Honduras: Do feminists support coups?

Berta Caceres (pictured) was a indigenous and environmentalist activist murdered in her own home on March 3. Since the US-backed

United States Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has built her campaign around her self-proclaimed dedication to fighting for women's rights, as well as her superior experience in the realm of foreign policy.

Many feminists have disputed her claims, and the women on the receiving end of her foreign policy, particularly in Latin America, are even less likely to see the former Secretary of State as a champion of their rights.

United States Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has built her campaign around her self-proclaimed dedication to fighting for women's rights, as well as her superior experience in the realm of foreign policy.

Many feminists have disputed her claims, and the women on the receiving end of her foreign policy, particularly in Latin America, are even less likely to see the former Secretary of State as a champion of their rights.

For Honduran feminist artist Melissa Cardoza, Clinton's policy in Central America has shown her true colours as an instrument of empire representing patriarchal, not feminist, ideology.

“As is well known, [Clinton] supported the coup d'etat in my country, which has sunk a very worthy and bleeding land further into abject poverty, violence, and militarism,” Cardoza said of Clinton's legacy in Honduras.

“She is part of those who consider only some lives to be legitimate, obviously not rebel women and women of colour that live here and who do not, at least not all, fit in with imperial interests.”

In 2009, when Clinton was Secretary of State, the US backed a coup against elected left-wing president Manuel Zelaya, whose government raised the minimum wage US corporations in the country had to pay, among other policies.

Cardoza added that so-called feminists calling on women to support Clinton should be warned against voting solely on the basis of identity politics, and be aware of the neoliberal lining of Clinton's agenda.

“Sure, there is a very neoliberal feminism … it's those who think they can humanise the most violent way of life of heinous, criminal, ecocidal capitalism,” she said.

In Honduras, women suffer widespread gender violence amid a broader crisis of human rights, fuelled by ever-increasing militarisation and impunity since the coup against Zelaya.

Under Clinton, the US State Department aided the coup by blocking Zelaya from returning to power after he was ousted.

In her autobiography Hard Choices, Clinton admits that she used her power to bring pro-US “stability” to Central America, even if it meant forgetting about democracy.

“We strategised 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,” Clinton wrote.

Those “free and fair” elections entailed a media blackout, targeted assassinations of anti-coup leaders, and a generalised and grave deterioration of human rights ahead of the polls. No international institutions monitored the elections.

Neesa Medina of the Honduran Women's Rights Centre told TeleSUR that the coup has had a lasting impact on the human rights situation in the country, particularly with respect to women.

“The 2009 coup had repercussions for sexual and reproductive rights for Honduran women,” said Medina. She said she did not want to be partisan, in terms of US electoral politics, but wished to shed light on the impact US politics has on women in Latin America.

“As a member of a feminist organisation severely affected by the support of the US for militaristic policies of recent governments, I must say that it is important that voters take the time to do a critical structural analysis of all of the information in the campaign proposals and previous actions of those running for president,” she said.

“United States support for militarily invasive policies in other countries has a negative impact on the women in these countries.”

Cardoza agreed that Honduran women have suffered gravely from US policies, including those pursued by the State Department under Clnton's watch.

“The current dictatorship under [President Juan Orlando] Hernandez is part of her creation,” said Cardoza. “The misery doesn't just affect women with more brutality, but also our bodies are exposed to the militarist ideology with which they uphold poverty and kill us; to the conservative fundamentalism with which they deny the exercise of our sexual autonomy; and to the possibility of being creative people and not just workers for their factories and way of life.”

Cardoza said the actions of “Clinton and her white, rich, neoliberal and patriarchal friends” has created a situation in Honduras that has pushed movements to be more radical in their struggles to resist oppression.

In Honduras, the femicide rate rose by more than 260% between 2005 and 2013. In 2014 alone, at least 513 women were murdered, and last year one woman was killed every 16 hours.

The country earned the moniker of “murder capital of the world” in the wake of the 2009 coup, with 15 assaults a month now perpetrated against journalists, human rights defenders and the political opposition. Honduras is also now considered the most dangerous place in the world for defenders of the environment.

What is more, the coup ushered in neoliberal policies of sweeping privatisation, making Honduras “open for business” to US and transnational companies, at the expense of workers and a self-sufficient economy.

In light of an ongoing economic crisis and rampant, systemic violence, especially against women, thousands of Hondurans have fled north toward the US border, only to be pushed back again, with Clinton's approval.

It is for that reason — helping spur the violence and denying shelter to its victims — that Clinton's brand of feminism fails to resonate with most Honduran women.

“Being a woman is not enough to emancipate yourself or others,” Cardoza said. “Awareness and practices need to accompany the words.”

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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