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Can US aid make Honduras more livable? One group tries to slow down-Migration: NPR

An anti-violent mural on the wall of the street in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. The Biden administration has promised $ 4 billion to attack the root cause of immigrants from Central America.

NPR Thomas Ayuso


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NPR Thomas Ayuso

An anti-violent mural on the wall of the street in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. The Biden administration has promised $ 4 billion to attack the root cause of immigrants from Central America.

NPR Thomas Ayuso

In Rivera Hernandez, one of the most violent countries and regions in the Americas, a young Honduras man describes the ruthless killing of his younger brother by a street gang three years ago. ..

He sits in the living room shared with Bantiondori and agrees to tell his story if the family is not identified. He said his brother had a shortcut to the territory of a rival gangster-perhaps going to a bus stop or visiting his girlfriend-with tragic consequences.

“For them, controlling the territory is everything,” he said. “And anyone who breaks into their territory, the solution is to kill him. I think this happened to my brother.”

No one was arrested, as was the case with so many crimes at Rivera Hernandez. There, fighting gangs force invisible boundaries along muddy roads and terrorize the inhabitants with immunity. This is a Christian-based non-profit organization with a high reputation. Association for a fairer society Known as the Spanish acronym ASJ, it helps resolve unsolved murders.

ASJ is one of many non-governmental organizations operating in the countries of the Northern Triangle of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and is suffering from a serious social illness driving immigrants north towards the border with the United States. It is working.Biden administration has pledged $ 4 billion Attack the root cause of migration from Central America. Some of that aid could be sent to groups like ASJ, which had been hampered by the loss of funds when the Trump administration cut off foreign aid to Honduras.

Members of the military police and civilian police stand on the corner of Tegucigalpa.

NPR Thomas Ayuso


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Members of the military police and civilian police stand on the corner of Tegucigalpa.

NPR Thomas Ayuso

The ASJ program, called Peace and Justice, dispatches a team of investigators, lawyers, and psychologists to help victims of crime and resolve murders that police cannot or cannot resolve. The case of the Hondurans brother gave ASJ hope for justice because of witnesses.

“He told me everything that happened,” he continued. “He first said they hit my brother’s head with a pistol. He thought it was just a beating, not a shooting. But when they got to the corner, another man had a pistol. Shot his head. “

Witnesses are usually afraid to report crimes because of gang retaliation and lack of trust in police and courts.In this case, ASJ hired a retired police murder investigator named Jose — he asked to omit his family name for his protection — he asked the witnesses for special protection. Persuaded to testify below..

“We disguise their voices so that we can’t identify witnesses,” Jose said. “They wear black clothes, gloves and boots, hats and ski masks. When we finish using them, we don’t know if it’s a man or a woman, a girl or a boy.”

In ASJ’s Peace and Justice project, witnesses are covered in black to testify to suspected murderers sitting in court, and their voices are disguised.

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In ASJ’s Peace and Justice project, witnesses are covered in black to testify to suspected murderers sitting in court, and their voices are disguised.

ASJ

The obscured witness sits in a wooden window booth caught in court, allowing the murderer to be identified in front of the judge.

According to the report, the partially US-funded witness protection program has been steadily successful. Independent academic research It was carried out four years ago. In the violent areas of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, to which the team was assigned, murders declined sharply as the arrests and convictions of gang assassins increased.

“This is a pilot program that says it’s possible even in the poorest and most violent areas of Honduras. You can catch these people and prevent them from killing more,” said co-founder and co-founder. Kurt Alumbar Beak, President and CEO, said. ASJ. He is a skinny sociologist from Chicago who has lived in Honduras for 30 years.

The question for the Biden administration is whether such a program can improve the conditions sufficient to convince people to stop their escape from Honduras. VerBeek believes it can be done.

Kurt Alan Bar Beak, co-founder and chairman of the Association for a Fairer Society, has lived in Honduras for 30 years.

NPR Thomas Ayuso


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Kurt Alan Bar Beak, co-founder and chairman of the Association for a Fairer Society, has lived in Honduras for 30 years.

NPR Thomas Ayuso

“Most of the cases we work in are people never leave. Many of them aren’t too afraid to stay in the same neighborhood,” he said. “We know that it is possible, that it can be expanded, that there are good police officers, good prosecutors, and good judges, and that the system can work. I’m trying to show you. “

U.S. goal to improve the situation in Central America was a major setback for President Trump in 2019 Save millions of dollars with foreign aid To Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala. He said those countries weren’t doing enough to support his immigration agenda.

ASJ’s Witness Protection Program has been forced to withdraw from five communities. Today they only work with two.

“And finally, some areas of Tegucigalpa that we withdrew are now one of the most violent areas in Tegucigalpa,” said VerBeek. “When our existence left, things went out of control.”

As the sun sets in the puzzled Pedregal district of Tegucigalpa, a man cleans the rooftop.

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As the sun sets in the puzzled Pedregal district of Tegucigalpa, a man cleans the rooftop.

NPR Thomas Ayuso

His organization now needs to reapply for grants and hopes they can rehire the dismissed staff if they are refunded.

The Association for a Fairer Society has other programs that seek to strengthen good governance in Honduras — expelling corrupt police officers, improving public education, and whistling crooked bureaucrats.

However, solving these well-established structural problems is a huge challenge. Even ASJ has been criticized by civil society organizations for being too close to the government. President Juan Orlando Hernandez.. The president, who has been in office since 2014, has been accused of fraudulent elections, theft of public funds, and conspiracy with his brother Tony, a convicted serious offender, in US federal drug smuggling and money laundering cases. I will.

Jesuit priest and government critic Padre Melo said, “I respect ASJ, but I am confident that I have a very alliance with the Honduras government, which is effectively a dictatorship. No, “he said.

Fr. Ismael Moreno, well known as Padremero, is a Jesuit priest and often a critic of the government.

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Fr. Ismael Moreno, well known as Padremero, is a Jesuit priest and often a critic of the government.

NPR Thomas Ayuso

In response to this criticism, Ver Beek replied, “You can’t create a private police or court yourself. To get justice, you need to have a public system working.”

State Department officials who asked not to reveal their identities because they were not allowed to speak publicly about US-funded programs said ASJ’s work focused on criminal justice and public corruption was “absolutely one of the solutions. It’s a department. “

However, high levels of corruption and street gangs like the MS-13 and Vario 18 are just some of the driving forces driving Hondurans to the United States. Many immigrants seeking asylum at the border with the United States Hurricane It struck the North Coast last November, and they desperately left because they weren’t enough to eat.

A sidewalk winds towards a farm surrounded by the edge of Honduras’ territory where local smugglers cross immigrants to Guatemala.

NPR Thomas Ayuso


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A sidewalk winds towards a farm surrounded by the edge of Honduras’ territory where local smugglers cross immigrants to Guatemala.

NPR Thomas Ayuso

“Life in Honduras is hard because I don’t have a job,” said Ersy Josue Oliva, a national police detective who works with ASJ to bring murderers to justice. “So what does this program mean to reduce migration? I can’t say that.”

It is everyone’s guess that Biden’s Crusaders to save Central America will somehow work. But undeniably, the Witness Protection Program has helped to achieve justice for one family.

“Not all of them have been convicted, but the one who triggered them is in jail,” says Rivera Hernandez’s brother. “To some extent it gives me peace.”

Can US aid make Honduras more livable? One group tries to slow down-Migration: NPR

Source link Can US aid make Honduras more livable? One group tries to slow down-Migration: NPR

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