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Central American dictators use Jerusalem to sway U.S. policy

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Here’s the latest debacle for the United States in Central America, the region that has already sent several hundred thousand refugees fleeing northward. On Friday, a New York court found the brother of Honduras’s dictator guilty of drug trafficking. Angry anti-regime demonstrations erupted all over Honduras, but the U.S. showed no sign that it will abandon the dictator, Juan Orlando Hernández. (A poor New York Times article rattled on at unnecessary length about the specifics of the case, but took until paragraph 24 to briefly point out that the Hernández regime is sustained by Washington.)

What’s the Israel connection? First, let’s be clear; the U.S. all by itself has promoted one crisis after another across Central America since back in the 1980s, when the Reagan administration supported and financed right-wing allies in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua who murdered tens of thousands of their countrymen who were only struggling for a better life.

And back in 2009, before Donald Trump was anywhere near the White House, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tacitly approved a right-wing coup d’etat in Honduras, in which the elected president was kidnapped and flown out of the country.

But Trump has given the Israel/Central America connection a new twist. Right-wing governments there recognized that if they supported Israel, including moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, they could score big points in Washington. First, Guatemala. In 2015, mass protests had forced the government to agree to an independent investigative agency to root out widespread corruption. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Cicig) was supported by the United Nations, with some U.S. financial help, and it quickly produced results, including imprisoning a former president.

The Guatemalan elite wised up. In May 2018, Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem, and the billionaire pro-Israel gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson even used his private Boeing 767 jetliner to fly the Guatemalan delegation to Israel for the ceremony.

The Trump administration loved this pro-Israel gesture. So when the Guatemalan president abolished the anti-corruption probe (it closed down last month), the U.S. said nothing.

Israel may also be a factor in the shameful U.S. policy toward Honduras. In November 2017, the current president, Hernández, stole the presidential election, and the U.S. dishonestly endorsed the rigged results, even though observers from the Organization of American States had found so many irregularities that they recommended a re-vote. Honduras had learned that a way to Trump’s heart was through Israel, and in December 2017 it cast one of only 9 votes against a United Nations resolution that condemned the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

Honduras lately opened a trade office in Jerusalem, and the Israeli prime minister has proclaimed that the country is on its way to opening an embassy there.

(Israeli arms sales have also long been a destabilizing factor in Central America. So it was no surprise when the Honduras regime revealed that it had bought $209 million worth of weapons from Israel, including surveillance drones for the army.)

So. The U.S. continues to stand on the wrong side of history in Central America, promoting policies that are not in our national interest — in part so that a couple of small nations can maintain the idea that the Israeli capital is Jerusalem. 

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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5 Responses

  1. Misterioso on October 21, 2019, 11:17 am

    A brief look at Netanyahu and “Israel’s” good buddy, Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil:

    “I am in favor of a dictatorship, a regime of exception.” – Open session of the Câmara dos Deputados, 1993.

    “The pau-de-arara [a torture technique] works. I’m in favor of torture, you know that. And the people are in favor as well.”– Câmara Aberta TV program, May 23, 1999

    “Through the vote, you will not change anything in this country, nothing, absolutely nothing! It will only change, unfortunately, when, one day, we start a civil war here and do the work that the military regime did not do. Killing some 30,000, starting with FHC [then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso], not kicking them out, killing! If some innocent people are going to die, fine, in any war, innocents die.” – Câmara Aberta TV program, May 23, 1999

    “I’ll give carte blanche for the police to kill.” – Event in Deerfield Beach, FL, October 8, 2017

    “Brazil will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem: Bolsonaro” The Daily Star (Lebanon), Nov. 1/18

    “RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday, making the Latin American giant the largest country after the United States to make the controversial switch.

    “‘As previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that,” Bolsonaro tweeted, a move that will defy Palestine and most of the world.’

    “In interviews, Bolsonaro said Israel should have the right to decide where its capital is located, just as Brazil moved its capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia in 1960.”

    According to Bolsonaro’s “logic,” if he had decided to do so, Hitler would have had the right to move Germany’s capital to occupied Paris. As Paris was under the boot of the Nazis during WWII, Jerusalem is currently illegally (and brutally) occupied by “Israel.” Brasilia, however, was and is still within Brazil’s legal borders.

  2. Vera Gottlieb on October 22, 2019, 10:56 am

    The US has always been good at giving corrupted leaders “passes”…What else is new?

  3. genesto on October 22, 2019, 1:00 pm

    So much for the argument that the Israel lobby only has power over Congress vis a vis its policy towards the Palestinians.

    Sorry, Mr. Chomsky!

  4. James Canning on October 22, 2019, 5:34 pm


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