Did the AP Catch State Department Officials Lying to Congress About Honduran Death Squads?
|Written by Dan Beeton|
|Monday, 25 March 2013 15:30|
Associated Press reporters Alberto Arce and Katherine Corcoran have written a follow up article to Arce’s investigative feature last week on the continuation of death squad activity by the Honduran police. The new article, which appeared in the New York Times and various other media over the weekend, suggests that U.S. State Department officials may have deceived members of Congress in order to illegally fund Honduran police units even though some police – under the command of National Police Director General Juan Carlos "El Tigre" Bonilla - may be involved in death squads.
The article begins:
Congress has already withheld some funding ($30 million) to the Honduran police under the Leahy Law over concerns about Bonilla's alleged past death squad involvement, but the State Department has continued with some other funding and just announced a new $16.3 million commitment to the Honduran police during a visit to Honduras by Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield last weekend. AP noted that “Some of the U.S. money will go to the Gang Resistance Education and Training program under the director of community policing, who also told the AP that he reports directly to Bonilla.”
As the AP article states, “U.S. support goes to Honduran forces working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on anti-narcotics operations, and anti-gang, anti-kidnapping and border-security units, according to an embassy official who was not authorized to speak on the record.” We have detailed how U.S.-assisted counternarcotics operations have involved the killings of civilians and what seems to be a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach by some Honduran forces in the past that led to the U.S. to temporarily suspend radar assistance to Honduran authorities.
Arce and Corcoran note that they tried to ask Brownfield questions regarding the police assistance when he was in Honduras, but Brownfield declined to answer.
The AP article includes additional statements from Honduran officials regarding the chain of command, which goes up to Bonilla:
In the wake of the AP’s revelations, the big question is how will Congress react? While State Department officials are likely to claim plausible deniability or a different interpretation of Honduran law and how it relates to police supervision and accountability, State Department officials’ past responses to Congress indicate that human rights concerns may be less of a priority than they are for the members of Congress who have spoken out on this issue. The unwillingness of senior officials such as Brownfield to answer questions from reporters also does not signal credibility.
Arce and Corcoran noted that the State Department has not been forthcoming with information to Congress that would explain the discrepancy: