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Bernstein writes: "Actions taken by Hillary Clinton as secretary of state are a major factor contributing to the waves of Central Americans, mostly Hondurans, coming north to the US, according to a highly respected Latino human rights activist and several distinguished scholars who have studied the situation and spent extensive time in the country."

Hillary Clinton. (photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)
Hillary Clinton. (photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The Deposer in Chief: Hillary in Honduras

By Dennis J. Bernstein, Reader Supported News

17 January 16


ctions taken by Hillary Clinton as secretary of state are a major factor contributing to the waves of Central Americans, mostly Hondurans, coming north to the US, according to a highly respected Latino human rights activist and several distinguished scholars who have studied the situation and spent extensive time in the country. They assert that Clinton played a crucial and destructive role by keeping Manuel Zelaya out of the country after the 2009 military coup, despite the fact that leaders of every state in the region wanted him restored.

Adrienne Pine is an associate professor at American University, and a Fulbright Scholar who has been researching in Honduras for nearly two decades. She is the author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras.

“Hillary Clinton had a very central role in the coup against Zelaya,” said Pine in a January 12th interview, “from orchestrating the negotiations which insured that the coup government was recognized as a legitimate bargaining partner, to assuring that military aid would continue to be sent to Honduras, by designating the coup as a regular coup and not a military coup. Which is a fictitious distinction that she created.” Pine was in the country before the coup and after.

“One of Clinton’s closest colleagues and a former campaign director, her friend from law school, Lanny Davis,” said Pine, “was directly representing the parties that had financed the coup, CEAL, which is an economic business group in Honduras. Davis was representing them here in Washington, and had her ear at all times. And she was parroting exactly the same propaganda that he was talking about, that he was promoting all over Washington. Hillary Clinton indeed takes credit for preventing Manuel Zelaya from returning to Honduras, as if that were a positive thing, in her book Hard Choices. So I don’t think there is really any ambiguity about her role in that coup.”

“We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras,” Clinton writes, “and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington DC. He has studied and written extensively about Honduras before and after the coup.

Weisbrot said Clinton’s troubling role in the coup should be explored publicly, in terms of assessing what kind of leader she will be, but it has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

In a radio interview in the beginning of January, Weisbrot agreed with Professor Pine that the Obama administration definitely supported the coup, and may very well have taken part in the destabilizing of Zelaya. “The Obama administration made some noises some time after the coup to say that they were opposed to it. But if you followed it carefully, you would see it was very clear that the Obama administration supported that coup and may actually have been involved in that. We don’t have hard evidence for that. But we do have a whole trail of evidence of how they helped support it.”

“The White House, according to their own admission, had advance notice of the coup,” said Weisbrot, “and when it happened they did not, explicitly, did not condemn the coup. All they did was say we call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democracy. Well, this was a statement every diplomat in Washington knew, at the time, was as close as you could get to actually supporting a military coup against a democratically elected government,” he said. “Then you had all these international bodies, including the OAS and the United Nations General Assembly – they all responded by calling for the immediate and unconditional return of the elected president. But no US official would ever use those words, and in fact the day after the coup, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked if restoring the constitutional order in Honduras meant returning Zelaya himself, and she would not say yes to that. Then we find out later from her book Hard Choices,” said Weisbrot, “and also more recently from her e-mails, that she worked quite hard, behind the scenes ... very hard to make sure that Zelaya wouldn’t be returned to office.”

According to Weisbrot and Pine, Clinton played a key role in preventing Zelaya from returning, and thus guaranteed that the coup would be sustained. “One of the key things she did was to make sure that the locus of negotiation for his return was moved out of the Organization of American States,” said Weisbrot, “where all the left governments in the region and everyone else were supporting Zelaya, to this special process that she set up ... a mediation process with Oscar Arias, a former president of Costa Rica and a close ally of the United States. Once she’d got that done, I think that was the biggest step toward making sure he would not return. And that’s where she actually talks about it in her book, where she acknowledges that working with Arias she was able to remove the question of Zelaya’s return, and make sure that that was no longer on the agenda.”

“The Arias negotiations,” said Professor Pine, “which were set up unilaterally by the United States, by Hillary Clinton, to take place between the usurping Honduran administration, the dictatorship, and the United States with Manuel Zelaya, directly contradicted the unanimous resolution of the Organization of American States just days previously, that there would be no recognition of the usurping administration, and that the only legitimate president of Honduras was the democratically elected one, Manuel Zelaya. By overseeing the negotiations unilaterally, the United States, and Hillary Clinton in particular, showed tremendous disdain for the multilateral process that Obama had pledged to respect in the first Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Pine.

Honduras Post-Coup: Gunshots or Firecrackers?

