image-title

Guatemala held elections last Sunday that were marred by the interference of the powers controlling the country in the electoral process. The primary anti-corruption candidate, who had been leading in the polls, fled to El Salvador after receiving a death threat earlier in the campaign season, as did the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal threw various obstacles in front of one of the indigenous parties, MLP, to limit its ability to campaign and to limit the number of votes for its candidates. One of its candidates and two of its campaign committee members were murdered. Neither of the two Presidential candidates who won the most votes and will have a run-off election in September have promised to support the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), and so it will cease operations in September 2019.

Nevertheless, indigenous and progressive parties did better than usual in this election, and the population in general is outraged at official corruption. Below is a more detailed report on the election results by our friends at the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA.

 

Guatemala’s June 16th General Elections:

Parties implicated in corruption will face off for the presidency, dominate congress

Strongest showing yet by opposition parties

 

GHRC

June 18, 2019

As expected, Sunday’s general elections in Guatemala resulted in a run-off for the presidency between former First Lady Sandra Torres (National  Unity of Hope – UNE – party) and four-time presidential candidate Alejandro Giamattei (Vamos Party).  The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) reports that Torres took the lead with close to 26% of the vote and Giamattei followed with just under 14%. The run-off will take place August 11. Elected candidates will take office January 14.

The TSE reports that UNE won 53 out of 160 available congressional seats, up from 28 in the last elections.  UNE’s congressional showing alone makes it the dominant political force. Vamos took 16 seats.  During the outgoing Congress, UNE often voted with the“Pact of Corrupts,” an informal coalition that promoted laws favoring corruption and impunity, of which Vamos was considered an ally.

Maya Mam community organizer Thelma Cabrera (Movement for Peoples’ Liberation – MLP – party) came in with 10.5% of the vote, making her the highest polling indigenous presidential candidate ever in Guatemala, a majority indigenous country.  She came in a close fourth place behind Edmund Mulet.  Cabrera’s newly created MLP party issued a statement late in the day on Monday, rejecting the TSE’s official reports.  The MLP reports that local TSE officials refused to provide copies of the official acts registering polling station results as required by law, in some districts the MLP’s symbol was omitted from the ballot, the TSE did not provide MLP with its legally mandated publicity budget, and the TSE blocked MLP locals from opening bank accounts.  Concern regarding electoral irregularities has been heightened since the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes, Oscar Schaad, resigned his post and fled Guatemala five days before the elections in response to death threats.   Leopaldo Guerra, the Director of the TSE’ Citizens Registry, which oversees the registration of candidates, also took a leave just days before the elections citing health reasons, while the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity (FECI), Juan Francisco Sandoval, is also reported to be on vacation.

Rural political observers note that during the campaign president Jimmy Morales’ principal anti-poverty initiative, a bag of foodstuffs known as “bolsa solidaria”, was handed out in many areas by UNE political operators.  This suggests an alliance between the outgoing FCN party and UNE.  Over seventeen years and one presidency, the UNE party, created to sponsor Torres’ former husbandÁlvaro Arzú [CRLN note: her former husband was Álvaro Colom] unsuccessful 2003 presidential bid, has built a voting base in rural areas where political clientelism dominates communities plagued by extreme levels of poverty.  Analysts also questioned Giammattei’s presidential showing, noting the Vamos party had no structure in the countryside and in the city polled similarly to Cabrera and Mulet.

On February 27 the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) and its counterpart in the Public Prosecutors office, FECI, asked the Supreme Court of Justice to remove Sandra Torres’ political immunity, which derives from her status as a candidate, to face indictment for crimes related to illicit campaign financing during her last presidential bid in 2015.  This impeachment request is currently pending before the Constitutional Court. Torres could still face charges. Guatemalan press revealed that the charges against Torres were held up in the Attorney Generals’ Office until after she had gained immunity by registering as a candidate.

In 2009 Alejandro Giamattei faced charges brought by CICIG, he was accused of participation in death squad activities while he served as National Penitentiary Director in 2005 and 2006. After first seeking asylum in the Honduran embassy during the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti, Giamattei was acquitted in 2011 by Judge Carol Patricia Flores.  Flores is renowned for judicial acrobatics which favor impunity for corruption and crimes against humanity.  In April 2015, CICIG and FECI requested the removal of Flores’ immunity so that she could be investigated for money laundering and illicit enrichment.  Instead she was sanctioned and it was removed from presiding over a high-risk courtroom.

