Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Congressional Letter Provokes Response

How do you know when you are making a difference?

How about when the entire Honduran government mobilizes to refute you.

At Porfirio Lobo Sosa's meeting today with his cabinet, they determined to send Foreign Minister Arturo Corrales to Washington, D.C. to see what he can do to refute a letter authored by Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky and signed by 94 US Congressmen.

While the Honduran press suggests that the Congressional letter was motivated by the killing of yet another journalist in Olancho this week, in fact it was drafted and posted for signatures long before the journalist was killed.

The letter calls on the US government to suspend military and police aid to Honduras because of a lack of action on human rights issues.

The Congressional letter, addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, expresses grave concern over the human rights situation in the Bajo Aguan, where 45 campesinos and 7 security guards have been violently killed since 2009. They note the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held hearings on the human rights violations in the Bajo Aguan in October, 2011. The letter cites testimony that private security guards, police, and members of the 15th Battalion have carried out violence against the campesinos there since the beginning of Operation Xatruch II, a deployment of some 1000 soldiers to Olancho supposedly to quell the violence there.

The Honduran government has failed to investigate any of the human rights complaints by residents of the region. So the Congressmen call on the State Department to engage with the Honduran government to get these complaints investigated and report back to Congress with a detailed status of each case. They ask for the suspension of military and police aid "given the credible allegations of widespread, serious violations of human rights attributed to the security forces." They urge that the State Department enforce the Leahy provision, which denies US foreign aid to military units that violate human rights with impunity.

After the Honduran cabinet met, Corrales announced the imminent departure of the mission to Washington, D.C. to try to reverse the bad image of Honduras with respect to human rights. Corrales said
it mentions the journalists, but what it does not mention are all the advances that Honduras has in these same points (security and human rights).

Accompanying Corrales will be the Instituto Nacional Agrario director, Cesar Ham, who helped negotiate a settlement to the most active land disputes in the Bajo Aguan.

Corrales said they don't intend to confront anyone, but will be in the US from Tuesday to Saturday to clarify the panorama in Honduras.

The problem is that Corrales has nothing to talk about.

Lobo Sosa has admitted that Honduras is incapable of investigating any crime, and pleaded repeatedly for international help. Rather than investigate crime, or human rights violations, the Honduran government does nothing.

During the past two years of Lobo Sosa's term, there have been 42 hate crimes against LGBT individuals in Honduras. During a similar period under the previous president, Manuel Zelaya, there were 7. (The increase started during the six months of the de facto administration of Micheletti, when there were 22 hate crimes against LGBT individuals.)

Yndra Mendoza of the Red Lésbica Catrachas explained that they were taking one of these cases to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In this case a transgendered person was murdered by three Tegucigalpa police officers:
It's a reliable case because they had everything they needed to prosecute them in Honduras, and they let them go free....the state needs to be held responsible for its actions.

In light of the murder a few days ago of yet another journalist, there's painfully little Corrales can show in the way of progress on investigating human rights abuses, and removing impunity.

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