The Áñez government hired the same lobbyist as the government that overthrew Zelaya in Honduras.
As many critics have pointed out, the Bolivian cycle bears a striking similarity to the coup d’etat that overthrew Honduran President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya a decade ago. The leftist leader was removed from office by the military, to be replaced by an interim government led by right-wing opposition forces that quickly consolidated power through a controversial electoral process.
There are parallels between these events. The Añez government hired the services of CLS Strategies, the same consultants from Washington DC hired by the Honduran interim government to obtain U.S. support.
In December, Bolivia signed an agreement with CLS Strategies to provide a “strategic communications advisor” for this year’s new elections and additional interactions with the U.S. government. The lobbying firm, formerly known as Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates, provided remarkably similar work after Zelaya’s ouster, helping the Honduran interim government gain support from U.S. policymakers and the media as the country held new elections.
In both cases, right-wing opposition forces took power after the fall of Morales and Zelaya, and sought international recognition to build legitimacy.
After the coup in Honduras, then-Senator Jim DeMint, RS.C., announced that he would lead a group of legislators to the capital city of Tegucigalpa as a diplomatic gesture with the new interim government. Initially, the Obama administration refused to provide military aircraft for the trip, and DeMint responded by unilaterally blocking Obama’s nominees. Eventually, the Obama administration relented, and DeMint was granted a plane to travel to Honduras.
Behind the drama, lobbying revelations show that the company now known as CLS Strategies played a role in the strategy. Juan Cortiñas, a partner in the firm, briefed legislative staff and served as DeMint’s personal translator with Honduran government officials. The CLS Strategies team also attempted to position opinion columns, introduce reporters to major newspapers, and schedule interviews on cable networks to promote opposition to the interim government upon Zelaya’s return.
Acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti of the right-wing National Party suspended civil liberties, cracked down on the protests and blocked the transmission of several media outlets, including CNN, Telesur, Channel 8 and Radio Globo.
CLS Strategies again played a background role. After the coup, David Romero, a Radio Globo host, known for his sympathies with Zelaya, initiated an anti-Semitic protest that suggested that Israel and the Jews were to blame for Zelaya’s expulsion. Romero apologized but his diatribe presented an opportunity to Micheletti’s government, which closed the radio station and confiscated its equipment. As international outcry against Micheletti’s censorship of many different media grew, CLS Strategies circulated Romero’s comments and Radio Globo’s condemnation in multiple press releases, refocusing attention on Romero’s rhetoric.
In the end, new controversial elections were held in Honduras that established the National Party as the official party in control of the government. The National Party, despite years of corruption scandals and growing evidence that key party figures have been directly involved in drug cartel operations, has controlled the Honduran presidency ever since. President Juan Orlando Hernandez fired opponents on the Supreme Court and approved changes to term limits, the problem that allegedly led to Zelaya’s ouster. Subsequently, Hernández sent military police to violently suppress protests surrounding the disputed results of the 2017 presidential election, which resulted in his election to a second term.
The fog of uncertainty about the future has left the public suspicious of whether the elections will be truly fair. In its registration statement, CLS Strategies indicated that it will communicate with public officials, government agencies, newspapers and civil society groups in the United States on behalf of Bolivia. Cortiñas, who served as DeMint’s translator, is now registered to represent the Bolivian government.
Juan Cortinas, former press secretary to Congresswoman Ilena Ros-Lentinen, and William Moore, who worked in public relations in Colombia, manage CLS Strategies’ operations in Bolivia.
Who is behind CLS Strategies?
On November 13, 2019, an article from Behind Back Doors was broadcast in Nicaragua documenting audio recordings from the coup in Bolivia:
The United States designed a strategy aimed at strengthening the image of Bolivian presidential candidate Oscar Ortiz, which is centered on increasing his recognition at the national level. This strategy would be implemented in parallel with the coup d’état plan being executed against President Evo Morales.
The idea is to discredit the figure of the Bolivian president and amplify the existing complaints against the Bolivian presidential candidate Carlos Mesa. For this the State Department has allocated an amount of up to 100,000 dollars and has commissioned CLS Strategies, a consultancy based in Washington DC, to carry out this mission in a clandestine manner.
The actions of this North American consultant would be directed to generate an effective media campaign in social networks as well as the sending of massive messages. For this purpose, they have a wide database of landlines, cell phones as well as contacts abroad and in Bolivia itself. To this end, CLS Strategies has also held secret meetings in other countries with members of Oscar Ortiz’s advisory team.
Wayne Madsen in his book on the “CIA’s Frontline Organizations” indicated that CLS Strategies is one such organization, but the most important implication of this is that Mark Feierstein is CLS Strategies’ senior advisor.
Mark Feierstein’s political career in destabilization processes in Latin America dates back to the 1980s, when he actively participated in strengthening US-funded rebel groups to overthrow the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.
Between 2010 and 2015, Mark Feierstein held senior positions at USAID. “Associate Administrator” and “Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean”. In 2012 he declared that USAID spent about $1 billion annually on operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Feierstein served as director of USAID’s Office of Global Elections. He also worked at the State Department as Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States.
Prior to that, he was Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), created by the National Endowment for Democracy.
He was an advisor to former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (1993-1997; 2002-2003) and Mark Feierstein’s assumption of the post at USAID led to increased tension between the U.S. and Bolivia, which resulted in the institution’s expulsion in 2010.
Is that clear?
¿Quién es Mark Feierstein? (Who is Mark Feierstein?)
La USAID, Mark B. Feierstein y el golpe en Paraguay ()USAID, Mark B. Feierstein and the Coup in Paraguay
Manos estadounidenses en Bolivia. Parte II (American hands in Bolivia. Part II)
La pagina oficial de “CLS Strategies” consigna otros datos sobre este individuo y su experiencia en Bolivia (The official website of “CLS Strategies” gives other information about this individual and his experience in Bolivia)