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Obama’s legacy in Latin America: Militarization, Right-Wing Coups, & The Rule of Wall Street

Independent geopolitical analyst Eric Draitser reviews the Obama’s legacy of destabilizing, militarizing, and exploiting Latin America.

by Eric Draitser of stopimperialism.org

Part 2 - Obama’s love affair with the right wing

A mural in Lithuania depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Donald Trump embracing in a passionate kiss has gone viral. The meaning of the image is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the skull, but it is no less perspicacious for its lack of subtlety. And while Russia has indeed tacitly, and rather shamefully, supported far-right candidates and causes for its own coldly pragmatic political reasons — Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, etc. — the truth is that Obama’s administration has also backed right-wing reactionaries and extremists where it has suited its interests.

Throughout Latin America, President Obama has been a driving force behind the resurgence of right-wing forces that have rolled back the gains of socialist and social democratic governments, targeted indigenous and African diaspora communities, assassinated activists, and toppled governments where they could.

So, yes, let’s talk about “legacy.”

In Honduras, Obama’s legacy was cemented from the very beginning of his presidency. In the summer of 2009, Manuel Zelaya, the country’s democratically-elected left-wing president, was removed from power in a midnight coup orchestrated by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her cronies in Washington and in Tegucigalpa. And while Obama’s tepid condemnation of the coup elicited cheers from many liberals in its contrast to the Bush administration’s loving embrace of the coup against Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in 2002, the reality is that, as with all things Obama, it was mere words. The support of the president and his henchwoman was the driving force behind the coup.

Clinton is never one to shy away from an opportunity to boast about the amount of blood on her hands. In a passage which removed from later editions of her book “Hard Choices,” she rather brazenly admitted:

In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot and give the Honduran people a chance to choose their own future.

Obama’s top diplomat was instrumental in installing a right-wing government backed by the wealthiest business interests in Honduras and powerful players in Washington. As Clinton bagman Lanny Davis openly stated in an interview just weeks after the coup:

My clients represent the CEAL, the [Honduras Chapter of] Business Council of Latin America. … I do not represent the government and do not talk to [interim] President [Roberto] Micheletti. My main contacts are [billionaires] Camilo Atala and Jorge Canahuati. I’m proud to represent businessmen who are committed to the rule of law.

Indeed, Davis quite candidly exposed himself as an agent of powerful oligarch financiers and landowners who, until the election of Zelaya, had always maintained firm control of the reins of government in Honduras. These are precisely the people, backed by the Obama administration, wielding power in Honduras today through a violent right-wing government that assassinates indigenous leaders and human rights defenders such as Berta Cáceres, Margarita Murillo, and many others for the sake of investors who seek to develop indigenous, Afro-Caribbean, and peasant lands for massive profits.

Beyond the killings of activists and the political backing of a right-wing coup government, Obama’s legacy in Honduras is also one of militarization. In 2014, The North American Congress on Latin America reported:

The steady increase of U.S. assistance to [Honduran] national armed forces has, if anything, been an indicator of tacit U.S. support. But the U.S. role in militarization of national police forces has been direct as well. In 2011 and 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST)—which had previously carried out military-style missions in Afghanistan—set up camp in Honduras to train a local counternarcotics police unit and help plan and execute drug interdiction operations … Supported by U.S. helicopters mounted with high caliber machine guns, these operations were nearly indistinguishable from military missions, and locals routinely referred to the DEA and Honduran police agents as “soldados” (soldiers).

The NACLA report further noted that the Obama administration deployed at least five “commando style squads” of FAST teams across Central America. It added that, in Honduras, U.S. and Colombian special forces units have been training, equipping, and deploying with a new “elite” police unit called the Intelligence Troop and Special Security Group, or TIGRES (Spanish for “tigers”), which human rights groups argue is military in nature.

Ultimately, the man who rode the crest of a wave of “Hope” and “Change” not only brought more of the same to Honduras, and Latin America generally, he actually accelerated the re-conquest of the region by the forces of the military-industrial complex and finance capital.

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