- Written by Dan Beeton
- Published: 07 July 2015
Newly released emails reaffirm that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton worked to help Honduras’ 2009 military coup succeed. Lee Fang writes for The Intercept:
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 U.S. business interests.
One of the most damning new emails, cited by Fang, is penned by veteran diplomat Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the time (and now Counselor of the Department). Shannon’s email makes clear something also detailed in the scores of State Department cables made available by WikiLeaks that we examined and analyzed for the forthcoming book, “The WikiLeaks Files”: Although the U.S. State Department claims to be a neutral observer of elections around the world, the U.S. government invariably has candidates and parties that it wants to win, often – if not routinely – channeling support to these candidates and parties, whether the support be political, material or otherwise.
Here’s then State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack in 2006, just prior to Nicaragua’s presidential elections, in a cable we cite in the book:
We do not … we are not trying to shade opinion or to try to take a position. This is a democratic election. If you look around the globe, we do not take positions. We do not try to influence these elections.
Here’s then Assistant Secretary Shannon in an email [PDF] to Clinton just after the results of Honduras’ November 2009 election were announced:
The turnout (probably a record) and the clear rejection of the Liberal Party shows our approach was the right one, and puts Brazil and others who would not recognize the election in an impossible position. As we think about what to say, I would strongly recommend that we not be shy. We should congratulate the Honduran people, we should connect today’s vote to the deep democratic vocation of the Honduran people, and we should call on the community of democratic nations (and especially those of the Americas) to recognize, respect, and respond to this accomplishment of the Honduran people.
Finally, this Administration, which worked so hard to manage and resolve this crisis, should be the one who defines the results and perceptions of today’s vote, and not our critics on the Hill (who had no clear pathway to elections) or our adversaries in the region (who never wanted this day to happen).
His statement is all the more blatant considering that by “Brazil and others who would not recognize the election” Shannon may well have meant most of Latin America, since an overwhelming majority of regional heads of state deemed the elections illegitimate.
Of course McCormack’s statement in 2006 was just as false as State official statements ahead of the November 29, 2009 election in Honduras that supported Zelaya’s restitution as president. In the book, we detail various ways in which McCormack’s statement was belied at the time by U.S. activities in Nicaragua supporting candidates running against Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega:
Encourag[ing] support of democratic candidates by encouraging funds to flow in the right direction; promoting defections of salvageable individuals from the PLC camp; granting [Eduardo Montealegre of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance] high-profile meetings in the United States; bringing internationally recognized speakers to discuss successful reform campaigns; and countering direct partisan support to the FSLN from external forces …
… among other methods, including the use of “rap sheets” to depict Ortega and other candidates the U.S. considered unacceptable in an unsavory light. Still, Shannon’s frank suggestions on framing the consolidation of the coup with the victory of the National Party and rejection of the Liberal Party (to which ousted president Manuel Zelaya then belonged) is revelatory in part because of Shannon’s reputation as one of the U.S.’ most effective diplomats in Latin America.
The emails’ release is especially timely, as Shannon is currently traveling to Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The Obama administration has been conspicuously silent about the corruption scandals rocking Honduras, with tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets each week calling for President Juan Orlando Hernandez (also of the National Party) to step down. Shannon’s visit to Honduras will send a strong message of support to a president whose party may well have diverted funds from the national health system in order to support his campaign, who oversaw the “technical coup” that removed Supreme Court justices opposed to legislation that Hernandez championed, and who has responded to an ongoing human rights crisis – including routine murders of journalists and the targeting of minorities – with more military police.