Date: Feb 23, 2021
Author: Antonio Saadipour Sellés
Since the 2009 military coup, Honduras remains plagued by systemic corruption and rampant violations of human rights. There is widespread collusion among government officials, security forces, businesses, and organized crime, resulting in threats, assassinations, and forced disappearances against human rights and environmental defenders, indigenous and Garífuna leaders, political opponents, and journalists. It is this deadly combination of corruption and abuse that led to the murder of indigenous activist Berta Cáceres nearly five years ago—but despite the international and national outcry, the abuses never stopped.
Now, there’s a new chance to take action through a Senate bill introduced today!
To give you an idea of how far-reaching corruption is in Honduras, during the October 2019 trial that convicted Tony Hernández, ex-congressman and brother of President Juan Orlando Hernández, Federal prosecutors and multiple witnesses testified that Tony Hernández channeled millions of dollars to the presidential campaigns of President Hernández. President Hernández is implicated in several high-profile corruption and drug trafficking cases—currently being prosecuted in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York—for allegedly accepting bribes and protecting drug traffickers who were sending multiton shipments of cocaine to the United States from dealing with law enforcement.
The executive and legislative branches have taken steps to entrench corruption, block oversight by national prosecutors and international investigators, and shield senior officials and members of Congress from criminal liability. Rather than serve their own citizens, Honduran leaders have rigged the game in their favor so they can brutally oppress their people without worrying about the consequences.
What’s Going On?
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) just introduced the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2021, a bill that seeks to “suspend certain United States assistance for the Government of Honduras until corruption, impunity, and human rights violations are no longer systemic, and the perpetrators of these crimes are being brought to justice.” The bill suspends security assistance, prohibits commercial export of certain arms, and prods the U.S. government to impose individual sanctions on top-level Honduran officials involved in corruption and gross human rights violations. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Read Sen. Merkley’s press release and the full text of the bill here.
How You Can Help
Make your demands for justice heard by calling both of your senators (find them here) and leaving a message urging them to support the bill. If they’re already one of the cosponsors, call their office anyway and thank them for taking bold action on this issue!
“My name is [First and Last Name] and I am a constituent from [City, State, Zip Code]. I am calling to urge Senator [Last Name] to cosponsor the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2021. Corruption by Honduran government officials robs public resources and fuels poverty. Human rights activists and citizens who stand up to these injustices are threatened, killed, and jailed. The proposed bill suspends security assistance and puts pressure on the Honduran government to promote the wellbeing of the Honduran people. It does not cut off humanitarian aid that truly addresses the root causes of forced migration—in fact, the bill’s strong stance against abuse and corruption will help address one of the root causes of migration from Honduras to the United States. Thank you for considering cosponsoring this bill.”
After far too long, as Sen. Merkley says, “The United States cannot remain silent in the face of deeply alarming corruption and human rights abuses being committed at the highest levels of the Honduran government.” Help us deliver the message, as expressed by Sen. Whitehouse, that “we will not support governments that abuse the public trust and choose profit over their own people.”