Honduran president to sue ex-US diplomat for slander

April 11th, 2009 - 11:08 am ICT by IANS  

Tegucigalpa, April 11 (EFE) Honduran President Mel Zelaya has said that he will sue former US diplomat Otto Reich for slander after the erstwhile official said Honduras’ leader had condoned corruption at state-run telephone company Hondutel.
Zelaya said in a nationally broadcast address that he would contact a Miami law firm next week to file suit against Reich, accusing the controversial Cuban American activist of waging a vendetta against him.

Executives of US firm Latin Node were quoted Wednesday in El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish version of the Miami Herald newspaper, as saying they paid more than $1 million in bribes to unnamed middlemen “knowing that the money would go to three officials of Hondutel”.

The bribes were given in exchange for lucrative contracts with Hondutel, El Nuevo Herald said.

The same article, which was picked up Thursday by Honduran dailies, included comments from Reich, who said that “President Zelaya has allowed or encouraged these kinds of practices and we will see that he is also behind this”.

“None of the (Hondutel) officials is identified in the document wherein the firm declares its guilt, which is signed by Harley Rollins, director of Latin Node,” the newspaper said.

Zelaya neither confirmed nor denied the allegations about corruption at Hondutel - which he has accused in the past of spying on him - and said that he was filing the slander suit to defend the honour of his office and, by extension, the Honduran people.

Noting that Reich is currently representing US telephone companies seeking to do business in Honduras, the president said his accuser had a personal financial stake in the matter at hand.

Zelaya also mentioned Reich’s “dark” past and said he was aligned with Robert Carmona, a Venezuelan expatriate who has engaged in a running battle with Hondutel.

As head of the US Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin American and the Caribbean between 1983 and 1986, the Havana-born Reich ran illegal covert operations in support of the former Nicaraguan Contras, a label given to various rebels groups opposing Nicaragua’s military government (Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction) between 1979 and 1985.

Reich was also US ambassador to Venezuela from 1986 to 1989 and came under fire when he requested a visa for Orlando Bosch, an anti-Castro militant jailed there for blowing up a Cubana plane, killing all 73 aboard, in 1976.

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