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US suspends aid to Honduras over human rights concerns

Alleged ties between the Honduran police chief and death squads of a decade ago have led the US to withhold some funds. 

By Mike AllisonGuest blogger / August 13, 2012

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, The views expressed are the author's own.

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On Sunday, I wrote about the temporary halt of some US aid to Honduras. The suspension of aid was brought on by alleged connections between the current national police chief, Juan Carlos Bonilla, and death squads that operated about a decade ago. The US is going to step back and sort things out.

RAJ at Honduras Politics and Culture asks really important questions about where exactly the US is going to be holding back aid. The US said that it is suspending aid to those personnel and units who are not directly supervised by Bonilla.

Direct supervision" is the operative phrase here, since Bonilla, as national police chief, is the commander of all the Honduran police. Does it really matter if there is an interposed subordinate officer between him and the units the US is still funding? Or is the significant difference here that the US will still fund US trained, guided, and advised units which, while technically part of the Honduran police forces, would be expected not to follow orders from the national police chief?

Only those elements of the national police that the chief of the national police does not oversee? That's not very comforting. Given the evidence available, Tigre looks like it might be the unit cut from US assistance.
Greg Weeks at Two Weeks Notice has more on the role of a human rights agenda in US foreign policy. Given what the US cares about in Honduras, concerns about drug trafficking should trump human rights concerns. However, in this case, aid is being suspended because the chief of police might have been involved in extrajudicial killings years ago. Aid is not being suspended because Bonilla was involved in drug trafficking, was corrupt, or incompetent in carrying out his duties. Those might all be there case, but for now, they are not.
A few more things about the story. I don't think that the letter from US and Honduran academics and members of the US Congress caused the State Department to do something that it didn't want to do. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's just a coincidence, but there's got to be more to the story, obviously, than what we already know. For example, what the State Department did isn't exactly what the letter writers asked them to do. (Here's the letter.)


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