Archivo para la categoría prensa internacional
A judge has unexpectedly released the son of a leader of Honduras’ Valle Valle drug clan, who allegedly took the reins of the family business following the capture and extradition of the group’s leaders.
Honduras: “The State and the extractive economic model are responsible for the assassination of Berta”
Militarized law enforcement may have done more damage to human rights than it has to crime rates.
Documents Show Special Ops Training in the Region Tripled From 2007 to 2014 By Sarah Kinosian, WOLA Program Officer and Adam Isacson, WOLA Senior Associate The U.S. military’s most elite forces have been increasing their deployments across the globe, and Latin America and the Caribbean are no exception. But as Special Operations Forces activity grows, […]
Resisting Canadian projects has become especially deadly in Honduras ever since a 2009 military coup – and the Harper government lobbied for new law that lifted a moratorium on mining
Origen: Gravedigging for gold
The arrest of a mayor in Honduras for homicide and connections to criminal groups makes him the latest in a string of city hall bosses to be accused of corruption in the Central American nation, a pattern that is mirrored throughout Latin America.
This report examines the data collected during the LAPOP study and subjects them to a number of statistical tests. The authors find that the study cannot support the conclusion that the areas subject to treatment in the CARSI programs showed better result
Hillary Clinton is bragging about support from a Republican diplomat linked to mass atrocities in Central America.
Origen: Negroponte’s Crimes
GENEVA / WASHINGTON, D.C. (19 August 2016) – Honduras has become one of the most hostile and dangerous countries for human rights defenders, warned today two top United Nations and Inter-American human rights experts. So far this year, at least eight defenders have been killed in the country, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
“The Government of Honduras must immediately adopt and apply effective measures to protect human rights defenders, so they can carry out their human rights work, without fear or threat of violence or murder,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the Inter-American Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez.
The experts’ urgent appeal to the Honduran authorities comes after the killing of Kevin Ferrera, a lawyer and outspoken youth leader of Juventud Liberal (Liberal Youth, a section of the Liberal Party of Honduras) and founding member of the organization Oposicion Indignada (Indignant Opposition), on 9 August 2016. Mr. Ferrera worked to empower citizens to denounce corruption and impunity, and helped to organise recent protests against the proposals for re-election of the current President of Honduras.
“We are seriously concerned that this murder was linked to Mr. Ferrera’s legitimate work in defence of human rights, and urge the Government to conduct an investigation to bring to account both the material perpetrators and the intellectual authors of the heinous crime,” the experts stressed. “The investigation should be exhaustive, effective, impartial and undertaken with due diligence.”
“Violence and attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the basic guarantees owed to every individual. They also undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in building a society that is more equal, just and democratic,” they said.
Mr. Forst and Mr. Orozco Henríquez recalled the creation of a protection mechanism for human rights defenders and other groups in Honduras in 2015, and acknowledged the State’s efforts to make the mechanism fully functional. “However,” they noted, “the implementation of the mechanism is yet to be tested”.
“Crimes against human rights defenders, especially cold-blooded assassinations, must not go unpunished. Impunity is the enemy – and the undoing – of any protection scheme in place, no matter how comprehensive it may be,” they concluded.
Mr. Michel Forst was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Mr. Forst has extensive experience on human rights issues and particularly on the situation of human rights defenders. In particular, he was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. For more information, log on to:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx
Mr. José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez undertook the responsibility of leading the IACHR’s Unit for Human Rights Defenders and stayed as Rapporteur when the IACHR decided to convert the Unit into a Rapporteurship in 2011. Mr. Orozco is a researcher on human rights law and other areas at the Legal Research Institute of the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and he formerly served for 16 years as a Magistrate on Mexico’s highest electoral courts. Learn more, visit: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/defenders/mandate/composition.asp
UN Human Rights, Country Page – Honduras: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/HNIndex.aspx
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Data released by a special Honduras police unit formed to combat extortion indicates the country is making progress against an illegal industry responsible for many deaths and massive economic losses.
