‘The coup turned Honduras into hell’: President Manuel Zelaya on 10th anniversary of overthrow by US
Information Claringhouse – July 01, 2019
Overthrown Honduran president: US-backed coup fueled migrant caravan.
The Grayzone’s Anya Parampil sat down for an exclusive interview with Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, on the 10th anniversary of the US-backed right-wing military coup that overthrew him.
We discussed the extreme violence, drug trafficking, economic depression, migration crisis, Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), WikiLeaks, Venezuela, and more.
Nineteen-year-old taxi driver Diego is not interested in politics. But his hometown of El Progreso—a transit hub in central Honduras, where everyone seems to have a friend or relative who has “gone north” to the US—has long been a hotbed of popular resistance. In 1954, workers here launched a 69-day strike that challenged the United Fruit Company and briefly brought the country to a political and economic standstill.
In November 2017, it was allegations of fraud in the country’s recent presidential election that drew demonstrators to the streets. On one of those days, Diego dropped a passenger near where anti-government protests were slated to take place. He had been driving his taxi all morning and decided to take a break and check out the action nearby. Moments after he got out of his car, Diego found himself in the path of a phalanx of Honduran security forces marching through a cloud of tear gas. Before he could process what was going on, they began firing live rounds into the crowd. A bullet struck Diego’s lower leg as he ran away. (VICE has changed names and certain details to protect the identities of Diego and his family.)
Diego’s older brother Raúl was participating in the protests, and took Diego to the hospital, where they found medical staff overwhelmed by an influx of people in need of emergency care. As they waited outside, a police patrol arrived and began accusing injured protestors of being gang members. “They tried to drag us into their cars and threatened to take the phones of anyone who tried to film them,” explained Raúl. It was only after doctors intervened that the police relented. “I don’t think they would have taken us to jail. I think we would have disappeared,” he continued. “That’s how they silence you.”
“They,” in this case, are the security forces that answer to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, an impeccably coiffed Latin American politician straight out of central casting. His pro-business, World Bank and International Monetary Fund–approved vision for Honduras, combined with his preference for a militarized approach to the war on drugs, has made him a favorite within certain US policy circles. The country has received more than $70 million in security assistance from the US since his election in 2014, according to data collected by the Center for International Policy. When President Donald Trump’s current chief of staff, John Kelly, served as head of the US military’s Southern Command during the Obama administration, he praised Hernández for his record on human rights, anti-corruption, and tackling drug trafficking.
Human rights and anti-corruption groups have documented just the opposite. The organization Human Rights Watch, for example, describes Honduras under Hernández as a place where “impunity for crime and human rights abuses is the norm.” A two-year investigation by watchdog group Global Witness concluded that Honduras is the deadliest country in the world for environmental activists, writing in 2017, “Nowhere are you more likely to be killed for standing up to companies that grab land and trash the environment than in Honduras.” Even the normally measured Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has gone so far as to label Honduras a country where “corruption is the operating system” and “repression is carefully targeted for maximum psychological effect.”
Several members of Hernández’s National Party, including the son of his like-minded predecessor, have been implicated in drug trafficking. Last year, a leader of the Cachiros, a drug cartel that specialized in transporting Colombian cocaine through Honduras, testified in a New York court that Hernández’s brother was directly involved in their operations.
That deadly political climate has contributed to anti-government protests, as well as the decision by at least 350,000 Hondurans in the last ten years—including at least 52,000 unaccompanied minors in the last five—to make the perilous journey through Guatemala and Mexico in order to reach the US. Those numbers are conservative estimates provided to VICE by Stephanie Leutert, the director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas, who tracks migration trends in the region.
Among those who have left are Hondurans in the caravan of a few thousand migrants currently making their way through Mexico to the US border, enduring brutal conditions and suffering under rain and hot sun with little protection. “It’s even worse in Honduras,” one mother of four in the caravan told VICE News earlier this week.
Much of the narrative about why so many Hondurans risk everything to migrate focuses on astronomical homicide rates and gang violence perpetrated by groups like Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, and a similar gang called Barrio 18. While those arriving in the US are indeed often fleeing gang activity, and young people deported back to Honduras do risk forced recruitment or becoming victims, gang violence is only one part of the broader system that drives people to leave their homes.
