Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Businessmen collude with Honduran government to jail residents of Zacate Grande and displace them from coastal lands

For decades the communities of the Zacate Grande peninsula have suffered from constant harassment and arrests ordered by big businessmen and government functionaries.

Those who continue to resist pay with jail time, as is the case of Abel Antonio Perez and Santos Hernandez from the Puerto Sierra village in the Playa Blanca community, who were sent to the Nacaome penitentiary on May 19th, 2016. Both are peasant leaders and members of the Association for the Development of the Zacate Grande Peninsula (ADEPZA).

They appeared on Thursday at 2pm in front of the Amapala court for a sentence review hearing where Judge Iris issued a warrant for their arrest for not having showed up to sign the registry verifying their presence in the country.

They have several previous charges and arrests for the crimes of usurping land and building on the private land of José Casis Leiva and Edilberto Cruz.

Santos and Abel are part of a group of 44 families who are affected by the wall built by Edilberto Cruz, owner of the Puma gas station in San Lorenzo, who has been showing up with the Relleno and Nacaome police since May 14, 2011, to ask the people left inside of his wall to abandon the property that they live on.

Don Faustino Perez, Abel Perez’s father and now one of the two arrestees has been living on this land for over forty years, yet only has a certificate of use (dominio útil) to validate him as the owner of the land wher he lives, since the State always considered the Zacate Grande peninsula as private rather than national lands, which is why Don Faustino never received a title from the Property Institute or the National Agrarian Institute (INA).

Every year during Holy Week, Zacate Grande’s beaches fill up with visitors, and at Playa Blanca Santos and Abel helped clean up the beaches and parking areas for visitors. A few days later Jorge Casis Leiva accused them of using the area of his supposed property for parking. Now they are jailed for not have followed the court-ordered probationary measures stemming from the accusation.

The government’s hands have long been dirty for harassing and jailing peasant leaders and organizers. In 1902 the State bequeathed the Zacate Grande island to General Terencio Sierra as a reward for his good work as President of the Republic, who went on to grant it before his death through a colonial title to his Nicaraguan niece Carmen Malespin, giving her 500 lots of Zacate Grande lands, but never mentioning in the document what part of Zacate Grande those lands were in.

In 1970 the construction of an artificial land bridge connected Zacate Grande with the mainland and turned the island into a Peninsula. This and the building of the port of Amapala led big businessment and investors little by little to show up and take over ownership of the beaches, with Carmen Malespin giving her approval without having ever set foot on the island. She began to sell off small beachside lots, and that is how businessmen like the Facusses, Nassers, Rosentals, Kafatis, Canahuatis, Larachs, Maduros, and prominent functionaries linked to corruption such as Lena Gutierres, Juan Orlando Hernandes, Arturo Corrales, Leonardo Callejas etc. began taking ownership over the majority of the beaches of the peninsula.

After Callejas pushed through the 1992 Agrarian Reform law, 32 beaches were given away almost 70% of the peninsula was legally given over to Miguel Facusse Barjun, a businessman implicated in enormous thefts such as that of the National Investment Corporation (CONADI) who was also the uncle of ex-president Carlos Flores Facusse.

Miguel Facusse Barjun died in 2015, but amongst his heirs is his son Miguel Mauricio Facusse, who today is considered one of the two richest Hondurans in Central America, as well as his daughter Elissa Facusse, wife of Fredis Nasser, owner of Petrosur, majority investor in Grupo Terra, stockholder in the gasoline company Uno as well as DESA. As a wedding gift, Miguel Facusse gave his daughter ownership of the Gaviotas beach, leading to the brutal eviction of the Cárcamo Sanchez family, who lived on the beach, in 2003. Narda Ofelia Sanchez, after being sent to prison, won her case on three occasions and was never removed from her beach, yet to this day nobody has paid for the material damages suffered by the family nor the immense damage to Honduras as a country cause by the privatization of one of the most beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Fonseca, the Gaviotas beach.

Next to the Gaviotas beach is the Blanca beach and the village of Puerto Sierra, where since 2012 there have been warrants for the arrest of Faustino Perez, Santos and Abel, and Gabriel Moreno. The accusations were made by Edilberto Cruz, the supposed owner of the Uno Gas Station in San Lorenzo. On what is left of the community Jorge Casis Leiva has put up signs warning not to enter because it is his land, since he considers himself the owner of the whole community for having purchased it from the Malespin family.

Currently there are 36 accusations against residents of Zacate Grande for the same charges faced by Santos and Abel – usurping land, damaging the environment, and building on private land. At any moment any of them could go to jail for not complying with measures such as showing up to sign the court registry or not having the money they have to come up with every month so they can make the trip.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

From the Aguan Valley: La Lucha Sigue

May 9, 2016, meeting with campesino
organizations in Tocoa, Colon
Article and photos by Vicki Cervantes
Video: Massacre en El Tumbador courtesy of Alto Al Riesgo, written and directed by Laura Bermúdez. 

On May 24, 2016 at around 6:30 in the morning, Jinson Aldin Alfaro Almendares, a young member of the campesino group Empresa Campesina Gregorio Chávez was shot in the back without warning by private paramilitary guards working for COFRUCO, a large land holder in the Aguan, as he worked in his fields. The COFRUCO plantation as well as the land Jinson was working are next to the Paso Aguan plantation controlled by the Faccusee family's corporation Dinant. The Paso Aguan plantation and the nearby community of Panama have been the scene of many attacks on local campesinos including the murder in 2012 of Gregorio Chavez, which has never been investigated and remains in impunity.   Jinson survived, but this incident is one of many, recent attacks against campesinos and their organizations. The day before the shooting, the home of the coordinator of the campesino umbrella organization the Regional Agrarian Platform for the Aguan Valley, Jaime Cabrera was surrounded for a time by armed men wearing ski masks while Jaime was inside the house. Police refused to take action against the guards who shot Jinson. (Information on the attack as reported by the Plataforma Agraria del Aguan via Karla Zelaya). 

In Guadalupe Carney on May 9, premier of documentary
of 2010 El Tumbador massacre of 5 campesinos

Just two weeks ago, I participated in an International Human Rights Observer Mission organized by COFADEH (May 6-12) that met with campesino organizations in the Aguan, including the Movimiento Revindicador Campesino Gregorio Chavez, Movimiento Unificado Campesinos del Aguan (MUCA) Movimiento Authentico Revindicador Campesino del Aguan (MARCA)  and the Permanent Human Rights Observatory of the Aguan (OPDHA).

That same day we also participated in an event to commemorate and launch a new struggle to demand justice for the November 2010 massacre of 5 campesinos from the MCA by guards working for DINANT.  COFADEH has been working with the survivors of the massacre and the families of the murdered campesinos and is getting ready to take the case to the international justice system. The event held in the community of Guadalupe Carney included a photo exhibition of the survivors and victims and the premier showing of a new documentary about the El Tumbador.

May 9, Meeting with survivors and victims
of 2010 massacre at El Tumbador 
The meeting with campesino organizations, social movement organizations such as the Coordinator of Peoples' Organizations of the Aguan (COPA), and community organizations from the towns in the region who are defending the environment from mining and mega-tourism projects took place in the town of Tocoa. Participants in the meeting gave moving testimony about the violence, including murders, against campesinos, and different trickery and pressure being used to facilitate campesino lands passing into the hands of the large landowners and agro-businesses. Testimony also denounced what is seen as a new phase in the violence in the Aguan in which large scale violent attacks have been replaced with a more selective violence, infiltration of communities, threats and intimidations to terrorize and disorganize all opposition to land grabbing, mining and dispossession of the poor residents of the Aguan.

MUCA leaders speaking
MUCA leaders talked about the establishment of outright death squads, one group calls itself "head collectors of Colon"; on September 1, 2015 after police attacked a local protest with live ammunition and tear gas, a Coronel was reported to have said that he wanted the heads of two campesino leaders which he named by their names. Around the same time a 'hit list' came to light with more names of leaders and activists. Environmentalists, members of organizations opposed to the coup and current government also spoke of threats they are receiving. Employees of the National Agrarian Institute spoke of being threatened personally and having their jobs threatened because they support campesinos or because they belong to LIBRE (the left opposition party). Another woman who works for the municipality but is opposed to mining concessions that will affect her community. She was told at work that her job was at risk and that furthermore that bad things happen to people working against mining.

Members of the human rights observatory (OPDHA) also gave testimony about recent attempts on their lives. Irma Lemus and Rigoberto Duran were run down by a car that was obviously waiting for them as they rode by on Rigoberto's motorcycle. Both suffered serious injuries. There were previous incidents in which cars with darkened windows and without license plates followed them and attempted to intimidate or run them off the road. Campesino activists and members of COPA and other social movements emphasized that Juan Orlando Hernandez's government is firming up a dictatorship that is "asphyxiating" the campesinos and that there is a strong alliance between National Party politicians, big businessmen, judges and police against the campesinos in the Aguan.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


To the grassroots social movements, organizations and civil society around the world:

The death of Berta Cáceres has filled us with indignation. We carry the pain with us, but we also carry the strength of her thought, her work, and the longing for justice. The principles that she fought for are what will save humanity, which is why we call on you to participate in a worldwide protest that will bring all of our voices together to demand justice for Berta Cáceres, justice for Gustavo Castro, justice for COPINH and justice for the people of Honduras.

On June 15th in Honduras social movements and organizations, institutions and people of action will protest to demand the immediate creation of an independent investigative body to transparently, deeply and completely investigate the assassination of our sister and compañera.

On that day we would like our sisters and brothers from other countries in the world to join us by carrying out protest actions in front of the Honduran embassies of your respective countries to demand the following:
  • The immediate creation of an international, independent investigative body sponsored by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to seek the truth about thise vile crime and assure that all responsible parties are prosecuted.
  • The immediate and definite cancellation of the concession given to DESA, the company building the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Río Blanco.
The actions carried out by the Honduran state and its organizations are insufficient and are not aimed at achieving justice. On the contrary, they are assuring that this crime will go unpunished.
Let’s join together and put an end to death, impunity and injustice.

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota, Etempica and Iselaca we raise our voices full of justice freedom, dignity and peace!

Justice for Berta is Justice for the World!
Wake up humanity, there’s no time left!

Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tegucigalpa - Forum on Human Rights in Honduras

On May 12th, the International Human Rights Observation Mission organized by COFADEH held a forum in Tegucigalpa to present its key preliminary findings and recommendations. The forum was attended by a large group of social movement rank and file and leaders including campesino organizations, teachers' unions, LGBTI, LIBRE, human rights defenders, journalists, and indigenous rights defenders (see my photos here).  The family of Berta Caceres participated from the podium. Below this introduction I am posting the English translation of journalist Giorgio Trucchi's report on the forum with a link to the original Spanish.
One of the participants in the open discussion at the  forum was Sandra Zambrano of the LGBT HIV education organization, APUVIMEH, who talked about the attacks on the LGBTI community,  well known activists like Victoria Gomez Cruz who was the first transgender woman to run for office in the primary elections for LIBRE in 2013 have had to leave the country due to threats on their lives. She also talked about the constant threats and pressures against organizations and individual defenders of human rights for LGBTI community. She and her brother José have had move two members of their family out of the country. Sadly, after the forum on May 14th came the news that Allan Yoni Banega Godoy, nephew of Sandra and José was kidnapped and later found dead in Tegucigalpa. 
Also participating in the same discussion were members of a parents and family organization "Madres y Padres de Familia" that are organized to support and defend the student movement, especially around the attacks on public education and the very violent response of the JOH government to the protests of the last few weeks. The Madre y Padres reported that in the last 3 weeks alone there have been 5 students murdered after participating in protests. They are mostly high school students and the wave of protests has to do with a new "educational reform" that requires public high school students to find two illiterate adults and teach them to read, also paying the adults their transportation costs, a meal and other expenses. Most of the public high school students come from poor families and absolutely cannot afford to pay these costs. The head of the high school teachers union (COPEMH) Jaime Rodriquez was also at the Thursday forum and he added that teachers are being accused of inciting the students and being threatened also. A week ago the JOH Education Ministry suspended Jaime's teaching license because he has been supporting the students. The suspension of his license means that he will not receive any salary. Jaime also denounced strongly the terrible violence against the youth and noted that earlier deaths of student activists remain in impunity, for example Nicole Soad Bustillo, the 13 year old murdered  a year ago, shortly after she publicly insulted and denounced Juan Orlando at a student protest. On Friday, May 13th there were reports that the student organizations in San Pedro Sula had negotiated some agreements with the Ministry of Education that may end up resolving this most recent conflict, but the struggle to defend public education will continue. The Radio Globo journalist David Romero also spoke from the floor about the criminal defamation cases against him used as a method to try and silence his voice against the government and about the violence and harassment against journalists in general. The precarious position of journalists was further illustrated by the presence of Felix Molina, journalist and community radio organizer who survived two attempts on his life on May 2nd.  -V. Cervantes  
Human Rights Hit Bottom in Honduras
by Giorgio Trucchi, May 16, 2016
Managua, Nicaragua (Conexihon)

G. Trucchi
On May 12th, as part of the International Mission for Human Rights Observation, a Forum on Human Rights in the Aguán was held in Tegucigalpa. During the activities the main findings of the Mission were presented and recommendations made, and the basis was laid for the creation of an analytic space to prevent risks for human rights defenders. 

“We are living in very difficult moments and we must work to avoid a deepening of human rights violations in Honduras,” said Bertha Oliva, Coordinator of the Committee of the Families of the Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH) during her speech at the opening of the Forum. 

“We are putting forth all of our positive energy and we are ready to gather and transform memory, not in pain, but as a collective proposal,” stated the human rights defender.

Organized by COFADEH and made up of delegates from organizations in Europe, the United States and Latin America, among them REL-UITA(1), the Mission presented its findings to the national and international community and formulated recommendations for the State of Honduras. 

The Extractive Model - Death Projects 
According to members of the Mission, in the Lower Aguán Valley, “threats, attacks and assassination attempts continue” against campesino leaders, human rights defenders, community leaders and defenders of natural resources that are threatened by the extractive projects.”

The acceleration of granting concessions of territories in the upper regions of the Aguán Valley to mining companies, on top of the uncontrollable expansion of African Palm as a mono-crop, is responsible for an interminable wave of assassinations in the framework of an agrarian conflict that originates from the lack of access to land for thousands of campesino families. The effects of mining on water sources will deepen the social conflict and violence. 

The criminalization of the struggle for the defense of the territories and human rights as well as the systematic threats, displacement and forced evictions, exile, torture and dispossession “remain in total and absolute impunity.”, states a press communique from the Mission. 

Criminalization and Repression — Crushing Human Rights
The ever more selective persecution is participated in by “private security forces and death squads protected by the State that has militarized the region with the sponsorship and to the benefit of the regional economic powers.”, states the communique. “Sadly, we note that not only have many of the recommendations made some years ago not been implemented but that the statistics on murders have risen and impunity is absolute”, said Luis Guillermo Pérez, member of the International Human Rights Federation (FIDH). 

There is a perception of a lack of will and an investigative conflagration that was corroborated in a meeting of the Mission with local and regional authorities and that continues to repeat  and deepen the criminalization of the campesino organizations. 

Esly Banegas, from the Coordination of Popular Organization of the Aguan (COPA) explained that of the campesino leaders that signed the agreements of 2010 with the government, the immense majority have been assassinated or had to flee into either internal or external exile. 
“More that 300 colleagues are in judicial processes. They are criminalizing and assassinating us. If we don’t unite they will decimate us until we disappear.”,  said Banega sounding the alarm. 
She also noted that the agreements of 2010 as well as those of 2012 (2) for the purchase of thousands of hectares of land were never fulfilled. 

“The campesino enterprises are confronting a grave economic crisis, the product of the international price for palm oil and the lack of will on the part of the current government to create a consensus for a reduction of the (campesino ) debt. If this problem is not resolved, the situation could return again to an explosive situation”, said the leader of COPA. 

Given this situation, a demand by the Mission was proposed by the Forum: the creation of a grouping to formulate analysis to prevent risk for human rights defenders. 

Justice for Berta - No More Violence Against Copinh
The International Mission for Human Rights Observation also strongly took up the theme of the assassination of the Lenca indigenous leader, Berta Cáceres, calling it a “political crime for which the State is responsible, not only because an army official has been linked to the crime but because the State” was obligated to protect her life and physical integrity. ”
The Mission stated that it joins the call of the family and of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh) to create an international investigative commission that is autonomous from the Honduran State, “so that all the material and intellectural authors of the crime are punished”. 

The Mission also condemned the police repression unleashed against Copinh’s protests on May 9th and demanded that the government of Honduras “avoid all forms of criminalization of social protest”. 

Recommendations - The right to truth and justice is primary
Among the main recommendations formulation by the Observation Mission notable is that of the “assurance of an investigation of the crimes committed “as the premise for the guarantee of the right to truth, justice and reparation/restoration for the victims”. 
As well, that the Honduran government assures the fulfillment of the agreements signed with the campesino organizations of the Aguán, that the repression and stigmatization does not continue against those who defend their rights, as well as the guarantee of strict fulfillment of the preventative measures ordered by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC). 
Finally, it recommends the creation of mechanisms for a participatory consultations with the campesino organizations “related to the projects that are implemented in their territories”. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Violent evictions today and campaign against international observers

May 11
The Human Rights Observation Mission spent most of the day traveling from the Aguan Valley back to Tegucigalpa where there will be a public forum on Thursday to discuss the Mission’s finding but we received news of more repression and new government attacks on human rights defenders and journalists.  

This morning, in Tutule, La Paz two campesinos from the campesino group 9th of July (9 de Julio) community were wounded when 12 police vehicles and 80 soldiers carried out a violent eviction, using bulldozers to destroy houses, crops  of fifty families who have lived and worked on the land for 7 years. The security forces fired live ammunition wounding Johnny Alfredo Mejia Torres and Edwin Murillo. At the same time  5 patrol cars arrived at the home of Wilman Chávez, General Secretary of the La Paz region of the Central Nacional de los Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC) to arrest him. 

Franklin Almendares
photo from conexihon
The National General Secretary of the CNTC, Franklin Almendares reported to the media that the men, women and children of the community were forced to run and attempt to hide in the mountains from the troops. He also reported that this eviction is to benefit a local political power, Carlos Arriaga. In a phone interview with Franklin Almendares  this evening he said that the two wounded men received treatment and will recover and that there is a court hearing tomorrow morning for those who were arrested. He called for human rights organizations both national and international to accompany the community and their organization. 

In Tegucigalpa, the General Secretary for the Administration of the Government, Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro held a press conference where he condemned international observers and press for “inciting violence” referring to the protests this week by COPINH that were repressed by the police. He said that he was instructing the Honduran immigration service to identify foreigners who are participating in the protests or inciting violence. At least one international observer, Giulia Fellin who has been accompanying COPINH was harassed and interfered with as she tried to go to her embassy today. Another National Party politician claimed that foreign journalists are inciting violence, creating images and causing problems for the government. With this the government continues the campaign of defamation against human rights defenders, journalists and international solidarity and opens the door to more repression against those groups as well as inciting violence against them. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Condemning attacks against Campesinos and COPINH

The original Spanish follows the English translation
photo G. Trucchi
Press Release 

The International Human Rights Observation Mission made up of delegates from Europe, the United States and Latin America, convened by the Committee of Families of the Disappeared Detainees in Honduras - COFADEH - regarding its visit to La Esperanza and the Aguan Valley from May 6-12th, 2016, communicates the following to the international and national community. 

  • The assassination of Berta Cáceres Flores has affected not only her family and the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH) but also the Honduran people and humanity in its totality, because of the transcendent nature of her struggle in defense of the common good, the rights of the indigenous peoples and their territories, of women, human rights and her non-violent resistance. 

  • We consider the assassination of Berta Cáceres Flores to be a political crime for which the State is responsible, not only because an official from the Honduran Army has been linked to the crime but because the state was obligated to protect her life and physical integrity. 
  • The Mission values the identification and arrests of five people who were part of the larger scheme that was developed in order to assassinate her, however we hare the call by the family for the creation of an International Investigative Commission of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, autonomous from the Honduran State that would contribute to the investigation and effective sanctioning of all of the material and intellectual authors of the crime, including those with economic interests. involved. 

  • The Mission condemns the repression against the protests by COPINH that were attacked by the police on May 9th in Tegucigalpa, we demand the immediate liberation of those detained and call on the Government to avoid any form of criminalization of social protest. 

Regarding the Lower Aguan Valley, the Mission declares:
  • Threats, attacks and assassination attempts continue against the leaders and defenders of human rights in the Aguan, as well as against community leaders defending water, the rivers and the environment that are all threatened by the extractive projects. 
  • The criminalization of persons leading the struggle for access to land, defense of the territories and human rights continues, meanwhile impunity is prevalent in more than 150 assassinations perpetrated in the region since the coup d’etat, an emblematic case being that of the Tumbador massacre. The systematic threats, forced displacement, tortures, exile, forced evictions, seizures of property, and defamation remain in impunity. 
  • In this ever more selective persecution there is participation by private security forces and death squads that are sheltered by the State which has militarized the region with the patronage and approval of the regional economic powers. 
  • The agraria conflict, that has its roots in the 1992 Law for  Modernization of the Agricultural Sector, has not only not been resolved with the agreements related to the purchase of lands which were signed in 2010 but has now deepened by the lack of political will and the ties and relationship between the military, police, big land owners, international corporations, narcotics traffickers and political sectors in Honduras. 
  • According to the testimonies received, the “Hoja de Ruta” plan by the World Bank to seek a solution to the agrarian conflict does not have the mechanisms for participative consultations with the campesino organizations. 

