Campaign for the Berta Caceres Human Rights Act !

 

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Heavily armed troops driving through Tegucigalpa November 2013
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Berta Caceres

Since the 2009 coup, solidarity and human rights organizations in the US and in Honduras have worked to get the United States government to stop funding human rights violations and violence in Honduras. On June 14, 2016 US Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia introduced HR5474, the Berta Caceres Human Rights Act named after the Honduran indigenous environmentalists and resistance leader assassinated on March 2, 2016. This Act (cosponsored by Representatives Conyers, Kaptur, Ellison, Serrano, and Schakowsky) would cut off US funding and support for the repressive Honduran military and national police and end US support for funding of mega-projects like the Agua Zarca dam against the wishes of the local population.

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Unarmed Hondurans face down troops the day after the coup in June 2009

Sponsoring congress members published a strong opinion piece in The Guardian Newspaper entitled “American Funding of Honduran Security Forces: Blood on Our Hands”.

As of July 14th there are 27 members of Congress signed on to the bill. This summer the Honduran Solidarity Network is supporting a campaign to House of Representative members to support this bill. July 14th was a national call-in day for the bill but it is important that calls and emails and visits to local congressional offices continue during the recess.  For updates and more info: HSN members SOAWatch and Witness for Peace are closely following the campaign. 

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Electronic Action: WE STILL DEMAND JUSTICE FOR BERTA CÁCERES!

Join the Global Day of Action!  June 15, 2016

Electronic Action: WE STILL DEMAND JUSTICE FOR BERTA CÁCERES!

In Solidarity with the call to action by the Council of Indigenous Peoples COPINH for June 15, 2016 the Honduras Solidarity Network of North America (HSN) is organizing an electronic action to support COPINH and the Honduran people while all over the world people will take action at Honduran Embassies and Consulates. Take action now 

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The Reality of the War on Drugs is a War on the People

HONDURAN SOLIDARITY NETWORK

STATEMENT ON THE U.S. WAR ON DRUGS AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS  IN HONDURAS

16 April 2016

As the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs prepares to meet in New York City, the members of the Honduran Solidarity Network (HSN) join their voices with those of the Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice in denouncing the U.S. War on Drugs and the unjust and violent policies implemented by the U.S. Government and its contractors in pursuit of the flawed objectives of this ill-conceived project in Honduras, Mexico and all of Latin America and the Caribbean. In particular as we near another anniversary of the tragedy, we highlight the seemingly forgotten case of the slaughter of two pregnant women and two boys in the rural town of Ahuás, Honduras during a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) operation on May 11, 2012. These murders remain in impunity; no one has been held accountable for the crime and no serious investigation has been conducted by the DEA, or any other US government entity. Our members have interviewed the victims of Ahuás as well as other victims of violence that is justified as being part of the War on Drugs in Honduras.

We call for an end to impunity and an end to this War that continues to bring such tragedies and suffering.

Set in motion by President Richard Nixon in the late sixties, the War on Drugs was confirmed by former top Nixon advisor John D. Ehrlichman in a 1994 interview as having been a framing tactic used to target African Americans and anti-war protesters. From this odious political genesis this “war” became the mechanism for the mass incarceration of Blacks and Latinos in the U.S., tearing apart communities and families for generations.

Washington inserted the War on Drugs into the foreign policy realm with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the need for a new external threat to justify bloated military budgets and U.S. military presence around the globe. Helicopter sales to Colombia, toxic illicit crop spraying projects and increased military aid in the name of disrupting the flow of cocaine and marijuana to the U.S., the War on Drugs made a slew of Pentagon and State Department contractors very wealthy while violence ravaged the affected countries.  Ironically, the effect of the War on Drugs on its stated objective – the eradication of the drug trade – was only to act as a catalyst for drug trafficking, making illicit profits greater and exacerbating the impunity, increased militarization, and human rights violations that now have come to characterize Honduras, the most violent country in the world.

