Formal Indictment of Soldiers Who Killed 2 Garífuna Men While OFRANEH Rejects the Militarization of Their Communities
The below is a translation of an article which appeared on the website Pasos de Animal Grandes.
Late on the evening of January 5, 2016, courts in Trujillo, Colon, issued the formal order of prosecution against soldiers who killed two Garífuna men last December 27, 2015. However, OFRANEH, the Black Fraternal Organization of Hondurans, rejected the militarization of their communities and condemned the fact that President Juan Orlando Hernandez and senior officers of the armed forces have supported the crime by placing those responsible for the slaughter as heroes.
Gunfire by soldiers of the Honduran Navy resulted in the murder of the young Garifuna Jostin Lino Palacios 24 and Elvis Garcia, 19, in the community of Barra de Iriona department Columbus, after a shootout triggered by soldiers who fired at close range against several people of the Garífuna community.
Alfredo Lopez, Vice-President of OFRANEH, reported that in the last months of the year at least two Garífuna communities, Límon and Plaplaya were the subject of militarization which has left a strategy of repression of their populations.
But Lopez said that the outcome of this hearing does not generate satisfaction in neither OFRANEH nor the community of Iriona because even if a case has been made against them, government officials and the President of the Republic himself have lifted those who did this tot he level of hero.
“The fact that the Naval personnel are imprisoned is only part of the beginning of a debt that they must pay to the community. We will continue with the complaint so that this case does not go unpunished and also especially so that the senior officers who ordered attack our brothers are sentenced,” said Lopez.
They denounced the role of state institutions that have called for silence in the face of the abuse of the military force against the Garífuna people, such has been the role of the National Directorate of Indigenous and Afro-Honduran People (DINAFROH) “acting in the complicity of our suffering and that is why we resent the behavior of these toadies of those who kill our people.”
In over 100 years of Honduran bipartisanship, the Garífuna people have been subjected to a violent policy towards the claim for their rights. Such was the case in 1937, during the rule of nationalist dictator Tiburcio Carias Andino, he implemented the slaughter of San Juan, and like a bridge in time, here is another government under the blue flag with a lone star in the framework of its support in the military executing the same policy as the dictator of the 30s.
The names of the soldiers are Cristian Joel Ford (24), Hyde Velasques Jassman Briand (19), Angel David Lainez Barrera (20), Jose Luis Majano Escober (23), Luis Alexis Aguilera Zuniga (23), Edim Joasiel Martinez Castellanos ( 23) and Ruben Dario Rivera Andino (34). The above were indicted for the crime of manslaughter.
Listen to a Radio Progreso report on the incident here:
Paola Barraza & Estefania Zuniga, Transgender LGBTI Human Rights Defenders Assassinated
“Paola Barraza was a member of the board of directors of Asociación LGTB Arcoíris (LGTB Rainbow Association), an organisation which works for equality and equity for the lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex (LGTBI) community in Honduras.”
In two separate attacks, Estifania “Nia” Zuniga, on Jan 20th, and Paola Barazza, on the 24th, were murdered in cold blood in violent attacks in Teguicigalpa.
The following alert regarding Paola was issued by Frontline Defenders:
On 24 January 2016, human rights defender Ms Paola Barraza was assassinated by unknown attackers in front of her house in the neighbourhood of Lempira, in Comayaguela.
Paola Barraza was a member of the board of directors of Asociación LGTB Arcoíris (LGTB Rainbow Association), an organisation which works for equality and equity for the lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex (LGTBI) community in Honduras.
The human rights defender was at home on 24 January 2016 when, at approximately 8pm, unknown persons knocked at her door and called her outside. When Paola Barraza answered the door she was fired upon five times. She was shot three times in the head and twice in the chest, and died at the scene as a result of her wounds. The killing was reported to the authorities charged with investigating crimes against members of the LGTBI community, however, as of 27 January 2016, no investigator had been assigned to the case.
