Putting the Best Face on a Coup D’Etat

Manuel Zelaya

Manuel ZelayaThe government of Honduras – referred to these days as “de facto,” “interim” or “illegitimate” – is dealing with its public perception problem just like any tarnished ruling party would: by launching a PR campaign.

The interim government, installed after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup in June, has hired the Washington lobbyists Chlopak Leonard Schechter and Associates to sway policy makers’ opinions, The Hill reported last week. The nearly $300,000 contract was signed on Sept. 18. The lobbying firm – which has represented the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, Georgia and Serbia, among others – is tasked with advancing “the level of communication, awareness and media/policy maker attention about the political situation in Honduras.”

The main issues to remember, according to Joy Olson of the Washington Office of Latin America , a policy advocacy group, are that the de facto government has conceded nothing and has refused to recognize that Zelaya is still the elected president.

“Those are the fundamentals,” she says, “and you don’t change those fundamentals through better PR.” Zelaya’s ouster was endorsed by Honduras’ Supreme Court and Congress, but has been met with widespread and increasing criticism abroad. On Saturday, the Organization of American States voted unanimously to suspend Honduras from the group.

Chlopak Leonard Schechter and Associates hasn’t yet returned our calls. We’ll add the firm’s comments when someone there rings us.

We thought it’d be helpful to post the lobbying contract, which you can browse in our handy document viewer.

And for information about other countries that have lobbied to influence U.S. policy, visit the Foreign Lobbyist Influence Tracker, a joint project by ProPublica and the Sunlight Foundation that built a searchable database from forms filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in 2008.

This article by Sabrina Shankman originally appeared on Pro Publica’s Web site and has been re-posted here under a creative common license.

Photo (Agência Brasil): Manuel Zelaya spoke to the press in Brasília on August 12, 2009.

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