“Zelaya was elected in, and took office in January of 2006,” said Weisbrot, “and he did accomplish a fair amount during his term. He raised the minimum wage. There was a significant reduction in poverty. The economy did fairly well,” said the regional expert. “So it is an example of a country – the second poorest country in Latin America – that had a chance of changing its future, and it was destroyed with a lot of help from the US government.”

US policy in Honduras, said Professor Pine. did immeasurable damage to the country and its people. “The impacts of the Obama administration’s policy have indeed been just atrocious for Central Americans in particular, from the northern triangle,” she said. As a Fulbright Scholar who has been studying Honduras for 20 years, Pine has extensive knowledge of the country, its people, and in particular the political and economic climate in Honduras before and after the US supported coup. Pine spent a year in the country following the coup.

“When I was living there in 2013-2014 in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, I could hear gunshots every night from my house,” said Professor Pine. “I learned to distinguish what a firecracker and a gunshot and a car backfiring sounded like because I heard all three of them so much, from my apartment. It’s a terrifying situation to be in the midst of that kind of violence,” she said. “And it was in 2010, I think, the first year that Honduras achieved the level of most murderous country in the world, according to the UN homicide statistics. Rather than responding by providing greater citizen security, job opportunities, and education, what the Honduran administration has done, post-coup, and with full US support, is to militarize the country and put military police on every corner. This has had a terrorizing effect on the population, and it doesn’t do anything to increase people’s chances, to increase people’s life chances. The people are living in terror. Almost everybody I asked, when I would give lectures, I would always ask, ‘How many of you have lost a loved one or family member to homicide?’ I would generally get between 70% and 100% of people raising their hand,” Pine said. “So if you think about, not just the homicide rate but the impact that it has on the population as a whole, which is all experiencing some kind of trauma, it’s no surprise that so many people are desperate to come to the United States, knowing full well that on that journey they could get maimed, attacked, raped, or even killed. Because that’s how bad the situation is thanks to the US militarization, the US economic policy, and the US support of the military coup in 2009.”

Pine said there seems to be a common misconception about what is now the root cause for everyday violence in Honduras. Pine maintains that most of the violence is being triggered by the Honduran government with the full support and knowledge of the US, and not renegade street gangs.

“I think the popular talk that we often hear is that the gangs have gotten out of control,” said the Fulbright Scholar, “but really, if you look at the timing of the increase in violence, it corresponds directly with the 2009 coup and, in particular, with the impunity that’s accorded to the state agents who are carrying out violence: The military, the police and now the military police as well. The impunity that’s accorded them for their crimes against humanity that they carried out following the coup, and which have only really been exacerbated since then. I think in terms of analyzing the violence that’s going on in Honduras,” she said, “it’s perhaps even more important to talk about the state violence than about the gang violence, because there was a total breakdown of the legal and judicial system as a result of the coup, which cleansed the whole system of any lawyers who had opposed the coup. So with the breakdown of the judicial system, and with the total impunity accorded to the military and police, they are actively operating death squads within their ranks.”

Dealing With the Flood of Central Americans

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has promised, if elected, to build “a big, beautiful wall” like the Great Wall of China along the 2,000-mile border between the US and Mexico. Candidate Trump says he will deport all twelve million if he has to purge the country of illegals. But while those directly in the crosshairs of Trump’s racist rhetoric find it frightening, they are more concerned with the actual policies of the current administration, both in its record-breaking number of deportations and, even more important and less talked about, its pro-coup policies that have indeed led thousands of men, women, and children to pull up roots and make the long and dangerous journey north.

And the deportations continue apace. According to credible reports, thousands more victims lie naked on the anvil of American injustice, waiting for the hammer of deportation to fall once again. On December 26, The Washington Post reported in a piece titled “Homeland Security Preparing ‘Trump Style’ Mass Deportation Raids” that “the Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, according to people familiar with the operation.”

The reports of expanded ICE sweeps already have thousands of undocumented people bracing for the worst. In an extended interview on January 6th, Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), addressed the impending crackdown and some of the root causes that are driving so many to make the often futile and sometimes lethal journey north. Alvarado is just back from a fact-finding tour to Honduras, where the violence faced by everyday people, he said, “is at least as bad if not worse than what is going on in Iraq and Syria.”

“The crackdown doesn’t come as a surprise to us,” said Alvarado, recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America. “It is consistent with the deportation policy of this administration. Very consistent. The idea that you need to deport some to provide relief to others. The idea that you need to deport first and then legalize later. The idea that somehow deporting some people is necessary for others to get relief has been the way the Obama administration has operated for the last seven years,” said the labor and human rights activist. “And the intention was that by being tough on immigrants, the xenophobes and the nativists would actually support immigration reform.”