The Mission makes the following recommendations 
  • The Prosecutors’ office must ensure the investigation of crimes committed as a fundamental premise for the guarantee of the right to truth, justice and reparations for the victims. 
  • The government of Honduras must ensure compliance with the agreements regarding the guarantee of access to land for the campesino organizations. 
  • The government of Honduras must protect and not stigmatize those who see that they are threatened for defending their rights. 
  • It is the obligation of the State to guarantee the strict fulfillment of the protective measures mandated by the Inter-american Commission of Human Rights, designating the needed resources and measures, given that not to do so would suppose the responsibility and connivance of the State with the multiple and serious violations of human rights. 
  • Create mechanisms for participative consultations with the campesino organizes regarding projects that are to be implemented in their territories. 
  • We call on the international community to be vigilant in the face of the situation that confronts the Honduran people and in particular people who defend human rights, and more precisely the campesino communities in the Aguan that suffer constant threats and harassment by the security forces of the state. 

Tocoa, May 10, 2016


La Misión Internacional de Observación de DDHH, conformada por delegados y delegadas de Europa, de Estados Unidos y de Latinoamérica, convocada por el Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras –COFADEH- en su visita a La Esperanza y el Valle de El Aguan, del 6 a al 12 de mayo de 2016, comunica a la comunidad nacional e internacional lo siguiente:

  1.   El asesinato de Berta Cáceres Flores ha afectado no solamente a su familia y al Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas –COPINH-, sino al pueblo hondureño y  la humanidad en su conjunto, por la trascendencia de su lucha en la defensa de los bienes comunes, los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y sus territorios, de las mujeres, de los derechos humanos y por su resistencia pacífica.  

2.    Consideramos que el asesinato de Berta Cáceres Flores es un crimen político, del cual el Estado es responsable, no solamente porque se ha vinculado a un oficial del Ejército hondureño, sino porque estaba obligado a proteger su vida e integridad física.

3.    La misión valora la identificación y procesamiento de cinco personas que serían parte del gran entramado que se desarrolló para asesinarla, sin embargo, compartimos el llamado de la familia de constituir una Comisión Internacional de Investigación de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos –CIDH-, autónoma del Estado hondureño que contribuya a la investigación  y la sanción efectiva de todos los autores materiales e intelectuales del crimen, incluyendo los actores con intereses económicos.

4.    La misión condena la represión ejercida contra manifestantes del COPINH que fueron atacados por la policía el día 9 de mayo en Tegucigalpa, exige la inmediata liberación de las personas detenidas y llama al Gobierno a evitar cualquier forma de criminalización de la protesta social.

Por otra parte en el Bajo Aguán la misión ha constatado:

5.    Se mantienen las amenazas, ataques e intentos de asesinato en contra de los líderes y lideresas, de personas defensoras de derechos humanos en el Bajo Aguán, así como de dirigentes comunitarios que protegen el agua, los ríos y el medio ambiente, que están siendo amenazados por proyectos extractivistas.

6.    Continua la criminalización de las personas que lideran la lucha por el acceso a la tierra, la defensa de los territorios, y de los derechos humanos, mientras la impunidad prevalece en más de 150 asesinatos perpetrados en la región desde el golpe de Estado, siendo la masacre del Tumbador un caso emblemático.  Las amenazas sistemáticas, el desplazamiento forzado, las torturas, el exilio, los desalojos forzados, los despojos y difamación permanecen en la impunidad.  

7.    En esta persecución cada vez más selectiva participan fuerzas de seguridad privada y escuadrones de la muerte, que estarían amparados por el Estado que ha militarizado la región con el patrocinio y provecho de los poderes económicos regionales.

8.    El conflicto agrario que tiene su raíz en la Ley de Modernización del Sector Agrícola de 1992, además de no resolverse con los acuerdos relativos a la compra de tierras firmados en el 2010, actualmente se ha agudizado por la falta de voluntad política, la vinculación y connivencia del estamento militar, la policía, los terratenientes, las corporaciones internacionales, los narcotraficantes y sectores políticos de Honduras.

9.    Según los testimonios obtenidos, la Hoja de Ruta para buscar una solución al conflicto agrario propuesta por el Banco Mundial no cuenta con los mecanismos de consulta participativos con las organizaciones campesinas.

La misión hace las siguientes recomendaciones:

-    La Fiscalía debe asegurar la investigación de los crímenes cometidos como premisa fundamental para garantizar el derecho a la verdad, la justicia y la reparación para las víctimas.

-    El gobierno de Honduras debe asegurar que se cumplan los acuerdos relativos para garantizar el acceso a la tierra de las organizaciones campesinas.

-    El gobierno de Honduras debe proteger y no estigmatizar a quienes ven su integridad amenazada por defender sus derechos.

-    Es obligación del Estado garantizar el estricto cumplimiento de las medidas cautelares otorgadas por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, a cuyo efecto deberán destinarse las medidas y los recursos necesarios, puesto que de no hacerse supondría la responsabilidad y connivencia del Estado con las múltiples y graves violaciones a los derechos humanos.

-    Crear mecanismos de consulta participativos con las organizaciones campesinas en cuanto a los proyectos que se implementan en su territorios.

-    Hacemos un llamado a la comunidad internacional, para que esté vigilante ante la situación que enfrentan el pueblo hondureño y en particular las personas que defienden los derechos humanos, y mas concretamente las comunidades  campesinas del Aguan, que sufren constantes amenazas y hostigamientos por las fuerzas de seguridad del estado.   

Tocoa, 10 de mayo de 2016.

Monday, May 9, 2016

ALERT: COPINH members attacked and arrested while protesting outside presidential palace

Alert from National Network of Women Defending Human Rights and National Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras:

People arrested and wounded at COPINH protest, violently broken up in front of Presidential Palace

By Dina Meza (translation by Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle)

[Original en español]
Photo: Giorgi Trucci, LINyM

President Juan Orlando Hernández ordered the violent removal of about 150 members of the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) at 5:40am this Monday, May 9th, 2016. Police and military police forces launched tear gas bombs as the protesters arrived peacefully at the Presidential Palace to demand answers regarding the assassination of their General Coordinator, Berta Cáceres.

