News Release

What Kaine Didn’t Learn in Honduras

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GREG GRANDIN, grandin[at]nyu.edu, @GregGrandin
Author most recently of Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman, Grandin just wrote the piece “Eat, Pray, Starve: What Tim Kaine Didn’t Learn During His Time in Honduras,” which states: “In picking Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate, the campaign has front-and-centered Honduras — not as a victim of Clinton’s realpolitik neoliberalism but as a sacred space of healing poverty. … [See accuracy.org news release “Hillary Clinton Killed Berta!“]

“Kaine was in Honduras for nine months (though two-year commitments for U.S. volunteers were the standard for Jesuits). Mary Jo McConahay, a journalist with longtime experience in Central America, told me that it is ‘notable that Kaine’s work is being described as “missionary,” as if fishing for converts, when it was anything but.’ According to his own account, he provided politically neutral technical training, helping with a program that taught carpentry and welding. Yet, as Boyer tells me, ‘if Tim Kaine was working as a Jesuit volunteer in 1980, he could not have avoided become immersed in these socio-religious, political currents and cross-currents. He would have been exposed to both conservative and generally more left and activist work of his hosts and mentors.’

“Kaine didn’t run for public office until the 1990s, so there is no public record of what his opinion was of the Contra war, or the Guatemalan genocide, or the 1989 murder of the Jesuits in El Salvador, or what his Honduran mentors thought of Pope John Paul II’s efforts to neutralize Liberation Theology.”

Grandin writes, Kaine uses his brief time in Honduras to “prove he is a true Christian to Virginia conservatives, to court the Latino vote, and, now, to convince rank-and-file Democrats he’s a progressive. …

“In Honduras, extreme poverty has increased since CAFTA has gone into effect, as has political repression, especially following the 2009 coup [while Clinton was Secretary of State]. Kaine, as far as I can tell, has said nothing about that coup (his beloved Jesuits condemned it in no uncertain terms). Watching Kaine talk about Honduras, he does seem troubled by the country’s poverty and political repression. But, like most neoliberal politicians, he disassociates in his political rhetoric the trade and security policies he votes for from the catastrophic consequences of those policies.

“Kaine helps the Clinton campaign transform Honduras from a real place, engaged in political struggle, into an imaginary kingdom of banality. The sharp political and economic analysis of someone like [recently assassinated activist] Berta Cáceres, who before her death named Hillary Clinton and U.S. policy as responsible for Honduras’s terror regime, is converted into the virtues of anonymous poor people offering up their ever-more-costly (thanks to CAFTA) food as a life lesson in humility.”

Grandin is a professor of history at New York University. His other books include The Empire of Necessity and Fordlandia.