There’s been too little discussion of Latin America through the Democratic primary, including at last night’s debate, which didn’t touch on it. One candidate, Bernie Sanders, doesn’t have much of a track record to examine, although his broad rejection of neoliberalism and interventionism bode well for turning a page on US policy in the region. The other, Hillary Clinton, has accumulated a deep record, both before and during her tenure as secretary of state, which is worth examining in depth. So, in the interest of helping New Yorkers decide as they head to the polls on Tuesday, here’s a brief guide:
Honduras: By now, Clinton’s involvement in helping to institutionalize the 2009 coup against a reforming president who had the support of all of the country’s most courageous and bravest people—land reformers, gay activists, unionists, feminists, environmentalists, and so on—is well known. “Women’s rights are human rights,” Clinton famously declared. But in Honduras, she worked to legitimize the overthrow of a government that was trying to make the morning-after pill available and advance the rights of members of the LGBT community. In so doing, Clinton helped install a regime that has been killing women and men at an impressive clip. Death squads have returned to the country.
Just last week, in her interview with the New York Daily News, Clinton revised her story regarding her actions in Honduras yet again (after having cut the most damning paragraphs from her book Hard Choices). Then she said, “We need to do more of a Colombian Plan for Central America.”
Colombia: The idea that Hillary Clinton wants to do to Central America what her husband did to Colombia is troubling.
Here’s what Plan Colombia did to that country: In 2000, just before leaving the White House, Bill Clinton ratcheted up military aid. Plan Colombia, as the assistance program was called, provided billions of dollars to what was the most repressive government in the hemisphere. The effect was to speed the paramilitarization of society, with government—and military—allied death squads penetrating the intelligence services, judiciary, municipal government, legislature, and executive branch. Washington money effectively subsidized the narco-right’s enormous land grab. According to the US government’s own figures, “in rural areas, less than 1% of the population owns more than half Colombia’s best land.” “Torture, massacres, ‘disappearances,’ and killing of non-combatants” became routinized, with trade unionists, peasants, and Afro-Colombians the main victims. The CIA’s own World Factbook says that a staggering 6.3 million Colombians have been internally displaced (IDP) since 1985, with “about 300,000 new IDPs each year since 2000”—that is, the year Bill Clinton enacted Plan Colombia. Added up, that’s 2.4 million people during Clinton’s eight-year presidency.