Clinton emails and the coup in Honduras

So I’ve been poking around the Hillary Clinton emails released by Wikileaks. Though the most recent dump pertains to wars in the Middle East, I’ve used to occasion to dive into earlier content about Honduras specifically.

 

Honduran troops clash with Zelaya supporters (by Roberto Breve; CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

While popular media focuses on Benghazi, it is clear that the worst event that is definitely connected to Clinton is the 2009 military coup in Honduras against democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya. Clinton has openly admitted her role in backing the military, under false pretenses concerning Zelaya setting himself up as a dictator. The story linked:

The question of Zelaya was anything but moot. Latin American leaders, the United Nations General Assemblyand other international bodies vehemently demanded his immediate return to office. Clinton’s defiant and anti-democratic stance spurred a downward slide in U.S. relations with several Latin American countries, which has continued. It eroded the warm welcome and benefit of the doubt that even the leftist governments in region offered to the newly installed Obama administration a few months earlier.

Clinton’s false testimony is even more revealing. She reports that Zelaya was arrested amid “fears that he was preparing to circumvent the constitution and extend his term in office.” This is simply not true. As Clinton must know, when Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and flown out of the country in his pajamas on June 28, 2009, he was trying to put a consultative, nonbinding poll on the ballot to ask voters whether they wanted to have a real referendum on reforming the constitution during the scheduled election in November. It is important to note that Zelaya was not eligible to run in that election. Even if he had gotten everything he wanted, it was impossible for Zelaya to extend his term in office. But this did not stop the extreme right in Honduras and the United States from using false charges of tampering with the constitution to justify the coup.

Not surprisingly, allowing the military to seize power has led to a Honduras that is substantially more violent, unsafe for women and LGBT+, and perpetuated the centuries-long cycle of civilian-turned-military rule in Latin America. If generals can seize power and face no lasting sanction from the United States, then every democratic government is perpetually on the edge. As we have seen all over the world, democratization is shallow when all policy is subject to a de facto veto by the military. There is a very real limit to how much progress can be made in the Americas if the State Department continues to sanction militarization.

Central American refugees flee violence.

I thought this passage from Hugo Llorens, the US ambassador, was very telling of how America really thought of Zelaya.

We found him unyielding in his position. He says that he is unwilling to return to the talks with the M [ed: interim president Roberto Micheletti] regime since he doesn’t believe they are acting in good faith.

He insisted that M was not interested in stepping down and would do everything in his power to ensure that he (Z) would never be restored. He stressed that if he was not restored the elections would not be legitimate and those involved in the coup would not be able to free themselves from the stigma of their actions. Z seemed totally out of touch and seemed completely focused on himself and that the future of Honduras and the future of democracy in the entire region hinged on his restoration to power prior to the elections. He predicted that if he was not restored that Honduras faced a bleak future led by a weak and discredited government and with a high probability of violence and civil conflict. I attempted to make him see the obligation he and M had in creating conditions for a workable step-by-step process that would allow for the regime to step down, ensure the holding of free and fair elections, and the smooth transfer of power, hopefully from the legitimate head of state to the newly elected president.

I will report the details on the high side, but at this moment I see no probability that Z will seek to go back to the table under the TSJA framework. He may be gaming it in order to put maximum pressure on M prior to the elections.

While on the surface the State Department backed the restoration, they saw no issue with a transition period that did not reverse the coup. As we can see in 2016, Zelaya was totally, totally right about how the coup affected Honduran democracy and a move towards violence and civil strife. Instead of seeing the fundamental legitimacy crisis caused when the peaceful transfer of power between administrations is interrupted, Clinton’s team saw vanity and pride.

This attitude has cost many lives. The unaccompanied minors surge across the southern border included many from a dysfunction post-coup Honduras. Central American stability can never be lasting if there is an exodus from some countries rife with murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault.

I don’t support Hillary Clinton. There are many reasons why, but it goes beyond her image, words, and political party. Her actions have hurt many. Honduras is a situation of her creation; it’s not something we paint by association with her husband’s presidency. Instead of Benghazi hysteria, citizens should remember something that is not only real, but that she publicly admits to.

Will Russian expansion provoke a serious EU/NATO response?

When asked this question two days ago, I gave a long comment on the subject. Here’s what I wrote. It’s not meant to be authoritative, just my feelings as an American outsider. The question was both about Russia vs. EU/NATO, with special concern to Estonia, given rhetoric that seems similar to that over Crimea.


 

It’s not a rosy situation. A couple things are clear-

a) Russia let go of its regional control in the 1990s not because of the arrival of democracy (never arrived, insufficient postage or whatever) or the end of ultranationalism, but rather because at the time their economy had ground to a halt and everyone with a decent education was leaving for the West. They had no ability to project power, so they signed deals like the one with Ukraine that guaranteed its sovereignty.

b) Putin-era Russia clearly has a way of gaining territory. They support a nominal independence movement within a country. One may remember Abkhazia and South Ossetia as being the reasons for the Russians invading Georgia in 2008. They’ve done a similar thing with Transnistria in Moldova, which doesn’t even share a land border with Russia.

