I am one of the many young women who to the consternation of so many pundits is just not Ready for Hillary in 2016. And it’s not because I am a bad feminist, it’s because I am judging Hillary Clinton, just as she has asked to be judged, on her record and her foreign policy credentials. I spent nearly five years in Central America working as a cross-border solidarity activist and I now work with immigrants in Massachusetts who have fled the violence in that region. So, I might have been moved by Clinton’s recent pledge to “campaign for human rights” and take on immigration reform. But I have seen first-hand how Clinton failed on that front when top military commanders in Honduras (all men, of course) overthrew its democratically elected president Manual Zelaya in 2009.
Here in Chelsea, MA, where I work with Latino immigrants, you can see the legacy of Clinton’s stance on Honduras. Like many cities throughout the U.S. with large Central American populations, Chelsea has received a huge wave of unaccompanied minors and mothers with children since 2014. Many are escaping the poverty and gang violence that has become so much worse in Honduras since the 2009 coup.
When asked about this “border crisis” in 2014, Hillary Clinton told CNN that these children and families “should be sent back”. She also recommended beefing up border security within Mexico, which the Obama administration has indeed funded. The result? The journey through Mexico is even more perilous and hundreds more mothers and children are being caught in Mexico, held for weeks in local jails, and sent right back to the violence they are trying to escape.
Clinton has yet to acknowledge the consequences of the 2009 coup. In her debate with Sanders on Feb. 11 in Wisconsin, she again acted tough about unaccompanied minors, saying they should be deported to “send a message” to their families back home, as if this continuing exodus was simply the product of bad parenting. Sanders rightly chided her, arguing that children fleeing Central American violence should be welcomed and assisted instead.
I would love to have a female foreign policy expert and human rights crusader as the next president of the United States, but Clinton’s chance to prove herself as such and send a strong message to our neighbors to the south was back in 2009. If Hillary Clinton had stood up for democracy in Central America then, maybe we wouldn’t have so many Central American immigrants today trying desperately to enter and stay in the U.S. , because more of them would be able to survive in their home countries.
The chapter on Latin America, particularly the section on Honduras, a major source of the child migrants currently pouring into the United States, has gone largely unnoticed. In letters to Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, more than 100 members of Congress have repeatedly warned about the deteriorating security situation in Honduras, especially since the 2009 military coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. As Honduran scholar Dana Frank points out in Foreign Affairs, the U.S.-backed post-coup government “rewarded coup loyalists with top ministries,” opening the door for further “violence and anarchy.”
The homicide rate in Honduras, already the highest in the world, increased by 50 percent from 2008 to 2011; political repression, the murder of opposition political candidates, peasant organizers and LGBT activists increased and continue to this day. Femicides skyrocketed. The violence and insecurity were exacerbated by a generalized institutional collapse. Drug-related violence has worsened amid allegations of rampant corruption in Honduras’ police and government. While the gangs are responsible for much of the violence, Honduran security forces have engaged in a wave of killings and other human rights crimes with impunity.
Despite this, however, both under Clinton and Kerry, the State Department’s response to the violence and military and police impunity has largely been silence, along with continued U.S. aid to Honduran security forces. In “Hard Choices,” Clinton describes her role in the aftermath of the coup that brought about this dire situation. Her firsthand account is significant both for the confession of an important truth and for a crucial false testimony.
Clinton’s position on Latin America in her bid for the presidency is another example of how the far right exerts disproportionate influence on US foreign policy in the hemisphere.
“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, which preceded the 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.”
Flash Back to 2009: