Manlio
Martinez, a development economist who works in Mr.
Espinoza’s office. The economic counselor also attended
10. (SBU) Congressman Rohrabacher introduced Kirk Haney
and Greg Simon-Miro, representatives of the company SG
Biofuels, which has been developing a highly productive
strain of jatropha, a biofuel, in Guatemala. Congressman
Rohrabacher told Mr. Espinoza that experts from the
University of California at San Diego had been working with
the company to develop the strain. Haney said that the
company had planted 600 hectares of the seed, which is the
top-producing jatropha strain to date, in Guatemala. The
challenge now is to bring the technology to the market.
Haney told Espinoza that, when he first met with
Congressman Rohrabacher about this topic two years ago,
Congressman Rohrabacher had told him that the best way to
do this would be to make the seed available to small
farmers. The company would give the farmers a contract to
buy the seed at a pre-set price.
11. (SBU) Espinoza said that he had worked on a biofuel
project while in academia. He stated that he has talked
about biofuels to President Lobo and believes that the
President wants to make this area a priority. Espinoza
noted that Brazil had benefited from its foresight in
making this a priority starting in the 1980s. Honduras,
Espinoza said, is behind in this area and the challenge
will be to select two or three key priorities. He told
Congressman Rohrabacher that he had opposed Honduras’
emphasis on palm oil, since he does not think it is
advisable to turn a food material into an energy source,
given the distortions this causes to food prices. He said
that the jatropha project was an excellent opportunity.
Haney said that his company was not looking for special
favors from the Honduran government but wanted to make the
government aware that the project was available.
12. (SBU) Espinoza said that Honduras’s development is
hampered by the country’s lack of technical skills. He
noted that Intel had just announced that its highest-end
chip will be produced in Costa Rica, but that this type of
manufacturing would not be possible in Honduras. Congressman
TEGUCIGALP 00000169 003 OF 003
Rohrabacher recommended that Honduras develop its patent and
copyright framework so that there will be an incentive to
The Congressman said one way that Honduras could attract
innovators would be to make income derived from patents and
13. (SBU) In a productive meeting with Ambassador Llorens,
the representatives from SG Biofuel presented their
proposal for initiating jatropha planting operations in
Honduras. The Ambassador and Congressman Rohrabacher
discussed the many ways that this serious initiative
coincides with the Mission’s Strategic Goals on renewable
energy. The Ambassador arranged break-out meetings for the
SG representatives with the economic section, Millenium
Challenge Corporation (MCC) and USAID to discuss further
opportunities for collaboration.
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