'The scale of terror' by Dario Banegas, La Prensa
A group of 30 US Congressmen sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requesting that all aid to Honduras, particularly military and police aid, be stopped due to the human rights situation in Honduras. Here is a UPI article, U.S. hopes Honduras will come around on human rights.
Here is the relevant portion from the US State Department Daily Press Briefing:
Philip J. Crowley
Daily Press Briefing
[reporter] QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the letter sent by 30 congressmen to Secretary Clinton requesting a suspension of U.S. aid to the Honduran Government arguing that Honduran authorities carry out human rights violations and their murders of activists and journalists with impunity?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have received the letter and we will continue our consultations both with the Congress and also within the OAS.
QUESTION: Also –
MR. CROWLEY: Human rights is a fundamental element of our dialogue with the Honduran Government. There have been incidents where activists have been killed, intimidated, jailed, both going back to the previous government and recently. We expect the Lobo government to investigate these fully and prosecute those who are responsible. Progress on the human rights front is fundamental to the future of Honduras and this is – was one of the core elements of the San Jose Tegucigalpa Accords. The Lobo government has made some progress; more needs to be done.
But I think where we disagree with our congressional colleagues is that they conditioned progress on the human rights as a precondition for the return of Honduras to the OAS. We think they go hand in hand – improving the democratic performance of the government is vitally important, but also reintegrating Honduras into the community of democratic nations in this hemisphere is also important. And in fact, the election of the Lobo government was itself a major step forward for Honduras.
There was a suggestion in the letter that somehow the new government is responsible for the actions of the old government. I think we would reject that suggestion. We are committed to helping Honduras advance. We are committed to helping reintegrate Honduras into the OAS. We continue our discussions with countries in the region about how best to do this. We will continue our discussions with Honduras very respectfully, but very directly to help it improve its human rights performance. But we want to see Honduras rejoin the OAS and we’re actively working with other countries to see how that will take place.
QUESTION: But you’re not looking to cut off assistance right now as they ask in the letter?
MR. CROWLEY: No, as we indicated, we have restored assistance to Honduras in light of the election of the Lobo government. And we think our assistance is actually, directly connected to improving its ability to meet the needs of its people and also improving its human rights record at the same time.
While I don't think that aid is the solution to Honduras' problems — in fact, I think that monetary aid acerbates Honduras' problems — I wonder how removing aid from the police and military will help them to investigate human rights violations, reduce the climate of insecurity and fear of crime that all Hondurans live in, and continue the fight against narcotrafficking which presumably benefits the US more than it does Honduras.
Last year, 5,265 people were murdered in Honduras, putting Honduras at the top of the worldwide list among those countries who publicize their statistics until just recently when El Salvador's statistics were reported. Some very tiny percentage of those victims are claimed to be human rights violations. What about the other 5,2xx? Are they somehow less important because they didn't have political connections and weren't periodistas (journalists, though that word has a very loose definition in Honduras)? Isn't every murder a human rights violation?
And just for the record, at the risk of sounding like a broken record: yes, there are human rights violations in Honduras; yes, there always have been and many were recorded during the Zelaya administration; yes, there are bad Honduran cops; and no, I don't believe the current Lobo administration is behind it or condones it or intentionally looks the other way.
I think that the problem is more related to incompetence. What I would prefer to see rather than monetary aid is more outside investigative and prosecutorial training. If poorly written laws are a part of the problem, then I would like to see the laws reviewed and revised to ensure that criminals can be prosecuted and properly punished for their crimes because as it stands now, it doesn't seem that this is possible.
There is a lot of misinformation about human rights violations being put out there from radical groups within and outside of Honduras looking to harm Honduras and impose a Chávez-style of government on it. The US Congress has its share of incompetence, too, in that they bow to the pressure from these groups without knowing the facts.
I could not find the original letter. If anyone has a link to it, please let us know in the comments section. I would be interested to know which congressmen signed the letter. With elections coming up, you might be interested, too.
Just as one example of the misinformation included in the Congressmen letter, they refer to the "rural workers", "the landless peasants" who merely "want to build a home" in the Bajo Aguan area. These "rural workers" have violently invaded private property, held it hostage for more than a year, attacked and killed security guards as well as other rural workers, prevented thousands of real rural workers from performing their jobs, stolen and sold African palm oil crops that took years to develop.
When they were promised land grants of several thousand acres (by government expropriation of private property), they answered by stealing and occupying several more thousands of acres. Any thinking person might ask, how have these poor peasants obtained weapons and even supported their families for a year without working? Who is supporting them and where does the money come from?
To make the story even worse, this same property was granted to the campesinos by the government back in the 1980's and they were even given agricultural training! Instead of building houses and making a go of the land, their corrupt leaders almost immediately sold the properties, bought big cars and held fantastic parties! So much for the downtrodden. Why work when through violence you can get a free hand out which can later be sold at a profit?
The fact that the letter cites COFADEH as a "highly esteemed human rights organization" tells me everything I need to know. That may have been true 20 or 30 years ago, but under the leadership of Berta Oliva, this group is a bad joke! Some of the most outrageous lies have come from this so-called human rights group as well as CODEH, led by the crazy Andrés Pavón, whose lies are so enormous that even he can't keep a straight face when he tells them. Neither group has an ounce of credibility, something that the US State Department should know.
For a Honduran viewpoint: Who are our "friends"?...U.S. Democrats condemning Honduras