Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 26 Letter of Protest - April 20 Urgent Action

April 26, 2012
Porfirio Lobo Sosa
Presidente de la Republica de Honduras
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Dear Mr. Lobo Sosa: 
We are writing to protest the use of massive police and military intervention against campesino communities since April 17th and to express our profound concern for the current human rights situation in Honduras. 
First, regarding National Police and Honduran Armed Forces activity in San Manuel, Cortes and the detention of 120 campesinos there today as well as the military operations in the Aguan Valley and the issuance of arrest orders for numerous leaders of various campesino organizations in the country including Juan Chinchilla of MUCA. 
We are concerned that the militarization and inflammatory statements about campesino organizations and leaders from powerful governmental and political figures in Honduras represent an escalation of violence against the campesinos.  The problems of land tenancy and poverty in Honduras no doubt require an integral land reform rather than the use of security forces, arrest warrants and prosecutions that are aimed at damaging  social organizations and punishing  poor communities and their leaders for their protest activity in defense of their rights. 
We are also in receipt of the April 24, 2012 denouncement by COFADEH regarding the escalation of threats of bodily harm and even physical attacks against defenders of human rights in Honduras which point to a continuing and, in fact, deepening human rights crises fed by an institutionalized impunity. 
We join with other voices in the international community in holding the government of the Republic of Honduras responsible for the ongoing violations of human rights and violence. 
Honduran Solidarity Network Member Organizations
Agricultural Missions
Alliance for Global Justice 
Bay Area Latin American Solidarity Committee-BALASC (San Francisco, California)
Center for Constitutional Rights 
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America – CRLN (Chicago, Illinois) 
Colectivo de Solidaridad Graciela Garcia (Los Angeles, California)
Colectivo Honduras USA Resistencia (NY)(New York, New York)
Comite de Solidaridad Seattle-Honduras (Seattle, Washington)
Friends of Honduras (Seattle, Washington)
Friendship Office of the Americas 
Hands off Honduras (Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota)
Hondureños por la Democracia (Washington, D.C.)
Interfaith Committee on Latin America (St. Louis, Missouri)
Interfaith Religious Task Force (Cleveland, Ohio) 
International Action Center 
International Socialist Organization 
La Voz de los de Abajo (Chicago)  
Latin America Grassroots International
Latin America Solidarity Organization - LASO
Madre Tierra (Florida)
Marin InterfaithTask Force on the Americas (Northern California) 
Milwaukee Latin America Solidarity Committee (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the Americas
Portland Central America Solidarity Committee – PCASC (Portland, Oregon)
Proyecto Hondureño (Boston, Massachusetts)
Rhode Island Mobilization Committee to Stop War and Occupation – RIMC (Rhode Island)
Rights Action
School of Americas Watch– SOAW (various regions) 
SOA Watch South Florida 
Tonatierra (Phoenix, Arizona)  
U.S. - El Salvador Sister Cities (various cities)
US Peace CouncilWitness for Peace (various regions)
Witness for Peace Southwest 
Traduccion a Español
26 de Abril 2012
Estimado Señor Lobo Sosa
Le escribimos para protestar por el uso de la policía y la intervención militar masiva contra las comunidades campesinas desde el 17 de abril y para expresar nuestra profunda preocupación por la situación actual de los derechos humanos en Honduras.
En primer lugar, en relación con la Policía Nacional y la actividad de las Fuerzas Armadas de Honduras en San Manuel, Cortés y la detención de 120 campesinos ahí hoy en día, así como las operaciones militares en el Valle del Aguán y la emisión de órdenes de arresto para los líderes de numerosos de diversas organizaciones campesinas en el país, incluyendo Juan Chinchilla del MUCA.
Nos preocupa que la militarización y las declaraciones incendiarias sobre las organizaciones campesinas y sus líderes por parte de poderosas figuras gubernamentales y políticas en Honduras representan una escalada de la violencia contra los campesinos. Los problemas de tenencia de la tierra y la pobreza en Honduras, sin duda, requieren una reforma agraria integral en lugar de la utilización de las fuerzas de seguridad, órdenes de captura y procesos que tienen como objetivo dañar las organizaciones sociales y castigar a las comunidades pobres y sus líderes por su actividad revindicadora.
También estamos conscientes de la denuncia por COFADEH del 24 de abril 2012 que trata la escalada de amenazas de daño físico e incluso ataques físicos contra los y las defensores de los derechos humanos en Honduras que indican la continuación  y, de hecho, la profundización de las crisis de derechos humanos alimentados por una impunidad ya institucionalizada.  
Nos unimos a las voces de la comunidad internacional en que responsiblizamos al gobierno de la República de Honduras por las violaciónes continuas de los derechos humanos y la violencia.
The big landowners and oligarchy are crazed with rage at the campesino movement which this week has recuperated 12,000 hectares in 7 provinces - the Honduran corporate pro-coup media has denounced the entire movement as a leftist anarchist conspiracy organized by the Resistance and the police and military have evicted two of the recuperations so far, 11 remain on their land. However in the Aguan Valley powerful landowners are threatening large scale violence against the campesinos tomorrow-Friday, April 20th. Please read the Rights' Action call out  and please participate in the urgent action. 
La Voz de los de Abajo-Chicago


Honduran land rights activists denounce threats of violence tomorrow,
April 20, in Rigores and/or Maranones by a large landholder backed by
Honduran security forces, and a plan for military intervention of
campesino communities.

Please write to the State Department and the U.S. Embassy and demand
that the U.S. Army immediately withdraw soldiers from the Aguan and
that the State Department express concern regarding the Honduran armed
forces participation in human rights violations, specifically with
participation of the 15th Battalion and 4th Naval base.
Benjamin Gedan -, Nathan Anderson -

As a Honduran national newspaper quotes large landholder closely
associated with the Army as threatening to enter campesino communities
tomorrow, April 20, which he states will result in bloodshed, the
Honduran Minister of Defense claims the Honduran military will
permanently occupy the Maranones farm, home to 1,400 campesino

The Honduran government has demonstrated a lack of political will to
resolve agrarian conflict in Honduras since the 2009 coup ended
resolution processes making significant advances.  Over the past two
years, while prolonged and fruitless negotiations processes are
carried out, State security forces assist private security forces and
armed bands in carrying out violence against campesinos as a means of
forcing them to cease demanding the respect of their rights.

Over the past four months, a series of criminal and violent acts have
occurred both inside of and outside of campesino communities on the
Left Bank of the Aguan River, in what appears be a campaign intended
to eliminate important campesino leaders through violence and threats,
criminalize the campesino movement, and justify a military occupation
of the region.

Military intervention in campesino communities by the Honduran Army
will only increase violence and repression of the land rights
movement.  The armed forces have consistently acted in a biased and
illegal manner to benefit large landholders, which includes participation in systematic killings and other violence directed against land rights activists.

The U.S. military has been training and reportedly undertaking joint
operations specifically with the two units most implicated in human
rights violations, the 15th Battalion in Rio Claro and the 4th Navel
Base in La Ceiba.

In December acts of violence within the Maranones farm and surrounding
it began grow noticeably.  Reports began to emerge in the towns
surrounding Maranones that a large landholder based in the town of
Atascosa, Erick Rivera, was maintaining contact with an armed network
infiltrating the campesino movement.  Rivera is engaged in active land
conflicts with the campesinos in the communities of Rigores and
Maranones, and controls a large group of armed men that operate in the
area.  It is reported that he maintains very close ties to the
military and police, and that the military has provided personal
security for his home.

On March 2 two bank robberies involving close to 30 armed men occurred
in the town of Sonaguerra; local authorities and press blamed
residents of the nearby campesino community of Maranones.  Then, on
March 26 a military convoy was attacked by an armed band and 5
soldiers were killed.  Though at the time of the attack the press
reported that the convoy was patrolling the area, an April15 article
in La Prensa newspaper claimed that the convoy was attempting to take
control of a property in the town of La Atascosa controlled by a
campesino movement.

The next day, on March 27, campesinos from Maranones were attacked by
an unidentified armed band.  Though the press reported that three
campesinos were killed, campesino leaders and local human rights
activists claim no campesinos were killed.  Unconfirmed reports have
emerged that soldiers were later seen leaving the area, and the
attackers traveled in trucks associated with the 15th Batallion.

Around this time some of the same individuals reported by neighbors to
maintain communication with Rivera and to have use of heavy weapons
occupied palm plantations within the Maranones farm, preventing the
campesino businesses associations in Maranones from harvesting the

On April 10, 2012 a large military operation occurred along the
highway from La Ceiba to Planes near Tocoa, reportedly with the direct
participation of U.S. soldiers.  The same day Arnold Trochez, a
campesino in Maranones close to a MUCA leader Juan Galindo, was killed
while working in the palm plantations.

On Friday, April 13, soldiers from the 15th Battalion entered the Las
Maranones community and detained Juan Galindo, an important leader who
has participated in the land negotiations. He was detained without an
arrest warrant, though it has been reported that an arrest warrant
existed for a different person with the same name.  There have now
been several instances of arrests of MUCA leadership with the same

On Sunday April 15,, 2012, the Honduran newspaper La Prensa published
an article which argued the urgency of a Honduran military occupation
of the Aguan, particularly focusing on the Left Bank and the
communities of Rigores, Maranones and La Atascosa.

In the article Erick Rivera is quoted giving the Honduran authorities
until April 20 to resolve conflicts in which lands he claims to own
have been occupied by campesinos.  Otherwise, he claims he will enter
the farms himself and blood will run.  Rivera’s statements as reported
by La Prensa are extremely concerning; especially given his reportedly
close relationship to official security forces and that he manages a
large group of armed men.

On Monday, April 16, several reports describe an operation in which
the army entered the Maranones farm and escorted the heavily armed
group which had occupied palm plantations into the town of Maranones.
The army then withdrew from the town, and the armed band burned homes,
beat community members and kidnapped one man, who was eventually freed
after the Human Rights Procurators office intervened at the request of
his wife.

On Tuesday, April 17 the victims of the April 16 attack filed a
complaint with the Human Rights Procurators office.  The same day the
military again entered Maranones, this time arresting 14 people on
charges of possession of stolen vehicles and illegal weapons.

On April 17, La Prensa ran another story focused on the Aguan, this
one quoting the Minister of Defense, Marlon Pascua in stating that as
of today [April 17] the army through the Xatruch II operation, would
establish a permanent presence in the Maranones Farm, elaborating that
“This will allow us to have control of the area, identify people and
watch their movements.”

This statement is extremely concerning given that since January 2010
approximately 60 targeted, death squad style killings of land rights
activists have occurred in the region, many with the direct
participation of the same military and police units that comprise the
Xatruch II operation.  The latest victim of these killings was Adonis
Lopez, a member of the Las Camarones Campesino Business that forms
part of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan of the Right Bank
(MUCA-MD).  He was killed on April 11 by shots fired from inside the
Salama Cooperative, very close to the border it shares with the San
Isidro farm, heavily controlled by the Dinant Corporation and the
security guards they employ.  Dinant is in an intense conflict with
the campesino movement.
from a communique by Annie Bird
Co Director
Rights Action 

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