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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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News Article

Guapinol defenders deliver 2nd volume of illegalities and environmental damages to Carlos Escaleras National Park

Published from Tegucigalpa on Feb 24 2023 by Marcia Perdomo

Original article in Spanish

On February 23rd, communities defending the Carlos Escalera National Park and the Guapinol River travelled to the capital to turn in their second volume of illegalities and environmental harms caused by the mining megaproject to Honduran government agency SERNA. After SERNA placed the burden of proof on citizens to prove that the mining operations were illegal, community members submitted their first volume of documentation to the agency on February 6th regarding the pelletization plant and other aspects of this megaproject, which is funded by businessman Lenir Perez.

Institutional technical rulings have already proven that the mining mega-project has manipulated legal information to favor investor Lenir Perez and engaged in fraudulent practices. The reports presented by the community highlight some of the technical shortcomings of multiple aspects of the mining mega-project. In addition, the environmental license for the project was renewed until 2025 during the administration of former president Juan Orlando Hernandez, without notifying community members who had filed opposition to the project, breaking the entire administrative procedure. SERNA, under new leadership, was forced to notify community members and ask them to submit evidence.

Communities are asking for the cancelation of the mining project, and have been very brave in putting forth evidence that both contradicts the story told by the corporation and is shameful to government institutions who should have presented this evidence long ago. On January 7th, two environmental defenders named Aly Dominguez and Jairo Bonilla were murdered traveling near Guapinol, and the community has denounced sightings of drones over the homes of other environmental defenders.

News Article

Honduras has seen massive oppression towards Indigenous land defenders. In the past two months alone, seven social movement members were assassinated in the northern Honduran Bajo Aguán Valley. All of these murders are traceable to a rising food and African palm industry in the country. The largest for-export player in the Honduran African palm business is the Dinant Corporation, controlled by the most powerful land baron family Facussé. Some members of the infamous Facussé family are already directly implicated as the 'intellectual authors' and financiers of the assassination of prominent land and Indigenous rights defender Berta Cáceres in 2016. For years one of the largest investors and profiteers of Dinant's violent operations was the internationally known World Bank. 

The post below provides summaries and links to a collection of articles on topics like the recent assassination of Hipólito Rivas and his 15-year-old son on February 12, the assassinations of Berta Cáceres and Gregorio Chavez in 2016, the history of violence and oppression in the Bajo Aguán area between 2009 and 2014, the US and Canadian backed coup, activism by Rights Action and  the connections between the food and African palm industry, Dinant Corporation and its business partners like the World Bank and violent land barons.

As one article points out, violence against Indigenous communities and land defenders is far from a local Honduran problem. All over the world, corporations work together with oppressive industrial agriculture land owners, paramilitary groups and friendly governments as a means to smash any opposition and generate as much profit as possible.              

News Article

In 2022 there was a record level of violence against members of the LGBTQ+ community in Honduras, specifically in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. The majority of the murders were of gay men and were committed with firearms, and 80% of these murders have gone unpunished, with only 11% even investigated. These murders come along with a rise in other forms of violence against LGBTQ+ people, including threats, discrimination and physical attacks. The Honduran government, under the leadership of Xiomara Castro, has neither protected nor fulfilled campaign promises to the LGBTQ+ community, including the promise to institute sex education classes that discuss sexual diversity from a non-binary point of view. 

artículo completo en español abajo

News Article

In 2009 Honduras saw a violent military coup, overthrowing the then president Manuel Zelaya. With this coup a new system to generate foreign investment was established. The new president and Congress came forward with a law which would allow the creation of so called "Zones for Employment and Economic Development" (ZEDE). ZEDE's are near-tax-free areas within Honduras, governed by private corporations. 

The first attempt to create these ZEDE's was blocked by the Honduran Supreme Court, but this didn't stop the political actuaries. First the Congress impeached the opposing Supreme Court judges, then engineered a new ZEDE law, working around regulations. 

The newly established ZEDE's operate comparable to so-called Charter Cities and are influenced by economic powerhouses like Hong Kong and Singapore. The self-governing corporate territories are known for providing barely any public services besides private police and military forces. Furthermore they:

  • trample rights of the Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations
  • force small farmers to sell their land 
  • put extra wight on surrounding communities providing schools, hospitals etc.
  • avoid usage of national currency by using crypto  
  • worsen tax evasion and drug trafficking
  • deny international labor and environmental regulations 
  • violate basic principles of democracy and undermining the national sovereignty

The problems with the ZEDE's are especially notable in Honduras' tax income. If the charter cities weren't shut down, Honduras would lose as much as half of its current sales taxes by 2025 and the equivalent of all of its current import taxes by 2026. 

So far the Honduran Congress has always worked in favor of the ZEDE's, for example toughening the punishment for blocking properties and businesses, making it easier for (private) police forces to repress protests. But the table has turned. With the election of the first opposition government since the coup in 2009, ZEDE's became a hot topic. In its electoral campaign the Liberty and Refoundation (Libre) party promised the elimination of the ZEDE's, a promise they acted on. Among the first laws passed by the new Congress was the outlawing of charter cities. 

To stop this long overdue step, supporters of the ZEDE's pointed out unproven benefits like,

  • helping in the fight against unemployment, a false statement. Since the establishing of the ZEDE's numbers of employment haven't changed. 
  • addressing corruption. An absurd claim remembering the fact, that the former director of the oversight board was secretary for the now jailed ex-president. Till today he still draws a salary, even after going into exile in Nicaragua to escape corruption and a drug trafficking investigation against him.
  • heading off the influence of China. In fact, China is the biggest investor into ZEDE's and already has a massive influence through the charter cities. 
  • pushing trade, investment and growth. The facts show a different picture. Since the introduction of the ZEDE's, the GDP trade percentage dropped in five of the eight years and is now lower than before. In the same time period, the foreign direct investment GDP percentage decreased every year except for 2018, and the GDP growth was below four percent in six of the eight years. 

Supporters additionally compare the ZEDE's to nearshoring in Central and South America, while concealing the fact that Honduras'  ZEDE profits have always lagged behind those of 8 other Latin American countries' nearshoring profits.

But the strongest opposition comes from the usual suspects. Members of the United States Congress are threatening Honduras with withdrawal of aid, forced restitution payments and a limitation of Honduras' share of the private Partnership for Central America investment plan, led by Vice President Kamala Harris. This would undermine the core intent of the plan, to invest to stem migration from Central America.

One thing is definite: the end to the ZEDE's is a necessary and long overdue step to secure labor, environmental and human rights. It is outrageous, though not surprising, that United States congresspersons make themselves accomplices to corporations oppressing the population and destroying a country physically, and politically as a means of profit generation.

We have to support Honduras in its struggle for a democratic future.    

    

News Article

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, El Salvador, 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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