U.S. law, according to an amendment that bears Leahy's name, requires the State Department to vet foreign security forces receiving U.S. aid to make sure the recipients have not committed gross human rights violations. If violations are found, the money is withheld. The State Department in a report last August said Honduras met the provisions of the Foreign Operations and Related Programs Act, which requires that the secretary of state provide Congress proof that Honduras is protecting freedom of expression and investigating and prosecuting all military and police personnel accused of human rights violations.
The department "has established a working group to examine thoroughly the allegations against (Bonilla) to ensure compliance with the Leahy Law," the State Department report to Congress said. "While this review is ongoing, we are carefully limiting assistance to those special Honduran law enforcement units, staffed by Leahy-vetted Honduran personnel who receive training, guidance, and advice directly from U.S. law enforcement, and not under Bonilla's direct supervision."
When asked by AP if the specially vetted Honduran police units working with the U.S. Embassy still report to Bonilla, the Honduran security official said: "Yes, that's how it works, because of personal loyalty and federal law."
U.S. support goes to Honduran forces working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on anti-narcotics operations, and anti-gang, anti-kidnapping and border-security units, according to an embassy official who was not authorized to speak on the record.
On Monday, the State Department announced another $16.3 million in support to Honduran police and prosecutors to battle violence and money laundering and to improve border security. Some of the U.S. money will go to the Gang Resistance Education and Training program under the director of community policing, who also told the AP that he reports directly to Bonilla.
"I only report to the director general, all of the programs of the Honduran police are directed personally by him," said Otoniel Castillo, a police sub-commissioner. "He has a personal and intense closeness to all projects of international cooperation, especially because of his good relationship with the U.S. Embassy."
Assistant Secretary of State William R. Brownfield, who appeared on Monday with the country's vice president to announce the new funding, did not answer questions.
"The United States undertakes stringent vetting procedures, as required by U.S. law, to ensure U.S. assistance doesn't go to individuals or units in the Honduran police and military if there is credible information they're linked to human rights abuses," said William Ostick, a spokesperson in the Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau of the State Department. "We're in close communication with the U.S. Congress and Senator Leahy on this issue. Promoting human rights and the rule of law is, and will remain, central to our engagement in Honduras."
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