Es común aceptar la tesis fiscalista de la importancia de mejorar y aumentar la recaudación de impuestos para acelerar el crecimiento económico de la economía; sin ingresos en las arcas del fisco no hay crecimiento económico sostenido.
Some observers hope that the murder of the activist Berta Cáceres will spur the U.S. to decrease its support for the embattled Central American nation.
Honduran indigenous and environmental rights leader Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated by masked gunmen in the spring, had long lived under the shadow of threats, harassment, and intimidation. The slain leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) was gunned down in her home in La Esperanza on March 3 after months of escalating threats. She was killed, it appears, for leading effective resistance to hydroelectric dam projects in Honduras, but she understood her struggle to be global as well. For Cáceres, the fight to protect the sacred Gualcarque River and all indigenous Lenca territory was the frontline in the battle against the unbridled transnational capitalism that threatens her people. She felt that as goes the Gualcarque River, so goes the planet. Her assassination sent shockwaves through the Honduran activist community: if an internationally-acclaimed winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize can be slain, there is little hope for anyone’s safety.
The Agua Zarca Dam, which put Cáceres in the crosshairs, is one of many to have been funded by foreign capital since the 2009 Honduran military coup. The ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, had alarmed the country’s elites—and their international allies—with his support of agrarian reforms and increased political power for laborers and the disenfranchised. After his removal, the Honduran government courted investors, declaring in 2011 that Honduras was “open for business.” Among the neoliberal reforms it undertook, which included gutting public services and cutting subsidies, the government granted large mining concessions, creating a demand for energy that heightened the profitability of hydroelectric dam projects. The aggressive privatization initiatives launched the government on a collision course with indigenous and campesinocommunities, which sit atop rich natural resources coveted by investors. The ensuing conflicts between environmentalists, traditional landowners, and business interests have often turned lethal.
These killings have taken place in a climate of brutal repression against labor, indigenous, and LGBTI activists, journalists, government critics, and human rights defenders. Cáceres, a formidable and widely respected opposition leader, was a particularly jagged thorn in the side of entrenched political and economic powers. Miscalculating the international outcry the murder would incite, Honduran officials at first couldn’t get their story straight: Cáceres’s murder was a robbery gone wrong, perhaps, or internal feuding within her organization, or a crime of passion. However, activists within and outside Honduras have successfully resisted all efforts to depoliticize Cáceres’s killing.
“It’s like going back to the past,” she said. “We know there are death squads in Honduras.”
Unfortunately, Cáceres’s death was not the first violent assault on COPINH leaders, nor has it been the last. In 2013 unarmed community leader Tomás García was shot and killed by a soldier at a peaceful protest. Less than two weeks after Cáceres was murdered, COPINH activist Nelson García was also gunned down, and just last month, Lesbia Janeth Urquía, another COPINH leader, was killed. Honduran authorities quickly arrested three people for Urquía’s murder, characterizing it as a familial dispute, but members of COPINH dispute this. “We don’t believe in this [official] version,” Cáceres’s successor, Tomás Gómez Membreño, told the Los Angeles Times. “In this country they invent cases and say that the murders have nothing to do with political issues. The government always tries to disconnect so as to not admit that these amount to political killings.”
Urquía was murdered soon after an explosive report in The Guardian in which a former member of the Honduran military said Cáceres’s name was at the top of a “hit list” of activists targeted for killing. The list, he said, was circulated among security forces, including units trained by the United States. The Honduran government vehemently denies these claims, despiteevidence supporting many of the allegations. Cáceres had previously said she was on a list of targeted activists. At a U.S. congressional briefing in April, Honduran human rights activist Bertha Oliva Nativí testified that activists had not faced such dangers since the 1980s. “Now, it’s like going back to the past,” she said. “We know there are death squads in Honduras.”
