FEBRUARY 2023: Rapid Response Network – summary of letters this month
21 FEB 2023
intimidation: US-based gold mine, Maya Kaqchikel opponents
We wrote to authorities in Guatemala about a court-ordered community consultation process regarding the mine Progreso VII Derivada, which is operated by a subsidiary of US-based Kappes, Cassidy and Associates (KCA). The gold mine (also known as El Tambor) stretches across parts of two municipalities in Guatemala Department: San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc. It has been controversial since 2011 when the Ministry of Energy and Mines granted a 25-year license for exploration. Since then, local residents have paid the price for their opposition, citing threats to water supplies and the lack of prior consultation. There have been several threats and multiple killings, including a massacre of ten Indigenous Maya Kaqchikel protesters in September 2013. Now that the new consultation process will be starting soon, environmental defenders are reporting a new wave of threats and intimidation in order to dissuade them from participating. The company is also applying pressure, having brought a $400 million claim against the Guatemalan government for suspending the mining permit, claiming the decision violates the Central America Free Trade Agreement.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-02-21-000000
22 FEB 2023
assassinated: José Omar Cruz Tomé , campesino leader ¡presente!
We wrote to officials in Honduras about the double assassination on January 18 of campesino leader José Omar Cruz Tomé and his father-in-law Andy Martínez Murillo in Tocoa, Colón, in the Bajo Aguán Valley.
José Omar Cruz Tomé was the president of the Los Laureles Campesino Cooperative. Residents of Los Laureles and other campesino cooperatives in the area have been subject to constant threats from and attacks by a private security company that works for the Dinant Corporation. According to the Plataforma Agraria, the mining company Inversiones los Pinares/Ecotek (owned by Lenir Pérez and Ana Facussé) and the Dinant Corporation (also owned by the Facussé family) are the main generators of violence and human rights violations against defenders of water and land in the Bajo Aguán region. Dinant’s security company is known to coordinate its operations with paramilitary groups that have acted with impunity in the region for the past decade.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-02-22-000000 .
23 FEB 2023
attempted assassination: Abelino Sánchez, campesino leader
We wrote to officials in Honduras about the assassination attempt on Abelino Sánchez, regional secretary of the National Union of Rural Workers (CNTC), and president of the Aguacatal Peasant Cooperative in Villanueva, Cortés Department. On January 25 at 7pm, two unknown men entered his home in the community of El Aguacate. After saying “we want land,” the two men shot him twice, once in the chest and once in the arm. He was hospitalized for his injuries.
Abelino Sánchez is a member of the National Network of Defenders of Land and Territory (RENADETT). He has accompanied many peasant groups and is a tireless defender of land, territory, and human rights. In particular, the CNTC, which includes five peasant organizations, has been frequently involved in land occupations with large landholders, during which many campesinos have been subjected to violence and intimidation by members of private security forces and police. After the attack, his family commented that as a result of his work to defend the land and environment, Abelino Sánchez had been receiving death threats for approximately two months prior.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-02-23-000000 .
24 FEB 2023
forced eviction: Indigenous Lenca community of Nueva Esperanza
We wrote to officials in Honduras about the forced displacement of at least 13 families of the Indigenous Lenca community of Nueva Esperanza, located in El Edén, Comayagua Department. On February 2, the Police Investigation Administration (DPI) used heavy machinery to destroy the houses, crops, and few assets that these families possessed, ruining their livelihoods and forcing them to live out on the streets.
The community of Nueva Esperanza had been occupying (“recuperar,” or recovering) this land for over 18 months, after the National Institute of Agriculture (INA), with promises of relocation, forced them to leave their previous peaceful settlement. The community has repeatedly stated that in order to feed their families, they have no choice but to recover land through occupation until they are granted land titles by INA.
We are urging that authorities in Honduras end the legal uncertainties that Indigenous communities have been experiencing around their ability to live on and work their land by issuing property titles and halting all evictions in the meantime.
You can read the full letter at: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-02-24-000000
25 FEB 2023
assassinated: social leader in Norte de Santander, José Antonio Santiago Pérez, ¡presente!
We wrote to officials in Colombia about the assassination of José Antonio Santiago Pérez, president of the Community Action Board of Socuavo Norte in the municipality of Tibú, Norte de Santander Department. On February 4, José Antonio Santiago Pérez had just left a meeting with his community when he was intercepted by armed individuals who killed him in the village of La Serena, five minutes from Tibú.
His life had been threatened on previous occasions. In an assassination attempt on June 11, 2019, he received three bullet wounds, including one in the head. A series of direct threats continued. On December 25, 2021, he and his security team were attacked while traveling on a main road in Socuavó Norte. He fled to seek refuge in Cúcuta but eventually returned to his homeland of Socuavo Norte.
In addition to conducting an investigation into the assassination of José Antonio Santiago Pérez, we are urging that authorities in Colombia implement protection measures for social leaders in Norte de Santander Department and investigate any assassination plots against other social leaders in Norte de Santander.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-02-25-000000 .
26 FEB 2023
suspicious death: young Garífuna leader Ricardo Arnaúl Montero ¡presente!
We wrote to officials in Honduras about the killing of young Garífuna leader Ricardo Arnaúl Montero, an active member of the Land Defense Committee of Triunfo de la Cruz (CODETT), Tela municipality, Atlántida Department. He was found dead on the beach on January 29. His body was quickly buried after police preliminarily considered it a drowning. But then on January 31 authorities ordered an exhumation of the body to perform an autopsy. We have not yet read any results of the autopsy.
In December 2022, he requested protective measures from the Human Rights Secretariat because he had been receiving death threats. Ricardo Arnaúl Montero and other Garífuna leaders are persecuted because of their opposition to private development projects in Triunfo de la Cruz.
We are urging that authorities in Honduras respect the mandates of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which has ruled on more than one occasion in favor of the Garífuna people. We join with them in calling for a process of returning their illegally-seized Atlantic coastal lands to them and immediately put an end to the threats against them
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-02-26-000000 .
Rapid Response Network
InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia
3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
(216) 961 0003. www.IRTFcleveland.org