Interviews in Honduras with close to 40 human rights and environmental activists, lawyers, opposition leaders, citizens in hiding, and friends and family of those who have disappeared or been assassinated tell a much more complicated, disquieting story of why people leave. In the last nine years, Honduras has morphed into something that defies neat categorization: a narco-kleptocracy of sorts, operating under the guise of privatization and deregulation, where politicians, business elites, and organized crime oversee a system of governance predicated on corruption, violence, and impunity in order to enrich themselves and terrorize their opponents.
And at almost every turn, this system has been enabled and at times encouraged by the US government.
In the run-up to the November 2017 presidential election, few thought that Salvador Nasralla, a sportscaster and TV personality tapped by a coalition of opposition parties to run under the banner of anti-corruption, could pose a serious challenge to Hernández. Yet early returns on election day, November 26, indicated that he was poised to pull off the upset.
When Nasralla appeared to be pulling away, holding a 5 percent lead with 70 percent of the vote reported, the country’s electoral commission, mostly staffed by Hernández appointees, decided to stop broadcasting the tabulations altogether.
A 36-hour blackout of voting results ensued, and amid the controversy Honduran security forces resorted to tear gas, live ammunition, and arrests to crack down on protestors and impose a curfew. José Luis Ortiz had never been involved in politics before because “they are all equally corrupt,” but he was one of the tens of thousands of Hondurans who took to the streets to protest. “We knew they wanted to steal the elections and they did,” Ortiz explained from the courtyard of his family home in El Progreso. “That’s why I decided to protest, out of conviction.” At the end of that evening, Ortiz would find himself fighting for his life in an emergency room after Honduran security forces fired a tear gas canister into his face from a distance of less than ten feet.
When publication of the results resumed and as votes continued to trickle in, it was Hernández who suddenly—and improbably, according to local and outside experts—held a slim but insurmountable lead.
The election commission declared Hernández the winner. The opposition cried foul. Election monitors from the European Union and Organization for American States (OAS) identified several irregularities, the latter calling for new elections, citing “deliberate human intrusions in the computer system” and clear indications of vote tampering.
In the weeks that followed, the Committee for the Relatives of the Disappeared, a human rights organization known by its Spanish acronym COFADEH, documented a major uptick in political violence: 30 assassinations, 232 wounded or injured, and over 1,085 detained, in addition to people who had been displaced, gone into hiding, or disappeared.
When I met with Diego and Raúl in their family home in February, Diego was still in a cast so that his torn tendons and bone fractures could heal. He sat despondent and clearly traumatized, only muttering a few words. His grandmother said they have not filed a formal complaint with the government. “We are too scared because the repercussions will come,” she said.
According to Raúl, the only option is for the family save several thousand dollars to hire a coyote—a smuggler—to take Diego to the US. “He can’t stay here. The police have all his information,” he explained. “So, we are just waiting for him to recover and to get him out of the country as soon as possible.” Hopefully Diego can make his way to Tennessee, where their mother has been living as an undocumented immigrant for eight years.
Applying for asylum while still in Honduras, the family says, is not a viable option. “The formal processes take too long and it is too dangerous to wait. That’s the reality,” Raúl said, explaining that collecting evidence to prove they are at risk is too dangerous as it would likely draw the attention of the authorities. As Raúl offered his thoughts on the situation, a local lawyer who wanted to hear the family’s story nodded along, providing unspoken acknowledgement that Raúl’s assessment is spot on.
“We can’t see any way out other than going illegally,” Raúl concluded.
Despite the widespread allegations of fraud and calls for a new vote, the US State Department decided to recognize Hernández as the winner of the 2017 election, even as it acknowledged the irregularities identified by the EU and OAS. For human rights activists who have been systemically targeted throughout the Hernández presidency, the US endorsement was a predictable, if demoralizing, outcome.
“If this had happened in Venezuela, there would have been an intervention. But because it happened in Honduras, a country of servitude to their [US] interests, they say, ‘Well, you know, there were irregularities, but these things happen,’” said Bertha Isabel Zúñiga Cáceres.
Zúñiga Cáceres’s mother, the world-renowned environmental activist Berta Cáceres, was assassinated two years ago inside her home. A team of international lawyers concluded that state agents and high-ranking business executives were involved in the planning, execution, and subsequent coverup of her murder, but two and a half years and several delays later, those accused of her murder have yet to face trial.
“They [the US] want to keep a stability that is actually nonexistent in this country,” Zúñiga Cáceres said from the small office in the town of La Esperanza, where she carries on her mother’s legacy of environmental activism.
