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The Deposer in Chief: Hillary in Honduras

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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. 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.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)

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