A Washington, DC-based PR firm linked to the US government and Democratic Party, CLS Strategies, ran a fake news network on Facebook and Instagram, spreading propaganda for Bolivia’s coup regime and the right-wing opposition in Venezuela and Mexico.
by Ben Norton
Part 6 - CLS Strategies signs PR contract with Honduras’ coup regime
Ten years before the United States backed a right-wing military coup in Bolivia, Washington did the same in the Central American nation of Honduras.
On June 28, 2009, the Honduran military overthrew the country’s democratically elected left-leaning president, Manuel Zelaya, and physically removed him from the country.
Zelaya told The Grayzone in Honduras, in an interview on the 10th anniversary of the coup, that the US government had threatened him because of his close political and economic relations with socialist President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.
In the wake of the putsch, the new unelected right-wing regime in Honduras searched for publicists in DC. It found a loyal ally in a firm called Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates, which would go on to rebrand as CLS Strategies in 2014.
In September 2009, Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates filed FARA paperwork acknowledging that it had signed a four-month contract for the Honduran coup regime, at the cost of $292,000, not including tens of thousands more in additional expenses.
At the time, the senior vice president of Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates was Juan Cortiñas Garcia, who would go on to represent the Bolivian coup regime a decade later.
Cortiñas said in his FARA registration that his job was to “provide public relations counsel and services to the government of Honduras in their efforts to communicate with policy markers or opinion leaders, their staff, the news media and other related third parties.”
In the years following the coup, Honduras became the murder capital of the planet, with some of the highest levels of inequality of any country. The violence and widespread corruption fueled a massive refugee crisis on the southern US border.
The subsequent dictatorial leader of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, or “JOH,” is intimately linked to the drug trade; his brother Tony Hernández was convicted of trafficking nearly 200,000 kilograms (440,000 pounds) of cocaine and machine guns.
A US district court even stated that infamous Mexican drug lord El Chapo Guzmán gave JOH a $1 million bribe to help him rig Honduras’ 2013 elections.