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Honduras: News & Updates
Honduras did not experience civil war in the 1980s, but its geography (bordering El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua) made it a key location for US military operations: training Salvadoran soldiers, a base for Nicaraguan contras, military exercises for US troops. The notorious Honduran death squad Battalion 316 was created, funded and trained by the US. The state-sponsored terror resulted in the forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of approximately 200 people during the 1980s. Many more were abducted and tortured. The 2009 military coup d’etat spawned a resurgence of state repression against the civilian population that continues today.
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April 3, 2020
Private security guards employed by the La Grecia Sugar Mill burned homes and used gunfire to forcibly evict families of the Cerro Escondido campesino cooperative from the land they have been farming In Choluteca Department since last year. There was no judicial warrant for this forced eviction. Police cooperated by cordoning off a section of nearby highway. Iris Argentina Álvarez Chávez, age 52, was shot dead. Her husband and others were wounded. We call on officials in Honduras to ensure that the families are able to return to their land and homes and that they be compensated. Additionally, we urge the adoption and enforcement of effective measures against forced evictions, in alignment with international norms. Iris Argentina Álvarez Chávez--¡presente!
April 1, 2020
Evelyn Johana Castillo is the assistant coordinator of the Ojojona Women's Network. In the mid-afternoon of March 24, Evelyn and her husband and adult daughter were out buying food when a police officer named Ramírez approached them, began to revise her daughter’s purse, then told Castillo to “shut up because you are disrespecting me.” The officer then ordered another officer (Andino) to take her into custody. Officer Andino began to aggressively detain Evelyn Castillo by pushing, pulling and shoving her. Evelyn Castillo says that this attack was actually a reprisal against her by Officer Ramírez. She explains that two days beforehand, a conflict arose when she came to the aid of a vendor in the park, defending her against Officer Ramírez who was trying to evict the vendor, even though her sales had been authorized by the municipal police. As Officer Ramírez placed Evelyn Castillo in the jail cell on March 24, the officer said to Evelyn: “You remember what happened the other day? You don’t think that I have forgotten.”
RRN Case Update
April 1, 2020
January, February, and March RRN case summaries at a glance
On behalf of our 190 Rapid Response Network members, IRTF volunteers write and send six letters each month to government officials in southern Mexico, Colombia, and Central America (with copies to officials in the US). Who is being targeted? indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders, labor organizers, LGBTI rights defenders, women’s rights defenders, journalists, environmental defenders, and others. By signing our names to these crucial letters, human rights crimes are brought to light, perpetrators are brought to justice and lives are spared. Our solidarity is more important than ever. Together, our voices do make a difference.
March 26, 2020
Police and military are using aggression against journalists in Honduras to impede their reporting of government suppression of civil rights during the emergency "stay-at-home" order issued by the national government on March 15. In addition to pushing and slapping journalists, security force personnel have damaged recording and broadcasting equipment. Channel 6 reporter Paola Cobos reported live about the physical aggression by National Police against her and her camerman in Tegucigalpa on March 24.
March 25, 2020
More than 500 people have been arbitrarily detained by police and military during a crackdown in the context of this health crisis. Yesterday, in a neighborhood of Comayagüela, neighborhood women prepared food and took it to the street. When five men gathered to share the meal, police arrested and locked them up in a nearby police station; police warned the women to stop any such solidarity activities and shut themselves in their houses. (After advocacy by the women, the men were later released.)
March 24, 2020
“It looked like a war,” said one eyewitness as 1,000 National Police and Military Police violently dispersed a peaceful 88-day encampment of water protectors in October 2018. Eight injured, one killed. One year later, seven Guapinol River defenders were imprisoned and, in March 2020, still sit in pre-trial detention. What’s going on? A large-scale open-pit iron oxide mine threatens their water source and way of life in the Aguan Valley near the Atlantic Coast of Honduras. Carlos Leonel George, an ex-prisoner incarcerated for resisting the mine, says that violence will escalate if the company continues with the open-pit mine because “…without that water they won’t have a way to live. It’s not a joke for them. It’s about survival.” Juana Zúniga, a leader in the Guapinol community and wife of political prisoner José Abelino Cedillo, explains why residents have organized their resistance: “We fight so we don’t have to emigrate from our country. If we cease to fight against the mining company, there are 3,500 people who would have to leave the community.” Reinaldo Dominguez, ex-political prisoner and community activist, looks out over the construction site in the distance and tells the reporter, “We live in fear every day.” #FreedomForGuapinol
March 5, 2020
A Lorain Schools parent and her daughter were detained by the U.S. Border Patrol last week. The principal followed school policy and notified staff at the district administration building. The student was taken out of class by a teacher and left the school building with her mother. School Board President Mark Ballard confirmed the pair have been deported. For the community, he said its had a devastating effect on their mental health — many are thinking about their family members who are undocumented and are scared, he said.
March 3, 2020
Today is the 4-year anniversary of the indigenous land defender and feminist leader, Berta Cáceres brutal assassination. Berta was the co-founder of COPINH and was murdered for her brave fight in defense of the indigenous and sacred territories of the Lenca People in Honduras. Before her assassination Berta and COPINH fought against the construction of the Agua Zarca Project, a damaging dam of the Energetic Development Company (DESA). In early 2020, the Berta Cáceres Cause Observation Mission presented a new follow-up report on the year-and-a-half judicial process that culminated in December 2019 with the sentencing. This report emphasized that “[j]ustice in the Berta Cáceres case will not be fully realized until responsibility is established for the intellectual authorship of the facts of the case and for the various actions of delay and obstruction of the investigation and judgment.”
February 22, 2020
We are appalled by the staggering number of homicides in Honduras in 2020, including victims of torture. By January 13, ninety-eight homicides were already registered. Among those murdered was José Leopoldo Navarro, a 60-year-old campesino, whose body was found with signs of torture on the banks of the Tocoa River in Colón Department; Humberto Hidalgo Niño, age 23, and his niece, Auri Michelle Rivera Dubón, age 18, in Copán Department; Edwin Amílcar Mairena, a moto-taxi driver, age 28, in Francisco Morazán Department. We are urging authorities in Honduras to: -investigate the homicides listed above, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice -stop the culture of impunity that permits such violence to go unpunished, thus destabilizing the lives of innocent Hondurans throughout the country
February 21, 2020
Honduras has been suffered since many year by the effects of corruption. So are getting $300 million robbed every year from the Honduran healthcare system. Also, Honduras is one of the world’s most dangerous places to be an environmental activist or human rights defender. Frontline Defenders rated Honduras third in the world in murders of human rights activists in 2019 and Global Witness named Honduras the deadliest country in the world for environmental activism in 2017. More than 100 small farmers have been killed since 2009 in land disputes in Bajo Aguán, where large-scale palm plantations encroach on land farmed by poor farmers and cooperatives. Activists protesting environmentally damaging projects, like Guapinol community members organizing against a mine polluting their water, are in jail. International financing backs many of the controversial projects. The November 2017 elections in which President Hernández was declared reelected were seen as fraudulent by much of the Honduran public, yet the OAS’s call for new elections was ignored. In the massive protests that followed, at least 23 people were killed, the vast majority allegedly by security forces. Over 60 people were wounded. Two years later, not a single security force member has been convicted for these crimes.