Dr Juan Almendares: Letter to Mother Earth and Humanity of the Planet

The reader is also referred to the interview with Dr Juan Almendares in the Honduras section of the Interviews page.

13-300x276Let us defend the right to land of the peasants of Aguán and the National Front of Popular Resistance in Honduras. My grandmother used to say that the umbilical cord is always buried in some place and that my mother buried my umbilical cord in the roots of Ceiba, because this tree represents the unity of Mother Earth with the heavens. I learned the first lessons inside my mother when she was pregnant through the pedagogy of dreams, based in three principles: an intimate love for Mother Earth and for humanity, telling the truth and respecting dignity and life.

In every little piece of land, or close to the spring or the river – my grandmother would say – “you have to plant a tree or a little nutritious or medicinal plant. Clean earth and the water maintain the health of the body, the mind and the animal and human community.”

I grew up watching my mother pedal day and night on a sewing machine to make shirts for a factory that exploited her without minimal labour rights. We were “those from below” the railway, where poverty, brothels, alcoholism and violence proliferated. On the weekends the “campeños” – agricultural workers from the banana companies – would come to get drunk and attack each other with their machetes. It was a form of self destruction and of taking out their impotence against the power of the US banana companies.

When I was eight years old, at three in the morning I went with my mother to see the almost decapitated body of my father, who was killed by a hired assassin to take away a piece of land. There were seven of us brothers and sisters, we learned from that not to have hate or vengeance, nor violence or consumption of drugs and alcohol. A tropical storm came and we lost everything including our own house.

In my years as a secondary student I met the peasant Chepe Campos, of Salvadoran origin, who had migrated to the city because of poverty. He was a bricklayer; we worked together on the dream of organizing a bricklayers’ union. The project didn’t get finished because of the repressive anti-union forces and because of the flooding that destroyed the brick yards.23

The other teacher was Cristóbal, a shoemaker from the neighbourhood with whom we would talk about social injustice. When I was studying in secondary school at the José Trinidad Reyes Institute I met a Guatemalan peasant who was an agricultural worker for the banana companies. He explained to us with extreme wisdom the painful experiences of being exploited by those companies.

We suffered hunger, humiliations and poverty to be able to study medicine. I worked with one main idea: to serve the poor, the peasants, workers, original peoples, Garífunas and students.

I carried out post-grad studies in medicine in the United States. The peace movement of the US youth against the war in Vietnam, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Gandhi were inspiration for my position against militarism, torture and structural violence.

Nonetheless I came to the understanding that the essence of capitalism is anti-human and racist, that in its bosom is engendered the process of qualitative transformation of humanity itself and that we can’t be indifferent nor neutral but have to take a position against injustice, war and the violation of human rights.

I never wanted to stay in the north, even when I was condemned in Honduras by the death squads and the Argentinean Anti-Communist Alliance (Triple A). I have been a victim of the policy of the “three t’s”: trauma, torture and terror. This has not made it possible for me to hate any of my adversaries nor detractors. I start from the principle that the life of every being on the planet should be preserved and that this principle should be defended everywhere. That is why I have the firm conviction of not being racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, a participant in patriarchy nor authoritarianism; but I can’t keep silent before the crimes and lies of the military geopolitics of international financial capitalism, articulated with the oligarchic power and the ideology of neoliberalism.

In essence, I am anti-imperialist. I have the firm conviction that without local, regional and global solidarity and vice versa the substantial transformations in the bosom of humanity will never be made.

With this preamble of my life I want to respectfully invite the nice readers, friends of life and of Mother Earth to move your consciousness to protest against the injustice happening in Honduras and Meso-America and the plans of war against the peoples of the ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas] and Our America.

