Washington D.C. — Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—issued the following statement ahead of planned Strategic Human Rights Dialogue taking place this week between the United States and Honduras. Uzra Zeya, the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, will lead the U.S.’s participation in the talks.
“In electing President Xiomara Castro last year, the Honduran people made clear the importance of ending the culture of corruption, impunity, and disregard for human rights that has plagued their country for so long. After initial positive momentum, concentrated attention and commitment is now needed to address the daunting challenges ahead. It is critical that the U.S. and other international partners work closely with President Castro’s administration to end impunity for continuing human rights abuses.
“As Under Secretary Zeya arrives in Honduras for the U.S.-Honduras Strategic and Human Rights Dialogues this week, I condemn the recent murders of human rights and water defenders in Honduras who are key components of civil society in a pluralistic democracy. Even as the Castro government seeks to reject the repressive policies of her corrupt predecessor Juan Orlando Hernandez, without major reforms, the security establishment remains beholden to powerful special interests. Indeed, the targeting of land and water defenders is driven by the same elite criminal, corporate, military, and paramilitary structures that the previous government left in place.
“Nothing will change in Honduras until the structures of criminality—which are deeply embedded in both the military and police—are investigated and the perpetrators of human rights abuses are held accountable. The U.S. must support President Castro’s efforts to root out corruption and protect human rights in Honduras. This includes encouraging the Castro government to strengthen judicial independence and uphold the rule of law by ensuring that the Honduran Supreme Court selection process embodies transparency and credibility.
“I applaud President Castro and her administration for signing a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations to establish an anti-corruption commission and righting wrongs perpetrated by the Hernandez administration more broadly, and I urge the U.S. State Department to remain a steadfast partner in these efforts, which undoubtedly grow more challenging with ever deeper and substantive reforms.”
In February 2021, Senator Merkley introduced the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2021, and ahead of Honduran elections in November 2021, Merkley led 29 lawmakers in a bicameral letter to the U.S. Department of State urging more action to ensure the elections would be free and fair.