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  • Honduras President Manuel Zelaya shakes hands with then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2006.

    Honduras President Manuel Zelaya shakes hands with then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2006. | Photo: AFP

Published 28 July 2016

When she served as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton's team ridiculed deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya for being a "failed leader" that is "totally out of touch."

Hillary Clinton ignored advice to punish Honduran businesses for backing the 2009 coup and helped push the elected President Manuel Zelaya out of Honduran politics, an investigation by teleSUR into WikiLeaks documents show.

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Despite insistence from her director of policy planning, Anne Marie Slaughter, that she define Zelaya’s ousting by the military as a military coup and that she “make noises about prohibiting U.S. companies from doing business with companies" controlled by the leaders, revealed in emails published by WikiLeaks, Clinton did neither.

“I got lots of signals last week that we are losing ground in Latin America every day the Honduras crisis continues; high level people from both the business and the NGO community say that even our friends are beginning to think we are not really committed to the norm of constitutional democracy we have worked so hard to build over the last 20 years,” wrote Slaughter two months after the coup.

“I am willing to take additional steps but I'd like them to be fully vetted,” was Clinton’s one-line response.

While Clinton did move to suspend the visas of those in the de facto military government three months after the coup, as Slaughter requested, she kept close ties with the business community. Previous investigations into her leaked emails revealed that she even consulted Lanny Davis of the Honduran chapter of the Business Council of Latin America, which supported the coup.

Rather than lobby for the elected leader Zelaya—hated by business elites for his left-leaning policy—to resume office, which they supported publicly, her team ridiculed him. When negotiating a power-sharing agreement, U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens wrote in an email forwarded to Clinton that Zelaya said talks with Micheletti were leading nowhere because he only wanted Zelaya out.

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Llorens complained that Zelaya “seemed totally out of touch and seemed completely focused on himself and that the future of Honduras and the future of democracy in the entire region hinged on his restoration to power prior to the elections.” The ambassador “attempted to make him see the obligation” that he had with working side-by-side with Micheletti.

Meanwhile, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly was editing Micheletti’s speeches and pushing him to make the moves, writing: “We preferred to achieve our objectives through a patriotic gesture on M(icheletti)'s part (a step-aside) but we have to protect our principles and our interests in the region.”

Those interests did not include the restoration of Zelaya nor any of the next steps that left-wing ALBA states championed: Kelly wrote that after Micheletti read a speech—that Kelly edited—saying he would step aside in the days before the elections and the vote on Zelaya’s restitution, “Zelaya and ALBA will say this is not enough, but we will work on countries that matter.”

Hillary Clinton Justifies Her Support for 2009 Coup in Honduras

According to Lewis Amselem, head of the U.S. delegation to the Organization of American States, Costa Rica’s neoliberal President Oscar Arias who led negotiations made sure that the “United States gets the credit” for moving forward talks with Micheletti.

The final agreement, after extensive U.S. lobbying to get other states on board, helped orchestrate elections that were widely seen as a farce, including a lack of monitors from international institutions, a media blackout and targeted assassinations of anti-coup leaders ahead of the polls.

Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon heralded the elections as a win for U.S. diplomacy: "Honduran voters have taken back their democracy from two failed leaders — Zelaya and Micheletti — who had driven Honduras to isolation and despair," he wrote to Clinton’s staff.

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The “failed” Zelaya had also been laughed at by Llorens, who called him “out of touch” for predicting “that if he was not restored... Honduras faced a bleak future led by a weak and discredited government and with a high probability of violence and civil conflict,” he wrote in an email.

That is exactly what happened.

Honduras is now dubbed the murder capital of the world, with homicide rates increasing by 50 percent since the coup alongside widespread political repression and assassinations of political opponents and campesino, Indigenous, environmental and LGBT activists.

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