After an initial investigation into Cáceres’s murder that was tainted by multiple missteps, officials arrested four suspects, including an active member of the military, and later detained a fifth man. But many believe that the orders for her murder were issued higher up the chain of command, and that the government cannot be trusted to police itself. However, state officials have refused calls for an independent international investigation.
Nonetheless the United States continues to send Honduras security assistance that aids the government in militarizing the “war on drugs” and enforcing the aggressive neoliberal policies Washington favors for the region. Some American lawmakers have been paying close attention, sending letters to the U.S. State Department expressing concern about the role of state security forces in human rights abuses. In a sign of increasing impatience with State Department inaction, Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia and other legislators introduced a bill in Congress on June 14, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which seeks to suspend “security assistance to Honduran military and police until such time as human rights violations by Honduran state security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.” As the bill’s original cosponsors argued in an op-ed in The Guardian, “It’s even possible that U.S.-trained forces were involved in [Cáceres’s] death,” since “one suspect is a military officer and two others are retired military officers. Given this information, we are deeply concerned about the likely role of the Honduran military in her assassination, including the military chain of command.”
As the hit list story broke, State Department spokesperson John Kirby maintained at a June 22 press briefing that “there’s no specific credible allegations of gross violations of human rights” in Honduras. That assertion is contradicted by the State Department’s own 2015 human rights report on Honduras, which documented “unlawful and arbitrary killings and other criminal activities by members of the security forces,” findings echoed by the United Nations. The Guardian reported on July 8 that the State Department is reviewing the hit list allegations, repeating the claim that it had seen no credible evidence to support them. U.S. ambassador to Honduras James Nealon told the Guardian, “We take allegations of human rights abuses with the utmost seriousness. We always take immediate action to ensure the security and safety of people where there is a credible threat.” Under the Leahy Law, the State Department and the Department of Defense are prohibited from providing support to foreign military units when there is credible evidence of human rights violations. Yet the mechanics of compliance with the Leahy law are shrouded by state secrecy, making it difficult to have confidence in the legitimacy of an investigation into the conduct of a close ally. And satisfying Leahy law obligations alone is insufficient. Half of the $750 million in aid that Congress approved in December for Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador comes through the Plan of the Alliance for the Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, a package of security and development aid aimed at stemming immigration from Central America. And disbursement of that money is conditioned merely on the Secretary of State certifying that the governments are making effective progress toward good governance and human rights goals.
In the aftermath of Zelaya’s removal, Secretary of State Clinton helped cement the post-coup government.
This is not the first time the Obama administration has undermined human rights in Honduras. In the aftermath of Zelaya’s removal, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped cement the post-coup government. Cáceres herself denounced Clinton’s role in rupturing the democratic order in Honduras, predicting a dire fallout. As historian Greg Grandin told Democracy Now, “It was Clinton who basically relegated [Zelaya’s return] to a secondary concern and insisted on elections, which had the effect of legitimizing and routinizing the coup regime and creating the nightmare scenario that exists today.” The election held in November 2009 was widely considered illegitimate.
When questioned by Juan González during a meeting with the New York Daily News editorial board in April, Clinton said that Washington never declared Zelaya’s ouster a coup because doing so would have required the suspension of humanitarian aid. In so doing, she relied on the technicality that an aid cutoff is triggered by the designation of a military coup. Therefore the term was never officially used, despite the military’s clear involvement in removing Zelaya from the country. Clinton claimed the legislature and judiciary had a “very strong argument that they had followed the Constitution and the legal precedents,” despite nearly universal condemnation of the coup, including by the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States. And Clinton’s account is contradicted by then U.S. ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens, who concluded in a leaked cable “there is no doubt” that the ouster of Zelaya “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup,” a characterization repeated by the State Department many times. Yet the administration stalled the suspension of aid to Honduras, in contrast to much quicker cutoffs following coups in Mauritania (August 2008) and Madagascar (March 2009).
