Congressman Jim McGovern

Representing the 2nd District of Massachussetts
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Flickr icon
YouTube icon
RSS icon

McGovern: U.S. Aid to Honduras Must Be Linked to Ending Corruption and Strengthening Human Rights

Nov 3, 2015
Press Release

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02), a senior House Democrat and leading human rights champion as co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, spoke on the House floor about his recent trip to Honduras and the push to end corruption and impunity and strengthen human rights there. Watch video of the speech here.

Excerpts from Congressman McGovern’s floor speech are below:

“The roots of corruption in Honduras are deep and long-standing. They encompass State actors, criminal networks, and powerful political and economic interests. But after a scandal revealed that government officials had stolen more than $350 million from the country’s social security fund which provides public health services as well as old age pensions, and that some of the money had gone to the electoral campaign of the president’s political party, there has been a huge public outcry demanding action to end widespread corruption. 

“Tens of thousands of Hondurans have marched in the streets over the past months calling for an international, independent commission to investigate corruption and impunity […] This unprecedented movement is led by young people, organized on social media, and called the “Indignados.”

“Our delegation met with some of these young leaders. They are thoughtful, politically diverse, and united in their desire to see their country rid of corruption. They now face threats for what they are doing. I hope that the Honduran government is doing all it can to ensure their safety and their freedom of association, and not turning a blind eye to the threats targeting them and their families.

“U.S. and international aid needs to be carefully calibrated to link assistance to progress on human rights and ending corruption, including a truly independent commission with the full power of investigation into corruption and impunity, and the ability to be part of the prosecution of those charged with such crimes.”

The full text of Congressman McGovern’s speech is below. Watch video of the speech here.

As Prepared For Delivery:

“In September, I visited Honduras as part of a delegation organized by the Washington Office on Latin America.  Last month I spoke about the violence and extreme poverty that force families and young people to flee the country. Today, I want to focus on another urgent issue, namely how to confront the pervasive corruption in Honduras.

“We heard about the problem of corruption everywhere: From the U.N., the President of Honduras and the U.S. Ambassador to community leaders and NGOs with expertise in justice and human rights. Everyone wanted to talk about the seemingly intractable problem of endemic corruption in Honduras. 

“The roots of corruption in Honduras are deep and long-standing. They encompass State actors, criminal networks, and powerful political and economic interests.  But after a scandal revealed that government officials had stolen more than $350 million from the country’s social security fund which provides public health services as well as old age pensions, and that some of the money had gone to the electoral campaign of the president’s political party, there has been a huge public outcry demanding action to end widespread corruption. 

“Tens of thousands of Hondurans have marched in the streets over the past months calling for an international, independent commission to investigate corruption and impunity, based on the model of the CICIG in Guatemala, but tailored to Honduran reality. This unprecedented movement is led by young people, organized on social media, and called the “Indignados.”

“Our delegation met with some of these young leaders. They are thoughtful, politically diverse, and united in their desire to see their country rid of corruption.  They now face threats for what they are doing. I hope that the Honduran government is doing all it can to ensure their safety and their freedom of association, and not turning a blind eye to the threats targeting them and their families.

“When we met with President Hernandez, he argued that he had taken significant steps to go after corrupt officials.  I take the President seriously, and I look forward to seeing concrete results from the actions he has already announced. I also met with NGOs, including the Association of Judges for Democracy, that work on judicial, legal and transparency issues, who unanimously felt much more must be done.  

“At the height of the protest movement, President Hernandez called for a national dialogue on how to address the problem of corruption, asking the U.N. and the Organization of American States to help facilitate the process and develop a consensus about what needed to be done. 

“So I was disappointed to learn that the dialogue process wasn’t as inclusive as it could have been. The U.N. was sidelined, while the OAS carried out a quick series of discussions before developing a proposal for the President.  Many were concerned not only that the OAS hadn’t consulted widely enough, but that its actions fell short of the thoughtful and impartial mediation needed to generate confidence in any forthcoming proposal. 

“On September 28th, the OAS presented its proposal to President Hernandez.  After studying this proposal, I have concluded that it is woefully inadequate to addressing corruption and impunity and reforming the weak judicial institutions of Honduras. This is not just my opinion.  Last week, on October 28th, a broad coalition of Honduran civil society, the Coalition Against Impunity, issued a statement declaring that the mission proposed by the OAS and the government is itself an obstacle to creating a genuine, independent commission that can truly tackle the rampant corruption and impunity in Honduras. Earlier, on October 4th, the “Indignados” issued a similar critique, pointing out the weaknesses of the OAS proposal to independently investigate crimes of corruption and ensure their prosecution.   

“It is clear from my discussions in Honduras and recent statements by Honduran civil society that any such commission must be wholly independent from the government – politically and financially; that it must have the mandate and staffing to initiate and carry out investigations of crimes of corruption and impunity, and the freedom to pursue those investigations wherever the evidence warrants.  It must also have the mandate and the ability to work independently with State prosecutors and investigators to bring such crimes to justice. 

“Honduras doesn’t need one more round of judicial studies and technical assistance or a board of international mentors, as proposed by the OAS.  Such a limited proposal not only lacks the broad support and confidence of Honduran civil society, but it also falls far short of what is required to break the culture of impunity in Honduras. 

“I hope the OAS proposal can be modified and strengthened, and its mandate expanded to establish an effective and truly independent mechanism that can fully investigate corruption and have a role in prosecutions; or an alternative advanced that can meet these requirements. 

“I hope that a new proposal includes close cooperation with the U.N. I further believe that U.S. and international aid needs to be carefully calibrated to link assistance to progress on human rights and ending corruption, including a truly independent commission with the full power of investigation into corruption and impunity, and the ability to be part of the prosecution of those charged with such crimes.

###