Archive for the ‘John Negroponte’ Category

Blood in Honduras, Silence in the United States


Protesters look on at a vigil for activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered this March. / Photo by Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

Honduran indigenous and environmental rights leader Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated by masked gunmen in the spring, had long lived under the shadow of threats, harassment, and intimidation. The slain leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) was gunned down in her home in La Esperanza on March 3 after months of escalating threats. She was killed, it appears, for leading effective resistance to hydroelectric dam projects in Honduras, but she understood her struggle to be global as well. For Cáceres, the fight to protect the sacred Gualcarque River and all indigenous Lenca territory was the frontline in the battle against the unbridled transnational capitalism that threatens her people. She felt that as goes the Gualcarque River, so goes the planet. Her assassination sent shockwaves through the Honduran activist community: if an internationally-acclaimed winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize can be slain, there is little hope for anyone’s safety.

The Agua Zarca Dam, which put Cáceres in the crosshairs, is one of many to have been funded by foreign capital since the 2009 Honduran military coup. The ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, had alarmed the country’s elites—and their international allies—with his support of agrarian reforms and increased political power for laborers and the disenfranchised. After his removal, the Honduran government courted investors, declaring in 2011 that Honduras was “open for business.” Among the neoliberal reforms it undertook, which included gutting public services and cutting subsidies, the government granted large mining concessions, creating a demand for energy that heightened the profitability of hydroelectric dam projects. The aggressive privatization initiatives launched the government on a collision course with indigenous and campesino communities, which sit atop rich natural resources coveted by investors. The ensuing conflicts between environmentalists, traditional landowners, and business interests have often turned lethal.

These killings have taken place in a climate of brutal repression against labor, indigenous, and LGBTI activists, journalists, government critics, and human rights defenders. Cáceres, a formidable and widely respected opposition leader, was a particularly jagged thorn in the side of entrenched political and economic powers. Miscalculating the international outcry the murder would incite, Honduran officials at first couldn’t get their story straight: Cáceres’s murder was a robbery gone wrong, perhaps, or internal feuding within her organization, or a crime of passion. However, activists within and outside Honduras have successfully resisted all efforts to depoliticize Cáceres’s killing.

“It’s like going back to the past,” she said. “We know there are death squads in Honduras.”

Unfortunately, Cáceres’s death was not the first violent assault on COPINH leaders, nor has it been the last. In 2013 unarmed community leader Tomás García was shot and killed by a soldier at a peaceful protest. Less than two weeks after Cáceres was murdered, COPINH activist Nelson García was also gunned down, and just last month, Lesbia Janeth Urquía, another COPINH leader, was killed. Honduran authorities quickly arrested three people for Urquía’s murder, characterizing it as a familial dispute, but members of COPINH dispute this. “We don’t believe in this [official] version,” Cáceres’s successor, Tomás Gómez Membreño, told the Los Angeles Times. “In this country they invent cases and say that the murders have nothing to do with political issues. The government always tries to disconnect so as to not admit that these amount to political killings.”

Urquía was murdered soon after an explosive report in The Guardian in which a former member of the Honduran military said Cáceres’s name was at the top of a “hit list” of activists targeted for killing. The list, he said, was circulated among security forces, including units trained by the United States. The Honduran government vehemently denies these claims, despite evidence supporting many of the allegations. Cáceres had previously said she was on a list of targeted activists. At a U.S. congressional briefing in April, Honduran human rights activist Bertha Oliva Nativí testified that activists had not faced such dangers since the 1980s. “Now, it’s like going back to the past,” she said. “We know there are death squads in Honduras.”

After an initial investigation into Cáceres’s murder that was tainted by multiple missteps, officials arrested four suspects, including an active member of the military, and later detained a fifth man. But many believe that the orders for her murder were issued higher up the chain of command, and that the government cannot be trusted to police itself. However, state officials have refused calls for an independent international investigation.

Nonetheless the United States continues to send Honduras security assistance that aids the government in militarizing the “war on drugs” and enforcing the aggressive neoliberal policies Washington favors for the region. Some American lawmakers have been paying close attention, sending letters to the U.S. State Department expressing concern about the role of state security forces in human rights abuses. In a sign of increasing impatience with State Department inaction, Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia and other legislators introduced a bill in Congress on June 14, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which seeks to suspend “security assistance to Honduran military and police until such time as human rights violations by Honduran state security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.” As the bill’s original cosponsors argued in an op-ed in The Guardian, “It’s even possible that U.S.-trained forces were involved in [Cáceres’s] death,” since “one suspect is a military officer and two others are retired military officers. Given this information, we are deeply concerned about the likely role of the Honduran military in her assassination, including the military chain of command.”

As the hit list story broke, State Department spokesperson John Kirby maintained at a June 22 press briefing that “there’s no specific credible allegations of gross violations of human rights” in Honduras. That assertion is contradicted by the State Department’s own 2015 human rights report on Honduras, which documented “unlawful and arbitrary killings and other criminal activities by members of the security forces,” findings echoed by the United Nations. The Guardian reported on July 8 that the State Department is reviewing the hit list allegations, repeating the claim that it had seen no credible evidence to support them. U.S. ambassador to Honduras James Nealon told the Guardian, “We take allegations of human rights abuses with the utmost seriousness. We always take immediate action to ensure the security and safety of people where there is a credible threat.” Under the Leahy Law, the State Department and the Department of Defense are prohibited from providing support to foreign military units when there is credible evidence of human rights violations. Yet the mechanics of compliance with the Leahy law are shrouded by state secrecy, making it difficult to have confidence in the legitimacy of an investigation into the conduct of a close ally. And satisfying Leahy law obligations alone is insufficient. Half of the $750 million in aid that Congress approved in December for Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador comes through the Plan of the Alliance for the Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, a package of security and development aid aimed at stemming immigration from Central America. And disbursement of that money is conditioned merely on the Secretary of State certifying that the governments are making effective progress toward good governance and human rights goals.

In the aftermath of Zelaya’s removal, Secretary of State Clinton helped cement the post-coup government.

This is not the first time the Obama administration has undermined human rights in Honduras. In the aftermath of Zelaya’s removal, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped cement the post-coup government. Cáceres herself denounced Clinton’s role in rupturing the democratic order in Honduras, predicting a dire fallout. As historian Greg Grandin told Democracy Now, “It was Clinton who basically relegated [Zelaya’s return] to a secondary concern and insisted on elections, which had the effect of legitimizing and routinizing the coup regime and creating the nightmare scenario that exists today.”  The election held in November 2009 was widely considered illegitimate.

When questioned by Juan González during a meeting with the New York Daily News editorial board in April, Clinton said that Washington never declared Zelaya’s ouster a coup because doing so would have required the suspension of humanitarian aid. In so doing, she relied on the technicality that an aid cutoff is triggered by the designation of a military coup. Therefore the term was never officially used, despite the military’s clear involvement in removing Zelaya from the country. Clinton claimed the legislature and judiciary had a “very strong argument that they had followed the Constitution and the legal precedents,” despite nearly universal condemnation of the coup, including by the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States. And Clinton’s account is contradicted by then U.S. ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens, who concluded in a leaked cable “there is no doubt” that the ouster of Zelaya “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup,” a characterization repeated by the State Department many times. Yet the administration stalled the suspension of aid to Honduras, in contrast to much quicker cutoffs following coups in Mauritania (August 2008) and Madagascar (March 2009).

The dire human rights situation in Honduras may receive more attention following Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine as her running mate. The Virginia senator, who touts the nine months he spent in Honduras as a Jesuit volunteer as a formative experience, has added his voice to those pressuring Secretary of State John Kerry for a thorough investigation into Cáceres’s death. But Grandin argues that Kaine “has consistently supported economic and security policies that drive immigration and contribute to the kind of repression that killed Cáceres.” This critique of U.S. economic policy was recently echoed by one of Cáceres’s four children, Laura Zuñiga Cáceres, who joined a caravan from Cleveland to Philadelphia demanding justice for her mother. She was among those protesting outside the Democratic National Convention, linking Washington’s trade policy with the misery it engenders in Honduras. “We know very well the impacts that free trade agreements have had on our countries,” Zuñiga said. “They give transnational corporations, like the one my mom fought against, the power to protect their profits even if it means passing over the lives of people who defend the water, forest and mother earth from destruction caused by their very own megaprojects.”

Washington is again signaling to Honduras that stability and its own self-interest trump human rights concerns. Historically the United States has been agonizingly slow to cut off support for repressive Latin American governments so long as they advance its geopolitical and economic agenda. But there have been pivotal moments in history when the tide has turned against U.S.-allied repressive states, such as the killing of Jesuit priests in El Salvador in 1989, which spurred international condemnation of the Salvadoran government and prompted Washington to rethink its support. The death of Cáceres should be one of those moments. This time, Washington should act quickly to stop its money from funding human rights abuses in Honduras before more blood is spilled.

Eat, Pray, Starve: What Tim Kaine Didn’t Learn During His Time in Honduras

The vice-presidential nominee supports policies that hurt the country that was the “turning point” in his life.

https://www.thenation.com/article/eat-pray-starve-what-tim-kaine-didnt-learn-during-his-time-in-honduras/

 

Early in Hillary Clinton’s primary contest against Bernie Sanders, Berta Cáceres, an indigenous environmental leader in Honduras, was murdered by a coup regime that Clinton, as Secretary of State, helped consolidate in power. Apart for one quick statement denying any wrongdoing—“simply nonsense,” a spokesman said of the charges that Clinton was in anyway responsible for Cáceres’s killing—the Clinton campaign largely ignored the issue. As far as I know, the only journalist who asked Clinton directly about Honduras was Juan González, during Clinton’s interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News. Clinton provided a wordy and vague answer. She admitted that the situation was bad, that activists were being slaughtered, but insisted that at the time she “managed a very difficult situation, without bloodshed, without a civil war, that led to a new election. And I think that was better for the Honduran people.” For the most part, criticism of Clinton on Honduras largely stayed on the margins of the primary process, even as the killing in Honduras continued and evidenced mounted that Washington was once again was funding old-school death squads (see the invaluable investigation by Annie Bird).

