US embassy cable - 03TEGUCIGALPA1243

HONDURAN CONGRESS APPROVES IRAQ TROOP DEPLOYMENT RESOLUTION AND ICC ARTICLE 98 AGREEMENT WITH U.S.

Identifier: 03TEGUCIGALPA1243
Wikileaks: View 03TEGUCIGALPA1243 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tegucigalpa
Created: 2003-05-30 23:52:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Tags: PREL PGOV MARR PHUM KTIA HO KICC
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 001243 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPT. FOR T, PM, L, NEA, WHA, WHA/PPC, AND WHA/CEN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/30/2013 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MARR, PHUM, KTIA, HO, KICC 
SUBJECT: HONDURAN CONGRESS APPROVES IRAQ TROOP DEPLOYMENT 
RESOLUTION AND ICC ARTICLE 98 AGREEMENT WITH U.S. 
 
REF: A. WARSAW 2016/2015 
     B. TEGUCIGALPA 1075 (ALL NOTAL) 
 
Classified By: Political Section Chief Francisco L. Palmieri; Reasons 1 
.5 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUEST:  The Honduran Congress 
approved on the evening of May 28 both the resolution 
authorizing the deployment of Honduran troops to Iraq and the 
ICC Article 98 Agreement with the U.S.  Ambassador Palmer met 
with the President of Congress,  Porfirio Lobo Sosa, on May 
22 to personally urge the Congress to act expeditiously and 
favorably on these two important U.S. foreign policy 
initiatives.  As the final slim majority outcomes 
demonstrated, both measures were seen as controversial in 
Honduras and cost the Maduro administration political 
capital.  The deployment will cost the Government of Honduras 
(GOH) about USD 400,000 in unbudgeted military deployment 
costs, which represents a significant financial burden for 
the GOH as it continues difficult negotiations to reach a new 
IMF agreement.  Given these favorable policy actions by 
Honduras, Post requests that Washington policymakers give all 
possible consideration to reprogramming FMF funds to Honduras 
as a tangible sign of our appreciation for both their 
steadfast political support and, now, their concrete 
contribution to the Coalition of the Willing.  See action 
request in paragraph 8.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (U) The Honduran Congress approved on the evening of May 
28 both the resolution authorizing the deployment of Honduran 
troops to Iraq and the ICC Article 98 Agreement with the U.S. 
 The margin for both resolutions was small, as President 
Ricardo Maduro's National Party and its small coalition 
partner, the Christian Democrats, narrowly defeated 
opposition from the Liberal Party, as well as the minor PINU 
and UD parties.  Liberal Party Congressman Ramon Villeda 
Bermudez criticized the resolution as "the Government of 
Honduras legitimizing the illegal war that the U.S. declared 
against Saddam Hussein's regime."  Other opposition centered 
on the cost of the deployment and the lack of consultation by 
President Maduro with the Congress over his management of 
Honduran foreign policy. 
 
3. (U) The Iraq resolution authorizes sending 370 soldiers to 
Iraq for a one-year deployment, with rotations of soldiers by 
"semester."  Each soldier will receive USD 150/month, with 
USD 5,000 allotted for administrative expenses.  The total 
estimated cost is 6.5 million lempiras (USD 382,353).  A key 
additional expense is life insurance policies for the 
deployed soldiers.  None of these costs were anticipated in 
this year's defense budget.  Given the stalled negotiations 
with the IMF on a new poverty reduction and growth facility, 
these additional expenses could not come at a more difficult 
budgetary moment for the GOH. 
 
4. (C) Ambassador Palmer met with Pepe Lobo, the President of 
Congress, on May 22 to specifically relay our interest in 
seeing the Article 98 agreement and the Honduran troop 
deployment to Iraq approved.  Lobo understood immediately the 
importance of rapid action by the Congress in its last week 
in session before a one month recess.  Even though the Maduro 
Administration had not yet delivered either piece of 
legislation to Congress and had only consulted informally 
with Lobo the previous week, Lobo was very optimistic about 
the two measures being approved before the May 29 recess. 
The Ambassador suggested the wisdom of packaging the two 
measures together in order to limit the political opposition 
to a single foreign policy debate.  Lobo closed the meeting 
in the great tradition of a previous President from Texas, 
who once served as Senate Majority Leader, by telling the 
Ambassador that if the Executive Branch would get him the 
treaty, he'd get it through the Congress.   True to his word, 
Lobo delivered. 
 
