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On June 28, 2009, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by a military coup. The United Nations, the European Union and the Organization of American States (OAS) condemned the coup, and on July 5, Honduras was suspended from the OAS.
Under longstanding and clear-cut US law, all US aid to Honduras – except democracy assistance – including all military aid, should have been immediately suspended following the coup.
On August 7, 15 House Democrats, led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, sent a letter to the administration which began, “As you know, on June 28th, 2009, a military coup took place in Honduras,” and said: “The State Department should fully acknowledge that a military coup has taken place and follow through with the total suspension of non-humanitarian aid, as required by law.”
Why wasn’t US aid to Honduras suspended following the coup? The justification given by Clinton’s State Department on August 25 for not suspending US aid to Honduras was that events in Honduras were murky and it was not clear whether a coup had taken place. Clinton’s State Department claimed that State Department lawyers were studying the murky question of whether a coup had taken place.
This justification was a lie, and Clinton’s State Department knew it was a lie. By July 24, 2009, the State Department, including Secretary Clinton, knew clearly that the action of the Honduran military to remove President Zelaya on June 28, 2009, constituted a coup. On July 24, US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens sent a cable to top US officials, including Secretary of State Clinton, with subject: “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” thoroughly documenting the assertion that “there is no doubt” that the events of June 28 “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup.”
Why did Clinton’s State Department lie and pretend that it was murky whether a coup had taken place when it knew the fact that a coup had taken place was clear-cut? Because Hillary Clinton wanted the coup to succeed. Clinton’s strategy to help the coup succeed, as revealed in her emails, was “delay, delay, delay,” as Donald Trump might say. Delay any action that might help force the coup government to stand down and allow the democratically elected president to be restored to office. As she later confessed in her book, her goal was to “render the question of [President] Zelaya moot.”
Today, the rule of law in Honduras still has not recovered from the coup that Secretary Clinton helped enable. That’s a key reason that refugees have fled Honduras to the United States, only to find themselves hunted by the Department of Homeland Security raids that Secretary Clinton supported before she opposed them.
President Obama is going to visit Cuba, and that’s wonderful. Ending the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba is a key step the US must take to restore normal relations with Latin America. But it’s not the only change we need. There is a 200-year legacy of US military intervention and subversion in Latin America that didn’t stop in January 2009. It’s hard to have confidence that former Secretary Clinton will end this legacy as president when she used her power as secretary of state to turn the clock backwards.