DECEMBER 2022: Rapid Response Network – summary of letters this month
Rapid Response Network (RRN) letters this month
21 DEC 2022
journalists surveilled and threatened: Dina Meza, Gilda Silvestrucci
Despite a new presidential administration in Honduras, journalists are still under attack.
Dina Meza, director of the Association for Democracy and Human Rights (ASOPODEHU), has denounced surveillance of her home and family. She suspects the surveillance is being conducted by agents of the National Police and linked to government structures.
Gilda Silvestrucci, director of the online media outlet EnLaPlaza.hn, has been the victim of cyber bullying and death threats via phone, text messages, and social media. The death threats also target her underage daughter.
In addition to calling for investigations of the surveillance and death threats, we are urging that authorities in Honduras put into place sufficient measures of protection for journalists and human rights defenders in efforts to prevent further attacks on their health and privacy.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-12-21-000000
22 DEC 2022
prisoner of conscience: Virigina Laparra, former prosecutor of government corruption
We wrote to authorities in Guatemala urging the immediate release of prisoner of conscience Virginia Laparra. False criminal charges against her could result in a prison sentence of up to nine years.
Former prosecutor Virginia Laparra was head of the Special Prosecutor's Office Against Impunity (FECI) in Quetzaltenango, where she led investigations into corruption and large-scale crime. The criminal prosecution against her began in 2018, after having reported to the Board Disciplinary of the Judicial Branch possible inappropriate conduct by a judge accused of leaking confidential information on a case in which he was working. In retaliation, this same judge filed two criminal complaints against her: in July 2018 in Quetzaltenango and in August 2019 in Guatemala City. Since then, the former prosecutor has had to defend herself simultaneously in two parallel processes initiated by the same plaintiff, despite the fact that they relate to the same events. Authorities arrested Virginia Laparra on February 23, 2022 as she left her job in Quezaltenango, and since then she has been unfairly held in preventive detention.
Virginia Laparra has suffered an egregious violation of the rights to due process and a fair trial. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Virginia Laparra after an unjust detention of more than nine months.
You can read the full letter at: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-12-22-000000-0
23 DEC 2022
forced displacement: Maya Q’eqchi’ community of Se’inup’ by National Police
We wrote to authorities in Guatemala to protest the forced displacement of the Maya Q’eqchi’ community of Se’inup’ in El Chal, Petén Department, carried out by agents of the National Civilian Police (PNC).
During the past several months, Q'eqchi' communities have been evicted in the region of Alta Verapaz, Izabal and Petén, despite the organized resistance of the Indigenous communities. Local government authorities continue to side with more powerful economic and political interests. In the case of Se’inup’, where 56 families engage in subsistence farming, they have been working through the legal process of land titling. Whether the state would give them all their land or half, they were ready to accept the ruling. In the meantime, they have nowhere else to go.
We are urging that authorities in Guatemala:
-legally resolve the land conflict and grant at least half of the land to the families of Se’inup’
-stop issuing eviction orders while legal processes are still pending
-stop siding with the interests of private companies over the needs of subsistence farmers
You can read the full letter at: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-12-23-000000
24 DEC 2022
forced eviction: of Maya Q’eqchi’ families in Izabal by “sustainable” palm oil company NaturAceites
We wrote to authorities in Guatemala to protest the forced displacement of the Maya Q’eqchi’ community of Chapín Abajo in El Estor, Izabal Department, carried out by agents of the National Civilian Police (PNC) and paramilitary forces.
On December 6, Guatemalan security forces arrived to carry out an eviction on behalf of the palm oil company NaturAceites, a member of the international Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Together with paramilitary forces, they raided homes of families, stealing their food and personal belongings. They fired tear gas on the residents. An investigative delegation arrived later and confirmed that several people were injured. A 17-year-old was seriously wounded and hospitalized in critical condition. At least one other young man was missing. Two other men suffered gunshot wounds. Several women were beaten and sustained injuries to their faces and bodies.
During the past several months, several Q'eqchi' communities have been evicted in the region of Alta Verapaz, Izabal and Petén. We are urging that authorities:
- legally resolve any land disputes between the community members of Chapín Abajo and NaturAceites
- immediately cancel all eviction orders
- stop issuing eviction orders while legal processes are still pending
- release any community members detained during the raid
- guarantee the physical safety of residents of Chapín Abajo
- stop siding with the interests of private companies over the needs of subsistence farmers
You can read the full letter at: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-12-24-000000
25 DEC 2022
killed by police: local Indigenous community leader Marco Antonio Pineda ¡presente!
We wrote to officials in Honduras about the killing of yet another Indigenous community leader, Marco Antonio Pineda of the Guachipilín community in the department of La Paz on November 23, yet again by the authorities.
Marco Antonio Pineda was a leader in the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). The National Police killed him. First they arrested him and his cousins arbitrarily for no apparent reason in the community of El Encinal, as they were walking toward Guachipilin. After the police brutally beat one of his cousins, Marco Antonio Pineda went toward his cousin to check on him. It was at that time one of the officers fired his weapon at Marco, causing a serious wound to his chest that eventually cost him his life.
We urge that authorities in Honduras conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of Marco Antonio Pineda by the National Police, publish the results, and hold those responsible in a court of law.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-12-25-000000
26 DEC 2022
attempted assassination: Lenca campesino leader Nery González in Siguatepeque
Please see the attached letter (December 26, 2022) we sent to officials in Honduras about the attempted assassination of yet another Indigenous Lenca community leader, Nery González, of the Achiotal community in Siguatepeque, in the department of Comayagua.
Nery González is one of the campesino leaders in Achiotal who is part of an effort to reclaim lands in order to plant food crops. On December 11, an unknown assailant shot him in the head while he was walking into his home. He was transferred to Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa where he was conscious but in serious condition. In spite of the fact that he was attacked at his home, by an unknown armed man, the police never came to his home to investigate and, as of December 15, had not yet conducted any investigation into the facts of the case.
Due to the farmers’ work there of reclaiming their ancestral lands, residents of Achiotal have been criminalized and persecuted by large private landowners, the National Police and the military. In October 2020, the National Police entered—at dawn—several houses without a search warrant and arrested six members of COPINH (Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras). They were previously victims of multiple attacks in order to evict them from the land. Two years later they are still facing unjust criminal charges.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-12-26-000000
Rapid Response Network
InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia
3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
(216) 961 0003. www.IRTFcleveland.org