Politics in the U.S. has long been accepted as dirty business, especially when it comes to U.S. relations with Latin America. But a new standard has been set with the ascendance of presidential contender Hillary Clinton. The March 3, 2016 assassination of Lenca leader Berta Carceres is a direct result of policies enabled and supported by Clinton and her criminal syndicate in Honduras. As her relationship with Honduras reveals, Clinton is a gangster attempting to posit herself as the head of the largest crime empire on the planet, “whatever it takes.”
Seeing the Clinton racket in its full glory takes an understanding the recent history in Honduras and how she factors into it. In 2005, the Central American Free Trade Agreement was passed in the United States. CAFTA advanced the aims of the 1994 Bill Clinton-sponsored NAFTA further south into countries like Honduras. The neo-liberal free trade deal had found a receptive audience among the established economic elite in the country affiliated with long-standing familial oligarchies that controlled finance, trade and industry. Many of the patriarchs in the oligarchy, including Miguel Facusse and Juan Cuanahuati, had been historic and early proponents of free trade in Honduras and headed industries that found fertile grounds to flourish under the model CAFTA promoted, including maquila zones and the attendant “company towns” that were branded as “industrial parks.” These practices were in effect since the mid-1980s in Honduras but were accelerated thanks to CAFTA. The increase of these “parks” caused the rapid proliferation of previously small town areas into more urbanized enclaves particularly in the north as people from the rural areas moved to work in one of the new factories.
Those moves were about more than increased freedom of choice in the job market. Corresponding to the development of the industrial parks was the destruction of agricultural communities as a result of multiple factors. A prime factor was confiscation of farming land for mining, hydroelectric and large-scale monoculture corporate farming interests, as well as the expansions of areas designated for factory construction for the industrial parks. The project along the Gualcarque River that Carceres and the group she helped co-found, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), was one of these very projects. The lands were claimed by private interests, sometimes through public-private partnerships, concentrated under networks connected to the oligarchy. In the case of the Gualcarque River, the interest in reference was DESA (Energy Development, SA) and the oligarchy connection was the Atala family. Technically, a foreign company could operate on these lands but the properties had to be in the name of a Honduran. This supported the entrenchment of the oligarchy with foreign investment and encouraged a keener pursuit of codifying dubious family land titles to properties that had been justly claimed by campesino communities under the Land Reform Laws of 1962 or were protected for indigenous communities as part of Honduras signing on to the International Labor Rights Organization’s Tribal and Indigenous Rights Convention No.169. CAFTA policies corresponded with enforcement of provisions of the Law of the Modernization of Agriculture of 1993, which rescinded many of the protections of the land reform laws and legalized the commandeering of public and indigenous lands for private commercial uses.
I first visited Honduras in early 2002. At that time, Ricardo Maduro had just been sworn in as president and he wasted no time picking up where his predecessor left off. The changes in the Honduran landscape were accelerating. At that time, I learned specifically how increased deforestation was claiming swathes of Honduras for private timber interests. The timber companies in Honduras were by and large controlled by the Flores family; Carlos Roberto Flores had been the president prior to Maduro. In order to claim these forest lands, private security as well as government forces would frequently invade campesino communities and destroy them, sometimes even salting the fields as they burned houses and crop stocks. There were frequently deaths as a result of the protests to these moves. Additionally, I learned that the Afro-indigenous Garifuna communities on the coast in the north were being dispossessed of their lands in order to accommodate the emergence of private tourism enterprises, most of which were under the purview of another family. This is to say that many of the problems that underpin the situation now confronting refugees from Honduras go back to policies enacted during prior U.S. Administrations–including the Administration of Pres. Bill Clinton–and continue thanks to the orchestration of current U.S. public officials, including Presidential contender Hillary Clinton.
Between 2002 and 2006 the Minister of Investment for Honduras under Maduro was Camilo Alejandro Atala Faraj, one of the backers of DESA. As Minister of Investment, he was directly linked to the enforcement of policies which dispossessed communities of their lands and concentrated people into growing cities as they worked at wage labor in the maquilas. As part and parcel with these policies, indigenous lands become increasingly vulnerable to the infiltration of criminal narcotics syndicates that saw advantage in commandeering the remote areas for building air strips and other bases of operation. Municipalities became increasingly entrenched in narco-politics as public officials, police and just about every segment became beholden to local drug lords who charged “war tax” for protection and recruited youth and others with little to check them.
