By Christine Goffredo
International Team - Nicaragua
Witness for Peace
Yesterday in Honduras’ capital city of Tegucigalpa, members of teachers’ unions, parents students, and members of the National Popular Resistance Front staged a peaceful protest. When military and police forces turned against the protesters, schoolteacher and human rights activist Ilsy Ivania Velázquez Rodriquez was killed after allegedly being struck by a tear gas canister and hit by a tank.
The shocking news raises questions about the role of United States funding to the Honduran military.
Through the U.S.-funded Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), $13 million has already been promised to the Honduran military with the intention of combating narcotrafficking and gang-related violence. And just this past month, the United States agreed to give another $1.75 million to Honduras.
Since the June 2009 coup, the Honduran military has been used more heavily in civilian issues—an area constitutionally relegated to the Honduran police force.
Given that human rights violations by the military continue to occur, impunity for these abuses is rampant and the recent use of force against civilians by military and police took place during peaceful protests, it is clearly time to ask if funding the Honduran military is how United States taxpayers’ money should be spent.
Yesterday Honduran civil society lost a prominent member of its community—a teacher, a human rights defender and a woman whose own family history was marked by human rights violations. Today we must denounce the use of taxpayer money to fund a military that ignores democratic practices and turns on its own citizens. And tomorrow, we'll continue working toward a more just future.