Now, having beat back that part of the Democratic rank-and-file that cares about dead feminist activists in small third-world countries, the Clinton campaign has gone full Sun Tzi, turning its Honduran weak point into a strength, or, à la Karl Rove, its vulnerability into a virtue.

In picking Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate, the campaign has front-and-centered Honduras—not as a victim of Clinton’s realpolitik neoliberalism but as a sacred space of healing poverty.

Kaine, a Catholic, spent nine months in Honduras, from 1980 to 1981, in the Jesuit mission in El Progreso, very close to the company towns and plantations of the storied multinational banana company, United Fruit.

The sojourn, Kaine says, changed his life. Honduras “was really the turning point in my life. I was at Harvard Law School and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. And I took a year off and worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras,” Kaine told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “Every day I think of the lessons I learned from my friends there,” Kaine said elsewhere. The experience, he says, set him on his life’s journey to fight for social justice. Honduras “made him who he is,” said Kaine’s mother, Kathleen.

As soon as Clinton announced her pick, the liberal press converged, following the Clinton campaign’s talking points that spun Kaine as a progressive. “A Pope Francis Catholic.” Fine. To be expected. But that Honduras—Honduras!—is being highlighted as the beginning of Kaine’s conversion narrative truly is audacious.

James "Guadalupe" Carney sj

James “Guadalupe” Carney sj

Kaine, then twenty-two years old, showed up in Honduras during an especially consequential moment. The country in 1980 was quickly turning into the crossroads of Cold War. A year earlier, next door, Nicaragua’s Sandinistas had won their revolution. Father James Carney, a Chicago-born Jesuit priest who was executed in Honduras in 1983, recalled the moment in the Spanish-version of his memoir (published in English as To Be a Revolutionary): “If Nicaragua won, El Salvador could win, and then Guatemala, and then Honduras could win.” Carney said that in early 1980, El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero, himself soon to executed, had declared that all conditions had been met for Christians to join the revolution:  Life had become intolerable; All non-violent avenues of reform had been tried and failed; And, considering the misery in which most people lived, it would have been impossible for the revolution to produce injustices worse than those that already existed. “The popular war for liberation in Central America was one single war,” Carney wrote.

At the same time, CIA operatives quietly began to move into the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa’s discreet Hotel Alameda, and began setting up the paramilitary network that would execute the Contra War against Nicaragua, a war that would claim 50,000 lives and lay the Sandinista Revolution to waste. CIA agents also began to work closely with Honduras’s security forces, which began their campaign of political disappearances in late 1979. On January 31, 1980, Guatemalan security forces firebombed the Spanish embassy, killing dozens of peasant protestors, including Rigoberta Menchú’s father, an atrocity that inaugurated a three year genocidal campaign that would claim hundreds of thousands of Mayan lives. In March 1980, Monsignor Romero was murdered. Ronald Reagan took

John Negroponte USA regime destabilizer and advisor to death squads

John Negroponte
USA regime destabilizer and advisor to death squads

office in January 1981, and appointed John Negroponte ambassador to Honduras. Negroponte, who later in his diplomatic career would move on to larger operations in Iraq, helped cover up the activities of Battalion 316, a death squad that disappeared scores of Hondurans. On May 14, 1980, Salvador’s National Guard, along with a paramilitary unit, slaughtered at least 300 people trying to flee into Honduras across the Sumpul River. On December 11, 1981, the US trained Atlacatl Battalion massacred upward of 900 people in the remote Salvador village of El Mozote. Throughout the region, including in Honduras, “multinational ‘hunter-killer’ squads on the Condor model” began claiming victims. Thousands of refugees, from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, poured into Honduras.

It was into this whirlwind that young Tim Kaine flung himself on his voyage of self-discovery.

The Jesuit order was on the frontlines of Central America’s political upheaval. By no means were most Jesuits leftwing, but many, perhaps the majority, were at least broadly committed to what was called the “social gospel.” Some, like Father Carney in Honduras and Fernando Hoyos in Guatemala, committed themselves to the revolution and gave their lives. Others were more intellectual, deciding to master worldly knowledge, obtaining advanced degrees in political science, economics, sociology,

The Jesuits were dragged out in the yard in front of their campus home and were shot in the head, on November 16, 1989.

The Jesuits were dragged out in the yard in front of their campus home and were shot in the head, on November 16, 1989.

history, psychology, and anthropology, and then use that knowledge to work for social justice. The most well-known among this group were the six Jesuits who would be executed in San Salvador in 1989 by the Atlacatl Battalion (the same U.S. trained battalion that committed the El Mozote massacre).

By the time Kaine arrived in Honduras, the Jesuit mission in El Progreso was focusing its work on labor issues and the welfare of plantations laborers and their families.  Jeff Boyer, an anthropologist who did fieldwork in rural Honduras around the time Kaine was in El Progreso, tells me that the Jesuits “consistently endeavored to be thorn in the side” of the company, they had “no qualms going after United Fruit.” Boyer recalls a split among Honduras’s “North Coast Jesuits,” caused by, on the one hand, the rise of leftwing Liberation Theology and, on the other, the 1979 investiture of Pope John Paul II, a theological conservative who actively worked to weaken Liberation Theology in Latin America. According to Boyer, the U.S. Jesuits in Honduras tended to be more conservative, while younger Latin American and European Jesuits “consistently held democratic socialist positions.” (The one exception to this was Father Carney.)

In interviews, Kaine says his mentor in El Progreso was Father Jarrell “Patricio” Wade—known as Padre Patricio—a Jesuit who spent nearly his whole life ministering in Honduras and who passed away there in 2014 at the age of 81. By all accounts, Wade was a decent, caring, and well-liked cleric—a “bear of a man,” remembers Boyer—but his ethics were more pastoral than political. Father Carney says that Wade blamed his political work with peasants for provoking the growing repression against priests.  A “traditional Jesuit,” remembers Boyer, unable to see the need for structural change.

Jesuits con Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine met with Jesuits during Holy Week 2016 in El Progreso

Kaine was in Honduras for nine months (though two-year commitments for US volunteers were the standard for Jesuits). Mary Jo McConahay, a journalist with longtime experience in Central America, told me that it is “notable that Kaine’s work is being described as ‘missionary,’ as if fishing for converts, when it was anything but.” According to his own account, he provided politically neutral technical training, helping with a program that taught carpentry and welding. Yet, as Boyer tells me, “if Tim Kaine was working as a Jesuit volunteer in 1980, he could not have avoided become immersed in these socio-religious, political currents and cross-currents.  He would have been exposed to both conservative and generally more left and activist work of his hosts and mentors.”

Kaine, in other words, had found himself in the cauldron of the Cold War. “It was hot,” Boyer remembers of the Jesuit debates over what the proper course of action should be.

None of this, however, comes across in anything Kaine says about his time in Honduras. Kaine didn’t run for public office until the 1990s, so there is no public record of what his opinion was of the Contra War, or the Guatemalan genocide, or the 1989 murder of the Jesuits in El Salvador, or what his Honduran mentors thought of Pope John Paul II’s efforts to neutralize Liberation Theology. Rather, Kaine, who has been talking about his time in Honduras at least since the early 2000s, when he was mayor of Richmond, uses his nine-month stay as a kind of platitudinous catch-all, to prove he is a true Christian to Virginia conservatives, to court the Latino vote, and, now, to convince rank-and-file Democrats he’s a progressive.

Recently, in a C-SPAN interview, Kaine was asked what he learned about “America” during his time in genocidal, insurgent, impoverished, revolutionary, counter-revolutionary, priest- and peasant-killing Central America in 1980-1981. “Happiness is not that correlated with wealth,” he said; and, since Honduras was a “dictatorship.… It really taught me about things that we take for granted here…having a government that is the rule of the law.”

That dictatorship was created and maintained by the US, a fact lost in Kaine’s uplift. Here’s a report from NACLA from 1981: “Honduras almost outdoes the stereotype of a banana republic. The vast plantations run by United Fruit (now United Brands) envelop the countryside, while Honduras is second only to Haiti in per capita poverty. It has seen 150 governments in 160 years, and spent the last 18 under military rule.” It should be noted that that 18-year dictatorship was installed by the JFK administration, in a coup, one of many in Latin America brokered by Washington following the Cuban Revolution. In 1980, exactly the moment Kaine landed in El Progreso, Honduras “was the second largest recipient of U.S. economic assistance to Latin America, despite a sparse population of three million. It has received $3.5 million in military aid since April 1980, with $10.7 million projected for fiscal 1982.” Happiness indeed is not that correlated with wealth—or at least the wealth that comes in the form of military aid from Washington.

One story that Kaine likes to tell—and he’s been telling it for a decade now, through his runs for Virginia governor and senator, and may again this Wednesday in his acceptance speech—is how he once tried to refuse a gift of food from a family with four, malnourished children. Padre Patricio accepted the food, and when Kaine asked how the Jesuit could take food from the needy, Patricio told him: “Tim, you really have to be humble to accept a gift with food from a family that poor.” Kaine say he has “not forgotten the lesson.”

All this Christian charity would be fine, had Kaine, during his time in public office, especially as Senator, taken political action to help make food less expensive in Honduras. But he supports NAFTA and the Central American Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA. Though he wasn’t in the Senate yet to vote on those treaties, he says anyone opposed to free trade exhibits a “loser’s mentality.” So while Kaine is decent on immigration, and has signed on a letter to Secretary of State, John Kerry, asking for an investigation into Berta Cáceres’s death, he has consistently supported economic and security policies that drive immigration and contribute to the kind of repression that killed Cáceres.

CAFTA has been an unmitigated disaster for the peasants Tim Kaine thinks about every day. It has flooded local markets with cheap, agro-industry produced corn and other products, leading to a collapse in the price of locally grown food stuff but a rise in the cost of food in general. Malnutrition increased under CAFTA, and, during some acute periods, so did starvation. The trade treaty makes it difficult, if not impossible, for local governments to impose regulations on certain industries, like mining. A recent report issued by Congress’ Progressive Caucus concluded that “free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have led to the displacement of workers and subsequent migration from these countries.”