The dire human rights situation in Honduras may receive more attention following Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine as her running mate. The Virginia senator, who touts the nine months he spent in Honduras as a Jesuit volunteer as a formative experience, has added his voice to those pressuring Secretary of State John Kerry for a thorough investigation into Cáceres’s death. But Grandin argues that Kaine “has consistently supported economic and security policies that drive immigration and contribute to the kind of repression that killed Cáceres.” This critique of U.S. economic policy was recently echoed by one of Cáceres’s four children, Laura Zuñiga Cáceres, who joined a caravan from Cleveland to Philadelphia demanding justice for her mother. She was among those protesting outside the Democratic National Convention, linking Washington’s trade policy with the misery it engenders in Honduras. “We know very well the impacts that free trade agreements have had on our countries,” Zuñiga said. “They give transnational corporations, like the one my mom fought against, the power to protect their profits even if it means passing over the lives of people who defend the water, forest and mother earth from destruction caused by their very own megaprojects.”
Washington is again signaling to Honduras that stability and its own self-interest trump human rights concerns. Historically the United States has been agonizingly slow to cut off support for repressive Latin American governments so long as they advance its geopolitical and economic agenda. But there have been pivotal moments in history when the tide has turned against U.S.-allied repressive states, such as the killing of Jesuit priests in El Salvador in 1989, which spurred international condemnation of the Salvadoran government and prompted Washington to rethink its support. The death of Cáceres should be one of those moments. This time, Washington should act quickly to stop its money from funding human rights abuses in Honduras before more blood is spilled.
The three countries of Central America’s “Northern Triangle” have agreed to cooperate on fighting the regional threat posed by gangs, but it remains to be seen whether this cooperation will extend to combating other types of organized crime.
El Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Nacional de Energía Eléctrica (STENEE) asesta golpe de Estado al presidente de ese gremio, Miguel Aguilar.
Los sindicalistas convocaron a un congreso este sábado para derrocar a Aguilar, quien ha sido cuestionado por extraer unos 500 millones de lempiras de las arcas de la agrupación que aun preside.
Los miembros del STENEE denunciaron que Aguilar no ha rendido cuentas sobre multimillonarias sumas de dinero que habría manejado Aguilar, quien se convirtió en socio de una compañía proveedora de servicios a la ENEE.
Uno de los delegados informó que le exigirán al cuestionado sindicalista que dé cuentas sobre los 500 millones de lempiras que han salido del organismo.
Ante la negativa de Aguilar de publicar los estados financieros del STENEE, se han visto obligados a convocar a un congreso extraordinario, pues fue favorecido con un ocho por ciento en acciones de la nueva empresa que tendrá a cargo la distribución de los servicios de energía eléctrica en el país.
El punto único del congreso, dijeron a periodistas, será nombrar una nueva junta directiva del sindicato, ya que piden que cada uno de los trabajadores se dé cuenta de las atípicas maniobras que realizó Aguilar.
Respecto a la convocatoria de la asamblea extraordinaria, advirtieron que Miguel Aguilar no puede decir que “esto es inválido. Él le falló a la base, por tanto, ahora no puede retractarse”.
Hicieron un llamado a todos los trabajadores de la ENEE que se manifiesten y los apoyen durante el congreso, porque deben estar alerta para hacer prevalecer sus derechos.
“Miguel Aguilar dejó de ser un sindicalista para pasar a ser un empresario, y eso no tiene lógica para un sindicalista. Por eso estamos conscientes que se necesita un cambio ya”, sentenciaron.
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress approved $750 million in aid last December to help El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras combat the violence and poverty that are driving migrants towards the U.S. border, but the money has yet to reach the struggling countries.
In a departure from previous aid packages, the State Department first had to certify that the three nations had taken steps to reduce migration and human trafficking, bolster human rights and improve their justice systems.
