By Mary Anastasia O’Grady:
The U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, continues to use his post in Tegucigalpa to advance the political strategy of some of Washington’s most hard-left Democrats. His effort deserves attention because it is part of a broader ideological agenda for the region that runs counter to U.S. security interests.
Twelve days ago Mr. Llorens hosted a dinner party at his residence for more than a half-dozen members of President Porfirio Lobo’s cabinet. The guests of honor were two visiting Capitol Hill staffers. Fulton Armstrong works for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Peter Quilter works for California Congressman Howard Berman, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Both elected politicians are known for left-wing sympathies. So too are their staffers. Mr. Armstrong is more famous than his House counterpart because of his working relationship—when he was on the National Intelligence Council—with Ana Belen Montes, the highest ranking Cuban spy ever to penetrate the Pentagon.
It is strange enough that the ambassador thought it appropriate to subject cabinet ministers to an evening with Hill staffers. It is even more bizarre that the staffers would think it appropriate to use the occasion to pressure the ministers on matters of domestic politics.
Yet multiple reports from the event all told the same story: The foreigners said that they are still sore with Honduran supporters of what the Obama administration had branded “a coup d’etat” last year. Those supporters, who argued that Honduras had the constitutional right to remove President Manuel Zelaya from power, had hired lobbyists to present their arguments in Washington. They caused great trouble for the Democrats, the Kerry-Berman emissaries complained.
The staffers had other meetings with government and private-sector VIPS where this issue came up. According to some of those present, the visitors implied that if Honduras wants to get right with the U.S., it should find a way to officially accept the Obama administration’s coup d’etat narrative.
Mr. Armstrong’s office says that the staffers’ visit was “part of their normal staff responsibilities” and that they “discussed a whole host of issues with their interlocutors.”
If that included pushing to make their version of the “coup” official, it’s nothing new. Last year, after the Law Library of Congress opined that Honduras had acted constitutionally when it removed Mr. Zelaya, Messrs. Kerry and Berman penned a letter to the head of the Law Library to demand that the opinion be retracted and “corrected.” The head librarian stood by the Library’s analysis. But as the Armstrong-Quilter visit suggests, the lawmakers have not given up their quest to rewrite history.
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Equally troubling are questions about Mr. Armstrong, who last year tried to block Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s fact-finding trip to Honduras. For much of his career as a Central Intelligence Agency analyst on Latin America, Mr. Armstrong’s work was shrouded in secrecy. That changed when Mr. Kerry blurted out his name during 2005 hearings on George W. Bush’s nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Bolton’s adversaries claimed that he was unqualified for the job because he had tried to have Mr. Armstrong fired for political reasons.
Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs, went before staffers of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to testify on Mr. Bolton’s behalf. Mr. Reich says he told the staffers that he had found Mr. Armstrong’s work consistently unreliable and that much of the national security bureaucracy saw it the same way. The late columnist Robert Novak wrote for Townhall.com at the time that Mr. Reich’s views fit “complaints I have heard from Reagan administration officials about Armstrong’s left-wing bias on Western Hemisphere questions in general, but particularly on Cuba.”
Mr. Armstrong’s name also comes up in the 2007 book “True Believer,” by Defense Intelligence Agency “mole hunter” Scott Carmichael. It tells the story of how the U.S. busted Cuban spy Montes in 2001.
As the National Intelligence Officer for Latin America in 2000, Mr. Armstrong was “in frequent telephone and e-mail contact with Ana,” Mr. Carmichael writes. “As NIO he was the senior subject-matter expert on Latin American affairs for the [director of central intelligence], and he welcomed Ana’s participation in the fellowship program under his personal tutelage. They had discussed the nature of her research project in some detail, and preparations were already underway to launch Ana further and deeper into the U.S. intelligence community.” The book does not say that he knew she was a spy. Mr. Armstrong’s office did not respond to my request for comments.
All of this raises questions about Mr. Armstrong’s judgment on Latin America and his qualifications to be the point person for the Senate in shaping U.S. policy in Honduras in 2010.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com