In Honduras, extreme poverty has increased since CAFTA has gone into effect, as has political repression, especially following the 2009 coup. Kaine, as far as I can tell, has said nothing about that coup (his beloved Jesuits condemned it in no uncertain terms). Watching Kaine talk about Honduras, he does seem troubled by the country’s poverty and political repression. But like most neoliberal politicians, he disassociates in his political rhetoric the trade and security policies he votes for from the catastrophic consequences of those policies. As I wrote elsewhere about Clinton’s Latin American policies, “there’s no violence caused by over-militarization that more militarization can’t solve. There’s no poverty caused by ‘free trade’ that more ‘free trade’ can’t solve.”

Kaine helps the Clinton campaign transform Honduras from a real place, engaged in political struggle, into an imaginary kingdom of banality. The sharp political and economic analysis of someone like Berta Cáceres, who before her death named Hillary Clinton and US policy as responsible for Honduras’s terror regime, is converted into the virtues of anonymous poor people offering up their ever-more costly (thanks to CAFTA) food as a life lesson in humility.  It’s a neoliberal Eat, Pray, Love.  Or, better, Eat, Pray, Starve.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby on Wednesday repeatedly denied that the government of Honduras kills its own citizens, saying more than a dozen times that he has not heard “credible evidence” of “deaths ordered by the military.”

His comments came in the wake of a high-profile assassination of Honduran native-rights activist Berta Cáceres in March, and a report in the Guardian that a high-level deserter from the Honduran army said he is “100 percent certain that Berta Cáceres was killed by the [Honduran] army.”Berta Cáceres86 -poster

The deserter explained that Cáceres’s name and picture appeared on a kill list including “dozens of social and environmental activists,” which had been distributed to two elite, U.S.-trained units.

Since Honduras’s right-wing regime seized power in a coup in 2009, media and human rights organizations have compiled overwhelming evidence of Honduran military and police violence.

Kirby said he was aware of “media reports alleging the existence of a Honduran activist hit list,” but noted that “at this time, there’s no specific, credible allegations of gross violations of human rights that exists in this or any other case involving the security forces that receive U.S. government assistance.”

Kirby’s comments were even at odds with the State Department’s own human rights reports on Honduras, which for the last two years have referred to “unlawful and arbitrary killings and other criminal activities by members of the security forces.”

The U.S. maintains a very close relationship with Honduran military. Since a military coup deposed leftist President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, the United States has provided nearly $200 million in military aid to the Central American nation. The U.S. also maintains a network of at least seven military bases in Honduras, which house a permanent force of more than 600 special operations troops. In February, the Wall Street Journal published a video showing American forces teaching Honduran forces how to conduct night raids.

In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played a central role in legitimizing the new coup regime. While President Obama initially called Zelaya’s ouster “illegal” and said it would set a “terrible precedent,” Clinton refused to call it a military coup, and aid continued to flow. She also pushed for a sham election to “render the question of Zelaya moot,” according to Clinton’s memoir – which was later scrubbed of references to Honduras during her presidential campaign.

Officially linking U.S.-backed Honduran forces with human rights violation would trigger legally-required reductions in aid – in addition to putting the State Department in the uncomfortable position of criticizing a client state, and casting doubt on Clinton’s wisdom in backing the coup.

After The Intercept asked Kirby to respond to the report that the U.S. trained Cáceres’s killers, he repeatedly denied the existence of “specific, credible allegations.”

After other reporters joined in the questioning, Kirby expressed frustration that he had repeat that there was “no credible evidence” of state murders more than a dozen times. “The reason you’re being asked to repeat it is because it’s kind of hard to believe,” said Associated Press diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee.

Watch the video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jv-nuwvs0aM

Kirby also refused to outline the steps the U.S. was taking to follow up on the allegation. He insisted that the State Department took the report “seriously,” but admitted that he was “unaware” of any meetings between the Department and Honduran activists, and that the department had not followed up with The Guardian.

CNN’s Elise Labott asked: “Have you been looking for evidence or you’re just waiting for it to fall into your lap, in which case you would launch an investigation?” Kirby insisted it was the former.

The murder of Cáceres – a renowned environmental and native rights activist – drew international condemnation and prompted a U.N.-supported investigation. Cáceres won the prestigious Goldman Prize in 2015 for overcoming death threats and organizing opposition to the Agua Zarca dam – stopping the internationally bankrolled hydroelectric project that threatened the land and livelihood of the native Lenca people.

Since 2009, Honduras has seen a sharp rise in political violence. By 2012, Honduran security forces had assassinated more than 300 people, including 34 opposition leaders and 13 journalists, according to Honduran human rights organizations. In the lead up to the 2013 elections, 18 candidates from Zelaya’s party were murdered.

The A.P. reported in 2013 that in Honduras’s largest two cities, there were more than 200 “formal complaints about death squad style killings” over the previous three years. Reports included the killing of people at military checkpoints, and even police assassination of a top anti-drug government official.

In 2014, more than 100 members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, raising concerns about “death-squad style killings by Honduran police” and urging him to abide by the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits aid to any military unit guilty of “gross violations of human rights.”

In the wake of Cáceres’s murder, Honduran human rights activists have traveled to D.C. to brief lawmakers about the security situation. At a congressional briefing in April, Bertha Oliva, founder of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras, told lawmakers that “it’s like going back to the past” and that “there are death squads in Honduras.” Oliva compared the situation to the 1980s, when the Reagan administration funded, armed, and trained death squads which disappeared, tortured, and killed hundreds of citizens.

At the briefing on Wednesday, the A.P.’s Lee asked Kirby how much responsibility the U.S. would share if it were true that it had trained Honduran government death squads.

“We absolutely have a responsibility to … hold them to account for those human rights abuses, and we do do that,” said Kirby. “Are we going to blame ourselves for the specific human rights violations of another human being in that regard? That’s a pretty difficult connection to make.”

While the State Department turns a blind eye to the Honduran government’s human rights record, Congress may restrict military aid on its own. Under appropriations laws, Congress can withhold 50 percent of its Honduras aid budgeted for the State Department. Last week, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., also introduced the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which would cut off all military and police aid until the government’s human rights record improves.

Dana Frank, a history professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a widely published expert on Honduras, called Kirby’s remarks “mindboggling.”

“What State is saying sounds exactly like the Reagan Administration, when the State Department denied vast horrors committed by Honduran security forces for years, only to be later exposed for having known all about them and suppressed the evidence,” said Frank. “This denial of any evidence is a scary and newly aggressive counterattack.”

How Hillary Clinton Militarized US Policy in Honduras

 

People hold up photos of slain Honduran indigenous leader and environmentalist Berta Cáceres outside the coroner’s office in Tegucigalpa. (AP Photo / Fernando Antonio)

In 2012, as Honduras descended into social and political chaos in the wake of a US-sanctioned military coup, the civilian aid arm of Hillary Clinton’s State Department spent over $26 million on a propaganda program aimed at encouraging anti-violence “alliances” between Honduran community groups and local police and security forces.

The program, called “Honduras Convive,” was designed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to reduce violent crimes in a country that had simultaneously become the murder capital of the world and a staging ground for one of the largest deployments of US Special Operations forces outside of the Middle East.

It was part of a larger US program to support the conservative government of Pepe Lobo, who came to power in 2009 after the Honduran military ousted the elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, in a coup that was widely condemned in Central America. In reality, critics say, the program was an attempt by the State Department to scrub the image of a country where security forces have a record of domestic repression that continues to the present day.

“This was all about erasing memories of the coup and the structural causes of violence,” says Adrienne Pine, an assistant professor of anthropology at American University who spent the 2013-14 school year teaching at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. “It’s related to the complete absence of participatory democracy in Honduras, in which the United States is deeply complicit.”

“With the coup, Clinton had a real opportunity to do the right thing and shift US policy to respect democratic processes,” added Alex Main, an expert on US policy in Central America at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, after being told of the program. “But she completely messed it up, and we’re seeing the consequences of it now.”

Honduras Convive (“Honduras Coexists”) was the brainchild of the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), a controversial unit of USAID that operates overseas much like the CIA did during the Cold War.

Sanctioned by Congress in 1994, OTI intervenes under the direction of the State Department, the Pentagon, and other security agencies in places like Afghanistan, Haiti, and Colombia to boost support for local governments backed by the United States. Sometimes, as it has in Cuba and Venezuela, its programs are directed at stirring opposition to leftist regimes. Clinton gave the office a major boost after she became Secretary of State; its programs are overseen by an under secretary of state as well as the top administrator of USAID.

OTI’s activities, the Congressional Research Service noted in a 2009 report, “are overtly political” and based on the idea that “timely and creative” US assistance can “tip the balance” toward outcomes “that advance U.S. foreign policy objectives.”

In Honduras, OTI seems to have followed the model it set in Iraq, where it sent some of the first US aid personnel after the 2003 invasion. At the time, CRS said, OTI’s strategy in Iraq was to convey “the tangible benefits of the regime change.”

The objective of Honduras Convive is spelled out on USAID’s website: “To disrupt the systems, perceptions and behaviors that support violence by building alliances between the communities and the state (especially the police and security forces).” A USAID official confirmed that the program is still ongoing, but played down US ties with Honduran security forces. Convive, he said, is “working in communities to build the capacity of civil society and government institutions, while strengthening community cohesion.” It was initiated “at the request of USAID and the broader U.S. Government due to high levels of violence in Honduras,” he added. “The beneficiaries of the Convive program are the Honduran people.” Much of the country’s violence is blamed on gangs and drug cartels and has led thousands of Hondurans to send their children north to flee the region.

But contractor documents obtained about the program show that it was based in part on communications strategies to win “hearts and minds” developed during the counterinsurgency phase of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several OTI officials and contractors overseeing the project came to Honduras from Afghanistan, where they managed the civilian, nation-building side of the war. They included Miguel Reabold, OTI’s country representative in Honduras, who previously represented OTI in Afghanistan.

