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RRN Letters Summary - JAN 2023

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


11 JAN 2023


death threats:  Darnelly Rodríguez, director of Centro Pazífico

We wrote to officials in Colombia urging an investigation into death threats against Darnelly Rodríguez, director of Centro Pazífico in Cali, Valle del Cauca Department, and  nominee for the 2022 Colombia National Human Rights Prize. On December 24, 2022, she received a death threat from the paramilitary organization Autodefensas Gaitanistas (AGC, or Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces) that listed her by name.  This is one of multiple threats that Darnelly Rodríguez has received from the AGC since the Centro Pazífico opened. These threats have been sent by email, left at public buildings, even delivered to her home. Earlier in 2022, her office at the Centro Pazífico was broken into; files and computer thumb drives were taken. 

Serving one of the regions most affected by Colombia's political violence, Centro Pazífico, is a refuge for social leaders fleeing violence.

You can read the full letter at



12 JAN 2023


criminalization: five water defenders in Cabañas

We wrote to the human rights ombudsman of El Salvador and a regional justice of the peace to express our concerns over the criminalization of five water defenders in Cabañas Department and call for their immediate release from pre-trial detention.

Arrested on January 11, by order of the attorney general, were: Miguel Ángel Gámez, Alejandro Laínez García, Pedro Antonio Rivas Laínez, Teodoro Antonio Pacheco (director of ADES, Association for Social-Economic Development of El Salvador), and Saúl Agustín Rivas Ortega (legal advisor for ADES).

The arrests appear to be politically motivated. For months, the government has led a state offensive against civil society organizations, which, in the case of ADES, could be related to the current administration’s reported intentions to resume mining exploitation projects. These individuals are active in the National Roundtable on Metallic Mining and were among the leaders of the successful campaign that convinced the Salvadoran legislature to unanimously pass a ban on open-pit mining of metals in 2017 to save the nation's rivers. Now, under enormous pressure to find new sources of revenue, the government is reportedly considering overturning the historic ban on metallic mining.

You can read the full letter at .



23 JAN 2023


assassinated: Mauricio Esquivel, land defender in the Aguán Valley ¡presente!

On the night of December 21, 2022, land defender Mauricio Esquivel, 53 years old, was assassinated. He was intercepted while heading to town; his body was dumped, death squad style, on the road the following morning.

Mauricio Esquivel was a member of the Farmers' Agricultural Production Cooperative “El Tranvío,” located outside of Trujillo, in the Aguán Valley region of Colón. The cooperative is in a land dispute with the powerful Dinant corporation which operates a plantation on land that the cooperative says was stolen from them.

Extreme violence like the assassination of Mauricio Esquivel is occurring within the context of criminalization of land defenders and an upsurge of extrajudicial killings. Campesino leaders are labeled as “objects of extermination.”  The threats to them are real. Aguán Valley residents are facing an unprecedented wave of dozens of brazen death squad style murders. The assassins openly advertise the targets as alleged gang members, with blood smeared posters.

We are urging that the State of Honduras take responsibility for protecting land rights defenders and, in addition to investigating the killing of Mauricio Esquivel, implement several important steps: (1) develop mechanisms to stop the murders, violent dispossession, criminalization, persecution, and threats against land rights defenders, (2) investigate the criminalization of defenders who are being labeled as "targets of extermination," (3) instruct representatives of the justice system to abide by the law and not act biasedly in favor of powerful groups that have historically violated the rights of the peasant sector, and (4) instruct the National Police to desist from the siege against land rights defenders

You can read the full letter at .




24 JAN 2023


assassinated: Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla, mining resistance in Guapinol ¡presente!

Five years of persecution of the residents of Guapinol in the Aguán Valley (Colón Department) points to an illegal iron oxide mine owned by Inversiones Los Pinares, located in a carved out slice of the Montaña de Botaderos National Park “Carlos Escaleras.”  Guapinol Environmental Defense Committee members are mourning the recent double assassination of their comrades Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla, gunned down on January 7 while returning from work.

Aly Domínguez was among 32 community leaders falsely accused of crimes by an iron oxide mining company owned by Lenir Pérez and his wife Ana Facussé, daughter of the deceased oligarch and land baron Miguel Facussé, who was also the owner of Dinant. (Dinant is suspected of surveilling and planning assassinations of community leaders in the Aguán Valley; cf our letter of November 23, 2022). Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla had been receiving threats for weeks before their murders. The Municipal Committee in Defense of the Common and Public Goods of Tocoa has denounced since August 2022 a hate and smear campaign that has escalated to surveillance, harassment, and threats against the lives of leaders who oppose the mining concession (granted under the previous presidential administration) because of environmental harms.

In addtion to our repeated call to cancel the mining concession, we demand an independent investigation that is not conducted in Tocoa by the same police and prosecutors responsible for criminalizing the Guapinol environmental defenders. The brother of Aly Domíguez, Reynaldo Domínguez is another of the 32 Guapinol residents criminalized and one of eight who were jailed for 914 days. 

You can read the full letter at: .




25 JAN 2023


assassinated: in Cauca, union leader Mariela Reyes Montenegro ¡presente!

While visiting fellow employees in a neighborhood in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca Department, on January 2, someone shot public employees union leader Mariela Reyes Montenegro from behind and fled on a motorcycle operated by another individual. For 20 years she had served as a leader in the sub-directorate and the women's secretariat of the National Union of Workers and Employees of Public Services, Information Technologies, Communications, Television, Autonomous Corporations, and Decentralized and Territorial Institutes of Colombia (SintraEmsdes). The local union chapter said she was a staunch defender of workers' and women’s rights.

We are urging that authorities: 1) conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the assassination of Mariela Reyes Montenegro, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice; 2) implement protection measures for social leaders in Cauca Department, and 3) investigate any assassination plots against other union and social leaders in Santander de Quilichao.

You can read the full letter at .




26 JAN 2023


attacked, threatened: Marlon Calles, environmental activist in La Paz

We wrote to officials in Honduras about our concern for Marlon Calles, an environmental activist from La Paz, who was the victim of physical violence and intimidation as a result of his work to protect and defend the forest and natural resources of the area around the El Jilguero mountain.

A truck driver ran over him over on January 5. Fortunately, not seriously injured, Marlon Calles picked himself up from the street and confronted the driver. The driver told Marlon Calles that he remembered his face because Marlon had caused him to lose money by blocking the logging road that ascends the mountain. This appears to be a deliberate attack on Marlon Calles in retaliation for his efforts to protect the forest from being destroyed.

We are urging that authorities: 1) investigate the identity (and connection to the local logging company) of the truck driver who ran over Marlon Calles, 2) take measures to guarantee the safety of Marlon Calles and all environmental activists, and 3) investigate and hold accountable illegal logging operations throughout Honduras and stop them from clearcutting the forests

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.