Friday, August 19, 2011

Reports on Violence in Bajo Aguan Fail to Capture Complexity of Conflict

By the Witness for Peace International Team, Nicaragua

Early this week, several major news outlets ran stories concerning continued violence in the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras. The current Lobo administration in Honduras increased military presence in the area over the last few days following several violent attacks that left close to a dozen people dead. While it is important to draw attention to these issues, it is also increasingly difficult to rely on major news sources for accurate information on what is happening in the Aguan region, as the situation is extremely complex and politically charged.

For example, Dr. Rosemary Joyce of the University of California - Berkeley highlights some of the biases present in CNN’s coverage, such as leaving out important details and relying on questionable sources. Challenges to receiving accurate or comprehensive information are also represented in the L.A Times’ article. For example, the article mentions that the recent military deployment followed an attack by “armed gunmen” that killed security guards at the Paso Aguan Ranch. However, information gathered from human rights watch groups working in Honduras, such as Rights Action and Honduras: Human Rights, report that the Sunday attacks were initiated by security forces and resulted in the deaths of campesinos as well as employees, that there were beatings and arrests of campesinos in that community by the police on Saturday, and that this week’s incidents follow the forced eviction and burning of homes by the police in a community nearby throughout the weekend.

These inconsistencies point to the complexities of the situation in the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras. They also speak to the challenges of acquiring accurate information in such an embattled area. Most importantly, however, they raise the question of how wise U.S. funding of the Honduran military is when there continue to be reports of military human rights abuse. 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 narco-trafficking and gang-related violence. And in February, the United States agreed to give another $1.75 million to Honduras.

Without a clear idea of how this money is being spent, and knowing that military abuses continue to occur, it is imperative that U.S. funding to the Honduran military be suspended. Finally, U.S. citizens should continue pressuring the U.S. government to insist that the Honduran government investigates and prosecutes human rights violations by military and police personnel.

To get more involved, check out Witness for Peace’s upcoming delegations to Honduras and sign up for Honduras Action Alerts from Witness for Peace.

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