García, Schakowsky, Johnson, Castro, Kaptur, and Omar Introduce Legislation to Combat Rampant Corruption and Human Rights Abuses in Honduras

April 21, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) alongside Representatives Hank Johnson (GA-04), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), and Ilhan Omar (MN-05) led a group of 21 lawmakers in introducing the House companion to Senator Merkley’s Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2021. This critical legislation, which is identical to the Senate version, lays out a comprehensive framework for combating corruption, impunity, and human rights violations in Honduras. It builds on the strong foundation laid by the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.

The introduction comes after U.S. federal prosecutors made public that they are investigating Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández for his involvement in drug trafficking throughout the U.S. It also follows the conviction and sentencing of his brother and former Honduran Congressman Tony Hernández who will serve life in prison for his leadership in the same conspiracy – an expansive, sophisticated, and violent drug ring.

In response to this rampant corruption and well documented history of human rights violations, the Honduran Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act will impose sanctions on the Honduran president for corruption and human rights abuses, and suspend U.S. security assistance and export licenses for covered defense articles and munitions items to the Honduran police and military, among other provisions.

“The Honduran people continue to leave their country because of violence, corruption and lack of economic opportunities. The institutions intended to protect the public are instead violating human rights and protecting criminals and drug traffickers” said Congressman García. “We must address the root causes of migration, and that includes addressing the safety of Central American people. The Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2021, will impose sanctions against high level officials for corruption and human rights abuses. We must stand in solidarity with our Honduran brothers and sisters against impunity and institutional violence.”

“For years, the United States has provided millions of dollars in security assistance to Honduras, and for years we have seen the military and police murder human rights, labor, and environmental activists with impunity,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “And now we see the Honduran President implicated in a decade’s long violent drug trafficking scheme. The U.S. must stop financing the rampant corruption and violations of human rights that prevent the Honduran people from building a safe and thriving country. It is well past time for the U.S. to make clear that the Honduran government must restore the rule of law, and respect and uphold human and civil rights. Until that time, we must cease our aid, impose sanctions, and hold those in power accountable.”

“Disturbing human rights abuses and blatant corruption are being committed at the highest levels of the Honduran government—claiming lives, silencing human rights and environmental defenders, and forcing families to flee persecution and violence. We can’t stay silent in the face of this crisis,” said Senator Merkley, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and introduced the legislation in the Senate in February. “A failure to hold Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, national officials, and members of the police and military accountable will only make things worse, by fueling widespread poverty and violence and forcing more families to search for safety. We need a comprehensive plan of action, including sanctions, and halting the provision of U.S. security assistance and defense equipment to the Honduran police and military.”

“I am honored to co-lead the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act. This bill continues the call for long-sought justice for Hondurans and holds President Juan Orlando Hernandez accountable for his high-level involvement in narcotrafficking,” said Congressman Hank Johnson. “It is imperative that the Honduran military and police do not receive funding from the United States to continue terrorizing its own people. This legislation, coupled with my legislation, the , sends a clear message to the government and people of Honduras that state violence cannBerta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Actot continue with impunity. This year commemorates five years since the assassination of human rights and environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered for speaking out against injustice. Many more have been tortured, imprisoned, and killed by the Honduran government; we must deliver justice for them by defunding and demilitarizing Honduran security forces. Human rights in Honduras cannot wait. I thank Rep. Schakowsky and Senator Merkley for their leadership on this bill.”

“I’m proud to stand with defenders of human rights and introduce the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act,” said Congressman Castro. “It is long overdue to stop providing aid to Honduran military and security forces, and to hold President Juan Orlando Hernández accountable for corruption. Addressing the root causes of migration requires us to confront the insecurity and impunity that forces many people to flee to the United States. The Honduran people have the right to a safe and decent life in their home country and they must be protected, not victimized by their own government. I encourage all of my colleagues to support this important legislation."

“The United States cannot remain silent and allow the horrific treatment of the Honduran people as well as rampant fraud and corruption to go on without consequences,” said Congresswoman Kaptur. “The Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act is vital, commonsense legislation that will hold Honduran leaders like Juan Orlando Hernández accountable for their actions. The U.S. cannot support regimes that flagrantly violate human rights and the rule of law.”

“Our immigration policies and foreign policy are inextricably linked. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, national officials, and members of the police and military are responsible for unspeakable crimes against humanity in Honduras—and are fueling a humanitarian crisis in the region that is leading thousands to flee their homes for safety,” said Congresswoman Omar. “We should not be providing security aid to a government that murders human rights activists with zero legal accountability.  Not holding them accountable will only fuel widespread poverty and violence and force more families to flee their communities in search of safety. I am proud to join Congresswoman Schakowsky to ensure that Honduras is not rewarded for their crimes.”