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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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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, Honduras, and Mexico, 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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Today, June 28, 2022, 13 years after the 2009 coup d’état, COPINH, together with the daughters and son of Berta Cáceres, filed a criminal complaint with the Dutch Attorney General’s office against the Dutch bank, FMO, and its directors for the crimes of complicity in acts of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering and violence in their financing of the Agua Zarca Project of the Atala Zablah family. The criminal accusation is against the legal entity of the bank FMO (Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V.) 51% owned by the Dutch State and against its main executives; Nanno Kleiterp, honorary president of the European Development Finance Institutions (EDFI); Jurgen Rigterink, current first vice president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); and Linda Broekhuizen, former interim executive director of the FMO, among other executives.

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Another anniversary of the June 28, 2009 coup d’etat that changed Honduras forever is here. This year, on this date, the Honduras Solidarity Network of North America (HSN) not only reaffirms continuing solidarity with the Honduran social movements and opposition to the US policies in the region that continue destructive interventionism and interference, but we also join the commemorations of struggle and celebration by the Honduran people of their victory in electing a government born out of the blood, sweat, and tears of years of resistance. This victory opens up a bigger space for the people and their movements to continue fighting for the re-foundation of their country. Still, they face powerful enemies and obstacles in their path.  

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On June 20th, a Honduran court finally presented the written verdict in the case against U.S. trained former military intelligence officer Roberto David Castillo for the murder of Berta Cáceres, sentencing him to 22 years and 6 months in prison. Laura Zúniga Cáceres, Berta's youngest daughter explained, "This is an important advance but the masterminds of the crime are still enjoying impunity thanks to their political and economic power. As victims of this crime, we, her family, members of Copinh and the Lenca people will continue demanding justice from the Honduran state."

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A trove of Dutch and U.S. legal and financial documents shared with The Intercept reveal, for the first time, the flow of international funding in the days leading up to March 2, 2016, when a hit squad broke into Cáceres’s house and killed her. The bank provided the documents to two Dutch human rights lawyers, Wout Albers and Ron Rosenhart Rodriguez, who have spent the past two years representing Cáceres’s family and COPINH, the organization she co-founded, in a civil lawsuit that seeks to hold FMO accountable for its role in the Agua Zarca project. 

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he Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the definitive release of five other defenders of the Guapinol River, in a ruling dated June 3, 2022 and notified to the lawyers on June 21 of this year. This unanimous decision was taken after the legal representatives filed an Appeal for Protection (Amparo) in June 2020. The defendants favored by this decision of the Court are Juan Antonio López and Leonel George of the Committee of Common Goods of Tocoa, Colón and the defendants of Guapinol Reynaldo Domínguez, José Adaly Cedillo and Marco Tulio Ramos, all accused by the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares and by the Public Ministry, of Unjust Deprivation of Liberty, Aggravated Arson, Theft and Unlawful Association to the detriment of the Chief of Security of said company, against the mining company and the Internal Security of the State of Honduras.

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This document systematizes the experiences and stories of women from various communities in Honduras, who gathered at the Maya-Chortí Women's Meeting, organized by the Environmental Coalition of Copán and the Center for the Study of Democracy (CESPAD), with the financial support of Civil Rights Defenders. This space was promoted with the aim of organizing and positioning women defenders in the community of El Florido, department of Copán, Honduras. The systematization of experiences is a process that seeks to understand the events in order to problematize them, extract their lessons and communicate them. It is an appropriation of knowledge and a logical and coherent ordering of what happened, in order to provide answers as to why it happened the way it did.

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On Monday, Roberto David Castillo, a US-trained former Honduran army intelligence officer who was the president of an internationally financed energy company has been sentenced to 22 years and six months for the assassination of the Indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres. The sentence was handed down almost a year after Castillo was found guilty, and falls short of the 25-year maximum – a decision condemned by Cáceres’s supporters outside the high court in Tegucigalpa. Castillo will be required to carry out public works coordinated by the prison service as part of his sentence and is responsible for any future civil claims brought by the victims, the court ruled. Cáceres, the coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), was best known for defending indigenous Lenca territory and natural resources, but she was also a respected political analyst, women’s rights defender and anti-capitalist campaigner.

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On April 27, a group of progressive Members of Congress called for withholding all military and security aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in light of “human rights violations” resulting from “state violence.” In parallel letters to the House Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and to the subcommittee on Defense, which will soon propose 2023 spending bills for each department, the members expressed concern regarding “the use of U.S.-trained and equipped security forces for civilian repression” and sought support from committee leadership to “restrict police and military financing” to all three countries.

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