In Honduras, the 2009 coup and its continuation increased the power of a corrupt oligarchy with ties to narcotics cartels while allowing the War on Drugs to be used to promote violence and human rights violations including forced disappearances and assassinations. The militarization of nations like Honduras has fostered an environment of impunity in which police, special forces, the military, and private security contractors, not to mention U.S. military, U.S. Government agents and U.S. contractors, are heavily armed and feel answerable to no one. Given this situation it should not be a surprise to anyone to see thousands of Hondurans fleeing their country in another of the forced migrations that wars produce. 

We stand with the brutalized but resistant peoples of Honduras, Mexico and the other victims of the War on Drugs who are taking a stand against crimes like the slaughter in Ahuás and the 2014 disappearing of the 43 students in Iguala, Mexico. The U.S. must stop providing support to governments that do not respect the rule of law, allow crimes to occur with impunity and are themselves implicated in many of the crimes committed in the name of national security and the War on Drugs. Impunity for crimes directly involving U.S. forces must also end.  We call on our elected officials to insist that officials in the State Department and the Department of Justice sweep aside delaying tactics and obfuscation, so that there can be a genuine and rigorous investigation of these cases and the many other that further stain the reputation of our nation and cause such pain and suffering both at home and abroad.

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Donate to support COPINH and Berta’s Family

Honduras
Solidarity
Network USA-Canada
http://www.hondurassolidarity.org/
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The Honduras Solidarity Network of Canada and the United States, and its member organizations, have been organizing to demand justice for the murder of Berta Caceres, leader of the indigenous land and environmental group, COPINH.

We are turning to you to do something that we cannot do – provide funding for security for Berta’s family and COPINH leadership in this dark hour when their lives and liberty are also at risk. Funds are also needed by COPINH to feed and shelter the thousands of Lenca and other poor Hondurans who have gathered in La Esperansa and Tegucigalpa to demand that the defacto government allow an independent international investigation to unmask the murderers and the intellectual authors of this heinous crime.

Of the hundreds of resistance members who continued to demand a return to democracy since the 2009 coup and who paid for that opposition with their lives, not one murderer has been brought to justice by the successive coup-spawned governments. Berta is the highest profile national leader to be assassinated. If the powers that be – the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez, the oligarchy, the foreign companies, and the US-trained and funded military and police – are allowed to get away with her murder, it will be open season on the other leaders of COPINH and the nonviolent National Front for Popular Resistance.

Won’t you make a tax-deductible gift right now to help protect Berta’s mother and three young daughters who are themselves now threatened for speaking out? Won’t you make a contribution to protect the life of Gustavo Castro, the Mexican human rights accompanier who was the only witness to the murder and who the judge, after suspending Gustavo’s lawyer, will not allow to leave the community where the murderers still run free? Won’t you contribute the price of a pizza or a night at the movies so that COPINH and other popular movements can feed and shelter the thousands of Hondurans who are demanding their government end impunity, stop the violence, and allow international investigators to solve the murder of our friend and compañera Berta Caceres?

Rights Actions is a member group of the Honduras Solidarity Network and has agreed to channel all donations we raise to COPINH. You can donate securely online by clicking here. If you are Canadian, you can donate here.

Thank you for your support for justice and dignity for the Lenca people and all the people of Honduras who hunger for a life of peace in a democratic company.

Donate Now. Support Hondurans seeking justice.

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On the Assassination of Berta Cáceres

El español sigue el ingles

The Honduras Solidarity Network of North America

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With indignation and sadness, the organizations that form the Honduras Solidarity Network of North America denounce the assassination of Berta Caceres, leader of the indigenous Lenca organization COPINH and a tireless fighter for  social justice and for the defense of the environment and indigenous territories.  Recognized around the globe for her leadership and spirit in 2015 she received the world’s leading environmental award the Goldman Environmental Prize. Many of our members knew Berta and have witnessed first hand her courage and integrity. We join the multitude of voices in Honduras and the world raised against this outrage

Berta became an activist when she was still a teenager and continued even in the face of violence from the government and oligarchy, arrests and threats. After the 2009 coup, Berta and COPINH took up an important role in the resistance movement despite the unleashing  of a ferocious repression  against that resistance and the peoples’ movement in Honduras and against leaders like Berta. 

