By Zachary Toillion
Recent emails released by the State Department shed new light on the U.S. response to the June 2009 Honduran coup. Publicly, the U.S. condemned the coup of President Manuel Zelaya after a great deal of international pressure. When Hillary Clinton was asked whether or not the U.S. officially backed the reinstatement of the ousted Democratic leader, Clinton was noncommittal.
Zelaya was a leftist with close ties to communist Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez. He was additionally perceived as hostile to U.S. multinational corporations. Zelaya’s political positions, along with the United State’s lukewarm response, led many nations to wonder whether the U.S. silently endorsed the coup. The man who took Zelaya’s place after the coup, Roberto Micheletti, was seen as more amenable to the interests of U.S. corporations, despite being the instigator of the overthrow of a democratically elected government.
Emails show Clinton’s State Department was against the reinstatement of Zelaya and later brokered a deal with the conservative pro-coup legislature that would allow them to veto Zelaya’s reinstatement. The deal, led by the Clinton State Department, allowed the Micheletti’s interim government to sponsor a new election which was plagued by voter irregularities, saw anti-coup activists murdered and brutal police crackdowns at rallies in support of ousted President Zelaya. As a result, the party that overthrew Zelaya and instigated the coup solidified power.
The lead negotiator for Clinton, Thomas Shannon, wrote shortly after the elections, “The turnout (probably a record) and the clear rejection of the Liberal Party shows our approach was the right one.” In the same email, Shannon refers to Zelaya as a “failed leader.”
Later in her book “Hard Choices,” Clinton states she spoke with Western leaders regarding “a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot,” an admission the United States was not interested in reinstating a democratically elected leader who they, on record, admitted was illegally ousted.
Perhaps more shocking, in the recently released Clinton emails is an exchange in which Clinton proposed using a lobbyist named Lanny Davis who formerly worked as an advisor to her husband’s administration to connect with the interim president. “Can he help me talk with Micheletti?” Clinton asked, referring to Davis. At the time, Davis was not affiliated with the U.S. State Department and was representing business interests in Honduras that had backed the coup.
The emails seem to confirm that Hillary Clinton’s State Department silently approved of Zelaya’s ouster while publicly condemning it. It also shows Sec. Clinton relied on a former aide and lobbyists with a clear conflict of interest during her time as Secretary of State.