- Created: 09 May 2016
First published on 13 April 2016 by Huffington Post
The past week has not been a good one for the Clintons, in terms of foot-in-mouth disease. First Bill Clinton accused Black Lives Matter protesters of supporting murderers. This is something you might expect to erupt from the foul mouth of a Donald Trump or a Rush Limbaugh. Did Bill Clinton really say this? Yes — and then went on to whitesplain to them how “Black lives matter” in Africa, too.
Then Hillary had an meeting with the New York Daily News editorial board in which — for the first time in this campaign or possibly ever — she was asked by a journalist about her role in Honduras following the 2009 military coup. Her response was embarrassing. First, she seemed to defend the coup by saying that the Honduran judiciary and legislature “followed the law” in removing the president.
For those who don’t remember, this was a coup in which the military kidnapped the democratically elected president, in his pajamas, and flew him out of the country. It’s hard to see how anyone “followed the law” here — even if the judiciary and legislature didn’t give the order to the military, they certainly supported it. The rest of the world sure saw it as an illegal military coup, including Hillary’s top advisors.
Hillary’s own director of policy planning, Anne-Marie Slaughter urged her to “find that [the] coup was a ‘military coup’ under U.S. law and revoke the visas of more de facto regime members;” she worried in the same email that “high level people from both the business and the NGO community say that even our friends are beginning to think we are not really committed to the norm of constitutional democracy.”
The U.S. Embassy in Honduras determined that “that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup ...”
But as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton did everything she could to help the military coup in Honduras succeed, consolidate, and legitimate itself even as it was violently cracking down on the media and the opposition. This is well documented; I have written about it here, here and here.
In her own book, Hard Choices, Clinton describes how she helped prevent the democratically elected president from returning to office, even though this is what the rest of the hemisphere and the world, including United Nations, understandably demanded:
“In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico,” Clinton wrote. “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.”
(In case you have the paperback edition of the book from last year, the section on Honduras has been edited out. The above quote is from the original, hardcover edition.)
The “elections” that she helped organize for November 2009 in Honduras were not recognized as legitimate by the rest of the region and the world. The Organization of American States, the European Union, and the Carter Center all refused to send observers.
Hillary Clinton’s support for “regime change” in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Libya and Iran has rightly become an issue in the presidential campaign. Thousands of Americans died in the Iraq War, and many more were wounded. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians have died and millions have been wounded or displaced; and President Obama has said specifically the “mess“ (or “shit-show,” as Jeffrey Goldberg reported Obama’s description) in Libya was his “worst mistake,” in which Clinton played a decisive role.
But Honduras should also be included on the list of Hillary Clinton’s “regime change” operations that ruined a country and disgraced the U.S. in the region. In this case it was a democratic government that was overthrown, and the end result was an increase in violence and political repression. This was brought to light most recently by the assassination of renowned environmental campaigner Berta Cáceres on March 3rd, and fellow activist Nelson García on March 15.
In her campaign for the presidency, Hillary Clinton should have to answer for her role in the 2009 “regime change” in Honduras.
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the new book “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy“ (2015, Oxford University Press).