Honduras seeks to stop U.S. foreign aid cut-off over human rights
Washington, D.C., United States (AHN) – Representatives from the government of Honduras hope to meet with congressional leaders as soon at Thursday to discuss a letter 94 congressmen wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week.
The letter suggests cutting off aid to the Honduran military and police.
The congressmen said the United States should not fund a government that tolerates, and perhaps encourages, the kinds of human rights violations that have occurred in Honduras recently.
They have included police killings of peasants and unpunished murders of journalists, according to critics of the Honduran government.
At least 19 journalists have been murdered in Honduras since President Porfirio Lobo took office in January 2010. In addition, 45 peasants and seven security guards were killed in property disputes in the Lower Aguan area of Honduras.
The letter from the congressmen was partly a response to the murder this week of radio host Fausto Valle in northern Honduras. His assailants killed him with machetes.
The letter, authored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, says, “While it’s unclear how suspending U.S. security aid to Honduras would help the Honduran system of government suddenly become more capable and efficient, given that its problems are deep-rooted and go back generations, the threat of suspending the aid may have the effect of scaring the Lobo administration to try and be more responsive.”
The Honduran mission that left Tegucigalpa Wednesday included Foreign Minister Arturo Corrales, Secretary of Human Rights Ana Pineda and director of the National Agrarian Institute Cesar Ham.
They want to respond personally to the letter from the congressmen that demanded the Honduran government investigate the murders and prosecute the perpetrators, which is suspected of including members of the military and police.
Honduras has received $93 million in U.S. foreign aid for its military and police since 1996.
The United Nations lists Honduras as one of the five most violent countries in the world.
An average of 558 people are killed every month in the small Central American country.
The Washington-based Working Group for Latin America says the Honduran police and military are increasingly linked to some of the killings.
Honduran Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio recently told the country’s parliament that police corruption is responsible for a rise of organized crime and drug trafficking.
Members of the U.S. Congress say the Lobo administration lacks the will to seek out the murderers of journalists. Only four accused killers of the 21 journalists murdered since 2003 have been prosecuted.
Groups such as the Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights in Honduras say the Lobo administration’s inaction in the murders is part of a larger effort to stifle freedom of the press.
The Honduran government denies the accusations.
Miguel Angel Bonilla, the minister of communications, said the difficulty of properly investigating the murders is the real problem.
The letter this week from the congressmen casts doubt on the denial by the Lobo administration by arguing U.S. aid should be cut off until the State Department can certify that the Honduran government “is investigating and prosecuting in the civilian justice system, in accordance with Honduran and international law, military and police personnel who are credibly alleged to have violated human rights, and the Honduran military and police are cooperating with civilian judicial authorities in such cases.”
Some experts warn that cutting off aid could be dangerous for United States.
Marco Caceres, co-founder of projecthonduras.com, a volunteer network that brings humanitarian development projects to Honduras, wrote in a commentary this week that, “The idea that the U.S. would hold back money from Honduran security forces at a time when Honduras is increasingly threatened by organized crime, foreign drug cartels and contracted street gangs is unrealistic, notably because Honduras has become the new Ground Zero for the U.S. ‘War on Drugs.’
“While you can debate the wisdom of this strategy, without it there’s little question that the countries of Central America would be transformed into little narco-states and the flow of drugs from South America into Mexico and the U.S. would dramatically rise, and the U.S. addiction to drugs would become even worse than it already is.”