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RELEASE: Reps. Ilhan Omar, Carlos Mariani Call for an End to US Military Aid in Honduras

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

SAINT PAUL, MINN. – Today, State Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL – Minneapolis) joined legislative colleagues in support of a Minnesota House Resolution urging the US Congress to end all US military and security aid to Honduras, and to pass the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (HR 1299). [You can listen to audio coverage of the press conference here.]

Rep. Omar authored the resolution (HF 3580) after visiting Honduras during elections held there in November 2017, as a delegation representative for the organization Witness for Peace.

“We are witnessing an eroding of democratic values and the killing of at least 35 peaceful protesters speaking out against election fraud after the November elections,” said Rep. Omar. “Political prisoners are being falsely accused of terrorism and inciting violence, and there has been complete impunity for crimes that continue to be uninvestigated and unsolved – murders, rapes, and kidnappings among them. These are not democratic values, and we should not be using our US tax dollars to support this regime with military and security support.”

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL – St. Paul) joined Rep. Omar in support of the resolution and protesting the murder of Berta Cáceres.

“Human rights matter. It matters no matter where on the planet you are,” said Rep. Mariani. “Minnesotans have always known and upheld that we are all connected by our shared humanity.”

Rep. Omar’s House Resolution urges the passage of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which would suspend U.S. security assistance to Honduras until such time as human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.  The 70 co-sponsors of the legislation in the US Congress include Minnesota Congressmembers Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, and Rick Nolan. 

The resolution addresses several specific human rights abuses, including the March 2, 2016, assassination of Berta Cáceres, world-renowned recipient of the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize for her work defending indigenous land rights, by individuals that included current and former members of the Honduran military.  The U.S. government annually provides tens of millions of dollars to the Honduran military and police, and has provided over $200 million since a military coup in 2009.

The most recent abuses include the killing of at least 35 Hondurans by U.S. trained and financed Honduran security forces. These individuals were peacefully protesting the results of the Honduran presidential election. The Organization for American States (OAS) recommended that another presidential election be held due to the substantial irregularities and claims of fraud.  However, the support of the American Embassy was the key factor in new elections not taking place.

Rep. Omar was joined by Rep. Carlos Mariani, Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL – Minneapolis), and community leaders Ina Gruber representing Hands Off Honduras, and Thomas Haines representing Witness for Peace and the Mayflower United Church of Christ in South Minneapolis.

“I am Honduran and like every Honduran, I have witnessed the crimes committed against the Honduran people by those who are supposed to protect and serve the community,” said Gruber. “For decades, the national police and army have killed innocent Hondurans, including children, women and defenders of human rights. The killings have increased since the November 2017 election as more than 35 peaceful protesters have been shot by the army and police. The aid that Honduras receives from the United States is being used to train the military and police. Also, the arms, tear gas, and technology that are acquired with the aid are used to deny basic human rights, including the right to life and the freedom of speech.”