Kaine, Cornyn conclude visit to Honduras

kaine new2U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and John Cornyn recently concluded a three-day visit to Honduras focused on economic and security challenges facing the country, as well as President Obama’s proposed $1 billion aid package for Central America. In addition to meeting with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, the Senators spoke with business leaders, members of Honduran civil society, and U.S. officials working to combat gang violence and impunity and promote human rights in a country that significantly contributed to the unaccompanied minors crisis in 2014.

On Tuesday, Senators Kaine and Cornyn visited two USAID-supported youth outreach centers in Chamelecon, one of San Pedro Sula’s most violent neighborhoods, with a goal of creating opportunities for Honduran youth by giving them alternatives to violence and crime thereby stemming illegal and dangerous migration north.

On Wednesday morning, Kaine had a special opportunity to return to El Progreso, a small city outside San Pedro Sula where he worked with Jesuit missionaries at a technical school in 1980. After attending Ash Wednesday services at Parquia de la Mercedes, a church he regularly attended, Kaine was “welcomed home” to the Instituto Tecnico Loyola by former Jesuit colleagues and more than 300 current students and teachers. Thirty-five years after he taught carpentry and welding there, Kaine toured the expanded campus and spoke to a school-wide assembly, reflecting on his time in Honduras.

“The school has grown rapidly, but the spirit of the people here is exactly the same,” said Kaine. “El Progreso is extremely special to me. Thirty-five years ago, I took a year off from law school to work with a group of Jesuits here affiliated with my high school in Kansas City. My experience working at Loyola taught me the importance of access to skills-based training – both in Honduras and the U.S. – and inspired me to pursue the issue of expanding career and technical education in the U.S. Senate.”

While at Loyola, Kaine also visited Radio Progreso & ERIC (the Team for Reflection, Research and Communication), a Jesuit-run community radio station and human rights advocacy organization housed on the school campus.

On Wednesday afternoon, the senators traveled to Soto Cano Air Force Base to visit Joint Task Force-Bravo and meet with Virginia and Texas servicemembers stationed there. JTF-Bravo is under U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and supports counternarcotics, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in Honduras and throughout Central America to promote regional security, stability, and cooperation. The senators also had an opportunity to meet with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Alan Bersin and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldaña, also visiting Honduras this week.

In a meeting with President Hernandez today, the senators shared observations from throughout their visit and sought clarity on how funding proposed in President Obama’s FY2016 budget request would complement Honduran efforts to improve security and economic opportunity.

“This is an important moment in the U.S.-Honduras relationship,” said Kaine. “As clearly demonstrated during last year’s unaccompanied minors crisis, what happens in Honduras has a direct impact on the U.S. We need to scrutinize the President’s request for Central America and ensure amounts we approve are spent wisely. But an investment in Honduras is an investment in our shared prosperity.”

Later, the senators observed a checkpoint run by DHS-trained Honduran law enforcement personnel. The Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) provided a live demonstration of actual checkpoint operations looking for child smuggling, drug trafficking, and other crimes.

Kaine is traveling across Latin America this week with Senator Cornyn. In addition to Honduras, the Senators visited Mexico and Kaine will continue on to Colombia.

 

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