UC Santa Cruz history professor Dana Frank testified last week before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. House of Representatives about human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras.

Honduras has faced serious human rights challenges since the June 2009 military coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

In 2012, Honduras had the highest homicide rate in the world with 86 murders per 100,000 residents. The victims have included journalists, union leaders, human rights defenders, as well as leaders of poor farming communities.

As Frank has often observed, “The United States has continued to support an illegitimate regime--the government is laced through with drug traffickers and organized crime at the topmost levels, and admits that its police and military are killing their own citizens.”

The Congressional hearing was called to review Honduras’ current human rights situation with a view toward questioning U.S. policy toward the current Honduran government.

Frank began her testimony by noting:

“I have been asked to address U.S. policy in Honduras, and that will be the focus of my statement here today….Before doing so I would like to reiterate the enormity and breadth of the human rights crisis the other speakers have identified. 

I just returned from Honduras yesterday. When I arrived a few days before, I spoke with a young father in his early 30s. He is not particularly involved politically, but quite well-informed. When I told him I was going to testify in the U.S. Congress about human rights in Honduras, he volunteered--without any further words on my part:  “There are no human rights in Honduras.  They don’t exist.”

Frank meets regularly with over 40 offices in the House and Senate regarding U.S. policy in Honduras, including the offices of Reps. James McGovern (D-Mass.) and Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), the co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

“The Commission is unusual in that it is bi-partisan,” said Frank. “Both co-chairs are very committed to addressing the grave human rights crisis in Honduras, and both recommended me as a witness when the commission decided to hold a hearing on Honduras.”

Frank added that in holding this hearing, the House is adding its voice to a June 18 letter in which 21 senators challenged Secretary of State John Kerry about U.S. policy in Honduras, including U.S. support for state security forces that are committing human rights abuses.

In addition to Frank, three other witnesses spoke forcefully about the human rights crisis in Honduras.

“The reception was extremely positive,” said Frank. “Importantly, Senator Tim Kaine, who studied as a Jesuit in Honduras, testified, expressing his concern about the situation and about U.S. policy.”

“Our own Congressmember Sam Farr, who is a member of the commission, attended the hearing and was extremely supportive--as one of the leaders in the House defending human rights in Honduras and challenging U.S. support for the repressive government there,” Frank added.

Frank said that the hearing was overshadowed by the assassination the previous day of a judge who was a member of the Executive Committee of Honduran Judges for Democracy. She noted that her own recent trip to Honduras was overshadowed by death threats to a prominent trade unionist and journalist she has known for two decades.

Frank added that she plans to continue writing op-eds about U.S. policy in Honduras, and to visit Washington D.C. regularly to advise Congress--paying special attention to the upcoming Honduran  elections on November 18th.

Read the full transcript of Frank’s testimony.