Juan Orlando Hernández
President of Honduras
Oscar Chinchilla Banegas
Attorney General of Honduras
Dear President Hernández and Attorney General Chinchilla:
We are outraged at the murder of Javier Vásquez Benítez, son of an indigenous leader whose community is organizing resistance to the Los Encinos Dam in La Paz Department.
On December 20, 2015, the body of Javier Vásquez Benítez was found in a ravine in the municipality of Santa Elena, Department of La Paz. His body showed signs of numerous blows that would have caused his death. Javier Vásquez is the son of Gilberto Vásquez, President of the Indigenous Council of Gualinga. The Council works for the defense of indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral lands in La Paz.
We believe that Javier Vásquez’s assassination is an attempt to intimidate his father and prevent him from continuing his opposition to the Los Encinos Dam, which he has actively opposed through participating in many marches and demonstrations, sometimes accompanied by his son. The Los Encinos Dam has been constructed and is operating in the region despite the fact that no consultations were held among the local indigenous communities, in violation of Convention No. 169 of the International Labor Organization. Los Encinos dam is part of an energy project funded by Gladis Aurora López Calderon, a National Party Deputy and Vice President of the Honduran Congress.
This assassination follows the killings of two other indigenous leaders in the Gualinga community and the targeting of many other human rights defenders. In May 2015, the dismembered body of Silvestre Manueles Gómez was found on the bank of the Chinacla River; the assassination occurred in the context of a conflict between the local indigenous peoples and the company Los Encinos S. de R.L. On January 26, 2015, Juan Francisco Martínez, an active member of Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz (MILPA), was killed. He worked on issues relating to the right to water, land and territory for the Gualinga community. Impunity remains for both killings (cf our letter of Jan 21 2015).
We strongly urge you to
- carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of Javier Vásquez Benítez, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice;
- take all necessary measures to guarantee the security of Gilberto Vásquez and his family members;
- guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
Brian J. Stefan-Szittai Christine Stonebraker-Martínez