After the coup, attacks on the indigenous and campesino communities in Honduras escalated as land grabbing by the government, the oligarchy and international mining and hydroelectric companies increased.  Berta and COPINH are in the forefront of the struggle of the indigenous people for their land and a number of COPINH members have been assassinated and others arrested and threatened during this struggle.

Over the past few weeks, repression and threats escalated. On February 20th, Berta and other members of COPINH and the community of Rio Blanco were physically threatened by police and military trying to stop a peaceful activity in defense of the Gualcarque River which is threatened by a hydroelectric project of the Honduran company DESA  with international financing. On February 25th another Lenca community supported by COPINH  was violently evicted from their land.

We strongly support  human rights defenders in Honduras and internationally in demanding that there be a serious and complete, independent international investigation of Berta’s murder so that all those involved are identified and brought to justice rapidly. We reject any attempt to criminalize the leaders and members of COPINH. Berta was a recipient of an order for protective measures by the Inter-American Human Rights Court due to the constant threats and harassment against her and we are concerned and angered to hear pronouncements by Julian Pacheco, Minister of Security at a press conference this morning that can only be seen as an attempt to sidestep responsibility for her security and to blame the victim of this political crime.

We have read the communique of condolences issued by the US Embassy in Honduras earlier today and can only say that, “actions speak louder than words”. The US government has been and is the main economic and political support for the governments in power since the 2009 coup, including the current government of Juan Orlando Hernandez. The US government bears its own responsibility for the militarization and downward spiral in all spheres of life in Honduras, and for the grave human rights situation.  We reiterate the demand that US aid and training to the Honduran security and military apparatus be stopped immediately because it, in action, supports human rights violations such as the murder of Berta Caceres. 

We express our most profound condolences to Berta Caceres’ family, her organization, her community, and the Honduran people and their organizations in struggle as well as our own determination to redouble our solidarity.

March 3, 2016

The Honduras Solidarity Network of North AmericaThe HSN is made up of more than 30 organizations in Canada and the United States.

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Comunicado sobre el asesinato de Berta Caceres

Con indignación y tristeza, las organizaciones que integramos la Red de Solidaridad con Honduras de América del Norte, denunciamos el asesinato de Berta Cáceres, la dirigente de la organización indígena lenca COPINH y una luchadora incansable por la justicia social y por la defensa del medio ambiente y los territorios indígenas. Ella es reconocida en todo el mundo por su liderazgo y su espíritu. En el 2015 ella recibió el premio ambiental más importante del mundo, el Premio Ambiental Goldman. Muchos de nuestros miembros conocían a Berta y han sido testigos de primera mano de su valor e integridad. Nos sumamos a la multitud de voces en Honduras y en el mundo que están alzadas en contra de este acto ultrajante.

Berta se convirtió en una activista cuando todavía era un adolescente y continuó, incluso en la cara de la violencia por parte del gobierno y la oligarquía, y las detenciones y amenazas. Después del golpe de estado del 2009, Berta y el COPINH jugaron un papel importante en el movimiento de resistencia a pesar del desencadenamiento de una represión feroz contra esa resistencia y el movimiento popular en Honduras y en contra de líderes como Berta.

Después del golpe, los ataques a las comunidades indígenas y campesinas de Honduras se intensificaron con cada vez más acaparamiento de tierras por parte del gobierno, la oligarquía y las compañías mineras e hidroeléctricas internacionales. Berta y el COPINH han estado en la vanguardia de la lucha de los pueblos indígenas por sus territorios y varios miembros del COPINH han sido asesinados, detenidos y amenazados durante esta lucha.

Durante las últimas semanas, la represión y las amenazas se intensificaron. El 20 de febrero, Berta y otr@s miembros y miembras del COPINH y de la comunidad de Río Blanco fueron amenazad@s físicamente por la policía y por los militares quienes pretendían detener una actividad pacífica en defensa del Río Gualcarque, lo cual se ve amenazado por un proyecto hidroeléctrico de la empresa Hondureña DESA con financiamiento internacional. El 25 de febrero otra comunidad lenca apoyado por el COPINH fue desalojada violentamente de sus tierras.

