JUAN ORLANDO HERNÁNDEZ ALVARADO, President of Honduras, highlighting national concerns, from climate change to fair access to vaccines, outlined his country’s achievements since 2010. Pointing out that the COVAX mechanism had serious problems in ensuring fair distribution plans for all States, he said the world health system, including WHO, must be transformed to improve the situation and guarantee timely and equitable access to vaccines. In 2020, the pandemic and two hurricanes struck Honduras, causing $4 billion in damages and job losses and deeply impacting the health of its people.
He also noted that, even though more than 50 per cent of its land is covered by forests, Honduras remains among those most affected by climate change. National efforts, from rainwater collection to boosting agricultural productivity by using less land, are making inroads, but green climate funds are not reaching countries as they should, with a lack of political will remaining a serious obstacle. Reiterating the need for a climate change centre to eliminate bureaucracy and get funds to countries requesting them, he summarized a range of national experiences in tackling environmental challenges.
More broadly, Honduras today is a different country from less than a decade ago, he said, adding that the country has among the best national economic figures in the region, achieved in part with support from IMF and other partners. Infrastructure projects are modernizing airports and linking the two oceans. Manufacturing growth has climbed 70 per cent, anti-corruption initiatives are under way and other sectors have been making gains over the last eight years. Tourism, now generating more than 270,000 jobs, is blossoming, as Honduras now receives some of the largest cruise liners in the world. A better life ultimately means dignity and improving living conditions for people, he said, adding that targeted initiatives have encouraged small business owners, built 46,000 houses and adopted social programmes to reach those who had been previously overlooked.
He also recalled that, prior to his election as President, Honduras was a transit hub for most of the illicit drugs trafficked into the United States. In 2010, the Government adopted measures to crack down on such crimes, reducing drug trafficking through its territory by 96 per cent and dismantling the major cartels. Simultaneous efforts were made to arrest a number of police officers suspected of involvement with trafficking, with the homicide rate subsequently dropping drastically. Highlighting several details of related investigations, he said secret recordings of drug traffickers are now available to the public, including transcripts currently being used in court cases against suspects. In fact, writers of a related Netflix film are now using these transcripts to show how drug traffickers operate. Included in those transcripts were discussions on how best to assassinate him, he said, adding that the criminals have since been captured and brought to justice. “They knew [that], with me as President, they were not able to survive; they were right,” he remarked.
He went on to raise grave concerns about reports that drug traffickers were receiving benefits for falsely testifying. Giving rewards for perjury to killers who have confessed to dozens of homicides and other crimes destabilizes the system for international cooperation on holding perpetrators accountable, he emphasized, adding that this trend would introduce systematic corruption into the pursuit of justice. Referring to several recent cases, he said that, if perpetrators commit perjury in order to be recompensated by the United States, this would then mean putting dangerous weapons in the hands of a mortal enemy. In addition, this practice would crumble confidence in the international anti-trafficking alliance and among many countries like Honduras, which remains committed to stamp out the illicit drug trade. He trusted that the United States would not provide any kind of reward to perpetrators to deliver false testimonies in these cases, he said. In closing, he emphasized that he intends to leave Honduras to his successor in 2022 a safer country than in the past, for the benefit of the current and future generations.
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