US embassy cable - 02TEGUCIGALPA2531

A/S REICH ADDRESSES MILITARY ISSUES AND PROMOTES JUDICIAL REFORM WITH HONDURAN MILITARY AND SUPREME COURT

Identifier: 02TEGUCIGALPA2531
Wikileaks: View 02TEGUCIGALPA2531 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tegucigalpa
Created: 2002-09-10 16:57:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL MARR MCAP PHUM KJUS SNAR PBTS PGOV HO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEGUCIGALPA 002531 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR WHA, WHA/CEN, PM, AND DRL 
STATE PASS AID FOR LAC 
NSC FOR AMB MAISTO 
 
E.O. 12958: 09/10/12 
TAGS: PREL, MARR, MCAP, PHUM, KJUS, SNAR, PBTS, PGOV, HO 
SUBJECT: A/S REICH ADDRESSES MILITARY ISSUES AND PROMOTES 
JUDICIAL REFORM WITH HONDURAN MILITARY AND SUPREME COURT 
 
REFS: A) TEGUCIGALPA 1780 
B) TEGUCIGALPA 2444 
C) TEGUCIGALPA 1975 
 
Classified by PolChief Francisco Palmieri, Reasons 1.5 (b) 
and (d) 
 
1. (C) Summary: On August 28 WHA Assistant Secretary Otto 
Reich visited with Honduran Minister of Defense Federico 
Breve Travieso and Chief of the Joint Staff General Jose 
Isaias Barahona.  The meeting covered a variety of topics, 
including the Cerro La Mole radar, border conflicts with 
Nicaragua and El Salvador, the potential U.S. gift of six 
UH-1 helicopters and the needs of the Honduran Armed Forces 
(HOAF) with respect to the battle against trafficking of 
drugs and arms.  The following day, A/S Reich met with the 
President of the Supreme Court of Justice Vilma Morales and 
other justices. Their meeting focused on anticorruption and 
judicial reform and independence.  A/S Reich also toured one 
of Honduras's new courtrooms built to implement its new 
adversarial criminal procedure, a key U.S.-sponsored legal 
reform.  End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
MOD REVIEWS DRUGS, ARMS, HELOS AND AN AIRPORT 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) On August 28, WHA A/S Reich visited with Honduran 
Minister of Defense Federico Breve Travieso (MOD) and Chief 
of the Joint Staff General Jose Isaias Barahona at the 
Estado Mayor Conjuntos (the Honduran equivalent of the Joint 
Staff).  He was greeted by a formal honor guard and joined 
by WHA/CEN Director Paul Trivelli, the DCM, PolCouns, 
Defense Attache, MilGrp Commander and PolMilOff (notetaker). 
 
3. (C) The MOD assured A/S Reich that the Honduran Armed 
Forces (HOAF) wants to work with the U.S. in the battle 
against drug and arms trafficking.  Breve outlined a 
plethora of problems of the HOAF, focusing on communication 
deficiencies that severely hinder Honduras's effectiveness 
in situations that require an immediate response.  The MOD 
raised the issue of the Cerro La Mole radar and the failure 
of the U.S. to contribute to maintenance costs of the 
facility.  A/S Reich assured the MOD that the U.S. is 
engaged on this issue and is looking for a solution.  (See 
reftel A for background information on this issue.)  Breve 
asked about the possibility of obtaining Plan Colombia funds 
to aid the HOAF's efforts to interdict drugs passing through 
Honduras to the U.S.  A/S Reich explained restrictions on 
the manner in which Plan Colombia money can be spent. 
 
4. (C) MOD Breve also raised the U.S. offer to give the HOAF 
six used UH-1 helicopters.  The GOH must pay $4 million to 
refurbish the helicopter to make them flight-worthy before 
they can receive the UH-1s.  However, Breve advised the A/S 
that his ministry's budget is too tight at this moment to 
pay for the repairs and asked if the U.S. could fund these 
repairs or assist in finding an alternative solution.  The 
MOD stressed that the helicopters would enhance Honduras' 
ability to participate in counternarcotics activities. 
MILGRP Commander explained that U.S. funds were not 
available and that the cost of the repairs unfortunately had 
to be borne by the recipient nation. 
 
5. (U) Breve broached the subject of the proposed conversion 
of the Soto Cano military airstrip into an international 
airport for commercial use.  President Maduro embraces the 
concept, which seeks to transform the Comayagua valley into 
a new commercial center by bolstering Honduras's capacity to 
export cargo and import tourists.  (See reftel B for 
additional information about this proposal to convert the 
military airstrip (shared by the HOAF and Joint Task Force 
Bravo) into a facility that would accommodate both 
commercial air traffic and military operations.) 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
SUPPORTING JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE AND PROMOTING REFORM 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
6. (U) On August 29, A/S Reich (accompanied by Ambassador, 
WHA/CEN Director Trivelli, DCM, PolCouns, USAID Deputy 
Director, USAID FSN and PolOff) met with Supreme Court 
President Vilma Morales and five justices in the Court's 
conference chambers.  Morales and A/S Reich discussed at 
length the problem of corruption and the role the judiciary 
plays in combating it.  A/S Reich stressed the importance of 
an independent judiciary in a democratic system, and of 
judicial transparency and the rule of law in building the 
confidence of the international investment community.  A/S 
Reich and Morales talked about the strides Honduras has made 
in the area of judicial and legal reform, including the new 
selection process for Supreme Court judges (designed to 
depoliticize the Court) and the new Code of Criminal 
Procedure that established an adversarial system of 
prosecution.  (For a detailed account of anticorruption 
efforts in Honduras, see reftel C.) 
 
7. (C) Ambassador Almaguer raised the issue of the 
Congress's recently proposed Constitutional amendment that 
strips the Court of its authority to interpret the 
constitutionality of the laws and bestows it upon the 
Congress itself.  (Note: Post will provide more information 
about this ongoing judicial conflict via septel.  End Note.) 
Judges Marco T. Barahona and Ovidio Navarro weighed in on 
this topic, highlighting the need for civil society and 
other sectors, especially the G-15 group and U.S., to 
support the Court in its battle for independence and the 
maintenance of separation of powers. 
 
8. (U) The delegation toured a newly constructed courtroom 
designed to implement the country's new criminal procedures 
code, which uses a prosecutorial system vice the previous 
inquistorial one and which requires oral trials with 
witnesses and juries.  The new criminal procedures code is 
one of the most important U.S. sponsored legal reforms to be 
enacted in Honduras. Judge Jorge Alberto Burgos Cordova from 
the Honduran Sentencing Tribunal gave a brief presentation 
that outlined how the recent reforms to the criminal process 
are already beginning to yield more equal justice under law. 
(Note: Judge Burgos formerly served as a prosecutor, during 
which time he came very close to death when would-be 
assassins shot him 17 times.  End note.) 
 
PIERCE 

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