More Honduran follies
Posted by Charles II on March 27, 2013
The issue is how much money the US is giving to Juan Carlos Bonilla, head of the Honduran police, who is accused of running death squads.
Basically, the State Department spokesman refuses to answer a simple question (how much money does the US give to Honduras for security), provides data that are completely unhelpful ($500 million to Central America over 5 years, with half going to countries including Honduras), and refuses to provide any information on when the last review was done that concluded that US money was not flowing to entities that Bonilla controls [added: they also have a figure of zero for security aid to Honduras on their website].
To read the actual bafflegab, click below.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on how much aid you guys provide to Honduras in the security sector?
MR. VENTRELL: Honduras. Okay.
QUESTION: Sorry, since —
MR. VENTRELL: So, Brad, you’ve asked about Honduras aid a couple of times this week.
MR. VENTRELL: So just to update you, through the Central American Regional Security Initiative, colloquially known as CARSI in bureaucratic speak, we provide assistance, training, mentoring, and technical support to the Government of Honduras. We’ve committed some $500 million through CARSI to disrupt criminal networks, build investigative and prosecutorial capacity. And this kind of assistance really is to build up the institutions and help with rule of law, vulnerable communities, at-risk youth.
And so this has been allocated across all seven countries of Central America, but the three northern tier countries, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, receive approximately half of that assistance. In terms of breaking it down by – country by country, this has really been a regional strategy, a regional approach, and so we have not broken the aid down into country-by-country statistics other than to say that the approach really is a regional approach. And so it’s some $500 million.
QUESTION: So that – okay, sorry.
MR. VENTRELL: So for all of Central America it’s $500 million.
QUESTION: Five hundred – half of that goes to the three countries?
MR. VENTRELL: Half of that goes to the three countries in the north.
QUESTION: This is over what period of time? This is 500 million per year?
MR. VENTRELL: 2008 to 2013.
QUESTION: 2008, okay. I’ve got to do some mathematics.
QUESTION: Can I ask a question about the process on the vetting of these funds to various agencies?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: In the case of Honduras, the AP story noted that it was commonly known within Honduras that regardless of what police agency you were discussing, everyone knew both by local practice and by law that the director general was the ultimate supervisor of all of these members of the Honduran National Police.
If it’s that commonly known inside the country, how is it that a decision, one, to cut off funding, and then, two, to reinstate funding and provide the Congressional reassurance, was done without knowing that kind of context? What’s – how thorough is the vetting that’s being done out of this building of these police agencies, and who is their ultimate supervisor?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Roz, you weren’t here the other day. Brad asked about the AP story as well, and I said very clearly that the U.S. undertakes stringent vetting procedures, as required by U.S. law, to ensure U.S. assistance does not go to individuals or units of the Honduran police and military whom there is credible information about linking them to human rights abuses. So we have a process absolutely for complying with all relevant U.S. law, and we’re very vigilant in that.
QUESTION: Is this a rolling vetting process, or is there a period where you look at a given police agency in a given country in that region, and then you say, “Okay, once we’ve met our statutory requirement, there’s a down period,” and then only if there is a concern raised by a member of Congress do we reopen the vetting? How does this actually work? Because when you have someone at the top of the national police who was accused and then acquitted of being engaged in disappearances and targeted killings and alleged ethnic cleansing, it kind of begs the question how thoroughly this building has been doing the vetting.
Or, as some have suggested, was this a situation where perhaps the larger need of trying to deal with the massive amounts of drug trafficking through that country, that a judgment was made that even if this person somehow gets some of the money, we have a much larger national security and public health issue that we have to confront, and that’s why we had to restart the apportioning of this money?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, Roz, I really can’t comment on internal deliberations about all the procedures of the vetting other than to say we’re in close contact with the Congress that funds these various programs, and we’re in constant communication with them about how we do our human rights vetting and stay in close contact with them. But beyond that, I can’t really get into the internal deliberations and procedures.
QUESTION: And why is that?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, part of this is that we comply with Congress’s concern, but we do take – we look at new human rights allegations when they come in. But I’d be happy to look and see if I can get you a technical expert that can explain it in greater detail, but in general we don’t comment on internal deliberations.
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