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.