To the editor:
I hemmed and hawed for months over whether or not to write this letter.
I knew if I wrote it I would not only tick off local, right-wing, immigrant-bashing Trump supporters, but also more than a few local, well-meaning liberals who claim to care deeply about immigration and immigrants, particularly refugees arriving today from Central America.
I knew I would tick those well-meaning liberals off by pointing out how little most of them know about the role “liberal” Democratic administrations, most recently the administration of Barack Obama, have played in creating the conditions and circumstances in Central America that so many men, women and children are so desperate to flee.
My fellow well-meaning liberals rightfully recoil in horror at the overt racism and xenophobia inherent in Donald Trump’s Central American refugee policies. They are understandably outraged by the cruelty and inhumanity of Donald Trump’s family separation and child detention policies
But very few will acknowledge, or even know about, the role Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton played, especially in relation to Honduras, in setting the stage for the refugee crisis unfolding on our southern border today.
In 2009, the Obama/Clinton foreign policy team aided and abetted the military coup that ousted Honduras’ democratically elected reformist president, Jose Manuel Zelaya.
The Obama/Clinton team did so for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact several of Zelaya’s proposed economic and political reforms angered some powerful U.S. corporate interests operating inside Honduras -- including Walmart and Dole/Chiquita.
But the biggest factor that sealed Zelaya’s fate, was his call for the U.S. military to reduce the number of troops it deployed to the Honduran air base at Palmerola.
The military coup sent shock waves through the other nascent democracies of Central America, all of which had been struggling, like Honduras, to establish themselves in the years following the U.S.-sponsored violence and bloodshed of the 1980s and 1990s.
The fact a supposedly “liberal” Democratic administration played such an enabling role in the military ouster of a democratically elected head of state angered regional leaders. It also made them question just how committed to democracy the U.S. really was, whether a Democrat or a Republican resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Shortly after the coup, every member nation of the Organization of American States voted to temporarily suspend Honduras from the group, with one exception -- the United States of America.
After the coup, the Obama administration supported the appointment of an interim, right wing, president who had long standing ties to some of Honduras’s wealthiest and most powerful elites, and to those same US corporate interests so opposed to Zelaya’s efforts at reform.
One of the first elected presidents after the coup, another right wing politician long rumored to be tainted by corruption, was hailed by Hillary Clinton as a champion of democratic values and a true friend of the U.S.
He pledged to not only allow the U.S. to maintain its troop levels at Palmerola, but to increase them as well. That pleased “Hawkish Hillary” to no end.
But President Lobos turned out to be a source of embarrassment for the Obama/Clinton foreign policy team when his eldest son was arrested for alleged involvement in one of the largest drug trafficking organizations moving cocaine to the United States.
The Obama administration continued to support a succession of right wing Honduran governments and presidents, including the current president, Juan Orlando Hernandez.
In 2016, when Orlando-Hernandez won a second term in an election condemned by international observers as rigged and corrupt, the Obama/Kerry foreign policy team ignored the observers’ findings and accepted the election results.
In 2017, when Hondurans took to the streets to protest the corrupt, now Trump administration backed, Orlando-Hernandez regime, Orlando-Hernandez unleashed the U.S.-trained and funded Honduran military on the protesters. Dozens of civilians were killed in cities and towns around the country.
A few months back, Donald Trump, with typical racist, Trumpian flourish, designed to fire up his base, announced he was cutting humanitarian aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. He did so to punish their governments for not doing enough to stop the “invasion” and “infestation” of the U.S. by refugees fleeing their countries.
What didn’t get reported was Trump did not cut military aid to to either the corrupt right-wing government of Juan Orlando-Hernandez in Honduras, or the equally corrupt right-wing government of Jimmy Morales in Guatemala.
Why would he? Both men lavish praise on The Donald and hail him as a great leader, a true Christian, and a defender of freedom -- and we all know how much The Donald loves to be praised.
Americans, be they liberals or conservatives, need to realize the current situation at the border is a direct result of decades of failed, bipartisan, U.S. policies and actions regarding Central America.
Conservatives, especially those who claim to be Christians, need to acknowledge we, as a result of those policy failures, have an obligation to treat today’s refugees with compassion and respect. Likewise, liberals need to realize not all those seeking asylum will qualify for, or be granted protected status.
What is needed is for conservatives and liberals to come together and recognize the best way to help the refugees gathered on our southern border is not by building a wall, or by advocating for so called “open borders.”
The best way to help the refugees gathered on our border is for our political leaders to acknowledge those past policy failures and to work together, on a bipartisan basis, to develop new policies and programs that help countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and Guatemala become the kinds of places where people can live and raise their families with dignity and in relative peace and security.
But, given the degree of political polarization in the US these days, I am not holding my breath for that to happen any time soon.
Yup, I wrestled with whether or not to write this letter because I knew doing so would likely tick everybody off to one degree or another.
Ah well, sometimes you just gotta call things the way you see them.