Apoyamos firmemente a las defensoras y los defensores de derechos humanos en Honduras e internacionalmente en la exigencia de que el asesinato de Berta sea seriamente, completamente, independientemente e internacionalmente investigado de manera que todos los participantes sean identificados y llevados ante la justicia rápidamente. Rechazamos contundentemente cualquier intento de criminalizar a los y las líderes y miembr@s del COPINH. Berta había recibido medidas cautelares por parte de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos debido a las constantes amenazas y hostigamiento en contra de ella. Estamos sumamente preocupados y enfurecidos al escuchar las declaraciones de Julián Pacheco, Ministro de Seguridad, en una conferencia de prensa esta mañana que sólo puede ser visto como un intento de eludir la responsabilidad del estado por la seguridad de Berta y de culpar a la víctima misma de este crimen político.

Hemos leído el comunicado de pésame emitido por la Embajada de los Estados Unidos en Honduras el día de hoy y sólo podemos decir que, “las acciones hablan más que las palabras.” El gobierno de Estados Unidos ha sido y sigue siendo la fuente principal de apoyo económico y político al gobierno hondureño desde el golpe de estado del 2009, incluyendo al gobierno actual de Juan Orlando Hernández. El gobierno de Estados Unidos tiene su propia responsabilidad por la militarización y el deterioro en todos los ámbitos de la vida en Honduras, y por la grave situación de los derechos humanos. Reiteramos la exigencia de que se detenga de inmediato toda la ayuda de los Estados Unidos al aparato de seguridad y militar y el entrenamiento a los mismos en Honduras, ya que representa apoyo directo a las violaciones de los derechos humanos, tales como el asesinato de Berta Cáceres.

Expresamos nuestras más profundas condolencias a la familia de Berta Cáceres, a su organización, a su comunidad y al pueblo hondureño y sus organizaciones en lucha, así también expresamos nuestra propia determinación de redoblar nuestra solidaridad.

El día 3 de Marzo 2016

La Red de Solidaridad con Honduras – Honduras Solidarity Network

en Norteamérica

La HSN esta compuesta de más de 30 organizaciones en Canada y EEUU

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Webinar on Honduras and Solidarity: Sign up now!

Webinar: Honduras, What is the story? 

There is still time to register for the Honduras Solidarity Network’s educational webinar and conversation on Sunday, January 17, 2016.IMG_8134

We will hear from presenters with unique expertise in Honduras. They will share their perspective on  its history and current political-economic situation, the resistance and social justice movements, and the role of the United States government in the region.     Register Here Now

Professor Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle: Professor Pastor has a Doctorate in History and is an expert on Latin American history, politics and colonialism. He was Minister of Culture in President Manual Zelaya’s government and had to flee the country as a political refugee right after the June 28, 2009 coup.  He later returned to Honduras  and now lives in San Pedro Sula.

Gerardo Torres Zelaya: Gerardo became a political activist as a student and was a member of the organization Los Necios at the time of the coup in 2009. Since the coup he has been an active member of the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) and the opposition political party LIBRE. He is a journalist and analyst and currently is the Central American correspondent for TeleSUR English.

Annie Bird: Annie has worked in Guatemala and Honduras investigating and documenting human rights violations and conditions in indigenous and small farming communities. From 1997-2014 she was Co-Director for the organization Rights Action and now is the director of the Rights and Ecology program of the Center for Political Economy. Over the last several years she has published numerous reports on  US policy, militarization and human rights in Honduras.

Join us: Sunday, January 17, 2016  at 1pm – 3pm  Pacific Time;  2pm – 4pm Mountain;  3pm –  5pm Central; 4pm  – 6pm Eastern

The webinar is free of charge but you must register to participate:    Register Here Now            

For more information contact: honsolnetwork@gmail.com

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Help Save Lives – Human rights accompaniment in Honduras

New Opportunities to Visit Honduras and Walk with the People! See our upcoming delegations here.

