The Honduran Coup’s Ugly Aftermath

Exclusive: As Secretary of State in 2009, Hillary Clinton helped a right-wing coup in Honduras remove an elected left-of-center president, setting back the cause of democracy and enabling corrupt and drug-tainted forces to tighten their grip on the poverty-stricken country, as Jonathan Marshall explains.

By Jonathan Marshall

Imelda Marcos will forever be remembered for her hoard of 3,000 pairs of shoes, an ostentatious symbol of the billions of dollars in spoils she amassed as First Lady of the Philippines. Now shoes are again emerging as a symbol of corruption, this time in Honduras, where prosecutors are investigating allegations that a former first lady improperly purchased, or never distributed, 42,100 pairs of shoes for the poor, at a cost to the state of $348,000.

The allegations are just the latest to surface in a wide-ranging corruption investigation that has reenergized grass-roots politics and triggered a nationwide protest movement in Central America’s original “banana republic.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Every Friday evening for the past three months, thousands of protesters have marched through the streets of Tegucigalpa and smaller cities, carrying torches and signs reading “The corrupt have ripped apart my country” and “Enough is enough.”

The protesters, who call themselves the oposición indignada (the outraged opposition), demand that President Juan Orlando Hernández be held accountable for fraud and graft, which allegedly bled the national health service of more than $200 million to enrich senior officials and finance the 2013 election.

“This is a really historic time in Central America,” said an analyst for the International Crisis Group. “The question is whether this will really turn into a critical juncture in which society, civil organizations, the private sector and political parties can . . . come together in making the best out of this opportunity [to begin] cleaning up our state institutions.”

Although President Hernández has promised to prosecute the guilty, he has so far refused to follow Guatemala’s example and appoint an independent investigative body under United Nations supervision to attack government corruption. Revelations in Guatemala of customs fraud, political bribery and money laundering have prompted similar weekly protest marches in that nation’s capital and the resignation of the vice president.

The Obama administration has expressed sympathy for anti-corruption movements in Central America, but has yet to acknowledge its failure to protect democracy in Honduras against a military coup in 2009, which set the stage for that country’s current crisis.

Bowing to pressure from conservative Republicans in Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to condemn the ouster of leftist President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. By her own admission, she began plotting within days to prevent him from returning to office.

Her recently released emails show that she sought help from a pro-coup lobbyist for Honduran business interests to establish communications with the new military-backed president. She also approved the continuation of U.S. aid to the illegitimate new regime, blocked demands by the Organization of American States for Zelaya’s return, and accepted subsequent presidential elections that were condemned by most international observers as unfair and marred by violent intimidation.

In 2011, President Obama officially welcomed Honduras’s dubious new president to the White House and praised his “strong commitment to democracy.” (His wife is the target of the shoe purchase investigation noted above.)

A year later, two leading human rights organizations reported that more than 100 political killings had occurred since the coup, accompanied by “death threats against activists, lawyers, journalists, trade unionists, and campesinos, as well as attempted killings, torture, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions.”

The coup represented a disastrous step backward for Honduran society as well as its politics. University of California historian Dana Frank observed 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.

“Drug trafficking is now embedded in the state itself . . .  all the way up to the very top of the government . . . A former congressman and police commissioner in charge of drug investigations declared that one out of every ten members of Congress is a drug trafficker and that he had evidence proving “major national and political figures” were involved in drug trafficking. He was assassinated on December 7 [2011].”

Yet the Obama administration has continued giving tens of millions of dollars in aid to Honduran police and military in the name of fighting drugs.

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.

Seeking to reform conditions in Honduras, Zelaya’s wife ran for president in 2013 on a social democratic platform, but the ruling National Party allegedly stopped her campaign with the help of tens of millions of dollars embezzled from the Honduran Social Security Institute, the national health fund.

“It is widely assumed that Hernández owes his electoral victory in part to these stolen funds,” said Frank. (President Hernández denied knowing the source of the ill-gotten funds and said they amounted to a mere $1.5 million. The prosecutor assigned to the case had to flee the country in the face of death threats.)

Hernández also came under fire for staging the removal of Supreme Court justices to ram through a law creating autonomous investor zones, independent of normal governance, and overseen by foreign libertarians such as Grover Norquist and Ronald Reagan’s son Michael.

The good news is that the grassroots protests in Honduras are having some effect on the Hernández government. It accepted an outside mediator, appointed by the Organization of American States, to bring together rival parties, along with members of the oposición indignada, to find common ground on a national program of reform.

