Looking for People and Answers
The U.S. State Department tells my family we have to go through the broken-to-nonexistent Honduran "justice" system in order to get a finding that my brother (who disappeared at sea off the Honduran island of Roatan) can be declared dead. This after my family personally funded an exhaustive search/rescue operation (with belated and begrudged U.S. government assistance) and an in-depth into my brother's background and those of his business partner. At great personal expense and pain, we did the work Honduras can't and the State Department won't do, and, based on the evidence we've gathered, any reasonable person would conclude that my brother is likely dead. Such a conclusion by State would enable his widow and children to claim his small life insurance benefit.Federal regulation permits Consular Affairs to provide a finding of presumptive death, but State Department officials repeatedly tell us they cannot do so, because "Honduras has a functioning legal system".
Well, here are two current stories (of many) that show just what State thinks a "functioning legal system looks like":
When I met with the U.S. ambassador to Honduras and asked her point blank what the State Department considers to be the attributes of a functioning legal system, she explained, "You have to look at it as a spectrum. Somalia, clearly, doesn't have a functioning legal system. The U.S. clearly does. In between, there is a wide range."
"So," I tried to clarify, "In the view of the U.S. State Department, a 'functioning legal system' is one that is 'marginally superior to Somalia's'?"
She looked a bit sheepish, did not reply.
Every family we know of that has tried to do what the State Department tells my family we must do has faced the same story: Five years of legal fees, then their Honduran lawyers disappear. Functioning legal system? In no meaningful sense of the word.