Eight months after President Barack Obama signed a spending bill that included the funds, congressional aides told Reuters they were still waiting for the State Department certifications needed to release the money, which was budgeted for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
State has not provided its paperwork and Central American governments have not taken the required actions, congressional aides said. Lawmakers have been particularly unhappy about Honduras because of the murder of a prominent environmental activist there.
“The fiscal year 2016 funds have not been obligated because the State Department has not yet submitted a detailed plan as required by law, spelling out how, where and by whom the funds will be used, what their objectives are and how they will measure progress,” said Tim Rieser, a foreign policy aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid.
The delay highlights the longstanding tension between Washington’s desire to promote human rights and the government’s responsibility to protect U.S. security, economic and other interests. In this case, American lawmakers are reluctant to send hundreds of millions of dollars to countries where human rights abuses remain common, despite the flood of migrants towards the U.S. border.
They want to avoid a repeat of past aid programs, in which large amounts of money sent south yielded few results.
“The results have been very disappointing. Programs were poorly conceived, the Central American governments did not do their part, and money was wasted,” Rieser said.
From October 2015 through January 2016, U.S. border patrols stopped some 45,000 Central Americans in the U.S. southwest, more than double the number during the same period a year earlier. Nearly half were unaccompanied children.
None of the countries has yet to meet all the conditions, congressional aides said, although Guatemala is further along. Honduras faces harsh criticism about human rights from lawmakers, due in part to the killing of internationally acclaimed environmentalist Berta Caceres in March.
Dozens of lawmakers have demanded an independent international investigation into her death, and Honduran authorities have arrested five suspects, including an Army officer and an employee of a company running a dam project she opposed.
A spokesman said the State Department was working to obtain congressional approval for the fiscal 2016 funds. In the meantime, he said, the department and U.S. Agency for International Development are using money from prior years to support the U.S. “Strategy for Engagement in Central America.”Guatemalan officials told Reuters they expected their funds to begin arriving between October and November.
In Tegucigalpa, a foreign ministry official who requested anonymity said Honduras has made progress fighting corruption and combating smuggling and hoped the funds would start being released later this year or early in 2017.
In San Salvador, a foreign ministry official said the government was awaiting word on the disbursement, also saying the government had made progress.
Separately, the Obama administration late last month announced the expansion of a programme to let people fleeing violence in the three countries enter the United States as refugees, and said Costa Rica agreed to shelter some of them temporarily.
(Additional reporting by Enrique Pretel in San Jose, Nelson Renteria in San Salvador and Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; editing by John Walcott and David Gregorio)
Rep. Hank Johnson talks about the struggle for human rights and the future of U.S.-Honduras relations.
New data on prison overcrowding supports Honduras decision to backtrack on mandatory pre-trial detention
Latin America is, by far, the most dangerous region in the world for environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs). The murder of campaigner Berta Cáceres in March reverberated worldwide, but a new report by ARTICLE 19, CIEL, and Vermont Law School, A Deadly Shade of Green, reveals this to be only the tip of the iceberg, documenting an atmosphere of violence and physical threats, as well as surveillance, spurious charges, and arbitrary detention, across the region.
Origen: Deadly Shade of Green
Global Sisters Report is focusing a special series on mining and extractive industries and the women religious who work to limit damage and impact on people and the environment, through advocacy, action and policy. Pope Francis last year called for the entire mining sector to undergo “a radical paradigm change.” Sisters are on the front lines to help effect that change.
The mines no longer operate.
The large trucks that carried heavy equipment no longer rumble down dirt roads fogging the air with dust.
The workers no longer trudge along those same roads inhaling the dust weighted by the humidity of dawn.
Community opposition succeeded in shutting down mines in Nueva Esperanza in northern Honduras and El Tránsito far to the south near the border of Nicaragua. But to many people in these two small towns the closings serve only as a pyrrhic victory.