On Aug. 14, the mediator heard from 50 civil society organizations which identified corruption and political impunity as the major challenges facing the Honduran state and its democratic aspirations. The OAS mediator, who praised the initial round of dialogue, plans to meet next with representatives of the country’s political parties.

Talk is cheap, to be sure. But the official involvement of the OAS, along with increasing interest in Congress in using U.S. aid to support justice in Honduras, offer hope that the demands of the Honduran people will be heard. It may be too soon to declare a Central American Spring, but that traumatized region at least has reason for hope.

Jonathan Marshall is an independent researcher living in San Anselmo, California. Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War”; and Escalating the Anti-Iran Propaganda.]

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34 comments for “The Honduran Coup’s Ugly Aftermath

  1. Victor Wilkotz
    August 19, 2015 at 10:22 am

    The United States has been imposing or allowing brutal dictators to oppress the countries of South America for well over a century. These oligarchs use the military and police to crush the hopes of the people, while they steal the wealth of the country. We have supported these tyrannies as long as the countries let us exploit their natural resources and as long as it suited our geopolitical interests. Sadly, there is nothing new here.

    That Hillary Clinton was involved in this should force her to end her candidacy, but of course, it won’t. We make it impossible for the peoples of these countries to support their families, or even to live safely, and then, led by bozos like Donald Trump, we look to throw them out when they flee here.

    • onno
      August 19, 2015 at 11:14 am

      I think I rather see a ‘bozo’ like Donald Trump in the White House then a sneaky liar like Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush. First of all Trump relies on his own money and doesn’t depend on the rich upper class 1% who want to see their interests incorporated in the government policies like we have seen with Clinton (they we’re one of the poorest president when they entered the White House but became very rich) The Bushes have a similar story they supposedly got rich with oil by selling out US countrysides to the highest bidders.

      On top of that I don’t see that Donald Trump will be an easy target to be manipulated by his staff, interest groups, or other people in the Administration like we see today with Obama.

      With Trump in the White House America may again show some leadership in the world instead of a Foreign Policy ran by some neocons like Kerry, Nuland/Kagan together with Russia basher Brzezinski. Finally Donald Trump is a businessman and not a lifelong easy-money-politician, he had to work for a living.

      Donald Trump would be good for USA but his candidacy will be killed by US MSM propaganda and the upper 1% who will lose influence in Washington once he gets elected. Too Bad!!!

      • OH
        August 19, 2015 at 11:46 am

        Trump is eating a bucket of ice to warm himself up, saying man I got these guys fooled with this straight talk act. Sure as Hillary fools other people with her concern.

      • Victor Wilkotz
        August 19, 2015 at 4:21 pm

        Trump, a simple minded president for simple minded people. You think that a rich president is somehow more trustworthy, because he doesn’t need other people’s money. So Trump wouldn’t be corrupt like let’s say Lincoln or Truman, who weren’t rich.

        Then there is the belief, among some, that as a businessman, he’d more successfully run the country. Is that because running the U.S. is comparable to owning a couple of casinos. Is it because he’s survived four bankruptcies, keeping his personal fortune intact while his business partners suffered losses.

        And let’s not forget his responsibilities as leader of the free world. Build a wall around Mexico and make them pay for it. Spend more on the military (though we already spend nearly as much as everybody else in the world put together) so nobody will mess with us. Perhaps he would refrain from trade negotiations with Germany while Angela Merkel was having her period.

        You say he’s not an easy-money politician, and he’s had to work for a living. He was born rich, his father was a millionaire, and I doubt that he’s ever had a real job in his life. He’s a reality TV personality, he hasn’t announced a single policy that makes sense, he has said that global warming is a hoax by the Chinese, and he has all the depth of a pizza pan.

        • Joe Tedesky
          August 19, 2015 at 4:47 pm

          Victor what you wrote here maybe one of the best and straightforward commentaries I have read so far concerning Donald Trump. I have read Onno’s comments from other posts Onno has made, and I truly trust Onno’s opinions on many subjects. What I believe is happening with America’s new love for the Donald is born out of the electorates frustration with our government. I don’t know if there is something in our food and water that is making us all crazy, but let’s hope it’s just voter frustration. Having a Reality TV personality run for the presidency is something new, and what will become of that I’m not sure. Let’s see the U.S. has had an Hollywood actor, now we are flirting with a Reality TV host, what next cartoon characters? Why not? Just think how bazaar that would be, but then again that is how America is turning out to be….Just plain bazaar! I really enjoyed your comments Victor.

          • Druid
            August 25, 2015 at 8:29 pm

            Bizarre

      • Angryspittle
        August 19, 2015 at 4:24 pm

        He doesn’t depend on the rich 1%????? Jesus, he is the epitome of the rich 1%

      • Joe Tedesky
        August 19, 2015 at 4:26 pm

        Onno, always nice to read your well thought out comments. While I am not a Trump supporter, I read your comments and came across a article written by Ellen Brown. Brown goes into great length how America could take care of all its finical problems. What she describes makes a lot sense. She states that since the Donald has declared bankruptcy four times, and that he would be a natural to finally declaring America bankrupt and how we could go on from there. Not sure I agree with everything in her article, but it is worth a read. I am attaching a link to Ellen Brown’s essay…have fun reading it.

        http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/19/trumping-the-federal-debt-without-playing-the-default-card/

      • HumaneScientist
        August 19, 2015 at 4:35 pm

        You do realize that every problem you listed and advantage Trump provides have been addressed by Bernie Sanders for well over 22 years, right? If you realy want a candidate accountable to the people, he is your best shot. No Super PAC can buy him out, as he refuses corporate donations, and he’s served as an independent his entire career (though because of our two party system, he was forced to run Democrat for the presidency)

        Instead of pooling your hopes on a buffoon like Trump, trust a man who has consistently fought for the majority of Americans.

      • Abbybwood
        August 20, 2015 at 12:17 am

        Just for the record, Donald Trump is intimately connected to Israel:

        http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2015/08/08/donald-trumps-jewish-ties/comment-page-1/

        If I vote in 2016, it will be for the candidate who will be most willing to take a step back and look at the world from a new perspective, which would mean not allowing the apartheid State of Israel to continue to dictate the United States’ foreign policy.

        According to what I have been reading, that will NEVER be Donald Trump.

        • Druid
          August 25, 2015 at 8:31 pm

          Yup, and so is Berbie! Not one opposing word from him. I think the powers are all pro-zionists!

      • August 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm

        To say, without qualification, that Trump relies on his own money distorts the truth. David Cay Johnston explains why: bit.ly/1EaXsXf

  2. Joe L.
    August 19, 2015 at 10:57 am

    All in all the coup that occurred in Honduras was undertaken by one of the graduates of the School of the Americas which is stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia (now WHINSEC). The School of the Americas has trained 11 Latin American dictators and their death squads. General Vasquez came from the School of the Americas along with two of Honduras’ most hated dictators – Juan Melgar Castro & Policarpo Paz Garcia.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/nov/18/us-military-usa

  3. nor quistling
    August 19, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Capitalism = democracy.

    • jifster
      August 20, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      Sarcasm, right? Sure hope so. Btw, if you’re naming yourself after the Norwegian WWII traitor (why would you do that?!), his name was Quisling.

  4. Zachary Smith
    August 19, 2015 at 11:37 am

    I’ll confess I’m really irritated after reading this essay. Though I try to keep up on events, why is it that the first news of THIS example of Horrible Hillary comes to me on 8/19/2015?

    Many thanks to Jonathan Marshall and Robert Parry for the update.

  5. Mark Thomason
    August 19, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    “Hillary Clinton helped a right-wing coup in Honduras remove an elected left-of-center president”

    She tries to tell us SHE would be a left-of-center President. We’ve seen what she really is.

    • Abbybwood
      August 20, 2015 at 12:25 am

      Hillary Clinton would be a DISASTER for the United States!

      Forget any “domestic” band-aids she might propose putting on the bleeding tumors of our health care system, or the income inequality nightmare we are all witnessing, or the environmental disaster of the Keystone pipeline she ushered in while Secretary of State.

      She is the architect of the Ukrainian quagmire, with her sycophant, Victoria Nuland. She orchestrated the Libyan coup and cackled about it on the teevee.

      Hillary Clinton is scum and she needs to be outed as such and the sooner the better.

      I am hoping that the Trey Gowdy email “Benghazi” hearings will be her un-doing.

      Can’t wait to set my DVR to the hearings to see her and her lawyers whispering about when to say, “I will take my fifth amendment rights on this question.”

      Ef her.

      • Monteg3534
        August 20, 2015 at 4:49 am

        Yes, Yes, a thousand times Yes! Hillary is a dyed-in-the-wool neocon, warmonger whose frequent declarations of allegiance to Israel makes her loyalty to the USA totally suspect. Her famous “cackle” turns up in the most innappropriate places: in reference to “obliterating” other nations (Iran) and the murder of foreign leaders (Gadaffi). Her flippant remarks about Russia and Vladimir Putin betray a level of ignorance (and over-confidence) which could endanger the entire world should she become president. Whenever she appears on TV lately, she seems to be on some kind of mood-altering drug(s). Scary.

