InterReligious Task Force on Central America
3606 Bridge Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44113
tel: 216.961.0003 fax: 216.961.0002 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Blanca Sarahí Izaguirre Lozano
National Commissioner for Human Rights of Honduras (CONADEH)
January 24, 2023
Dear Commissioner Izaguirre Lozano:
We, members of the InterReligious Task Force, are outraged over the double assassination of environmental defenders Aly Domínguez, age 38, and Jairo Bonilla, age 28, from the community of Guapinol (Tocoa municipality, Colón Department, Aguán Valley). They were murdered by unidentified gunmen on Saturday, January 7, while returning home on a motor-bike from their job gathering payments for a cable utility.
The Guardian reported that they were “co-founders of Guapinol’s grassroots resistance against an iron ore mine... Local police and prosecutors immediately ascribed the deaths to a botched mugging—even though the assailants fled without... the victims’ moped, cellphones or money.”
Five years of persecution points to an illegal iron oxide mine owned by Inversiones Los Pinares, located in a carved out slice of the Montaña de Botaderos National Park “Carlos Escaleras.” Aly Domínguez was among 32 community leaders falsely accused of crimes by the mining company. He is the brother of Reynaldo Domínguez, another of the 32 Guapinol residents criminalized and one of eight who were jailed for 914 days. Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla had been receiving threats for weeks before their murders. The Municipal Committee in Defense of the Common and Public Goods of Tocoa has denounced since August 2022 a hate and smear campaign that has escalated to surveillance, harassment, and threats against the lives of leaders who oppose the destruction of the Park National Carlos Escaleras for the installation of two open-pit mining concessions. Agribusiness corporations like Dinant are surveilling and planning to assassinate peasant leadership because of the farmers’ efforts to reclaim lands stolen from them (cf our letter of November 23, 2022). Inversiones Los Pinares is co-owned by the politically powerful Lenir Pérez and his wife Ana Facussé, daughter of the deceased oligarch and land baron Miguel Facussé, who was also the owner of Dinant.
The impunity of the previous administration has to end. On November 24, 2022 we wrote to you about death threats against Indigenous environmental defender Reinaldo Baharona Reyes in Yoro. On December 25, we wrote to you about a police killing of Indigenous community leader Marco Antonio Pineda of the Guachipilín community in La Paz. On December 26, we wrote of the attempted assassination of Indigenous Lenca community leader Nery González in Comayagua. Also in December, Aguán Valley land rights defender Mauricio Esquivel was killed and dumped on a roadside (cf our letter of January 23, 2023).
We demand an investigation into the repeated persecution and violence against the rural community of Guapniol, whose residents have been unjustly stigmatized and criminalized because of their struggle to stop an illegally sanctioned mine. We call upon the State of Honduras to:
- transfer the investigation of the double assassination out of Tocoa so that the same police and prosecutors responsible for criminalizing the Guapinol environmental defenders are not leading the investigation
- once and for all, cancel the illegal mining concession, as President Xiomara Castro promised
- demilitarize the Guapinol community as a first step in distancing the government from protecting the interests of Inversiones Los Pinares over those of local residents
Brian J. Stefan Szittai Christine Stonebraker-Martinez
copies: Javier Efraín Bú Soto, Ambassador of Honduras in Washington, DC c/o Alejandra Sandoval Taixes ~ via email and US mail
Carlos Pulido, Rapporteur for Honduras, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ~ via email and US mail
]sabel 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 Human Rights Officer ~ via email
US State Department: Bryan Schell, Honduras Desk Officer ~ via email
US Senators Brown & Vance and US Representatives Balderson Beatty, Brown, Johnson, Jordan, Joyce, Kaptur, Latta, Miller, Sykes ~ via email
07 JAN 2023_GuapinolResiste_Honduras