Hillary Clinton's Response To Honduran Coup Was Scrubbed From Her Paperback Memoirs

Critics argue the secretary of state's efforts paved the way for the violence still plaguing Honduras.

Those who want to know what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said about Honduras' 2009 coup in her autobiography shouldn't bother with the paperback version.

Clinton's role in the aftermath of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya's ouster has come under greater scrutiny since the March 3 assassination of environmental and indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres. Critics argue that the U.S. push for new elections in the months after the coup helped legitimize the actions of the Honduran military, destabilize the country and pave the way for the extreme violence that followed. Killings of activists like Cáceres and others have become devastatingly common.

But the account Clinton offered of her response to the coup in her memoir Hard Choices was omitted from last year's paperback edition.

In June 2009, Zelaya was overthrown by the Honduran military, ushered out of the presidential palace at gunpoint wearing only his pajamas. Months of protests against the de facto government led by Roberto Micheletti followed. While virtually all Latin American governments condemned the coup and called for Zelaya's restoration, Clinton and the U.S. pushed for elections to bring in a new government -- a position she detailed in the hardcover edition of Hard Choices, published in 2014.

Days after the coup, she wrote, she teamed up with Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa to come up with a response.

"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," Clinton wrote.

But that paragraph -- indeed, the entire two-page discussion of the Honduran coup -- disappeared from the paperback edition. In the paperback version, the chapter on Latin America ends abruptly after a look at the debate over whether Cuba should be included in the Organization of American States. The deletion was first noted in an essay by Belén Fernández in the forthcoming book False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton that was cited in The Nation.

It's a striking cut, given that Zelaya was overthrown just three weeks after Clinton's visit to Honduras for the OAS meeting at which Cuba's membership was debated, which she recounts as the penultimate anecdote of the Latin America chapter.

When asked about the edit, a Clinton spokeswoman pointed The Huffington Post to the front flap of the paperback edition, which notes generally that the text has been trimmed.

"A limited number of sections from the hardcover edition have been cut to accommodate a shorter length for this edition. Those sections remain available in the ebook edition," it says.

The omission seems especially problematic in light of Cacéres' death last week. The high-profile activist was well known for opposing construction of the Agua Zarca Dam, which would have forced indigenous Lenca people to leave land they consider sacred. She was killed by unidentified gunmen after receiving a series of threats.

In the hardcover edition of her memoir, Clinton trumpets the resolution of the coup through a new round of elections as a triumph for regional diplomacy.

Former President Manuel Zelaya returned to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa in May 2011 under an amnesty deal.
Former President Manuel Zelaya returned to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa in May 2011 under an amnesty deal.
Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

Honduras plunged into a period of extreme violence after the coup, as the de facto government suppressed protests with force. Even after a new elected president took office in early 2010, drug cartels exploited the confusion to solidify their control over trafficking routes to the U.S., and political violence made activism a deadly enterprise.

More than 100 environmental and land rights activists like Cáceres were killed in Honduras from 2010 to 2015, according to the British organization Global Witness. The country became the homicide capital of the world for several years, with a murder rate topping 90 per 100,000 at its peak in 2011, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

"Hillary [Clinton] and the State Department only wanted the kind of 'stability' that was convenient for them regardless of what was happening on the ground,” Cáceres' nephew Silvio Carrillo said in an email to HuffPost. "This has not changed today and it is the reason you now have had governments operating with impunity."

Asked about the omission of the coup passage from Clinton's memoir, Carrillo accused her of "attempting to scrub away the blood she's helped to spill along with the Department of Defense and the Department of State."

Cáceres herself cast blame on Clinton for legitimizing the coup after the fact by supporting new elections instead of pressing to restore the Zelaya administration, according to a 2014 video interview unearthed by New York University historian Greg Grandin.

"We were fighting a coup d'etat that we couldn't overcome," Cáceres said. "Those who overthrew the government are still there." She contended that in Hard Choices, Clinton was "practically saying what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates a bad North American interference in our country."

Watch the 2014 interview in Spanish below:

Grandin, who wrote about Clinton's response to the 2009 coup in The Nation last week, told HuffPost that her work on Honduras should be a campaign issue and that the assassination of Cáceres should force a "reckoning with history."

"They legitimated this coup regime," Grandin said. "The U.S. could have adopted a real multilateral position and joined with Brazil, for instance, in demanding the restoration of Zelaya."

Instead, the U.S. opted to sideline Zelaya and back elections that brought in a conservative government. "That's fairly clear between her emails and her own concession in Hard Choices. She took credit for that. Before she was called on it, she was holding it up as a signature achievement," he said.

The emails to which Grandin referred were made public last year and show that Clinton sought to avoid discussing the resolution of the Honduran coup at the OAS, where many regional governments supported Zelaya's restoration, and instead pressed for the mediation she helped arrange in Costa Rica.

Clinton's director of Hispanic media, Jorge Silva, dismissed such criticism as "nonsense," according to Latino USA. Silva said that "Hillary Clinton engaged in active diplomacy that resolved a constitutional crisis and paved the way for legitimate democratic elections."

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