Democrats voice frustration over US approach in Honduras

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of Senate Democrats voiced frustration on Monday over the Trump administration efforts to address corruption and violence in Honduras, urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to link continued U.S. aid to the country with improvements in human rights.

In a letter to Tillerson, the lawmakers warned that the situation in Honduras remains grave despite U.S.-backed programs to strengthen and professionalize key government institutions, such as law enforcement and the judiciary.

Led by Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Democrats said there is "credible evidence" that not all Honduran officials support serious efforts to combat organized crime and corruption. They also told Tillerson that social activists continue to be the target of threats and attacks and the government of Honduras' "engagement with civil society has not materially improved."

The letter to Tillerson comes three months after Senate Democrats called for a tougher approach with Honduras. They wrote to Tillerson in early April and said they were concerned U.S. financial assistance was being provided to Honduras "despite recurring threats and assassinations of human rights defenders and environmental activists."

They also made the point that continued assistance conflicted with the law that sets terms for countries getting U.S. assistance, including that civil societies be able to function without interference.

Among the recommendations they made was for Tillerson to work with the Treasury Department to oppose investments by international financial institutions in Honduran industries that are "credibly implicated in human rights violations."

The State Department responded in late April, telling the senators they agreed that Honduras "continues to face serious human rights challenges." But the department said solving "the deep-seated problems" that undermine human rights in Honduras with take time and require sustained U.S. engagement.

The U.S. has committed more than $5 million to an Organization of American States program that works with the Honduran government to address prominent corruption cases, according to the State Department.


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