In addition, a key part of the project was subcontracted to a company owned by David Kilcullen, who was the senior counterinsurgency adviser to Army General David Petraeus in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Kilcullen’s research methodology, according to a contract proposal I obtained, was “built around a streamlined set of metrics” that provide a “manageable method for assessing counterinsurgency campaigns that can be replicated and customized in other insecure environments.” The contract was submitted to Reabold on October 16, 2012.

The USAID official confirmed that Kilcullen’s company, Caerus Associates, “received two grants totaling approximately $77,000 to assist USAID/OTI to assess licit and illicit networks in San Pedro Sula,” Honduras’s largest and most violent city. But, he added, “the Honduras Convive program is not a counterinsurgency program.”

In a lengthy e-mail, the official added that Convive “has drawn its lessons from best practices in violence prevention, community policing, and community cohesion from urban environments all over the world.” Since the program began, he insisted, violence has declined. He provided figures showing “marked reductions in homicides between 2013 and 2014 in some of the city’s most dangerous communities,” with declines of between 18 and 46 percent in several municipalities.

“USAID believes that homicides are decreasing due to a combination of factors, included among them a more cohesive community, represented by empowered leaders, working closely with Honduran government partners (including the police); international donors; and complementary USAID programs,” the official wrote in his e-mail.

But nowhere in the USAID documents does the word “coup” appear. The agency’s claims and statistics stand in stark contrast to the situation in Honduras, where civil society has been reeling from a wave of political violence and assassinations perpetuated by what many believe are state-sponsored death squads.

Even as Convive was being formulated in 2012, repression and violence had become a pressing issue for Hondurans. That January, UC-Santa Cruz historian Dana Frank described the carnage in The New York Times, reporting that “more than 300 people have been killed by state security forces since the coup, according to the leading human rights organization Cofadeh.” It appears to be just as bad in 2016.

A month ago, on March 3, the renowned environmental activist Berta Cáceres was murdered in her home by unknown gunmen. Two weeks later, Nelson Garcia, a member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), co-founded by Cáceres, was shot to death. Since then, thousand of Hondurans have protested what Democracy Now! has described as a “culture of repression and impunity linked to the Honduran government’s support for corporate interests.”

The killings have brought the US government’s programs in Honduras under increased scrutiny and drawn sharp criticism of Clinton’s covert support for the 2009 coup while she was Secretary of State.

In particular, opponents of Clinton have seized on her own admissions in her autobiography, Hard Choices, that she used her power as Secretary of State to deflect criticism of the coup and shift US backing to the new government. “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,” Clinton wrote.

In 2014, two years before her murder, Cáceres herself condemned Clinton’s statements about the coup, saying “this demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country.” Clinton, she added, “recognized that they didn’t permit Mel Zelaya’s return to the presidency…even though we warned this was going to be very dangerous and that it would permit a barbarity.”

The Clinton campaign did not respond to e-mails seeking comment on her department’s role in Honduras Convive or in shaping US policy toward Honduras. But in March, after Cáceres’s statements on Clinton were reported in The Nation, a campaign official told Latino USA that charges that the former Secretary of State supported the 2009 coup were “simply nonsense.” “Hillary Clinton engaged in active diplomacy that resolved a constitutional crisis and paved the way for legitimate democratic elections,” she said.

*  *  *

The players in Honduras Convive provide a glimpse into the privatized world of covert operations managed by USAID and OTI, and how they dovetail with broader US foreign-policy goals of supporting governments friendly to US economic and strategic interests. They also show how Hillary Clinton might manage US foreign policy as president.

Under Clinton’s 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, OTI’s programs were expanded and strengthened, and the State Department pledged to “work much more closely” with the office. “We will build upon OTI’s business model of executing programming tailored to facilitate transition and promote stability in select crisis countries,” the review said. The overall plan for OTI was overseen by a Clinton deputy and the administrator of USAID. Most of its projects are contracted to a group of private aid companies in Washington.

Honduras Convive, for example, was outsourced to Creative Associates International (CAI), a company that has worked closely with USAID’s OTI on projects in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. In 2010, CAI teamed up with OTI to run a clandestine operation in Cuba dubbed “Cuban Twitter,” as revealed in 2014 by the Associated Press. It was designed to use social media to spark anti-government unrest in that country.

A key piece of CAI’s project in Honduras, determining the social networks responsible for violence in the country’s largest city, was subcontracted to Caerus, Kilcullen’s company. It was founded in 2010 while Kilcullen was working as a top counterinsurgency adviser to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. In addition to advising Petraeus, Kilcullen served during the Bush administration as a senior adviser on counterinsurgency to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

One of Kilcullen’s first contracts in Afghanistan, according to the Caerus documents I obtained, was to design and manage a $15 million USAID program measuring stability in Afghanistan—a key task of the counterinsurgency effort. Kilcullen also developed close ties to the Office of Transition Initiatives. OTI is “the closest thing we have now to an organizational structure specifically designed to deal with the environments of the last ten to twenty years,” Kilcullen said in a talk to the New America Foundation in 2013.

Like Kilcullen himself, the Caerus contractors who led the Honduras project had extensive experience with the wars in Afghanistan. Stacia George, Caerus’s “Team Leader” on the Honduras project, was employed at Caerus from 2012 to 2014, where one of her tasks was training “Department of Defense professionals on using development as a counterinsurgency tool in Afghanistan” (she is now deputy director of OTI). Another Caerus associate involved in the Honduras program, William Upshur, taught counterinsurgency tactics in Afghanistan for the Army’s 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne divisions from 2010 to 2013 (he’s now an associate with intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton).

The Caerus proposal to OTI, which I obtained, emphasizes the company’s extensive experience with counterinsurgency, surveillance, and data collection in Afghanistan as well as its ties to OTI. Many Caerus staffers “have worked directly for [OTI] developing policy, implementing field programs, and managing program evaluations based on stabilization goals and objectives,” it says.

CAI, the prime contractor for Honduras Convive, deferred all questions about the project to USAID. But a CAI spokesperson said that “Creative doesn’t do counterinsurgency work and doesn’t have anybody on staff involved in counterinsurgency.”

*  *  *

The AID/OTI program was part of a grand US plan to improve security in Central America by building closer ties with local military forces and using US troops to train their police. Honduras has become a litmus test for the plan.

Today, hundreds of US Special Forces and Navy SEALs are training Honduran units for civilian law enforcement. The plan is “driven by the hope that beefing up police operations will stabilize a small country closer to home,” The Wall Street Journal reported. The training is set to expand in the $1 billion “Alliance for Prosperity” program for the region that was unveiled in late January of 2015 by Vice President Joe Biden.

Main, the CEPR analyst, says Central Americans should greet the Biden plan with skepticism. “From the U.S.-backed dirty wars of the 1980s to the broken promises of economic development under the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the historical record shows that U.S. policies and assistance have often undermined prosperity, stability, and democracy in the region,” he wrote last year in NACLA Report on the Americas.

In Honduras, Main told me, the overriding US interest has been “keeping this government in power.” The “window dressing” of Honduras Convive, he added, has “been going on pretty much since the coup.” Many observers, including lawmakers, agree.

On March 16, 730 scholars organized by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs signed a letter urging the State Department to demand human rights accountability in its dealings with Honduras. “We are deeply concerned that the U.S. government condones and supports the current Honduran government by sending financial and technical support to strengthen the Honduran military and police, institutions that have been responsible for human rights violations since the coup d’état of 2009,” the letter stated.

That same week, 23 members of Congress and the AFL-CIO called on Secretary of State John Kerry to address the violence in Honduras directed against trade unionists and human rights defenders. And on March 14, activists with SOA Watch, which opposes the School of the Americas, where many Honduran and Central American military leaders have been trained, raised a banner in front of USAID’s headquarters in Washington reading “Stop Funding Murder in Honduras!”

“I’ve been pretty much appalled by US policy with respect to Honduras,” Lawrence Wilkerson, the former deputy to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told me when I brought OTI’s Honduras program to his attention in an interview last year. “If I could sum it up for what it’s been for so many years, that’s protecting all the criminals in power, basically for US commercial interests.”

Why Is Hillary OK With Honduran Death Squads?

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

18 March 16

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/35818-why-is-hillary-ok-with-honduran-death-squads

Honduran assassination has deep American roots if not fingerprints

 

hen a Honduran death squad gunned down internationally-honored environmental activist Berta Caceres, 44, a retired teacher and mother of four, in her home on March 3, the media-filtered world as we know it took note, briefly, expressed some regret, provided little context, and moved on. The outcry from rest of the real world included demands from the UN, more than 20 U.S. Congress members, and hundreds of NGOs for an independent investigation of this political assassination [a 2014 letter from 108 congressmen to Secretary of State John Kerry calling for the U.S. to address human rights abuses in Honduras had little impact]. Now, in response to a similar request, the U.S. has sent FBI agents to help the Honduran government, whose first action was to detain the only witness, Gustavo Castro Soto, himself shot twice in the same attack (and still in Honduran custody two weeks later).

What our media-shielded world mostly did not note is that Honduras is one of the original banana republics, long open to corporate plunder under the protection of the U.S. government. Nor was there much attention to longstanding political corruption in Honduras with its “elected” puppet government and major American military presence. Also omitted generally was how Honduras has served as a main base of American military operations at least since the Reagan administration’s illegal and war-crime saturated war against Nicaragua in the 1980s. Several hundred U.S.Marines are deployed in Honduras with official missions to train Hondurans and fight the war on drugs (similar to the missions of 3,500 Marines in Peru and others elsewhere), consistent with U.S. military expansion in Central America during President Obama’s first term.