Sandra Torres has also been touched by prison murder scandals.  Her niece was arrested as an accomplice of Marvin “El Taquero” Montiel Marin in the prison murder of Montiel Marin’s rival, Byron Lima, for control of criminal networks in prison.  Montiel Marin is imprisoned convicted of running a drug assassin network responsible for burning a bus, killing all 26 people inside.

In keeping with past elections, TSE reported that approximately 5 million of 8 million registered voters participated and 13% voted null or left their ballots blank.  In the 2015 electoral law time nullified ballots can have legal implications; if over 50% of ballots are annulled the electoral law would mandate repeated elections.

This election was deeply impacted by court decisions.  Torres’ early challenger Zury Rios was removed from the ballot after the Constitutional Court supported the Elections Tribunal’s finding that, as the daughter of military coup author Efrian Rios Montt, Zury Rios is constitutionally barred from the presidency.  Corruption charges generally believed to be politically motivated removed another early front runner from the race, Semilla candidate and former Attorney General Thelma Aldana.  Aldana remains unable to enter Guatemala without arrest.  Mario Estrada, a lower polling candidate but who represented a significant party, UCN, was arrested in Miami on drug trafficking charges on April 17.  Despite the scandal, UCN won twelve seats in Congress.

Left-leaning opposition parties made the strongest showing since the 1950 elections spurred a CIA backed coup that led to decades of extreme violence directed against any opposition to the business-military alliance that ruled the country.  Parties identified with social demands and anti-corruption platforms took 15 seats in Congress; Semilla (7), Winaq (4), MLP (1) and URNG (3).  In the previous congress, they held thirteen seats; URNG- Winaq (3), Convergencia (3), and Encuentro por Guatemala (7).  Nineth Montenegro, human rights activist and congresswoman since 1996, was not re-elected.  Her party, Encuentro por Guatemala, did not win any seats and according to reforms in the electoral law, will cease to exist. Winaq candidate Aldo Davila on Sunday became the first openly gay man elected to congress. Sandra Moran was the first openly gay woman when she won a congressional seat in the 2015 elections on the Convergencia ticket.  She did not seek re-election. Convergencia did not win any seats in congress and will face a similar fate as Encuentro por Guatemala.

TSE results divide the remaining congressional seats between fifteen small, right wing parties.  Like UNE, they generally appear to have ties to corruption and drug trafficking networks, but are more strongly allied with the military, which seeks protection from prosecution for crimes against humanity.  Giamattei’s VAMOS party won 16 seats, while current president Jimmy Morales’ FCN party took only 7 seats.  Zury Rios’ VALOR party won 9 seats. The Humanista party, whose presidential candidate Edmund Mulet took third place with just over 11% of the vote, won 4 seats in Congress. Mulet was accused of collaborating in a child trafficking ring in the early 1980s. Mulet’s newly formed party’s founders came from the government of former President Alfonso Portillo, who served a prison sentence in New York for financial crimes. Portillo’s attempted bid for Congress was barred by electoral laws, his party, BIEN, won 8 seats.

The most significant incident reported at the polls on election day was the arrest of former General Luis Enrique Mendoza Garcia, the father-in-law of Estuardo Galdamez, presidential candidate for the governing FCN party who garnered just 4% of the vote.  General Mendoza Garcia, arrested Salama, Baja Verapaz, is charged with participating in acts of genocide against Maya Ixil communities between 1982-83.  Galdamez, a congressman representing El Quiche, also served as a military officer in the Ixil area during the genocide.  Maya community leaders and authorities from El Quiche reported with concern that during his campaign Galdamez sought to revive networks of military and former civil patrollers by promising payments to war veterans and demanding impunity for crimes against humanity committed by the military against a largely civilian population in the 1970 and 1980s.  Galdamez and seven fellow congressmen are accused of working with then Vice President Roxana Baldetti to pay fellow congressional representatives for votes on law proposals.

At least two candidates were murdered during campaigns, a mayorial candidate with the FUERZA party and a municipal corporation candidate with MLP.  The MLP also reported the murder of two campaign committee members in the Peten department.  The MLP killings are the latest in a series of murders that target successful Maya-led political projects. Thelma Cabrera represented the newly formed MLP party, the political arm of CODECA, a grassroots indigenous campesino community development organization.  A second successful community development organization, CCDA, brought important support to the Convergencia party. CCDA’s former National Coordinator, Leocadio Juracan, was a high profile congressman who from congress visibly promoted indigenous and campesino rights.

Last year, as planning for campaigns began, CODECA reported that six local leaders were murdered; the CCDA reported three. In 2019, CODECA reported the murder of a community organizer. All of these killings remain in impunity.  Cabrera’s relative success has caused reactions from the business sector. Juan Carlos Telef, president of Guatemala’s largest business association, CACIF,expressed concern that someone with Thelma Cabrera’s political perspectives could gain 10% of the vote.

Given Cabrera’s successful campaign, the increased show in congress, and the violence against MLP, CODECA and CCDA, it is concerning that attacks against parties with strong indigenous and campesino ties could increase in coming years.


GHRC Home
3321 12th Street NE, Washington, DC 20017
Click here to unsubscribe from this mailing list.

empowered by Salsa

Read More
image-title

More Death Caused by Honduran Military and Paramilitaries

CRLN’s partners, La Voz de Los de Abajo, report on their blog about the latest military and paramilitary violence in Honduras.  Media, newspapers, radio stations, and journalists have been targeted for repression, abduction and execution; this latest episode included a police attack on Radio Uno in the town of San Pedro Sula.  At least one death was reported.  For more information, check La Voz de Los de Abajo’s blog Honduras Resists at

http://hondurasresists.blogspot.com/

Read More
image-title

Honduras es el país más peligroso del mundo para ser un activista ambiental y uno de los más peligrosos para ser periodista, miembro de un sindicato o miembro de un movimiento social opuesto a las políticas actuales de la administración hondureña. Los miembros del ejército y la policía han sido implicados en actos de violencia contra los miembros de estos grupos, incluyendo asesinatos. El 97% de los crímenes cometidos en Honduras quedan sin resolver, y sin consecuencias para los perpetradores.

En este contexto, les damos las gracias por sus firmas apoyando el Proyecto de Ley de Derechos Humanos en Honduras Berta Cáceres (H.R. 5474). Las firmas ayudaron a CRLN a convencer a 7 de 10 representantes demócratas de Illinois en los Estados Unidos a copatrocinar esta importante legislación presentada por el representante Hank Johnson. A finales del 2016, el proyecto de ley, que suspendería la ayuda de seguridad de los Estados Unidos a Honduras en espera del cumplimiento de las normas internacionales de derechos humanos, reunió un total de 52 copatrocinadores en todo el país.

Debido que la sesión del Congreso número 114 terminó el 3 de enero y cualquier legislación que no llegó a la Cámara y el Senado para su votación terminó con ella, el Proyecto de Ley H.R. 5474 tendrá que ser reintroducido en la sesión del Congreso número 115 que va desde ahora hasta finales de 2018. El representante Hank Johnson planea reintroducir este proyecto de ley.

Tan pronto como esto ocurra, CRLN se pondrá en contacto con los y las representantes de Illinois para pedirle a los firmantes (Schakowsky, Gutiérrez, Davis, Rush, Quigley, Lipinski) que firmen de nuevo. Nos pondremos en contacto con aquellxs de ustedes en sus distritos para que contacten a sus representantes, se identifiquen como miembros de CRLN, les agradezcan por su copatrocinio el año pasado y pedirles apoyo para que vuelvan a firmar.

Para aquellos de ustedes en los distritos cuyos representantes no fueron co-patrocinadores, vamos a construir nuevos argumentos por los cuales deben ser co-patrocinadores y nos pondremos en contacto con ustedes en el momento apropiado para recolectar firmas de nuevo para mostrar el apoyo que hay en sus distritos para este proyecto de ley. Además, tenemos una nueva oportunidad de hablar con los representantes elegidos en noviembre (Brad Schneider en el Distrito 10, que reemplaza a Bob Dold, y Raja Krishnamoorthi, que reemplaza a Tammy Duckworth, ahora una de los Senadores de Illinois en el Distrito 8).

Es de vital importancia para las personas cuyas vidas están bajo amenaza en Honduras que Estados Unidos deje de suministrar armas y entrenar a las fuerzas de seguridad bajo la autoridad del actual presidente hondureño, Juan Orlando Hernández, cuyo partido utilizó y privó ilegalmente al público de los fondos designados para la el sistema de salud para financiar su última elección y que acaba de orquestar un cambio a la constitución para reelegirse como presidente en el 2017. Bajo su administración, fuerzas militares y policiales han sido desatadas para actuar violentamente en contra de quienes se oponen a la corrupción y las maniobras antidemocráticas de muchos de los que actualmente están en el poder.