Paola Barraza was previously attacked in connection with her LGTBI rights work on 15 August 2015. She was shot numerous times by unknown men in the vicinity of Asociación LGTB Arcoíris offices. She was seriously injured in the attack.
The Asociación LGTB Arcoíris has continued to operate in Honduras in spite of increasingly extreme levels of violence faced by LGTBI rights defenders. Between 23 June 2015 and 31 August 2015, three LGTBI rights defenders working in country were killed, with several more subjected to physical assault, intimidation and threats.
Arcoiris urges the authorities in Honduras to:
Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the assassination of
human rights defender Paola Barraza, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
Publicly condemn the killing of human rights defender Paola Barraza;
Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of the members of Asociación Arcoíris and all LGTBI human rights defenders in Honduras;
Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Honduras are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
Please take action on human rights defenders in Honduras.
The above can be adapted to a letter to the Honduran government and sent here:
President of Honduras
Sr. Juan Orlando Hernandez
Casa Presidencial, Barrio las Lomas
Boulevard Juan Pablo II,
Fax: +504 22905088
Thank you for taking action on behalf of human rights defenders at risk.
Below is the denunciation of the murder of Nia Zuniga issued by the Central American Network of Trans Men (RECAHT in its Spanish acronym). English translation below.
Election of the Judges for the Supreme Court of Justice
For a detailed breakdown of the election process and its corruptions and irregularities, see Karen Spring’s report.
The process began with a list of 200 applicants for the position of Supreme Court Magistrate submitted to a nominating board which was made up of the ruling elite and its cronies. 45 nominees were selected by this board with the unsurprising result being that the majority were from President Juan Orlando Hernandez’ National Party and the rest from the other wing of the oligarchy the Liberal Party. These 45 nominees’ names were given to the National Congress to vote on the selection of 23 who would then serve for a term of 7 years on the court.
On January 28th the Congress convened at 10 am and by 1pm they had selected the first 8 magistrates for the new court. The voting continued through the rest of the day, but no other nominees received the required majority. The court adjourned at 8pm. In an historical move on the part of the opposition parties in the Congress, the next day’s vote resulted in a shut down of the process as still no new nominees made it through the election process. This was the first time in Honduran history the the two party system had been shut down in such an important legislative session. Through out the process the President of the Congress, Mauricio Oliva attempted to make the voting private so that those who had been paid off could toe the National Party line without fear of public scrutiny. JOH also threatened to jail any Congress member who made their threat public. In defiance, members of PAC, LIBRE and PINU stood up and pointed their ballots at the cameras to show the world that they would not be intimidated by the ruling elites threats. The Congress adjourned on Friday the 29th and scheduled a new vote for Monday Feb 1st.
Indigenous Rights Win Major Steps Forward in Honduras
Photo by Felipe Canova. Forum on Land grabbing in Latin America, La Ceiba, 2011.
In a major win for Indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples in Honduras, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a judgment in January declaring the State of Honduras responsible for the violation of collective ownership rights and the lack of judicial protection. The case was brought by OFRANEH, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras which has been working for years to defend the territory of the Indigenous Garifuna peoples and a partner of a broad coalition of Indigenous and campesino rights organizations across Honduras.
After two years of deliberation, the Court, which is an international appeals court for countries in the Americas, issued the two judgments, upholding the communities’ right to Free, Prior, Informed Consent in front of development projects on their lands. The Court stated unequivocally: “Regarding the right to consultation and cultural identity, the Court considered that the consultation must be applied prior to any exploration project that may affect the traditional lands of the indigenous and tribal communities.” The ruling therefore extends protection Indigenous peoples across the country.
