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Hill and Don’s Honduran Caravan

Photo by Phillip Pessar | CC BY 2.0

Two Right-Wing Coups in the Americas

You’ve got to hand it to Hillary Clinton.  In 2016, she helped put the right-wing racist, sexist, nativist, authoritarian, and nationalist oligarch Donald Trump in the White House.  She and her operatives did this in two ways: (1) by rigging the presidential primaries against the popular progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders, the Democrats’ best chance to prevail over Trump; (2) by mounting a dreadfully uninspiring and transparently tone-deaf, neoliberal general election campaign – a reflection of her massive funding by the nation’s corporate and financial establishment, including big business money normally slated for Republican presidential candidates.

It was the second time in seven-and-a-half years that Hillary had helped install an authoritarian, racist, oligarchic and right-wing government in the Americas.  In the spring of 2009, she had used her position as Barack Obama’s first Secretary of State to help the right-wing Honduran military and business class overthrow the democratically elected government of Honduras’s then president Manuel Zelaya.  Mrs. Clinton did this because she was a right-wing corporate and imperial Democrat who naturally opposed Zelaya’s shift to the populist left.  She was irritated by his opposition to the United States-led so-called War on Drugs.  She did not like his call for the United States’ large Honduran Air Force base to be turned into a civilian airport.  She hated his movement toward alliance and cooperation with left-populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.  She disdained Zelaya’s efforts to overcome the interrelated problems of Honduran poverty, Honduran inequality, and Honduras’s long neocolonial subordination to Washington.

With the approval of Mrs. Clinton and her boss Obama, the Honduran military seized Zelaya at gunpoint and exiled him to Costa Rica in his pajamas.  After the coup, sold on preposterously false legal and constitutional grounds for which Hillary provided political cover, the new Honduran regime staged a rigged election that placed the clownish, racist, and right-wing landowner Porfirio “Pepe Lobo Sosa” in the Honduran presidency. Madame Secretary Clinton hailed this farce as a “free, fair, and democratic election with a peaceful transition of power.”  Never mind that the election proceeded amidst interim coup president Roberto Micheletti’s suspension of basic civil liberties and in a climate of harsh police-state intimidation.  Later, as Diana Johnstone noted in her book Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, “The governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela refused to recognize the result, but Washington was content…President Lobo described his regime as a ‘government of national reconciliation.’ Hillary Clinton [deplorably] praised it as a ‘resumption of democratic and constitutional government.’”

The results were not pretty: murderous paramilitary repression of peasants, workers, trade unionists, feminists, and intellectuals; a deepening of mass poverty; assassinations of opposition candidates; expanded corruption and gang violence; “social cleansing” of poor children; a massive flight of unaccompanied minors to Mexico and the U.S. in 2014. And the purported “children’s advocate” Hillary Clinton called for the closing of U.S. borders to thousands of children fleeing the vicious regime she helped impose on Honduras. As the Central American child migrant crisis became front-page news in the summer of 2014, Hillary called for most of the tens of thousands of children and teenagers seeking refuge to be sent back to the miserable conditions they had fled in their home countries. “We have to send a clear message,” Clinton deplorably told a CNN town hall: “just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean your child gets to stay.” So what if half or more of the kids showing up at U.S. border could have qualified for humanitarian protection under international and US law?

Never Mind: “The Caravans are Coming!”

Here we are nine years after the U.S.-backed overthrow of Zelaya. The newly emboldened “America First” nationalist Donald Trump has just this week warned the U.S. citizenry to watch out for criminal and asylum-seeking Central American hordes. “The Caravans are coming,” El Donito Tweeted at the start of the week.  He fretted about how “our country is being stolen” by illegal immigration, blaming Democrats for feckless border policies and urging Mexico to bar “these large ‘Caravans’ of people.”

The Great God Trump saw it on FOX News: a marching mass of Central Americans approaching to “take advantage of DACA” and “our weak border security.” The brown-skinned horde wants, Trump claimed, to exploit “liberal [Democrat] laws like Catch and Release.”

This, Trump said, is why we need a big beautiful border Wall – to block evil marauders like these caravan creeps before they bring their devilish drugs and criminality to stop Hair Fuhrer from “Making America Great Again.”

Since the Democrats have blocked the Wall, Trump said, “DACA is dead,” and the U.S. military will have to be deployed to secure the border. It’s time to take a stand!

