The Nation has done great coverage of the June 2009 Honduran coup, most recently a update this past January by Dana Frank on the Washington-approved tragedy that continues to unfold there. Watching the maneuvers of Hillary Clinton’s State Department and Middle East hands like Frank Wisner to shore up the old order in Tunisia and Egypt puts US actions in Honduras into perspective.
Washington’s betrayal of democracy in Honduras was stunning even in the light of its own astounding record in the region. Without rehearsing all the sordid details, the Obama administration negotiated a deal that people of good will believed would have allowed the country’s ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, to return as head of a provisional government. In fact, the wording of the agreement contained a carefully crafted loophole that allowed the coup to consolidate itself, after which the US pressured its allies to recognize Honduras’s new government. Washington, for instance, threatened El Salvador with not extending Temporary Protected Status (which grants a reprieve from deportation to some 200,000 Salvadorans) unless it moved to normalize relations with Honduras. This Faustian bargain nicely encapsulates the essence of “democracy” as Washington would define it, as a menu choice between two distasteful items. Pick one: sacrifice your most vulnerable citizens or betray those of your neighbor.
Over in Egypt, Mohamed ElBaradei criticizes the mixed messages coming out of Washington, which has “created a lot of confusion, a lot of disappointment.” Obama says the will of the people can’t be detained. Wisner says not so much. In Honduras, the mixed messages circulated around what the word “coup” meant, with the United States refusing to use it describe what happened in Honduras. This, even though a Wikileaks released memo from the US embassy in Tegucigalpa unambiguously called the overthrow of Zelaya a coup and took a scalpel to each and every argument that tried to say otherwise. But publicly, Clinton and her diplomats dissembled and stalled, even as the bodies of those who resisted the coup piled up.
The killing continues, though you wouldn’t know it watching the news or reading the papers here. The media ignored a December 2010 Human Rights Watch sixty-five-page report, “After the Coup: Ongoing Violence, Intimidation, and Impunity in Honduras,” as it did HRW’s call last month for the coup government to investigate the killing of six transgendered woman that have taken place just since November 29, 2010. The very first person murdered in the coup was a transgendered women, Vicky Hernández Castillo. These murders are not usually classified as traditional “political” killings—that is, understood in relation to the coup. But they are profoundly political; the democracy movement that so scared the coup backers was multifaceted, comprised of trade unionists, environmentalists, progressive religious folks, indigenous communities, feminists and gay rights activists. As such, the coup reaction was equally multifaceted, and the ferocity of its ongoing repression is meant to restore authority in all its forms, including sexual authority.