Questions about Honduras for candidates for U.S. Secretary of the Treasury

Given that U.S. policy at the international financial institutions reports to the Secretary of the Treasury, Just Foreign Policy asked U.S. advocates concerned with U.S. policy in Honduras: what questions would you like to ask candidates for Secretary of the Treasury concerning U.S. policy in Honduras?

 What follows is a lightly edited compilation of the responses we received.

 1. Will you oppose funding of Agua Zarca and other harmful dam projects planned over the objections of local communities?

 2. Will you ensure that international law is upheld and that local indigenous communities are properly consulted regarding any planned development projects before IFI support is approved for such projects?

 3. Given that senior Honduran government officials have been involved in planning so-called "Employment and Economic Development Zones," in which several articles of the Honduran constitution, as well as international laws regarding labor and other human rights would not apply, will you oppose any IFI support for such zones, or for projects in them?

Call your Rep.: End "security aid" to Honduras!

Today, July 14, there is a National Call-in Day in support of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (HR 5474). The bill would cut off U.S. funding and training of the Honduran "security" forces, as called for by the AFL-CIO and many human rights groups.

See if your Rep. is a co-sponsor of the bill.

If your Rep. is not, please call them now at (202) 224-3121. When you reach a staffer or leave a message, you can say something like:

"So-called U.S. security aid to Honduras is hurting Hondurans, not helping them. I urge you to co-sponsor HR 5474 to cut off U.S. funding and training of Honduran security forces."

When you've made your call, please report it below.

If you haven't yet signed our petition in support of the bill, you can do that here.

Cosponsor the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act

In response to the assassination of Honduran indigenous environmental leader Berta Caceres on March 2, Reps. Hank Johnson, John Conyers, Marcy Kaptur, Keith Ellison, Jose Serrano, and Jan Schakowsky have introduced legislation that would suspend U.S. funding to the government of Honduras for police and military operations until the Honduran government investigates credible reports indicating the police and military are violating human rights.

Urge Reps. to cosponsor the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act by signing our petition at MoveOn.

The U.S. is sending the Honduran government $18 million in 2016 for "security assistance." The State Department, the New York Times, and human rights groups have reported credible allegations that the Honduran police and military have committed gross human rights abuses – including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder – with impunity.

HR 5474 requires investigations into killings of human rights activists and demands the Honduran government protect the rights of trade unionists; journalists; human rights; defenders; Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, small farmers and LGBTI activists; critics of the government and other civil society activists so they may operate without interference from the police or military.

Urge your Representative in the House to co-sponsor the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act by signing and sharing our petition.

Stand with Rep. Ellison, Probe Assassination of Berta Cáceres

Please call (202) 224-3121 now and ask your Representative to sign the Ellison-Johnson-Kaptur letter urging Secretary of State Kerry to support an independent international investigation into the assassination of Berta Cáceres.

When you reach a staffer (or leave a message on a machine) you can say something like:

"I urge Rep. _______ to sign the Ellison-Johnson-Kaptur letter asking Secretary of State Kerry to support an independent international investigation into the assassination of Berta Cáceres."

When you've made your call, please report it below.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) are circulating a sign-on "Dear Colleague" letter in the U.S. House of Representatives to Secretary of State Kerry urging him to support an independent international investigation into the murder of Berta Cáceres. The letter also calls him to support protection for other Hondurans receiving threats, review U.S. support for loans to Honduras, and stop all aid to Honduran security forces. Like Senator Leahy, the letter urges that the Honduran government stop the Agua Zarca dam - the cause for which Berta gave her life.

Please call (202) 224-3121 now and ask your Representative to sign the Ellison-Johnson-Kaptur letter urging Secretary of State Kerry to support an independent international investigation into the assassination of Berta Cáceres.

President Obama, Commute Manning's Sentence to Time Served

On August 21, U.S. citizen Bradley Manning - now known as Chelsea Manning -was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to the public about the killing of civilians in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; drone strikes in Yemen; torture in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Egypt; the coup in Honduras; corruption in Tunisia, the U.S. use of cluster bombs, and the blockade of Gaza, among many other issues of public concern about U.S. foreign policy.

As Amnesty International noted, Manning has already served more than three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions described by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture as cruel and inhumane. Amnesty is calling on President Obama to commute Manning's sentence to time served.

Jared Polis: Help Address Violent Crimes Committed Against the LGBT Community in Honduras

[This Congressional letter is being circulated by Rep. Polis. The letter closes June 20. You can ask your Rep. to sign by calling their office through the Congressional switchboard, 202-225-3121, or email using this link.]