Read More
image-title

ARCHIVE:

Read More
image-title



Given Honduras’ human rights situation, CRLN will provide for its members a monthly update on human right issues afflicting the country.


(Español aquí)

  • The Honduran authorities arrested

    another suspect of the assassination of Berta Caceres, Henry Javier Hernandez Rodriguez

    , a former member of the Honduran military, in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Berta’s family demands the arrests of those that planned the murder. However, the Honduran authorities don’t seem to be making any effort to prosecute the real intellectual authors of Berta’s assassination.
  • Gustavo Castro, who survived an assassination attempt when Berta Caceres was murdered,

    filed a formal accusation against the Honduran State for human rights violations.

  • Global Witness released a report that denounces

    , after a two-year investigation, that 120 environmental activists have died since 2010 in Honduras and that at the heart of the conflict are the rich and powerful elites, among them members of the political class. The Guardian analyzed the Global Witness report, focusing on the involvement of politicians and the business elite in the murder of the environmental defenders. Global Witness also denounces that the U.S. continues to provide security aid to Honduras despite the continuous human right violations by the state. Just this week, the U.S. gave

    the first Alliance for Prosperity funds

    ($125 million) to the Honduran government.
  • President Juan Orlando Hernandez is seeking a reform to the Penal Code and introduction of new legislation which would provide more power to the security forces of the country. Also, with this legislation, police, military and security forces who kill or injure civilians in “defense” would be exempt from justice.

    CARITAS Honduras

    said this legislation would bring the country back to the 80’s when the opposition and media were persecuted and practices of forced disappearances occurred regularly.

    Amnesty International, among other international and national organizations, is critical of this reform of the Penal Code.
  • Miriam Miranda and other members of the Afro-Honduran Garifuna cultural group OFRANEH were harassed and threatened by the Honduran Police in early January. The police wanted to illegally detain Miranda and three other human right defenders, during a checkpoint in La Ceiba. Miriam has protective measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH).
  • Journalist Igor Padilla, was assassinated in the Northern part of Honduras. Honduras is one of the most dangerous and deadliest countries in the world to be a journalist. Padilla became the 63rd media worker to be killed since 2003. 50 of the 63 murders took place since 2009 and 24 alone in 2014 and 2015.
  • OFRANEH is fighting against Indura Hilton, which wants to build resorts on their ancestral lands in Northern Honduras, and denounces the role of the Attorney’s General Office in granting access to that land to Indura Hilton
  • Honduras celebrated National Women’s day this past January 25

    th

    , and

    local women right’s defenders and organizations protested the continuous violence and discrimination against women in the country.
  • President Hernandez is actively seeking an illegal re-election, prohibited by the Honduran Constitution, and is harassing the opposition. In the previous election, the National Party stole funds from the Social Security system, leaving sick and economically poor people without medicine and treatments, in order to finance his political campaign.
Read More
image-title

Chile, 1985:


Women soaked by water cannon during a demonstration against Pinochet on International Women’s Day in Santiago. Photograph: Julio Etchart/Julio Etchart

This week, CRLN joins millions of people around the world commemorating the 40th anniversary of Chile’s U.S.-backed military coup, which led to 17 years of dictatorship and tens of thousands of opposition activists murdered, disappeared, tortured, exiled, and imprisoned. Time has healed some, but also brought profound determination for truth and justice.

As more time goes by, the truth of what happened and the full dimension of the violence becomes even clearer, and the country’s institutions are forced to assume their responsibility.

Argentine-Chilean novelist, playwright, essayist, academic, and human rights activist Ariel Dorfman writes in the New York Times about how he survived the bombing of the presidential palace just by trading a shift with a colleague and friend. He also writes about the durable impacts of the coup that have spread throughout the globe:

“The most lasting legacy of Chile’s Sept. 11 were the economic policies implemented by Pinochet. My country became, in effect, a laboratory for a neoliberal experiment, a land of  unrestrained greed where extreme denationalization of public resources and suppression of workers’ rights were imposed on an unwilling populace. Many of these merciless policies were later deployed by leaders across the globe”.

Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman interviews Joan Jara, the widow of Chilean singer Víctor Jara,

who has just filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. court against the former military officer who allegedly killed Jara 40 years ago. Jara’s accused killer, Pedro Barrientos, has lived in the United States for roughly two decades and is now a U.S. citizen.”

Jara’s family is suing him under federal laws that allow U.S. courts to hear about human rights abuses committed abroad.”

 

TAKE ACTION! and join SOAWatch in calling for accountability for Victor Jara’s murder by Pedro Barrientos : “Jara was first held and tortured in the  infamous Estadio Chile (since renamed Estadio Victor Jara), which was turned into a nightmarish detention and torture center after the coup. Survivors and other witnesses claim that military officers broke Jara’s hands with the butts of their rifles before mockingly asking him to play his famous songs. Defiantly, Jara sang part of ‘Venceremos’ (We Will Win). His body was later dumped in the street, found riddled with 44 bullets and signs of extensive torture.”

Read a recounting by Hugh O’Shaughnessy, a prize-winning journalist who has written on Latin America for over 40 years, of the days immediately before and following the coup in Chile, where he was working as a journalist:

“As had already been the case after the military coups in Brazil in 1964 and then in Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina, and as was to be the case latterly in modern Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, the military and police torturers were ready with their electrodes, thumbscrews and waterboarding equipment to defend ‘western Christian civilisation’.”

Many had been brought to a peak of perfection in their
trade in the US itself or in its bases in the Panama canal zone by US instructors.”

Read More
image-title


Dada la situación de derechos humanos en Honduras, CRLN proporcionará a sus miembros una actualización mensual de los problemas de derechos humanos que afligen al país.



  • Las autoridades hondureñas

    arrestaron a otro sospechoso del asesinato de Berta Caceres, Henry Javier Hernández Rodríguez, ex miembro del ejército hondureño,

    en Tamaulipas, México. La familia de Berta exige el arresto de los que planificaron el asesinato. Sin embargo, las autoridades hondureñas no parecen estar haciendo ningún esfuerzo para enjuiciar a los verdaderos autores intelectuales del asesinato de Berta.
  • Gustavo Castro, quien sobrevivió a un intento de asesinato cuando Berta Cáceres fue asesinada,

    presentó una acusación formal contra el Estado hondureño por violaciones a sus derechos humanos.

  • Global Witness publicó un informe que denuncia, tras una investigación de dos años,

    que 120 activistas ambientales han muerto desde el 2010 en Honduras y que en el centro del conflicto están las élites ricas y poderosas, entre ellas miembros de la clase política. Global Witness también denuncia que los Estados Unidos continua proporcionando ayuda de seguridad a Honduras a pesar de las continuas violaciones de derechos humanos cometidas por el estado hondureño . Sólo esta semana, los Estados Unidos dio los primeros fondos de la Alianza para la Prosperidad ($ 125 millones) al gobierno hondureño.
  • El presidente Juan Orlando Hernández está buscando una reforma al Código Penal y la introducción de nueva legislación que proporcionaría más poder a las fuerzas de seguridad del país. Además, con esta legislación, las fuerzas policiales, militares y de seguridad que matan o lesionan a los/las civiles en “defensa” estarían exentos de la justicia.

    CARITAS Honduras

    dijo que esta legislación llevaría al país de regreso a los años 80 cuando la oposición y los medios de comunicación fueron perseguidos y las prácticas de desapariciones forzadas ocurrieron regularmente.

    Amnistía Internacional critico las reformas propuestas al Código Penal.
  • Miriam Miranda y otros miembros del grupo cultural garífuna afro-hondureño OFRANEH fueron hostigados y amenazados por la Policía hondureña a principios de enero. La policía quería detener ilegalmente a Miranda y a otros tres defensores de derechos humanos, durante un puesto de control en La Ceiba. Miriam tiene medidas de protección de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH).
  • El periodista Igor Padilla, fue asesinado en la parte norte de Honduras. Honduras es uno de los países más peligrosos y mortales del mundo para ser periodista. Padilla se convirtió en el 63º trabajador de los medios de comunicación asesinado desde el 2003. 50 de los 63 asesinatos ocurrieron desde el 2009, después del golpe de Estado, y 24 solo en el 2014 y 2015.
  • OFRANEH está luchando contra Indura Hilton, que quiere construir centros turísticos en sus tierras ancestrales en el norte de Honduras, y denuncia el papel de la Procuraduría General en otorgar acceso a esa tierra a Indura Hilton
  • Honduras celebró el Día Nacional de la Mujer el pasado 25 de enero, y las defensoras y organizaciones locales de derechos de las mujeres protestaron contra la continua violencia y discriminación contra las mujeres en el país.
  • El presidente Hernández está buscando activamente una reelección ilegal, prohibida por la Constitución hondureña, y está hostigando a la oposición. En la elección anterior, el Partido Nacional robó fondos del sistema de la Seguridad Social, dejando a los/las enfermos/as y las personas con pocos recursos económicos sin medicinas y tratamientos, para financiar su campaña política.
Read More
image-title