But how could any of this be relevant to the assassination of yet another Honduran activist defending human rights, defending the rights of indigenous people, defending the environment, or defending the Honduran majority against military repression? None of the people currently running for president have apparently thought it worth more than a passing comment at most, not even Bernie Sanders, whose vision of an America run by billionaires has long been a grotesque reality in oligarchical Honduras. Pretty much irrelevantly, Sanders did take a glancing swipe at Clinton’s relationship with Honduras (rated “Mostly True” by Politifact) during their March 9 debate:

One of the great human tragedies of recent years is children came from Honduras where there’s more violence than in any place in this country, and they came into this country…. And I said welcome these children into this country. Secretary Clinton said, send them back. [This omits Clinton’s lawyerly conditions for expatriation, but accurately characterizes her bottom line: “Send them back.”]

So why are Honduran children fleeing in the first place?

Perhaps the most interesting contextual aspect of the Berta Caceres assassination is that it’s an extension of American “engagement” in Honduras and provides a lucid paradigm of foreign policy as Hillary Clinton practices it.

On June 27, 2009, Honduras had a legitimately elected president, Manuel Zelaya, himself a multi-millionaire oligarch, who was accused of instigating a months-long power struggle over whether he could extend his term-limited presidency by democratic but constitutionally-challenged, nonviolent means. Zelaya denied this intent, saying he would leave office as scheduled in January 2010. His opposition, including the Congress, attorney general, and Supreme Court, were holding their own in June. Congress had begun to consider impeachment. The stated issue was apparently not the real issue.

In the mid-1970s, Zelaya’s father had been convicted for taking part in the massacre of at least 15 priests, students, and other protestors, killed by Honduran military forces. Victims’ bodies were burned, castrated, and otherwise mutilated. In 1980, Zelaya’s father was freed by an amnesty after less than two years of a 20-year sentence. Zelaya, during his rise to the presidency, was accused of embezzling all or part of a missing $40 million, but he was not prosecuted. He won the presidency in 2005 with 45.6% of the vote. Zelaya ran as a traditional Honduran conservative from the Liberal Party and seemed at first to be no great threat to the Honduran sense of order, control, and wealth distribution. The National Party accused the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of gross errors and contested Zelaya’s 3.4% margin of victory, only to concede the election ten days later.

Once in office, Zelaya started doing things that displeased the elites as well as the United States. He led Honduras to join ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), founded in 2004 by Venezuela and Cuba to promote social, political, and economic integration of Latin countries. Although the U.S. remained Honduras’s main trading partner, Zelaya pursued expanded trade with Oceania and Africa. His foreign policy included improving relations with Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro. This alienated Honduran business elites, as did his other initiatives, including: education for all children, subsidies to small farmers, lower bank interest rates, an 80% increase in the minimum wage, and numerous programs that reduced poverty by 10% in Honduras (one of the world’s poorer countries with a 62.8% poverty rate in 2014, substantially higher than when Zelaya was in office). For three years, Honduran mass media, owned by just six families (media concentration similar to the U.S.) provided little unbiased coverage, leading Zelaya to invoke a little-used law to force the media to carry government broadcasts.

U.S.-sanctioned military coup ended Honduran non-crisis

On June 28, 2009, Honduran military forces seized President Zelaya and took him to a nearby U.S. military base. From there, Zelaya was sent into exile in Costa Rica, setting off protests around the region and the world, including a UN General Assembly resolutionon June 30, with Zelaya present at the UN (in Washington, Obama officials refused to meet with him). The resolution, agreed to by consensus, unanimously condemned the coup and demanded immediate, unconditional restoration of democratically-elected President Zelaya. The U.S., by choosing not to block the consensus, managed to avoid voting for or against a resolution that condemned its own proxies’ actions.

In October 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement re-affirming the June resolution that “condemns the coup d’état in the Republic of Honduras that has interrupted the democratic and constitutional order and the legitimate exercise of power in Honduras.”

At least part of the explanation for U.S. duplicity was made clear in an email to Clinton from Tom Shannon, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, saying that he planned on “calling the new SouthCom Commander to ensure a coordinated U.S. approach [since] we have big military equities in Honduras through Joint Task Force Bravo at Soto Cano airbase.” Coincidentally or not, Shannon was in Honduras a week before the coup, consulting with the military and civilian groups later involved in the coup.

Given the longstanding, close, bi-partisan ties between U.S. and Honduran governments, especially their military establishments, it is all but inconceivable that high-ranking officials in the Obama administration, perhaps Obama himself, did not have at least some advance notice of (if not involvement in planning) the coup. How else does the Honduran military take a president at gunpoint and fly him to a U.S. military base only to be welcomed with open arms?

The Obama administration has never offered a credible, principled explanation for indirectly supporting and directly securing the Honduran coup. Early on, President Obama gave appropriate lip service to opposing the coup: “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the democratically elected president there.” By avoiding calling the transparent military coup a “military coup,” Obama avoided triggering an American law that would have imposed significant sanctions against Honduras and especially the Honduran military. Instead, the Obama administration applied only token sanctions, did little to resist Republican support for the coup government, maneuvered to take the issue out of public view, and acted as if the Honduran government’s investigation of itself was sufficient response. The point person in this exercise in anti-democracy was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who described her actions in her official autobiography “Hard Choices” (now out in paperback with the Honduran section scrubbed).

Hillary Clinton’s “diplomacy” whitewashed the military coup

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was excellently positioned to move the question of the Honduran military coup out of the potentially pro-democratic forum of the Organization of American States into more sheltered talks that included both Zelaya and his appointed successor, Roberto Micheletti Bain, who publicly offered to step down during the summer of 2009 on the condition Zelaya would not return to power. During that same period, Clinton received an email from Ann-Marie Slaughter, then director of policy planning at the State Department, strongly urging her to “take bold action … find that [the] coup was a ‘military coup’ under U.S. law,” a position the administration had refused to take for the prior six weeks. Slaughter’s August 16 email added:

I got lots of signals last week that we are losing ground in Latin America every day the Honduras crisis continues; 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 we have worked so hard to build over the last 20 year [sic]. The current stalemate favors the status quo; the de facto regime has every incentive to run out the clock as long as they think we will have to accept any post-election government. I urge you to think about taking bold action now to breathe new life into the process and signal that regardless what happens on the Hill, you and the president are serious.

No such seriousness was forthcoming from the administration. Clinton, with no interference from Obama, played out the clock until bogus elections, held under the complete control of the coup government, could produce a result satisfactory to the U.S. The State Department kept negotiations alive among a variety of parties (including Zelaya and Micheletti) until it was effectively too late to have a meaningful democratic election. During September and October, Micheletti suspended five basic constitutional rights (including freedom of association, movement, speech, and personal liberty, as well as habeas corpus). On October 30, a joke of an “agreement” was announced by mediator and Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. Under this agreement, Zelaya was to be reinstated, almost powerless, in the final weeks before the election, which would remain under the control of the coup government, and even this farce included its own poison pill: the requirement  that the Honduran Congress approve Zelaya’s temporary reinstatement. Not surprisingly, the agreement was never realized, in part because four days later, the U.S. said it would honor the coup government’s “elections” whether Zelaya was ever reinstated or not. So much for the restoration of democracy in Honduras under Secretary Clinton.

What good is an election that doesn’t confirm the power structure? 

The November 27 sham election held under the control of a “unity government” that included no constitutionally-legitimate members, was punctuated by police violence and widespread media censorship. The winner was Porfirio Lobo Sosa, another multi-millionaire agricultural oligarch, who had lost to Zelaya in 2009. In an election boycotted by numerous candidates and with a turnout 6% lower than 2005, Lobos won 56.6% of the vote. The result was rejected by Spain and 11 Latin American countries, but widely accepted by the U.S. and its allies – and got a hypocritically glowing gloss from Assistant Secretary Shannon in an email to Clinton aide Cheryl Mills that falsely hyped the voter turnout:

The turnout (probably a record) and the clear rejection of the Liberal Party shows our approach was the right one, and puts Brazil and others who would not recognize the election in an impossible position. As we think about what to say, I would strongly recommend that we not be shy. We should congratulate the Honduran people, we should connect today’s vote to the deep democratic vocation of the Honduran people, and we should call on the community of democratic nations (and especially those of the Americas) to recognize, respect, and respond to this accomplishment of the Honduran people….

As president, Lobo presided over the further descent of Honduras (literally “the depths”) into violence, chaos, and corruption. Political assassinations now run to the hundreds as Honduras has achieved the highest murder rate in the world. Lobo (and now his dubious successor) have nurtured a vicious but U.S.-friendly government that has allowed its country to grow so violent that Hondurans flee northward by the thousands, while those who stay behind to resist are murdered by the hundreds. The environmental organization Global Witness, which tracks assassinations of environmentalists worldwide, found Honduras the most dangerous country per capita for environmental activists.

Among Clinton’s foreign policy achievements, Honduras may or may not be more disastrous than Libya. In “Hard Choices,” Clinton assessed Honduras this way:

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 retrospect, the “strategy” failed to restore order, ensured no free and fair elections, nor any legitimate election – but it did effectively legitimize a military coup undertaken in America’s interest (as in Haiti or Egypt – sorry, Madagascar).

Clinton’s record seems unknown only to Americans  

In a healthy democracy, one might expect candidates for president to challenge the one who actively supported a military coup that helped turn an impoverished country into an expanding charnel house. In the United States in 2016, the devastation produced by American foreign policy is an issue only for those who see it as inadequate. In the home countries, American depredation is not such a secret, least of all to those who resist it. In 2014, more than a year before her assassination, Berta Caceres named Clinton as one of the perpetrators of Honduran suffering (translated):

We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it. It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country. The return of the president, Mel Zelaya, became a secondary issue. There were going to be elections in Honduras. And here, she, Clinton, recognized that they didn’t permit Mel Zelaya’s return to the presidency. There were going to be elections. And the international community – officials, the government, the grand majority – accepted this, even though we warned this was going to be very dangerous and that it would permit a barbarity, not only in Honduras but in the rest of the continent. And we’ve been witnesses to this.[emphasis added]

Writing in The Nationhistorian Greg Grandin amplified what Caceres meant when she warned that Clinton policy “was going to be very dangerous.” Once the sham election installed a U.S.-compliant government, Honduras adopted Washington-sponsored terrorism and counterintelligence laws that criminalized political protest. Clinton’s policy consolidated the power of murderers, Grandin noted, and led to the murder of Caceres:

Well, that’s just one horror. I mean, hundreds of peasant activists and indigenous activists have been killed. Scores of gay rights activists have been killed. I mean, it’s just—it’s just a nightmare in Honduras. I mean there’s ways in which the coup regime basically threw up Honduras to transnational pillage. And Berta Cáceres, in that interview, says what was installed after the coup was something like a permanent counterinsurgency on behalf of transnational capital. And that was—that wouldn’t have been possible if it were not for Hillary Clinton’s normalization of that election, or legitimacy.

