APR 2022: Rapid Response Network – summary of letters this month
APR 11 2022
destroyed: 200-year-old Maya Chortí cemetery in Azacualpa
We wrote to officials in Honduras about the continued destruction of the 200-year-old Azacualpa community cemetery in La Unión, Copán Department. As we described in previous letters (cf December 2, 2021 and January 25, 2022) army and police were deployed to ensure the exhumations of graves, to facilitate expansion of the San Andrés gold mine, which is owned by US- and Canada-based Aura Minerals and operated by its Honduran subsidiary MINOSA (Minerales de Occidente SA). On March 30, 2022, the State of Honduras ordered MINOSA to stop its operations. Given the history of this case, we are skeptical that MINOSA will abide. We are deeply troubled by the indifference with which the mining company reacts to the issued court orders. It shows clear disrespect for the Indigenous Maya-Chortí community whose loved ones have been exhumed and whose territorial rights have been violated.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-04-11-000000
APR 12 2022
threatened: women’s rights defender Yirley Judith Velasco Garrido
Women’s rights defender Yirley Judith Velasco Garrido, the legal representative of the Asociación Mujeres Sembrando Vida (Women Sowing Life Association), has been receiving death threats since 2019. A survivor of sexual violence in the El Salado massacre (Bolívar Department) of 2000, Yirley Judith Velasco Garrido works with women from the region on behalf of victims of sexual violence in the context of the armed conflict in Colombia. Because her life has been threatened on multiple occasions, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favor of her and her family in 2020. On March 21 she received a death threat by text message (“we will fill you with lead if you continue to defend bitches”), which included personal information about her. Using misogynistic language, it also threatened her mother and work colleagues. On March 25, her house was set on fire by unknown persons. Luckily, no one was home, and only material possessions were lost.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-04-12-000000
APR 13 2022
threatened: constitutional rights limited by State of Exception
We wrote to President Bukele of El Salvador to express our concerns over the weakening of democracy in El Salvador, especially in light of the recently imposed State of Exception. Measures implemented by the Bukele government over the past three years mark a move away from democracy and toward more authoritarianism: militarized repression, the state surveillance of journalists and dissidents, and political persecution. After a shocking total of 62 murders were recorded from different parts of the country on March 26, the population woke up the next day to learn that a State of Exception had been put into effect. Since then, police and army troops have been deployed in gang-controlled areas, resorting to unnecessary and excessive use of force. More than 5,747 people have been detained without a warrant, and there have been reports of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Security forces are combing through poor communities and neighborhoods, searching the pockets of students, and mass arresting real or suspected gang members. All the while, journalists are told they are prohibited from reporting. We join with human rights organizations within El Salvador and across the world in calling for an immediate end to the State of Exception, which is an instrument of repression and social control that dangerously limits constitutional rights.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-04-13-000000
APR 14 2022
assassinated: artist, LGBTQ+ activist Luis Carlos Bustamante Fernández
We continue to be deeply concerned for leaders of the LGBTQ+ community. On March 17, Luis Carlos Bustamante Fernández, the current representative of the archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia to the Central Committee of Artists of the National Dance Council, was found dead at his workplace, his body showing signs of torture. He was an LGBTIQ+ activist on San Andrés Island, located 470 miles north of the Colombian mainland. Just three days prior, another musician, Fabián Pérez Hooker, was killed at his home, also on San Andrés Island. Many musicians and other artists are involved in defense of environmental, cultural and social rights, and do work against violence and drugs. The killing of two artists on the same island in a matter of days is greatly troubling.
Luis Carlos Bustamante Fernández became the 42nd human rights defender assassinated in 2022. There have been 1,328 social leaders killed since the signing of the Peace Accords in November 2016.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-04-14-000000
APR 15 2022
threatened: lawyer for LGBTQ+ organization Roger Mariano Silva Carbajal
On March 15 in Tegucigalpa, lawyer and member of the LGBTQ+ organization SOMOS-CDC (Centro para el Desarollo y la Cooperación LGBTI) Roger Mariano Silva Carbajal was threatened by an armed man on a motorcycle who held a gun in his hand and stole his computer containing information pertaining to that group. This event occureed just one day before Roger Mariano Silva Carbajal was to serve as a panelist on the Inter-American human Rights Commission convocation to talk about the problematic situation of LGBTQ+ persons in Honduras. This is not the first time SOMOS-CDC has been the target of attacks, in spite of having requested the implementation of protective orders in August 2021 to protect the lives of LGBTQ+ human rights defenders.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-04-15-000000
APR 16 2022
apprehended and beaten: Julio Toc Mucu, member of nickel mining resistance in El Estor
Once again we wrote to officials in Guatemala about the criminalization of environmental defenders in El Estor, Izabal Department, who have been resisting the El Fénix nickel mine, which has been operating illegally since 2005 and polluting local water sources, including Lake Izabal. Although the Constitutional Court of Guatemala ruled in 2019 that the Guatemalan Nickel Company had to suspend its mining activities, the operations continue in defiance of the court.
On March 22, Julio Toc Mucu, son of a member of the Fishermen’s Guild and human rights defender opposing the El Fenix nickel mine in El Estor, was apprehended by police, arrested and reportedly beaten in custody. Twelve more people are facing pending arrest warrants for the alleged charge of incitement to commit a crime in connection to protesting the nickel mine.
The El Fénix nickel mine is operated by the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN) and Swiss-Russian Solway Investment Group. The Mining operations are damaging the environment in El Estor by contaminating local water sources such as Lake Izabal, threatening the fishermen’s source of income. Local communities and the Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ have become victims of land grabbing, arson, and oppression.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-04-16-000000
Rapid Response Network
InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia
3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
(216) 961 0003