After masked soldiers kidnapped the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya on June 28, 2009, and flew him to a U.S. military base in Honduras and then onto Costa Rica, hundreds of Hondurans, fearing for their lives, went into exile. Zelaya’s former minister of culture, Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, was one of them. After he fled Honduras, Pastor joined Harvard University as a visiting professor where he taught courses on Latin American history. Now back in Honduras, Pastor says he is certain the United States helped engineer the coup. Democracy Now! spoke to him in Tegucigalpa over the weekend while reporting on the return trip of Zelaya to Honduras. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now, continuing on the issue of the President’s return to Honduras. Yes, it was Saturday that President Zelaya returned. He had been ousted two years ago, on June 28th, 2009. Hooded Honduran soldiers raided his home. They took him at gunpoint, kidnapped him, put him in a plane, and flew him to the U.S. military base in Honduras called Palmerola, then flew him out of the country to Costa Rica.
Hundreds of Hondurans fled into exile, fearing for their lives, among them, Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle. He was the culture minister of Honduras. He’s the author of many books. He’s a social historian and writes regularly for Honduran newspapers. After he fled, Fasquelle was a visiting professor at Harvard University, where he taught courses on Latin American history.
I spoke with Professor Fasquelle at a hotel where the delegation that accompanied Zelaya home to Tegucigalpa was staying. I asked Fasquelle about his views on the United States and its role in the coup.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the United States’ role in all of this, in your country, Honduras?
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: I think it’s hideous. I was trained, I was educated in the United States as a young man. I went there to late high school and to the university, in Tulane University, Columbia College. And I was there in a period of time, in a historical period, in which I identified myself profoundly with this aspiration of democracy that was concretely manifested in the black African movement to rescue their rights and with the programs that President Kennedy was promoting in Latin America, in general, and in the United States. And I believed in American democracy because of this direct contact with this movement and believed also in American democracy when President Kennedy, for example, after the former coup d’état in ’63, severed relationships with the military government. And in fact —
AMY GOODMAN: In Honduras.
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: In Honduras. And in fact, he never authorized the reestablishment of relationships between the United States and the military regime in Honduras at that time. This was something that inspired me confidence, that it really mattered to him, democracy. Of course, President Johnson almost immediately reestablished relationships.
The problem here is that, in fact, there is a direct contradiction between official discourse, the rhetoric, the image, the ideology that the United States pretends to represent in the world, and these instruments of ideology and rhetoric it uses to combat regimes in different countries around the world, and what it actually does.
It was, of course, directly involved. Of course, who — I’m not able to signal and say that Ambassador Llorens was directly involved in promoting the coup. Some people believe that. I know for a fact that CIA operatives and military personnel of the United States were in direct contact with the conspirators of the coup d’état and aided the conspirators of the coup d’état. The coup was not something improvised. It was something that was laboriously and in a very punctilious manner prepared in time, so that from January onwards, you have this media campaign. All national newspapers, all major television chains and stations are involved, in this long period, in a propaganda campaign against the government, Zelaya’s government.
And the propaganda campaign is a very curious one. I’ll give you one example. One of the themes that was repeated in all media was that we were going to take all children away from peasant parents because we needed to educate them as responsible socialist citizens, and that was our intention, which of course was completely, you know, an absurd fabrication. Another was that we were going to take — in order to solve the housing problem in the country, we were going to take away from people who had more than one house the second house that they had, expropriate it, nationalize the property, and give it to people without living quarters, or that, inclusively, if we had more — if a person had more than one room or needed no more than one room in his or her home, we would take — we would force them to take people in and house people without any kind of obligations. And supposedly, this was a Venezuelan law that we were going to be imitating in the Zelaya government immediately after constitutional assembly government. And the problem is that there is no such Venezuelan law, as you can imagine. There never was any such Venezuelan law. And so, the whole thing is a fabrication.
But it is not a local fabrication, because we have no people in Honduras who are capable of organizing these massive campaigns. It is something that was designed by specialists, by people who know how media wars and media campaigns are put together and how they function and how they work. Now, who could have aided the conspirators in this kind of campaign? Only the CIA. There is no other answer. There is no other possibility, see? It is a logical conclusion.
I have many other details of information as a minister in the government. I was often invited and often also participated in diplomatic activities, receptions, cocktail parties, these things that we lose so much time in when we’re in government. And I was repeatedly approached by American military officers and diplomatic personnel who were trying to discover if I was unsure of myself or unrestful with what we were doing in government and what our plans were for the future. And repeatedly, the theme that came up was that our association with Chávez and Venezuela was or seemed such a threat and such a profoundly disgusting relationship to them, which I never understood why they would think that I would manifest myself against President Chávez. I may not like his personal style sometimes, but I respect him very much as a national leader of his own country. And I was very convinced — I am today, as well — that the kind of aid President Chávez was giving our government, through Petrocaribe and through ALBA, was absolutely necessary at the time. But they were convinced that for ideological reasons I would manifest myself in sympathy with their alarm.
AMY GOODMAN: And if you had, what was your feeling they would have done?
