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RRN Letters Summary - APR 2023

APRIL 2023: Rapid Response Network – summary of letters this month


01 APR 2023

Oaxaca, MEXICO

state police attack: Indigenous encampment blockading construction of a new commercial-industrial corridor

Since March 1 in Oaxaca, Indigenous campesinos with UCIZONI (Union of Indigenous Communities of the Northern Zone of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec), have been peacefully blocking a section of the Mogoñe Viejo-Vixidu railroad, which is being constructed in Indigenous territories without their free, prior and informed consent, as required by international law (International Labor Convention 169). The railroad, which will be protected with a militarized border, is intended to serve a commercial-industrial corridor through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec: commercial ports, highways, digital connectivity networks, a gas pipeline, and ten industrial parks. This mega-project poses risks to the livelihoods, preservation of territory, and the environment of the twelve Indigenous communities living in the area.

Construction of the commercial-industrial corridor is highly unpopular among Indigenous communities in Oaxaca. Their resistance has been met with attacks by civilians and state security forces, as well as stigmatization from high profile authorities from the Mexican government.

In the early hours of March 24, state police, along with a group of civilians, attacked the UCIZONI protest camp, leaving two people injured. This attack is one of 26 acts of aggressions levied against Indigenous rights defenders between October 2021 and March 2023, all related to the construction of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec railroad. Despite the attack by state police, the community has been able to keep its blockade of the railroad intact.

You can read the full letter at .



22 APR 2023


attacked:  women’s rights defender Lilia Patricia Cardozo Cipamocha


The Office of the Attorney General of Colombia reported 614 cases of femicide in 2022. In April 2023, social leader Lilia Patricia Cardozo Cipamocha almost became another victim. She was walking through Santander Park in Tunja, Boyacá Department, on April 10 when at attacker threw acid on her, causing injuries to her face and chest. This attack occurred just five days after a man approached her while she was walking home, tried to attack her with a knife, and threatened to kill her.

Patricia Cardozo is the director of the Boyacense Feminist Platform (Plataforma Feminista Boyacense), an organization working to end domestic abuse, gender violence, and discrimination, including rescuing victims from the hands of abusers.  She has been under threat since 2022.

In addition to urging that authorities investigate the threat (April 5) and attack (April 10), we are calling for ordination between the National Protection Unit (UNP) and the municipal government of Tujna to implement a protection scheme for Lilia Patricia Cardozo Cipamocha, in strict accordance with her wishes.

You can read the full letter at .



23 APR 2023


criminalized: María Concepción Hernández and Santos Ortiz, wife and husband protecting beaches from privatization

María Concepción Hernández and her husband Santos Ortiz, members of the Association for the Development of the Peninsula of Zacate Grande (ADEPZA), have been criminalized on multiple occasions for protecting their land and the privatization of public beaches on the peninsula of Zacate Grande in the community of Playa Blanca. On March 27, Santos H. Ortiz was arrested by Honduran police for unknown reasons. When María Concepción Hernández went to visit him in jail on April 1, she was arrested allegedly because of a pending arrest warrant dating back to August 29, 2019. The police refused to provide any information about their detention to their lawyers and colleagues from ADEPZA, only telling them that she had been transferred to Amapala on El Tigre Island, Valle Department.

Defenders of the ADEPZA organized communities, such as Santos Ortiz and María Concepción Hernández,  have been a benchmark of resistance against the territorial dispossession by large landowners who seek to monopolize all the lands at their disposal using violence, criminalization and corruption. We denounce the systematic judicial persecution against the defenders of the Zacate Grande peninsula, who also in recent weeks have faced a number of incidents in their communities.

You can read the full letter at .



24 APR 2023


assassinated:  Emerson Martínez, age 22, of the Los Laureles campesino cooperative ¡presente!

