WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Representative Eliot L. Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was joined by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Richard Hanna (R-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Chris Gibson (R-NY), in calling on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide funding for the protection of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Specifically, the letter states that given the dangerous levels of crime and violence committed against LGBT individuals in these countries, existing Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) funding should be made available to LGBT human rights groups in the subregion. In Honduras alone, more than 90 LGBT people were killed between 2009 and 2012, and many others were victims of violence and harassment.
“As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, ‘Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.’ As we ramp up our country’s investment in Central America, we need to protect the subregion’s most vulnerable populations. This means protecting the basic human rights of LGBT individuals and ensuring that citizens of these countries are not killed or assaulted just because of who they are,” said Engel.
The text of the letter follows:
March 12, 2015
The Honorable Alfonso E. Lenhardt
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20523
Dear Ambassador Lenhardt:
We write to urge you to use existing Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) funding to support organizations in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
In Fiscal Year 2015, there is estimated to be $55 million in USAID CARSI funding available. According to the State Department, CARSI is intended to support “communities disproportionately affected by crime” in Central America. Given the dangerous levels of crime and violence committed against LGBT individuals, there is no doubt that organizations supporting basic LGBT human rights in the Northern Triangle should receive CARSI funding.
Anti-LGBT violence is particularly pervasive in Honduras. According to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014, local rights groups in the country reported that more than 90 LGBT people were killed between 2009 and 2012, and many others were subjected to attacks and harassment. Human Rights Watch also notes that “the alleged involvement of Honduran police in some of these violent abuses is of particular concern.” Just last August, a news channel in Honduras released a video showing a transgender woman being brutally beaten by a member of the police in San Pedro Sula.
There also have been troubling developments for the LGBT communities in Guatemala and El Salvador. The State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights for 2013 reports that the LGBT community in Guatemala often experiences police abuse. In one example, the report states:
“A woman who attempted to file a complaint with the Public Ministry (MP) alleging domestic violence on the part of her lesbian partner was informed that domestic violence only applied to heterosexual couples and that the MP would not receive or investigate her complaint.”
In another example, the report explains:
“A gay man in Santiago, Atitlan was assaulted leaving a local festival and lost an eye. The MP initially refused to receive or investigate the man’s complaint because he was ‘gay and drunk.’ Only after the personal intervention of the human rights ombudsman did the MP receive the complaint and agree to investigate the attack.”
According to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights for 2013, in El Salvador, the LGBT community reported violence along with harassment when applying for identification cards.
We all share the goal of wanting a more secure Northern Triangle region. In order to meet this goal, we must do much more to protect the subregion’s most vulnerable populations, including the LGBT community. We urge you to provide funding to organizations in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that will help us to reach this goal.
Thank you very much for your attention to this important issue. We look forward to working with you to protect the human rights of LGBT individuals in the Northern Triangle.
Eliot L. Engel
Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
U.S. Ambassador to Honduras James Nealon
U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Todd Robinson
U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Mari Carmen Aponte
USAID Mission Director in Honduras James Watson
USAID Mission Director in Guatemala William Brands
USAID Mission Director in El Salvador Larry Sacks
Read the letter Rep. Engel sent to Ambassador Lenhardt here