In the year since my arrival, it has become clear to me that many Hondurans don’t fully understand how the people of the United States support the people of Honduras. There is constant speculation in media and social media about disagreements between the governments of the United States and Honduras.
Today, I want to highlight the depth and breadth of our ongoing support to the people of Honduras. This includes the program of USAID, INL, USDA, and monetary support for the United National and other international organizations for their work in Honduras, among many others.
We are doing this in collaboration with the Honduran government, private businesses, civil society, international organizations, international partners, and of course, the Honduran people.
Did you know that since the start of President Castro’s government in January 2022, the United States government has started programs that will represent an investment of over $800 million USD or 20 billion lempiras in Honduras?
Everyone involved has a vision of a Honduras that is more democratic, secure, and prosperous.
Today, my colleagues and I are going to talk about our work in many areas, including economic cooperation, as well as:
- Security, rule of law, and governance
- Human rights and labor rights
- Military cooperation
- Food security
- And capacity building.
None of this work is possible without a strong civil society.
As President Biden has said, “I have witnessed firsthand the power of a strong civil society. It is the backbone of our democracy, ensuring that all voices are heard.”
Our first priority in Honduras is to improve the economy and bilateral commerce so that we can create jobs.
The United States is the principal commercial partner of Honduras.
In 2022, bilateral commerce grew 22% from the previous year. THIS IS A TOTAL RECORD!
As you know, businesses in the United States are not controlled by the government. Decisions about investments are made by the businesses themselves.
In the next 7 years, the government of the United States will invest 555 million lempiras in infrastructure projects in collaboration with the Honduran government. However, the United States is also coordinating with international partners and private businesses on an initiative to connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans across Honduras. This project has the potential to really bring benefit to Honduras.
Our requirements are that jobs go to Hondurans and the project follows international environmental and labor standards.
This will go along with the work of Vice President Harris on the Central America Forward Initiative. For this initiative, the private sector has announced more than 100 billion lempiras to promote economic development in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Further, the United States also continues promoting entrepreneurship, another key to economic development.
In the last year, we have provided training to thousands of women entrepreneurs in a variety of industries through our many training programs. The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, which has operated in 14 Honduran cities is one example.
We have also trained over 100,000 youth, helping them start their own business or find jobs in other companies.
We have also helped connect U.S. companies with their Honduran counterparts for mutual benefit. For instance, we partnered with the COHONDUCAFE Foundation and private sector firms. We are leveraging their contribution of almost 712 million lempiras to improve the productivity, resilience, and access to credit and markets for 20,000 Honduran coffee farmers.
As everyone in this room knows too well, one of the biggest impediments to running a business and creating new jobs in Honduras is the availability of affordable and reliable electricity.
While challenges remain in the Honduran energy sector, we are nonetheless continuing to work with the government of Honduras to strengthen the energy sector. We recently hosted a webinar with 70 U.S. energy companies to promote a dialogue with potential investors.
We are also working on a series of workshops with government officials to explore practical solutions to solving Honduras’ energy challenges. Working through the U.S. Department of Energy, we are helping to improve energy delivery, generation, and storage solutions for rural schools.
We also understand the importance of facilitating legal pathways for Hondurans that wish to work in the United States. This year alone, we have increased by 150% temporary work visas for Honduran workers and we continue to rapidly grow this program while working with the Ministry of Labor.
Moving to our next priority, EDUCATION is vital for all Hondurans.
To live a good life, one needs a quality education and schools with good infrastructure, good nutrition, and pathways to employment.
The government of the United States will invest more than 1.4 billion lempiras in the next 5 years. These funds are to work with the educational community to strengthen the curriculum, increase the quality of education for 6th to 9th grades, and develop a cultural of safety inside schools for over 300,000 children and youth in Honduras.
Did you know that last January, we created the Alliance for Education, a partnership between the government of Honduras, the private sector, and the United States to repair schools? So far, the U.S. government and our alliance partners have inaugurated seven schools and are planning to inaugurate at least 44 more.
There are thousands more needing repair and we encourage all the members of AmCham to join this alliance as we work to rebuild all the schools in Honduras.
To improve learning in schools, the U.S. government is investing $94 million over seven years to provide safe, relevant, and high-quality education and skills training for 800,000 children and youth in Honduras.
In our support, the United States also prioritizes the HEALTH sector.
I am proud of our donation of 6.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Honduras. In fact, the United States contributed 74 percent of the total donated vaccines that Honduras received. And now that we are in the middle of another COVID wave, we were able to quickly respond to a request for more vaccines from the government of Honduras.
Did you know that medical teams from the U.S. military at Soto Cano have treated more than 1 million Honduran patients since its founding? That represents approximately 10% of the Honduran population! That number doesn’t even include the many people who benefited from the visit of the USNS Comfort, the U.S. Navy’s largest hospital ship when it visited Puerto Cortés last year.
