On March 6, Maine Democrats will caucus to decide which candidate we want to support for the presidency. I would like to persuade you, my fellow Democrats, to oppose Hillary Clinton in favor of Bernie Sanders.

Space does not permit me to talk about all the ways that Sanders and Clinton are different, so I will focus on the major difference that I see between them: Sanders speaks for ordinary people, and Clinton represents the corporations and the bankers. In her six years on the Wal-Mart board when she lived in Arkansas, Clinton never once opposed the company’s hostility to labor unions or challenged its discrimination against women in pay and promotion. As first lady she promoted her husband’s welfare reform policy, and later, as senator, she was one of the few Democrats to support President Bush’s proposal to expand the work requirement for recipients of welfare. Both pieces of legislation were aimed at disciplining the poor rather than helping them. A 2014 analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that despite increased needs, fewer families were drawing benefits from TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the benefits were not sufficient to meet their basic needs.

As senator, Clinton attended the Fellowship prayer breakfasts, a gathering place for the political and corporate elite that has a long history of supporting bloody dictators in the name of free enterprise.

During the first Democratic debate, in October, Hillary commented, “I represented Wall Street as a senator from New York.” Of course, she meant that Wall Street was part of her constituency but there’s more to the story than that.

Less than seven months after leaving the State Department, Clinton had amassed $2 million in speaking fees from Wall Street firms, the very firms that caused the collapse of our economy, ripping off millions of Americans. Between January 2014 and May 2015 she took in $11.8 million, largely from wealthy parties with a strong interest in influencing U.S. government policy. What does Wall Street expect from Clinton’s candidacy that warrants that kind of largesse? Or, as Bernie Sanders put it in Iowa, “You’ve got to be really, really good to get $250,000 for a speech.”

A look at her record in Honduras and Haiti provides the answer.

On the advice of her friend and legal adviser, Lanny Davis, who represented the Honduran chapter of the Business Council of Latin America, Secretary of State Clinton chose to side with the coup leaders who overthrew Manuel Zelaya, the democratically-elected president of Honduras, in 2009. “Zelaya was overthrown because the business community didn’t like that he increased the minimum wage,” says NYU history professor Greg Grandin. In other words, Clinton sided with the wealthy elite against the Honduran people, 65% of whom live in poverty

The coup and its aftermath unleashed a wave of political violence that targeted journalists, human rights defenders and LGBT activists. In the years after the coup the murder rate increased dramatically. Most of the murders have not been investigated. Wealthy business groups have been able to carry out evictions and murders of peasants without fear of prosecution. Criminal gangs are increasingly targeting children 12 and younger, making that cohort the fastest growing number of children fleeing to the United States.

Honduras is the third largest exporter of clothing and textiles to the U.S. market. As War on Want notes, “The determination of multinational corporations to cut production costs and maximize profits and the lack of enforcement of labor laws by the Honduran government have led to the widespread exploitation of workers.”

In Haiti, Clinton-era trade policies ravaged the country and put Haitians on the edge of starvation. According to Matthew Pulver writing in Salon, Haitians mixed mud with margarine and salt to stave off hunger pains.

After the devastating earthquake of January, 2010 killed some 100,000 Haitians, President Obama appointed his predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, to lead the relief effort. “The marquee project of the Clinton led reconstruction was the Caracol Industrial Park,” writes Doug Henwood in My Turn. Nothing shows Clinton’s disdain for the Haitian people better than the worker housing provided for the project. In an architectural peer review sent to the State Department by Greg Higgins he noted that the houses were tiny, crowded closely together, and lacked running water. They were without flush toilets; occupants would have to make do with a hole in the floor placed right next to the kitchen, which was to be outfitted with little more than a hotplate. The metal roofing proposed for the houses was incapable of standing up to the hurricanes that frequent the region, and could get as hot as 185 degrees in the summer. Drainage trenches were to run just a few feet from the front doors and the sole access to running water for the entire complex was just one ? inch pipe. No provision was made for drainage in an area known to flood. The only response from the State Department was a thank you note.

Clinton interests also built two new luxury hotels around Port-au-Prince. “Both hotels provided some jobs, of course,” says Henwood; “but to the many Haitians without housing and short of food, the provision of luxury hotels must have seemed a secondary priority.”

The Nation reports that contractors for Fruit of the Loom, Hane’s and Levi’s worked in close concert with the U.S. Embassy when they aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest paid in the hemisphere. Speaking at the opening of one such plant Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed it as “a new day for Haiti and a new model for how the international community practices development.”

Bernie Sanders, who has not taken a penny from Wall Street, has made it clear that he is on the side of the mass of Americans who are struggling to make a living, and does not expect Wall Street to like him. Hillary Clinton’s chief financial adviser, Gary Gensler, worked for Goldman Sachs. “As president,” says Sanders, “I will nominate and appoint people with a track record of standing up to power, rather than those who have made millions defending Wall Street CEOs. Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks will not be represented in my administration.”

The Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal says, “Hillary would appoint people who think Dodd-Frank is mostly successful and just needs a little more work. Bernie would appoint people who think our financial system is a massive problem and needs a major overhaul.” Robert L. Borosage, of the Institute for America’s Future notes, “Clinton’s decision to go for the big bucks and the fortune she earned in speaking fees from Wall Street, health insurance and other interests unilaterally disarms her credibility as an agent of fundamental change.”

Oxfam recently reported that 62 of the world’s wealthiest people own as much wealth as 3.6 billion of the poorest people — half the people in the world. This economic system, heavily skewed in favor of the rich, is the system that Hillary Clinton’s policies promote.


Selma Sternlieb lives in Brunswick.

This column has been updated to include the correct date of the caucus.

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