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Friday, 11 March 2016 05:11

Clinton Betrayed Democracy, Economic Justice, and Women and Children in Honduras

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March11 zelaya2In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the military coup that overthrew democratically elected reformist President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras. (Photo: coolloud)

On June 28, 2009, the Honduran military overthrew the democratically elected and modestly progressive president, Manuel Zelaya. He was forced on a plane and sent into exile. 

wrote a commentary on June 30, 2009, raising the issue of possible US influence through leading members of the Honduran military, who were trained at what was formerly called The School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. I stated: "You can bet your bottom dollar there were a few American hands behind what happened in Honduras.  We just can't say just yet who they belonged to."

Given information that has been revealed since 2009, we now know a lot more about the US support for the 2009 military coup. Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, didn't necessarily push the button that started it, but she was the Obama administration's most ardent advocate of keeping the military in power and preventing Zelaya from returning as a democratically elected leader.

The repercussions to Honduras of Clinton siding with the military have led to it becoming one of the most corrupt and violence-ridden nations in the world. They also reveal the deep contradiction between Clinton's espousal of democracy and the rights of women and children, and her neoliberal realpolitik interest in protecting the markets and profits of US-based corporations.

Foreign Policy in Focus article published earlier this year describes the grisly growth of violence in Honduras:

Honduras is one of the most violent nations in the world. The situation in the country’s second largest city, San Pedro Sula, demonstrates the depth of the problem.

For the fourth year running, San Pedro Sula has been one of the most dangerous places on the planet outside of a war zone. Its murder rate in 2014 was an astonishing 171 per 100,000. The city, which is caught in the crossfire between vicious criminal gangs, has been the largest source of the 18,000 Honduran children who have fled to the United States in recent years. [Italics added by BuzzFlash.]

It is hypocritically appalling that Clinton responded to the plight of these children fleeing to the US -- following the exponential rise in violence after the coup -- by stating in 2014:

They [the children fleeing violence] should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are.... We have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.

This is a pitiless response to children literally trying to save their lives.

Robert Naiman recently wrote in Truthout of how then Secretary of State Clinton enabled the coup and the subsequent descent into the abandonment of the masses by a military, a restored oligarchy, and eventually a corrupt president elected in a sham vote that the US used to try to save face:

Why wasn't US aid to Honduras suspended following the coup? The justification given by Clinton's State Department on August 25 for not suspending US aid to Honduras was that events in Honduras were murky and it was not clear whether a coup had taken place. Clinton's State Department claimed that State Department lawyers were studying the murky question of whether a coup had taken place.

This justification was a lie, and Clinton's State Department knew it was a lie. By July 24, 2009, the State Department, including Secretary Clinton, knew clearly that the action of the Honduran military to remove President Zelaya on June 28, 2009, constituted a coup. On July 24, US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens sent a cable to top US officials, including Secretary of State Clinton, with subject: "Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup," thoroughly documenting the assertion that "there is no doubt" that the events of June 28 "constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup."

Why did Clinton's State Department lie and pretend that it was murky whether a coup had taken place when it knew the fact that a coup had taken place was clear-cut? Because Hillary Clinton wanted the coup to succeed. Clinton's strategy to help the coup succeed, as revealed in her emails, was "delay, delay, delay," as Donald Trump might say. Delay any action that might help force the coup government to stand down and allow the democratically elected president to be restored to office. As she later confessed in her book, her goal was to "render the question of [President] Zelaya moot." 

Clinton may be out of office now, but she still vigorously defends her policy that guaranteed Zelaya would not be restored to his duly elected role -- and therefore would not continue his reforms on behalf of the working poor and peasants.

A Truthout interview with John Perkins, author of The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, that will be published on Sunday, March 13, discusses the motivating factor behind Clinton and those in the Obama administration who backed her stance that Zelaya should not be restored to power:

President Zelaya advocated a 60 percent increase in the minimum wage, and this infuriated two US companies, Chiquita Brands International (formerly United Fruit) and Dole Food Company.

However, the problem was deeper than Honduras. The CEOs of the big global corporations know that if Honduras’s hourly wage rate rises, so will that of all the other Latin American countries. Honduras, along with Haiti, sets the minimum wage benchmark. No one will go below that benchmark. The corporate heads were determined not to let that benchmark rise.