I have served as a doctor with profound love for the poor and the condemned of the earth who live in the world of injustice. I express my testimony of solidarity against the unjust conditions lived in by the Lenca people, where the oligarchy took ownership of the rivers and wants to build in San Francisco de Opalaca a dam to change the course of the waters and generate electricity for their multinational projects. Nonetheless the Lenca people are enlightened; they reject the shady light of corruption that make vulnerable the life of the rivers and of the forest; and they join in with the National Front of Popular Resistance to participate in the Re-foundation of Honduras and install the National Constitutional Assembly which takes a step towards a Constitution for everybody.

When I examine the original and peasant peoples I observe the infamous process of social injustice that forces beings into autophagy (eating oneself). The boys and girls have sad, anaemic, dry eyes, with their bellies bulging and full of parasites, bare-foot, emaciated and swollen because of pain. This horrendous reality doesn’t just move me and make me cry, but my consciousness acquires a greater commitment with the people in resistance.

Some years ago I presented my testimony of solidarity against the killing of the Tolupanes in Yoro, caused by the occupation of their lands by cattle. The authors of this sinister plot paid $500 for each human head. This practice is an indicator of the extreme racism in Honduras and that the hired killers have always been a normal tool in the hands of the powerful.

I remember Tacamiche, to cite one of so many violent evictions in Honduras. In July of 1995 close to 500 people who had been living since the middle of the century on lands abandoned by a branch of the North American business Chiquita Banana were evicted by the Honduran military. The symbolic cost of these lands for the banana company was one dollar. To evict the peasants they launched hundreds of teargas bombs. We attended boys and girls who were burned and several women aborted because of exposure to the toxic gases. They destroyed the health centre, the Church School, and the corn and bean fields. The five hundred evicted people were relocated in a building with just one bath and one bathroom.

If we ask ourselves who are those who have been dispossessed of their lands and of the waters by the mining, banana, shrimp and wood companies and the plantations of African Palm for agro fuel, it is the original peoples, the Garífunas, the Misquitos and the peasants. They are the ones who make the land produce, who live in pauper conditions, and those who have the worst conditions of health, education, potable water and housing.

Based on these historical antecedents, we appeal to unity, organization and mobilization of the local national and world conscious with the objective of stopping the machinery of geopolitical, ideological and anti-human war against the peoples of Latin America. In Bajo Aguán, in Honduras, plans for a peasant massacre are being developed. The demand for delegations, economic solidarity and every type of humanitarian support for the families of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguán (MUCA) is an urgent message.

The violence screams in every sweaty pore of the peasant and the system buys the consciousnesses to hide the truth. To defend at all costs the life of humans and of the planet should be our mission. In this small country, with an oligarchic system and an army of international capitalism the multimillionaire plans for proliferation of military bases, media campaigns and growing multimillionaire religious and media fundamentalism against Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and the suffering people of Colombia are reflected.

They are rehearsing and experimenting with a war in Honduras that begins against the peasantry and the original and Garífuna peoples. It is the power of the arms business and the buying of consciousnesses against the process of liberation and historic dignity of the peoples of Latin America.

We celebrate the strength of the spiritual and cultural unity of the resistance of the peoples of the world against pain and suffering. Our ethical and libratory commitment should be to such a degree that with the slightest showing of injustice, the subtle flight of the hummingbird moves us and invites us to defend dignity and life.

Defending Rights Defenders

It is now almost a year since the Environmental Network for Central America (ENCA) hosted an event entitled ‘Defending Rights Defenders’ on board the Tattershall Castle, a boat moored on the River Thames. My apologies to all the readers of the TVOD website monthly updates that we have not managed to upload a report of the event until now. Anyway, better late than never.

ENCA was strongly supported by Peace Brigades International (PBI), OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organisation of Honduras), the Guatemala Solidarity Network and the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign. The event explored both the causes and potential solutions to the dangers of being a defender of land rights, environmental rights and human rights in Central America, attracted 140 people and provided a platform for discussion and solidarity.

