By MARTHA MENDOZA, Associated Press
President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser said Wednesday the U.S. wants to see "tangible progress" in protecting human rights in Honduras.
After meeting Honduran President Porfirio Lobo in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday, adviser Denis McDonough said "the fight against violent crime and impunity cannot be conducted at the expense of human rights."
The United States is withholding $50 million, about half of its aid to Honduras, due to concerns by some members of Congress about ongoing military and police corruption, assassinations of journalists and lawyers and a dysfunctional criminal justice system.
The U.S. resumed sharing radar intelligence with Honduras last week after a four-month stand-down prompted by repeated shootdowns of civilian aircraft suspected of drug trafficking.
During that suspension, Honduran pilots were retrained, standard operating procedures were revised and Honduran authorities signed a new promise not to damage, destroy, disable or threaten civilian aircraft in the skies.
McDonough pledged ongoing support to Honduras, and said in no other time in recent memory "has our engagement been so robust."
Honduran Foreign Minister Arturo Corrales said U.S. support is welcome.
"Our talks were very productive and we identified short and long-term measures," Corrales told reporters after the meeting. "We spoke about legacies and how we can create bridges so that others who come can do the same."
McDonough was accompanied by Kathleen Hicks, a deputy undersecretary for defense, and William Brownfield, the assistant U.S. secretary of state for law enforcement and counternarcotics. They visited Honduras this week after meetings in Colombia. In Tegucigalpa, the U.S. team also met with members of Lobo's cabinet and civil society representatives, discussing economic development, citizen security and human rights.