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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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There has been little progress in the fulfillment of the reparation measures dictated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR Court), which the LGBTIQ+ populations have awaited with so many expectations, to attract changes that will strengthen respect for their human rights. President Xiomara Castro created hope in the diverse populations, since she promised the reparation measures would be fulfilled quickly. But so far, there are 12 reparation measures established by the Court-IDH in response to the damages caused, which the government committed to comply with, but which, for the most part, diverse populations are still waiting. 

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The Military Police of Public Order, PMOP, arrived in the community of Guapinol to protect the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares. Local community members have carried out protest actions against the company that continues its operations despite the fact that the government of President Xiomara Castro announced last February the cancellation of the licenses and to make Honduras free of open-pit mining. The PMOP was the right arm of former President Juan Orlando Hernández, who bet on having his own security corps to fight efforts by human rights activists to protect their rights.

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This is a story about racism, repression and land-theft against the indigenous Garifuna people of Honduras, about tourism economic imperialism, and about the corruption and repression of successive U.S., Canadian and European-backed ‘open-for-global-business’ regimes in power. It is a moving report about the history and richness, tenacity and dignity of the Garifuna people. It is a report about the breadth and depth of what economic imperialism (including tourism, mining and resource extraction, mono-crop food production, textiles and shoes, etc.) actually is, that is often put in place or kept in place through land theft, violence and corruption.

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The assassination of Berta Cáceres has been dealt on various occasions in Honduran courts. In June the sentencing of David Castillo finally took place and the case even entered the Dutch legal system. This month, another important aspect of the case, corruption dealt in the Gualcarque Fraud case, went to trial. July also saw the devastating second anniversary of the forced disappearance of the four Garifuna men and leaders from the Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz. Two social leaders, Edward Iván Cáceres and Ubodoro Arriaga Izaguirre were murdered this month. But there was also some good news. A judge dropped the usurpation charges against members of indigenous defenders from Marcala and the Radio Progreso correspondent Sonia Pérez. A key topic this month continued to be the selection of the new Supreme Court judges which should take place in September. After weeks of debates, in Congress, but also more broadly, a new framework for the selection of the Nominating Board for the judges was approved on July 19. It is now up to the seven mandated organizations to appoint their representatives to the board. July also saw another highlevel multiple murder. Among the victims were the 19-year old son of former president Pepe Lobo, the 23-year old nephew of former general Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, and the nephew of Nationalist congressman Walter Chávez. Welcome to another month in Honduras.

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Four years after the installation of the Camp for Water and for Life, defenders of Guapinol reiterated their commitment to the defense of the river and the demand for the cancellation of illegal mining operations in the Carlos Escaleras National Park. “They tried to silence our opposition to illegal mining with jail and repression. They tried to end our love for the river, but they can't." The Committee for the Defense of Common and Public Assets pointed out that the opposition of the communities to the mining projects and the defense of the Carlos Escaleras National Park persists despite the violent attacks, criminalization, imprisonment, and hate campaigns against them.

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Nacla reports on the destruction of a 200-year old Maya Chortí cemetery by the mining company Aura Minerals. "MINOSA, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based multinational mining company Aura Minerals, enjoys free rein in the municipality of La Unión. Despite the legally binding decision taken at the 2015 cabildo abierto, the company had exhumed over a hundred bodies by 2018 as part of its strategy to exploit the gold deposits below the cemetery. The company did so in full view of municipal authorities, who on a number of occasions colluded with MINOSA to undermine community decision-making power. (...) In the weeks and months that followed, MINOSA seems to have given up any pretense of respect for Honduran law. Shortly after the initial mass exhumations, an appeals court overturned Judge Tabora’s ruling. In March, the Ministry of Natural Resources issued a subsequent executive notice reiterating the company’s obligation to halt all activity in the area. Video footage of mining activities taken after the communique’s publication indicate that the company has continued to prepare the area for exploitation."

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In January 2022, Xiomara Castro became Honduras’s first woman president, restoring electoral democracy to the country after more than a decade of dictatorship. Running with the leftist Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) party, Castro’s election breaks with the century-old two-party system that traded power between elites in the establishment National and Liberal Parties. With a mandate for transformation and high popular expectations, Castro faces significant challenges in a context of profound systemic crisis.

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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is traveling to Honduras this week to meet with the president over increasing migration from the Central American country, the agency announced. The visit comes as a growing number of Hondurans cross the border from Mexico and try to claim asylum in the United States, according to new data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And it comes at a time when thousands of migrants are arriving on the Southwest border, most from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, which form what is called the Northern Triangle.

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