Rapid Response Network (RRN) letters this month
MAY 21, 2022
assassinated: 3 environmental defenders: Justo Benítez, Wilmer Domíngez Madrid, Donaldo Rosales
Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries on Earth for environmental defenders. We wrote to officials demanding justice for the assassinations of three environmental defenders over a period of two weeks.
Justo Benítez (April 30): defender natural resources of the municipality of San Francisco de Ojuera, Santa Bárbara Department
Wilmer Domíngez Madrid (May 10): defender of natural resources in the Lenca peoples’ movement against the Agua Zacra dam in Río Blanco, Intibucá Department
Donaldo Rosales (May 15): active member of the Environmental Committee of the Municipalities of the Northeast of Comayagua (Camneco), Comayagua Department
We urge that authorities in Honduras:
-carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into the murders of Justo Benitez, Wilmer Domínguez and Donaldo Rosales in order to find and prosecute the perpetrators
-protect the families of the victims from further aggression, threats and attacks, in strict accordance with their wishes
-create and implement legal instruments to eradicate all types of violence against those who lawfully work to protect the land, natural resources and territorial rights, especially those of Indigenous communities
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-05-21-000000
MAY 22, 2022
kidnapped: 68-year-old environmental defender Adela Choc Cuz
Violence continues in El Estor, Izabal Department, where Maya Indigenous residents have been organizing resistance to the El Fénix nickel mine for the past decade. On May 16, pro-mining residents inflicted serious harm on Adela Choc Cuz, a 68-year-old member of the Ancestral Council of Maya Q’eqchi’ and well-respected spiritual guide in El Estor. Assailants waged an attack on her after accusing her of witchcraft. They burned down her home, held her and her daughter Sandra Tec Choc captive, threatened to burn her alive, and threatened to decapitate her. When police arrived on the scene, the assailants threw rocks at them and attempted to burn their patrol car, thwarting the rescue attempt.
While this might appear to be an interpersonal dispute, investigators must note the political context. Adela Choc Cuz and her family are vocal and active members of the organized resistance to the El Fénix nickel mine. The assailants are associated with a pro-mining evangelical church and radio station and the pro-mining community development council COCODE. Fifteen members of COCODE were at the house when the women were finally released after 18 hours.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-05-22-000000
MAY 23, 2022
assassinated: Alonso Salgado, Garífuna leader in Río Tinto
For many years, Garífuna communities along the Atlantic coast have suffered violence, killings, disappearances, and forced displacement due to powerful economic interests. This includes Honduran elites, international tourism, charter cities (aka ZEDEs), drug traffickers, industrial scale agriculture (e.g., African palm oil plantations), and more. The government of Honduras has enabled the stealing of Garifuna land because of its failure to ensure Garifuna communities the right to their ancestral territories, even when ordered to do so by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
On May 1, unknown persons shot community leader Alonso Salgado Caballero to death while he was sitting in a hammock outside the home of his cousin in Río Tinto, a Garífuna community in Tela municipality, Atlántida Department. The assailants then entered the home and attacked two of his relatives. They seriously injured the wife of his cousin, Zury Quintanilla, a school teacher and the current secretary of the board of trustees of the community. His sister-in-law, Sury Mariela Quintana, was also hospitalized with two gunshots to the head. Alonso Salgado Caballero, age 51, was the former treasurer of the board of trustees.
In our RRN letter to Honduran officials on May 23, we urged them to create and implement legal instruments to eradicate all types of violence against those who lawfully work to protect the land, natural resources and territorial rights of Garífuna communities.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-05-23-000000
MAY 24, 2022
state persecution: Lenca Indigenous campesino community
The government of Honduras is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Who Work and Live in Rural Areas, Agricultural Workers and Indigenous Peoples, approved by the United Nations General Assembly on December 17, 2018. The document calls for protection of several basic rights, including food, land and water, and respect for the cultural identity and traditional knowledge of Indigenous populations.
Clearly, the government is not upholding its obligations to Indigenous and other campesino communities. Here is a recent example. The Lenca Council of Palestine in Marcala, La Paz Department, is embroiled in an ongoing land dispute with a private landowner. The Indigenous families of the campesino cooperative have 229 hectares of ancestral lands that were titled to them by the Honduran government in 1999. Nevertheless, the private landowner succeeded in getting a judge to issue an eviction order to force some families from some of the land. On May 18, about 200 employees of the private landowner arrived with 40-50 state security personnel (police and military) to carry out the eviction. When Ramon Domínguez and Juan García, two members of the Lenca campesino cooperative, showed resistance, they were arbitrarily detained for seven hours even though they were not charged with any crime.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-05-24-000000
MAY 25, 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 (a government-declared crackdown on gang activity). 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.
More than 34,000 suspected gang members have been arrested since the State of Exception was declared in late March. Maximum time-limits on pre-trial detention have been lifted. Journalists are under surveillance of spyware and criminalized for reporting on gang activity or the government’s response to it. Recent legislative reforms limit freedom of speech, association, and movement. Civil society organizations in El Salvador have documented more than 300 human rights complaints since March 27. Today (May 25), the government announced that the State of Exception crackdown will continue for at least another month.
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/2022-05-25-000000
MAY 26, 2022
assassinated: 3 social leaders in one weekend: Didimo Hernán Rodas, José Alexander Espinoza Valencia, and Edgar Quintero
Colombia is experiencing an alarming rate of assassinations of social leaders; at least 76 have been killed so far this year. Over the weekend of May 14-15, three social leaders were killed in the departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca.
May 14: Didimo Hernán Rodas, member of the association of ecological plantain producers (Asoproamed) was killed in the village of Los Medios, municipality of Buga, Valle del Cauca Department.
May 15: José Alexander Espinoza Valencia, president of the Community Action Board of the village of El Retiro, municipality of Tuluá, was shot and killed while driving from the village of La Moralia to the village of Naranjal.
May 15: revered Afro-descendant community leader Edgar Quintero, ex-president of his local Community Action Board in the village of Lomitas (Cauca Department), was shot to death when he left his house in the wee hours of the morning to attend to the cattle on his farm.
The staggering number of deaths and lack of safety in Colombia are stripping local communities of peace and security. We are urging authorities to consult with local leadership in Cauca and Valle del Cauca to provide security for rural communities, in strict accordance with their wishes.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-05-26-000000
Rapid Response Network
InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia
3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
(216) 961 0003