We also build and rebuild medical clinics in Honduran rural communities.
The United States has also worked steadfastly with our Honduran partners on matters of SECURITY, RULE OF LAW, and GOVERNANCE.
Here in Honduras, we work to prevent violence, especially for vulnerable communities and youth, notably in areas with high crime like Rivera Hernandez in San Pedro Sula.
I have seen for myself how the community comes together when the United States supports youth outreach centers. These centers provide safe spaces, classes, workshops, and trainings for more than 150,000 young Hondurans.
We are also working with the Honduran police to help them build a relationship with the communities they serve.
The judicial system is also a key partner in providing security. You probably didn’t know that we have U.S. prosecutors and judges at the embassy who provide training for Honduran prosecutors and judges, as well as modernization initiatives in the Public Ministry and judiciary.
To address the known threat of gangs, the United States funds and supports the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program in Honduras. G.R.E.A.T. has provided support to over 800,000 children and families around the country.
As part of the international Open Government Partnership initiative, we have trained more than 700 citizens, including transparency commission members, municipal leaders, and civil society to promote transparency and accountability in Honduras. And since even before the last Honduran election in November 2021, we have been supporting Honduran electoral authorities to help them prepare to hold free, fair, and transparent elections.
We support civil society organizations of all types because good governance requires active citizen participation.
But it is important to remember that societies do not have security or rule of law without respecting HUMAN RIGHTS and LABOR RIGHTS.
The U.S. Department of Labor funds technical assistance for the Honduran Ministry of Labor to support Honduran enforcement of labor rights. U.S. funded programs strengthen labor unions in Honduras, enabling successful cooperation between labor and management to secure Hondurans dignified, well-paid jobs in the formal sector.
To improve the application of justice and citizen security, we have trained thousands of police officers and soldiers on the protection of human rights. In addition, our programs enable human rights defenders to safely advocate for and support marginalized and underrepresented populations.
We have also supported the Secretaria de Derechos Humanos, with technical assistance and tools to address pervasive human rights issues. The U.S. government elevates the protection of the most vulnerable.
The U.S. government contributed more than 418 million lempiras last year to support refugees, asylum seekers, vulnerable migrants, and internally displaced persons in Honduras. Recognizing the need to help returned Honduran migrants reintegrate in their communities, the U.S. government is also investing over 380 million lempiras to improve the systems and services benefiting them.
Beyond all I have mentioned, the United States-Honduras MILITARY AND DEFENSE relationship is incredibly important.
As past, present, and future security partners, we must always work together to meet shared challenges, like drug trafficking.
Our partnership with the Honduran Ministry of Defense has led to the strengthening of the Honduran Air Force. Together, our two militaries conduct many trainings and exercises every year, including to strengthen the Honduran Navy. But our militaries also collaborate robustly with our respective governments’ civilian entities on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
For instance, our U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to stop flooding in the Sula Valley. Our military has partnered with COPECO and others to respond quickly and effectively to major natural disasters.
The U.S. government has invested almost 3 billion lempiras in the past two years to support recovery after the hurricanes. Next year, we plan to invest an additional 670 million lempiras in military support for strengthening resilience before and after disasters.
We are also helping Honduras combat FOOD INSECURITY.
For example, we are investing over 2.4 billion lempiras in projects to combat climate change, build climate resilience, and conserve vulnerable ecosystems here in Honduras.
My team at the embassy is partnering with Honduran agribusiness firms to generate 1.9 billion lempiras in incremental sales and 25,000 new and better-quality on and off-farm jobs.
To reduce hunger and improve literacy as well as nutrition outcomes for pre-primary and primary school children, especially girls, the U.S. government added an additional 614 million lempiras to the USDA McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program in Honduras. This program reaches over 150,000 children.
The United States is also heavily and wholeheartedly invested in BUILDING THE CAPACITY of multiple crucial Honduran sectors.
We have provided training to journalists about how to combat disinformation. Every day, malign actors intentionally spread falsehoods to undermine Honduran democracy and our bilateral relationship.
We also have 16 exchange and scholarship programs, including the prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and Fulbright Programs.
To help conserve Honduran history, we are investing to protect the historic ruins in Copan and forming tour guides. In addition, we’re educating the surrounding population about their own amazing history.
The NEW EMBASSY we’re constructing will open next spring. It is also an important demonstration of our commitment to Honduras.
Our new embassy represents an investment of over 9.8 billion lempiras and has created 2,700 jobs for Hondurans and it will be certified as LEED Silver.
In the end, our relationship is about the people-to-people connections between our countries, which have stood the test of time.
Our relationship is about the 1 million Hondurans living in the United States.
Our relationship is about the 214 billion lempiras in remittances that Hondurans living in the United States sent to their families.
The bonds between our countries and our people cannot be broken.
As you can see, we’re investing in all sectors of the country, in all departments of the country, for all Hondurans.