News & Politics

Uproar Over Hillary's Role in Honduran Coup Grows as Her Campaign Denies Connection

Hillary Clinton's campaign calls the allegation "simply nonsense."

Photo Credit: Flickr

The Clinton campaign is dismissing charges about her connection to the 2009 Honduran coup which ousted democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya as "simply nonsense."

The Clinton statement is in response to a Greg Grandin piece in the Nation regarding the recent murder of indigenous leader Berta Cáceres. Cáceres had helped lead the resistance against the coup and was driven underground after the government had sought to criminalize her activism. She had received numerous death threats. Grandin's piece quotes an email that explains how Cáceres "and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally financed Honduran company DESA."

As for the Clinton connections, Grandin wrote, "In the Nation,Dana Frank and I covered that coup as it unfolded. Later, as Clinton’s emails were released, others, such as Robert Naiman, Mark Weisbrot and Alex Main, revealed the central role she played in undercutting Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president, and undercutting the opposition movement demanding his restoration. In so doing, Clinton allied with the worst sectors of Honduran society."

In an email to Latino USA, director of Hispanic media Jorge Silva says that the "charge is simply nonsense. Hillary Clinton engaged in active diplomacy that resolved a constitutional crisis and paved the way for legitimate democratic elections.”

A 2014 Al Jazeera op-ed by economist and Latin America expert Mark Weisbrot describes what Clinton wrote about the coup in her memoir:

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.

First, the confession: Clinton admits that she used the power of her office to make sure that Zelaya would not return to office. “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico,” Clinton writes. “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.”

This may not come as a surprise to those who followed the post-coup drama closely...But the official storyline, which was dutifully accepted by most in the media, was that the Obama administration actually opposed the coup and wanted Zelaya to return to office.

A WikiLeaks cable from 2009 confirms that the State Department was well aware of what was happening in Honduras. The U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa sent a cable to Washington which contained its legal analysis of Zelaya's removal. The cable, titled "Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup," asserts that "there is no doubt" that events "constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup."

"Since Congress lacked the legal authority to remove Zelaya, the actions of June 28 can only be considered a coup d'etat by the legislative branch, with the support of the judicial branch and the military, against the executive branch," reads the cable.

A batch of Clinton emails released last year shed more light on her role in the events. A piece on the emails at CEPR by Alexander Main summarizes some of Clinton's post-coup strategy:

A number of Clinton emails show how, starting shortly after the coup, HRC and her team shifted the deliberations on Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS)—where Zelaya could benefit from the strong support of left-wing allies throughout the region—to the San José negotiation process in Costa Rica. There, representatives of the coup regime were placed on an equal footing with representatives of Zelaya’s constitutional government, and Costa Rican president Oscar Arias (a close U.S. ally) as mediator. Unsurprisingly, the negotiation process only succeeded in one thing: keeping Zelaya out of office for the rest of his constitutional mandate.

Michael Arria is an associate editor at AlterNet and AlterNet's labor editorFollow @MichaelArria on Twitter.

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