A voter’s guide to Hillary Clinton’s bloody policies in Latin America

A Voter’s Guide to Hillary Clinton’s Policies in Latin America

A Voter’s Guide to Hillary Clinton’s Policies in Latin America

Support for coup regimes, militarization and privatization, trade deals that wreak economic havoc—they reveal the failure of Clintonism.

by Greg Grandin

There’s been too little discussion of Latin American through the Democratic primary, including at last night’s debate, which didn’t touch on it. One candidate, Bernie Sanders, doesn’t have much of a track record to examine, although his broad rejection of neoliberalism and interventionism bode well for turning a page on US policy in the region. The other, Hillary Clinton, has accumulated a deep record, both before and during her tenure as secretary of state, which is worth examining in depth. So, in the interest of helping New Yorkers decide as they head to the polls on Tuesday, here’s a brief guide:

Honduras: By now, Clinton’s involvement in helping to institutionalize the 2009 coup against a reforming president who had the support of all of the country’s most courageous and bravest people—land reformers, gay activists, unionists, feminists, environmentalists, and so on—is well known. “Women’s rights are human rights,” Clinton famously declared. But in Honduras, she worked to legitimize the overthrow of a government that was trying to make the morning-after pill available and advance the rights of members of the LGBT community. In so doing, Clintonhelped install a regime that has been killing women and men at an impressive clip. Death squads have returned to the country.

Just last week, in her interview with the New York Daily News, Clinton revised her story regarding her actions in Honduras yet again (after having cut the most damning paragraphs from her book Hard Choices). Then she said, “We need to do more of a Colombian Plan for Central America.”

Colombia: The idea that Hillary Clinton wants to do to Central America what her husband did to Colombia is troubling.

Here’s what Plan Colombia did to that country: In 2000, just before leaving the White House, Bill Clinton ratcheted up military aid. Plan Colombia, as the assistance program was called, provided billions of dollars to what was the most repressive government in the hemisphere. The effect was to speed the paramilitarization of society, with government—and military—allied death squads penetrating the intelligence services, judiciary, municipal government, legislature, and executive branch. Washington money effectively subsidized the narco-right’s enormous land grab. According to the US government’s own figures, “in rural areas, less than 1% of the population owns more than half Colombia’s best land.” “Torture, massacres, ‘disappearances,’ and killing of non-combatants” became routinized, with trade unionists, peasants, and Afro-Colombians the main victims. The CIA’s own World Factbook says that a staggering 6.3 million Colombians have been internally displaced (IDP) since 1985, with “about 300,000 new IDPs each year since 2000″—that is, the year Bill Clinton enacted Plan Colombia. Added up, that’s 2.4 million people during Clinton’s eight-year presidency.

After Plan Colombia came the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. Hillary Clinton opposed the treaty when she was running against Barack Obama in 2008, but then supported it as secretary of state. Yet, even as she campaigned against it, Bill Clinton was paid $800,000 by the Colombia-based Gold Service International to give four speeches in Latin America, where he advocated for the agreement. Mark Penn, Hillary’s chief adviser in her 2008 campaign, was likewise meeting with Colombian officials to tell them not to worry, that were Clinton to become president, she’d reverse her opposition. When asked about such conflicts, Clinton laughed, and laughed. “Oh my,” she said, before asking the reporter, “How many angels dance on the head of a pin?” Thus concerns about corruption are as quaint as medieval Catholic scholasticism. If those angels were made up of Colombian trade unionists executed between when the trade treaty went into effect and early 2015, the answer is 105—along with many hundreds more Afro-Colombian, peasant, and environmental activists.

In the Brooklyn debate, Bernie Sanders didn’t give a specific answer when asked for an example of when Clinton changed her policy as a result of financial contributions. Let’s then go to David Sirota, Andrew Perez, and Matthew Cunningham-Cook, writing about the fossil-fuel interests behind Clinton and Colombian free trade:

At the same time that Clinton’s State Department was lauding Colombia’s human rights record [despite having evidence to the contrary], her family was forging a financial relationship with Pacific Rubiales, thesprawling Canadian petroleum company at the center of Colombia’s labor strife. The Clintons were also developing commercial ties with the oil giant’s founder, Canadian financier Frank Giustra, who now occupies a seat on the boardof the Clinton Foundation, the family’s global philanthropic empire.

The details of these financial dealings remain murky, but this much is clear: After millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation—supplemented by millions more from Giustra himself—Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial U.S.-Colombia trade pact.

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