On Dec. 18, President Obama signed the 2016 Appropriations Bill into law. Earlier that day, Congress — after much debate — gave final approval to the new budget, which will allocate over $750 million to Central America.
This past year GHRC has been working hard with key leaders in both the House and Senate to ensure that strong human rights conditions be included in the final bill, and we got just that. This is a huge victory for human rights in Guatemala.
The final law stipulates that 50% of the funds will be tied to strong human rights conditions, including the protection of human rights defenders; support for rule of law and judicial independence; the inclusion of civil society groups in plans that will affect them; the investigation of members of the military and police who have committed human rights violations; and the removal of the military from civilian law enforcement.
The new budget also includes additional funding for the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) for its continued efforts to fight corruption in Guatemala. GHRC played a pivotal role not only in advocating for the US Congress to approve funding for CICIG, but also in ensuring that its work would continue when former President Pérez Molina suggested he would not renew CICIG’s mandate.
As strong as these conditions are, the aid package is not perfect. Unfortunately, it also includes conditions related to border security that raise several human rights concerns for migrants and refugees. GHRC plans to play a leading role in 2016 in reporting on these new human rights benchmarks in Guatemala, and looks forward to monitoring these important conditions in the year ahead.