Of course, it was also Obama’s discreet blessing of a predator state that keeps Honduras bleeding. There’s blood enough for his hands as well as Clinton’s and all the apparatchiks at the White House and State Department who enthusiastically helped this enduring crime against humanity go down.

And now there is another victim that we know about among the hundreds still unknown. On March 15, another death squad (or perhaps the same one) shot a man four times in the face in his home. He was a member of the same indigenous people’s organization as Caceres (she is one of 14 members killed so far). He was Nelson Noe Garcia Lainez, 39, father of five and a community leader. His execution followed a violent government eviction of indigenous people from their homes because they were protesting the megadam project (Agua Zarca, funded in part by USAID) that would destroy their ancestral land.

The Associated Press reported, with profound but apparently unintended irony: “The United States Embassy condemned the killing, saying that ‘coming so close to the murder of his colleague Berta Cáceres, his death is cause for particular concern.’” So it would not be a cause for concern had it happened later?

When Latino USA asked if Clinton “is still proud of the hell she helped routinize in Honduras,” a Clinton spokesperson said criticism of Clinton’s Honduras policy “simply nonsense.” Clinton is not known to have expressed regret for any part of her Honduran activities, not even sending children back to hell. Running an empire ain’t for sissies.

 

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

For Hondurans it does not really matter whether the Democratic or Republican Party wins. The USA government has always maintained close ties with the arm forces and the corporate and political elite groups; and that is why they have turned this country into a huge United States military base. On our grounds we have 13 United States military bases. US was behind the coup back in 2009 which harmed us in evry way. One thing is the people of the United States; however, its government is a totally different story.

Hillary Clinton’s Real Scandal Is Honduras, Not Benghazi

Saturday, 26 July 2014 11:09 By Emily Schwartz Greco, OtherWords | Op-Ed

2014 726 hil swHilary Clinton speaking at a Rally in North Carolina, May 2, 2008. (Photo: Keith Kissel / Flickr)Is it too soon to predict who will be the next president of the United States?

Without officially declaring her intention to run again, Hillary Clinton has cornered Democratic frontrunner status. Given the weak and crowded Republican field, that makes her the presumptive next occupant of a prestigious office lacking – as comedian Jon Stewart observes – any corners.

Clinton’s apparent unbeatability this time around helps explain the right-wing hysteria over the Benghazi tragedy. The conspiracy theories about the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya amount to a desperate effort to discredit the Democratic Party’s strong centrist candidate. It’s no surprise that this ploy isn’t making a dent on her popularity.

What beats me is why more Democrats aren’t deeply troubled by the legacy of Clinton’s foreign policy blunder in Honduras.

Maybe you’ve forgotten what happened in that small country in the first year of the Obama administration — more on that in a moment. But surely you’ve noticed the ugly wave of xenophobia greeting a growing number of Central American child refugees arriving on our southern border.

Some of President Barack Obama’s supporters are trying to blame this immigration crisis on the Bush administration because of an anti-trafficking law George W. signed in 2008 specifically written to protect Central American children that preceded an uptick in their arrivals. But which country is the top source of kids crossing the border? Honduras, home to the world’s highest murder rate, Latin America’s worst economic inequality, and a repressive U.S.-backed government.

When Honduran military forces allied with rightist lawmakers ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, then-Secretary of State Clinton sided with the armed forces and fought global pressure to reinstate him.

Washington wields great influence over Honduras, thanks to the numerous military bases built with U.S. funds where training and joint military and anti-drug operations take place. Since the coup, nearly $350 million in U.S. assistance, including more than $50 million in military aid has poured into the country.

That’s a lot of investment in a nation where the police, the military, and private security forces are killing people with alarming frequency and impunity, according to Human Rights Watch.

In short, desperate Honduran children are seeking refuge from a human rights nightmare that would cast a dark cloud over Clinton’s presidential bid right now if the media were paying any attention.

That wouldn’t give Republicans a big advantage, of course. Until they stop alienating a majority of female voters and communities of color, I find it hard to see the party of Mitt Romney and John McCain winning the White House.

Given the Democratic Party’s demographic edge, progressives have nothing to lose by seizing on the GOP field’s weakness and pressing for a viable alternative to another Clinton administration. Senator Elizabeth Warren could prove a contender. Unfortunately, the consumer-rights firebrand and Massachusetts Democrat lacks any foreign policy experience.

And foreign policy is no afterthought these days. Israel – the recipient of $3.1 billion a year in U.S. military aid – is waging a ground war in Gaza, and the stakes in the Russia-Ukraine conflict just grew following the downing of that Malaysia Airlines jet. Plus, Iraq is growing more violent and unstable once more. On all these issues, Clinton is more hawkish than most of the Democratic base.

But other Democrats with a wide range of liberal credentials and foreign policy expertise are signaling some interest in running, especially if Clinton ultimately sits out the race.

Even if Clinton does win in 2016, a serious progressive primary challenge could help shape her presidency. As more and more Honduran kids cross our border in search of a safe haven, voters should take a good look at her track record at the State Department and reconsider the inevitability of another Clinton administration.

of particular note is the role of John Negroponte – whose role in Honduras since the time of the contras is well known and it is suspected that he is the “author” of the Honduras coup that removed Zelaya for a more guaranteed and compliant government

Washington behind the Honduras coup: Here is the evidence

Repression intensifies

Global Research, July 15, 2009

http://www.globalresearch.ca/washington-behind-the-honduras-coup-here-is-the-evidence/14390

The US Department of State had prior knowledge of the coup. The Department of State and the US Congress funded and advised the actors and organisations in Honduras that participated in the coup. The Pentagon trained, schooled, commanded, funded and armed the Honduran armed forces that perpetrated the coup and that continue to repress the people of Honduras by force.

The US military presence in Honduras, that occupies the Soto Cano (Palmerola) military base, authorised the coup d’etat through its tacit complicity and refusal to withdraw its support of the Honduran military involved in the coup. The US ambassador in Tegucigalpa, Hugo Llorens, coordinated the removal from power of President Manuel Zelaya, together with Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon y John Negroponte, who presently works as an advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

From the first day the coup occurred, Washington has referred to “both parties” involved and the necessity for “dialogue” to restore constitutional order, legitimising the coup leaders by regarding them as equal players instead of criminal violators of human rights and democratic principles. The Department of State has refused to legally classify the events in Honduras as a “coup d’etat”, nor has it suspended or frozen its economic aid or commerce to Honduras, and has taken no measures to effectively pressure the de facto regime.

Washington manipulated the Organization of American States (OAS) in order to buy time, therefore allowing the coup regime to consolidate and weaken the possibility of President Zelaya’s immediate return to power, as part of a strategy still in place that simply seeks to legitimate the de facto regime and wear down the Honduran people that still resist the coup. Secretary of State Clinton and her spokesmen stopped speaking of President Zelaya’s return to power after they designated Costa Rica’s president Oscar Arias as the “mediator” between the coup regime and the constitutional government; and now the State Department refers to the dictator that illegally took power during the coup, Roberto Micheletti, as the “interim caretaker president”.

The strategy of “negotiating” with the coup regime was imposed by the Obama administration as a way of discrediting President Zelaya – blaming him for provoking the coup – and legitimising the coup leaders. Members of the US Congress – Democrats and Republicans – organised a visit of representatives from the coup regime in Honduras to Washington, receiving them with honors in different arenas in the US capital. Despite the fact that originally it was Republican Senator John McCain who coordinated the visit of the coup regime representatives to Washington through a lobby firm connected to his office, The Cormac Group, now, the illegal regime is being representated by top notch lobbyist and Clinton attorney Lanny Davis, who is using his pull and influence in Washington to achieve overall acceptance – cross party lines – of the coup regime in Honduras. Otto Reich and a Venezuelan named Robert Carmona-Borjas, known for his role as attorney for the dictator Pedro Carmona during the April 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela, aided in preparing the groundwork for the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras.

The team designated from Washington to design and help prepare the coup in Honduras also included a group of US ambassadors recently named in Central America, experts in destabilising efforts against the Cuban revolution, and Adolfo Franco, ex administrator for USAID’s Cuba “transition to democracy” program. No one doubts that the fingerprints of Washington are all over the coup d’etat against President Manuel Zelaya that began on June 28. Many analysts, writers, activists and even presidents, have denounced this role. Nevertheless, the majority coincide in excusing the Obama Administration from any responsibility in the Honduran coup, blaming instead the lingering remains of the Bush-Cheney era and the war hawks that still pace the halls of the White House. The evidence demonstrates that while it is certain that the usual suspects who perpetrate coups and destabilisation activities in Latin America are involved, ample proof exists confirming the direct role of the new administration in Washington in the Honduran coup.

The Department of State

The new form of diplomacy of the United States, known as “smart power”, has played a principal role before, during and after the coup in Honduras. During a press briefing on July 1, spokespeople for the Department of State admitted to having prior knowledge of the coup in Honduras, clarifying that US diplomats had been meeting with the groups and actors planning the coup to encourage a different “solution” to their discontent with President Zelaya.[i] The State Department also confirmed that two high level representatives from the Department, which included Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelley, were in Honduras the week prior to the coup and maintained meetings with the civilian and military groups that later participated in the illegal overthrow of a democratically elected president. They state their mission was to “urge against” the coup, but evidently such verbal pressure was insufficient to discourage the actors involved in the coup, particularly considering the actions manifested by Washington contradicted those harsh words.