The narco-groups were known to collaborate with military officials who had been trained through the U.S. School of the Americas and armed by the U.S. government and did not recognize national borders. These narco-gangs spanned the whole area of Mexico and Central America; currently Guatemala is in the process of prosecuting 18 former military officials for corruption, including conspiracy with narco-traffickers.
Today, Atala is the President of Banco FICOHSA as well as the Honduran head of the Latin American Economic Council (CEAL). CEAL has a significant history with both Clintons. Prior, during and after the 2009 coup in Honduras, Hillary Clinton’s old school friend and de facto counselor on matters Latin American was Lanny Davis. Davis was a former campaign director for her Senatorial campaign and then current Washington representative for CEAL. CEAL’s membership comprises many heads of the Honduran oligarchy who had grown dissatisfied with the policies of then-president Mel Zelaya. In fact, they actively lobbied against his return following the coup. Zelaya himself was from an oligarchical family, but as a rancher had more of a sympathy for the issues that campesinos brought to his attention through their activism. During his term he had begun establishing relationships with these activist movements and taking steps to alter the total control the oligarchy wielded over the people of Honduras.
Zelaya raised the minimum wage. He additionally began working on efforts to re-establish campesino and indigenous land rights by challenging the 1993 Law of Modernization of Agriculture. This greatly interfered with the expansionist and extractivist goals of the elite. He was lambasted by the right wing as being in league with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and indeed oil import deals he had established with Venezuela’s nationalized oil industry had significantly reduced gas costs in the country, which made his policies for campesino, worker and indigenous rights much more palatable to the professional milieus. Additionally, he was poised to support and re-legitimize a people’s movement that could have more equitably redistributed resources and thwarted the interests of both the Honduran business elite and their U.S. backers as well as the criminal drug cartels with whom they collaborated.
The personal and specific threat Zelaya posed to Clinton becomes evident when we see her relationship with the banking establishment trends in the U.S. and Honduras. Toward the end of Bill Clinton’s term, the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 was signed into law. Otherwise known as the Graham-Leech-Bliley Act (GLBA), it undid the regulations placed on the banking and finance industries by the Glass-Steagall Act in the aftermath of the 1929 Financial Crisis. It came after years of increasing deregulation–including the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, itself a response to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. The reason GLBA was enacted was because in 1998, Citigroup illegally formed by combining banking, securities and insurances services into one group in violation of the Glass Steagall Act. Rather than penalize the group and force it to disband, the Federal Reserve awarded Citigroup an unprecedented “temporary waiver” in September that gave it two years to secure passage of legislation that would repeal the prohibitions that made it illegal. GLBA was signed into law in November of 1999.
How is it that a company could knowingly commit an illegal act and get the relevant government agency to “temporarily waive” the punishment of that act so as to change the law? At the time, President Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury was Robert Rubin, who was the former head of Citibank. The swift passage of GLBA assures us that the legislation was in the works well before the waiver and that there had to be some coordination between government and the private banking and financial services players involved. Additionally, GLBA removed the provisions prohibiting individuals from serving as officers on multiple boards, something previously considered a “conflict of interest.”
During the 2008 banking crisis, Citigroup received a $45 billion government bailout, negotiated and approved while Hillary Clinton was still in the U.S. Senate and after her loss to Barack Obama in the Democratic Presidential Primary. In September of 2013, Citigroup announced its final payment for the bailout, which ended up profiting the Federal Depository Insurance Company by $13 billion. During the time it was receiving federal assistance, Citigroup continued its operations throughout the world, including Central America. Beginning as Citibank, they have had a presence in Honduras since 1965. But on April 17, 2014, FICOHSA acquired all loans, credit and personal banking accounts of Citigroup in Honduras, leaving corporate accounts with Citigroup. In July of last year, FICOHSA additionally acquired Citigroup Nicaragua. FICOHSA’s acquisitions of the Citigroup entities have happened under the oversight of Atala, Maduro’s former Minister of Investment, current CEAL president and backer of DESA.
These acquisitions also come right before the recent U.S. Treasury arrest of Jaime Rosenthal on RICO charges in November of 2015. The Rosenthal family was accused of laundering money for drug cartels through their bank, Banco Continental. While no specific details have been made public and no actual convictions have been secured, the Honduran government of Juan Orland Hernandez of the National Party has seized all of the family’s assets, which included liquidating Banco Continental. The Rosenthal family are the benefactors of the main establishment political opposition Liberal Party and owners of two of Honduras’ major press outlets. This act effectively eliminated a major media and political critic of Hernandez, who has been the target of popular uprising after it was revealed that he funneled $350 million from the Social Security Institute while he was the head of the National Congress to fund his presidential campaign. It also eliminates FICOHSA’s main competition.
