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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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June 28, 2023 marks 14 years since the 2009 coup in Honduras. The Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) honors the years of resistance in Honduras to that coup and the 13 years of dictatorship it installed. We recognize that today the Honduran people continue to fight to dismantle all the structures of the post-coup dictatorship and are up against the same powerful forces they faced in 2009. These forces include the U.S. government and other governments such as Canada that supported the coup and were complicit with the narco-dictatorship. Read our statement for the anniversary here.

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Many of us in Cleveland had the opportunity to meet water defender Reynaldo Domínguez when he spoke at our Liberation Lab on April 22, 2023. We are sad to report that his brother,  environmental defender Oqueli Domínguez, was brutally killed last week.

On Thursday June 15, Oqueli  was shot by an unidentified gunmen from a motorcycle in front of his family home in Tocoa, northern Honduras. For years the Domínguez family and other environmentalists have been in the crosshair of corporate violence for their activism. Just 6 months ago, in January of 2023, Aly Domínguez, Reynaldo's other brother, and Jairo Bonilla were   killed on their way from from La Concepción and Guapinol. 

So far the local police have not commented on the case, but Reynaldo has stated that the police are trying to frame the attack as a robbery. Reynaldo opposes this downplaying of a most likely politically motivated assassination, saying that the family has nothing of value in their house and pointed at the fact that Oqueli was targeted directly, and separated from his family. Oqueli, together with Reynaldo, his brother Aly and Jairo Bonilla were active in the opposition to an iron oxide mine in the Carlos Escaleras National Park. Together with local environmental groups, the activists have protested the legality of the mining project as well as the damage it will do to the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers.

Honduras is known for being the most dangerous country for environmental defenders, as it provides massive power to corporations and a justice system in which impunity prevails. To find a solution for the ongoing conflict, experts of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have met with authorities as well as activists. In its final report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has articulated its deep concerns about the fact that environmental defenders are a common target of violence. So far eight environmental defenders have been killed in 2023 alone. 

As IRTF we deeply condemn the killing of Oqueli and the ongoing attacks on activists around Honduras. We also want to offer our condolences to Reynaldo and the all other members of the the Domínguez family. 

For more information on the case, read our RRN Letter: Honduras 6/15/2023

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Time and time again, journalists are victims of violence and repression in many Central American counties. In an effort to cut the freedom of the press, governments all over the continent have implemented laws to persecute critical media and shut down news outlets, as well as obstructing access to public information and stigmatizing individuals and outlets. But this repression is only one side of the sword. In many countries journalists and reporters are targets of threats, cyber attacks and even assassinations. This constant harassment and fear of being the next one killed or imprisoned has caused many to go into exile. 

In Honduras four reporters have been killed since the beginning of 2022, a trend that has been going on for decades. Between 2001 and today 98 killings of journalists were recorded. Such violent attacks and killings usually remain without any sentence or even conviction in Honduras, a fact criticized by many. The director of the Committee for Free Expression calls this lack of punishment "enormous impunity," and the Honduras National Human Rights Commission sees the media as a victim of "extreme violence." Besides the direct violence against journalists, the state threatens the freedom of expression with laws targeting reporters, journalists and news outlets. 

The exiling of reporters takes its most excessive form in Nicaragua, where nearly 200 journalists and reporters and others have gone into exile, 23 of whom were even stripped of their citizenship. As a legal rationalization, the Nicaraguan government declared these 23 individuals as traitors to the nation. In addition to the oppression of individual people, Nicaraguan authorities have taken over the daily La Prensa, the channel 100% Noticias, the two digital magazines Confidencial and Niu, and the television programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche. 

In Guatemala, criminal persecution is the most serious threat to the free press. In that country many journalists, reporters and other media personal have been jailed. Since President Alejandro Giammattei took office in January 2020, 12 journalists and reporters critical of him have gone into exile. 

In El Salvador violence against media personnel is a regularity.According to the  Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES), 611 cases of aggression against reporters and Journalists have been recorded since the election of President Nayib Bukele in 2019. Legal reforms in the country hindering reporters and journalists in their work have led the news outlet El Faro to move to Costa Rica in mid-April. Again and again repression has  caused reporters to leave the country.  Eleven individuals were forced to exit the country and 30 were spied on with the Pegasus software, provided by Israel. Between 2021 and 2022 the government has closed down three radio stations. 

Another country cutting freedom of  the press is Panama. Here the state regularly abuses its oppressive legal system against critics. Anti-slander, and personal data protection laws are being used by authorities to set up civil and criminal lawsuits against media outlets like La Pensa daily and the digital media site Foco. The fear of being sued, and charged with millions in fines or even prison time, leads to a climate of self-censorship within the media spectrum. 

Compared to the other countries mentioned above, Costa Rica is a relatively safe harbor. In the country no journalists are reported jailed or persecuted. But even here three critical media outlets were verbally attacked by government officials.

Though these grievances have been going on for decades, the situation hasn't improved. It is important that journalists, reporters and news outlets are able to do their work safely and without having to fear persecution. We call on all Central American nations to ensure a free press and freedom of speech.         

      

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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 southern 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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to IRTF’s May 2023 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border! After you’ve looked through the articles, we hope you can take a couple of minutes to see the TAKE ACTION items at the bottom. The articles in this email version are abbreviated.

In this newsletter, please read about 1. Immigration Court in Cleveland, OH; 2. ICE Air Flights: Update on Removal Flight Trends; 3 .Labor Exploitation of Unaccompanied Minors: Congress is slow to act ; 4. New Protections for Immigrant Workers; 5. At the Border: Recent Incidents at and around the US-Mexico Border; 6. Effects of the end of T42 and DHS new plans for processing migrants. To read the full newsletter, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/blog .

TAKE ACTION NOW

Here is what you can do to take action this week and act in solidarity with migrants and their families.

Tell Senator Sherrod Brown to take his name off Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s anti-asylum bill!

Bring Home Immigrants who’ve been deported from Ohio. 

Tell Congress to Protect Dreamers

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In northern Honduras, Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez, a timber businessman and drug trafficker, established an illegal operation with support from local authorities, a Canadian company, and an international bank. Fuentes deceived local landowners, illegally mined, and defrauded communities of their land. Despite his arrest and imprisonment, villagers face eviction threats, with no accountability for the involved institutions. Fuentes manipulated locals, infiltrating their lives and lands, often resorting to violence and coercion. He had political connections, including with the former mayor of Choloma, Leopold Crivelli, who denies involvement. Fuentes’s criminal activities included drug trafficking and an illegal forestry project, where he collaborated with the Canadian company Gildan Activewear. Gildan’s involvement in purchasing biomass from Fuente’s illegal operation raised concerns about money laundering and environmental violations.

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