Police chief doubts compel US to review Honduran aid

Human rights concerns over destination of Washington humanitarian money

Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, known as “El Tigre.”
Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, known as “El Tigre.” FERNANDO ANTONIO (AP)

The US State Department announced Monday that it was investigating how much foreign aid destined to the Honduran police force goes to units under the control of the country's law enforcement chief, who has been accused of human rights violations.

The announcement made by department spokesman Patrick Ventrell came after the Associated Press reported that all police units in Honduras fall under the control of the department's director general Juan Carlos Bonilla, who in 2002 was accused of three extrajudicial killings and links to 11 more deaths and disappearances. Bonilla, whose nickname is "The Tiger," was tried on one killing and acquitted. The rest of the cases were never fully investigated.

Ventrell said that aid to the Honduran police is being reevaluated by a State Department working group — a process he declined to explain any further. "We remain concerned about high levels of impunity and corruption in Honduras, and we're working in partnership with the Honduran government and civil society to address these challenges," he said.

Honduran Foreign Minister Arturo Corrales assured last week that US funds that go to law enforcement programs are put under the supervision of the security and defense ministries. But AP found that under Honduran law, all police units fall under Bonilla's control.

US Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, demanded that the State Department ensure that no money gets into the hands of units accused of human rights violations. His so-called Leahy Law is a human rights stipulation first introduced in 1997, and which is included in all US foreign assistance legislation.

Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world with a murder rate of 91 killings per 100,000 inhabitants a year.

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