Compiled by Martin Mowforth
On 7 January this year, two environmental defenders, Aly Dominguez and Jairo Bonilla, were shot dead in broad daylight. Both men were co-founders of the Guapinol resistance group to an iron ore mine owned by one of the country’s most powerful couples, Lenir Pérez and Ana Facussé. For nearly a decade, the Guapinol environmental defenders have denounced the contamination caused by the mining megaproject and the crimes that have been committed against the defenders in the Carlos Escaleras Botaderos Mountain National Park. The case of the Guapinol defenders was featured on the front cover of ENCA 84 in March 2022. They were released last year after 2½ years of illegal detention, but now they are suffering a new wave of persecution by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Tocoa.
On 15 January, three Garífuna women were assassinated on the Travesía beach near Puerto Cortés. According to the National Human Rights Commission of Honduras (CONADEH by its Spanish initials), “the three women were sat on the beach close to the sea when heavily armed men approached them and shot them with issuing a word.” These three assassinations brought the total number of women assassinated within the Honduran territory to 17 women in 2023.
A total of 300 women were assassinated in Honduras during 2022. Also in 2022, official figures registered 35.8 homicides per 100,000 population. That was the highest rate in Central America, despite the fact that it had fallen from 41.2 per 100,000 in 2021.
On 25 January, human rights defender Abelino Sánchez, regional secretary of the National Union of Rural Workers (CNTC) and president of a peasant cooperative in the department of Cortés, was seriously injured after being shot twice by two men who came to his house at 7 pm. He had recently received death threats related to a land conflict. The CNTC has frequently been involved in land conflicts with large landowners during which many rural workers have been detained, criminalized, tortured and subjected to violence and intimidation by private security forces and by police. Report of the attack reached us from COFADEH, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras.
On 12 February, Karen Spring of Honduras Now reported on her @HondurasNow twitter feed:
“Another campesino leader and his son have been killed in the Aguan Valley. According to Diario Colón, Hipólito Rivas and his 15-year old son were murdered in the community of Ilanga. Rivas was part of the Gregorio Chavez campesino cooperative from the La Panama. #Honduras.”
In November 2021, Jared Olson in the Intercept (https://theintercept.com/2021/11/06/honduras-paramilitaries-land-rights/) explained that in Honduras land battles, paramilitaries infiltrate local groups and then kill their leaders, usually at the behest of a giant transnational corporation such as the Dinant group and its huge palm oil plantations. Amongst other issues addressed in Jared’s The Intercept report, is the role of the U.S. government and military training Honduran “special forces” in the region; and links between these “special forces” and para-military groups and Dinant private security guards. The Intercept reports also on the central role of the World Bank as a major investor in and defender of its business partner, the Dinant Corporation.
- Rights Action, 14 February 2023, ‘Relentless killings in Bajo Aguán, Honduras, related to African Palm production and global food supply chains: Hipólito Rivas and 15 year old son murdered’.
- Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos de Tocoa, 7 January 2023, ‘Alert: Human Rights Defenders Murdered in Guapinol’.
- Nina Lakhani, 11 January 2023, ‘Honduran environmental defenders shot dead in broad daylight’, The Guardian, London.
- Karen Spring: https://www.hondurasnow.org/
- Manuel Bermúdez,16 January 2023, ‘Asesinadas tres mujeres garífunas en Honduras, denuncia CONADEH’, Semanario Universidad, San José.
- Jenny Atlee / COFADEH, 28 January 2023, ‘Criminal attack on land defender’, COFADEH, Tegucigalpa.
- Dina Meza, 14 February 2023, ‘Caso ARCAH: Por qué quisieron secuestrar a Misael’, Pasos de Animal Grande, Tegucigalpa.