Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

36 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

The daughter of slain Indigenous land defender Berta Cáceres leads a protest against her mother's killing in Honduras. (Photo: Fernando Antonio/AP)

State Department Claims to Investigate Honduras 'Kill List' as House Dems Decry US Aid to Repressive Regime

'We have blood on our hands'

Nika Knight Beauchamp

The U.S. State Department is investigating allegations that the Honduran military is targeting environmental activists on a "kill list," the Guardian reported Friday.

A whistleblower first told the Guardian last month that such a list existed, and also alleged that the murdered environmental activist Berta Cáceres was on it before she was shot and killed in her sleep in early March.

This is the State Department's first public response to the "hit list" allegations.

James Nealon, the U.S. ambassador to Honduras, told the Guardian, "We take allegations of human rights abuses with the utmost seriousness. We always take immediate action to ensure the security and safety of people where there is a credible threat."

The newspaper reports, "The State Department insists that it sticks closely to the letter and the spirit of the Leahy law, the legislation first implemented in 1997 that bans U.S. State Department and Department of Defense support to foreign military units charged with human rights violations. The U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa employs staff under the Leahy law who vet all individuals or units earmarked for possible training, weeding out officials accused of gross abuses."

Nealon added, "We are not trainers and enablers of 'hit squads.' We're just the opposite—we are working hard to strengthen the systems in Honduras that protect human rights defenders."

Yet since a U.S.-backed military coup in 2009, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for activists, according to UK-based rights group Global Witness.

Indeed, news of the department's investigation emerged a day after another member of Cáceres' organization of Indigenous land defenders was killed in Honduras.

In protest, several members of Congress published an op-ed in the Guardian calling to an end to U.S. military aid to Honduras on the same day the State Department announced its investigation.

"As long as the United States funds Honduran security forces without demanding justice for those threatened, tortured and killed, we have blood on our hands. It's time to suspend all police and military aid to Honduras," the op-ed reads.

Representatives John James Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) authored the condemnation of U.S. policy toward the current regime in Honduras.

It's "possible that U.S.-trained forces were involved" in the death of Cáceres, the group writes.

"Despite this dangerous track record," the representatives continue, "the United States continues to pour money into Honduran security forces. The U.S. has already allocated at least $18m to Honduran police and military for 2016. Barack Obama's 2017 budget request calls for increased funding for the Honduran police and military. In addition, the Inter-American Development Bank has lent $60m to the Honduran police, with U.S. approval."

The House members claim to have written to the secretary of state to protest U.S. aid to Honduran security forces since 2010—when Hillary Clinton served in that role:

In multiple letters to the secretary of state, stretching back to 2010, we have joined with our colleagues in the House to call for an immediate suspension of security aid to Honduras. Enough is enough—it's past time to suspend the aid and instruct the U.S. Treasury department to vote no on all loans from multilateral development banks to security forces in Honduras.

The six House Democrats are pushing for passage of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (HR 5474), which would suspend military aid to Honduras "and prohibit international loans providing for security assistance[...] from being dispersed unless Honduras makes serious inroads to addressing blatant human rights violations by police and military forces."

"Once justice is restored and impunity for human rights abuses ends, we'll reconsider," the representatives conclude.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·


Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·


'Payoff for 40 Years of Dark Money': Supreme Court Delivers for Corporate America

"It was the conservative court's larger agenda to gut the regulatory state and decimate executive powers to protect Americans' health and safety," warned one expert.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo