Hillary’s Link to Honduran Violence

Little mentioned in the Democratic campaign is Hillary Clinton’s role in supporting a 2009 coup in Honduras that contributed to a human rights crisis, including the recent murder of a renowned environmental activist, writes Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

A critical difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is their position on whether children who fled violence in Central American countries, particularly Honduras, two years ago should be allowed to stay in the United States or be returned.

Sen. Sanders states unequivocally that they should be able to remain in the U.S. Former Secretary of State Clinton disagrees. She would guarantee them “due process,” but nothing more. In 2014, Clinton told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, “It may be safer [for the children to remain in the U.S.],” but “they should be sent back.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

By supporting the June 28, 2009 coup d’état in Honduras when she was secretary of state, Clinton helped create the dire conditions that caused many of these children to flee. And the assassination of legendary Honduran human rights leader Berta Cáceres earlier this month can be traced indirectly to Clinton’s policies.

During the Feb. 11 Democratic debate in Milwaukee, Clinton said that sending the children back would “send a message.” In answer to a question by debate moderator Judy Woodruff of PBS, she said, “Those children needed to be processed appropriately, but we also had to send a message to families and communities in Central America not to send their children on this dangerous journey in the hands of smugglers.”

Sanders retorted, “Who are you sending a message to? These are children who are leaving countries and neighborhoods where their lives are at stake. That was the fact. I don’t think we use them to send a message. I think we welcome them into this country and do the best we can to help them get their lives together.”

In the March 9 debate in Miami between the two Democratic candidates, Sanders accurately told moderator Jorge Ramos of Univision, “Honduras and that region of the world may be the most violent region in our hemisphere. Gang lords, vicious people torturing people, doing horrible things to families.”

He added, “Children fled that part of the world to try, try, try, try, maybe, to meet up with their family members in this country, taking a route that was horrific, trying to start a new life.”

The violence in Honduras can be traced to a history of U.S. economic and political meddling, including Clinton’s support of the coup, according to American University professor Adrienne Pine, author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras.

Pine, who has worked for many years in Honduras, told Dennis Bernstein of KPFA radio in 2014 that the military forces that carried out the coup were trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the U.S. Army School of the Americas) in Fort Benning, Georgia. Although the coup was supported by the United States, it was opposed by the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS). The U.N. and the OAS labeled President Manuel Zelaya’s ouster a military coup.

“Hillary Clinton was probably the most important actor in supporting the coup [against the democratically elected Zelaya] in Honduras,” Pine noted. It took the United States two months to even admit that Honduras had suffered a coup, and it never did admit it was a military coup. That is, most likely, because the Foreign Assistance Act prohibits the U.S. from aiding a country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

Although the U.S. government eventually cut nonhumanitarian aid to Honduras, the State Department under Clinton took pains to clarify that this was not an admission that a military coup had occurred.

“Hillary Clinton played a huge role in propping up the coup administration,” Pine said. “The State Department ensured the coup administration would remain in place through negotiations that they imposed, against the OAS’ wish, and through continuing to provide aid and continuing to recognize the coup administration.”

“And so if it weren’t for Hillary Clinton,” Pine added, “basically there wouldn’t be this refugee crisis from Honduras at the level that it is today. And Hondurans would be living a very different reality from the tragic one they are living right now.”

In her book Hard Choices, Clinton admitted she helped ensure that Zelaya would not be returned to the presidency. She wrote, “In the subsequent days [following the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

When he was deposed, Zelaya was attempting to get a nonbinding resolution on the ballot asking voters whether they wished to reform the constitution. He supported a 60 percent hike in the minimum wage, “and this infuriated two U.S. companies, Chiquita Brands International (formerly United Fruit) and Dole Food Company,” said John Perkins, author of The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Manin an interview with the website Truthout. The big corporations feared that a rise in Honduras’ minimum wage could spread to other countries in Latin America.

Zelaya put in place several liberal policies, including free education and meals for children, subsidies to small farmers, lower interest rates and free electricity.

“These policies paid off,” Perkins said. “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.”

Less than a month after the coup, Hugo Llorens, former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, sent a cable to Clinton and other top U.S. officials. The subject line read: “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup.” The cable said, “There is no doubt” that the coup was “illegal and unconstitutional.” Nevertheless, as noted above, Clinton’s objective was to “render the question of Zelaya moot.”

