Thursday, January 17, 2013

The War on Drugs: Antithesis of Gun Control


by Riahl O'Malley, Nicaragua Team

The press headlines today talk a lot about gun control.  Many are mourning the loss of 20 children who were murdered at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  Hearts ache, feeling the devastation of the loss of a child, a friend, a sibling, niece or nephew.

So many young lives have been lost due to our government’s unhealthy and dysfunctional relationship with weapons.  I hear “gun control” and, as I consider the lives of young children in Connecticut, my heart also aches for lives that have been lost in Honduras.

The U.S. has given millions of dollars in arms and training to the Honduran police and military.  These policies inform U.S.-lead militarization that carries the misnomer, “War on Drugs.”  Rather than addressing the damaging impacts of drug and drug-addiction these policies have subjected innocent people to extreme violence.  The so-called War on Drugs is the antithesis of gun control.

The Brooks Wood family holds up a picture of their
passed child •  Photo credit:defensoresenlinea.com
Eight months ago, on May 11th, 2012, a helicopter of Honduran police and U.S. D.E.A. agents opened fire on a riverboat in the Honduran Moskitia.  Four civilians were killed. Fourteen year-old Hasked Brooks Wood was among the deceased.  He was traveling with his mother, Clara Wood Rivas, and his best friend Wilmer Walter, also 14.  Both Clara and Wilmer survived the attack, though Wilmer was shot through his left hand in the shower of gunfire.

Juana Jackson Ambrocio, pregnant, mother of two; Candelaria Pratt Nelson, also pregnant, mother of six; and Emerson Martinez Henriquez, 21-years-old all tragically lost their lives in the attack.

The Honduran police teams who were involved reportedly told government investigators that they took their orders from the D.E.A. The State Department claims the DEA agents were “supporting and advising” the mission.  There remains to be a formal U.S. investigation into what exactly took place.

Grassroots response to the U.S.’ role in the human rights crisis in Honduras has sparked some change in U.S. policy.  Senator Leahy’s office held up millions in security assistance to Honduras because of human rights abuses and violations of international law.  In the past year almost 100 members of Congress have signed letters calling for suspensions of military and police aid and a change in U.S. policy in Honduras.

Much remains to be done, not only to control guns, but to control the violence caused by militarized policy.  Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), along with 3 other members of the Black Congressional Caucus, has authored a Dear Colleague Letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder.  The letter requests a thorough investigation into the abuses of the Honduran police and military and the role of U.S. agents, such as those involved in the May 11th killings.

While policy-makers consider the broad and deep impacts of U.S. gun policy, implore them to consider the equally tragic impacts of militarized policy at home and abroad.  Write your congressperson today and ask them to join Congressman Johnson in demanding justice for Honduran families who have lost their loved ones.  

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