        • Peter Loeb
          August 20, 2015 at 6:30 am

          NO SENSE FOR H.

          I am heartened that some have reached the negative conclusions
          about Ms. Clinton as I did instinctually. May most women like babies
          especially if they are their own (“It takes a Village” etc.) but some
          never like anyone else’s babies or adults especially if they are other.

          If Hillary would make a campaign stop (with promises) to the “undisputed”
          Palestinian territory and talk with the folks there (promises are always
          part of a campaign trip) and support reduced arms, embargo to
          Israel, Israeli participation in a Nuclear Free Mideast Arms Treaty
          as urged in the UN (Generaql Assembly) my views could change.

          Maybe.

          Perhaps she might sign on as a supporter of BDS.

          Ditto for Mr. Sanders.

          —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

      • Druid
        August 25, 2015 at 8:34 pm

        Absolutely

  6. Mortimer
    August 19, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Mr Obama is as much to blame as Ms Clinton, but this bullspit in central america has been going on many decades.
    Joe L is right on point about the fort benning training school – it’s been a Training Factory for right-wing Dictators and Leaders of Death Squads in central & south america.

    The revered Mr. Reagan and his evil henchman John Negroponte got away with multiplied murder and massive crimes against humanity in central america — Negroponte later carried his death squad building expertise into Iraq under GW Bush.

    Those people fleeing to america from the violence and inhumanity in central america (because of OUR Policies) are ushered into despicable detention centers — why not just ship them to Gitmo!? what’s the difference ?? ! — Cold-blooded (and ignorant) americans wave the flag and yell/chant ‘send-them-back, send-them-back.’

    In my experience with central americans, I’v seen that, for the most part, THEY’D RATHER LIVE THEIR HUMBLE LIVES IN THEIR COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN. They speak of the soil, the rivers, the mountains and the customs of their homelands .. people just want to live, live life, celebrate birthdays, have picnics and holiday parties, do honest work and feed their offspring, that’s it – live their years in simple peace, with their families, in the place they were born. These are, by and large, humble, beautiful people. —

    Our vaunted nationalistic “exceptionalism” (racism/superiority) is the crux of the matter. As MLK stated, (paraphrased) a nation that values materialism, racism and militarism over human rights
    is fast approaching spiritual death.”

    It’s past time, way past time we stopped manipulating other nations by installing our dictators and asserting our authority over their governments and people.
    YEAH! – like that’ll happen in any of our lifetimes… .

  7. Bill Bodden
    August 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    But Meryl Streep and, presumably, many others are devotees of Hillary because a few women claimed Hillary saved their lives: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/18/1248523/-You-won-t-see-Hillary-Clinton-in-the-same-light-ever-again

    This appears to be another example of Parkinson’s Law at work. These supporters can appreciate the significance of saving the lives of a few individuals, but the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives is beyond their comprehension: The estimated half million Iraqi children who died because of sanctions when Hillary was co-president; the hundreds of thousands of women and children who were killed, maimed and made refugees because of the war on Iraq that she pushed for; the thousands of refugees fleeing Honduras, in part, because of her collusion with the coup in that country, etc.

    In the absence of statements from Hillary to the contrary, presumably, she agreed with Madeline Albright that the sacrifice of the Iraqi children because of sanctions “was worth it.”

  8. Steve Naidamast
    August 19, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    “Bowing to pressure from conservative Republicans in Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to condemn the ouster of leftist President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. By her own admission, she began plotting within days to prevent him from returning to office.”

    Excuse me! What does this mean, “pressure from conservatives”? Who cares is they were all willing to resign “En masse” and move to Israel! Clinton as head of the state department is supposed to be supporting democratically elected governments not their overthrow!

    And people are actually going to vote for this war-monger in 2016!?!?

  9. Pablo Diablo
    August 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    No more Clintons AND no more Bushes

  10. Ethan Allen
    August 19, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    This article is an excellent ‘update’ on the current situation, and some of the principal causes thereof, in Honduras. A supplementary listing of U.S. corporations operating manufacturing and agricultural subsidies in Honduras would be an enlightening addition, fomenting a better understanding of the “economic colonialism” that is at the bottom of this regional issue.
    “Work is love made visible.” KG
    As Usual,
    EA

  11. Steven Burden
    August 20, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    FYI, Grover Norquist and Michael Reagan are NOT libertarians; they are both Republicans.