Although the crime took place more than two months ago, so far the only people detained are four people accused of directly carrying out the crime, but COPINH, Berta's family and the national and international community are demanding action against those who presumably ordered the crime, including personnel of the hydroelectric company Desarrollos Energéticos, S.A, (DESA), politicians and businessmen.

Tomás Gómez, current COPINH coordinator, denounced that he and several of his fellow COPINH members were beaten by the police and that a large quantity of tear gas was launched, affecting boys, girls, seniors and other people who just came to demand justice.

"What we want is for both those who carried out and those who ordered the crime against our sister to be punished. One of the main guilty parties is [Honduran President] Juan Orlando Hernández. There are political and economic interests behind the crime committed against our sister Berta," said Gómez.

He added that there was a concentration of military reserve members in the Presidential Palace and when several COPINH members crossed the security lines and were close to the entrance of the presidential palace they were repressed.

"What we want is for Juan Orlando Hernádez to suspend all contracts that give the green light for indigenous people to be displaced from their lands."

Joining the protest was a sizable group of indigenous people from Santa Elena, La Paz, where the Congressional Vice President, Gladys Aurora López and her husband have at least two hydroelectric projects, including La Aurora and Los Encinos, which have produced deaths, threats and persecution.

Alert from the Network of Women Defending Human Rights
ALERT: Violent attack against women and men of COPINH

The National Network of Women Defending Human Rights in Honduras, put out the following alert about the new repression against COPINH:

Since the early morning more than 150 women and men from COPINH arrived at the Presidential Palace to continue their demands for justice and answers regarding the assassination of Berta Cáceres Flores, who was assassinated this past March 2nd for defending indigenous territory and fighting to expel the DESA company and stop its Agua Zarca project.

They were received with violence by the Honor Guard in front of the Presidential Palace, who launched tear gas bombs. So far reports indicate six people have been detained and numerous wounded.

We demand respect for the physical well-being of the human rights defenders and members of COPINH.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras
May 9th, 2016
National Network of Women Defending Human Rights in Honduras

Alert from Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH)
Alert: Peaceful protest by COPINH attacked in front of presidential palace

Today in the early morning, military from the presidential guard attacked a group of Lenca protesters who are COPINH members, leading to arrests and an ongoing state of threat.

COPINH came to demand justice over the death of its leader Berta Cáceres, assassinated this past March 3rd by members of the military and executives of the DESA company, which has been imposing the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River, rejected for years by the Lenca population.

The assassination had enormous repercussions in the media, questioning the current dictatorial government headed by Mr. Juan Orlando Hernández. From the beginning, the management of the investigation was obstructed by the contamination of the crime scene and the theory related to a supposed crime of passion.

In recent days information came out about Berta's assassination being carried out as a premeditated crime by members of the armed forces led by the DESA corporation. Nonetheless, the authorities have yet to produce the people who ordered the crime, among whom probably figure bankers and politicians.

COPINH continues with its irrevocable demand to suspend construction along the Gualcarque River, in addition to demanding justice for its assassinated leader, who dedicated her life to working persistently in defense of the ancestral territories of indigenous peoples and their natural resources.

The collapse of the rule of law in Honduras, consolidated by the 2009 coup d'etat, permitted the approval of countless neoliberal laws intentionally detrimental to indigenous peoples and local communities. The approval of the Water Law in December, 2009, gave the state power to distribute hydrographic basins to families allied with the current dictatorship, a situation that was reinforced by decrees approved in 2010 regarding concessions of hydroelectric basins.

The lack of recognition of the right to prior, free and informed consent is one of the worlds problems affecting indigenous people in Honduras. Berta Cáceres was one of the champions of this cause, and the dam along the Gualcarque river became one of the symbols of this struggle.

We demand the immediate cessation of aggressions in front of the Presidential Palace and respect for the well-being of the protesters, the cancellation once and for all all dam projects in indigenous territories where proper consultation has not taken place, as well as a transparent prosecution against both the perpetrators and the plotters of Berta's homicide.

May 9th, 2016
Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras, OFRANEH

COPINH responds to arrests in case of Berta Cáceres's assassination

COPINH COMMUNIQUÉ  - May 3rd, 2016

[Original en español]

The Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), after a calm assessment of yesterday's events, expresses the following to the national and international community:

1. Yesterday, the Honduran government carried out the so-called "Operation Jaguar," arresting four people that are said to be responsible for participating in the planning and carrying out of our sister and COPINH's General Coordinator, Berta Cáceres.

2. While we confirm that those captured coincide with part of the list of suspects that we maintain as COPINH, we do not trust that this investigation has been as exhaustive or deep as possible, that all appropriate measures have been taken, nor that it includes all of the people responsible for conspiring, planning and executing the assassination.

3. Despite the announcement that three more people are also facing charges, due to the Attorney General's office controlling and silencing communication with COPINH - a victim with the right under Honduran law to participate in the investigative process - this conduct does not leave us with faith that all due diligences and necessary detentions have been done in order to reach the conspirators and high level plotters and perpetrators.

4. This is why, now more than ever, the government should fulfill COPINH and Berta's family's demand for the installation of a commission of experts in this type of crime, led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which the IACHR has expressed its willingness to participate in under the conditions that have been requested.

5. The government hasn't shown any interest in facilitating and approving an agreement to bring in an commission of experts, which we as COPINH have been demanding since the assassination of our sister and comrade BERTA. This is worrisome because of how fragile the judicial system is, meaning any act of incompetence, inefficiency, collusion and corruption could compromise this process. This is why we want a commission of experts to guarantee the professionalism, objectivity, non-discrimination and proactive participation of COPINH in the investigation. In addition, it generates the unquestionable confidence needed to reach truth, justice, reparation, and the assurance that this will not happen again - never again. This is why we urgently demand that COPINH be given all relevant and available information directly and in a climate of respect for the right to information that we have as victims, since after two months passing since this vile assassination, there has not been even the most minute information communicated directly to us as COPINH's coordinators, nor to the daughters and son of our sister Berta.

6. Finally, beyond what we have pointed out, yesterday's arrests and the Attorney General's statement confirm the participation of the company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. de C.V. (DESA), using capital from powerful economic interests both nationally and internationally (such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration CABEI, the Dutch bank FMO, the Finnish bank FinFund, as well as the FICOHSA bank and the Atala family), in the assassinatino of our sister Berta Cáceres. This points to the need to extend the investigation into the link between the DESA corporation and its financial associates with other assassinations committed against active members of the opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, including: (1) Tomás García, (2) William Jacobo Rodríguez, (3) his brother Maycol Rodríguez, a child whose right to life was snatched from him at 15 years of age, and (4)Baudilio Sánchez.

There have been five assassinations committed against people opposing DESA and the construction of the Agua Zarca project. The investigation should be extended to include these assassinations, denounced by Berta and COPINH at the time, including other criminal actions such as attempted murders, wounds, abuses and persecution by the company and the state authorities who back them, repression, biased judicial persecution and criminalization against COPINH and the communities adjacent to and affected by the project.

It is for these reasons that we at COPINH demand the immediate and definitive cancellation of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, which is a project of death that should be expelled from the Rio Blanco Lenca indigenous territory and surrounding inhabited area, since it puts the lives of our sisters and brothers who have opposed it (and continue to oppose it) and resisted its construction with everything they have.


Intibucá, May 3rd, 2016

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Iselaca, Etempica and Mota we raise our voices, full of Life, Justice, Dignity and Freedom.

Human Rights Observation Mission in Honduras

A member of La Voz de los de Abajo and coordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network in North America, Vicki Cervantes, is traveling in Honduras and participating in an observation mission organized by COFADEH. 

The international mission is made up of 18 human rights observers and journalists from Colombia, El Salvador, Chile, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Spain, France, Italy and the United States. The focus of the mission is on the Aguan Valley but we spent the first day, May 7th,  in La Esperanza, Intibuca with the family of Berta Caceres. This was at the same time that the court hearings were beginning in Tegucigalpa for the first arrests in Berta's case. Four men, including one retired and one active military officer and one Desa employee were brought to court. (Two additional men have been arrested: one is said to have been one of the hired guns,  but little information has come out about  the sixth man arrested on May 8). Berta's daughter Bertita was traveling Laura and Olivia were attending court in Tegucigalpa so the delegation met with the rest of her immediate family including Berta's mother Astraberta and her siblings.

Doña Astraberta with a grandson
Carlos H. Reres, Bertha Olvia
,and a delegation member
Sometimes in tears all the family spoke and shared their experience of Berta's passion and dedication and the events the days and hours before her murder. They explained that the government has not kept the family informed,of the investigation and that they learned that there had been arrested through the media. They strongly emphasized that they continue to demand that an independent investigation team from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission be involved as they have no faith in the government's investigation, its forensic process nor in its ability or will to prosecute the intellectual authors of the crime and all of those who ordered, organized, finances, informed and carried out the assassination. Just as one example of why they don't have confidence in the integrity of the process is that the head of the government department prosecuting the accused killers has a private practice as well and the defense lawyers for the same accused killers come from that private practice law firm.  Berta's sister Agustina said, "I am not tired of crying for my sister but I am tired of so much injustice".
Bertha Oliva of COFADEH spoke briefly about the situation in the country and the campaigns against human rights defenders of all kinds. We were also joined by Carlos H. Reyes, leader of the beverage workers' union and important figure in the resistance movement, who with Berta Caceres had been preparing to run for President and Vice President as independent peoples' candidates in 2009. Carlos spoke on the context in which repression and violence is taking place in Honduras and the Hernandez' governments ruthless economic and political agenda to privatize and exploit Honduras' resources with no regard for the consequences for the people as well as the role of the United States in setting the agenda and doing everything possible to continue the coup.

After the meeting the delegation was invited to Doña Astraberta's house where the family has set up photos and an altar dedicated to Berta. We ended the day by going to the cemetery to pay our respects.

Felix (gray shirt) with members of the delegation
Later in the evening we were happily surprised when the jornalist and community radio station organizer Felix Molina showed up in La Esperanza.  Felix survived two attempts on his life on May 2nd. The second attempt left him with gunshot wounds to both legs. He got out of the hospital on May 7th and along with film-maker Jesse Freeston came to La Esperanza to see Bertha's family and to greet the delegation. Felix hosted a radio show on Radio Globo called Resistencia for several years after the 2009 coup; he continues to broadcast his own show and also coordinates an effort to organize community radio stations all over Honduras and get them legal permits to funciton. He has often been threatened and is one more journalist in Honduras to suffer violence.