 

Help Save Lives – Support Human rights accompaniment in Honduras : 

 Click here to make a tax-deductible donation by credit card online, or send a check with “accompaniment” in the memo line to:Honduras Solidarity Network c/o Alliance for Global Justice, 225 E 26th St., Ste. 1, Tucson, AZ 85713

A Honduras cooperative leader is picked up by police in the Aguan Valley. Demonstrating students at the Autonomous University in Tegucigalpa are surrounded by police. An army unit sets up camp in the middle of a farming cooperative. A political prisoner is transported to court amid death threats.

Honduras Solidarity Network long-term human rights accompaniers Greg McCain and Karen Spring rush to the scene, ready to respond. When they arrive, authorities know that the eyes of international human rights organizations are now on them and that North Americans will soon be calling the police station, the university rector’s office, the commanding general, and the court judges.
International accompaniers save lives and liberty in Honduras. Just this month “Chabelo,” a campesino farmer was found innocent after spending eight years in prison for a crime he did not commit. For the past three years Greg McCain and the Honduras Solidarity Network accompanied Chabelo and his family through repeated court hearings amid increasingly serious death threats to his final exoneration. There is no such thing as justice for campesinos in Honduras. Only because of international mobilizations and accompaniment was he finally set free. You can help free future Chabelos or stop their murders by supporting HSN’s human rights accompaniment by donating now.
Since the US-backed coup on June 28, 2009, security forces who commit human rights violations, violent evictions, extrajudicial executions, and torture know that they can commit their crimes with total impunity. But the government is still sensitive to international opinion so when international observers are present they are more likely to restrain the violence.

Long-term and short-term human rights accompaniment is among the most important solidarity that we can provide to the brave people of Honduras who struggle for justice and democracy. Short-term accompaniment delegations, organized by many of the 30 groups in the Honduras Solidarity Network, are important, indeed vital. But there are many times when there is no delegation in the country. At those times Greg McCain and Karen Spring put their own safety on the line to expose human rights violations and to mobilize international solidarity. They are a physical presence and they assist with on-going human rights cases and investigations, community projects, informing international press, and sending out articles and opinion pieces to frame the debate about the US and Canadian role in Honduras.

It costs money to house, feed, and transport long-term accompaniers so they can do this important work. Greg raises his own costs. Karen, who is also the in-country coordinator of the HSN, is supported by the Network.
Will you make a tax-deductible donation today to help save lives in Honduras? We will split your contribution evenly to support Greg and Karen. We can’t all be in Honduras to do the work on the ground, but we can all give something…no matter how small…to support those who are risking their lives to help ensure that yet another Honduran mother does not have to bury the broken body of her son or husband.
 Click here to make a tax-deductible donation by credit card online, or send a check with “accompaniment” in the memo line to:
Honduras Solidarity Network
c/o Alliance for Global Justice
225 E 26th St., Ste. 1
Tucson, AZ 85713

Please support the work of the Honduras Solidarity Network by donating now!

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Letter in Support of Chabelo Morales

HSN member organizations and others (32 total) joined in a letter in support of Chabelo Morales (English letter below) as he goes to his third trial for the same charges. DSC_0080

September 2015

As representatives from the international human rights and solidarity community, we come together to demand justice for José Isabel “Chabelo” Morales during his retrial. In that there are currently over 5000 campesinos with judicial proceedings against them, Chabelo’s case is emblematic of the criminalization of peasant farmers (campesinos) who struggle for access to land.

In light of the persistent violations to human rights in Honduras, we demand:

⦁ That Chabelo’s retrial scheduled for September 28th – October 9th, 2015 be fair and impartial. Further, we demand unconditional freedom for Chabelo.

⦁ A full investigation into human rights violations and judicial irregularities surrounding all of Chabelo’s judicial hearings.

⦁ A full investigation into the ongoing threats and intimidation against the Morales family and community of Guadalupe Carney.

⦁ A full investigation into the abuse of authority of Colonel Henry Osorto Canales who was recently nominated for advancement from Sub-Commissioner of the National Police to the position of Commissioner.