For Salvador Nasralla, who went to bed on election night believing he could be the next president of Honduras, the motives behind US support for Hernández are obvious.
“They know that Juan Orlando Hernández is a bad guy,” Nasralla said, a day after a previous interview was cut short amid tear gas en route to the stadium where Hernández was being sworn in for his second term. “He is a person who abides by the US because the United States keeps a tight grip on him. So, the US uses the old logic: This man is a bad guy, but he is our bad guy.”
From sponsoring coups on behalf of US business interests in the first half of the 20th century to funding proxy wars and death squads during the Cold War, the United States has worked with its fair share of anti-democratic forces in Central America. And while the justification and rationale behind US involvement in the region are still widely debated in policy circles, few could deny that the current trajectory of Honduras is inextricably linked to US foreign policy.
When Bertha Oliva helped found the aforementioned COFADEH in the 1980s, it was in response to 182 persons who had been forcibly “disappeared” by the Honduran military between 1980 and 1982. Among those who disappeared was her husband, Tomás Nativí, who spoke out against the US-supported military government.
Nativí also denounced the presence of US military forces in Honduras, who used the country in the 1980s as a staging ground from which it could coordinate its efforts to combat left-wing insurgencies throughout the region. Even today, Honduras remains a country where, to quote State Department official Tom Shannon, writing in a 2009 diplomatic cable urging a coordinated US response to the coup, the US has “big military equities.”
Oliva has been fighting for human rights, and receiving death threats and harassment because of it, ever since she started seeking justice for her husband’s disappearance. Her life’s work is, in many ways, devoted to documenting the repercussions of US interventions that she said “linger and haven’t left.”
Even MS-13, which the Trump administration constantly cites as a reason to block Central American asylum seekers from entering the US, is an American export. Journalists who have studied the group closely, such as Óscar Martinez and Iaon Grillo, trace MS-13’s roots to Los Angeles in the 1970s, when immigrant teens from El Salvador, trying to carve out their own identity among other immigrant populations, began smoking weed and listening to rock music together. The group transformed into a criminal outfit in the 1980s amid an influx of Salvadoran immigrants fleeing a brutal civil war between the US-backed Salvadoran military government and a coalition of left-wing guerrillas.
Although a parallel MS-13 presence existed in El Salvador, it was only until the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which resulted in the deportation from the US of tens of thousands of documented and undocumented immigrants with criminal records, that MS-13 and Barrio 18 became international phenomena, spreading to other countries in Central America, including Honduras.
In 2006, Hondurans elected Manuel “Mel” Zelaya president. Despite being elected as the candidate of the center-right Liberal Party, he embarked upon an ambitious and unapologetically progressive agenda while in office. He raised the minimum wage, increased subsidies to farmers, guaranteed free schooling to Honduran children, and expanded access to healthcare. Although his administration stood accused of corruption and mismanagement of public funds, Zelaya’s poverty reduction programs represented a glimmer of hope for many Hondurans who had been on the on the losing end of the privatization and structural adjustment policies that had defined the previous two decades.
Zelaya’s leftward turn drew the ire of Honduran business elites, and his decision to join the Venezuelan-led Petrocaribe oil alliance—along with suggestions that the US military presence be reconsidered—spooked the Latin American right and its North American allies. His presidency was cut short when the Honduran military showed up at the presidential palace one morning, arrested him, and flew him to neighboring Costa Rica, stopping to refuel at the Soto Cano air base, where 600 US troops were stationed. The military tried to justify the kidnapping and forced exile of its own president by claiming that Zelaya was planning to change the Honduran constitution to run for a second term.
Saturday, April 21st. – 10 Trinity Sq. @ 6 PM
Every year in April, LACSN celebrates Solidarity Month with our communities and the world. This year, we are proud to team up with many organizations, host events, and support others who are defending their rights and those of others. LACSN’s theme for this month is “In defense of”, we stand shoulder to shoulder with organizations, individuals, and states who defend their different causes. We launched the month with the panel discussion “Canada vs. Venezuela”.
From defending their land in Palestine to the water defenders in Honduras to earth defenders on Turtle Island, to the defense of sovereignty and autonomy in Venezuela. We stand with all those who struggle to stand for what they believe in, in defense of their cause, we stand with our brothers and sisters, and honor them on this month of April 2018.