On the day of the coup, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton published a statement regarding the situation in Honduras. Despite the fact that governments around the world were quickly condemning the actions as a coup d’etat, Clinton’s statement did not recognise the events in Honduras as a “coup d’etat” and also did not call for the return of President Zelaya to power. Curiously, Clinton’s statements from day one have referred to “all parties” of situation, legitimising the coup leaders and somehow placing blame – publicly – on President Mel Zelaya for provoking his own overthrow: “The action taken against Honduran President Mel Zelaya violates the precepts of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and thus should be condemned by all. We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law, to reaffirm their democratic vocation, and to commit themselves to resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue. Honduras must embrace the very principles of democracy we reaffirmed at the OAS meeting it hosted less than one month ago.”[ii]

And ever since, despite different references to a “coup” having occurred in Honduras, the Department of State has refused to legally classify what took place as a coup d’etat. By doing so, the US government would be obligated to suspend economic, diplomatic and military aid to Honduras, which apparently they are unwilling to do, since such a measure would substantially affect US interests in the Central American nation and the region. On July 1, the spokesmen for the State Department explained their wavering on the coup question: “In regard to the coup itself, I think it would just – it would be best to say that this was a coordinated effort between the military and some civilian political actors. Obviously, the military was the entity that conducted the forcible removal of the president and has acted as the securer of public order during this process. But for the coup to become more than an insurrection or a rebellion, you have to have an effort to transfer power. And in that regard, the congress – the congress’s decision to swear in its president, Micheletti, as the president of Honduras indicates that the congress and key members of that congress played an important role in this coup.”[iii]

This position of ambiguity, that condemns the events in Honduras as a violation of constitutional order but doesn’t go as far as classifying the situation as a coup d’etat and also doesn’t call for the reinstatement of President Zelaya to the presidency, was ratified again after the meeting held between Secretary of State Clinton and President Zelaya on July 7. Clinton made the following statement, “I just finished a productive meeting with President Zelaya. We discussed the events of the past nine days and the road ahead. I reiterated to him that the United States supports the restoration of the democratic constitutional order in Honduras. We continue to support regional efforts through the OAS to bring about a peaceful resolution that is consistent with the terms of the Inter-American Democratic Charter…We call upon all parties to refrain from acts of violence and to seek a peaceful, constitutional, and lasting solution to the serious divisions in Honduras through dialogue. To that end, we have been working with a number of our partners in the hemisphere to create a negotiation, a dialogue that could lead to a peaceful resolution of this situation.”[iv]

Now it was clear, after this meeting, that Washington would no longer consider Zelaya’s return to the presidency as a necessary solution but rather would lobby for a “negotiation” with the coup regime, that in the end, favours US interests. Sources that were present at the Organisation of American States (OAS) meetings that took place after the coup affirm that the presence of a high-level US delegation intensified the pressure against other States to urge for a “negotiated” solution that didn’t necessarily imply the return to power of President Zelaya.

This method of circumventing the main issue, manipulating the outcome and attempting to appear as though one position has been assumed when in reality, actions demonstrate the contrary, forms part of the new Obama doctrine of “smart power”, which purports to achieve imperialist objectives without demonising the government. “Smart Power” is “the capacity to combine ‘hard power’ with ‘soft power’ to achieve a victorious strategy. ‘Smart Power’ strategically uses diplomacy, persuasion, capacity building, military power and economic and political influence, in an effective way with a political and social legitimacy.” Essentially, it’s a mix of military force with all forms of diplomacy, with an emphasis in the use of “democracy promotion” as a principal tactic to strongy influence the destiny of societies, instead of a military invasion. [Note: Beware that “smart power” places an emphasis on the use of agencies like USAID and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to do the ‘dirty work’ of silently penetrating and infiltrating civil society organisations in order to promote a US agenda. This explains Obama’s call for an additional $320 million in “democracy promotion” funds for the 2010 budget just for use in Latin America. This is substantially a higher sum than the quantity requested and used in Latin America for “democracy promotion” by the Bush administration in its 8 years of government combined.]

The ambassador

Journalist Jean-Guy Allard has revealed the origens of the current US ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens[v]. Per Allard, Hugo Llorens, a Cuban national from birth who arrived in the United States as part of Operation Peter Pan, is “a specialist in terrorism… In 2002, George W. Bush’s White House strategically placed the astute Llorens as Director of Andean Affairs at the National Security Council in Washington, D.C., which converted him into the principle advisor to the President on Venezuela. The coup d’etat in 2002 against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez occured during Llorens’ tenure, who was working together with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Otto Reich, and the very controversial Elliot Abrams. In July 2008, Llorens was named Ambassador to Honduras.”

On June 4, 2009, just weeks before the coup d’etat against President Zelaya, Ambassador Llorens declared to the Honduran press that “…One can’t violate the Constitution in order to create another Constitution, because if one doesn’t respect the Constitution, then we all live under the law of the jungle.”[vi] Those declarations were made in reference to the national opinion survey on the possibility of convening a constitutional convention during 2010, that would have taken place on June 28th if the coup d’etat against President Zelaya hadn’t occured. The commentaries made by Llorens evidence not only his position against the survey, but also his interference in the internal affairs of Honduras.

But Llorens wasn’t alone in the region. After his nomination as US Ambassador in Honduras – position that he was assigned to due to the urgent necessity to neutralise the growing presence of leftist governments in the region and impede the regional potency of ALBA – several other US ambassadors were also named in neighboring nations, all experts in destabilising the Cuban revolution and executing psychological warfare.

The diplomat Robert Blau arrived first to the US embassy in El Salvador, on July 2, 2008, named as second in command. In January 2009, Blau became the Charge d’Affairs at the Embassy. Before arriving to El Salvador, Blau was subdirector of Cuban affairs at the Department of State in Washington, after working for two years at the US Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, as a Political Counselor. His work with Cuban dissidents was so successful that Blau was honored with the Department of State James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence. Llorens and Blau were old friends, after working together as part of Otto Reich’s team in the State Department.

Soon after, Stephen McFarland was named as US Ambassador in Guatemala, on August 5, 2008. McFarland, a graduate of the National War College in the US, similar to Hugo Llorens and Robert Blau, and also a former member of Combat Team Number 2 of the US Marines in Iraq, was the second in command at the US embassy in Venezuela during William Brownfield’s tenure. Brownfield is known for achieving a substantial increase in State Department funding and strategic support for the Venezuelan opposition. After Venezuela, McFarland was sent to the US Embassy in Paraguay to oversee the construction of the large US military base in that country that borders Bolivia. McFarland was also Director of Cuban Affairs at the State Department and his resumé claims he is an expert in “democratic transitions, human rights and security matters.”

Ambassador Robert Callahan arrived to Managua, Nicaragua, also at the beginning of August. Callahan has worked at the US embassies in La Paz, Bolivia, and San José, Costa Rica, and was a distinguished professor at the National War College. In 2004, he was sent to Iraq as press attaché at the US Embassy in Baghdad. Upon his return, he established the press and propaganda office at the newly created Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) in Washington, which today is the most powerful entity in the US intelligence community.

Together, these ambassadors – experts in coup d’etats, destabilisation and propaganda – prepared the terrain for the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras.

Funding the coup leaders

Just one month before the coup against President Zelaya occured, a coalition of different organisations, business associations, political parties, high level members of the Catholic Church and private media outlets, was formed in opposition to Zelaya’s policies. The coalition was called the “Democratic Civil Union of Honduras”. It’s only objective was to oust President Zelaya from power in order to impede the future possibility of a constitutional convention to reform the constitution, which would allow the people a voice and a role in their political process.

The “Democratic Civil Union of Honduras” is composed of organisations including the National Anticorruption Council, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP), Council of University Deans, Workers’ Federation of Honduras (CTH), National Convergence Forum, National Federation of Commerce and Industry of Honduras (FEDECAMARA), Association of Communication Media (AMC), the Group Peace & Democracy and the student group Generation for Change.

The majority of these organisations have been the beneficiaries of the more than $50 million annually disbursed by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for “democracy promotion” in Honduras. In fact, a USAID report regarding its funding and work with COHEP, described how the “low profile maintained by USAID in this project helped ensure the credibility of COHEP as a Honduran organisation and not an arm of USAID.” Which basically means that COHEP is, actually, an arm of USAID.

The spokespeople for the Democratic Civil Union of Honduras representing, according to them, “civil society”, declared to the Honduran press on June 23rd – five days before the coup took place against President Zelaya – that they “trust the armed forces will comply with their responsibility to defend the Constitution, the Law, peace and democracy.” When the coup took place on June 28th, they were the first to immediately claim that a coup had not occured, but rather “democracy had been saved” from the hands of President Zelaya, whose crime was to attempt to give voice and visibility to the people. Representing the biased middle and upperclasses, the Democratic Civil Union has qualified Zelaya’s supporters as “hoards”.

The International Republican Institute (IRI), entity that receives funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), received more than $1.2 million in 2009 to work with political groups in Honduras. IRI’s work has been dedicated to supporting “think tanks” and “pressure groups” to influence political parties and “support initiatives to implement political positions during the campaigns in 2009.” This is a clear example of intervention in the internal politics of Honduras and evidence of NED and IRI funding to those groups involved in the coup.

The Washington lobby

Republican Senator John McCain, ex US presidential candidate, helped coordinate the visit of a coup regime delegation to Washington last week. McCain is well known for his opposition to governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries in the region considered “anti-imperialist”. McCain also maintains very close ties to the Cuban exile community in Miami. McCain is also Chairman of the Board of the International Republican Institute (IRI) that has funded the coup participants in Honduras. McCain offered the services of a lobby firm in Washington, closely tied to him, the Cormac Group, that organised a press conference for the coup regime delegation at the National Press Club on June 7th. McCain also helped set up several meetings in Congress with the traditional Cuban-American representatives and those general “Chávez-haters”, such as Connie Mack, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mel Martinez.