ACTION ALERT!


CRLN and our partner La Voz de Los de Abajo are sending just shy of 30
people to observe the Honduran elections on November 24th.

The current political climate of Honduras has led to the deaths of 18 candidates
from the opposition party as well as dozens of journalists, lawyers and human
rights defenders, of which only a handful of cases have been solved.

As impunity reigns in Honduras and citizens lose faith in their
governmental istitutions,

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia is
circulating a letter to Secretary of State Kerry


demanding that the U.S.

– which has tremendous influence in Honduras –

press the Government of
Honduras to ensure the right of all its citizens to peacefully assemble,
campaign and vote.

Click here to tell your Senator that you want him or her to sign Senator
Kaine’s letter!

Support the Honduran people’s right to a democratic process!
Support the international monitoring efforts!

Click here to make your voice
heard!

You can also call Senator Durbin’s office at 202-224-2152 and ask that
Senator Durbin sign on Tim Kaine’s letter on the Honduran elections. Be sure to
tell them that your friends at CRLN and La Voz de Los de Abajo are going to
Honduras and that you’re looking to your elected officials to support the work
you’ll be doing down there to monitor the November 24th elections.



Read More
image-title


Three CRLN staff and board members traveled to Honduras February 28 – March 8 together with La Voz de los de Abajo, one of CRLN’s partner groups. Below is a reflection by Sharon Hunter-Smith upon visiting two communities engaged in land recuperation as part of the National Center of Rural Workers.

Tegucigalpa and La Paz, Honduras; March 6, 2017




(Español Aqui)


Our group from Chicago stood staring at the rough wooden table, which held 2-dozen or so spent tear gas canisters plus a couple of bullet shells, collected by the 9

th

of July community from the area immediately surrounding the place where we stood. The largest one, designed to be fired from a rifle, was stamped “Made in U.S.A.” The connection between U.S. military and police aid to Honduras and the violent persecution of impoverished Honduran farmers was crystal clear in the objects before us.

The original rural community of 28 families has been tear gassed and evicted from their simple hand-built dwellings and cultivated land 26 times by the Honduran military or police. In the last surprise eviction on January 13, 2017, the police followed the fleeing people, even women and children, across the valley, shooting all the way. One man was shot in the leg and a pregnant woman miscarried after running away, panicked, from the “security” forces. They also tore down and burned houses, stole or burned possessions and tools left in and around the houses, and cut down some of the fruit trees and crops. Since then, the women and children, have moved to a nearby community while the men have re-occupied the land.

“Thanks be to God that we continue to live on this land,” said one man. After each violent eviction, the community’s commitment is to return and resettle on the land within 24 hours of being pushed off, rebuilding houses and restoring crops as they are able. The bravery and endurance that this strategy demands is fed by their hope of land ownership. They experience other threats in the form of arrest warrants against them and death threats from the national or military police. “Every time we receive a group of international people who are in solidarity with us, it gives us the strength to keep going on with our struggle,” said another.

This community of formerly landless people, organized by the Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC–National Center of Rural Workers), settled this abandoned and desert-like land in 2010. They dug trenches and bought plastic pipes to carry water for irrigation and drinking water from a spring 3 kilometers away. They planted fruit trees and other crops to feed their families. A dry hillside turned green and provided a way to make a living. The CNTC works with 203 other communities, like 9

th

of July, who are reclaiming land and putting it to good use in 14 of the 18 Honduran departments (what in the U.S. would be called states).

