Sunday, March 18, 2012

Honduras and US aid

People I know are very skeptical about US efforts in Honduras to deal with the drug and security issues. They are especially opposed to US aid to the government that is using military for policing functions.

The reasons are varied, including the massive corruption within the police in Honduras, as almost all levels, and the lack of investigation or prosecution of police for human rights violations.

There is also a concern about the history of the military’s involvement in human rights abuses, especially during the 1980s but more recently during the months following the June 28, 2009 coup.

But many Hondurans well remember the long history of US intervention in Honduras. On March 18, 1907, US marines landed in Puerto Cortés, Honduras, to protect the US banana companies. A Nicaraguan president, José Santos Zelaya,  had sent troops to support one group in Honduras that was opposing Manuel Bonilla, the Honduran dictator at the time. The US brokered a solution and helped set up a new Honduran government, headed by General Miguel Dávila. Apparently, the shots were being called by the US government in league with the US banana companies.

In the 1980s the US established a number of bases in Honduras, including the Palmerola air force base which was used to support the Nicaraguan contras as well as the Salvadoran military. In addition the US set up at least one training camp for members of both groups.

The US claims that the Palmerola air force base, now called Soto Cana, is really a Honduran base with a US presence of more than 500 troops. But many Hondurans still see it as a US base on Honduran territory. Recently major funding of more than several million dollars has been allocated by the US for improvements for the base as well as for other US (or “joint”) installations throughout Honduras, mostly on the north coast or on Caribbean islands. The US says these are for the drug war, but there may be other reasons.

Yet recently, ninety-four US representatives sent a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for a stop of US military and police aid to Honduras in light of unresolved human rights violations, including more than forty deaths of civilians in the Bajo Aguán region of northern Honduras. While human rights are not being addressed, why should the US continue and even expand military and police aid?

I totally agree with their efforts. Information on this and other letters, as well as links to the actual texts, can be found here.

The letter struck home. Soon after it was released the Honduran government announced it was sending a high level delegation to Washington, DC, to argue that the human rights situation is improving. the blog Honduras Culture and Politics has a good analysis of this here.

I hope that people will support the efforts of Congress to stop military and police aid to Honduras. Such aid does not improve the lives of the people I work with. It only keeps in place the system that keeps them down and unable to live dignified lives, free of violence, oppression, and structural injustice.

What the people here is not more militarization of the country but real efforts for social justice and security which empower the people.

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