But beyond the Republican connection to the Honduran coup regime, there is a even more damning link to the current Democrat administration in Washington. Lawyer Lanny Davis was hired by the Business Council of Latin America (CEAL) to lobby in favour of the coup regime and convince the powers in Washington to accept and recognise the de facto government in Honduras. Lanny Davis was special counsel to ex President Bill Clinton from 1996-1998 and he is a close friend and advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Davis is organising a diplomatic offensive and public relations blitz in favour of the coup regime, including the strategic placement of advertisements in important US media that seek to legitimise the de facto Honduran government, and he is organising meetings and hearings with members of Congress, the State Department and the White House. CEAL represents the conservative business community in Latin America, including those that have promoted and participated in previous attempts to oust democratic governments via coup d’etats and/or other forms of sabotage. For example, the Venezuelan representative of CEAL is Marcel Granier, president of RCTV, the television station that heavily participated in the 2002 coup against President Chávez and that consistently has violated Venezuelan law in order to promote its political agenda.

As part of this offensive, Lanny Davis arranged a special hearing before the House Foreign Relations Committee, attended by high level members of Congress and overseen by Democrat Elliot Engel (congressman from New York). Testimonies were given at the hearing by representatives of the coup regime from Honduras and others who have supported the coup – directly and indirectly – such as Michael Shifter from the InterAmerican Dialogue, Guillermo Pérez-Cadalso, ex Honduran foreign minister and supreme court judge, and the infamous Otto Reich, a Cuban-American well known for his role in the majority of destabilisation activities against leftist and progressive governments in Latin America throughout the eighties. Reich, who was named Special Advisor on Latin America to President George W. Bush, also played a key role in the 2002 coup against President Chávez. As a result of this hearing, the US Congress is currently trying to pass a resolution that recognises the coup regime in Honduras as a legitimate government.

Another consequence of Lanny Davis’ lobbying efforts was the meeting arranged in the Council of the Americas Washington office on June 9th. This event included the participation of Jim Swigert, Director of Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean for the National Democratic Institute (NDI), entity that receives its funding from NED and USAID, Cris Arcos, former US ambassador to Honduras, and Adolfo Franco, ex USAID Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the director of the “transition to democracy” program for Cuba. These three characters are working as advisors to the Obama administration on the Honduran crisis. Franco, who was previously advisor on foreign policy to John McCain during his presidential campaign in 2008, has been accused of corruption for his mismanagement of USAID funds destined for the Cuba “democracy” program. Franco diverted a large quantity of these funds, totaling over $40 million, to groups such as the Committee for a Free Cuba and the Institute for Cuban Studies in Miami, without adhering to a transparent process of funds disbursement.

Negroponte and Reich, again

Many analysts and specialists on Latin American have speculated on the role of former ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte, who directed the paramilitary forces and death squads known as the “Contra” against leftist movements in Central America during the 1980s. Negroponte held various high level positions during the Bush administration, including US Ambassador to Iraq, US Ambassador to the United Nations, National Director of Intelligence and lastly, subsecretary of state, second only to Condoleezza Rice. After leaving the Department of State in January 2009, Negroponte entered the private sector, as is custom amongst former top government officials. He was offered a job as vice-president at the most influential and powerful consulting firm in Washington, McLarty Associates. Negroponte accepted the job. McLarty Associates was founded by Thomas “Mack” McLarty, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and also Clinton’s Special Envoy to Latin America. Since the end of the Clinton administration, McLarty has managed the most powerful strategic consulting firm in Washington, which until just last year, was called Kissinger-McLarty Associates due to the merging of Thomas McLarty and Henry Kissinger. This partnership clearly evidenced the bi-partisan unions that truly craft the most important policies in Washington.

In his new role, John Negroponte presently works as advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Remember, the current US ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, has worked closely under Negroponte’s domain during the majority of his career. So it would not be a far jump to consider that John Negroponte, expert in crushing leftist movements in Central America, has played a role in the current coup against President Zelaya in Honduras.

Otto Reich has also been investing his energy during the last couple of years in a campaign against President Zelaya. The Honduran president actually threatened to sue Reich for defamation in April 2009, after Reich accused President Zelaya of stealing $100 million from the state-owned telecommunications company, Hondutel. These accustations were never backed by evidence, and the truth was revealed soon after that explained Reich’s interest in Hondutel. Through his consulting and lobbying firm, Otto Reich Associates, the Cuban-American was representing a multinational corporation that was pushing for the privatisation of Hondutel, a move that Zelaya opposed. With President Zelaya out of the picture now, Reich is able to pursue the multi-million dollar deal.

Reich also co-founded an organisation in Washington named Arcadia Foundation[vii] together with a Venezuelan, Robert Carmona-Borjas, a lawyer specialised in military law who is linked to the April 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela, per his own resumé. Robert Carmona-Borjas was in the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, together with the dictator Pedro Carmona, on the days of the coup, from April 11-12, 2002, and escaped, together with Carmona, when the palace was retaken by the presidential guard and constitutional order was restored. He later fled to the United States after he was brought up on charges for his role in the coup d’etat in Venezuela, and became a university professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC (nice to see the warm welcome coup leaders and violators of democracy receive in the United States). Since last year, Reich and Carmona-Borjas have been conducting a campaign against President Zelaya, accusing him of corruption and limiting private property rights. Through the Arcadia Foundation, they created a series of video clips that have been shown in different media, attempted to portray Zelaya as a corrupt president who violates the basic rights of the Honduran people.[viii]

Carmona-Borjas has travelled frequently to Honduras during the last few months, and even held public meetings where the coup against Zelaya was discussed openly. At one encounter where Carmona-Borjas was present, Honduran Public Defender Ramón Custodia, who was involved in the coup d’etat, declared to the press that “coups are a possibility and can occur in any political environment”. After the coup took place, Robert Carmona-Borjas appeared at a rally in support of the de facto regime, on July 3, and received the honors and applause from the coup leaders who declared him “an important actor” that “helped make possible” the removal from power of President Zelaya and the installation of the dictator Roberto Micheletti as de facto president.[ix]

Military power

The United States maintains a large military presence in Honduras in the Soto Cano (Palmerola) base, located about 50 miles from the capital, Tegucigalpa, that has been actively operating since 1981, when it was heavily occupied by the US Ronald Reagan Administration and used for its operations in Central America.

During the eighties, Soto Cano was used by Colonel Oliver North as a base of operations of the “Contra”, the paramilitary forces trained, armed and funded by the CIA, and charged with executing warfare against all leftist movements in Central America, with particular focus on the neighbouring Sandinista government in Nicaragua. From Soto Cano, the “Contra” launched terrorist attacks, psychological warfare (overseen by Otto Reich’s Office for Public Diplomacy), death squads and special covert missions that resulted in the assassination of tens of thousands of farmers and civilians, thousands of disappeared, tortured, wounded and terrorised all throughout the region.

John Negroponte, US ambassador at the time in Honduras, together with Oliver North and Otto Reich, directed and oversaw these dirty operations. They later became involved in the Iran-Contra scandal once the US Congress cut the funding for the paramilitary groups and death squads used by the Reagan Administration to neutralise the leftist movements in the region, and the Negroponte-North-Reich team sold arms to Iran to continue funding their covert operations.

The Soto Cano base houses the US Joint Task Force-Bravo military group, composed of members from the army, air force, joint security forces and the First Batallion Regiment 228 of the US Air Force. The current total presence of US forces on the base numbers approximately 600, and includes 18 combat planes, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and CH-47 Chinook helicopters, used for special warfare operations. The Honduran Aviation Academy is also located on the Soto Cano base. More than 650 Honduran and US citizens also live inside the base installations.

The Honduran constitution does not legally permit the presence of foreign military in the country. A “handshake” agreement was made between Washington and Honduras authorising the “semi-permanent” important and strategic presence of hundreds – at times thousands – of US military personnel on the base. The agreement was made in 1954, in exchange for the multimillion dollar aid the US provides to the Honduran armed forces, which ranges from training programs, arms and military equipment and joint exercises and operations that take place on the ground in Honduras. The base was first employed by the US military and CIA to launch the coup d’etat against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954.

Each year, Washington authorises hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic aid to Honduras, which is the third-poorest country in the western hemisphere, after Haiti and Nicaragua. This “exchange” securing the US military presence in the Central American nation can be terminated at any time by the Honduran government, without much notice.

On May 31, 2008, President Manuel Zelaya announced that Soto Cano (Palmerola) would be converted into an international civilian airport. The construction of the airport terminal would be financed with a fund from the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA – of which Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominique, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vicents, Antigua and Barbados and Venezuela are members). This obviously was a huge threat to the future US military presence in Honduras.

The two generals that have participated in key roles in the coup against President Zelaya are both graduates of the US School of the Americas, famous for training dictators, torturers and repressors in Latin America, and they maintain very close ties with the US military forces based in Honduras. The Commander of the Honduran Air Force General Luis Javier Prince Suazo studied in the famous School of the Americas in 1996. The Head of the Honduran High Military Command, General Romeo Vásquez, who was fired by President Zelaya on June 24, 2009, for disobeying the president’s orders, and later appeared as the principal actor in the military coup just days later, is also a graduate of the School of the Americas. These two high level military officers also maintain close contact with the Pentagon and the Southern Command.

The US Ambassador in Honduras through September 2008, when Hugo Llorens was appointed to the position, Charles Ford, was transferred from Honduras to the Southern Command in Florida and charged with providing “strategic advising” to the Pentagon about Latin America, a position he holds today.

The Honduran military are funded, trained, schooled and commanded by the US military. They have been indoctrinated with the anti-leftist, anti-socialist, pro-empire mentality since the beginning of the Cold War. The Generals and high level officers involved in the coup in Honduras have publicly stated that they were “obligated” to remove President Zelaya from power because of the “threat” he posed with his “leftist” ideology and alignment to socialist nations in the region such as Venezuela and Cuba. Per one Honduran colonel, “’We fought the subversive movements here and we were the only country that did not have a fratricidal war like the others…It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That’s impossible. I personally would have retired, because my thinking, my principles, would not have allowed me to participate in that.”.[x]

All of the above evidence – and certainly more to come in the future – proves the undeniable role of Washington in the coup d’etat aginst President Zelaya in Honduras.