After years of considering a petition from OFRANEH, in February 2013 the Human Rights Commission of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (ICHR) presented the case to the Inter-American Court detailing the Honduran government’s violation of Garifuna collective ownership rights (citing Article 21 of the American Convention on Human Rights), lack of access to a fair trial and lack of judicial protection in the Garifuna communities of Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra. In addition, the case notes that the Honduran government violated the Garifuna’s rights to “Free, Prior, and Informed Consent”, a main tenet of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
During the site visit from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (ICHR). members of the Garifuna community presented moving and detailed testimonies about land rights violations that they have faced for decades that provided the basis of more than 30 legal claims of land usurpation presented to the ICHR.
Reparation measures ordered by the Court last month include, among other matters: the investigation of five assassinations of Garifuna people defending their ancestral lands; a public act of acknowledgment of international responsibility ; demarcation of the land on which it has been granted collective ownership to the Punta Piedra community ; collective land ownership titles, properly defined and demarcated on the plot of land known as the Triunfo de la Cruz Garifuna traditional territory; free access, use, and enjoyment of collective property and commons of both communities; and measures to ensure that the provisions on mining regulations do not undermine the right to consultation.
The Garifuna people currently have three more cases and several petitions at the Commission. For OFRANEH the violations of collective and human rights perpetrated by the State of Honduras demonstrate the existence of deliberate land grabs and expulsions in Garifuna territory. As Julian Eramos Castillo, Vice President of the communal authority of Triunfo the la Cruz shared, “After the Coup we resist, and we will continue in resistance… we, Garifuna people, fight to the death. We will continue defending our ancestral territory to ensure our children never lose our culture, language and connection to land.”
In 2014, Cultural Survival worked with Grassroots International and a coalition of Indigenous and Black organizations of Honduras ODHPINH, of which OFRANEH is a member, to submit aUniversal Periodic Review report on Honduras to the UN Human Rights Council detailing human rights abuses against Indigenous and Afro-descendent Peoples. During their review session in 2015, Honduras faced criticism from the Human Rights Council on its treatment of Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, especially regarding discrimination within the political system, the state’s use of repressive violence, and with regard to land rights. As a result of this review session, the government of Honduras formally accepted a number of recommendations, meaning that the Honduras is obligated to implement these recommendations at the national level over the next four years and demonstrate their progress by 2019. The accepted recommendations related to Honduras’s Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities include:
- 123.59 Improve the precarious situation of indigenous peoples and Afro- descendent communities
- 124.20 End discrimination in law and practice against indigenous and Afro- Honduran people
- 124.8 Strengthen the institutional framework undertaken for the benefit of indigenous and Afro- Honduran peoples
- 125.55 Ensure prompt investigations into attacks and threats against human rights defenders, indigenous people, and journalists as well as to ensure that they can carry out their activities without fear of reprisals
- 124.57 Further promote the participation of Afro-Hondurans and the indigenous communities in the public sphere; Step-up socioeconomic policies to enable the active participation of people of African descent in economic, social and political sphere
- 125.71 Implement measures to reduce poverty and instances of social exclusion among indigenous people and Afro-Honduran communities
- 125.76 Continue ongoing efforts aimed at enhancing the participation and consultations of indigenous peoples on public policies that affect them, fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries.
Honduran Government and Hydrolectric Project Attempt to Privatize the Gualcarque River Without Consultation and Against the Wishes of the Indigenous Lenca
Employees of Desarrollos Energeticos, SA (DESA) along with police, a military unit called the Tigers, and unidentified persons threaten to charge the Lenca people with usurpation of the river and prohibit the Lenca of Rio Blanco, who lead the resistance, to move freely within their own territory. They have organized themselves under the tutelage of COPINH (The Council of Popular and Ingigenous Organization of Honduras) against the Agua Zarca project, which affects the sacred Gualcarque river that is, as stated by Tomas Membreño, “the source of life for our communities, for our world and for our food sovereignty.”
For background info please click here to read Rights Action’s report: The Agua Zarca Dam and Lenca Communities in Honduras: Transnational Investment Leads to Violence against and Criminalization of Indigenous Communities
President Juan Orlando Hernandez signs pact with the OAS
Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH in Spanish) has been approved, but many question its seriousness in combating corruption and impunity.