Never mind that Mexico and Central America are parts of “America” too – and that people from south of the U.S. border are Americans who also want to live “great” lives, or at least to get away from crushing terror and poverty.

Never mind that the “large caravan” Trump thinks he saw on FOX News will probably number 700 people or less by the time it reaches northern Mexico – if it ever does (Subsequent reports indicate that the caravan will stop south of Mexico City).

Forget the moronic nature of the idea that anyone would enter the U.S. in 2018 to “take advantage of DACA,” a federal policy that applies only to immigrant children brought to the country by undocumented parents before 2007.

Forget how sadistic it is for the orange-tinted beast to make Dreamers’ chances of remaining in the only country they know as home depend on Congress’s willingness to back a racist Wall most of the U.S. population rejects.

Forget that it was a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who started building a physical wall on the U.S. southern border, in anticipation of the flood of Mexican migrants expected to result from the North American Free Trade Agreement’s devastating impact on Mexican farmers.

Forget that there’s no “catch and release” edicts in U.S. immigration law.

Forget that very few among the 1200 or so Central American migrants travelling in what is now an annual Easter time caravan through Mexico have any intention of seeking asylum in the U.S. (As KCUR radio reported three days ago, “The annual event organized by activists” is “designed to keep migrants safe and share information about their rights” inside Mexico.)

Forget that the number of “illegal immigrants” caught at the U.S. border (310,000 last year, down from a peak of 1.6 million in 2000) is currently at its lowest level since 1971.

Forget that the Caravan marchers are running away from drug violence and organized crime, among other scourges, in countries that have been ravaged by U.S. policy (including U.S. foreign, political, economic, military, drug, and climate policy) for decades.

“Fuera JOH”

Put all that Trumpian madness aside for a moment and reflect on Hillary and the Obama administration’s role in generating the annual ragged and desperate march of deeply impoverished Central Americans through Mexico. Most of the caravan participants that Washington’s Orange Dotard railed against are Hondurans fleeing repression, violence, and extreme poverty imposed by a right-wing regime Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama helped put in place in the spring of 2009 – a government the U.S. has funded and equipped ever since.

Organized caravans of largely Honduran Central American migrants have been marching across Mexico since 2010. Why since that year?  Primarily because of the U.S-backed Honduran coup, which unleashed mass violence against ordinary Hondurans and Honduran activists.

The repression continues through the present, seen in “the violent [Honduran] suppression of political protests that erupted after last year’s presidential election” (New York Times, April 2, 2018) – more bloody cruelty from the malicious regime Hillary aided and abetted nine years ago. The 2017 Honduran election was transparently rigged to keep the military coup regime in power. That’s why many of the caravan marchers can be heard chanting “Fuera JOH” (“Out JOH”) a reference to the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, whose right wing National Party fixed the vote in his favor. The Trump administration nonetheless immediately recognized the results as legitimate, waiving off calls to cut off U.S. military and economic assistance to the Honduran government on human rights grounds – this while the Honduran military imposed a national curfew and a state of emergency.

Playing to the Amerikaner Roseanne Base

Why did Trump go ape-shit over the caravan this week? Because his favorite white nationalist television network has been highlighting the mass march and thanks to political calculations leading up to the mid-term elections this year. As the New York Times reports: “Stung by a backlash from his conservative supporters [e.g, the sallow neo-Nazi Anne Coulter] over his embrace of a trillion-dollar-plus spending measure that did not fund his promised border wall, and lacking a legislative initiative to champion with the approach of midterm congressional elections this fall, Mr. Trump has reverted to the aggressive anti-immigration messaging that powered his presidential campaign…”

He’s playing to his basebase.  He’s counting on its white-nationalist Amerikaner loyalty to the cult of Trump (with the revolting  right-wing conspiracy nut and former progressive icon Roseanne Barr as a leading Kool Aid drinker) to combine with Republican gerrymandering, racist voter suppression, the reach of the vast right-wing media ecosphere (including the vast Sinclair broadcast network as well as FOX, right-wing talk radio, and Breitbart et al.), a tight job market, the frazzled electorate’s inability to follow Rachel Maddow and Robert Mueller’s (and Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s) endless and complex RussiaGate detective story, and the dismal and elitist nothingness of the neoliberal Democrats (the nation’s Inauthentic Opposition and Fake Resistance leaders) to keep Congress impeachment-proofed in 2019 and 2020.