5. (C) Separately, the DCM earlier last week, re-delivered 
long-standing demarche points to the Acting Foreign Minister 
laying out the need for immediate Honduran ratification of 
the Article 98 agreement and congressional authorization for 
the troop deployment.  He pressed the Acting Foreign Minister 
for immediate action on the Article 98 agreement and flagged 
the need for expeditious action on the authorization for 
deploying Honduran troops to Iraq given the impending 
congressional recess.  The MFA responded in a timely manner 
and provided important information to the Congress during the 
late night debate.  In addition, other country team members 
effectively lobbied the Ministry of Defense and congressional 
party leaders to actively support passage of the measures. 
 
6. (U) The vote on the ICC Article 98 Agreement was 65 in 
favor - 61 Nationals and four Christian Democrats, and 62 
opposed - 55 Liberals, four UD, and three PINU.  The 
opposition denounced the agreement and claimed that approval 
required either a two-thirds or three-quarters of the 
Congress, and not just a majority of the votes.  In their 
comments, opposition congressmen both criticized the U.S. and 
showed a lack of understanding of the fact that Article 98 
Agreements are explicitly allowed by the Treaty of Rome that 
established the ICC.  In response to opposition complaints, 
National Congressman Carlos Espinoza said, "If it is a sin to 
support a government like the United States, then one must 
sin." 
 
7. (U) Both resolutions will now be published in La Gaceta, 
the Honduran version of the Federal Register, to become 
official.  For the ICC Article 98 Agreement, Post's 
understanding is that the USG and GOH must then exchange 
instruments of ratification for the agreement to take effect. 
 The Liberal Party is threatening to take a constitutional 
challenge to the Supreme Court over the simple majority vote 
for the ratification of the Article 98 agreement.  A leading 
Honduran politician, Oswaldo Ramos Soto, stated that such a 
challenge would fail because the agreement is a protocol to a 
treaty that has already been approved by the Congress, thus 
obviating the need for a super-majority approval. 
 
8. (C) Action Request: As noted the approved troop deployment 
will cost the GOH about USD 400,000 in unbudgeted costs. 
This budget hit represents a real financial challenge for the 
GOH as it proceeds with difficult negotiations to reach a new 
IMF agreement.  Given the very postive outcome on these two 
high-profile U.S. foreign policy initiatives, Post requests 
that Washington policymakers give all possible consideration 
to reprogramming FMF funds to Honduras as a tangible sign of 
our appreciation for both their steadfast political support 
and, now, their concrete contribution to the Coalition of the 
Willing. 
 
9. (C) Comment: Facing the May 29 adjournment of Congress for 
a one month recess, the GOH had to obtain Congressional 
passage of the Iraq resolution now if it was going to be able 
to assist in post-conflict Iraq.  The GOH had been delaying 
sending the ICC Article 98 Agreement to Congress ever since 
it became the first country in Central America (and the 
second in Latin America) to sign such an agreement on 
September 19, 2002.  Post had been urging the GOH for months 
to act to avoid possible cutoff of U.S. military assistance 
under the American Service Members Protection Act (ASPA) on 
July 1, and is pleased to see congressional approval of the 
agreement.  In the end, the much maligned Nationalist 
congressional delegation, under the strong leadership of its 
President of Congress, delivered a crucial foreign policy 
victory for the Maduro government.  In doing so, the 
Nationalist deputies showed that they understand the vital 
nature of the U.S.-Honduras bilateral relationship, a fact 
that the opposition parties failed to acknowledge in their 
knee-jerk opposition to these measures.  End Comment. 
Pierce 

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