After months of protests in the streets calling for an end to the corruption and impunity of the JOH government, the Organization of American States (OAS) and JOH cobbled together an agreement that makes the promise to investigate and prosecute corruption. In other words the foxes will investigate their rival foxes so that they can continue to raid the henhouse without competition. As the human rights lawyers Omar Menjivar and Verenice Bengston point out (original in Spanish):
“A quick glance at the Agreement is enough to know that the MACCIH doesn’t even have sufficiently independent powers to investigate effectively, nor to guarantee the exercise of public prosecutions. Consider a short example from the legal framework: although MACCIH enjoys economic independence from the government (see paragraph 11.1 of the Convention) MACCIH lacks the capacity for independent action because its action is limited to “support”, “advice” and ” accompaniment “of Honduran institutions for information. This implies that they may even find legal constraints such as the Official Secrets Act and Public Information Disclosure, as questioned both nationally and internationally, as being balanced against the basic principles of transparency. (See paragraph 8.1.2).”
After months of demanding an international independent commission to combat governmental corruption similar to the CICIG which saw Guatemala’s President and Vice-Presidents jailed and prosecuted, Honduras, in collaboration with the US State Department and the OAS, have instituted a watered down “support mission” that will do little more than allow the dictatorship of JOH to go after his political rivals or anyone who questions his corrupt authority.
Elvin Fransisco Molino Arrested for Posting Info About National Banking Irregularities.
33 year old Elvin Fransisco Molino was arrested on January 21 and released the next day. His charge, disseminating false information regarding irregularities in financial institutions, a crime that has a penalty of 3 to 6 years in jail and a fine of 20 to 50 thousand lempiras (US $900 – $2000). The government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez has stretched the meaning of Article 394 in the Penal Code in attempt to charge Molino with this crime. The real purpose is intimidation. Molino is an ex-employee of Alimentos de Continental a food packaging and distributing company that had been owned by the Rosenthal family until it was confiscated and liquidated by the Honduran government after Rosenthal family members were ordered to be extradited to the US for narco money laundering charges. Molino has been an out spoken member of the ex-employees demanding that he government pay the ex-employees from the liquidated cash. He has also been an active member of the Indignados movement in San Pedro Sula. This is the movement that has been protesting the government and particularly the President’s National Party which has been shown to have enriched itself from some $30 million in funds embezzled from the Social Security Institute.
After Elvin was released he posted this to his Facebook page (English translation below):
“To all my friends asking about me, I want to confirm that I am now happily at home, my family beside me !! There are details that I can not share with you because, as I had mentioned in previous days, I had received suspicious friends requests here on Facebook, as well as having received suspicious calls. I want to thank everyone for their support and solidarity !! Our fight for the payment submitted by the 320 former employees of continental foods continues and what happened yesterday with me, should not intimidate us!! To the Contrary, let it motivate and inspire us to continue fighting. My cell phone was seized so I apologize to those who were probably calling me to ask about my condition …. THEY ARE AFRAID BECAUSE WE ARE NOT AFRAID HLVS (Hasta la Victoria Siempre)”
Installation of Hydroelectric Project Violates the Rights of Consultation in the Garífuna Community
Translation from a Radio Progreso report. The Original in Spanish can be found here.
The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Ofraneh) denounced this week the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the mighty river Cuyamel for violating the right to free, prior, and informed consultation of the Garífuna community of Sambo Creek in the department of Atlantída.
In 2005 and 2009 several attempts were made to appropriate the Cuyamel river basin for the construction of an aqueduct and then later for a hydroelectric dam. Currently, the government of Juan Orlando Hernández has authorized the construction of a hydroelectric dam supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). This agency made available more than 300 million lempiras (approx. US $13.4 million) for construction.
The Cuyamel river is in the protected area of the Nombre de Dios mountain range and is the main source of fresh water for over 8000 Garifunas in the community of Sambo Creek. They are dependent on this river for the consumption of drinking water and for crop irrigation.
