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In Honduras, US Envoy Haley Tempers Trump Threat Over Drug Trafficking


Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez shakes hands with Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Feb. 27, 2018.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley pledged on Tuesday to raise the problem of drug trafficking at the United Nations after visiting Honduras and Guatemala this week and appeared to finesse a threat made by President Donald Trump to cut aid over the flow of drugs into the United States.

Trump this month criticized countries he did not name for “pouring drugs” into the United States and called for aid to be stopped. Trump made his remarks after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told him cocaine was primarily coming from Colombia and Peru, trafficked through Mexico and Central America.

“It’s everywhere and everyone’s feeling it,” said the usually tough-talking Haley, a former South Carolina governor, while in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa on Tuesday.

“It is a conversation that needs to be taking place internationally.” Haley said. “We can’t just focus on the countries producing it, we do have to focus on the countries moving it and are we doing enough in the international community to stop it.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley shakes hands with members of the COBRAS, Honduras National Police Special Forces, at their base in Tegucigalpa, Feb. 27, 2018.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley shakes hands with members of the COBRAS, Honduras National Police Special Forces, at their base in Tegucigalpa, Feb. 27, 2018.

As a high-profile cabinet member — in a role that has traditionally been shadowed by the secretary of state — Haley’s first visit to Central America is also shedding light on U.S. foreign policy for the second year of Trump’s administration.

“This is the year of the Americas,” Haley told reporters after meeting with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

“You will see multiple members of the president’s cabinet making visits to Latin America to really talk about ... what else we can be doing and how else we can be partnering.”

Her trip follows a visit by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Peru and Colombia earlier this month.

Haley held up Colombia as an example for other countries in the region on how to tackle the drug problem and said she would discuss how that could be mirrored throughout the region with counterparts at the United Nations.

She said Hernandez did not mention Trump’s remarks about drug trafficking during their meeting.

She also praised Hernandez — and plans to do the same with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales on Wednesday — for their opposition to a U.N. General Assembly resolution in December that called for Washington to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“That was one that was not an easy decision for any country to have to vote on. But the people of Honduras stood with us in being able to make that decision for ourselves,” Haley told reporters as Hernandez stood beside her.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley poses for a picture with children at a school in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Feb. 27, 2018.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley poses for a picture with children at a school in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Feb. 27, 2018.

Guatemala and Honduras were among eight countries — and the only nations in the Americas — to vote no with the United States to reject the U.N. resolution, which was adopted with the support of more than 120 countries.

Hernandez said he had not yet decided on whether to move the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem, a move that Guatemala has said it would make. When asked if he expected anything from the United States in return for the support of Honduras on the issue, he said: “No, not at all, the same treatment as a sovereign nation.”

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