RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A
group of U.S. lawmakers is making a year-end push to suspend
millions of dollars in military assistance to Honduras, citing
mounting human rights concerns, including the murder of
high-profile land rights activist Berta Caceres.
More than 50 Democratic Party politicians have signed a
letter to the U.S. State Department urging authorities to
withhold more than $18 million in security aid to Honduras
before Congress adjourns for the holidays and ahead of
President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20.
U.S. military assistance to Honduran security forces has
fuelled impunity and human rights abuses in the Central American
country of eight million, lawmakers said.
They said U.S. military aid should not be going to security
forces who have been accused of serious human rights abuses,
including targeted killings of land activists.
"We request that the U.S. government immediately suspend all
police and military aid to Honduras until these mounting human
rights concerns are addressed," they said in the letter on Dec.
Honduran officials and the U.S. State Department were not
immediately available for comment on the proposed suspension of
aid contained in a bill known as the Berta Caceres Human Rights
in Honduras Act, which was introduced in Congress in June.
Land rights activists are still being targeted for
assassination in Honduras with two killings in October in the
northeastern Aguan Valley alone, an area where more than 150
land campaigners have been killed since 2009, the letter said.
Caceres, 43, was shot dead in March at her home in La
Esperanza, Honduras, 112 miles (180 km) west of the capital,
The award-winning campaigner had been leading opposition to
the $50 million Agua Zarca dam project that threatened to
displace hundreds of indigenous people.
Six suspects, including an employee of the hydroelectric dam
company and current and former Honduran military personnel have
been arrested in connection with the killing.
U.S. lawmakers accused Honduran authorities of bungling the
investigation into Caceres' murder, after court files related to
the case were stolen in September.
The Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, has pledged
to see justice served in the Caceres case and to tackle rights
abuses in one of the world's most violent countries.
"We are working so that the promotion and protection of
human rights is part of the culture of the Honduran people,"
Hernandez wrote on Twitter earlier this month.
(Reporting By Chris Arsenault, editing by Jo Griffin; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)