Inside Story America

Honduras: A culture of impunity

Is the US state department misleading Congress about possible US funding for Honduran death squads?

A new investigation has further highlighted the culture of impunity that exists within the Honduran police force.

The Associated Press heard testimony that strongly suggests that people are being disappeared by roving groups of armed officers.

Clearly, the state department is well aware of Honduran law [regarding Bonilla’s control over all police units].

– Annie Bird, the co-founder Rights Action

There are claims that the US Congress may be funding these units. 

Last August, Congress held back $30m in Honduran aid precisely because of concerns over the human rights record of the country’s top police officer, Juan Carlos Bonilla.

But that money was later restored on condition that it went to units not under Bonilla’s control.

However, AP reports that Honduran law prohibits any police unit from operating outside the command of the chief of police.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. Much of it is ascribed to gang violence. But rights groups say the chaos is also being used as a cover to target political opponents.

So, is the US state department misleading Congress about possible US funding for Honduran death squads? 

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Alberto Arce, the Honduras correspondent for Associated Press and the co-founder of Rights Action; and Annie Bird who’s worked extensively in Honduras.

“According to gang sources just for the last month, we will have around 10 members of the 18 street gangs killed. Killed in the same kind of operative with these two cars a number of masked men, and most of them appear killed mostly only by one gun shoot in the back part of the head, some of them also dissapear. The bodies appear six to eight hours after they were arrested, and we cannot iddentify arrest orders for any of these guys, so it looks like there is an intelligence work that it’s been done, that tracks them through all the city, and they are conducting these kind of operatives at least two or three times per week….

Tegucigalpa is under curfew. It is full of police checkpoints. There is no way that 150 operatives of heavily armed men can move around the city if they don’t have the logistics and coordination to move around without being stopped. It’s both the logistics and the intelligence that only the police have.”

Alberto Arce, the Honduras correspondent for Associated Press

Gay Marriage 

Over the past few years, the fight for marriage equality has dominated the gay rights movement in the US.

Some conservative Republicans too, are now backing the cause.

“I think that any time that there is a clear path that’s established by an institution like marriage, and now hopefully it will be extended to the same sex couples. It always raises the question of should I take that path, and will I take that path? And it creates an expectation that of course you will. And in same sex relationships we have been creative for so long in figuring out what that path forward is for our relationships … that maybe it puts too much pressure on us to say yes, I want to get married, or to follow the road that everyone is taking because that’s supposed to be the right thing to do … Maybe marriage isn’t for everyone.

– Kate Leasniak, the director for Bitch Media

The only sitting Republican senator to declare his support, Rob Portman, states that “same-sex marriage will encourage people to make long-term commitments and build families”.

He argues that gay marriage is therefore a conservative position.

But some within the gay rights movement, say such justifications will only help extend conservative social morals to the lesbian gay bisexual transgender (LGBT) community, and help solidify predjudice against both heterosexuals, and homosexuals who do not conform to traditional notions of a “respectable” lifestyle.

Clearly underlying the push for marriage equality is the clear principle that no one should be discriminated against, and a victory at the Supreme Court will be an important and historical marker in that struggle.

But does the emphasis on marriage and even serving in the military – assimilation into conservative social structures as opposed to the transformation – carry the risk of further entrenching prejudices and an unjust society? 

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas is joined by guests: Kate Leasniak, the development director for Bitch Mediaand a former campaigner for gay marriage; and Tracy Clark-Flory, who writes about sex and relationships for