October 29, 2015
“I do not thirst for revenge, but for justice, yes” reflects Aurora de Pineda as she shares the difficulties she has faced following her son’s murder by corrupt Honduran police officers last October. Her son Carlos and his friend, Rafael, were on their way home from a birthday party when eight police officers ambushed their vehicle and executed both men, leaving Aurora lamenting the tragic violence that in her words “destroyed her life and that of her family.”
Sadly, this violence is emblematic of the struggles that currently confront Honduras. The country has been home to the world’s highest homicide rate since 2010, currently, more than 86 members of the country’s population will die by murder this year (by contrast, the rate in the U.S. is less than 5). In the midst of this violence, criminals are left largely unchecked. Corrupt officials, such as the police who murdered Carlos, benefit from the impunity that plagues the country.
Despite these challenges, hope is growing ever brighter, thanks to the Alliance for Peace and Justice, a group formed this past February with AJS support. The Alliance brings together a diverse and influential group of Honduran organizations that includes ASJ, the local World Vision office, Catholic and Evangelical churches, Honduras’ largest labor union, one of the country´s largest trade-union federations, victims of violence, and other civil society members. Together, they’ve pledged to achieve comprehensive reforms to Honduras’ weak and often corrupt police force, prosecutors, and courts.
Already the Alliance for Peace and Justice has taken important steps in cases that are symbolic of Honduras’ violence and have garnered public interest. In the case of Aurora’s son, the Alliance has provided its expertise and good working relationship with honest government officials to track down corrupt police officers and press for their arrest. Similar efforts by the group also resulted in the indictment, in August, of a suspect in the death of Alfredo Landaverde, an important voice against police corruption who was assassinated in December 2011, and whose widow, Hilda Caldera, has become a staunch member of the Alliance. After the indictment, Caldera wrote to AJS-supported advocates that “all this has been possible thanks to God and the support of a team that has fought for this result. If we had not worked together, we would have only had silence and disregard. I greatly appreciate what AJS has done as a leader in this process.”
The Alliance’s larger goal is the comprehensive reform of Honduras’ public security sector, and efforts in this area have fruit. This past spring and summer, advocacy by the Alliance contributed to the installation and funding by the Government of a Commission for the Reform of Public Security, composed of respected international and local figures; this Commission has begun to consider reform initiatives. In the last month, the Alliance organized public forums on slapped-together proposal by the Honduran Congress to create a new elite militarized police force and a new oversight body for the court system. Influential Honduran and international experts attended, and significant press coverage helped convince congress to consider both proposals more thoroughly.
This month, an aggressive public campaign will commence, aired for free on Honduran’s major television outlets, encouraging all Hondurans to “put themselves in the shoes” of the victims of violence and to do something positive for peace and justice instead of waiting passively until they, too, are affected by the violence.
Alliance coordinator and lawyer Josue Murillo sums up the group’s goals: “I hope that every citizen actively joins this work of change and that as a result, the institutions of the state that relate to justice function efficiently, effectively, and in a coordinated manner. This is a collective effort that also requires solidarity and action form our brothers and sister to the north”—including AJS supports in North America!