FICOHSA lists as one of its minority shareholders the World Bank. In 2014 the World Bank scrutinized FICOHSA for lending to Grupo Dinant. Dinant was owned by now-deceased Miguel Facusse, who was also the father-in-law of the former president Carlos Roberto Flores. Facusse was accused of allowing drug traffickers to use his land to transport narcotics, committing forced evictions of campesinos and indigenous peoples to confiscate their lands and violating the human rights of environmental activists, ie. killing them. However, the World Bank’s scrutiny only came after it was itself condemned for lending $30 million to Dinant and had to announce that it had violated its own principles in doing so.
Nothing ever came of the accusations against FICOHSA and Dinant continued confiscating land and killing environmentalists until Facusse’s death last summer. Included in Facusse’s repertoire were land confiscations and violence against those resisting the construction of a hydroelectric facility in the Aguan Valley. Since his death, his son has taken over with equal zeal. Nonetheless, throughout this time and until his death, Facusse was a welcomed and esteemed member of the Honduran “business class,” even serving as a former coordinator of CEAL and receiving the CEAL Founders Award in August of 2014–after the World Bank’s declaration.
In June of 2011, a Clinton aide revealed that Hillary was considering stepping down as Secretary of State to take on the presidency of the World Bank. Clinton herself publicly acknowledged such a move was being considered in early 2012, however the spotlight died down and the issue was moot soon thereafter. Surely her performance before, during and after the coup made her a stellar candidate. The coup eliminated opposition and resistance to the proliferation of the free trade policies originated during the Clinton presidential era as not only the president was deposed, but any and all legislative and judicial resistance was as well. The World Bank and its partners were able to move through Honduras and accomplish feats that would have been much more difficult and costly, if not altogether impossible, without Hillary’s interdictions.
In Spring of 2014, Atala and then World-Bank Managing Director Jose Daboub met with members of CEAL to celebrate Juan Orlando Hernandez’s Zones for Employment and Economic Development (ZEDE). These zones are corollary with the proliferation of NAFTA and CAFTA policies that have encouraged rampant corruption and violence in Mexico, Honduras and other countries of Central America. But Atala sees “the business class as agent of change for sustainable and equitable development, hand in hand with government.” Atala affirmed a year later at a reception with Honduran business and government officials, as well as U.S. envoys, that this hand-holding carries over into how to spend the $1 billion the U.S. plans to send to Honduras in aid to “fight the causes of child migration.”
The foundations of the “causes of child migration” go back decades and tie in intimately with policies enacted by the Bill Clinton Administration and carried on by Hillary Clinton throughout her public service career, including as hired gun for President Barack Obama. Obama is set to end his presidency with the honor of sending women and children fleeing corruption, destitution, exploitation and fatal violence back into those circumstances after his administrators conspired to create those conditions. Carceres’ assassination is blatant evidence of the dangers faced by women and children who have been fleeing Honduras and seeking refuge in the U.S. Not only that, but Obama has promised to send the people responsible for that corruption, destitution, exploitation and fatal violence $1 billion a year in U.S. taxpayer money to help them continue. The confiscations of campesino, indigenous and public lands by the Honduran elite who will receive these payouts correspond to the Clinton’s own torrid real estate scandals, scandals much like her colleagues–including Obama and Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who were both implicated in real estate embezzlement schemes in Chicago prior to Obama’s nomination–that disappeared without resolution. If Hillary Clinton is elected, the U.S. is validating co-operation with an international organized crime syndicate replete with their own U.S.-taxpayer funded death squad occupying the highest levels of business, finance and government.
Her track record is clear. As the First Lady of the United States, Clinton supported and promoted free trade policies that profited her and her friends in banking and finance while countless people were pushed into poverty, lost their lands, and had their lives taken from them. As Senator, she laid the groundwork for expanding the benefits of those policies for her syndicate. As Obama’s Secretary of State she ordered hits against individuals–including heads of state–organizations and institutions that interfered with what she wanted. Now she’s looking to assume the head of the largest empire in the world, legitimizing her gangland ways. Certainly her presidency would be well-received by her cohorts in Honduras. Let’s not give them the chance for such a reception.