WASHINGTON, D.C. – Later this week, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who serves as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and previously worked as a missionary in Honduras, will lead a congressional delegation visiting Guatemala and Honduras to meet with elected officials, the private sector, and civil society leaders. Senator Kaine will be joined by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Laphonza Butler (D-CA) and U.S. Representatives Delia Ramirez (D-IL-3) and Norma Torres (D-CA-35). During their meetings, the lawmakers will discuss strategies to strengthen prosperity and security in the region and underscore the importance of democratic governance and the rule of law. Maintaining democracy and political stability in Central America is critical for U.S. national security and the security of our borders.
The congressional delegation’s visit to Guatemala comes at a critical moment for the country’s democracy amid ongoing protests following provocative actions by the Public Ministry (Guatemala’s justice department), including the raiding of facilities holding electoral materials, opening of ballot boxes, and intimidation of peaceful protestors, among other brazen acts. The Public Ministry has also filed spurious charges against President-elect Bernardo Arevalo, Vice President-Elect Karin Herrera, and other officials and attempted to strip them of their pre-trial immunity. While President Alejandro Giammattei has publicly acknowledged Arevalo’s electoral victory, the Public Ministry continues to systematically attempt to undermine the electoral transition and engage in targeted investigations against the president-elect’s political party and other democracy defenders. In November, Senators Kaine, Durbin, Merkley, and Welch condemned those attacks on democracy in Guatemala, and underscored how those actions are destabilizing for the entire region.
In Honduras, the ruling party’s decision to use a procedural workaround to unilaterally appoint their preferred candidate as interim Attorney General (AG) has similarly raised concerns about undermining the credibility of independent institutions. In November, Kaine spoke out about that undemocratic power grab, noting that “unilaterally appointing an interim Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General undermines the confidence in Honduras’ democratic institutions, especially after months of negotiation.” In October, Kaine, Merkley, and Welch urged the U.S. Department of State to address corruption in Honduras and express their concerns regarding delays in the establishment of the International Commission Against Corruption and Immunity in Honduras (CICIH), which President Xiomara Castro pledged to create. Last year, Kaine outlined his strong support for CICIH ahead of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Honduras. In April, Kaine, Durbin, Ramirez and Torres called on the Biden Administration to continue protecting displaced Hondurans by redesignating Honduras for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
Last year, Kaine led a congressional delegation in visiting Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, which are all founding members of the Alliance for Development in Democracy (ADD), to discuss the lawmakers’ support for the ADD, which is focused on strengthening democracy and promoting economic growth between their countries.