Obama’s Support for Tyranny in Honduras
Dana Frank, professor of history at the University of California, has a piece in the New York Times about the Obama administration’s avid support for the corrupt military regime in Honduras. She’s written previously about it, as have I on this blog. Excerpt:
It’s time to acknowledge the foreign policy disaster that American support for the Porfirio Lobo administration in Honduras has become. Ever since the June 28, 2009, coup that deposed Honduras’s democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, the country has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss. That abyss is in good part the State Department’s making.
The headlines have been full of horror stories about Honduras. According to the United Nations, it now has the world’s highest murder rate, and San Pedro Sula, its second city, is more dangerous than Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a center for drug cartel violence.
Much of the press in the United States has attributed this violence solely to drug trafficking and gangs. But the coup was what threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression.
The current government of President Lobo won power in a November 2009 election managed by the same figures who had initiated the coup. Most opposition candidates withdrew in protest, and all major international observers boycotted the election, except for the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which are financed by the United States.
U.S. aid to the essentially military regime in Honduras has increased every single year since the coup in 2009, with $68 million allocated for 2012. And, as Frank wrote previously Nation magazine, Obama has “allocated $45 million in new funds for military construction, including expansion and improvement of the jointly operated Soto Cano Air Force Base at Palmerola (supplied now with US drones) and has opened three new military bases.” The “Honduran police and military have launched successive waves of repression against entire campesino communities,” Frank explained, and funding “rose dramatically in June with $40 million more under the new $200 million Central American Regional Security Initiative, supposedly to combat drug trafficking in Central America,” even though the drug trade in Honduras has boomed since the coup.
In addition to that, the U.S. has a documented close relationship between corporate drug lords and private paramilitaries in Honduras. Wealthy landowners with ties to the cocaine trade, like Miguel Facussé, have been orchestrating illegal land grabs and murders of peasant farmers in the countryside. Facussé supported the 2009 military coup, has met with the State Department numerous times, and met with Obama in Washington DC in the first week of October. U.S.-supported private paramilitaries kill, steal, torture, and pillage. Frank continues:
Why has the State Department thrown itself behind the Lobo administration despite brutal evidence of the regime’s corruption? In part because it has caved in to the Cuban-American constituency of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and her allies. They have been ferocious about Honduras as a first domino with which to push back against the line of center-left and leftist governments that have won elections in Latin America in the past 15 years. With its American air base, Honduras is also crucial to the United States’ military strategy in Latin America.
In last night’s GOP presidential debate, Rick Santorum seemed to be on the side of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen warning against the ominous leftward direction of the governments in the region. But he is patently confused on the issue, accusing Obama of having a “consistent policy of siding with leftists, siding with Marxists, siding with those who don’t support democracy” in Latin America. Illustrating his even deeper ignorance, he said that Obama failed to help the Honduran people after the coup that ousted Zelaya. Who knows what the hell he’s talking about, but what’s clear is that Obama’s policy towards Honduras (and the region as a whole) is decidedly vicious and predictably on the side of tyranny.