Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:39 AM
Summary of our meeting with US Ambassador, Hugo Llorens
There were 5 of us attending the meeting, Mitch Cummins, Russ Summerell, Lloyd Davidson, Gary Chamer, and Eldon Bolton. We spent about 1 hour and 20 minutes with the ambassador. I think that this was an extraordinary amount of time.
We began by introducing ourselves, establishing our credentials (between us there was about 85 years of experience in Honduras), and stating our position on the actions that led up to and have occurred since June 28. Hugo Llorens was polite and actively listened to our points. He then expressed his and the State Department's position. This did not vary from what we've all read and heard. A lively debate followed the ambassador's presentation. Neither side changed the other's opinion on the base issues.
Here are some key points of our discussion:
The US recognizes that Mel Zelaya committed various crimes. The US feels that there was time to pursue a more "normal" legalprocess to deal with those crimes. Our position was that the Hondurans didn't feel that there was time. They felt that the "poll" on that Sunday was the action that was going to cause the fall of their democracy. They felt that they HAD to act then.
The US believes that the resolution of the crisis must come from the negotiations in Costa Rica. This includes the NEGOTIATED return of Zelaya. I add the emphasis on "negotiated" because I believe that they are backing off the "unconditional" return that has been stated by other countries. During the conversation, Ambassador Llorens stated emphatically that the US would NOT allow Chavez or any other foreign power to invade Honduras. The US still sees Honduras as a friend and ally. We presented 155 signed letters opposing the US position regarding Honduras. THANK YOU TO ALL WHO SENT THE LETTERS IN!!! These 155 letters were collected in less than 24 hours - that response is amazing!
We asked for the Bay Islands to be removed from the travel advisories. The Ambassador was going to check with his legal team, but felt that could be done. I personally believe that will happen pretty quickly.
The US feels that their position has given Honduras the space to negotiate a way out of this crisis. They have not been very vocal against what's happened. By this I mean that they are not out slamming the current government every day. They are firm on their position, but are not beating Honduras over the head with that position. We believe that this may have been the first time that Hugo Llorens had discussed these issues with Americans that believed as strongly in an opposing view to his. He is sequestered in the embassy - he's not allowed to leave Tegucigalpa. I think that it was VERY good for him to hear a contrary opinion.
Hugo Llorens said that if there were other Americans that wanted to meet with him, he would make time for them. I think he was sincere about that. He also said that as soon as he was allowed, he would come out to the islands. As we were leaving we let his assistant know that we were going to be more vocal in our opposition to the US position.
After we left the ambassador we went back to the hotel and were debriefing over a beer. We received a phone call saying that the Honduran Foreign Minister had heard about our meeting and the petition that we presented. The Foreign Minister's office wanted to meet with us.
We spent well over an hour with 3 advisors to the Foreign Minister. We began by stating our solidarity with the Honduran people and the actions that were taken. We talked about the letter, what it said, who had responded, etc. They want to publish that information both domestically and internationally. We also talked about what we saw as issues that the government was facing. We talked about the fact that the debate on was it a coup or not is over. Don't spend another ounce of energy on that argument.
Honduras has to focus on the future. We pushed very hard to promote the idea that Herb Morici presented at the meeting on Monday. That idea was to get Pepe Lobo and Elvin Santos to stand together and present a common front until the campaign starts. It's time for them to become the poster boys of the next government. They liked that idea and said that they would work to make that happen quickly.
We also talked about ways that the ex-pat community and the Foreign Ministry can interact and coordinate. I believe that we established a good relationship in that meeting and I'm positive that you will see some good work between the two groups.
At the end of the day, we made our voices heard to the US Ambassador to Honduras. I'm positive that he heard our message that we do not agree with the official position. I am confident that the Bay Islands will be removed from the US travel advisories. I think that we've opened a dialogue with the ambassador that should be continued until this crisis is resolved. I think that we've been able to impress upon the current government of Honduras, at a high enough level, that it is imperative that the 2 candidates step forward and begin to be the face of the Honduran future. I think that we've established a working relationship with the Foreign Minister's office so that we can help each other through the next several months.
All in all, it was a long but productive day. I think that I speak for all of us attending these meetings when I say that it was one of the most interesting days I've experienced in a long time.
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