For now, the armed guards that circled the mines are gone. But gone too are the jobs the mines provided. In their place, a lingering loss of trust among residents in these agricultural communities, and a continuing fear that this is just a temporary respite before the mines in both towns reopen.
The privately owned mines began their operations in regions where families had subsisted off the land for centuries. The mines’ presence altered both the landscape and the social fabric of these communities.
Now, more than two years after countless protests stopped the mines, the fault lines between those who support mining and those who don’t because of concern about the potential for environmental damage and the loss of a way of life continue to divide communities and even some families. More disturbingly, death threats toward opponents of mining have become an increasing concern, especially since the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres in March of this year.
Honduras now has the highest murder rate for environmental activists in the world, and conflict over land rights is the primary driver. Rampant inequality, a weak judicial system, cozy relationships between political and business elites, and near total impunity for crimes against human rights defenders have contributed to 109 murders of environmental activists between 2010 and 2015, according to Global Witness, a British non-governmental organization which tracks human rights and environmental abuses.
“We were threatened: ‘You better not show your face in this town again,’ ” said Sr. Maria de Rosario Soriano, a member of the Messengers of the Immaculate order, who with other sisters from her community supported anti-mining activists in Nueva Esperanza. “We didn’t go to Nueva Esperanza for a few weeks. Even the priests and our mother superior told us it was better to stay away for a while.”
Hundreds of miles away, outside El Tránsito, where tree-lined mountains punctuate a seared skyline of hazy heat, Sr. Reyna Corea sat in the shaded terrace of Hermanas of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. She knew of the struggles in Nueva Esperanza but said with evident relief that El Tránsito was not as divided. However, she added, all was not well. Differences between the residents of El Tránsito and implicit threats existed there, too.
“I feel I’m discriminated against by the police and municipality,” said Corea, 51, who opposed mining in El Tránsito. “When I need help to bring water to a community, they deny me and the other sisters. They say we are with those activists who protest and riot. They say we are with the instigators. They say, ‘You better stop what you are doing.’ In Honduras, such a warning makes an impression.”
The mine comes to Nueva Esperanza
Nueva Esperanza is home to about 1,000 people. Five rivers run through it: Leán, Congo, the Metalias, Santiago and Alao. The town sits at the foot and climbs up the slopes of the mountains that separate the department or county of Atlántida from the neighboring department of Yoro. The mountains hold gold, iron and other mineral deposits. Dirt roads, some not more than paths, line the mountains. The people here farm the rich soil, harvesting corn, beans and other basic staples.
“We are poor,” a woman said near the church in Arizona, about a two-hour drive from Nueva Esperanza, “but we are not hungry.”
Between 2011 and 2013, when businessman Lenir Perez, owner of the Minerales Victoria mining company, purchased 2471.05 acres, covering all of Nueva Esperanza and 15 other farming communities, the residents of Nueva Esperanza “were victims of militarization and para-militarization of their territories, persecution and threats, and police and judicial harassment,” according to a co-sponsored report by El Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC), a Jesuit-sponsored investigation and research organization in Honduras, and the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University of Missouri. The June 2016 report found that families lived under siege. Activists received death threats from the police and anonymous callers by phone and text messaging.
“For more than a year we could not go out after 6 p.m.,” said activist Olga Hernandez, 29, a Nueva Esperanza resident. “Private security from the mine patrolled the streets. Nothing ever happened. It was a psychological thing: ‘Don’t go out, or else.’ That ‘or else’ kept us inside.”
Despite the intimidation, Soriano spoke out against the mine.
“The mine first came offering jobs and huge amounts of money for land,” she recalled. “So, we started telling the community, ‘Don’t be naive and believe in everything they offer.'”
Soriano said she and another sister, Presentación Aguilar, organized community meetings in local churches to discuss mining and its impact on health and the environment. They cited the Book of Genesis and how it called on mankind to protect nature, not exploit it.
Perez, the sisters said, never confronted them. But men with guns who did not wear police or military uniforms observed their meetings. They did not attend but peered through windows.
“We had to give talks with armed goons looking in on us,” Soriano said. “It came to a point where we were so afraid we called our mother superior and asked her if we should leave or stay. She told us to look into our hearts and we felt we could not leave the community.”
The sisters stayed, but the harassment, they said, continued even within the church. At one meeting, Aguilar discussed her opposition to mining when a member of the church jumped up and told her to shut up and stop spreading lies.
“You could feel the anger and the uproar in the entire community,” said Aguilar. “Hatred was in the air between those who worked for the mine and those who opposed it. Even in church gatherings.”
Although Perez, who did not return repeated phones calls and emails requesting an interview for this story, never confronted the sisters, he did communicate with the vicar of the nearby parish of Arizona. A priest there, Fr. Cesar Espinoza, had been voicing his support for those who opposed mining.
“I spoke out against the mine,” Espinoza, 39, recalled. “On local radio, from the pulpit. I asked the bishop to speak out against it. I spoke everywhere and wrote my opinions for publications.”
In May 2013, Espinoza’s supervisor, the vicar, exchanged emails with Perez. He chastised Perez for not being candid about his operation and for increasing antagonism.
“Do you think being transparent is to sneak in machinery on a Saturday escorted by the police?” Vicar Victor Camara wrote in an email, a copy of which was provided to Global Sisters Report. “Have you chosen force and conflict? I hope that you ponder the consequences and that above all no human lives be put at stake, since no human life is worth all the gold in the world. Please know that with conflict there will be no winners, everybody will lose, including you.”
Perez responded that he “only believed in doing things in an honest way.” He said it saddened him to see Honduras “taken apart by businessmen, drug dealers, politicians and environmentalists (communists and subversive curas).” Curas is a derogatory term for priests. Perez also accused the church of cowardice for not having stopped Espinoza’s advocacy against the mine. He called Espinoza “another sinner behind his robe.”
“Believe me, I would like to open that mine hand in hand with the community,” Perez wrote, “but I will not allow a Guatemalan [Espinoza] and the activists to destroy this country.”
Two months later, on July 25, 2013, Orlane Vidal and Daniel Langmeier, with the Honduras Accompaniment Project, a program of the Friendship Office of the Americas designed to engage in nonviolent protest in Honduras, were held captive for two and a half hours by armed men, who, according to Amnesty International, were from the Nueva Esperanza mining project.
The observers had been staying with a family opposed to the mine. Amnesty International found that the leader of the armed men told Vidal and Langmeier that they would be “disappeared in the woods” if they returned to the area. The observers were held at gunpoint and warned not to speak publicly about their abduction. They were released at a bus stop in Nueva Florida, a town not far from Nueva Esperanza. They filed complaints with the authorities. The abductors were not charged.
“It was like an amber alert when we heard about the abduction,” Espinoza recalled. “Everyone — activists, church members — called the government demanding their release. The vice president issued the order to locate them immediately.”
The kidnapping galvanized the community. Honduran law allows mayors the final decision on whether a mine can or cannot operate in their township. In the municipal elections of 2013, anti-mine activists met with mayoral candidates and asked them to sign an anti-mining pledge. On August 20, 2014, upon taking office, the newly elected mayor, Mario Fuentes, closed the Nueva Esperanza mine. But activists say the closing did not end the matter.
“The problem is still ongoing,” said Sr. Aguilar. “The mine still owns the land. What will happen if we elect a mayor who supports mining?”
Activist Olga Hernandez said the land remains as scarred as the community.
“Today, you see plants and trees growing back but the personal damage is like the mountains they flattened. You can’t make a mountain grow back.”
After the mine closed, resentful, unemployed mine workers unleashed their anger toward the activists, said Arizona deputy mayor Cesar Alvarenga, an opponent of the mine. He said his wife left him because of the threats.
