Honduras minister advisor for strategy and communications, Christa Castro
By Caribbean News Now contributor
WASHINGTON, USA -- A report released last month by the US Department of State credits the Honduras government for reducing rates of homicide, kidnapping, and extortion in the Central American country, while being sharply critical of Eastern Caribbean islands for failing to curb drug trafficking and money laundering.
According to the State Department’s 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), the Eastern Caribbean hosts abundant transshipment points for illicit narcotics, primarily from Venezuela destined for North American, European and domestic Caribbean markets.
The scathing report attributed the islands’ susceptibility to corruption and money laundering to “the high volume of narcotics trafficking around the islands”.
On the other hand, the Honduras government is steadfastly eliminating corruption among the Honduras National Police force, according to the US report. President Juan Orlando Hernández's Police Purge Commission, created last year, removed 1,946 police officers by December. The commission continues to vet its officers -- and is aiming to reach its goal of completing 14,000 personnel reviews by April.
The report also underscores the US government's role in Honduras crime prevention and community programs, highlighting 40 US-supported outreach centres for at-risk youth.
"Over the past several years, the Honduran government has taken concrete steps to bolster its security and justice system, while combatting organized crime and drug trafficking," said Christa Castro, minister advisor for strategy and communications for the government of Honduras. "The State Department report highlights the fruits of our labor -- a safer country for all Hondurans."
"The United States plays a key role in assisting vulnerable people in Honduras," said Castro. "We look forward to continuing our work with the US government to improve the capacity of our justice system and ensure that civilians are protected."
The State Department report details the efforts of the Honduran government to battle crime and drug trafficking from all sides -- by stamping out corruption, strengthening security forces, and supporting at-risk populations.
"The results are visible," the report concludes. "Rates of homicide, kidnapping, and extortion were down from 2015, and citizens' impressions of the HNP are improving."
Hernández is simultaneously spearheading human rights reforms within the Honduras Armed Forces, according to a separate State Department report. Over 4,500 service members had received human rights training as of August.
Meanwhile, assertions in the INSCR in relation to Antigua and Barbuda, all of which on their face are factually incorrect in general or in detail and for which no evidence was offered or sources quoted in the report, have been rejected publicly by the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
According to senior sources in other US government agencies, this has given rise to some very serious concern on the grounds that, if the State Department’s assertions of fact are shown to be baseless and/or unsupported by other government departments and agencies that should have been consulted, the inescapable implication is that US foreign policy is flawed because it is being driven by flawed or false intelligence and reporting.
Furthermore, if it can be shown that the adverse report in relation to Antigua and Barbuda was based upon “alternative facts” rather than reality, this will add weight to a suggestion that it was motivated by spitefulness and retaliation for Antigua’s recent efforts to enforce the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling and award against the US in relation to online gaming.
Since neither the State Department nor any of the other US government agencies and departments listed in the INSCR as having supplied relevant information for the report has responded to requests for comment and clarification, Caribbean News Now has filed a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for copies of related documents.