Members of US Progressive Caucus met with President Xiomara Castro of Honduras

US Congressional delegation speaks with President Xiomara Castro

By Julián Arturo

On March 19, 2022, Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective in collaboration with SOA Watch, CISPES, and other organizations coordinated the meeting between a U.S. Congressional delegation that included Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Jamal Bowman and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and the new executive and legislative government of Honduras. The objective of the delegation was to observe the structural causes that lead to the massive exodus of Hondurans to the United States.

The following is a brief summary of the discussions held during the aforementioned spaces:

Meeting with President Xiomara Castro and her government cabinet

Representative Ilhan Omar arrives at greets Honduran cabinet members

On March 19, the first woman president of Honduras -including her cabinet of ministers- met with a delegation of U.S. congressional representatives. In that meeting, President Castro thanked for all the voices from abroad that denounced the irregularities of the governments that followed the 2009 coup d'état.

She also stated:

"It is time to put the coup d'état behind us and turn the page on the dictatorship. Today we are in a new stage, but the transition from dictatorship to democracy is not easy, because changes take time".

She also emphasized the challenges facing the current government in view of the country's current situation:

"The first challenge is to repeal the laws that set back the rule of law and, then, to recompose the rule of law."

In this sense, the President explained that there is a strategy to rebuild the rule of law in conjunction with the Congress of the Republic:

"We have an agreement with Congress to repeal the laws that destroyed the State, as they already did with the law of secrets, which prevented us from seeing what the money is spent on."

Likewise, the Minister of Human Rights, Natalie Roque, assured that the effects of the coup d'état are also sought to be compensated through the enactment of the amnesty law in order to free political persecuted people from legal charges, being this the opportunity for former members of Manuel Zelaya's government and an endless number of social leaders to resume their lives. In addition, she also called on the U.S. to assume co-responsibility for the political situation in the country:

"In 2017, a dictatorship was imposed with the State Department's congratulations to Juan Orlando Hernandez, therefore, there is a co-responsibility of the US government for the situation in the country."

On the other hand, President Castro was very concerned about the financial situation of the country, arguing that the cause is due to the legacy of the 12 years of corrupt governments that dedicated themselves to plundering the State's coffers. In this sense, she declared:

"The government of the National Party left us in debt, more than 50% of the GDP goes to pay the foreign debt. This month, they paid 17 billion USD in foreign and domestic debt alone, which is a tremendous burden for the government".

Within the plans to mitigate the economic asphyxia she commented:

"We have approached the U.S. government to ask the IMF to help us restructure the debt to address the needs of the people, so we can invest money in the countryside, education and health."

Likewise, she shared that the administration intends to make structural adjustments to free up economic resources for social investment:

"In the next government cabinet they want to reduce the 40 ministers to 13 that Manuel Zelaya had in 2009. They are looking to reduce the budget or public spending to redirect it to have a greater impact on the people".

Another issue that was discussed during the meeting was the situation of justice and the fight against corruption. In this regard, the President stated:

"We are in a frontal fight against corruption. They already asked the UN to pre-install the CICIH, three days ago they named the liaison that will manage the terms of the CICIH with the government of Honduras. We want with the CICIH to establish a mechanism for the appointment of magistrates, so that when the congress appoints there are no vices, and imparts justice with equity".

Regarding socio-environmental conflicts, the presidency assured that:

"We seek to protect micro-watersheds and protected areas that have already been granted. We seek to remove the companies that are illegally exploiting natural assets".

In this line, the importance of the presence of U.S. organizations in the monitoring of the Beta Cáceres case was highlighted:

"The pressure exerted by U.S. organizations helped to prosecute those responsible for the homicide".