Ninety-four U.S. representatives and seven senators expressed concern March 12 to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton over the deteriorating human rights situation in Honduras. In “Dear Colleague” letters, prompted by 10 labor organizations representing nearly 15 million members, the members of Congress raised Honduras’ systemic, continuing human rights violations with Clinton.
The letters say more than 300 people, including 18 journalists, have been the victims of politically related killings since the 2009 Honduran coup and remind Clinton that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 requires the State Department to determine and report back to Congress whether the Honduran military is investigating military and police personnel accused of human rights violations.
In their letter to members of Congress, the 10 U.S. labor organizations highlighted a December 2011 incident in which Honduran soldiers chased members of the teachers’ unions—who were participating in a peaceful march—through the streets. When the teachers took refuge in the office of their union, police and military forces surrounded the building for two hours, the letter said. Later that month, heavily armed police and military launched tear gas at members of the teachers’ unions who were protesting unpaid wages. These attacks follow more than two years of violence directed toward union leaders and protesting workers by state security forces.
The Dear Colleague letters call on the State Department to:
- Suspend U.S. assistance to the Honduran military forces and police;
- Investigate and prosecute those responsible for murders, threats and other abuses across the country;
- Provide the current status of specific cases;
- Ensure that the Honduran government holds accountable private security companies;
- Demand that the Honduran government comply with the agreements already signed to address the land conflicts in the Bajo Aguán; and
- Guarantee that the U.S. Embassy in Honduras provide information about its efforts to stop the use of U.S. tax revenues in human rights abuses in the Bajo Aguán by prohibiting U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.
The 10 labor organizations prompting the congressional letter to Clinton are the AFL-CIO, AFT, the Machinists, Communications Workers of America, the Teamsters, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, UNITEHERE!, the UAW, United Food and Commercial Workers and the United Steelworkers.