As such we invite you to join us to “Tribute to the Land Defenders” as we celebrate the life of those who were killed defending the natural resources of Mother Earth in Latin America and beyond, against mining, hydroelectric and agro-industries among others. We also want to demonstrate our solidarity with those who have been criminalized for the same struggles.
April 6, 2018
Two Right-Wing Coups in the Americas
You’ve got to hand it to Hillary Clinton. In 2016, she helped put the right-wing racist, sexist, nativist, authoritarian, and nationalist oligarch Donald Trump in the White House. She and her operatives did this in two ways: (1) by rigging the presidential primaries against the popular progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders, the Democrats’ best chance to prevail over Trump; (2) by mounting a dreadfully uninspiring and transparently tone-deaf, neoliberal general election campaign – a reflection of her massive funding by the nation’s corporate and financial establishment, including big business money normally slated for Republican presidential candidates.
It was the second time in seven-and-a-half years that Hillary had helped install an authoritarian, racist, oligarchic and right-wing government in the Americas. In the spring of 2009, she had used her position as Barack Obama’s first Secretary of State to help the right-wing Honduran military and business class overthrow the democratically elected government of Honduras’s then president Manuel Zelaya. Mrs. Clinton did this because she was a right-wing corporate and imperial Democrat who naturally opposed Zelaya’s shift to the populist left. She was irritated by his opposition to the United States-led so-called War on Drugs. She did not like his call for the United States’ large Honduran Air Force base to be turned into a civilian airport. She hated his movement toward alliance and cooperation with left-populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. She disdained Zelaya’s efforts to overcome the interrelated problems of Honduran poverty, Honduran inequality, and Honduras’s long neocolonial subordination to Washington.
With the approval of Mrs. Clinton and her boss Obama, the Honduran military seized Zelaya at gunpoint and exiled him to Costa Rica in his pajamas. After the coup, sold on preposterously false legal and constitutional grounds for which Hillary provided political cover, the new Honduran regime staged a rigged election that placed the clownish, racist, and right-wing landowner Porfirio “Pepe Lobo Sosa” in the Honduran presidency. Madame Secretary Clinton hailed this farce as a “free, fair, and democratic election with a peaceful transition of power.” Never mind that the election proceeded amidst interim coup president Roberto Micheletti’s suspension of basic civil liberties and in a climate of harsh police-state intimidation. Later, as Diana Johnstone noted in her book Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, “The governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela refused to recognize the result, but Washington was content…President Lobo described his regime as a ‘government of national reconciliation.’ Hillary Clinton [deplorably] praised it as a ‘resumption of democratic and constitutional government.’”
The results were not pretty: murderous paramilitary repression of peasants, workers, trade unionists, feminists, and intellectuals; a deepening of mass poverty; assassinations of opposition candidates; expanded corruption and gang violence; “social cleansing” of poor children; a massive flight of unaccompanied minors to Mexico and the U.S. in 2014. And the purported “children’s advocate” Hillary Clinton called for the closing of U.S. borders to thousands of children fleeing the vicious regime she helped impose on Honduras. As the Central American child migrant crisis became front-page news in the summer of 2014, Hillary called for most of the tens of thousands of children and teenagers seeking refuge to be sent back to the miserable conditions they had fled in their home countries. “We have to send a clear message,” Clinton deplorably told a CNN town hall: “just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean your child gets to stay.” So what if half or more of the kids showing up at U.S. border could have qualified for humanitarian protection under international and US law?
Never Mind: “The Caravans are Coming!”
Here we are nine years after the U.S.-backed overthrow of Zelaya. The newly emboldened “America First” nationalist Donald Trump has just this week warned the U.S. citizenry to watch out for criminal and asylum-seeking Central American hordes. “The Caravans are coming,” El Donito Tweeted at the start of the week. He fretted about how “our country is being stolen” by illegal immigration, blaming Democrats for feckless border policies and urging Mexico to bar “these large ‘Caravans’ of people.”
The Great God Trump saw it on FOX News: a marching mass of Central Americans approaching to “take advantage of DACA” and “our weak border security.” The brown-skinned horde wants, Trump claimed, to exploit “liberal [Democrat] laws like Catch and Release.”
This, Trump said, is why we need a big beautiful border Wall – to block evil marauders like these caravan creeps before they bring their devilish drugs and criminality to stop Hair Fuhrer from “Making America Great Again.”
Since the Democrats have blocked the Wall, Trump said, “DACA is dead,” and the U.S. military will have to be deployed to secure the border. It’s time to take a stand!