However, let’s be clear here. if Russia decides to invade a NATO nation- which includes the Baltic states- there will be serious retaliation beyond strong words. This isn’t just an American thing- one of the most important NATO nations historically is Turkey, who a) are now in a very strange position since they control the only way out of the Black Sea for Russia’s Crimean naval bases, b) just saw a half million Tatars (who are Muslim and Turkic) fall under the control of a very racist, ultranationalist power, and c) has hated Russia since the creation of Russia a millennia ago. The Ukraine wasn’t in NATO, or the EU, was very far to the east, and was politically unstable with a very weak military- a large portion of which defected. That’s not going to happen again.

NATO is a military alliance and not a theoretical one- Kosovo, Libya, Afghanistan. If they’re willing to fight on the other side of Asia, they’ll fight in their own backyards when it’s one of their members. Article 5 has been used, so it’s not just words on paper.

Regarding Estonia, there are some things to point out here. Estonia’s history under post-World War II Soviet control involved sending a lot of Russian speakers into the country to dominate it culturally. However, as the Christian Science Monitor points out in the feature on the issue, a lot of them speak Russian, but are not ethnically Russian. Jews, Ukranians, Finns. They cite a poll that shows the Russian population there are split right down the middle on whether Crimea was a good things, with most having no opinion at all. Clearly if Estonia circled the wagons it’s not “Estonians vs. Russian speakers” clearly divided.

Of course, what a ‘conflict’ means is important. The Cold War had much bigger situations- for instance, the forcible blockade of Berlin. One will hope that the lack of top-level cooperation that made Soviet control of places like Czechoslovakia and Hungary possible (they used to have friendly Communist governments, now they’re run by the majority non-Russian groups) means that Russia will be checked. On the other hand, it’s difficult to envision a near future where eastern Ukraine isn’t drawn into the Russian orbit. It’s not like Libya- the Ukrainian government is also disorganized like the rebels there, but Gaddafi and the Russian military are two vastly different classes. If Russia occupies, there would need to be a superior force on the ground.

Unfortunately, the idiocy that was (and is) Afghanistan has really killed the whole “boots on the ground” idea- this is good in some sense since it makes diplomacy and other means more relied upon. However, some countries are too big to threaten. Russia and China are the two big ones.

Now I’m a strict non-violent proponent so I don’t think using military force to drive the Russian military off is the ‘right’ course of action. Sealing the Bosporus to military vessels contingent on Russia withdrawal, mixed with a large-scale boycott and freezing the billions upon billions of dollars the oligarchs have stashed in European countries might help, as some off-the-cuff ideas. Certainly making a concrete plan where NATO troops would be deployed to places like Estonia known would dissuade Russia occupation- just a note that there is something beyond ‘strong reservations’. The Warsaw Pact countries joined EU and NATO because they feared continued Russian control. Even if places like France are ambivalent, any former country under the Iron Curtain with a pocket of Russians knows that they are the next potential domino.

Tahrir Square- with each year, a new context

A huge number of people flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square to mark the third anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak. If you didn’t know the date, it could have been from January 25th 2013, 2012, or the original.

Credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

This is not a protest though- it is a massive show of support for the military rule, led by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is expected to win an early presidential election that was just called. In the end, it seems Egypt’s political power has remained in one place through all this chaos- the military. The three years have seen elections, new constitutions, and a period of government by the Muslim Brotherhood, for decades the enemy of the military-backed Egyptian state.

Violence: Demonstrators carry an injured Muslim Brotherhood supporter who was shot during clashes in Cairo.
“Demonstrators carry an injured Muslim Brotherhood supporter who was shot during clashes in Cairo” Credit: Reuters

Supporters of Morsi also protested but again met heavy causalities. They weren’t given access to Tahrir. Many of the liberals and leftists who played an important role in 2011 are exiled, jailed, or dead.

Tahrir is now a monument with special rules. It is a place to celebrate the military that ousted Mubarak, the military that allowed for free elections, the military that ousted that government, and the military that calls new elections they will win.

So it is, three years hence.

Confusion in 2013: Egypt

Bodies of protestors in Cairo, August 2013. Credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

The chaos in the last three years in Egypt has led to an old lesson- just because a wide swath of people can agree that a given person is bad doesn’t mean they have a clear and better alternative. Post-Mubarak Egypt has seen the Muslim Brotherhood achieve power, stumble, then lose it to the same military figures that ousted Mubarak. As the year closes it looks like the Brotherhood will face more repression from the authorities, making their experience little changed in the past three decades.

Some favor the military, others favor the Brotherhood, and a growing third population rejects both. Each new week reminds us how mixed the results from the Arab Spring have been.