Clinton's Latin American Blunders

Offensive remarks on Honduras, gratuitous insults in Brazil – Hillary Clinton's Latin American tour has not been a success

Hillary Clinton's Latin America tour is turning out to be about as successful as George W Bush's visit in 2005,
when he ended up leaving Argentina a day ahead of schedule just to get
the hell out of town. The main difference is that she is not being
greeted with protests and riots.
For that she can thank the positive media image that her boss,
President Obama, has managed to maintain in the region, despite his
continuation of his predecessor's policies.

But she has been even
more diplomatically clumsy that Bush, who at least recognised that
there were serious problems and knew what not to say. "The Honduras crisis has been managed to a successful conclusion," Clinton said in Buenos Aires, adding that "it was done without violence."

is rubbing salt into her hosts' wounds, as they see the military
overthrow of President Mel Zelaya last June, and subsequent efforts by
the US to legitimise the dictatorship there as not only a failure but a
threat to democracy throughout the region.

It is also an
outrageous thing to say, given the political killings, beatings, mass
arrests, and torture that the coup government used in order to maintain
power and repress the pro-democracy movement. The worst part is that
they are still committing these crimes.

Today nine members of the
US Congress - including some Democrats in Congressional leadership
positions - wrote to Clinton and to the White House about this
violence. They wrote:

"Since President Lobo's
inauguration, several prominent opponents of the coup have been
attacked. On 3 February, Vanessa Zepeda, a nurse and union organiser
who had previously received death threats linked to her activism in the
resistance movement, was strangled and her body dumped from a vehicle
in Tegucigalpa. On 15 February, Julio Funes Benitez, a member of the
[water and sewage workers] trade union and an active member of the
national resistance movement, was shot and killed by unknown gunmen on
a motorcycle outside his home. Most recently, Claudia Brizuela, an
opposition activist, was murdered in her home on 24 February.
Unfortunately these are only three of the numerous attacks against
activists and their families ... "

Clinton will meet on Friday with "Pepe" Lobo of Honduras, who was elected president
after a campaign marked by media shutdowns and police repression of
dissent. The Organisation of American States and European Union refused
to send official observers to the election.

The members of
Congress also asked that Clinton, in her meeting with Lobo, "send a
strong unambiguous message that the human rights situation in Honduras
will be a critical component of upcoming decisions regarding the
further normalisations of relations, as well as the resumption of
financial assistance."

This was the third letter that Clinton
received from Congress on human rights in Honduras. On 7 August and 25
September members of Congress from Hillary Clinton's own Democratic
party wrote to her to complain of the ongoing human rights abuses in
Honduras and impossibility of holding free elections under these
conditions. They did not even get a perfunctory reply until 28 January,
more than four months after the second letter was sent. This is an
unusual level of disrespect for the elected representatives of one's
own political party.

For these New Cold Warriors, it seems that
all that has mattered is that they got rid of one social democratic
president of one small, poor country.

In Brazil,
Clinton continued her cold war strategy by throwing in some gratuitous
insults toward Venezuela. This is a bit like going to a party and
telling the host how much you don't like his friends. After ritual
denunciations of Venezuela, Clinton said "We wish Venezuela were
looking more to its south and looking at Brazil and looking at Chile
and other models of a successful country."

Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim responded with diplomacy,
but there was no mistaking his strong rebuff to her insults: he said
that he agreed with "one point" that Clinton made, "that Venezuela
should look southwards more ... that is why we have invited Venezuela to
join MERCOSUR as a full member country." Clinton's rightwing allies in
Paraguay's legislature - the remnants of that country's dictatorship
and 60 years of one-party rule - are currently holding up Venezuela's
membership in the South American trade block. This is not what she
wanted to hear from Brazil.

The Brazilians also rejected Clinton's rather undiplomatic efforts to pressure them to join Washington in calling for new sanctions against Iran. "It is not prudent to push Iran against a wall," said Brazilian president Lula da Silva." The prudent thing is to establish negotiations."

"We will not simply bow down to an evolving consensus if we do not agree," Amorim said at a press conference with Clinton.

Clinton made one concession to Argentina, calling for the UK to sit
down with the Argentine government and discuss their dispute over the
Malvinas (Falklands) Islands. But it seems unlikely that Washington will do anything to make this happen.

now, the next crucial test will be Honduras: will Clinton continue
Washington's efforts to whitewash the Honduran government's repression?
Or will she listen to the rest of the hemisphere as well as her own
Democratic members of Congress and insist on some concessions regarding
human rights, including the return of Mel Zelaya to his country (as the
Brazilians also emphasised)? This story may not get much US media attention, but Latin America will be watching.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 The Guardian