Never mind that Mexico and Central America are parts of “America” too – and that people from south of the U.S. border are Americans who also want to live “great” lives, or at least to get away from crushing terror and poverty.
Never mind that the “large caravan” Trump thinks he saw on FOX News will probably number 700 people or less by the time it reaches northern Mexico – if it ever does (Subsequent reports indicate that the caravan will stop south of Mexico City).
Forget the moronic nature of the idea that anyone would enter the U.S. in 2018 to “take advantage of DACA,” a federal policy that applies only to immigrant children brought to the country by undocumented parents before 2007.
Forget how sadistic it is for the orange-tinted beast to make Dreamers’ chances of remaining in the only country they know as home depend on Congress’s willingness to back a racist Wall most of the U.S. population rejects.
Forget that it was a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who started building a physical wall on the U.S. southern border, in anticipation of the flood of Mexican migrants expected to result from the North American Free Trade Agreement’s devastating impact on Mexican farmers.
Forget that there’s no “catch and release” edicts in U.S. immigration law.
Forget that very few among the 1200 or so Central American migrants travelling in what is now an annual Easter time caravan through Mexico have any intention of seeking asylum in the U.S. (As KCUR radio reported three days ago, “The annual event organized by activists” is “designed to keep migrants safe and share information about their rights” inside Mexico.)
Forget that the number of “illegal immigrants” caught at the U.S. border (310,000 last year, down from a peak of 1.6 million in 2000) is currently at its lowest level since 1971.
Forget that the Caravan marchers are running away from drug violence and organized crime, among other scourges, in countries that have been ravaged by U.S. policy (including U.S. foreign, political, economic, military, drug, and climate policy) for decades.
Put all that Trumpian madness aside for a moment and reflect on Hillary and the Obama administration’s role in generating the annual ragged and desperate march of deeply impoverished Central Americans through Mexico. Most of the caravan participants that Washington’s Orange Dotard railed against are Hondurans fleeing repression, violence, and extreme poverty imposed by a right-wing regime Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama helped put in place in the spring of 2009 – a government the U.S. has funded and equipped ever since.
Organized caravans of largely Honduran Central American migrants have been marching across Mexico since 2010. Why since that year? Primarily because of the U.S-backed Honduran coup, which unleashed mass violence against ordinary Hondurans and Honduran activists.
The repression continues through the present, seen in “the violent [Honduran] suppression of political protests that erupted after last year’s presidential election” (New York Times, April 2, 2018) – more bloody cruelty from the malicious regime Hillary aided and abetted nine years ago. The 2017 Honduran election was transparently rigged to keep the military coup regime in power. That’s why many of the caravan marchers can be heard chanting “Fuera JOH” (“Out JOH”) a reference to the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, whose right wing National Party fixed the vote in his favor. The Trump administration nonetheless immediately recognized the results as legitimate, waiving off calls to cut off U.S. military and economic assistance to the Honduran government on human rights grounds – this while the Honduran military imposed a national curfew and a state of emergency.
Playing to the Amerikaner Roseanne Base
Why did Trump go ape-shit over the caravan this week? Because his favorite white nationalist television network has been highlighting the mass march and thanks to political calculations leading up to the mid-term elections this year. As the New York Times reports: “Stung by a backlash from his conservative supporters [e.g, the sallow neo-Nazi Anne Coulter] over his embrace of a trillion-dollar-plus spending measure that did not fund his promised border wall, and lacking a legislative initiative to champion with the approach of midterm congressional elections this fall, Mr. Trump has reverted to the aggressive anti-immigration messaging that powered his presidential campaign…”
He’s playing to his basebase. He’s counting on its white-nationalist Amerikaner loyalty to the cult of Trump (with the revolting right-wing conspiracy nut and former progressive icon Roseanne Barr as a leading Kool Aid drinker) to combine with Republican gerrymandering, racist voter suppression, the reach of the vast right-wing media ecosphere (including the vast Sinclair broadcast network as well as FOX, right-wing talk radio, and Breitbart et al.), a tight job market, the frazzled electorate’s inability to follow Rachel Maddow and Robert Mueller’s (and Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s) endless and complex RussiaGate detective story, and the dismal and elitist nothingness of the neoliberal Democrats (the nation’s Inauthentic Opposition and Fake Resistance leaders) to keep Congress impeachment-proofed in 2019 and 2020.