MoveOn and Off That Page

Look for “liberal [Democrat]” pundits and politicos to deride Trump’s military deployment on the border while conveniently failing to mention that President Barack “Deporter-in-Chief” Obama sent 1,200 National Guardsmen (in “Operation Phalanx”) to patrol the southern border in 2010.

It’s okay whenyourparty and president do nativist, nationalist, and other nasty things. It’s deplorable when presidents from the bad other of the only two electorally viable and (by the way) capitalist-imperialist U.S. political parties do those things. Which reminds me, are you concerned about Russian interference in U.S. politics? Here’s a curious passage you can expect “liberal [Democrat]” pundits and politicos to disregard in Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s new book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump:

“The day after …Russian spies were arrested [on June 27, 2010], Bill Clinton arrived in Moscow to deliver the keynote speech at a conference sponsored by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment banking firm with links to the Kremlin. Clinton was paid a whopping $500,000 for his ninety-minute appearance, which drew an audience of top Russian government officials. Though his wife was secretary of state, the former president had not curbed his lucrative overseas speech-making, even when the gigs were underwritten by groups that might have interests before the State Department…In the case of Renaissance Capital, the firm at that time was promoting a stock offering of a company called Uranium One—a mining firm that controlled about 20 percent of uranium production capacity within the United States. And Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, was in the process of purchasing a controlling interest in Uranium One, pending approval of a U.S. government foreign investment review board on which Hillary Clinton sat with eight other senior U.S. officials…Around the time of the Uranium One deal, the company chairman’s family foundation donated about $2.35 million to Clinton Foundation programs.”

Huh. Oh well. Turn the page. Good Democrats know that all good Americans need to move on, I mean MoveOn, from that kind of Old News.

I suppose we ought to be grateful to “liberal [Clinton Democrats]” Isikoff and Corn for honestly including that information in their new volume. I recall hearing Corn on National Public Radio when the big marches took place against the Inauguration of Trump. He didn’t think ragged anarchists, Marxists, and other suspect sorts who hadn’t been able to make themselves vote for the “lying neoliberal warmonger” (Adolph Reed, Jr’s accurate phrase, not Corn’s) and proud former Goldwater Girl Hillary Clinton had any right to be in the streets. That was like telling people that they couldn’t oppose the Gambino crime family if they didn’t openly support the Bonanno crime family.

I wonder: if Hillary had run a better campaign and fended off the Trump-Steve Bannon-Robert Mercer-Sheldon Adelson assault in the late summer and fall of 2016, would a Clinton45 presidency now be facing Congressional inquiries into its ugly Russian entanglements while monitoring caravan movements driven by the ugly regime Mrs. Clinton helped create in Tegucigalpa in 2009?

Single-Payer Caravan to Canada?

I would roll out a welcome mat to any Central American caravans who make it to the U.S. upper Midwest.  Perhaps I would ask them to accompany me on a trek to Canada, home to the single-payer national health insurance that most U.S.-Americans want and deserve.  That’s the insurance system Harvard medical professor David Himmelstein, head of Physicians for a National Health Program, tried to tell First Lady Hillary Clinton about when she headed the White House’s health reform initiative in 1993.  Himmelstein related the remarkable possibilities of a comprehensive, single-payer “Canadian-style” health plan, supported by more than two-thirds of the U.S. public.  Beyond backing by a citizen super-majority, Himmelstein noted, single-payer would provide comprehensive coverage to the nation’s 40 million uninsured while retaining free choice in doctor selection and being certified by the Congressional Budget Office as “the most cost-effective plan on offer.”

Hillary responded by dismissing Himmelstein with a weary and exasperated comment: “David, tell me something interesting.” There was no dishonesty in Hillary’s  remark. Consistent with her neoliberal world view, she really was bored and irritated by Himmelstein’s pitch. Along with the big insurance companies they deceptively railed against, the Clintons decided from the start to exclude the popular, social-democratic health insurance alternative (single-payer) from the national health care “discussion.” (Obama would do the exact same thing in 2009.)  What the First Lady deplorably advanced instead of the Canadian system that bored her was a hopelessly complex, secretly developed and corporatist system called “managed competition.”

We have our own oligarchs in the United States – and a richly bipartisan permanent political class dedicated to serving those oligarchs. Maye we should start a caravan, if we’re not too busy working multiple low-wage jobs in the “booming” economy owned and operating for the United States’ corporate oligarchy.

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Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

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