Congresswoman Norma Torres

Representing the 35th District of California
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Rep. Torres Leads House Democrats in Objecting to Trump Administration Response to Honduras Crisis

December 21, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, 20 Democratic Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson regarding the political crisis in Honduras. The Members objected to the Trump administration’s anemic response to the many troubling reports of irregularities and human rights violations that have emerged since the November 26 election. They also called on the Department of State to support the efforts of the Organization of American States to advance a peaceful and democratic path forward. The letter was drafted by Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Central America Caucus, who said that:

“We are seeing a crisis of democracy in a country where we’ve invested a lot of money trying to build up institutions. The OAS says it cannot certify that the results are accurate. People are taking to the streets because they feel their voice was not heard at the ballot box, and Honduran security forces are killing them. This administration’s response has been pathetic, and it’s a sharp contrast with how the administration has reacted to flawed elections in other Latin American countries. What my colleagues and I are asking is for a consistent and principled commitment to democracy. Is that too much to ask for?  The OAS Secretary General has called for new elections in Honduras and has appointed the former presidents of Bolivia and Guatemala to work toward new elections and a reconciliation in Honduras. The United States should fully support that effort.”

 

The full text of the letter, along with the names of the signers, is below. Copy of the final letter can be found here.

 

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Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA) is the founder and co-chair of the Central America Caucus and is a member of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

LETTER TEXT

 

Dear Secretary Tillerson,

We write to express our deep concern regarding the post-election crisis in Honduras.                                                                                                 

Since the general elections that took place on November 26, election observation missions and the main opposition political parties have raised legitimate concerns about possible manipulation of the electoral process and have questioned the accuracy of the results. The Organization of American States electoral observation mission has indicated that, to date, Honduras’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has failed to address those concerns in a satisfactory manner. On December 17, after the TSE declared President Hernandez the winner, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, called for new elections.

The failure to reach consensus on a path forward has already led to violence and unrest. The Honduran people’s faith in their institutions was already weak before the election; the past weeks have further undermined that faith, and Hondurans have taken to the streets to express their anger and disillusionment. Most of the protests have been peaceful, but some have become violent. The government’s response has been disproportionate: security forces have used live bullets against protesters, and they have killed at least 23 people to date.  

Stability and democratic governance in Honduras are of great to concern to the United States. Congress has recognized, on a bipartisan basis, that addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, especially from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, is in the United States’ national interest. We have invested hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in foreign assistance programs that seek to strengthen democratic governance, reduce violence, and expand economic opportunity in the region.

Thus far, the State Department’s response to events in Honduras has been inadequate.  The Department has called for protesters refrain from violence, but has failed to denounce the excessive use of force by Honduran security forces. Moreover, the Department’s decision to certify Honduras shortly after the election has helped to foster the perception that the United States is biased, and is either unwilling or unable to serve as an honest broker.

Clearly, the State Department’s capacity to address the electoral crisis in Honduras is limited by the fact that the Trump administration has failed to nominate an Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs and an Ambassador to Honduras. But that is no excuse. In the past year, the United States has spoken out forcefully to express concerns about electoral processes in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Cuba. The United States can and should speak out forcefully regarding the electoral process in Honduras.

We urge you to take a stronger position in support of democracy in Honduras. Specifically, in addition to continuing to call for all sides to refrain from violence, the United States should denounce the excessive use of force by Honduras’s security forces. The United States should also support the efforts of the OAS and its Secretary General to advance a peaceful, democratic path forward in Honduras.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

 

Norma J. Torres, Co-Chair, Central America Caucus

Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs

Albio Sires, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

Brad Sherman, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific 

Gregory Meeks, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats

Gerald E. Connolly, Member of Congress

Theodore Deutch, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on the Middle East and Africa

Karen Bass, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations

William R. Keating, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade

David N. Cicililne, Member of Congress

Ami Bera, Member of Congress

Lois Frankel, Member of Congress

Joaquin Castro, Member of Congress

Robin L. Kelly, Member of Congress

Brendan F. Boyle, Member of Congress

Dina Titus, Member of Congress

Bradley S. Schneider, Member of Congress

Thomas R. Suozzi, Member of Congress

Adriano Espaillat, Member of Congress

Ted Lieu, Member of Congress

James P. McGovern, Member of Congress