Sunday, August 12, 2012

Academics stop US Government aid to Honduras

The U.S. government will withhold financial support for Honduran law enforcement units directly supervised national police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla until it can clear up whether he was involved in death squad activities one decade ago.
Earlier this year, The Associated Press reported that Bonilla, nicknamed "The Tiger," had been widely accused of killings and human rights violations in a decade-old internal Honduran police report. The report named Bonilla in at least three killings or forced disappearances between 1998 and 2002 and said he was among several officers suspected in 11 other cases.

Chief Bonilla's spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Only one of the allegations against the now-46-year-old Bonilla led to murder charges, however, and he was acquitted in 2004. The verdict was upheld by Honduras' Supreme Court in 2009. Bonilla took office in May.
Given that Bonilla was appointed in May and that the allegations were not new, I wondered why the US acted now. That answer comes later in the article.
This week's decision came after a series of letters from Honduran and U.S. academics, activists and members of Congress were sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asking her to reconsider security aid to Honduras because of alleged human rights violations. In recent years there have been reports of kidnappings and killings by law enforcement, more than 65 people killed during farmland conflicts and dozens of deaths of gay and lesbian activists.
"Combatting drug trafficking is not a legitimate justification for the U.S. to fund and train security forces that usurp democratic governments and violently repress our people," said the June 7, 2012, letter signed by hundreds of academics.
It's pretty impressive, if true, that the US State Department responded to appeals from US and Honduran activists and academics, as well as members of Congress. I see these letters quite frequently and am rarely convinced that they will make much of a difference. Perhaps this time, the letter writing campaign worked.

The US is taking  a small step to withhold aid to part of what appears to be a very corrupt police force. However, it's a necessary first step. Now about those judges that set Chepe Luna free?

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