Hillary and the Honduras coup

March 14, 2016

I WAS 18 when I attended my very first large demonstration. It was in Fort Benning, Georgia, in November of 2001, against the School of the Americas. It was also the first time I was detained on a military base, along with 11 other Vermont students.

We were kept in a penned area for 12 hours, surrounded by armed military police. We were threatened with fabricated crimes and searched repeatedly. We were denied access to legal representatives, as well as food and drink. We were frightened. Only late in the afternoon, after the demonstration had ended, were we released, after the military made a big show of confiscating the van we had driven down in. We found rides with other activists back up to Vermont.

This was an experience that taught me a lot about the idea of democracy, and what really goes on when one tries to exercise freedom of assembly or expression. We were released, shaken but physically unharmed. Many who demonstrate for these same rights elsewhere do not make it out. Like Berta Cáceres.

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Even in the buildup to the war in Afghanistan, we knew the importance in demonstrating against Fort Benning's School of Americas, later renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). The infamous training program instructs right-wing Latin American military personnel. Many later go on to overthrow elected governments and commit horrendous human rights abuses and assassinations of church clergy, labor activists, farmers, students and journalists.

Our position was that the United States should not be training terrorists. We were right then, and we are correct now to oppose the School of the Americas/WHINSEC.

Many people are mourning the death of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered recently in her home. Cáceres was the co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam. Speaking of her assassination, her 84-year-old mother told Radio Globo, "I have no doubt that she has been killed because of her struggle and that soldiers and people from the dam are responsible, I am sure of that. I hold the government responsible."

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What does that have to do with the School of the Americas?

In 2009, four of the six generals who perpetrated the coup in Honduras against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya were trained at Fort Benning. Their names are Generals Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, Luis Prince Suazo, Miguel Angel García and Carlos Cuellar.

Dana Frank argued in 2012 that, "the coup was what threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression." Hundreds of union, environmental and student activists have been murdered. A month after the coup, the Guardian reported a 60 percent increase in femicide. The homicide rate in Honduras, already the highest in the world, increased by 50 percent from 2008-2011. San Pedro de Sula is one of the most dangerous cities in the world.


Not only were the coup leaders trained at SOA, but post-coup, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped in to legitimize the new government. Clinton strategized with regional allies in keeping Zelaya out of the country and then held a new "election." Frank writes, "Most opposition candidates withdrew in protest, and all major international observers boycotted the election, except for the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which are financed by the United States." Crucially, U.S. aid to security forces increased. Honduras increased military spending from $63 million in 2007 to $172 million in 2012.

The era of bloodshed that the coup ushered in has lead to internal displacement and political refugees--many children--struggling their way to the United States in hopes of safety. In August of 2015, Clinton stated that deporting the unaccompanied minors would send a "responsible message" to deter families from sending their children to the United States. A recent New York Times editorial criticized a ruling where immigrant children as young as 3 years old do not have access to legal representation and must represent themselves in their deportation hearing. Three year olds!

Those who are familiar with U.S. intervention in Latin America will not find this surprising. I write this during the primary election season, where Clinton is trying to rebrand herself as a "progressive" to secure the Democratic Party nomination. Real progressives must not let her do this.

Clinton is not a progressive. Her work has undermined democracy and human rights in Honduras and elsewhere. Domestically, she advocates deporting children seeking asylum. While most liberal media and pundits fear-monger Americans into voting for the "lesser evil," human rights activists must not let Clinton rebrand herself.

We must break the "yes, but..." logic of lesser-evilism. And we must close the School of the Americas.
Kathleen Brown, from the Internet

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