Friday, June 21, 2013

Honduras Travel Warning

There is a new U.S. State Department travel warning for Honduras. It is frank, especially in terms of directly implicating the police in crime.

Members of the Honduran National Police have been known to engage in criminal activity, including murder. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and to deter violent crime. In practice, this means police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime or not respond at all.

Similar language was used in November 2012, but go back to 2009 and you don't see the reference to police criminal activity. This in part can help explain why 21 senators have called on the Obama administration to review its security aid to Honduras. At the very least, the administration has cut funds for police programs that don't work, but resistance to broader cuts may be presaged by the following bit from the warning:

The Honduran government is in the early stages of substantial reforms to its criminal justice institutions.

I don't know how long the "early stages" last. See Just the Facts for a survey of U.S. aid to Honduras. It's pretty small compared to aid to the rest of the region, but obviously Honduras is a small country and even "pretty small" adds up.
Here is Human Rights Watch's take on the police:

In December 2011, Congress established an independent body, the Directorate for Investigation and Evaluation of the Police Career, to evaluate police performance and remove officers implicated in corruption and criminal activity, including human rights abuses. As of October 2012, the unit had referred only two police officers—including a former director of the police criminal investigation division—to the attorney general’s office for prosecution for their alleged involvement in the escape of four officers accused of the 2011 killing of two university students. 

In June 2012, President Lobo established an independent commission consisting of three Honduran and two foreign experts to propose wide-ranging reforms of the police, the attorney general’s office, and the courts.

The Directorate for Investigation and Evaluation of the Police Career is the one the U.S. stopped funding.

This is a terrible situation. Sending more aid to a corrupt and violent organization only serves to exacerbate human rights abuses in Honduras. Cutting aid entirely probably means accepting the status quo because we cannot expect that action to prompt democratic reform. But is there any realistic way of sending aid that actually contributes to reducing police violence?


Aryn Donner 4:58 PM  

Woow have fun on this trip! It's probabbly hard to pack if you have so much travelling..

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