The campesino families of Cooperativa Agropecuaria Los Laureles in the Bajo Aguá Valley (Tocoa Department) have been fighting for their land stolen by the agro-industrial company Dinant Corporation, owned by the family of the late land baron Miguel Facussé. They have been victims of forced evictions and their leaders have been falsely criminalized.  Good news was delivered to them on March 15 when 16 members of the cooperative received a court-ordered dismissal of criminal charges of land usurpation that had been filed by Dinant and the Public Ministry. One of the 16 was posthumously acquitted; José Omar Cruz Tomé, former president of the Los Laureles cooperative, was assassinated on January 18 (cf our letter 22 FEB 2023).

Then just ten days later, they suffered a tragic loss when one of their family members was brutally killed. Armed men shot 22-year-old Emerson Martínez 14 times in broad daylight, just one-half block from his home on March 25. The killing of Emerson Martínez could be a warning sign directed at his step-father Abraham León, who is the spokesperson and legal representative of the Los Laureles cooperative. The family of Emerson Martínez has reported in the last few months of being monitored by unknown men, as well as surveillance by mechanical drones.

You can read the full letter at .



25 APR 2023


attempted assassination:  Alirio Perdomo, fisher and resister of hydroelectric dam on the Magdalena River

Energy generation is highly controversial in Colombia, whether it be from coal, gas, or hydroelectric. The controversy stems from the environmental, economic, and social impacts on local communities surrounding the energy plants. On the Magdalena River in Huila Department (southwest Colombia), artisanal fishers (i.e., small-scale) have been organizing against the El Quimbo hydroelectric project for the past 15 years. In 2008, the government gave the energy company the green light to flood over 8,500 acres of land for the construction of the dam and power plant. The flooding displaced farming communities and harmed the local fishing industry.

ASOQUIMBO is the Association of People Affected by the El Quimbo Hydroelectric Project. Its spokesperson, Alirio Perdomo, is also president of the Association of Calandero Fishermen of the Magdalena River.  Because of their efforts to have the government recognize the environmental and social impacts of the hydroelectric project, many ASOQUIMBO members have endured serious death threats and harassment, as well as the destruction of small crops on which the communities heavily depend. On March 28 at 5pm, Alirio Perdomo published a video publicly denouncing the levels of fish mortality in the Betania dam and the negative impacts on artisanal fishers due to "controlled discharges" from El Quimbo. Two hours later, while on his way into the city of Hobo, two men on a motorcycle shot at him, hitting his ear in an attempt to murder him.

You can read the full letter at .



26 APR 2023


arrested: former head of the Human Rights Prosecutor’s office, Orlando Salvador López

The consolidation of power by the executive branch of Guatemala is threatening democracy and putting the country on a path toward authoritarianism. This month we wrote to the attorney general to express our disillusionment about politically motivated attacks on prosecutors and judges working to end impunity for serious human rights violations, especially those committed by former military personnel during the years of the internal armed conflict (1960-86), as well as attacks on journalists who report on these cases.

On 6:00am on March 16, police and Public Ministry officials arrived at the home of former prosecutor Orlando Salvador López, raided his residence, and arrested him. Orlando López formerly served as head of the Human Rights Prosecutor’s Office, where he helped build the prosecution for critical transitional justice cases like the case of the Ixil Genocide, for which former president Ríos Montt was found guilty in May 2013.  He has been made a target of pro-military factions within Guatemala, most notably the Foundation Against Terrorism (FCT), which currently is a plaintiff in a questionable legal case against Orlando López. FCT, working hand in hand with the Public Ministry’s Office, has led the charge to punish honest judges and prosecutors, nearly 30 of whom have been forced into exile. 

In a related case, the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) announced that it is taking legal action against Francisco Dall’Anese, the former head of CICIG (Commissioner of the International Commission Against Impunity, 2010-13), who oversaw investigations into high-level corruption.

We are urging that authorities (1) end the use of criminal proceedings as reprisal against those involved in investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption or serious human rights violations, (2) ensure that judges and prosecutors are able to work freely without fear of reprisal, and (3) ensure free and fair elections during the election of Guatemala’s next president on June 25.

You can read the full letter at .




Rapid Response Network

InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia

3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113

(216) 961 0003.