The National Agrarian Reform Law provides that idle land fit for farming can be expropriated and awarded to indigent and landless persons by the government, but this does not happen often. To force the issue and obtain the land essential for rural people to support themselves and their families, the CNTC works with landless people to settle and plant on unused, undeveloped or abandoned land. The occupants then file for title to the land under the Agrarian Reform Law with Honduran National Agrarian Institute (INA).


The 9

th

of July community is the most persecuted of all the CNTC communities, but others usually are evicted at least several times in their struggle to obtain land. How long do they have to be on the land before they are granted a title? “We don’t know with this administration. They are not on our side,” answered one man. Some of the CNTC communities have lived and worked on their land for 15-20 years and still do not have title.

Putting this into an even larger context for us, CNTC Director Franklin Almendares explained that 64% of Honduran people are rural, impoverished, and displaced or facing displacement from their land for lack of a title to it. 46% live in extreme poverty. “We are not poor—our land is rich—but we are impoverished, because they throw us off the land on which we live and farm. They want to annihilate those who speak out, who protest, who object to and challenge this system.” At the same time, Almendares pointed out, when large corporate landowners take land without having title to it, the government is complicit with their actions and grant them titles.


Visiting a second land recuperation project, CNTC organizers led us to a piece of land on a plantation that had been abandoned for decades, its owner living in Tegucigalpa.14 young men and boys, most in their teens and early twenties, had arrived on the land 11 days earlier at night.They had made pup tents from pieces of plastic and canvas held up by sticks for shelter, and had begun clearing trees so that they could begin to create fields to plant. The youngest among them appeared to be around 11 years old. They seemed wary and shy,  vulnerable and scared. Most did not talk to us, letting the CNTC organizers explain to us their situation.

All wanted to acquire some land to work on and have something to hope for. They eventually wanted to start a family and needed a way to support them. Without land, they had no hope, and without hope, they had no reason to live.

The CNTC organizers used our visit as a training for these young people—how to receive an international group, how to present themselves. They had coached the leader of the group to introduce himself with a brief description of their objectives in occupying this land. He told us that after arriving, they did not sleep for three nights, worried that the police would find them and evict them. They also had not slept outside before with insects and snakes in the area, and they were getting used to that. With encouraging words, the CNTC organizers told the group that eviction is just a passing misfortune on the way to acquiring land and homes and community. Every group had experienced this, and many had eventually earned their titles. They must work and have hope that they, too, will be successful one day, because this path is the only one that offers them any hope.


What can those of us in the U.S. do to stop the persecution of communities working with the CNTC?

Call your Congressional Representative’s office, ask to speak with or leave a message for the staff responsible for foreign policy, and request that they co-sponsor H.R. 2199, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.

This would suspend all U.S. security aid to Honduras, including equipment and training, until they cease their human rights violations. We must stop U.S. funding that enables Honduras to use violence against its own people, people who only want a chance to support their families and contribute to the life of their communities!

Read More
image-title

For several months, activists, campesinos, students, and trade unionists—this time joined by middle-class and business people–have engaged in hunger strikes, marches with torches, protests in front of government buildings, and calls for the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina. Everyone is fed up with official stealing from the public coffers. Hundreds of millions of dollars from the Social Security Institute have been stolen by officials in Honduras crippling the public health system. CICIG, the UN commission charged with uncovering the connections between organized crime and the government, has issued statements that it has hard evidence that the President and Vice President were at the head of a graft scheme that cheated the state out of tax revenue for social programs and funnelled bribes to multiple Guatemalan officials. Political parties have used pilfered public funds and donations from organized crime to fund the majority of their election campaigns.

While these same states also work to privatize social services, police with their militaries and militarize their police, and commit heinous human rights violations against their own people with impunity, the U.S. turns a blind eye to the devastating corruption and continues to send military and police aid to support those in the upper echelons of power in both countries. In addition, in response to the large numbers of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the US-Mexico border last year, the Obama Administration is requesting an additional $1 billion in aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador under the name “Alliance for Prosperity,” ostensibly to bring about improvements in security, governance, and the economies of these three nations.  However, giving vast sums of money to Honduras and Guatemala begs the question of where, exactly, this money would end up.

As regards El Salvador, evidence was recently marshaled in The Nation magazine that suggests the U.S. is supporting a soft coup in El Salvador to oust its democratically elected and left-leaning government. CRLN will be monitoring the situation with our partners in the region and in the U.S.

Here are some recent articles that provide further updates and background for the situations unfolding in these three countries.

Read More