Alvarado says the Obama/Clinton policy has been a dismal failure from start to finish – from its record-breaking deportations to its support for the deposing of President Manuel Zelaya. Meanwhile, he says, the issue of true immigration reform has been swallowed up by right-wing campaign rhetoric and the meet-me-under-the-flagpole attitude among Republicans and many Democrats as well, regarding who is going to be tougher on the floods of Central Americans that keep heading north.

“Central Americans are bracing for the worst,” said Alvarado. “Obama’s policy has definitely been a failed policy. Now this new wave of deportations comes at the worst time. Deportations are bad at any time, but at this time in particular we’re going into an electoral year, and the sentiment that has been created by Donald Trump has essentially dominated American politics.” But Alvarado added, “While Trump stigmatizes immigrants with his derogatory and racist language, the president is deporting them. So when we see what is happening, we feel there is no difference between what the Republicans do and what the Democrats are doing, when it comes down to deportations. And the worst thing is that there is no political gain that the president can make by spearheading this new wave of deportations of children and mothers. The only people benefitting from this type of initiative are essentially the right wing. It’s essentially the Republicans, the xenophobes and the nativists. Which is exactly what they want.”

National Security Deportations

Alvarado said it was downright dangerous for Homeland Security to characterize the mass deportations of Central Americans as an issue of national security, rather than an issue of human rights and people fleeing for their lives. “I mean, they treat the issue of refugee children and their mothers as a matter of national security,” he said, “but we see it as a matter of human rights, as a humanitarian crisis. The administration claims that they have the situation under control, that ‘the surge’ as they called it, has ended and that the numbers of unaccompanied minors and their mothers has decreased. However, what we’ve noticed is that the United States government has invested a lot of money in a project called Frontera Surge.”

According to Alvarado, the US is now spending millions in direct funds to the Mexican government to cut off the flow of Central Americans coming to the US, before they ever cross the southern border. And the Mexicans are brutal, he says, in their enforcement of the “surge” against those fleeing the violence and economic devastation resulting from US free trade and pro-Honduras coup policies.

“They are funding the Mexican government and its military, and its other repressive bodies,” said Alvarado, “to actually apprehend Central Americans on the southern border of Mexico. Now many folks still get to make it to the US/Mexico border, but a significant number are apprehended in Mexico, and deported from Mexico to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.”

“If the Department of Homeland Security believes,” said Alvarado, “if the US government believes that people are going to stop coming, they are wrong. Because for as long as it is more dangerous to stay than to leave, people will continue to leave their countries of origin, looking for better horizons, particularly when the levels of violence are unbearable in those places.”

“I was in Honduras a few months ago, and I met four young men who had been deported from New Orleans,” said Alvarado. “These men left Honduras in the first place to come to the United States for few years because they were forced to grow African palm, but they couldn’t compete in the market, so these new policies displaced them, took away their subsistence farming, and they were forced to come north. And then they come north, they produce, they help reconstruct New Orleans, and then they are sent back. So these are the victims – workers, impoverished communities, poor people are the ones who are the victims of these policies. Obviously, you know the aristocrats in Honduras, you know, the powerful families, they continue to profit from those trade agreements,” said Alvarado, “and of course, this free trade policy is something that Hillary Clinton promoted as secretary of state, after she supported that coup d’état against President Zelaya. And the US role with Clinton as secretary of state has had catastrophic consequences.”

“Before President Zelaya was deposed, he was trying to bring a sense of equality, bring some kind of justice to impoverished communities,” said Alvarado. “For instance, he was trying to increase the minimum wage for workers, which is precisely why people leave, because wages and working conditions are not the best in our countries of origin. So people tend to migrate. So these were some of the changes that President Zelaya was trying to do. Now the US government comes in and supports a coup d’état against President Zelaya. And right immediately after the coup, you could see the levels of violence skyrocketing. And San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa are becoming some of the most violent cities in the planet.”

Alvarado said there is now a great deal of fear in the undocumented communities regarding the reports of expanded raids and deportation led by ICE and DHL. And it affects almost every family and every undocumented person in the US. “Now it’s happening every single day. I have a cousin who migrated a few months ago. She was caught at the US/Mexico border. She happened to be a police officer in El Salvador, and she was investigating a case of extortion. And it turned out that some of the other officers were the ones who were involved in the crime. When she reported that, she began being persecuted. She was deported a few months ago from the US because she didn’t qualify for political asylum.”

Alvarado said he is working with friends, colleagues, and supporters to prepare for the new wave of deportations, even as he continues to fight for the right of undocumented workers and for humane immigration reform. “We’ll do what every vulnerable community under siege has done in the past,” said the human rights activist. “The first and most important thing is that migrants have to resist the fear that these raids are instilling in their lives, you know? And the way to do that is by making sure that migrants know their rights, and how to exercise them, and particularly when a deportation agent comes knocking on their door.”

Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistleblower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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