The event was chaired by Doug Specht from the University of Westminster who introduced three speakers: Martin Mowforth, author of ‘The Violence of Development’ opened the talks with a contextual introduction to the northern triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) where life for rights defenders is extremely dangerous. He cited research by the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and Global Witness that stated that since the 2009 military coup d’état in Honduras, 123 land and environmental activists have been murdered in that country with countless others threatened, attacked or imprisoned. The situation for rights defenders in El Salvador and Guatemala can hardly be described as any better than for Hondurans.

Following this introduction we were delighted to be joined by Aurelia Martina Arzú Rochez, vice-coordinator and spiritual guide of OFRANEH, who gave a powerful and personal account of living with the oppression of being an activist in Honduras. The Garífuna people are currently experiencing illegal takeovers of their ancestral lands by Canadian investors who are intent on developing a tourism industry that caters to wealthy foreign cruise passengers but which displaces and dispossesses the Garífuna people from their land. Moreover they suffer constant criminalisation by the authorities which are intent on protecting international investors rather than Honduran people.

More case studies of abuses of rights defenders from around the region were then presented. Following Aurelia and the other case studies, Emily Spence of Peace Brigades International took to the stage to explore ways in which rights defenders can be defended and supported through the work of PBI and other solidarity networks. The presentations were rounded off with a lively and interesting Q&A session.

While the presentations may have concluded on a sober note, the feeling of solidarity and the importance of pushing forward for new and better ways of living and fighting for rights was, quite literally, drummed home by the Pengenista samba-reggae drum band who capped off the evening with a lively range of dance and protest songs that got the whole room on its feet to join in celebration of what can be achieved when we engage in solidarity.

Below are just a few pictures and videos from the evening.

Aurelia Arzú

Aurelia with interpreter Sandra Young and Emily Spence of Peace Brigades International

The Pengenista samba-reggae drum band strut their stuff after the presentations

Video clips used in the presentations:


Human Rights Defender Murdered in Jalapa Campesino Organisation Targeted

Guatemala Human Rights Commission (ghrcusa)

9th December 2022

The body of Tereso Carcamo Flores was found, riddled with bullets on December 5, some 600 meters from his home in Santa María Xalapán, Jalapa. Flores was returning home from a wake in El Volcán, when he was attacked by armed men and killed. According to Flores’ family, he had been receiving threats for months, related to his involvement with the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA) and his work supporting Indigenous communities’ struggle for land in the area.

He had been a member of CODECA for over nine years. According to another of the organisation’s leaders, Leiria Vay, these attacks are commonplace and in line with a pattern of violence against CODECA and human rights defenders in the region. “There are groups in alliance with mafias and hitmen that want to maintain power, they always act in the same way,” he explained. Flores’ death marks the 25th murder of members of CODECA since 2018, all of which remain in impunity.

Facussé threatens human rights activists, beheads peasants

04/26/2011 | AP

If you are wondering, dear reader, why I didn’t post on last week’s assassinations, including beheadings, it was because I simply could not handle it. It’s no excuse, the campesinos in Aguán aren’t backing off. But sometimes even the secondhand trauma is too much. It’s one of those dilemmas of violence research- one’s own pain is voluntary, in a sense, and thus cannot be legitimately compared to the pain of those who are experiencing the evident, immediate trauma (except within a theoretical framework of a violence continuum, using a million caveats). But perhaps my twisted gut, this sense of nausea and impotence can provide some small insight, even thousands of miles away, into the terror embodied by those facing the barrels of Facussé’s assassins’ guns.

In any case, when he’s not busy ordering the murders of campesinos who get in the way of the WWF-eco-certified African Palms he has on the lands he stole from them, Facussé, who has admitted on national television that his guards kill peasants (and yet has never been investigated by the government for his role in these murders) is now fighting back. Tired of people calling him out, he took out a full-page ad in La Tribuna to publicly denounce/threaten the human rights defenders who have affected the only thing he cares about- his profits. What’s really astounding—and not just speaks, but shouts to the level of US-backed impunity in Honduras—is that, in order to personalize this threat against his opponents, he not only names them, but quotes exactly what they have to say about him, just as unapologetically as he admitted to doing exactly what many of them accuse him of- murdering campesinos. The ad, included below as an image, reads as follows:

To the Honduran Nation and International Community:
We write here to inform you that we are being subjected to a smear campaign using false accusations of national and international NGOs. Said campaign has the aim of destroying over 50 years of work to provide Hondurans and Central Americans with products of the highest quality, investments in the billions of lempiras, the creation of more than 8,000 direct jobs, the generation of more than US$100 million in profits annually, and the creation of more than 100 thousand indirect jobs.

The most recent campaign is aimed at blocking the certification of the company by the UN for the sale of carbon credits for the development and implementation of clean energy projects and projects for environmental conservation; to stop international financial institutions from financing our companies, thus putting at risk the investment so desperately needed by the country and finally to promote the boycott of our products.

We ask you all to not be fooled by these people and groups that denounce us internationally irresponsibly and with sinister intent, not only with the aim of destroying the hard work of thousands of Hondurans and Central Americans in making the Dinant Group what it is today, but also of undermining the environment for investment and development in Honduras.

We call upon the corresponding Honduran authorities to investigate what we have stated here.

To the Honduran nation and international community, we reiterate here our commitment to continue helping the development of the country, through business practices committed to the conservation of the environment and through proper corporate social responsibility.

Miguel Facussé Barjum, President, Dinant Corporation/ Exporter of the Atlantic

“To affect [his/its] business, profits and image is an important tactic, and we will do whatever we can to ensure that these projects do not continue receiving funding”,
said to Sirel the representative of FIAN Honduras, Ana María Pineda

“We, Artists in Resistance, Feminists in Resistance, and many allied groups along with the youth, have a boycott campaign against the products of Miguel Facussé”…
Karla Lara, of Artists and Feminists in Resistance of Honduras

As such, the decision to launch a boycott campaign against the products of the Dinant Corporation means joining together the desire of thousands of Hondurans who want to deal a blow to the economic and political power of Miguel Facussé, one of the leading exponents of this structure”
Lorena Zelaya, member of the FNRP

Miguel Facussé is “an assassin and thief straight out of Hell” who will “make himself owner of the entire country using the same methods he uses here”:
Father Fausto Milla, in relation to Zacate Grande

“The soldiers and police are commanded by Miguel Facussé, despite the fact that they are paid by the Honduran people, but they obey the orders of the de facto powers that have taken control of the nation”.
Bertha Oliva, COFADEH

“Save the Rainforest makes an urgent call to send a message to the British government to withdraw authorization from these two projects that will directly benefit Miguel Facussé Barjum, repeatedly indicated by campesinos organizations to be the primary individual responsible for the violence and violation of human rights in the Bajo Aguán”.
Save the Rainforest, German NGO in relation to the projects of carbon credit sales

“the loans that are being provided to this man [Facussé], who has become the number one criminal in Latin America, for now, with the ability of mobilizing an army that at this moment, openly patrols the streets of the Aguán, in Tocoa and in Trujillo, carrying out acts of terror in the numerous cooperatives in the palm agrarian sector in the Aguán”.
Andrés Pavon, CODEH

What I have seen is outrageous and Facussé is a criminal”
Mirna Perla, Salvadoran judge and member of the parallel True Commission set up by the FNRP

We have confirmed the lack of seriousness of the Attorney General and a generalized dissatisfaction in the region, which could lead to a dangerous increase in conflict. Furthermore—explained the leadership of FIAN International—, international standards are not being applied with regards to evictions. They are premeditated violent acts, without legal backing, and represent crystal-clear violations of human rights”,
Central American coordinator of FIAN International, Martin Wopold Bosien.

Quotha content by Adrienne Pine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Quotha content by Adrienne Pine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

CISPES Supports Human Rights Defender in Face of Death Threats

Sent: 26 January 2010 09:01 by Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)

CISPES would like to express our heartfelt solidarity with El Salvador’s Human Rights Ombudsman, Oscar Luna, who announced last Thursday, January 21 [2010] that he and his family have been receiving death threats. Luna declared that the threats have been delivered in the name of supposed extermination groups, demanding that he leave the country within 48 hours so as to not “obstruct the work of social cleansing” that they are attempting to carry out against “delinquency.” The re-emergence of such “social cleansing” groups was previously denounced by former Human Rights Ombudswoman Beatrice de Carrillo in 2006.

Oscar Luna has been an outspoken advocate for human rights in El Salvador. He defended the Suchitoto 13, water privatization protesters who were charged under the anti-terrorism law and denounced electoral fraud by ARENA during the 2009 elections. Most recently, he has pushed the Attorney General’s office to investigate the intellectual authors of the murders of Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos and mobilized his office to provide protection for environmental activists in Cabañas. He has decided not to leave his post, nor to leave the country. Instead, he is calling on the Attorney General and the head of the National Civilian Police to investigate and to provide additional protection for him and his family.

On January 16, El Salvador celebrated the 18th anniversary of the Peace Accords, when much of the State’s repressive apparatus was formally dismantled. However, the re-emergence of death squad structures, and the continued death threats against and assassinations of social movement activists, FMLN leaders and human rights defenders, represent a terrifying roll-back in the struggle for real democracy. CISPES stands with Mr. Luna in defending his position and in continuing his important work of promoting human rights in El Salvador and we call on the Attorney General’s office and the National Civilian Police to do everything within their power to protect Mr. Luna and all others in the struggle for justice in El Salvador.

María Santos Domínguez

On 5 March 2014, as human rights defender Ms María Santos Domínguez returned to her home, she was surrounded and attacked with sticks, stones and machete by a group of seven individuals. Her husband and her son came to her rescue but were also attacked, with her son losing his ear. María Santos Domínguez has faced death threats on repeated occasions.

She is the co-ordinator of the Organización del Consejo Indígena del Río Blanco y del Sector Norte de Intibucá (Indigenous Coucil of Río Blanco and the North of Intibucá). The human rights defender is also a member of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Indígenas y Populares de Honduras – COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras) and an emblematic leader in the struggle for the defence of the Gualcarque river and the indigenous Lenca territory. Her husband, Mr Santos Roque Domínguez, is also a member of COPINH and a community activist.

On 5 March, just after noon, María Santos Domínguez was returning from preparing school lunches, on the route she normally uses. Santos Roque Domínguez phoned her several times due to the worry caused by the threats already made against the human rights defender. On the fourth call, María Santos Domínguez informed her husband that seven individuals, allegedly the same who had threatened her with death, and who had been waiting for her on her route, had her surrounded. In that moment, her husband and son left the house to search for her and found her, having already received deep machete wounds, being beaten with sticks and stones by the group. Santos Roque Domínguez tried to reason with them and pleaded with them not to kill his wife, meanwhile his son attempted to aid his mother. Immediately, one of the group slashed the child with the machete, chopping off his right ear and part of his face. Santos Roque Domínguez was also gravely injured. The attack against the three family members has left them in a serious state of health.

María Santos Domínguez, as well as her husband and son, have been the target of serious threats and attacks because of their work in opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric plant. The same group who attacked them on 5 March also destroyed their crops on a previous occasion.

Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a human rights defender, owing to threats, defamation, judicial harassment, physical attacks, attempted killings and killings. Indigenous leader and member of COPINH, Mr Justo Sorto was killed on 21 January 2014. Human rights defender Mr Tomás García was killed on 15 July 2013, and the case has still not been properly investigated.

Front Line Defenders roundly condemns the attempt on the life of human rights defender María Santos Domínguez, as well as the attack on her husband and son. Front Line Defenders considers the attack to be directly related to the peaceful and legitimate work of María Santos Domínguez and the Organización del Consejo Indígena del Río Blanco y del Sector Norte de Intibucá.