All people can make a difference. In 1977, at Hope College in Holland Michigan, a group of students under the banner of Human Rights in Latin America, got together to protest American military aid funding (through the Defense Department) of human rights abuses in Chile where Pinochet took over for Salvador Allende and in Argentina where Videla brutally disappears 30,000 people who had a different point of view. Our cry was to stop US support of torture. Many groups went to Washington and protested US support of torture and it was finally ended in 1978 when congress passed and President Carter signed the Foreign Assistance Act (Section 502B). We also protested US support of torture in El Salvador (our chant was: “Money for jobs, not for war. US out of El Salvador!”). Later, the Committee on International Relations and Committee on Foreign Relations reported restrictions on US funds to El Salvador if they abuse human rights. We can make a difference!
But it doesn’t stop there! The United States military has significantly increased its presence in Honduras since the Obama Administration. Pointing to interests in drug interdiction, the US presence at Soto Cano Air Base is a hub for trainings with Honduran police, military, and “special joint forces.” US-trained security forces, including those trained at the infamous School of the Americas (SOA, aka WHINSEC), have been linked to human rights abuses and assassinations in Honduras. Three of the eight men arrested for the assassination of Berta Cáceres were members of US-trained forces who were given a hit list of prominent environmental activists to assassinate.
Now Take Action! H.R. 1574 (named in honor of Berta Cáceres) is a crucial bill before the US Congress to address the human rights violations committed by Honduran state security forces. It would withhold security and military assistance from the US until state-sponsored human rights violations cease and there is some justice for its victims.
Take action this week! Phone calls are crucial to get your congressperson’s attention. Here’s what to do:
See who is co-sponsoring the bill. If your congressperson is not there, call your congressperson and encourage them to cosponsor the bill. Twelve from California are already co-sponsoring the bill. We strongly encourage constituents from Joyce Beatty (OH-3 in Columbus, OH) and Tim Ryan’s (OH-13 in Youngstown, OH) districts to contact their representatives. Rep. Ryan has sponsored previous versions of this bill. Rep. Beatty is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; many victims of state-sponsored human rights crimes are Afro-descendant Hondurans defending ancestral territories and waterways.
Here’s the message to leave for the foreign affairs staffer:
“My name is _____. I am a constituent from (your town/city) in (your state). I am calling to ask Rep. _____ to co-sponsor H.R. 1574, The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, calling for a suspension of U.S. security aid to Honduras until human rights violations committed by the Honduran security forces cease. Has Rep. _______ seen this bill? Can I count on him/her to sign on?”