Rapid Response Network (RRN) letters this month
21 SEP 2022
labor rights violations: by US company at construction of new US Embassy in Tegucigalpa
We wrote to the director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations at the US State Department because its US-based contractor working in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is routinely violating labor rights of construction workers at the new US Embassy. We urge Overseas Buildings Operations to intervene. We expect the US government to uphold the same labor standards in foreign construction as required to be upheld domestically.
About two-thirds of the 1100 construction workers employed by Alabama-based B.L. Harbert International have been on strike intermittently since early July. Workers report that the temporary contracts imposed on them by the company cover some but not all of the legally mandated benefits, such as protections against and medical coverage for on-the-job injuries. Workplace accidents, including severed fingers, have occurred. Some injured workers have been fired. If workers miss a day of work, they are routinely fired. These conditions, in addition to frequent racist comments from supervisors, have poisoned any trust the workers had in B.L. Harbert or the U.S. government.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-09-21-000000
22 SEP 2022
criminalized: OFRANEH leaders Miriam Miranda, Luther Castillo, Edy Tábora
We wrote to the attorney general of Honduras, urging that the Public Ministry drop criminal investigations against Garífuna community leaders Miriam Miranda (General Coordinator of OFRANEH, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), Dr. Luther Castillo (an OFRANEH member who is the current government’s Minister of Science and Technology), and Edy Tábora (a lawyer for OFRANEH and board member of SUNLA, the Committee for the Search and Investigation of the Disappeared of Triunfo de la Cruz).
On August 9 (Indigenous Peoples’ Day), members of OFRANEH and other Indigenous, territorial, and human rights organizations held a peaceful protest inside and outside the offices of the Public Ministry in Tegucigalpa. They demanded that the Public Ministry hear their legitimate concerns about the lack of prompt and effective justice in the case of the July 2022 forced disappearance of four young Garífuna men in the community of Triunfo de la Cruz, Atlántida Department. Instead of investigating, prosecuting and punishing those responsible for the forced disappearance of the four men, it appears that the Public Ministry is abusing its authority by ordering criminal investigations of OFRANEH leaders.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-09-22-000000
23 SEP 2022
assassinated: Sandra Patricia Montenegro, social leader in Valle del Cauca
A new president moved into the Palacio de Nariño in Bogotá on August 7, but the political violence continues. We wrote to officials in Colombia about the continued violence targeting social leaders in Valle del Cauca Department.
Sandra Patricia Montenegro held a position at the Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation of Valle del Cauca (Indervalle) as a sports monitor. She was also active in various sectors of social leadership in the municipality, such as the Community Action Board (JAC) and the city council. On September 3, gunmen shamelessly shot her without warning at least five times in front of her students while she was teaching sports classes on the soccer field in Guanabanal township in Palmira municipality. She died hours later at a health center. She became the 125th social leader killed in Colombia this year.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-09-23-000000
24 SEP 2022
threatened: Benedicto Hernández, coordinator of the Tolupán de Luquigüe tribe in Yoro
The tribes of the Indigenous Tolupán people in Honduras face structural challenges that include: illegal cutting of their forests, lack of recognition of ancestral titles, and lack of access to basic rights such as health, food and education. Their tribal leaders face intimidation, harassment, and threats to themselves and their families.
Benedicto Hernández, coordinator of the Tolupán de Luquigüe tribe in Yoro Department, is a recent victim. In mid-September, the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) issued an alert: “recently, two men with high-caliber weapons set up surveillance around his house with the intention of harming him. They also make calls to his cell phone warning him that they are outside his house and that he should come out.” The threats against Benedicto Hernández have led to acts of intimidation against members of his family and other members of the (MADJ) who reside in the area.
We call on authorities to investigate these threats and hold accountable those responsible.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-09-24-000000
25 SEP 2022
assassinated: Sibares Lamprea Vargas, oil worker union leader in Barrancabermeja
While driving home from his father's funeral the evening of September 10 in Barrancabermeja, gunmen intercepted union leader Sibares Lamprea Vargas and shot him several times through his car window. Witnesses called an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead moments after arriving at the hospital.
Sibares Lamprea Vargas, age 42, was Secretary of Administrative Affairs of the Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petróleo (USO) and security guard at the Ecopetrol refinery in Barrancabermeja, Santander Department.
In addition to calling for an investigation into the material and intellectual authors of his killing, we are urging Colombian authorities to offer security measures to other USO leaders and union members.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-09-25-000000
26 SEP 2022
government aggression: against Ixil Indigenous Authorities in Nebaj
Acts of intimidation and attacks against Indigenous leaders, especially those who oppose corruption, are far too common in Guatemala. With only two days’ notice, on September 1 the Ixil Authorities of Nebaj (El Quiché Department) were forced to vacate the office in the municipal building that they had occupied since 2013. During the eviction process, several of the Ixil Authorities were hurt and had to receive medical attention.
In addition to serving as an essential space of protection and organizing for the Ixil people of Nebaj, the office held legal documents and evidence related to an investigation of the municipal mayor of Nebaj, Virgilio Geronimo Bernal Guzman. Ever since their investigations started, Ixil authorities have suffered from multiple incidents of harassment and intimidation. It is reasonable to suspect that the forced eviction of their offices is also related to these investigations.
You can read the full letter at: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-09-26-000000
Rapid Response Network
InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia
3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
(216) 961 0003. www.IRTFcleveland.org