MoveOn and Off That Page
Look for “liberal [Democrat]” pundits and politicos to deride Trump’s military deployment on the border while conveniently failing to mention that President Barack “Deporter-in-Chief” Obama sent 1,200 National Guardsmen (in “Operation Phalanx”) to patrol the southern border in 2010.
It’s okay whenyourparty and president do nativist, nationalist, and other nasty things. It’s deplorable when presidents from the bad other of the only two electorally viable and (by the way) capitalist-imperialist U.S. political parties do those things. Which reminds me, are you concerned about Russian interference in U.S. politics? Here’s a curious passage you can expect “liberal [Democrat]” pundits and politicos to disregard in Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s new book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump:
“The day after …Russian spies were arrested [on June 27, 2010], Bill Clinton arrived in Moscow to deliver the keynote speech at a conference sponsored by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment banking firm with links to the Kremlin. Clinton was paid a whopping $500,000 for his ninety-minute appearance, which drew an audience of top Russian government officials. Though his wife was secretary of state, the former president had not curbed his lucrative overseas speech-making, even when the gigs were underwritten by groups that might have interests before the State Department…In the case of Renaissance Capital, the firm at that time was promoting a stock offering of a company called Uranium One—a mining firm that controlled about 20 percent of uranium production capacity within the United States. And Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, was in the process of purchasing a controlling interest in Uranium One, pending approval of a U.S. government foreign investment review board on which Hillary Clinton sat with eight other senior U.S. officials…Around the time of the Uranium One deal, the company chairman’s family foundation donated about $2.35 million to Clinton Foundation programs.”
Huh. Oh well. Turn the page. Good Democrats know that all good Americans need to move on, I mean MoveOn, from that kind of Old News.
I suppose we ought to be grateful to “liberal [Clinton Democrats]” Isikoff and Corn for honestly including that information in their new volume. I recall hearing Corn on National Public Radio when the big marches took place against the Inauguration of Trump. He didn’t think ragged anarchists, Marxists, and other suspect sorts who hadn’t been able to make themselves vote for the “lying neoliberal warmonger” (Adolph Reed, Jr’s accurate phrase, not Corn’s) and proud former Goldwater Girl Hillary Clinton had any right to be in the streets. That was like telling people that they couldn’t oppose the Gambino crime family if they didn’t openly support the Bonanno crime family.
I wonder: if Hillary had run a better campaign and fended off the Trump-Steve Bannon-Robert Mercer-Sheldon Adelson assault in the late summer and fall of 2016, would a Clinton45 presidency now be facing Congressional inquiries into its ugly Russian entanglements while monitoring caravan movements driven by the ugly regime Mrs. Clinton helped create in Tegucigalpa in 2009?
Single-Payer Caravan to Canada?
I would roll out a welcome mat to any Central American caravans who make it to the U.S. upper Midwest. Perhaps I would ask them to accompany me on a trek to Canada, home to the single-payer national health insurance that most U.S.-Americans want and deserve. That’s the insurance system Harvard medical professor David Himmelstein, head of Physicians for a National Health Program, tried to tell First Lady Hillary Clinton about when she headed the White House’s health reform initiative in 1993. Himmelstein related the remarkable possibilities of a comprehensive, single-payer “Canadian-style” health plan, supported by more than two-thirds of the U.S. public. Beyond backing by a citizen super-majority, Himmelstein noted, single-payer would provide comprehensive coverage to the nation’s 40 million uninsured while retaining free choice in doctor selection and being certified by the Congressional Budget Office as “the most cost-effective plan on offer.”
Hillary responded by dismissing Himmelstein with a weary and exasperated comment: “David, tell me something interesting.” There was no dishonesty in Hillary’s remark. Consistent with her neoliberal world view, she really was bored and irritated by Himmelstein’s pitch. Along with the big insurance companies they deceptively railed against, the Clintons decided from the start to exclude the popular, social-democratic health insurance alternative (single-payer) from the national health care “discussion.” (Obama would do the exact same thing in 2009.) What the First Lady deplorably advanced instead of the Canadian system that bored her was a hopelessly complex, secretly developed and corporatist system called “managed competition.”
We have our own oligarchs in the United States – and a richly bipartisan permanent political class dedicated to serving those oligarchs. Maye we should start a caravan, if we’re not too busy working multiple low-wage jobs in the “booming” economy owned and operating for the United States’ corporate oligarchy.