List of signers as of June 19 (36 in all): Reps. Polis (D-CO), Berman (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Frank (D-MA), Cicilline (D-RI), Baldwin (D-WI), Conyers (D-MI), Norton (D-DC), Woolsey (D-CA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Velazquez (D-NY), Hinchey (D-NY), Schiff (D-CA), Lee (D-CA), Blumenauer (D-OR), Honda (D-CA), Towns (D-NY), Nadler (D-NY), Jackson (D-IL), Quigley (D-IL), Gutierrez (D-IL), Farr (D-CA), Maloney (D-NY), Waxman (D-CA), Stark (D-CA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Yarmuth (D-KY), Speier (D-CA), Moore (D-WI), Miller (D-CA), McDermott (D-WA), Carnahan (D-MO), Moran (D-VA), Filner (D-CA), DeGette (D-CO)

Help Address Violent Crimes Committed Against the LGBT Community in Honduras
From: The Honorable Jared Polis
Date: 6/11/2012

Dear Colleague,

Please join us in sending the letter below to the State Department calling on them to urge the government of Honduras to take immediate steps to investigate and resolve cases of violent crime against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in that country.

Since 2009, more than 70 LGBT individuals have been murdered, and many of these cases remain unresolved. The State Department’s 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices found that the Honduran law enforcement has been complicit in human rights abuses, and that police officers had targeted vulnerable persons, including LGBT people. Given the level of U.S. support and assistance for the Honduran government, it is vital that we ensure they protect the human rights of all their citizens, especially vulnerable populations like the LGBT community.

94 Reps. urge Clinton to suspend aid to Honduras; 7 Senators ask State for info on Honduran compliance

On March 12, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and 93 fellow House members sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to raise the alarm over human rights violations in Honduras where human rights defenders, journalists, community leaders and opposition activists are subject to death threats, attacks and extrajudicial executions.

The letter asks the State Department “to suspend U.S. assistance to the Honduran military and police given the credible allegations of widespread, serious violations of human rights attributed to the security forces.” The letter also asks the State Department to continue efforts to pressure the Honduran government to protect the fundamental human rights of its citizens, investigate and prosecute abuses in the Bajo Aguán region and throughout the country, give an accounting of the specific status of cases, and hold accountable private security companies that have acted with impunity.

The Schakowsky letter is here.

On March 5, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and six other Senators sent a letter to  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, raising concerns over human rights violations in Honduras and requesting information from the State Department concerning whether Honduran authorities are adequately complying with provisions of the FY2012 Appropriations Act.

The Mikulski letter is here.


Howard Berman: grave concern over role of Honduran security forces in human rights abuses

On November 28, Representative Howard Berman, the ranking member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton expressing "grave concern" over the role of Honduran security forces in human rights abuses.

The letter goes into detail regarding the involvement of Honduran security forces in killings, torture and other crimes and states that it is necessary "to evaluate immediately United States assistance to ensure that we are not, in fact, feeding the beast."

The letter is here.

EFE reported about the letter on December 8 here (Spanish.) 

Wikileaks Honduras: State Dept. Busted on Support of Coup

By July 24, 2009, the U.S. government was totally clear about the basic facts of what took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009. The U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa sent a cable to Washington with subject: "Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup," asserting that "there is no doubt" that the events of June 28 "constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup." The Embassy listed arguments being made by supporters of the coup to claim its legality, and dismissed them thus: "none ... has any substantive validity under the Honduran constitution." The Honduran military clearly had no legal authority to remove President Zelaya from office or from Honduras, the Embassy said, and their action - the Embassy described it as an "abduction" and "kidnapping" - was clearly unconstitutional.

It is inconceivable that any top U.S. official responsible for U.S. policy in Honduras was not familiar with the contents of the July 24 cable, which summarized the assessment of the U.S. Embassy in Honduras on key facts that were politically disputed by supporters of the coup regime. The cable was addressed to Tom Shannon, then Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs; Harold Koh, the State Department's Legal Adviser; and Dan Restrepo, Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council. The cable was sent to the White House and to Secretary of State Clinton.

But despite the fact that the U.S. government was crystal clear on what had transpired, the U.S. did not immediately cut off all aid to Honduras except "democracy assistance," as required by U.S. law.

Schakowsky to Clinton: Investigate Human Rights Abuses in Honduras

Nine Congressional Democrats have written to Secretary of State Clinton, urging her to "fully investigate reports of severe human rights abuses in Honduras." The Members of Congress say that the U.S. "must make it clear that the ongoing intimidation and persecution of activists and dissidents is unacceptable." In addition to Rep. Schakowsky, the signers were: McGovern, Grijalva, Farr, Barbara Lee, Oberstar, Honda, Conyers, and Waters. The letter is posted here.