DFL lawmakers on Wednesday relayed a joint message urging Congress to suspend security assistance to the country of Honduras.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, and fellow lawmakers unveiled a measure calling for Congress to support the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, a congressional proposal that would halt security aid to the country until human rights violations have ended and perpetrators have been reprimanded.
The U.S. has funneled $200 million into the country since 2009 for military and police assistance, which lawmakers say has contributed to human rights violations by Honduran security forces.
"We ask Congress to withdraw our military and security aid because it has become clear we cannot control whether or not they repress their democratic system, but they don't need to use our money to do it," said Omar, the main sponsor of the House resolution. Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, is carrying the measure in the Senate.
Omar led an all-female peace delegation to Honduras during the country's 2017 presidential election. At least 35 Hondurans have been killed by security forces since the election for protesting its results.
The resolution identifies the killing of protesters and other human rights abuses, like the 2016 assassination of Berta Cáceres — an environmental and indigenous activist killed by individuals with ties to the Honduran government.
Ina Gruber, a Honduras native and member of Hands off Honduras, said the country's national police and army have killed civilians "for decades."
"They also use (U.S. funding) to acquire arms, tear gas and technology that is used to deny basic human rights, including the right to life and the freedom of speech in my country," Gruber said.
The House and Senate resolutions have yet to gain support from Republicans who control both chambers.
Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, argued that "human rights are not partisan issues," but acknowledged Republicans will control whether the resolution will move forward.
"Our hope certainly is that they'll join us in this effort," Mariani said. "It certainly is our expectation that all our colleagues from both parties, particularly the ones that control the Legislature … would be supportive of this" measure.
Ryan Faircloth is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.