Honduras and the Legacy of Hillary Clinton

I have written about Hillary Clinton’s disregard for human rights in Colombia and all over the world

Now, tragically, comes word of the assassination of Berta Cáceres, an environmental and political activist in Honduras. 

Cáceres was a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize:

In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.

Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities.

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Honduras’ violent climate is well known to many, but few understand that environmental and human rights activists are its victims. Tomas Garcia, a community leader from Rio Blanco, was shot and killed during a peaceful protest at the dam office. Others have been attacked with machetes, discredited, detained, and tortured. None of the perpetrators have been brought to justice

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What haven’t stopped are death threats to Cáceres. Her murder would not surprise her colleagues, who keep a eulogy—but hope to never have to use it. Despite these risks, she maintains a public presence in order to continue her work. In a country with some of the highest murder rates in the world, Cáceres hopes the victory in Agua Zarca will bring hope to activists fighting irresponsible development in Honduras and throughout Latin America.

Let’s be clear. This is a tragic death of a courageous activist. Those responsible for her death are in Honduras. But as we consider nominating a candidate who boasts of her foreign policy experience, we ought to look closely at the consequences of her work, because that tells us a lot about the kind of president she would be.

In 2009, Secretary Clinton supported an illegal coup in Honduras against the popular democratically elected progressive President, Manuel Zelaya. She did it despite her ambassador calling the situation an “open and shut case” of an illegal coup, and in the face of world opinion:  

The United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union condemned the removal of Zelaya as a military coup. On 5 July, the OAS, invoking for the first time Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter voted by acclamation of all member states to suspend Honduras from the organisation.

She did it, sadly, with Obama’s acquiescence.

Why? Well, the chief lobbyist hired by the Hondurans behind the coup was Lanny Davis, Hillary’s old friend and loyal supporter for decades who had supported Bill Clinton during the impeachment. (Let that sink in for a minute. The establishment Democrats who love the Clintons have made a lot of money doing really terrible things.) And because, some say, Zelaya was an advocate for higher wages. Salon:

NYU history professor Greg Grandin, author of a number of books about Central and South America, boiled the coup down to a simple economic calculation by the Honduran elite: “Zelaya was overthrown because the business community didn’t like that he increased the minimum wage. We’re talking about an elite that treats Honduras as if it was its own private plantation.”

Grandin was echoed by a Honduran Catholic bishop, Luis Santos Villeda of Santa Rosa de Copan, who told the Catholic News Service, “Some say Manuel Zelaya threatened democracy by proposing a constitutional assembly. But the poor of Honduras know that Zelaya raised the minimum salary. That’s what they understand.”

Last fall, CommonDreams, using recently released emails, untangled her handiwork:

The released emails provide a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of how Clinton pursued a contradictory policy of appearing to back the restoration of democracy in Honduras while actually undermining efforts to get Zelaya back into power. The Intercept and other outlets have provided useful analyses of these emails, but there are a number of revealing passages, some in the most recent batch of emails, that haven’t yet received the attention they deserve.

A number of Clinton emails show how, starting shortly after the coup, HRC and her team shifted the deliberations on Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS) – where Zelaya could benefit from the strong support of left-wing allies throughout the region – to the San José negotiation process in Costa Rica. There, representatives of the coup regime were placed on an equal footing with representatives of Zelaya’s constitutional government, and Costa Rican president Oscar Arias (a close U.S. ally) as mediator.  Unsurprisingly, the negotiation process only succeeded in one thing: keeping Zelaya out of office for the rest of his constitutional mandate.  

So who were these people she supported? It was a group that shot into unarmed crowds and suspended human rights. Human Rights Watch:

Following a military coup in June 2009, the de facto government suspended key civil liberties, including freedom of the press and assembly. In the ensuing days, security forces responded to generally peaceful demonstrations with excessive force and shut down opposition media outlets, causing several deaths, scores of injuries, and thousands of arbitrary detentions. A truth commission established by former President Porfirio Lobo published a report in July 2011 that documented 20 cases of excessive use of force and killings by security forces

Incredibly, I’ve seen some people here defend Clinton because Zelaya was, in their opinion, corrupt, as though our history of policing the world justifies our continuing to do so, in contravention of international law. 

But in July 2011, Honduras's Truth Commission concluded that Zelaya broke the law when he disregarded the Supreme Court ruling ordering him to cancel the referendum, but that his removal from office was illegal and a coup. 

