Blanca Sarahí Izaguirre Lozano, National Commissioner for Human Rights of Honduras (CONADEH)
Rosa Seaman, Vice-Minister for Protection, Secretariat for Human Rights (SEDH)
May 23, 2022
Dear Commissioner Izaguirre and Vice-Minister Seaman:
We are writing to you today with sadness and anger about the assassination on May 1 of Garífuna community leader Alonso Salgado Caballero in the community of Río Tinto, located in Tela, Atlántida Department. Alonso Salgado Caballero, age 51, is the former treasurer of the Patronato de Río Tinto (the board of trustees of the community).
Unknown persons shot Alonso Salgado Caballero to death while he was sitting in a hammock outside the home of his cousin. Two others were seriously injured: Zury Quintanilla, the spouse of his cousin, and Sury Mariela Quintana, the sister-in-law of Alonso Salgado Caballero. After shooting Alonso Salgado Caballero, the assailants then entered the house and attacked Zury Quintanilla, secretary of the board of trustees of the Patronato de Río Tinto and a 7th grade teacher at the school CEBSAT Álvaro Contreras. Sury Mariela Quintana also received two gunshots to the head and was hospitalized.
This is not the first time that Río Tinto has experienced situations of extreme violence. In May 2020, Edwin Fernández, age 37 and father of seven children, was murdered by members of an organized criminal group. He was staffing a security gate outside Río Tinto, which had been established as a health prevention measure amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He was killed in retaliation for not handing over the key.
For many years, Garífuna communities along the Atlantic coast have suffered violence, killings, disappearances, and forced displacement due to powerful economic interests. This includes Honduran elites, international tourism, charter cities (aka ZEDEs), drug traffickers, industrial scale agriculture (e.g., African palm oil plantations), and more. The government of Honduras has enabled the stealing of Garifuna land because of its failure to ensure Garifuna communities the right to their ancestral territories, even when ordered to do so by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
We strongly urge you to:
- carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into the assassination of Alonso Salgado and the attempted assassinations of Sury Mariela Quintana and Zury Quintanilla in order to find and prosecute the perpetrators
- protect the families of Río Tinto from further aggression, in strict accordance with their wishes
- create and implement legal instruments to eradicate all types of violence against those who lawfully work to protect the land, natural resources and territorial rights of Garífuna communities
Brian J. Stefan Szittai and Christine Stonebraker-Martinez
copies: Luis Suazo Barahona, Ambassador of Honduras to the US ~ via email and US mail
Carlos Bernal Pulido, Rapporteur for Honduras, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ~ via email and US mail
Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent , Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ~ via email and US mail
Isabel Albaladejo Escribano, Representative to Honduras of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OACNUDH) ~ via email
Alice Shackelford, UN Resident Coordinator in Honduras, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ~ via email
US Embassy in Honduras: Ambassador Laura F. Dogu and Ariel Jahner, Human Rights Officer ~ via email
US State Department: Molly Runyon, Honduras Desk Officer ~ via email
US Senators Brown & Portman ~ via email
US Representatives Beatty, Brown, Gibbs, González, Johnson, Jordan, Joyce, Kaptur, Latta, Ryan ~ via email
03 MAY 2022_Criterio.hn_Honduras