Where’s Hugo? (the other Hugo)

As I detailed in Saturday’s post, US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens played a significant role in negotiations preceding the military coup, hosting a meeting between President Manuel Zelaya and the coup plotters and discussing options for Zelaya’s (non-coup) removal from power.

Despite the central role Llorens played in the political drama, his name has been largely absent from media coverage of the Honduran crisis, with very little background information and no in-depth coverage of his diplomatic efforts. The New York Times article discussed in my previous post is the only article in the US media that highlights Llorens’ role in pre-coup talks.

There are some other exceptions to the Llorens media brownout. One very serious journalist, Carlos Montaner, led off a WaPo/Newsweek blog post by singing Hugo’s praises:

The United States Ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, an extremely competent diplomat, tried very hard to keep Honduras’s Congress from ousting President Manuel Zelaya. After his arguments and pressures were exhausted, and faced with something that seemed inevitable, he did what he could: he sheltered the president’s son at his residence to save him from any violent outcome.

The passage reads like propaganda, and for good reason: as recently as 2006, Montaner’s “journalism” was subsidized by the US government’s anti-Castro propaganda outlet.

Montaner was one of ten Miami journalists who were found to be accepting pay from the US government for programs on Radio and TV Marti, a project of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (some call it the CIA). The programs are beamed into Cuba from some sort of special plane, but can’t be played in the United States because of anti-propaganda laws.

At the time, ethicists saw this as a clear conflict of interest. The publisher of the Miami Herald, Jesus Diaz, Jr, fired two of the journalists, but later resigned his post after the Cuban American community protested the move and threatened an advertising boycott.

Montaner has remained at the Miami Herald as an editorial columnist, and now has a soapbox at the Post Global, a Washington Post/Newsweek Zakaria/Ignatius project.

Maybe I’m naive, but I’m sort of surprised that this CIA asset is still employable by mainstream press outlets in the US, now that the secret is out. Is he still employable by the CIA? And does Hugo Llorens really want this kind of journalist calling him “extremely competent” or reporting on his valiant efforts to save democracy in Honduras?

As long as it comes from a known propagandist, I’d sooner believe the opposite.

Now for some curious connections, the kind we like to serve up here at Eyes on the Ties: the ombudsman of the Miami Herald is Edward Schumacher, the pro-coup columnist I profiled on Saturday. Jim Stavridis, the good friend of Hugo Llorens who oversaw the Southern Command and visited Honduras in January, recommended a book by Montaner last fall, calling him a member of the old left and describing it as an “indispensible [sic] guide” that casts blame on Latin Americans, rather than the US, for Latin American problems. Refreshing.

Please let me know if you find more on Hugo, in the news or elsewhere.