Hillary Clinton's Complicity in Death of Honduran Environmental Activist
March 18, 2016
Adam Johnson / OtherWords & Lee Fang / The Intercept
Who murdered Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres? While the identities of the killers remain unknown, activists, journalists, and members of the Caceres family are blaming the increasingly reactionary and violent Honduran government. While Caceres' death drew some mainstream US media coverage, there was a glaring problem with it: Hardly any of the articles noted that the brutal regime that probably killed Caceres came to power in a US-backed coup.
The Murder That Exposed
Hillary Clinton's Grim Legacy in Honduras
Adam Johnson / OtherWords
(March 17, 2016) -- Who murdered Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres?
While the identities of the killers remain unknown, activists, media observers, and members of the Caceres family are blaming the increasingly reactionary and violent Honduran government.
The authorities had frequently clashed with Caceres over her high-profile campaign to stop land grabbing and mining while defending the rights of indigenous peoples.
While Caceres' death and the outcry of grief over it did draw some mainstream US media coverage, there was a glaring problem with it: Hardly any of the articles mentioned that the brutal regime that probably killed Caceres came to power in a US-backed coup.
Here's a quick recap.
In June 2009, the Honduran military abducted the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint and flew him out of the country. The United Nations, European Union, and Organization of American States (OAS) rushed to condemn his ouster.
Fifteen House Democrats joined in, sending a letter to the Obama White House insisting that the State Department "fully acknowledge that a military coup has taken place" and "follow through with the total suspension of non-humanitarian aid, as required by law."
But under Hillary Clinton's leadership, the State Department staunchly refused to do so. Emails revealed last year show that Clinton knew very well there was a military coup, but declined to add her voice to the loud objections coming from the international community.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported, Clinton attempted to use her lobbyist friend Lanny Davis to open up back channels with Roberto Micheletti, the illegitimate interim ruler military strongmen installed after the coup.
This maneuver effectively endorsed the new right-wing government that would go on to crack down on Caceres and other activists.
In the original version of her memoir Hard Choices, Clinton disclosed she had no intention of restoring the rightfully elected Zelaya to power.
"In the subsequent days [after the coup], I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras," Clinton wrote, "and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot."
This is why State Department officials blocked the OAS from adopting a resolution that would have refused to recognize Honduran elections carried out under the dictatorship.
Interestingly, the paperback edition of her memoir released last year left out what happened in Honduras altogether.
Likewise, outlets like The Washington Post, NBC, CNN, and NPR treated the coup – and its subsequent purging of environmental, LGBT, and indigenous activists – as an entirely local matter, leaving out Clinton's role and our government's involvement. The New York Times briefly mentioned what happened in Honduras seven years ago and the subsequent increase in oppression. But it left out any mention of US responsibility.
Caceres wasn't killed in a vacuum. Her death is in part the result of a deliberate strategy by the United States to prop up a regressive government. The mainstream media should have mentioned our own government's role – and the role of the Democratic Party's leading presidential candidate – when it reported on her death.
Adam Johnson is a freelance writer and contributing analyst to Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.
During Honduras Crisis, Clinton Suggested
Back Channel With Lobbyist Lanny Davis
Lee Fang / The Intercept
(July 6 2015) -- The Hillary Clinton emails released last week include some telling exchanges about the June 2009 military coup that toppled democratically elected Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, a leftist who was seen as a threat by the Honduran establishment and US business interests.
At a time when the State Department strategized over how best to keep Zelaya out of power while not explicitly endorsing the coup, Clinton suggested using longtime Clinton confidant Lanny Davis as a back-channel to Roberto Micheletti, the interim president installed after the coup.
During that period, Davis was working as a consultant to a group of Honduran businessmen who had supported the coup.
In an email chain discussing a meeting between Davis and State Department officials, Clinton asked, "Can he help me talk w Micheletti?"
Davis rose to prominence as an adviser to the Clintons during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and has since served as a high-powered "crisis communications" adviser to a variety of people and organizations facing negative attention in the media, from scandal-plagued for-profit college companies to African dictators. His client list has elicited frequent accusations of hypocrisy.
Davis was not the only foreign agent with access to Clinton. As The Guardian and Politico have reported, other emails point to lobbyists with direct access to Clinton's personal email.
The request to talk to Davis came on October 22, 2009, a crucial turning point for the "de facto" government that had ousted Zelaya.
A week later, Clinton and her top aides reportedly brokered a deal to bring Zelaya back to power through a national unity government. But the deal was no "breakthrough," as some media outlets reported.
Rather, there was a huge loophole, providing the pro-coup Honduran legislature with veto power over Zelaya's return. The supposed plan fell apart, and the "de facto" government sponsored what many considered a fraudulent election while denying Zelaya's return.
The election, on November 29, 2009, was beset by violence, with anti-coup organizers murdered before the election and the police violently suppressing an opposition rally in San Pedro Sula and shutting down left-leaning media outlets. Major international observers, including the United Nations and the Carter Center, as well as most major opposition candidates, boycotted the election.
As journalist Jesse Freeston documented for the Real News Network, election officials provided wildly disparate estimates for election turnout. The election paved the way for coup-supporters from the National Party to solidify power.
Rather than seeing this as a failure, the Clinton emails released last week further confirm that the State Department had sought the permanent ouster of Zelaya all along. State Department officials bucked the demands of most Latin American countries and rushed to recognize the election as "free, fair and transparent."
In an email titled "Notes from the Peanut Gallery," Thomas Shannon, the lead State Department negotiator for the Honduras talks, gushed over the election results in a message that was sent to Secretary Clinton.
"The turnout (probably a record) and the clear rejection of the Liberal Party shows our approach was the right one," wrote Shannon, who recommended that the US should "congratulate the Honduran people" and "connect today's vote to the deep democratic vocation of the Honduran people."
Shannon, then the assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs, expressed gratitude that Zelaya was out of power, referring to the ousted president as a "failed" leader.
The Shannon emails "show what we knew all along: the US wanted the elections to solidify the changes wrought by the coup," said Dan Beeton, international communications director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
It was Shannon, notably, who signed the accord to bring Zelaya back to Honduras, and then shocked Latin American leaders by suggesting on CNN days later that the US would recognize the results of the election even if Zelaya was not restored.
Despite claims to media outlets that they were working to restore the democratically elected Honduran government, the US made other efforts to ensure the coup government's grip on power.
In October 2009, the United States blocked a resolution from the Organization of American States requiring Zelaya's return as a precondition for elections. The US also failed to officially determine that a "military coup" occured, and did not cut off aid to Honduras as is required by law following a coup.
An August 2009 email chain with Harold Koh, then the State Department legal adviser, discussed how to deal with the foreign aid issue, which in Honduras is largely administered through the Millenium Challenge Corporation.
The email chain carried the subject line "Honduras Military Coup Decision," includes an email from Koh noting that Honduras might fall under "specified legal prohibitions on assistance."
Koh wrote that Secretary Clinton, as chair of the MCC board, would have a considerable voice over the determination of Honduras as a coup country. Unfortunately, much of the memo Koh prepared is redacted and Clinton's response is not revealed in the email chain.
In her 2014 book, Hard Choices, Clinton readily admits that in the days after the coup, she spoke with leaders in the Western hemisphere about "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."
Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which has monitored the human rights situation in Honduras, refers to this line as a "bold confession." Zelaya's return was "anything but moot," Weisbrot has argued, noting that Latin American leaders and the United Nations General Assembly demanded Zelaya's return.
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