MAY 2023: Rapid Response Network – summary of letters this month
Rapid Response Network (RRN) letters this month
11 MAY 2023
threats, extortions: Jesuit priest Ismael Moreno, director of Radio Progreso
IRTF has great respect for Father Ismael Moreno Coto, the director of the independent media outlet Radio Progreso in San Pedro Sula. The Jesuit priest—known affectionately throughout Honduras as Padre Melo—was the keynote speaker at IRTF’s annual Commemoration of the Martyrs event in Cleveland in 2010, and our staff and IRTF friends have visited him and his staff at Radio Progreso multiple times over the past 14 years.
In a television broadcast on May 5, a TV anchor made a serious false accusation about Father Moreno. It appears this was an attempt to shape public opinion against Padre Melo, to place doubt in the viewing public as to whether he is someone who can be trusted. This broadcast comes at a time when Radio Progreso is experiencing a series of threats, extortions, computer hacks, and social media attacks. In a previous smear campaign a few years ago, Padre Melo was falsely accused of receiving "dirty money from drug-related activity and of using Radio Progreso to discredit Honduras."
We are urging that authorities in Honduras conduct a transparent investigation to learn who is behind the defamation campaign against Padre Melo and Radio Progreso.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-05-11-000000 .
12 MAY 2023
assassinated: campesino leader José Gilberto Martínez Cardona in the Aguán Valley. ¡presente!
Since January of this year, we have written letters to authorities in Honduras in response to eight assassinations of land and water defenders in the Aguán Valley. José Gilberto Martínez Cardona became the first defender killed in the Aguán Valley this year outside the departments of Colón or Atlántida. He was murdered on Tuesday, April 18, after participating in a commemoration of the International Day of Peasant Struggle. The 64-year-old community leader had been active in his community’s fight for their land and water for more than 30 years in Olanchito, Yoro Department. José Gilberto Martínez Cardona was a member of the National Association of Honduran Peasant Farmers (AHACH), as well as the secretary of the campesino cooperative “Blessing of God #2.”
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-05-12-000000 .
23 MAY 2023
detained: residents of displaced community of Laguna Larga along Guatemala-Mexico border
On June 2, 2017, the families of Laguna Larga, El Petén Department, were forced to abandon their land when more than 1,000 Guatemalan security forces carried out a massive eviction, following a court order from a judge in San Andrés, El Petén. They soon arrived on the Mexican side of the border with Guatemala, near La Candelaria, Campeche State, and established an improvised camp after travelling by foot for at least a day across remote jungles. Although they were granted protective measures by the IACHR three months later, they have been living a precarious existence on the border ever since.
On April 21, 2023, Guatemalan security forces from the national pólice, the army and two other divisions forcefully aprehended three of the community members while they were tending to their crops: Melvyn Geovanni Peréz Muralles (age 26), René Gutiérrez González (age 31), and one unnamed boy with the initials LRGB (age 11). Witnesses reported that a PNC agent held the eleven-year-old upside down and shook him violently. The agents transported the three to San Andrés, El Petén Department, to be seen before a judge, but we have not heard any news about the hearing or whether the three remain in detention.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-05-23-000000 .
24 MAY 2023
threatened: bomb placed outside CREDHOS office in Barrancabermeja
We wrote to officials in Colombia expressing deep distress over recent attacks on the staff of CREDHOS (Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights), an organization committed to the defense, promotion, and protection of human rights in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia since 1987. In recent months there has been an increase in threats and harassment to social organizations and human rights defenders in the Magdalena Medio region and in Barrancabermeja, Santander Department, where CREDHOS is based.
On April 10, a bomb was placed outside the CREDHOS office in Barrancabermeja. One day later, armed civilians shot at CREDHOS staff while they were accompanying an administrative police procedure. Providing international accompaniment to the CREDHOS staff were two members of International Action for Peace (IAP) from Spain, clearly identified with vests as international peace accompaniers. It is our understanding that the National Police captured two of the assailants, charged them, and released them on April 13.
In addition to requesting that the government provide protection measures for CREDHOS staff, we are urging that authorities in Colombia investigate any patterns of victimization towards human rights defenders committed by irregularly armed civilians ostensibly organized in “citizen security fronts.”
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-05-24-000000 .
25 MAY 2023
assassinated: Diego Mauricio Mejía Rojas, signer of Peace Accords and member of the National Council of the Memoria Viva Union ¡presente!
As part of the 2016 Peace Accords, many FARC combatants who agreed to put down their weapons enrolled in the formal reincorporation process, to re-enter society as ex-combatants. Some organized themselves into the National Living Memory Union of People's Security and Protection Workers. As experts in security detail, Living Memory (Memoria Viva) members often contract as security personnel (bodyguards) with government agencies, such as the UNP (National Protection Unit). Recently they have been the subject of stigmatization resulting from false allegations made by UNP during labor contract negotiations.
Diego Mauricio Mejía Rojas, a member of the National Council of the Memoria Viva Union, became the eighth member of Memoria Viva killed since the union was established five years ago when he was shot by two persons riding on a motorcycle in Puerto Asis, Putumayo Department, on April 9. Four days later, there was an attack against another Memoria Viva member, Jhon Jader Ferreyra, in Ibague, Tolima Department.
We are urging that authorities in Colombia: (1) investigate the attacks on these two union members, (2) instruct the UNP to negotiate in good faith and stop making false statements against the union, and (3) fulfill the government’s commitments made in the Peace Accords and work to end violence against Memoria Viva union members and against all signatories of the Peace Accords
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-05-25-000000
26 MAY 2023
threatened: Indigenous Tolupán leader José María Pineda
The 26 tribes of the native Tolupán peoples who live on ancestral lands throughout Yoro Department are organized in the Federation of Xicaques of Yoro Tribes (FETRIXY). The Tolupán communities are constantly organizing to defend their ancestral lands from the economic interests of outsiders: large private landholders, hydroelectric dam companies, mining companies, and the timber industry. After the election of new tribal leaders on March 26, there has been increased pressure from logging companies to threaten and discredit the Tolupán tribes. The newly leadership has asked the National Institute for Conservation and Forest Development (ICF) to not receive or process any requests for forest management plans in the territory that corresponds to the tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa. This has angered logging industry executives.
At particular risk is Tolupán tribal leader José María Pineda and his family in San Francisco de Locomapa, Yoro. Criminal groups at the service of the timber industry have publicly stated that they would look for José María Pineda and his daughters to attack them and burn down their house.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2023-05-26-000000 .
Rapid Response Network
InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia
3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
(216) 961 0003. www.IRTFcleveland.org