Hillary Lost My Vote in Honduras

I am one of the many young women who to the consternation of so many pundits is just not Ready for Hillary in 2016. And it’s not because I am a bad feminist, it’s because I am judging Hillary Clinton, just as she has asked to be judged, on her record and her foreign policy credentials. I spent nearly five years in Central America working as a cross-border solidarity activist and I now work with immigrants in Massachusetts who have fled the violence in that region. So, I might have been moved by Clinton’s recent pledge to “campaign for human rights” and take on immigration reform. But I have seen first-hand how Clinton failed on that front when top military commanders in Honduras (all men, of course) overthrew its democratically elected president Manual Zelaya in 2009.

Since that military takeover, nearly all sectors of Honduran society—union organizers, farmers and teachers, women and young people, gays, journalists, political activists, anyone who resisted the coup—have faced systematic repression. Honduras has become one the most violent countries in the world not formally engaged in a civil war, and it’s now a leading source of forced migration to the U.S.

President Obama initially criticized Zelaya’s ouster and forced exile as a threat to democracy throughout the region. But the Obama administration, led by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, refused to formally recognize that a military coup had taken place and never cut U.S. military aid to Honduras. Clinton’s State Department even lobbied the Organization of American States, which strongly condemned the coup, to readmit Honduras after its suspension from the OAS. In November 2009, the Administration recognized the election of Porfirio Lobo, even though most opposition parties and major international observers boycotted the election. Since the coup, the U.S. has built two new military bases in Honduras and increased its support and funding for the Honduran military and police.

While living in El Salvador, I participated in four human rights delegations to Honduras and witnessed how the country’s democratic institutions were destroyed by the military takeover and its aftermath. During each visit, we interviewed multiple victims of physical threats, beatings, kidnappings, and imprisonment and heard stories about growing government corruption.

In November of 2013, I was part of a group of 40 international observers from El Salvador and the U.S. who traveled to Honduras together to observe the presidential elections. In this national election, Xiomara Castro, the wife of Manuel Zelaya, ran with wide public support. However, as Rights Action reported, more than 30 candidates of her new left-wing party, Libre, were murdered or suffered violent attacks in the run up to the election. The common refrain we heard among poor Hondurans before the day of the big vote was, ‘Xiomara will win, if they let her’.“They” did no such thing, of course. Instead, the right wing candidate, Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the winner, even though numerous international groups observing the election found evidence of vote buying, intimidation and other irregularities.

Here in Chelsea, MA, where I work with Latino immigrants, you can see the legacy of Clinton’s stance on Honduras. Like many cities throughout the U.S. with large Central American populations, Chelsea has received a huge wave of unaccompanied minors and mothers with children since 2014. Many are escaping the poverty and gang violence that has become so much worse in Honduras since the 2009 coup.

When asked about this “border crisis” in 2014, Hillary Clinton told CNN that these children and families “should be sent back”. She also recommended beefing up border security within Mexico, which the Obama administration has indeed funded. The result? The journey through Mexico is even more perilous and hundreds more mothers and children are being caught in Mexico, held for weeks in local jails, and sent right back to the violence they are trying to escape.

Clinton has yet to acknowledge the consequences of the 2009 coup. In her debate with Sanders on Feb. 11 in Wisconsin, she again acted tough about unaccompanied minors, saying they should be deported to “send a message” to their families back home, as if this continuing exodus was simply the product of bad parenting. Sanders rightly chided her, arguing that children fleeing Central American violence should be welcomed and assisted instead.

I would love to have a female foreign policy expert and human rights crusader as the next president of the United States, but Clinton’s chance to prove herself as such and send a strong message to our neighbors to the south was back in 2009. If Hillary Clinton had stood up for democracy in Central America then, maybe we wouldn’t have so many Central American immigrants today trying desperately to enter and stay in the U.S. , because more of them would be able to survive in their home countries.

SuperTuesday Kicks Off in U.S. Primaries

Coveted Super Tuesday for aspirants of Democrat and Republican nominations started today very early in the state of Vermont, a definition exercise for those who participate in this process.

A great number of delegates are at stake in only one day in 11 states (12 for Republicans) and in the archipelago of American Samoa (only Democrats), which can reiterate the favoritism for Donald Trump on the red side or for Hillary Clinton of the blue party.

