This month, GHRC, as a part of the Mesoamerican Working Group (MAWG), helped organize a briefing titled: “Rethinking the Drug War in Central America and Mexico.” The hearing was hosted by Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM) and attended by Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), who called for an end to the current drug war model as well as fact-based evaluations to inform policy changes. Representatives at the hearing focused on three Central American countries – Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras – experiencing similar and dramatic effects of increased militarization as a result of the ongoing war on drugs. Javier Sicilia, a well-known Mexican writer, founded the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity after his own son became a victim of the drug war when he was brutally murdered. He spoke out about the killings, disappearances and displacements taking place in his country, stating, “In Mexico, we have 400,000 deaths annually. Of those, 400 are deaths from drugs but 18,000 are deaths due to the war on drugs.” Alex Main of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) transmitted concerns over US funding of security forces in Honduras, the safety of the country’s human rights defenders, and a homicide rate that has risen rapidly in recent years. GHRC partner Claudia Samayoa spoke as a representative for communities in Guatemala, stating that the US push for a military response, instead of one for police or judiciary reform, is not enough to change the situation in her country: “The army has not modernized, and it is extremely corrupt. By strengthening the military, you will in turn strengthen organized crime. You will also fund an army which commits abuses in our communities, including illegal detentions, several ‘states of siege,’ and attacks on women. What we really need is to continue to strengthen our court system.” Panelists presented several concrete recommendations for Congress, including:
- Demilitarizing our approach to regional security
- Holding oversight hearings on the Drug Enforcement Administration
- Stemming the rise in violence against women, and highlight the role of women in community-building activities
- Prioritizing support for justice-sector strengthening
- Effective implementation of the Leahy law
- Maintaining current restrictions on military funding in Guatemala
The MAWG report presented at the hearing can be read in full here.