After the coup, there was a fraudulent election financed by the National Endowment for Democracy — notorious for meddling in Latin America — and the State Department. The election ushered in a repressive, militarized regime. Conditions deteriorated, leading to the exodus of thousands of Honduran children.

Since the coup, the Honduran government has carried out systematic repression against most sectors of society, including teachers, farmers, union leaders, gays, peasant organizers, journalists and anyone who opposed the coup. Many were assassinated. Honduras’ homicide rate was already the highest in the world at the time of coup, and it soared between then and 2011. There is rampant corruption and drug-related gang violence.

Amid all this, the United States has added two military bases in Honduras — bringing the total to 14 — and increased its financing of the Honduran police and military.

Before the coup, Cáceres, a prize-winning activist, worked with indigenous groups on human rights and education issues with Zelaya’s support. In a 2014 interview, she cited Clinton’s role in the coup, saying, “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.”

Cáceres added, “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. … We warned that this would be very dangerous. … The elections took place under intense militarism, and enormous fraud.”

Cáceres criticized the coup government for passing terrorist and intelligence laws that criminalized protest, labeling the actions “counterinsurgency” conducted in the interests of “international capital.”

Cáceres was killed March 3 by armed men who broke into her home. Her friend and compatriot, journalist Gustavo Castro Soto, wounded in the assault, is being held incommunicado by the government.

On Thursday, more than 200 human rights, faith-based, indigenous rights, environmental, labor and nongovernmental groups sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing “shock and deep sorrow regarding the murder of Honduran human rights and environmental defender Berta Cáceres … winner of the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize.”

The groups urged Kerry to support an independent international investigation into her murder led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. They also urged the State Department “to suspend all assistance and training to Honduran security forces, with the exception of investigatory and forensic assistance to the police, so long as the murders of Berta Cáceres and scores of other Honduran activists remain in impunity.”

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website at http://marjoriecohn.com/ and follow her on Twitter at @marjoriecohn. [This article originally appeared at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/hillary_clintons_link_to_a_nasty_piece_of_work_in_honduras_20160315]

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15 comments for “Hillary’s Link to Honduran Violence

  1. Bill Bodden
    March 15, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    It should be cause for concern that Hillary Clinton, who has been associated with so much death and destruction, appears now to be the likely un-Democratic Party nominee in November. Except for a minority of Americans apparently this prospect is not a matter of concern. If her likely opponent in November, Donald Trump, could appear to be the lesser evil he would be some consolation, but if he is the lesser evil it doesn’t appear to be by much.

    Hillary’s acceptance of the right-wing coup in Honduras helped to facilitate the tragedy that has befallen that unfortunate nation, but her enthusiasm for Bibi Netanyahu presents a much more ominous prospect.

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 15, 2016 at 11:18 pm

      Bill, I picture on day one, phone call one will be Hillary to Bibi, asking for America’s marching orders. With Trump who the hell knows. He may want Bibi’s help with eminent domain for a Trump Casino in Gaza. One things for sure, America’s youth would be the wiser too have a Plan B for a better tomorrow. They will need it.

    • John XYZ
      March 16, 2016 at 9:45 pm

      Clinton has a strange way of dividing Democrats. There are those who assume she’s a perfectly good candidate, and thus feel compelled to defend her from all the hate directed at her. And there are those who don’t make any such assumptions, and are thus disturbed by the unpleasantness of what they discover about her.

    • John XYZ
      March 17, 2016 at 11:20 am

      These elections really make a person feel helpless. If there’s a person who should never be President, it’s Clinton. But the problem is, you could reasonably say the same for Trump. It’s depressing.

