The following is an excerpt from a letter sent in October to Congressional leaders as they work on the Fiscal Year 2015 State and Foreign Operations bills; it was signed by 52 faith-based, humanitarian, labor, and human rights organizations including the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (MOGC). The letter in its entirety can be found here. This is also published in the November-December 2014 NewsNotes.
… We are greatly troubled by the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle of Central America that has compelled the migration of families and children, often unaccompanied, to the U.S. ... [We] urge you to retain provisions of the FY15 [budget] that seek to address some of the factors driving children, families, women, and men to abandon their homes. …
[We] urge [you] to adopt specific Senate measures that strengthen human rights in these countries, including:
- Human rights conditions on security assistance for Honduras and Guatemala, and for Mexico and Colombia as well, along with $5 million in funding for implementing Leahy Law human rights vetting worldwide. These indispensable human rights conditions, when tied to security assistance and strictly implemented, provide leverage for the U.S. government to encourage aid-receiving governments to investigate and sanction gross human rights abuses and prevent U.S. tax dollars from being misspent on crime, abuse and corruption.
- The provisions that require international financial institutions to include rigorous human rights due diligence in connection with loans, grants, and policies, and that call for reparations for communities affected by Guatemala’s Chixoy Dam.
We strongly support funding for specific international institutions to strengthen the rule of law and respect for human rights in Central America, including:
- funding for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which has made vital contributions towards the struggle against organized crime, corruption and impunity in Guatemala (we recommend the higher $5 million total in the House bill);
- no less than $7 million for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to expand its activities in Central America and Mexico and build emergency shelters and regional protection systems;
- funding (in the Senate version) to open an office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras, urgently needed to address the deterioration of human rights and rights-protecting institutions in that country, along with continued funding for these offices in Colombia and Mexico; and
- $2 million (in the Senate report) for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a strong voice encouraging Central American and other regional governments to strengthen the rule of law and often the most important recourse for human rights defenders at risk.