“Yes, I still get threats,” Alvarenga said. “This fight has ruined my life. It is very difficult to live with fear because we know these people are so powerful. They have money and the support of the government and won’t go away easily. They invested a lot of money, and we know they won’t lose it like that.”
A town with a 200-year-old mining history
More than 500 miles south of Nueva Esperanza, the town of El Tránsito stands beneath a wide sky and bright sun that scorches the land with a dry heat far different from the humidity that wraps the mountains of Nueva Esperanza.
The El Tránsito mine dates back to the early 1800s. Hundreds of mining tunnels, residents say, run beneath the town like a maze of prairie dog burrows, destabilizing centuries-old buildings. Decades of mining, residents say, polluted local waters making it unfit for human consumption because of high levels of cyanide and lead, among other heavy minerals. There are no known official reports, but residents say they don’t use the water.
“We used to play in the closed mines,” recalled activist Jose Lucio Lopez, 43, who grew up in El Tránsito. “It was a beautiful little town. Quiet. Nothing was ever disturbed.”
The mine had been closed for decades when it started operations again in 2014 after Honduran businesswoman Maria Gertrudis Valle claimed the land as belonging to her. She did not respond to messages from GSR asking for comment.
“Five years ago this woman came into town,” recalled Sr. Reyna Corea. “She said she had documents that showed this land belonged to her. She sent representatives to speak for her. She was like a ghost, rarely seen but known to exist.”
At first, Corea said, the residents of El Tránsito supported the mine until its workers began using explosives. The ground trembled and the walls and floors of houses began to crack.
“They dynamited day and night,” Lopez said. He said as many as 200 people from outside the town would come to work in the mine.
“The whole town would shake from the dynamite,” Lopez said. “As many as 80 explosions a day, every day.”
More than 200 activists, he said, organized sit-ins blocking the road to the mine. Twenty people always occupied the road 24 hours a day. If activists saw a stranger in town they suspected of being with the mine or an unfamiliar vehicle, they would ring the church bell, a call to activists to support the people at the sit-in. The protesters would not allow miners who had managed to enter the property to leave. Police were forced to bring them food and water. A year after the sit-ins began, the mine ceased operations in November 2015. Success, however, has not lessened the threats activists here say they face.
“People have tried to bribe us to be quiet,” said Lourdes Zelaya, 43, a mother of two children, of herself and her husband. “We have been chased by cars and motorcycles trying to force us off the road. People tell us, ‘Watch out. You will be killed.’ At the sit-in, a police officer told my husband, ‘You will be killed.’ We tried to file a complaint, but the police department refused to take it.”
Her 18-year-old daughter Marci said she, too, feels in danger.
“I live in fear something will happen to me because of what is happening to my parents,” she said. “I’d like to help them but I don’t know how. I am vulnerable. I know they can hurt my parents by doing something to me.”
The ongoing threats against activists suggest that the mine owner or other business interests hope to reopen the mine, Corea said.
“As in Nueva Esperanza and all over Honduras, the mine owners will keep trying,” she said. “They will not fall asleep because the mine is not operating. Of course, the problem always comes down to money. People see cash and they lose sight of things, so if money comes then we can’t say what will happen.”
Los dirigentes y simpatizantes de la mayor parte de los partidos de oposición política al gobierno salieron a las calles para pronunciarse en contra de la pretendida reelección del presidente actual.
Origen: Bingo político antes del trueno
La reflexión sociológica actual de la sociedad hondureña está avocada a nuestra historia, pues sin ella no podemos comprender el presente. El recurso de la historia, empleado al modo en que nos lo heredaron los pensadores clásicos de la sociología Marx, Durkheim y Weber, permite entender de dónde venimos para entender mejor hacia dónde vamos.
The Honduras Police Reform Commission has released a first assessment of the new online denunciation platform in its latest move to try and purge Honduras’ corrupt police, revealing officers were most often accused of abuse of authority and drug related faults.