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Cablegate: Ambassador and President Lobo Discuss the Need To

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SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/16/2020
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL MARR HO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR AND PRESIDENT LOBO DISCUSS THE NEED TO
APPOINT NEW MILITARY HIGH COMMAND

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Classified By: Ambassador Hugo Llorens, reason 1.4 (b & d)

1. (S) The Ambassador and President Lobo met for 90 minutes
on February 14 at the Residence. While the two discussed a
myriad of issues of interest to the bilateral relation
(septel), the Ambassador took the opportunity to stress our
growing concern of the continued presence and participation
in Lobo's government of the regime Minister of Defense Lionel
Sevilla and Chief of Defense Romeo Vasquez Velasquez. The
Ambassador appreciated the commitments that Lobo had made to
appoint new leadership in the political-military hierarchy,
an issue that they had discussed on two previous occasions
(on January 23 and 29). Nevertheless, the Ambassador said
the clock was ticking and that there was no indication of any
imminent decision to make the needed personnel changes. The
Ambassador stressed that many in the international community,
including in Washington, were looking for Lobo to demonstrate
his leadership and commitment to restore Honduras fully on
the path of democracy. The Ambassador added that a key
element was to make clear strong civilian control of the
military. The presence of two key members of the Micheletti
regime, and their links to the coup, made this a troubling
situation in the minds of many inside and outside Honduras.

2. (S) Lobo responded that he remained committed to asserting
control of the military. He noted that the military was
under great strain and that confusion and uncertainty reigned
due to the officers' isolation and the fallout from the June
28 coup. Lobo said he believed that the military had been
manipulated by both Zelaya and his opponents on the political
right. He wanted to be fair to the military and help it
regain its balance. He also expressed concern that the
situation in Honduras remained unstable and that potentially
he would need the military to help him maintain order in the
event that extremists launched a wave of protests. He said
he feared that if he acted precipitously, the military might
turn against him.

3. (S) The Ambassador agreed that the military had to be
treated fairly; but also it was important for him as the
Commanding General to be firm and decisive. The Ambassador
expressed confidence that the military would follow his
strong leadership and direction. The appointment of new
leadership would allow the Honduran military to begin the
process of looking to the future and turning the page. He
urged the President to appoint a new civilian minister who
would be loyal to him and have no ties to the regime. The
Ambassador also said it was also critically important for
General Vasquez to step down. The Ambassador made clear that
the U.S. was not in a position to reengage with the Honduran
military and restore military assistance until new leadership
was in place.

4. (S) Lobo appreciated the Ambassador's straight forward and
honest advice. He admitted that Vasquez was angling to stay
on, or be appointed as Minister of Defense. Lobo made clear
that he would ensure that Vasquez would step down, but wanted
to do it carefully. He said he was under pressure from some
within the officer corps to appoint Army Chief General Garcia
Padgett. The Ambassador said that the two individuals most
closely connected to the military side of the coup were
Vasquez and Garcia Padgett. The Ambassador discouraged Lobo
from appointing Garcia Padgett. He suggested that Lobo
consider appointing General Doblado, a scrupulous and highly
respected officer. The Ambassador said Garcia Padgett was a
relatively young general and a strong institutional argument
could be made in favor of someone like Doblado. Lobo said he
planned to meet with the 120 member senior officer corps on
February 16 and make the case for the need to change the
leadership. He said he would do the right thing with regards
to the military and would show the U.S. and the world that he
was in control, but said he would not be hasty in making the
decision. The Ambassador suggested that Lobo act sooner
rather than later since the international community had not
yet voiced this concern publicly. If he waited the
international public criticism would not be long in coming
and he would then be seen as bowing to foreign pressure,
which would be worse. Lobo said he would take U.S. views
into consideration in making his final decision. He said he

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would ultimately do the right thing.
LLORENS

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