Hillary Clinton displayed a sweeping grasp of federal policy at the Daily News Editorial Board on Saturday.
Touting her plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure, Clinton said:
“Look, I’m excited about this stuff. I’m kind of a wonky person.”
But I kept thinking of the big gap between Clinton’s words and actions that her own emails reveal — especially toward Latin America.
When my turn came for a question, I asked about her role as secretary of state during the 2009 military coup in Honduras — a country from which so many children and mothers have fled to the U.S. of late to escape massive political and gang violence.
Before the coup, Honduras was at least making progress. Its democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, had instituted free public education for all, decreed a reduction in sky-high bank interest, and sharply raised the minimum wage.
But in June 2009, the military seized Zelaya in the middle of night, deposed him and sent him into exile. The United Nations, the Organization of American States and President Obama immediately called for Zelaya’s restoration.
“There is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch,” our own ambassador there, Hugo Llorens, wrote in a cable that WikiLeaks later uncovered.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, then Clinton’s director of policy planning, even sent her boss an email on Aug. 16 urging her to “take bold action” and to “find that (the) coup was a ‘military coup’ under U.S. law.”
Doing so would have forced an immediate cutoff of U.S. military aid.
“I got lots of signals last week that we are losing ground in Latin America every day the Honduras crisis continues,” Salughter wrote. “Even our friends are beginning to think we are not really committed to the norm of constitutional democracy.”
Clinton instead worked to sideline the OAS and pressed instead for a deal between the coup leaders and Zelaya for new elections.
Those elections ushered in a conservative government. More than 300 people have been killed by state security forces since then and we’ve witnessed a flood of refugees from Honduras.
A few weeks ago, gunmen assassinated Berta Caceres, a well-known Honduran dissident and winner of the prestigious 2015 Goldman environment prize, in her home.
I asked Clinton about the role she’d played in the Honduras tragedy.
“Our assessment was, we will just make the situation worse by punishing the Honduran people if we declare a coup and we immediately have to stop all aid for the people,” she said.
“We came out with a solution that did hold new elections, but it did not in any way address the structural, systemic problems in that society.”
But it’s not just Honduras. There’s also Colombia.
During the 2008 presidential race, both Clinton and Barack Obama vowed to block the Colombia Free Trade agreement President George W. Bush had negotiated.
They specifically condemned Colombia’s notorious history of repressing trade unionists.
But Clinton emails released this year show that in 2011, she quietly lobbied members of Congress to approve the Colombia pact.
In one email, she boasted of telling a key lawmaker from Michigan that “at the rate we were going, Colombian workers were going to end up (with) the same or better rights than workers in Wisconsin and Indiana and, maybe even Michigan.”
Last year, the AFL-CIO reported 2,000 incidents of violence and threats against Colombian trade union leaders — including 105 killings — during the trade agreement’s first four years.
Not exactly Michigan’s labor climate.
Hand it to Hillary, though. She sure is wonky.