⦁ A suspension of aid to Honduran police, military and security until the human rights violations perpetrated by these forces ceases; specifically, the continued aid by the United States to the National Police and funding to the Public Prosecutors office (Ministerio Publico) given the ongoing abuses.

José Isabel “Chabelo” Morales López, 39, was in prison for 6 years, 9 months, and 7 days for a crime that he did not commit. He and his family are campesinos in the Aguán Valley in the heart of the African palm-producing region of the northern coast of Honduras. His arrest and imprisonment were aimed at punishing and criminalizing the campesino movement in Honduras as well as being products of the well-documented corruption and impunity that has this country in its grip. Chabelo is recognized as being unjustly imprisoned by numerous human rights and rural advocacy groups including Via Campesina, SOAW, FIAN International, COFADEH and ERIC-SJ.

Chabelo was arrested in October 2008 after heavily armed members of Henry Osorto’s family and private security attacked the campesinos in an attempt to illegally take land that had been legally granted to the campesinos. One campesino was killed by shots from the Osorto house and 11 members of the Osorto group were left dead. In a clear conflict of interest and abuse of authority, Henry Osorto led the investigation which was incomplete, inconsistent, and forensically questionable.

Arrest warrants for 36 residents of Chabelo’s community were issued without evidence that theindividuals were involved. Chabelo was one of them, he and one other person were the only ones arrested and charged with 11 counts of murder, arson, and robbery despite there being no concrete evidence of their involvement. At his trial over two years after his detention (a clear violation of the Honduran Penal Code, and notably after the military coup in June 2009) the charges were reduced to one count of homicide. The other person was found not guilty due to contradictions in the testimony of the prosecution witnesses and yet they let these same contradictions stand in the conviction of Chabelo.

The panel of judges found Chabelo guilty despite a lack of evidence and the contradictory stories, but sentencing was delayed for over 2 years. Because of that and many other irregularities, the Honduran Supreme Court annulled his conviction and ordered a new trial which took place in January 2014. The new trial was moved to another department, but was assigned judges from the Aguán, including two who had refused to release Chabelo from prison pending the new trial, a clear violation of the Supreme Court order. The defense asked for the two judges to recuse themselves but lost the decision.

Prosecution witnesses including Henry Osorto perjured themselves once again, radically changing their testimony and contradicting their sworn statements in an attempt to incriminate Chabelo. The judges refused to allow the defense to place those contradictions into the record. The prosecution echoed statements made by Osorto about the small farmers in general being violent terrorists rather than giving evidence as to Chabelo’s involvement. Defense witnesses presented the same testimony as previously, noting that Chabelo was not present at the scene when the confrontation and deaths occurred. The judges found Chabelo guilty and he was sentenced to 17.5 years. Chabelo’s defense lawyers filed an appeal, which was finally reviewed by the Supreme Court.

The court once again annulled the conviction and sentencing based on procedural inconsistencies on the part of the prosecutor and judges, but once again ordered a retrial. The Defense also solicited the court to free Chabelo pending the retrial based on numerous violations to the penal code. This was the seventh solicitation in five years based on these violations.

The initial hearing of the retrial was held on July 24th, 2015 in La Ceiba. The magistrates quickly ruled in favor of Chabelo’s release based on the violations and scheduled the retrial to be held between September 28th and October 9th in Trujillo.

Based on the clear violations to the human rights of Chabelo Morales, we demand his unconditional freedom. In addition to the demands stated above we further demand protection from retaliation on the part of Colonel Henry Osorto Canales against Chabelo Morales and his family.

