Hillary Clinton’s Honduran Disgrace

Hillary Clinton continues with her hawkish ways, making Obama’s foreign policy less distinguishable from Bush’s every day.

She just met with Honduran President Pepe Lobo, she’s notified Congress that the Obama administration is restoring aid to Honduras, and she’s urging Latin American nations to recognize the Lobo government in Tegucigalpa.

The democratic opposition in Honduras boycotted lobo’s election, since he’s allied with the forces that overthrew Manuel Zelaya last June.

But for the longest time, Hillary Clinton stubbornly refused to call the June takeover a “coup,” even though her boss, the president of the United States, immediately denounced it as such.

She systematically dragged her feet when it came to pressuring the coup leaders to hand power back over to Zelaya.

And when Lobo won the election, Hillary rushed to heap praise on him.

Now she wants full relations with Honduras restored all around.

“Other countries of the region say that they want to wait a while,” she said on her Latin American trip. “I don’t know what they’re waiting for.”

Maybe, just maybe, they’re waiting for the coup leaders to be prosecuted and the human rights abuses to end.

If so, they’ll have to wait a long time.

Soon after getting elected, Lobo called for “amnesty for all” who were involved in the coup. As Human Rights Watch has pointed out, this “violates the country’s international obligations and undermines the rule of law.”

As for human rights, the situation in Honduras actually seems to be deteriorating.

“I am writing to express my concern regarding recent attacks on members of the National Popular Resistance Front (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular), including killings, rape, torture, kidnapping, and assault,” said José Miguel Vivanco,
 Americas director
 of Human Rights Watch, in his March 3 letter http://www.hrw.org/node/88902 to the Honduran attorney general. ”The fact that these attacks targeted members of this political group, which opposed the 2009 coup and advocated for the reinstatement of ousted president Manuel Zelaya -- as well as previous threats received by victims or comments allegedly made by the assailants -- raise the possibility that these abuses may have been politically motivated.”

Subscribe to The Progressive

The attacks included the murder of trade unionist Julio Benitez, whose wife “said he had received numerous threatening phone calls warning him to abandon his participation in opposition groups,” Vivanco’s letter says.

Another trade unionist, Vanesa Yanez, was killed and her body, which had “signs of torture,” was dumped by the side of the road, Vivanco noted.

Claudia Larissa Brizuela was murdered in her home on February 24, in front of her two children. Her father is a prominent leader of the resistance and a high-profile radio host.

Five other members of the resistance front were abducted on February 10 and reportedly tortured, and the two women among them were reportedly raped, Vivanco wrote. “According to victims’ testimony,” Vivanco continued, “when they were set free, one of their captors said, ‘Pepe says hi,’ using the nickname of President Porfirio Lobo.”

Here’s Hillary Clinton on Pepe: “We believe that President Lobo and his administration have taken the steps necessary to restore democracy,” she said.

That’s not how Human Rights Watch sees it. “Without a thorough investigation to identify who committed the crimes, to establish motive, and to hold those responsible to account, these events could generate a chilling effect that would limit the exercise of basic political rights in Honduras, including the rights of freedom of association and freedom of expression,” Vivanco wrote.

Hillary Clinton’s embrace of Pepe Lobo is a disgrace, and it undermines President Obama’s rhetoric about establishing “a new chapter” in U.S.-Latin American relations.

This is the old chapter—and verse.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.