  2. Joe Tedesky
    March 15, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    If our U.S. MSM were to report the Hillary Honduras story as it should, that petition would have 200 million signatures on it. Americans aren’t necessarily bad people, they are just terribly ill informed voters. Voters who are deceitfully left with the worst of choices to cast their ballot on. If Sanders isn’t going to expose Hillary for her Honduras or Middle Eastern adventurers, then will Trump? Or, will the Donald point to Honduras, and stereotype the average Hondurian parent as clearly low life careless child abusers? With all his racist rhetoric he is flinging around would it surprise you? Okay, I get it about the Donald, he is shooting from the hip, but have we Americans now become such a branded selfish society as to celebrate our ignorance to the world’s eyes? What’s even worst than Trump’s racist blusters is Hillary’s pass actions. All my adult life I have had to choose between the lesser of the two evils, but this 2016 presidential campaign has taken that voting meme to a much higher level than ever before. Maybe with the Donald we could hold out hope that he would be a much different president than a candidate when it comes to his stance on race relations, but with Hillary I do believe we should hold court on her Queenly Ass, and the sooner the better. Why people like her aren’t in jail is beyond my comprehension. You go work for the government and run your government messages through your very own private server and then see how that works out for you. You’ll be lucky if you get prison phone rights, let alone ignored by the Justice Department…your not a Clinton. We all could be watching the end of the American empire come to closure, so let’s just hope that Bernies youth will be wise enough to rebuild this nation to truly become the light of the world. The world will appreciate it.

    • Bill Bodden
      March 16, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      Why people like her aren’t in jail is beyond my comprehension.

      Contrary to the BS-artist-in-chief, some people are above the law.

  3. Martin Gomez
    March 16, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Yes, Hillary is guilty, but it has been proven that the current wave of Central American teens flooding the country are not refugees. Good parents wouldn’t let their children take the risk of coming here, either. Rather, the Obama administration appears to be recruiting in Central America, telling the parents that if their kids make it here alive, the govt will bring them and other relatives in as well. It’s an illegal demographic takeover designed to marginalize natives and fill the country with impoverished and easily radicalized foreigners — not to mention, cheap and disposable labor.

    • david thurman
      March 16, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      martin gomez – this is TOTAL BS! ” the Obama administration appears to be recruiting in Central America, telling the parents that if their kids make it here alive, the govt will bring them and other relatives in as well. It’s an illegal demographic takeover designed to marginalize natives and fill the country with impoverished and easily radicalized foreigners.” If you actually believe this PLEASE stop watching fox news or wherever you are hearing such TOTAL nonsense.

  4. Bob Van Noy
    March 16, 2016 at 11:24 am

    This is the International crime of the moment. The United States, John Kerry, President Obama, should be working full time to prove that the US was not involved, but they will not and Hillary as president certainly won’t either. This is Iran Contra all over again, as this government is out of control. Deeply saddening…

    • Laughing Liberal
      March 21, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      It is nothing new in Latin America. Sanders did allude to it in one debate when he spoke of a century of the Monroe doctrine. While watching what we’ve done there since the Reagan era, I’ve noticed we support the most violent regimes, almost always overthrowing a democratically elected government. I hammer on this constantly. Yet, no one seems to know or care. What I think is overlooked is we do this at the behest of multi-national corporations and, as they have captured our government, we will begin to see people powered movements for workers’ rights, they will do the same here. The people of the world have become fodder-for the wars, for cheap labor, and to buy their low quality junk. Those who aren’t serving one of those functions are quite expendable.

  5. Bart
    March 16, 2016 at 11:41 am

    The issue of raising the minimum wage for Honduran banana workers is interesting. La Frutera and Dole have been selling bananas at retail here for around 60 cents for many decades. Consumers here could easily pay a few more pennies a pound to support a raise in wages; a wage that currently must be adding to Hondurans desires to head north.

    • Eric
      March 18, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      One, if not the best way to fight back is to boycott Chiquita and Dole in a big way.

  6. Daniel
    March 16, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Sickening, especially so after Hillary’s “victories” last night. It’s hard to say this, knowing what we know, but I do believe Hillary could be the sleaziest fraud ever foisted upon this gullible public in a presidential contest – worse than Obama and W. Bush, even, for what we know she has done. Tears for this and every other nation today, for all the damage this woman and her kind have done.

  7. SFOMARCO
    March 16, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Witness for Peace has called upon its supporters to demand that the US ambassador to Honduras and Secy Kerry, himself, put pressure on Honduras’ govt to prosecute all of those involved in the assassination of Berta Cáceres Flores, an indigenous human rights leader. I sent emails to both. The VERY least I could do.

    http://witnessforpeace.org/section.php?id=104

  8. March 17, 2016 at 10:09 am

    The current US president invited the coup leader, Lobo, to the white house and lauded coupster as a “democracy healer.”

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