In addition, President Zelaya introduced many liberal policies in Honduras during the three and a half years of his presidency. These included subsidies for small farmers, free education and meals for poor children, a reduction in interest rates on bank loans to home-owners and local businesses, and free electricity for people who could not afford to pay for it, as well as the increase in the minmum wage. These policies paid off; Honduras enjoyed a nearly 10 percent decline in the poverty level. But these same policies were seen as a dire threat to the hegemony and bottom lines of global corporations and as a precedent that would alter policies throughout Latin America and much of the rest of the world. Corporate leaders demanded that the CIA take out this democratically elected president. It did.

Most recently, the long-term impact of supporting the deposing of a democratically elected leader trying to improve the living conditions of his people was revealed in another brutal murder. Legendary Honduran leader Berta Cáceres, an activist for the empowerment of Indigenous people and the environment, was shot dead. Cáceres was murdered on March 3, with the government declaring the case unsolved as the police continue to hold a wounded friend of Cáceres, Gustavo Castro, against his will. The police are holding Castro despite his being a citizen of Mexico, who should have the right to receive appropriate medical treatment and return to Mexico.

No one can claim that Hillary Clinton is directly responsible for the killing of Cáceres. However, according to author and history professor Greg Grandin, writing in The Nation, Clinton was accused by Cáceres herself of fostering a Honduran government engaged in merciless, mercenary violence and murder:

In a video interview, given in Buenos Aires in 2014, Cáceres says it was Clinton who helped legitimate and institutionalize the coup. In response to a question about the exhaustion of the opposition movement (to restore democracy), Cáceres says (around 6:10): "The same Hillary Clinton, in her book Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the bad legacy of North American influence in our country. The return of Mel Zelaya to the presidency (that is, to his constitutionally elected position) was turned into a secondary concern. There were going to be elections." Clinton, in her position as secretary of state, pressured (as her emails show) other countries to agree to sideline the demands of Cáceres and others that Zelaya be returned to power. Instead, Clinton pushed for the election of what she calls in Hard Choices a "unity government." But Cáceres says: "We warned that this would be very dangerous.… The elections took place under intense militarism, and enormous fraud."

The Clinton-brokered election did indeed install and legitimate a militarized regime based on repression. In the interview, Cáceres says that Clinton’s coup-government, under pressure from Washington, passed terrorist and intelligence laws that criminalized political protest. Cáceres called it "counterinsurgency," carried out on behalf of "international capital" -- mostly resource extractors -- that has terrorized the population, murdering political activists by the high hundreds. "Every day," Cáceres said elsewhere, "people are killed."

In a few weeks, Truthout will be profiling the new book, Listen Liberal: What Ever Happened to the People of the Party, by Thomas Frank. After detailing how the Democratic Party leadership has transformed itself into an elite class of wealthy professionals, Frank focuses on how Hillary Clinton embodies that shift.  

Frank takes pains to point out that the reigning Democratic leaders -- among which the Clintons rank as something akin to neoliberal royalty -- are caught up in an echo chamber of believing that they are acting with benevolence to those not as fortunate as they are. Frank describes this, in Hillary Clinton's case, as being enveloped in a "micro-climate of virtue." In this sense, Frank is characterizing a mutually reinforcing sense that members of the Democratic Party elite can do no wrong because their publicly stated intentions are so noble, so charitable, so lofty in intention.

Frank notes that when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state she articulated "The Hillary Doctrine." Clinton announced at the time, "I have made clear that the rights and the roles of women and girls will be a central tenet of American foreign policy."

Whether that is a sincere goal would be a good question to ask Berta Cáceres. However, since her life has been snuffed out by assassins, she won't be able to answer. Who will ask the girls (and boys) that Clinton supported deporting back to crisis-stricken communities in Honduras? Who will turn back the clock to 2009 and ask what Honduras might have been if the US had backed the democratically elected president working to improve the lives of Hondurans who are not members of the oligarchy?

In Honduras, Hillary Clinton's "micro-climate of virtue" was nothing more than "the fog of democracy," concealing the vigorous support of a regime change that would better serve the interests of US-based corporations. With this support, the US bolstered a Honduran government that fails all but its rich elite, the military and the police - and, of course, ensures a favorable corporate environment and profit for large US industries.

Not to be reposted without the permission of Truthout.