Besides, the result of today can determine that an independent candidacy may turn up among conservatives to put a stop to Trump who has no sympathy inside the party establishment.

This Tuesday there are votes in Alabama, Alaska (only Republicans), Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Clinton should confirm her thrust after her overwhelming victory in South Carolina and should go out the big door in most of the contests with close forecasts in Massachusetts and Vermont, where her rival, senator Bernie Sanders, is favorite in the surveys.

On the red side, the New York tycoon can have good results in most of the states where his campaign will be present, including in Texas, where he is strongly opposed by federal senator Ted Cruz, who represents that state in the Capitol, but he should receive the vote of most of the 155 delegates at stake. The Republicans will look for 595 delegates in 11 states of the two thousand 472 delegates who will attend the National Convention in July in Cleveland, Ohio.

While the two candidates of the party in government will try to obtain 865 delegates of the four thousand 763 who will go to Philadelphia in July to nominate their representative to the November presidentials, without the fact there are 150 superdelegate, 80 per cent of which are inclined to the former First Lady.

In this round of the primaries, the vote of Afroamericans and Latinos, especially those of the southern states, will be fundamental in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas amd Virginia.

In Texas, for example, there is a latino population of five million with right to vote (28 percent), while in Colorado, the percentage of electors suited to vote is of Latin American origin.

However, in these primaries the members of the biggest minority of the country reserve themselves for the November elections and their attendance to the ballot boxes may be less.

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Top Cuban Diplomat Warns Blockade Against Cuba Remains in Full Force

Josefina Vidal, Director General for the United States in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, warned that Washington's over 50-year economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba remains in full force and thorough enforcement.

In her Twitter account, Josefina Vidal noted that a U.S. company has been fined for trading with Cuba, confirming that the blockade remains in force.

This time, the U.S. Halliburton Corporation -- which specializes in oil field services -- must pay over 304,000 dollars for a 2011 commercial exchange with Cuba Petroleo Company in a oil drilling project in Cabinda, Angola.

Just days ago, on February 22nd, the United States Treasury Department had imposed a $614,250 fine on the French oil group CGG Services S.A. for violating regulations of Washington's blockade against Cuba.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry has warned that such sanctions are designed to deter companies from the U.S. and other nations from doing business with Cuba, and has reaffirmed the need to eliminate the blockade and advance in restoring bilateral relations.

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A Texas university dean is leaving over the state’s new law allowing guns in classrooms

Fritz Steiner, longtime dean of the University of Texas at Austin’s renowned architecture school, is leaving his post, spurred by the arrival of something else on the university’s sprawling campus: guns.

News of Steiner’s resignation was announced by UT-Austin today (Feb. 25). In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Steiner said he “would have never applied for another job” if Texas’s governor hadn’t signed a law last year that will soon allow people to carry concealed handguns inside college classrooms all over the state. While private universities can opt out of the new rule—which goes into effect this August—public universities like the UT system cannot. So, in a few months, any licensed gun holder who is 21 or older will be able to carry concealed firearms into these schools’ buildings.

“I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn’t believe in,” Steiner told the Tribune.

Steiner will join the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design as its dean this summer. He declined to apply for the position at Penn the last time it was open, he said, but Texas’s new campus carry law pushed him to say yes this time around.

With Steiner at the helm since 2001, UT-Austin’s architecture school regularly ranked among the top in the nation.

Steiner isn’t the only faculty member uncomfortable over the campus carry law. UT-Austin president Gregory L. Fenves strongly opposes it—but is enforcing it out of public obligation to the state, he has said. Over at the University of Houston, also a public university subject to the new law, a controversy is stirring over a slideshow presentation given to faculty members advising them how to deal with “dangers” presented by armed students. Said Jonathan Snow, the president of the school’s faculty senate, “It’s a terrible state of affairs…We are horrified that we have to change how we teach. No one in higher ed wants this.”

Nine states across the US now allow guns on campus. On the flip side, 21 states have laws expressly prohibiting guns on campus; but eight of these have exceptions for guns stored in locked vehicles. The increased prevalence of gun allowance on American college campuses is a reality that, for faculty and students (not least those from outside the US), will require some adjustments.

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