This violence is also ferocious against anyone opposing the government's programs. As we were meeting in La Esperanza, high school students in San Pedro Sula were in the streets, blocking the toll road in protest of new regulations in the school system. The students were attacked by police and 100 high schoolers were arrested. They were later released. Meanwhile the government suspended the teaching license of Jaime Rodriguez,  president of the secondary teachers union COPEMH,  accusing him of being responsible for the students' protests across the country. There have been a number of cases of students disappearing or being attacked after protests which continue to grow, especially in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.
V. Cervantes, May 8, 2016, Honduras

Monday, May 2, 2016

Four Men With Ties to DESA and Honduran Military Captured and Accused of Berta's Assassination - Her Family and COPINH Respond

Statement by Berta Caceres's Family and COPINH
May 2nd, 2016

[Declaración original en español]

Olivia, Berta, Laura and Salvador Zúniga Cáceres (Berta Cáceres’s daughters and son), Austra Bertha Flores (her mother), and the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), each a victim of the assassination of Berta Cáceres under Honduran law, were surprised this morning by the Attorney General and ATIC (Criminal Investigation Agency) announcement in relation to the capture of persons involved in this vile crime against our beloved Berta.

The family and COPINH, as well as all Honduran society and the international community demand justice and truth regarding the assassination of our Berta.

Because we have been denied our right under Honduran law to participate in the investigative process from the beginning, we have no way of knowing if these arrests are the product of an exhaustive and diligent investigation, nor do we know if they include those who ordered the assassination. The news of the alleged participation of active and retired members of the military linked to DESA in the assassination should be investigated further and indicates involvement by state agents which is enough reason for the immediate suspension of and a definitive end to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project.

We regret that the investigations conducted by the Attorney General have moved forward without our participation and that our voices have not been heard.

Today, two months since the assassination of our dear Berta, we continue being victimized, having to learn of any news through the media rather than the official channels afforded to us by law.

Our ongoing lack of confidence in the Attorney General’s office has been fomented by its own actions, which lack transparency and ignore the victims. If the State has truly conducted an exhaustive, diligent investigation based on scientific proof that looks into both the plotters and perpetrators of this crime, then today they should accept the participation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights so that a group of independent experts can analyze the actions carried out thus far and establish whether they are consistent with the highest international standards of due diligence.

If the Attorney General's office and its agency have carried out their work correctly, there should be no fear of having the commission that the IACHR has already made available begin its investigation immediately.

What we seek is truth and justice in the case of our beloved Berta's assassination. If we achieve that, everybody wins.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Signs that Berta is alive: Flower of Azalea, by Melissa Cardoza

Flower of Azalea
April 29th, 2016

She couldn’t have been six years old, or around that, barefoot. Leaning on a support beam, or hiding behind her mom’s body, Azalea would spy on me with her bright eyes full of mischief and shyness. Sometimes she would come up to my chair and with her little finger she would trace along the plastic armrest, up anPuchica! if that isn’t the prettiest name I have heard. And Azalea laughed through the few teeth she had at that age. Did you know that there’s a song named after you? She shook her head. Should I sing it to you? She nodded. Like the froth swept along by the mighty river, flower of Azalea, life surprises you with a hug. I changed the words to the bolero so as not to fill her little head with too much drama.
d down, the other finger in her mouth, her eyes looking at me. What did you say your name was? Azalea. ¡

From time to time I would run into her again, always in COPINH’s community center, Utopía, with her mom who would complain to me about school. Other times I would watch her playing around with her friends. Groups and groups of people would come through, for an assembly, for a ceremony, for a meeting or a party. Berta would be there, organizing, drinking coffee, fooling around, rallying people. Azalea would watch her with her eyes open wide because she drove a car like the men and spoke strongly.

Azalea had grown up. I ran into her at a mobilization of the Lenca women of COPINH during the occupation of the Attorney General’s building, an energetic action that grew from the fury of Berta’s sisters. Definitely the most powerful action so far. The women with their voices, their forms of protest, their strength and determination. Azalea was there holding up the traditional Lenca vara alta, she is an adolUtopía still resides in her face. What are you doing here, little girl, I ask her playfully. Well, here in the struggle.
escent, but that little girl from

Here in the struggle, it echoed inside of me. Later I heard her speak to the press, speaking about la compañera Berta, about COPINH, about her Lenca people, and then later in the People’s Summit. I listened intently to the crisp way she spoke, as resolute as a spring of water or a blooming tree. Her grounded words, precise, were spoken without raising her voice or gesturing wildly, without pretense or imitation.  

Azalea, the small flower of the mighty Gualcarque River. They threw stones at her that day when the delegation was attacked by people close to the company, that day when the crowd was divided, some indignant at not being well-enough protected, everything out of control, some coming to understand the difficulties lived through by people resisting industry’s advance, all feeling in their bodies the fear, experiencing the hate, the viciousness that followed Berta to her death.

On one of those long trips I took with Berta, miles on end traversing the land, those trips where we would laugh and debate, or be quiet for hours, we were coming back from a comrade’s funeral and I, caught up in my middle class anguish, told her that at this rate we would end up losing all of this country’s best fighters. And she, speaking more as expert than prophet, told me, Well yeah, they kill the becompa. I insisted, Berta, so then who is going to change this country? It’s not like there’s a lot of people with that level of determination, other wise we wouldn’t be where we are. And she looked at me with those dagger eyes that she would sometimes bring out, raising her voice: What the fuck is wrong with you, with your curly-haired self, the people are who will make change, the ones who always struggle, the sons and daughters of the people, we never run out of fighters, some come first and others later, but have some confidence, compa, otherwise what are we doing? What do we do all we do for, huh? 
st first, to fuck with the rest of us; but that’s how this goes,

Here in the struggle, Azalea said, just barely a young woman, with that mischievous Lenca smile, the same one Berta would have on as she says, See? What did I tell you?

Melissa Cardoza
April 2016

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