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: Well, maybe if I was a more sophisticated politician, I should have invented sympathy for their intentions and found out. I was not. I was always very clear and very definitive what we’re doing is what is convenient to our national interest, it is something that is absolutely necessary under the circumstances. If you don’t want Petrocaribe to give us 40 percent credit on our oil bill, give us the credit, and we’ll consider substituting their aid for your aid, no? Which never came out.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, take it from there. The coup happens. The U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Llorens, within a few weeks, has a cable to Washington, to the State Department, which we now know because WikiLeaks released it in the trove of U.S. government cables, that says the case in Honduras is “open and shut” case of a coup, illegal, unconstitutional, and what the supporters of the coup are saying, their rights to have fomented a coup, is absurd. Just, that’s to paraphrase this cable. You would not have known that from what the U.S. government officials were saying, from President Obama to Hillary Clinton.
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: It is a very interesting cable. Of course, it was obviously done by a very brilliant legal mind who was profoundly knowledgeable of Honduran laws and judicial traditions. It was not something that was improvised by foreigners or consulters from outside. So he obviously — the ambassador obviously sought people who were knowledgeable in order to formulate this cable, to write this cable.
And at the beginning, however, you can see the United States has a very serious relations problem with the coup. It is seen almost always and automatically, justly or unjustly, as being the promoter and the author and the defender of the coup d’état. But the coup d’état has gone into remission as any kind of legitimate instrument. No one in the rest of the Latin American community, or even of the continental community, accepts the coup, and the United States has to solve the problem that it is seen as a backer of the coup, no?
And I think Llorens’s cable is a part of that dilemma and seeks a definition. But the problem with the American ambassador in Honduras is that he has within his embassy people working for the DEA and people working for the CIA, and he’s not really in direct control of what these people are doing. And they are also sending cables which WikiLeaks has still not published, giving their own version of what is happening, as the people in South Command are also informing their superiors.
AMY GOODMAN: And how does SOUTHCOM fit into this, Southern Command, military?
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: Well, remember, there had been a conflict about Palmerola. President Zelaya had expressed his intention of making the Palmerola airfield into a civilian airport.
AMY GOODMAN: Because?
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: Because we needed it, because the country needs it, because it is —- the airport here is dangerous. Beware now that you’re going to get on a plane, there have been so many accidents in this airport here. And the country needed this kind of airport. There had been a very recent accident in which many people died in the airport here, and the President had announced the solution is to transform Palmerola, the American Air Force base, into a civilian airport, and we’re going to proceed with that, and in fact announced his intention of asking collaboration of the American government in this process. But this was satisfactory to no one in the American government, and much less to SOUTHCOM. And one of the irritating elements in the relationship with SOUTHCOM was this. But there was all kinds of hallucinations about military conflict between Colombia and Venezuela and the military threat of Venezuela, which was buying weapons from Russia and other weapon makers around the world. So, there was -—
AMY GOODMAN: That the U.S. was alleging.
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: That’s correct, and, for whatever reasons, was promoting publicly as a problem. And so, you have a process by which these other agents are influencing their agencies, and their agencies also pressuring and influencing the State Department to change its course, to find a solution, to do away with the initial announcement of President Obama himself about a coup d’état and the initial announcement by Hillary Clinton saying that the United States government would cooperate with the OAS in seeking a solution. When the solution that the OAS establishes, which is expulsion of the Honduran government from — the Honduran state from the organization and the demand that the coup be reversed, that the President be reinstated in his office, in order to re-accept the Honduran state in the organization, the United States decides that that will not do.
AMY GOODMAN: Last question: your assessment of President Obama in relation to Latin America?
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: Poor President Obama. I was also almost euphoric about President Obama’s election. I was so enthusiastic, you know? The United States had put behind its back this hideous history. When I arrived at the United States, I should say to you, I went to New Orleans to a high school, a Catholic high school there, but Africans could not sit in the same seats that we sat. They could not come to the same Catholic high school that I went to, nor to the same university, Tulane University, that I later — there were no admissions of Africans in these universities. So I have this memory. And seeing Obama elected was really very — well, inspired great optimism.
And then he came to Trinidad and Tobago, and he promised Latin American presidents that he would change the way in which foreign policy towards Latin America was made and formulated and performed. Remember his embrace and handshake with President Chávez in Trinidad. So we were all very hopeful, in fact, that he would be able to prevail. But in fact, this is a huge apparatus that he is supposedly in charge of, no? And I simply perceive the idea that he cannot control it all, that he can have good intentions and even feel — have sentiments that favor our cause, but he is not in a position to control all these people who were, in fact, all in place before he arrived. Hugo Llorens was here, an ambassador before Obama was elected. And all of the officers who worked at the U.S. embassy in the different agencies were in place before Obama came to his administration.
AMY GOODMAN: Under Bush.
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: Under Bush. They had been named in the Reagan-Bush period.
AMY GOODMAN: But he can change them.
RODOLFO PASTOR FASQUELLE: Yes, of course, but he can’t change them all at the same time. Remember that. It is a process. And I don’t know if he’s going to have enough time, because his contradictions, of course, have discredited him greatly in Latin America. He has lost a great deal of the sympathy that he initially had in all of Latin America.
AMY GOODMAN: Former minister of culture and social historian, Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Fasquelle fled Honduras after the coup. He taught at Harvard University. He’s just recently returned home. Back in a minute.