Research: Publications

Open the Files: A Chance to Aid Demilitarization in Honduras

September 5, 1997 | Policy Brief

By , Susan Peacock

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Of all Central American countries with armies, only Honduras is fortunate enough to have avoided a civil war during the 1980s. This means, however, that no peace accord or other postwar commitment obligates the Honduran military to reform itself.

Though they lack this leverage, Honduran civilian leaders—often at great personal risk—have been pressuring for an end to their armed forces’ dominance of politics and society. One of the main fronts in their uphill battle is an unprecedented attempt to prosecute officers for past human-rights crimes. With testimony from new witnesses and continuing discoveries of clandestine burial sites, evidence of these crimes is accumulating. But the military’s resistance to justice has been stiff and unyielding.

Worse, the United States is hindering Honduran civilians’ efforts. The U.S. government continues to work actively with its uniformed former cold-war allies. Meanwhile Honduran government investigators, who seek human-rights information from U.S. government files, have seen their declassification requests ignored by the very agencies that trained and supplied the Honduran military during the worst period of abuses. Without a change in U.S. policy, a historic opportunity for democracy to move forward in Honduras—and all of Central America—will be lost.

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