WASHINGTON – Protestors, including a sister and niece of the late Berta Caceres , blocked the door to the room where Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was meeting with members of the House Central America Caucus March 21. President Hernández’s meeting is at the invitation of Central America Caucus founder and co-chair Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., and follows Rep. Torres response to Caceres’ family members declining their request that she cosponsor the HR 1299, the “Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.”
Caceres’ family members had sent Rep. Torres an open letter urging that she cosponsor HR 1299, citing ongoing murders and threats to social leaders and activists and the flawed investigation into Caceres’ murder. The bill would suspend U.S. support for Honduras’ security forces “until such time as human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.” According to an article in the Guardian, leaked court documents indicate that at least two of those indicted for Ms. Caceres’s murder received extensive U.S. military and intelligence training, including at the infamous School of the Americas.
“A government that fails to protect its citizens and whose security forces are implicated in attacks and killings of activists should not be receiving security funding and training from the U.S. government,” the family’s letter states.
President Hernandez’s visit to DC to meet with the Caucus also comes amidst controversy in Honduras over his intention to run for re-election. Under the Honduran constitution, presidents are limited to one term, but the Supreme Court is allowing Hernandez’s run in 2017. The Honduran Congress removed several Supreme Court judges in 2012 in a “technical coup,” however, after ruling a police reform law unconstitutional. Hernandez was the president of the Congress at the time.
Agence France-Presse reports that another scandal looms implicating Hernandez’s family, party, and cabinet in drug trafficking. A DEA informant and former member of the Cachiros cartel, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, testified in a New York court last week that he had discussed a bribery scheme with President Hernandez’s brother, Congressman Antonio “Tony” Hernández. The hearing was about former president Porfirio Lobo’s son, Fabio Porfirio Lobo, who plead guilty to trafficking drugs last year. Rivera Maradiaga has also testified that former President Lobo took bribes from the Cachiros, offering protection from authorities, and from extradition, in return. President Hernández is from the same political party, the National Party, as former president Lobo.
Rivera Maradiaga testified that he provided a recording of his meeting with Tony Hernández, in which Hernández requests a bribe, to the DEA. Rivera Maradiaga has also provided courtroom testimony that ties current Honduran Security Minister Julian Pacheco to the Cachiros cartel.
Ms. Caceres’s niece stated, “One of my questions to the U.S. government is why are we giving security aid to a corrupt government, a government that is protecting narco-traffickers?” She also called out to President Hernandez as he left the meeting amid heavy security, asking why he refuses to allow an international investigation into the murder of her aunt. She was ignored. [Ed. note: there is a link to video of this on School of the Americas Watch Facebook page.]