This coup Hillary Clinton supported, and the government that was subsequently put in place with her (and Obama’s) support, has done massive damage. University of California historian Dana Frank said that “A vicious drug culture already existed before the coup, along with gangs and corrupt officials. But the thoroughgoing criminality of the coup regime opened the door for it to flourish on an unprecedented scale.”

CommonDreams once more:

The “hard choices” taken by Clinton and her team didn’t just damage U.S. relations with Latin America.  They contributed to the enormous damage done to Honduras.  In the years following the coup, economic growth has stalled, while poverty and income inequality have risen significantly. Violence has spiraled out of control.  Meanwhile, the U.S. government has increased military assistance to Honduras, despite alarming reports of killings and human rights abuses by increasingly militarized Honduran security forces.  Many Congressional Democrats have asked for a complete suspension of security assistance while human rights violations continue with impunity.  But neither the Clinton nor Kerry State Departments have heeded their call.

Oh, and remember Hillary’s callous statement in the debate that kids fleeing violence in Central America should be sent back to “send a message?” Yeah. She’s responsible for that, too:

Such crime and corruption have rendered millions of Hondurans destitute and desperate. Two-thirds of its people now live below the national poverty level and Honduras’s soaring homicide rate leads the world at nearly one per thousand people each year. These conditions, in turn, fueled a horrifying surge in child migration to the United States.

This is your candidate. A pro-war protegé of Kissinger who has a lust for regime change and little regard for the human toll of her agenda.

The “women and children” candidate whose policies have wreaked havoc on the lives of poor and powerless women and children around the world. 

The candidate who broke a 2008 campaign promise to oppose a trade deal in Colombia over human rights issues, further enriching her family and their foundation in the process.

The candidate whose State Department pressured the government of Haiti to keep wages low because Levi’s and Fruit of the Loom did not want to pay 62 cents an hour. 

The candidate whose “foreign policy experience” is one of arrogance and foolishness, and whose pursuit of regime change in Libya created an unbelievable global clusterfuck that has killed and displaced millions of human beings.

I have no idea how any Democrat can support this kind of person. We swoon over the ignorance of Republicans supporting the xenophobic Trump while lining up behind a neocon who has left a trail of destruction behind her. 

If you vote for her, you own this pitiful record. 

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UPDATE [Posted on Dailykos after I was criticized for writing this.]

Let me address the controversy surrounding the timing of this story.

1. I knew there would be some genuine, and much faux, outrage over this story. I thought about it as I wrote and wondered what I should do.

2. I have been writing extensively about Clinton’s record on human rights. This was not a random brick tossed in response to something I saw on Twitter.

3. I am an educated white man with privilege. The least I can do with it is speak up for the millions of poor and powerless people around the world who have no voice in our election but will live with its consequences.

4. In the end, I felt it more important to continue to shine a light on how this candidate has used her power, knowing that I would be attacked.

5. One of the ways the establishment protects itself, especially when it has no way to answer the facts, is through calls for decorum. This is exactly what the NRA does every time you write about their record after a mass shooting. They express outrage that you are politicizing a tragedy.

6. I wonder, but don’t have time to check, how many of those who are currently outraged have penned long diaries about how the NRA owns Congress in the aftermath of a shooting. 

7. I wonder, but don’t have time to check, how many of those who are currently outraged spoke up immediately after the deaths of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and so many others who died unjustly. 

8. I’m sorry, but my concern is not for your feelings or the good name of your candidate. It’s for human rights and the rule of law, and the millions of powerless men, women, and children whose lives have been destroyed by policies Hillary Clinton and her allies have pursued.

9. Assassinations are political acts. They are designed to disrupt the way power is being used. My writing about it does not make it political. It’s only a refusal to be silent about what has happened. 

10. In the end, I chose to share this story because there are still many Americans who don’t know of her record, and they ought to know before they vote. Because our votes matter, not only for the future of our own country but for powerless people around the world struggling against corrupt powers.

11. I sincerely wish your outrage was not with me for having the audacity to write about this, but was instead with your candidate, who has caused millions of innocent people around the world to suffer, and many to die, through her pursuit of war and regime change.

12. To those who were legitimately offended, I am sorry. I think it’s important to continue to get this story out into the world. I wish I didn’t have to write such stories about a Democratic candidate. 

"whatever whatever oligarchy"

"No, I Will Not Yield!"