In Honduras, Corpses Are Being Traded for Sloppy Imperial Policy

In June, a group of academics from around Latin America plus the US wrote a letter to the State Department railing against the US military presence in Honduras and demanding that aid to the country’s abusive law enforcement apparatus be halted. They exposed the drug war as the farce it is, charging “we are the ones providing all the corpses in your war” and arguing that “combatting drug trafficking is not a legitimate justification for the US to fund and train security forces that usurp democratic governments and violently repress our people.”

The Obama administration has expanded the US military’s presence in Honduras considerably, including sending in commando-style DEA troops to kill and capture people involved in drug trafficking. In just the last few months, those DEA agents have been implicated in killings on three separate instances, one of which ended with four dead civilians, two of whom were pregnant women. Increased US-Honduran cooperation has occurred in tandem with widespread human rights abuses and forced disappearances of political opponents and journalists.

The letter slams Washington for supporting the military coup that took place in 2009:

Our country is in shambles; in part thanks to U.S. “support.” We can never know what would have happened, but had the U.S. State Department respected Honduran and Latin American diplomatic processes following the coup, perhaps our country might not today be considered nationally and internationally as an example of a “failed state.”

…The direct effect of U.S. policy toward Honduras has been to further strengthen the hand of the very people responsible for plotting, carrying out, legitimating, and violently imposing the coup d’état: the armed forces, the court system, the attorney general’s office, the police and powerful business groups. Military officers who led the coup have been assigned top-level positions within the current administration of President Lobo. With “security” as an explanation, Honduran armed forces are no longer required to account for the resources they use and can now make purchases without a tendering process. The current Honduran administration has put our poorly respected civil liberties at greater risk by deputizing soldiers to act as police despite their not being trained for that function but instead having been trained to exterminate the enemy, and giving police, with the new wiretap law, broad powers to audit the personal communication of citizens requiring neither a judge’s nor a DA’s order. All this, in turn, has intensified the climate of insecurity in our country, where citizens often have more reason to fear security forces than they do drug traffickers and gangs.

Then last week the State Department made an announcement that seemed a direct response to the letter, declaring the US would halt aid to Honduras…with some important caveats.

The U.S. government is withholding funds to Honduran law enforcement units directly supervised by their new national police chief until the U.S. can investigate allegations that he ran a death squad a decade ago, according to a State Department report released this week.

The report says the State Department “is aware of allegations of human rights violations related to Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla’s service” and that the U.S. government has established a working group to investigate.

The U.S. had pledged $56 million in bilateral security and development assistance for 2012 in Honduras, where tons of drugs pass through each year on their way to the United States. Under the new guidelines, the U.S. is limiting assistance so that it only goes to special Honduran law enforcement units, staffed by Honduran personnel “who receive training, guidance, and advice directly from U.S. law enforcement and are not under Bonilla’s direct supervision,” according to the report.

Nice try, America. So basically the great bulk of US aid to Honduras, which is helping to tear the country apart and steal the rights of the Honduran people, will continue, while some small portion that has some direct connection to a single thuggish police chief is being temporarily halted. The problem is clearly much bigger than one police chief, but the US continues to justify promoting state-terrorism in the name of fighting drugs.

But, as the letter signed by hundreds of academics explained to the State Department “the police and armed forces” that are being armed and trained by Washington “are an integral part of the problem; many of their members are deeply complicit in the drug trade.”