In recent years the US State Department has been asking for significantly more funds to support its operations in Honduras according to budget justifications submitted to Congress. For both Fiscal Years 2011 and 2010, it asked for about $68 million. This represents a 40% increase from the $49 million requested for FY 2009. The most recent justification lists $54 million in funds going towards the Development Assistance (DA) account. According to the document:
Programs funded under the DA account will support the efforts of host governments and their private sector and non-governmental partners to implement the systemic political and economic changes needed for sustainable development progress. Requests for significant increases in individual bilateral DA programs will be focused on countries that demonstrate commitment to improving transparent, accountable, and responsible governance, where U.S. assistance is most likely to produce significant and sustainable development results (p. 70).
While the official diplomatic line was that the coup was illegitimate and that Zelaya should be allowed to return, the US accepted the results of the much contested November 2009 presidential election. It may not be much of a stretch to assert that the US saw the fraudulent election of Porfirio Lobo as a step in the right direction for a “sustainable development progress.” After all, Lobo has shown himself to be a partisan of neoliberal economics and a proponent of making Honduras appealing to foreign investors. Just last month he traveled to Denver, Colorado to speak at a “Honduras is Open for Business” event hosted by a group called the the Chamber of the Americas.
A few months after Lobo’s inauguration, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern at “the fact that high-ranking Army officers or former members of the Army who have been accused of participating in the coup are holding high-level management positions in public offices” in the Lobo administration. It is also the case that the human rights abuses that became apparent soon after Zelaya’s overthrow have continued under Lobo. As Human Rights Watch noted, at least 18 journalists and pro-Zelaya activists have been killed since Lobo assumed power in January 2010. Additionally the Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) has gone as far as alleging the return of widespread death squad activity to the country. The group claims that the death squads are explicitly targeting family members of resistance leaders as a way of causing “distress” and intimidating them into silence.
The issue of US assistance to the right-wing regime in Honduras was addressed by a few in Congress this past October. Rep. Sam Farr wrote a letter–signed by 29 other members of Congress–to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requesting that US aid, “particularly military and police aid,” be suspended until Lobo distances himself from the 2009 coup participants and honestly addresses the human rights situation in the country. The total amount of security aid requested for Honduras the past few years is small but still significant. Most security assistance falls under two programs: International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF). The amount of IMET and FMF requested for Honduras was $1.5 million for FYs 2009 and 2010. For FY 2011, this number is $2 million, a third higher than the previous two FYs.
These figures should raise questions about the Obama administration’s commitment to democracy and human rights in Latin America, as well as the deception inherent in policy towards Honduras.
A breakdown of the amounts of security aid requested for Honduras from FY 2009 to FY 2011 follows:
Here is a breakdown of the total amounts of funding requested for US foreign operations (including all forms of foreign aid) in Honduras from FY 2008 to FY 2011:
FY 2009: $49,128,000
FY 2010: $68,234,000
FY 2011: $67,934,000