How Hillary Clinton Screwed Honduran Democracy

Hillary Clinton’s legacy at the State Department lives on – and it isn’t pretty. Take a gander at the spectacle of slave auctions in Libya – a nation “liberated” by NATO at Hillary’s instigation: remember “We came, we saw, he died”? Behold the blood-soaked ruins of Syria, where her regime-change plans caused the US to fund the very jihadists we’re supposed to be fighting. Add to this the not-so-bright idea of Washington jumping on board the abortive “Arab Spring” bandwagon, and it all this adds up to the worst record of any Secretary of State in modern history.

Less well-known than the above-mentioned disasters, however, is the key role she played in turning Honduras over to a murderous dictator who is now provoking yet another crisis in that long-suffering country – and sending thousands of refugees, including many unaccompanied minors, into Mexico and over our southern border.

Honduras has always been an American plaything, to be toyed with for the benefit of United Fruit (rebranded Chiquita) and the native landowning aristocracy, and disciplined when necessary: Washington sent in the Marines a total of seven times between 1903 and 1925. The Honduran peasants didn’t like their lands being confiscated by the government and turned over to foreign-owned producers, who were granted monopolistic franchises by corrupt public officials. Periodic rural revolts started spreading to the cities, despite harsh repression, and the country – ruled directly by the military since 1955 – returned to a civilian regime in 1981.

Yet the military influence, far from receding, manifested its power ever more aggressively, engaging in forcible conscription of young villagers, and targeting left-wing opponents and trade unionists with violent repression. Throughout the Reagan years, Honduras was used as a convenient base for the Nicaraguan “contras,” a military formation organized by the CIA to overthrow the Sandinista government. American aid poured into the Honduran military, whose officers were trained by the US. The real rulers of the country were the Honduran officers’ corps: the elected “President” and the national legislature were just window dressing.

Real change didn’t occur until 2006, when Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, a moderate conservative and head of the Honduran Council for Private Enterprise, was elected President. Hardly a left-wing radical, he nevertheless instituted a number of reforms, especially in the realm of public education and direct aid to the destitute, that provoked outrage from the right. The final straw was Zelaya’s attempt to shift power away from the military and strengthen the presidency: he launched a campaign to change the Constitution in order to allow him to serve a second term.

Such a direct challenge to the military was unprecedented, and impermissible: at dawn one day President Zelaya found himself being bundled into a helicopter still clad in his pajamas and, a few hours later, out of the country.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the State Department, instead of forthrightly denouncing the coup as a setback for the cause of Democracy and Goodness, as is their wont in other quite similar cases, uttered ambiguous noises about “reconciliation.” Behind the scenes, longtime Clinton confidante Lanny Davis was hired by the coup leaders to plead their case in the corridors of power. While Team Clinton agreed with him in private, the State Department colluded with the coup leaders and legitimized the subsequent “election” that a number of Latin countries refused to recognize. The oligarchs and the military retained their iron grip on power until a new challenge arose in the form of Salvador Nasralla, the leader of a united left-right “Coalition Against Dictatorship.”

The earliest returns had Nasralla ahead by five points, but after the initial announcement by the Electoral Commission, controlled by National Party candidate Juan Hernandez, the counting process abruptly halted: the reason given was “technical problems.” Yet there is no conceivable technical explanation for the delay in announcing the totals since all the results were electronically transmitted from local voting stations as the polls closed. After a long and unexplained silence, the authorities announced more returns: it was now neck and neck, with Hernandez eventually pulling ahead.

All in all, as democracies go Honduras is the archetypal banana republic: yes, it was the inspiration behind O’Henry’s coining of that phrase. So far, the US has done nothing but mouth pious platitudes about peaceful reconciliation and respect for democracy, but this hardly addresses the wholesale fraud the Hernandez regime is trying to pull off. They got away with it under the Obama administration, with Hillary Clinton’s State Department legitimizing the 2009 elections, which were marked by violence, intimidation, and brazen fraud. Now Hernandez – who is doing what Zelaya wanted to do, and that is run for a second term – is testing Washington to see if the policy of enabling petty tyrants and obsequious satraps is still in effect.

This New Yorker piece – which, you’ll note, nowhere mentions the key role played by Hillary Clinton in Zelaya’s undoing – reports that Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff and “keeper,” is very pro-Hernandez, supposedly on the grounds that he’s reduced the crime rate and kept a lid on the influx of Honduran refugees. Yet Honduras still has one of the highest crime rates in the world and the government is rife with corruption.

US support for Hernandez and his backers in the military creates the very conditions that have so far sent tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Honduras: the breakdown of the rule of law, economic instability, and the rise of organized crime. The victims of our Latin American policies besiege our southern border, mere children showing up on our doorstep, and the very people whose policies made that floodtide possible cry out: “How did this happen?” 

US foreign policy is more continuity than change, even under the Trump administration, which promised to turn our geopolitical and diplomatic priorities upside down. That’s why I don’t expect any real turnaround in our Honduras policy. Yet perhaps the fact that Nasralla is a populist, and a former talk-show host, who has never held elective office, will cause the Trump team to look on him with some sympathy. And I would add that there’s a certain political advantage in taking on the Honduran military clique and their front man: this is another bad outcome that Trump can trace back to the previous administration, and specifically back to Mrs. Clinton.

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].