  12. Dan
    August 20, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    I’d like to know, why is the US blamed for this? Why does every third world dump that has problems blames America? This country honduras is a third world banana repbulci why should we care about them? Also Mexico let them klill each other off, what’s it to us?

    • Joe L.
      August 20, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      Dan, every “third world dump” blames America because the US trains dictators which overthrow their democracies – that’s why!

      The Guardian: “School of Latin America’s dictators” (November 19, 2010):

      When the elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was dragged from his bed and flown out of the country in his pyjamas last year, it was no surprise to find that this classic coup was led by a graduate of the School of Americas, the notorious army training school in Fort Benning, Georgia. But General Vasquez was simply following a well-trodden path for autocrats in Honduras – after all, two of the country’s most hated past dictators, Juan Melgar Castro and Policarpo Paz Garcia, had also attended the school.

      More than 60,000 Latin American soldiers have been trained at the School of the Americas – among them, the some of the region’s most notorious human rights abusers, such as Salvadoran death-squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson. In all, 11 dictators have attended its courses: men such as Argentine junta leader, Leopoldo Galtieri, infamously responsible for the “disappeared” and Guatemala’s Efraín Ríos Montt, whose scorched earth campaign against indigenous villages, was classified as “genocide” by a UN-sponsored commission.

      Founded in the Panama Canal Zone in 1948, it was originally named the Army Caribbean School. It was renamed the School of Americas in 1963, and a new curriculum was introduced, offering courses in counter-insurgency, military intelligence and psychological warfare. The school was moved to Fort Benning in 1984 and, in 2001, in an attempt to improve its image, its name was changed again to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Cooperation (WHINSEC).

      http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/nov/18/us-military-usa

  13. Christopher C. Currie
    August 21, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Hillary’s inexcusable role in the dishonestly justified (and disastrous) 2009 Honduras coup de tat and the role she played in creating President Obama’s dishonestly promoted (and clearly UNCONSTITUTIONAL) TPP, TTIP, and TiSA rigged “trade agreement” initiatives are going to kill her chances for becoming our next President!

  14. Baldurdasche
    August 25, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    The US military continues to be ball’s deep in Honduras. Joint Task Force Bravo is still operational as ‘guests’ of the Hondurans from Soto Cabo Airfield and the Honduran AF Academy. Permanent quarters for US forces have been constructed.

  15. Mark Thomason
    August 25, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    This explains that Hillary was a big part of this, in a way that shows she is no liberal, and not to be trusted in foreign affairs, and not deserving to be President. I say that as a Democrat.

    This also explains that Obama played right along. It is hard to imagine his very independent White House national security operation was unaware.

    What this does not explain is what was in it for the US. Why on Earth did we do this? The time for paranoia about commies is long past — the Soviets are gone. So why?

  16. JayGoldenBeach
    August 26, 2015 at 3:33 am

    It takes a profound lack of empathy and conscience for Americans to complain about Latin American immigrants fleeing societies shattered by the direct or indirect actions of the US govt.

    The US has directly and/or indirectly spilled rivers of blood throughout Latin America for over a century, yet Americans howl with indignation as if desperate immigrants and “anchor babies” have more influence on American society than corporate oligarchs and politicians who consistently bend us over to be fisted by Big Business.

  17. Itaia Muxaici
    August 26, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Americans have been “messing” in Central America since the period of the filibuster Walker in mid-19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S. Marines invaded Central America (also some nations in the Caribbean and in China !). U.S. Marine Corps General SMEDLEY BUTLER wrote: “I went as muscleman to Honduras to make it safe for Brown Bros. bank!” Don’t blame the dumb blond Hillary – because Honduras was already set-up by “Latin America HANDS” like OTTO REICH , who had personal financial interest in Honduras (telecommunications). “Israeli businessmen” (Mo$sad) in the chemical and agricultural industry had been infiltrated in Honduras as auxiliaries of the U.S. – as they are throughout Latin America) . Do not look now, because the U.S. has already arranged on the infiltration of a new flavor of agent : Germans arouse no suspicion. German protectors of “social and indigenous rights” and of the “environment”. All phony opportunists with useless degrees in sociology waiting for opportunties as “development experts” for international NGOs (like Soros, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Greenpeace: $$$$$$$$>>>>>> Thus even if democracy would return and an “independent” government emerge in Honduras – the “false German leftists” will prevent the development which Honduras needs to become economically able to improve the social condition. The game is to prevent a Honduras that could become “too damn uppity independent” in “our backyard”!

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