Belated Thanks to the Senate for Passing a Bill with Human Rights Conditions for Guatemala

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On Thursday, July 9, the Senate passed a foreign assistance budget allocating $675 million for Central America, with $142 million designated specifically for Guatemala.

The bill contains important restrictions, conditions and reporting requirements for Guatemala – including restrictions on funds to the Guatemalan Army.

Conditioning US funds based on compliance with human rights investigations and accountability is one thing GHRC and our partners advocate for every year as a tool to leverage positive change in Guatemala, and we were pleased to see many of our recommendations including in the Senate Bill. [See more details about the human rights conditions below.]

In contrast, the House version of the budget, which was approved June 11, allocated $296 million to Central America and included no human rights conditions. Moreover, its focus on funding to bulk up border security in Central America and keep migrants from heading north violates international refugee protection rights – something denounced by GHRC and 65 other organizations.

What Can We Do Right Now?

In the coming months, the House and Senate will try to come to an agreement about the budget. At a minimum, any funding approved for Guatemala should include the human rights conditions proposed by the Senate.

Let’s thank the Senators who have been supporting human rights conditions – Senator Thad Cochran (R-MI), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) – and encourage them to ensure that the conditions are maintained throughout the process for finalizing the budget.

 

Sample tweet:

@SenThadCochran @LindseyGrahamSC @SenatorBarb @SenatorLeahy Thanks for passing a bill with #humanrights conditions for #Guatemala!

 

Background:

Historically, US funding to Guatemala has provided support to governments and security forces that violate human rights. While some US funding in recent years has been positive, many US programs continue to do more harm than good. Even “development assistance” – not to mention security assistance – can have consequences (intended or unintended) that contribute to conflict, violence and impunity.

This year, President Obama requested $1 billion for Central America to deal with the “migration crisis,” and the funding has been framed in the context of the “Alliance for Prosperity” – a development plan created by the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, with technical assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Both the Alliance for Prosperity Plan and the request for increased US funding have been controversial, prompting an ongoing debate about how much the US should provide for Central America, to what end, and under what conditions.

With recent investigations in Guatemala revealing corruption at the highest levels, and ongoing human rights abuses, GHRC has argued that the US should not focus on funding security and “development” initiatives, and instead focus political pressure to address corruption, impunity and state-sponsored violence.

With that in mind, we recommended strong limits on any US funding – and several of our recommendations were included in the Senate Bill, such as:

  • Requiring specific legal reforms to address the root causes of poverty, violence and corruption
  • Reforming the police and ending the role of the military in internal policing
  • Protecting the rights of human rights defenders
  • Protecting the independence of the judiciary
  • Making sure that local communities are consulted in the design and participate in the implementation and evaluation of projects that affect them.

The Senate Bill also includes important support for initiatives that GHRC has been working on for years, including no funding for the Guatemalan Army; financial support for the CICIG, and language pushing for Guatemala to fund and implement the Chixoy Reparations Plan.

GHRC remains concerned about several components of the budget, however, including the $155 million earmarked for CARSI and the potential support for large-scale energy and infrastructure projects, which have been hugely controversial in Guatemala. Even funds earmarked for health, education and other USAID programs can contribute to more problems than they resolve.

Please join us in thanking the Senators who have pushed for human rights conditions on US funding to Guatemala:

@SenThadCochran @LindseyGrahamSC @SenatorBarb @SenatorLeahy Thanks for passing a bill with #humanrights conditions for #Guatemala!

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About Ramón Jiménez

Ramón Jiménez, actual Managing Editor de MetroLatinoUSA. Periodista que cubre eventos de las comunidades latinas en Washington D.C., Maryland y Virginia. Graduado de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad del Distrito de Columbia. Galardonado en numerosas ocasiones por parte de la Asociación Nacional de Publicaciones Hispanas (NAHP) y otras organizaciones comunitarias y deportivas de la región metropolitana de esta capital. También premiado en dos ocasiones como Mejor Periodista del Año por la cobertura de la comunidad salvadoreña; premios otorgados por la Oficina de Asuntos Latinos del Alcalde de Washington (OLA) y otras organizaciones. Ha sido miembro del jurado calificador en diferentes concursos literarios, de belleza y talento en la región metropolitana. Ha visitado zonas de desastre en Nicaragua, Honduras y El Salvador e invitado a esos países por organizaciones que asisten a personas de escasos recursos económicos. Antes trabajó en otros medios de prensa de Virginia y Washington, D.C., incluyendo reportajes para una agencia noticiosa mundial.

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