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August 24, 2020
Several armed groups are competing in Nariño for control of land to grow illicit crops, illegal mining, and routes for drug trafficking. In the last four months, at least seven community members and members of the Awá Indigenous Guard have been murdered. On July 28, Fabio Alfonso Guanga García, the second Indigenous governor of the Ñambí Piedra Verde Reservation (in Barbacoas municipality), and his partner Sonia Lorena Bisbicus Ortiz were assassinated. At noon on August 11, six men shot at the truck in which Francisco Cortés Guanga and his two security bodyguards from the National Protection Unit (UNP) were riding. Francisco Cortés Guanga serves the Piguambí Palangala Reservation as human rights spokesperson with UNIPA (Unidad de Pueblos Awá). His father, Segundo Jaime Cortés Pai, governor of the same reservation, had received death threats two weeks prior. Then on August 19, three Awa Indigenous youths were killed in the remote Aguacuate community of Pialapi Pueblo Viejo Reservation (Ricaurte municipality); others are rumored to have been forcibly disappeared.
August 23, 2020
We are outraged at the killing of two Nasa Indigenous men, José Abelardo Liz Cuetia, age 34, and José Ernesto Rivera, on August 13 near Corinto in Cauca Department. The two men were shot and killed during a two-day military and police campaign to forcibly remove members of the Nasa Indigenous group from land that they claim is their ancestral territory. The security forces were deployed to fulfill an eviction order by Martha C. Velasco Guzman, mayor of Corinto, which Nasa leaders characterize as “irresponsible and without prior consult.” Legal ownership of the land is claimed by Incauca sugar refinery, a company owned by Carlos Ardila Lülle, one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in Colombia. Nasa Indigenous men Julio Cesar Tumbo and Leónidas Perdomo were seriously injured in the attack.
August 22, 2020
Senator Iván Cepeda Castro has been receiving death threats since the Colombia Supreme Court of Justice ordered the house arrest of Ex-President Álvaro Uribe on August 4. In 2012, Senator Cepeda gathered evidence that President Uribe was supporting illegal paramilitary groups in carrying out human rights abuses. In 2018, the Supreme Court began investigating Mr. Uribe for bribery, fraud, and witness tampering. The Court is also trying to determine if one of Mr. Uribe's lawyers, with his consent, paid imprisoned paramilitaries to give testimony favoring the ex-president. Although Mr. Uribe has not yet been formally charged, he is feeling the political impacts of the accusations. He announced on August 18 that he is resigning the Senate seat he has held since 2014. In the meantime, the current president has appeared on national television and insisted that Mr. Uribe is a "genuine patriot" and victim of unjust accusations and defamation. Statements calling for Mr. Uribe’s release from house arrest have been echoed by U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence.
August 21, 2020
We are concerned for the safety of environmental and indigenous rights defender Ubaldino García Canan and other members of the Nuevo Día Ch’orti Indigenous Association (CCCND) in Olopa municipality in Chiquimula Department. CCCND provides legal support and visibility to indigenous Maya Ch'orti' communities. They face repeated human rights violations and threats to their land, environmental, and cultural rights because of hydroelectric and mining projects in their territories. On the night of August 5, Ubaldino García Canan, who serves as spokesperson for the Maya Ch'orti' Indigenous Council of Olopa, once again became a crime victim when unknown persons forcibly raided his home and his adjoined small grocery store. Because the intruders stole personal documents along with money and products, indigenous authorities suspect that Ubaldino García Canan was being targeted because of his involvement with CCCND. Residents of 11 villages of Olopa municaplity (and several of neighboring Esquipulas municipality) have been organizing opposition to an antimony sulfide mine that is contaminating their rivers. In retaliation, they have been victimized by intimidation and violence.
August 20, 2020
ALERT and PETITION for the life of Iván Cepeda Castro, his family, lawyers, and collaborators due to the intensification of death threats and a call for compliance of the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice’s decision.
August 17, 2020
At least 212 land and environmental defenders were murdered last year — the highest number since the group Global Witness began gathering data eight years ago. Some 40% of those killed were Indigenous peoples. Today on Democracy Now!, we get an update from Honduras, where the Afro-Indigenous Garífuna community continues to demand the safe return of five Garífuna land defenders who were kidnapped by heavily armed men who were reportedly wearing police uniforms and forced them into three unmarked vehicles at gunpoint. This was the latest attack against the Garífuna community as they defend their territory from destructive projects fueled by foreign investors and the Honduran government. “We are in danger daily — all the leaders of the Garífuna community, all the defendants of the land in Honduras,” says Carla García, international relations coordinator at the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFANEH).
August 16, 2020
Carrying a loaf of fresh bread that he was going to deliver to his uncle's house, José Miguel Hernández Tejada set out on his motorbike the morning of August 3. His mother Lizeth Tejada started to panic when evening rolled around and no one had seen him all day. Waiting the requisite full 24 hours to file a missing persons report, she went to the the Las Vegas municipal police department the next morning. Three days later, she was dismayed to discover that the report had never been entered into the computer system. When she later went to the regional office of the Public Ministry, the prosecutor told her that she had no right to file a complaint because forced disappearance was not a crime....We are deeply troubled by these procedural errors (or intentional hindrances) that Lizeth Tejada has experienced during her desperate quest to locate her missing son. We demand swift action.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur Signs Letter Condemning Trump Administration’s Plan to Invest in Controversial Projects in Honduras
August 13, 2020
Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio (OH-09) is among 28 US House members who signed a letter (authored by Rep. Ilan Omar) opposing US investment in large-scale development projects in Honduras that are surrounded by serious human rights, worker rights, and environmental concerns. In their letter to Adam Boehler, chief executive officer of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the US representatives call the DFC’s planned investment in Honduras “a grave mistake.” They find it “deeply alarming” that Boehler (along with the US Embassy’s chargé d'affaires and the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere) posed for a photograph with President Hernández and announced “an investment in the same region of the country where …disappearances – and years of human rights violations – have taken place.” They make astute criticisms of both the president of Honduras and the energy company behind the Jimalito River hydropower project. “President Juan Orlando Hernández has a record that includes gross human rights violations, credible accusations of electoral fraud, deep connections to narcotrafficking and organized crime, and corruption.” “The company in charge of the project, Inversiones de Generación Eléctricas, S.A. (“Ingelsa”), is credibly accused by local community leaders of corruption, intimidation, and violence [and] the river that is being dammed is the only source of clean drinking water for the communities in the area.” They further note that community members active in organized resistance against the hydropower project have been assassinated, including the young lawyer Carlos Hernández in 2018.
August 12, 2020
Although the effects of climate change reverberate around the globe, its effects vary from region to region, continent to continent, and Central America is no exception. // Aunque los efectos del cambio climático repercuten en todo el mundo, sus efectos varían de una región a otra y de un continente a otro, y Centroamérica no es una excepción.
August 10, 2020
The Jesuit-sponsored Reflection Research and Communication Team (ERIC) in Honduras reported on Radio Progreso (Aug 10) that “Model Cities” are at the root of the territorial dispossession and violence against Garífuna communities. While he was president of the National Congress in 2013, Juan Orlando Hernández (now president of Honduras) pushed through legislation to create “Zedes,” (Zones of Economic Development and Employment), also referred to as “Model Cities.” Economic forces interested in creating these territorial and administrative divisions (which, by the way, are not subject to the laws of the central government saw a green light for more land grabs of Garífuna ancestral lands along the Atlantic coast. And even though Honduras has been a signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights, it routinely ignores the rulings of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. This blatant snubbing of international rulings by the State of Honduras is also a blatant discounting of its own constitution: the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, the body that interprets the Constitution, says that international judgments are mandatory and must be complied with. The kidnapping of its leaders [on July 18] and the vulnerability that surrounds the Triunfo de la Cruz Garifuna community is the product of structural violence promoted by the State that is expressed in threats, death, cultural and territorial dispossession, according to Dr. Joaquín Mejía, a lawyer and researcher for ERIC. If the State had complied with the sentence in due time, many of the violent atrocities waged in recent years against Garífuna leaders and residents could have been avoided.