How Pentagon Officials May Have Encouraged a 2009 Coup in Honduras

Source: The Intercept

FORT MCNAIR, ONE of the oldest U.S. military posts in the country, is nestled on an outcropping of land where the Anacostia and Potomac rivers meet in Washington, D.C. There, within the National Defense University, is the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, where hundreds of Hondurans took courses over the years. In mid-July 2009, Honduran military officials sought the center’s help to solve a problem that had recently arisen.

The Honduran military had just dispatched of its previous problem, President Manuel Zelaya, with a military coup. Now, the Central American military was facing international and regional condemnations for a brazen display of 1970s behavior in the 21st century. The military officials needed friends in the U.S. to rally behind it, but the Americans were wary of open shows of support. The U.S. had just revoked visas from top Honduran civilian and military officials, and suspended some security assistance.

Two Honduran colonels were dispatched to Washington on a mission to convince the Americans that the Honduran military’s involvement in the coup was in fact constitutional. The military had reached out to the CHDS’s academic dean to get help for the delegation. Officially CHDS said no, Kenneth LaPlante, CHDS’s then-deputy director, told me. However, according to Martin Andersen, a former CHDS communications director who became a whistleblower, Gen. John Thompson, the academic dean, had allegedly provided “behind-the-scenes assistance in Washington, D.C., to Honduran coup plotters.” Andersen’s allegation was made in a complaint being investigated by the Department of Defense Inspector General, which has taken no action.

At the time of the coup in Honduras, a number Republicans who supported the Honduran military sat on the American Security Council Foundation’s Congressional Advisory Board. One of the Republican representatives, Connie Mack, R-Fla., announced a “fact-finding” mission to Honduras while the colonels were in town. The Honduran colonels had a number of congressional meetings, which Andersen alleges Thompson helped facilitate. Thompson, who served on the foundation’s board in 2009, did not respond to a request for comment from The Intercept about his role.

Cresencio Arcos, a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras who had taken a job at CHDS by the time the coup occurred, told me that he received an angry call from a congressional staffer who had met with the Honduran colonels. The colonels, Arcos said, had told the staffer they had CHDS’s support.  He confronted CHDS’s director, Richard Downie, and his deputy, LaPlante, telling them, “We cannot have this sort of thing happening, where we’re supporting coups.”

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