Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Honduras is a constitutional, multiparty democracy with a population of approximately 7.7 million. November 2008 national primary elections were considered by international and domestic observers to be free and fair. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of government authority. An inefficient judicial system and the growing presence of drug traffickers and gangs undermined the government's ability to protect adequately its citizens. Human rights problems included: unlawful killings by members of the police and government; arbitrary and summary killings committed by vigilantes and former members of the security forces; corruption and impunity in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches and the security forces; failure to provide due process of law; lengthy pretrial detention; erosion of press freedom; violence and discrimination against women and persons based on sexual orientation; discrimination against indigenous communities; child prostitution and trafficking in persons; ineffective enforcement of labor laws; and child labor.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. strategy for promoting human rights and democracy focuses on improving governance, increasing transparency and accountability, and ensuring a credible electoral system. With national elections scheduled for November 2009, the United States' immediate priority is to support free and fair elections. The U.S. Government promotes improved transparency and accountability by strengthening the management capacity of local governments, increasing citizen involvement in local decision-making, and strengthening government and civil society oversight of public funds. The United States encourages the decentralization of government services as a primary tool for implementing the strategy.
In developing strategy priorities, U.S. officials work closely with government institutions, NGOs, labor unions, and other civil society organizations to encourage reforms and foster respect for human rights and democracy. The U.S. Government uses diplomatic engagement, public outreach, foreign assistance, and related tools to advance human rights and democracy promotion.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
To support free and fair electoral and other democratic processes, the United States Government provided technical assistance to an election monitoring program for the November 2008 primary elections and for proposed bylaws to implement the transparency law. U.S. officials also participated as monitors in the 2008 primary elections and will also be observers in the November 2009 general elections. A U.S.-supported civil society coalition monitored application of the Law of the Nominating Council to support the selection of the new Supreme Court Justices and the attorney general. In 2008 the United States used targeted assistance to strengthen local government capacity to improve accountability to citizen demands, foster citizen engagement with government representatives to combat corruption, and provided anticorruption training to 281 public officials and 1,170 persons from civil society groups.
In promoting the rule of law, U.S. programs have supported 34 public expenditure auditing projects for government agencies and civil society partners to improve oversight of public resources. U.S. officials are working with NGO coalitions and legal professional associations to further rule of law and anticorruption reforms, such as the civil procedures code. These activities are designed to complement other U.S. programs focused on combating gang violence and narcotics trafficking. Related U.S.-sponsored initiatives will support capacity building for prosecutors and community based alternative education and vocational training for at-risk youth. In supporting programs to reform the police, military, prosecutorial, and judicial sector institutions, U.S. officials ensure that all U.S.-funded training includes components on respect for human rights and the rule of law. To demonstrate to the public the benefits of decentralization of authority and resources, U.S. funding is fostering NGO and government oversight of local service providers. U.S. programs have begun training government officials to manage decentralized services and measure citizen satisfaction of these services.
The United States actively uses diplomatic outreach to promote its human rights and democracy strategy. This public diplomacy includes the U.S. Ambassador hosting media events and public meetings regarding the Department of State 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (HRR). U.S. officials have used these opportunities to urge the Ministry of Security and the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute specific cases included in the HRRs. The U.S. Ambassador has met with government officials and gay and lesbian rights (LBGT) groups to address systemic discrimination reported in the HRR against homosexual persons, including denial of legal status for LBGT organizations.
Integral to the United States' support for labor rights is regular outreach to tripartite labor organizations, worker rights advocacy groups, the government, and other important stakeholders. The U.S. Government continues to support important labor rights projects to improve the effectiveness of inspections, resolve worker-management conflicts, strengthen the capacity of worker organizations, conduct occupational health and safety training, and combat child labor. The United States Government's trade union capacity building efforts and regular discussions with the Ministry of Labor on behalf of the right of workers to form unions have facilitated the resolution of several controversial labor disputes to support union registration. In supporting initiatives to combat trafficking in persons, the United States provides training and funding for government and NGO capacity building to train officials to recognize and prevent trafficking, assist trafficking victims, and strengthen prosecutions.