Signed,

1) La Voz de los de Abajo, Chicago

2) Alliance for Global Justice

3) Nicaragua Center for Community Action (NICCA), Berkeley, CA

4) International Action Center

5) Michigan Emergency Coalition Against War and Injustice

6) Colectivo Honduras USA Resistencia=libre (D19/New York)

7) Task Force On the Americas

8) San Francisco School of the Americas Watch (SOAWSF)

9) Latin America Solidarity Committee, Milwaukee

10) Bay Area Latin American Solidarity Committee (BALASC)

11) The Cross Border Network, Kansas City, MO

12) Portland Central America Solidarity Committee

13) Hondureños Por La Pachamama

14) Oakland – School of the Americas Watch, USA

15) Hondureños D19 Northern California

16) Radios Populares, Chicago

17) Witness for Peace Southwest

18) Gay Liberation Network, Chicago

19) US El Salvador Sister Cities

20) Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America, St. Louis

21) School of the Americas Watch (SOAW)

22) Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)

23) FIAN Internacional – Sección Honduras

24) Movimiento Ambientalista Santabarbarense (MAS)

25) Foro de Mujeres por la Vida

26) COLLETTIVO ITALIA CENTRO AMERICA, CICA

27) Grassroots International

28) Observatorio Permanente de Derechos Humanos del Aguán

29) Voices for Creative Nonviolence

30) Workers World Party

31) Loretto – Kansas City

32) 8th Day Center for Justice, Chicago

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U.S. Congressional Letter to Secretary of State Again Expresses Opposition

Members of Congress have once again called on the Obama administration to stop funding Honduras’ security forces. Alarmed at the rampant militarization of policing activities throughout the country and a rash of recent reports of human rights abuses involving Honduran security forces, 21 House Democrats sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry on August 19 expressing their concern and making a series of specific requests, including “the suspension and re-evaluation of further training and support for Honduran police and military units until the Honduran government adequately addresses human rights abuses.”

For several years now U.S. legislators have been urging the administration to either suspend or overhaul its security assistance programs in Honduras. Back in March of 2012, 94 Democrats asked then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to suspend military and police assistance, noting “credible allegations of widespread, serious allegations of human rights abuses attributed to [Honduran] security forces” and the impunity surrounding targeted attacks against “human rights defenders, journalists, community leaders and opposition activists.” Two years later, 108 House Democrats sent a letter to Kerry expressing concern over the accelerated militarization of domestic law enforcement under current president Juan Orlando Hernández and calling for the State Department to review its security programs in Honduras. Similar letters have appeared in the U.S. Senate, with, for instance, 21 senators questioning Honduran government compliance with human rights conditions attached to U.S. security assistance.

The Congressional letter of August 19 – led by Representatives Hank Johnson (a leading opponent of militarized law enforcement in the U.S.) and Jan Schakowsky (who has led several previous letters regarding Honduras’ appalling human rights situation) – describes the steady militarization of policing that has taken place in Honduras since 2010: The massive deployment of army units to police Honduran streets, followed by the creation of a 3000-strong military police force under a military line of command and a new “super-ministry” of Security combining civilian and military security institutions under the direction of a recently retired general.

This militarization trend is troubling enough in a country that only emerged from military rule in the 1980s and was subjected to a military coup d’état in June of 2009, but there is also abundant documented evidence of widespread abuses perpetrated by military personnel and militarized police, some of which is described in the letter:

Over the last few months, military police agents have reportedly threatened and harassed journalists, community leaders, and members of the indigenous organization COPINH; forcibly evicted small farmers without a warrant; raided the home of a student leader involved in recent protests; and shot and killed an unarmed woman selling mangos, among other alleged crimes. As reported by Al-Jazeera, Defensores en Linea and Today Media Network, these forces have also allegedly conducted raids against the homes of opposition activists, and participated in the killing of land-rights activists and peaceful demonstrators.

The U.S. government’s response to these alarming developments has been to request more security assistance for Honduras, in particular through an increase in funding for the opaque Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). There’s no indication that the administration is concerned about Honduras’ militarization or that it is seeking to leverage U.S. security assistance to try to reverse the trend. On the contrary, it has been providing direct support to militarization efforts, as the Johnson/Schakowsky letter notes:

We are concerned about Honduran media reports that in mid-May of this year, a team of 300 U.S. military and civilian personnel, including Marines and the FBI, conducted “rapid response” training with 500 [agents from] FUSINA [a militarized security task force combining personnel from police, military, intelligence and judicial agencies], using U.S. helicopters and planes, despite allegations regarding the agency’s repeated involvement in human-rights violations.

