What support does Canada provide to the Honduran military and police?

Published by Brent Patterson on

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“We never wanted to go to the police, because it was the police who were chasing us.”

The Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project posted this quote last year and explained: “The National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras explains that in Honduras 70% of the attacks against women defenders the aggressors are state security forces, especially police or the military.”

And earlier this month, PBI-Honduras published the article “The other side of militarisation: human rights violations” (also available in Spanish here) that points to the growing level of militarization in Honduras.

That article quotes lawyer and human rights defender Reina Rivera who says: “Soldiers are intervening in matters of telecommunications, energy, justice… Moreover, we see that this militarisation seeks to entrench itself with a request to the next government for more funding for police and armed forces.”

This raises the question: To what degree is the Canadian government funding or supporting Honduran security forces?

It’s not clear the current level of funding, but we can look back to the time of the coup in Honduras and begin to piece together a picture.

Training members of the army

On July 30, 2009, about a month after the coup, The Globe and Mail reported: “Canada is still providing training to members of the Honduran army.”

Surveillance support

And in February 2015, Sandra Cuffe reported: “Canadian aid to security forces and investigative units has picked up, but some of it has produced more concerns than results.”

She adds: “Since 2011, Canada has provided the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) with $5 million in surveillance and criminal investigation equipment and training to investigate homicides and violent crimes, wrote Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development [DFATD] spokesperson John Babcock in an email to Ricochet.”

“Bertha Oliva, coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras takes it for granted that human rights activists and social movement organizations are under heavy surveillance.”

Security cooperation with Colombia in Honduras

Cuffe also notes: “Another cause for concern regarding the Canadian regional security initiative was the involvement of Colombian security forces. In April 2012, DFATD and the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a memorandum of understanding for $1 million in security cooperation in Honduras and Guatemala.”

In that February 2015 article, she highlighted: “The Canadian memorandum of understanding with Colombia for security cooperation in Honduras and Guatemala expired at the end of March 2014, but questions remain. There are still two thirds left of the five-year Canada Initiative for Security in Central America and little indication of what will be funded over the course of the remaining years.”

Overall funding

In 2009, Canada provided $16.4 million in official assistance to Honduras. After the coup, that aid has increased to an average of $29 million per year between 2010 to 2016.

PBI-Honduras accompanied defender Dina Meza has commented: “Giving resources to the Government of Honduras is giving them tools so that they continue to violate the population. The focus of the international community is very important to curb all these human rights violations.”

The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act

The Berta Cáceres Act, first introduced in 2016, states: “The Honduran police are widely established to be deeply corrupt and to commit human rights abuses, including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder, with impunity.”

It then calls on the United States to suspend all “security assistance to Honduran military and police until such time as human rights violations by Honduran state security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.”

On March 21, during the Women Warriors panel of the Building Movements in Defence of Life film festival, Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, general coordinator of COPINH, expressed her support for the proposed Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.

Next steps

PBI-Canada continues to research the question of Canadian support for Honduran security forces. We believe it might also be interesting for there to be a private members bill in the House of Commons that echoes the Berta Cáceres Act.

“Giving resources to the Government of Honduras is giving them tools so that they continue to violate the population. The focus of the international community is very important to curb all these human rights violations.”

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