According to Ofraneh, the actions taken by the government to use the river and concession without consulting the community is a violation of ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, legal instruments that consider the prior consultation of communities as an essential step towards the use of natural resources.
On January 28, representatives of the community of Sambo Creek mobilized to Tegucigalpa, to protest in front of the premises of the Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Mining (SERNA) demanding respect for self-determination.
In this action the Garifuna denounced the role being played by the authorities in the municipality of La Ceiba, the National Autonomous Service of Aqueducts and Sewers (SANAA) and the National Electricity Company (ENEE), who are already doing work in the river arguing that the dam will solve the energy crisis facing the Caribbean coastline.
Nahum Lalin, an Ofraneh youth coordinator, said that the protests will continue until they stop the construction and if they don’t get results at home, they will take the case to international judicial bodies.
Casa Alianza Reports an Alarming Number of Homicides of Young Girls and Women Under the Age of 23;
The US Steps up its deportation of Families, Many Who Fled Honduras Due to the Violence
Casa Alianza, a Honduran NGO which provides services to at risk youth in addition to investigating and reporting on violent crimes against minors, issued its report for December 2015. The report states that between January and December of last year there were 900 cases of arbitrary executions and violent deaths of young people under the age of 23. Of those, 72 of the victims were female. Also, within the last six months of 2015, no less than six minors were murdered by the Honduran military.
On January 4, 2016, The US Dept of Homeland Security announced that it will begin large scale raids of undocumented immigrants, mostly families from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and deporting them despite many of them qualifying for protected status. Ian Philabaum, an attourny working pro bono for many of the families in a South Texas residential facitlity, states:
“These people have legitimate fears of returning home and had inadequate legal representation while proceeding with their asylum claims… Staff in the facility have been telling all the women here they have no legal recourse… Meanwhile, we’re scrambling to find these women to see if they want to continue fighting. For 100 percent of the women we’ve talked to, there have been claims of fear and due process issues.”
The Fight for Indigenous Rights in the Mosquitia
The indigenous rights group MASTA, whose name is derived from the combining of the names of the three prominent indigenous groups (Miskitu – Asla – Tankanka) in the region known as the Mosquito Coast, released a statement on January 13th demanding that the Honduran government respect the rights of the indigenous peoples with respect to the archeological exploration of the recently unearthed “White City of the Monkey God,” a name that local indigenous groups “strongly reject” and “which has resulted from recent research, a name we deem as a demeaning, discriminatory and racist action detrimental to our Miskito people.”
This statement came one day after President Juan Orlando Hernandez visited the site, flying in by helicopter with military special forces at his side. Hernandez declared that, “Our country will offer at low prices and terms the archaeology of the Maya and the White City, the cultural life of the Garífuna, Lenca, Miskito and all the other native people. And also sun, sand and beaches,” The obvious offensiveness and ignorance of his statement is underlined by the fact that all archeologists familiar with the site and the research of the area cite that the artifacts found aren’t Mayan, but rather belonging to the Pech indigenous group.
National Geographic, now owned by Rupert Murdock, did an archeological exhibition in 2015 which has been criticized by many noted Archeologists for NatGeo’s use of “colonialist language” in its description of a “lost civilization.” These experts also deride the sensationalist nature that the excavation has been given by both NatGeo and the Hernandez government.
MASTA’s webpage: http://www.mastamiskitu.org/
Articles regarding the White City
MASTA’s statement: https://hrohblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/masta-english-translation.pdf
The Silence of the Innocents:
A group called Natural ConCiensia, whose mission is to promote environmental awareness and restore our ecosystem, created an art installation using tree stumps in downtown Tegucigalpa. They report that about 72 trees were felled along Gutemberg Avenue and Guanacaste Street. Click the link for more photos and original Spanish text on their Facebook page: Silencio de los inocentes