Similarly, U.S. green beret special forces have been training a militarized Honduran police unit called the TIGRES [which stands for Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Groups], “instilling fundamental principles of close quarters battle and knowing how to execute them amidst the chaos that is combat”, according to a U.S. Army article published in March. Though touted as an exemplary, elite force, nearly two dozen TIGRES agents, trained and vetted by the U.S. government, were caught stealing over $1.3 million in drug money following a counter-narcotics operation late last year.

In addition to asking for security assistance to Honduras to be put on hold, the Johnson/Schakowsky letter makes a series of detailed requests which focus on getting the State Department to genuinely implement human rights safeguards required by law and to increase transparency around security aid programs in Honduras.

The letter asks for:

–        “The State Department’s strict evaluation of U.S. support and training for the Honduran police and military in accordance with human rights conditions placed in the FY2015 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act.” [A Senate Appropriations Committee report that accompanies the FY2015 SFOPS Act specifies that 50% of security assistance allocated to Honduras under International Narcotic Control and Law Enforcement and Foreign Military Funding headings be withheld pending State Department certification of Honduran government compliance with six human rights and rule of law conditions that include the investigation and prosecution of “army and police personnel who are credibly alleged to have violated human rights.” In the past, the State Department has generally certified the Honduran government as compliant with conditions set by the Committee, despite the strong misgivings expressed by 21 U.S. senators (i.e., 1/5th of the Senate). It’s worth noting that the Committee report attached to pending FY2016 appropriations legislation has conditioned 75% of all assistance under State and Foreign Operations appropriations to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and includes, among its new set of conditions, State Department certification that the governments are taking “effective steps” to “create a professional, accountable civilian police force and end the role of the military in internal policing” and to “prosecute and punish in civilian courts members of security forces who violate human rights.”]

–        “Full implementation of the Leahy Law…” [which prohibits the departments of State and Defense from providing support to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.]

–        “A detailed description of how the Department of State is currently implementing these statutes [i.e., the conditioning of security assistance under Leahy Law and existing appropriations legislation], including what metrics the Department is using to assess whether the Honduran government has adequately addressed human rights abuses.” [The State Department hasn’t revealed the methodology it employs to enforce Leahy Law provisions or SFOPS appropriations human rights conditions on aid.]

–        “Urge the Honduran government to implement serious and concrete measures to address military and police abuses, and to halt the continued involvement of the military in domestic law enforcement.” [As mentioned above, these are among the aid conditionalities that the Honduran government would need to meet under the pending FY2016 appropriations legislation. There is little indication that the Honduran government is interested in implementing these measures. In early 2014, the ruling National Party eliminated a widely respected police reform commission and ignored its recommendations for cleaning up the country’s notoriously corrupt police. Under growing pressure from Congress and human rights groups, the government recently announced a series of reforms to the police – designed in tandem with U.S. advisors – that appear to amount to little more than an administrative reorganization. Given that Honduran officials still fail to acknowledge abuses by security forces, there is deep skepticism surrounding the announcement. Not to mention that there is no sign that the government is scaling back its militarization efforts].

–        “Finally, we request a full itemized report on the use of funds allocated for U.S. security assistance to Honduras in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations law for FY2015 and for upcoming FY2106 appropriations legislation.” [Effective independent scrutiny of how U.S. security assistance is used is extremely difficult given the total lack of transparency surrounding the disbursement process. Tens of millions of dollars in security assistance have been funneled to Honduras through the State Department’s notoriously opaque Central America Regional Security Initiative.   As yet there is no public record of where and how the funds have been used, nor are there any clear metrics available on what sort of impact CARSI assistance has had].

Though largely ignored by the U.S. press (with the exception of one article in an inside-the-Beltway outlet and articles in the Spanish-language press), the Johnson/Schakowsky letter has received massive media attention in Honduras. The question is, will Secretary of State John Kerry pay attention to this new appeal from Congress?

Original Article in CEPR blog

 

 

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