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28 Jun, 2019 23:31

Migrants, protests & aid cuts: Legacy of US-backed 2009 coup in Honduras 

Migrants, protests & aid cuts: Legacy of US-backed 2009 coup in Honduras 

As caravans of migrants stream toward the US border and protesters in Honduras demand the president’s resignation, a coup in Tegucigalpa exactly 10 years ago is now making for strange political allies in Washington.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) thus found herself on the same wavelength as US President Donald Trump when she advocated cutting off the aid to the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez in March, and tweeted out a photo with the daughter of the slain Honduran activist Berta Caceres on Friday.

Trump also wants to cut US funding to Honduras, but for a completely different reason: along with Guatemala and El Salvador, the country is a major source of migrant “caravans” that have been streaming across the US border over the past year. All three Central American nations have experienced Washington’s meddling throughout their history.

On June 28, 2009, the Honduran military raided the home of President Manuel Zelaya and led him away at gunpoint. He was replaced by Porfirio Lobo Sosa, leader of the National Party, who held the office until 2014, when he handed it over to Hernandez.

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The administration of Barack Obama – specifically, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – was involved in planning and executing the coup, it later emerged. Clinton herself admitted it in her memoir “Hard Choices,” first published in 2014. After public scrutiny, however, the part of the book detailing her involvement in Honduras was removed from the paperback edition. 

In the decade since, Honduras has become a human rights nightmare, according to organizations such as Amnesty International, which accused state security forces of routinely engaging in torture and extrajudicial killings. 

Caceres, for instance, was murdered in 2016 in attack widely believed to have been in retaliation for her activism against the construction of the Aguas Zarca dam in the Gualcarque river.

Over the last several months, public anger at Hernandez’s rule has turned into widespread unrest. Riots first began in April, in protest over his plans to privatize the education, healthcare and pension systems of Honduras. In May, demonstrators set fire to the US embassy in Tegucigalpa, and later attacked containers belonging to the Dole Fruit Company. 

Fruit companies are a symbol of US military and political meddling in Central America, which gave rise to the term “banana republic.”

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On Tuesday, state security forces opened fire on a group of student protesters, injuring four people. Activists are no longer calling for merely reversing the privatization, but also for  Hernandez to step down.

While Hernandez’s economic policies have created a favorable environment for US multinational corporations, they brought ruin to the small farmers of Honduras, who are fleeing to the US in droves in search of work. 

The political establishment in Washington, however, has considerable interest in keeping Hernandez in power, as he has promised to keep open the US military base at Soto Cano. 

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