Archive for the ‘HAP Articles’ Category

PROAH accompanies delegation of Sisters of Mercy to Honduras

February 6, 2016

In December, 2015 PROAH accompanied a delegation of various women from the United States to Honduras. The delegation was organized by the Institute Justice Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in cooperation with the Friendship Office of the Americas and the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH.) Delegates come from positions of leadership in their communities in the areas of social justice and advocacy.To know more about the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, click here.


With US and Honduran Sisters of Mercy, and associates

The objective of the delegation was to deepen understanding of the political, economic, social, religious and human rights situation in Honduras, to lend support to partners and to be more effective advocates with the United States government regarding justice and human rights in Honduras.

The delegation began in San Pedro Sula, traveled to El Progreso and ended in Tegucigalpa. The delegation met with Sisters of Mercy and Associates who are working to defend women’s rights with the Women’s Forum and Dream Weavers. Casa Corazón, a home sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, for orphaned children affected by HIV-AIDS was visited. The delegation coincided with the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Casa Corazón.

ERIC y cofamiproh


In Progreso, the delegation met with ERIC (the Team of Reflection, Investigation and Communication) as well as representatives of COFAMIPRO (Committee of the Families of Migrants and Disappeared of Progreso.) The group also met with labor unionists working in the banana sector who suffered recent threats and representatives of the peasant organization, CNTC (National Central for Rural Workers.)

In Tegucigalpa, the delegation spoke with COFADEH (Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras) about forced disappearances from the 1980s and today; visited Casa Alianza, an organization that provides shelter for street children and advocates for the rights of children. The delegation ended with meeting with the U.S. Embassy.

en cofadeh.jpg


casa alianza.jpg

with Casa Alianza

During the weeklong visit, the 13 delegates learned about the root causes driving migration from Honduras to the United States, including the violence and abuse of human rights that reigns in the country.

The Sisters of Mercy returned to the U.S. greatly impacted by the experience in Honduras, with a commitment to share the testimonies they heard and to continue to advocate for U.S. policy that respects human rights and the people of Honduras.

A delegation report is currently being prepared. We will link to it on this blog as soon as it is published. The moving testimony of Sister Deborah Kern about her experience of “Waking up in Honduras,” can be found at this link:

Community of Locomapa: Impunity, violence and harassment continue against Tolupán indigenous

June 17, 2015
Photo: MADJ

Photo: MADJ

On April 11, 2015, PROAH accompanied an activity organized by the Preventative Council of the Tolupán Tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa and MADJ (Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice), which included a walk along one of the tribal boundary lines in recognition of their lands.

The activity included a homage for Luis de Reyes Marcía, Tolupán indigenous member of the community of Locomapa, Yoro, who was assassinated on April 4, 2015. Luis is the fourth land rights defender murdered in this small community, following the murder of three of his companions in the land struggle, in 2013.

Two years after the murders of three Tolupán land rights defenders in 2013, these crimes remain in impunity:

On August 25, 2013 three indigenous Tolupán were murdered by gunfire in the community of Locomapa, Yoro, in northern Honduras. The victims were María Enriqueta Matute, Armando Fúnez Medina, and Ricardo Soto Fúnez. They, along with other members of the Tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa, were organizing to protect natural resources and to oppose the illegal mining of antimony and logging on their communal lands. The murders occurred after 12 days of protest by the community, peacefully blocking the road. Witnesses testify that the murders were committed by two men belonging to a group that works for the mine and powerful business interests in the region. (see PROAH article 2013).

In response to a petition for protection for the community issued by MADJ, in December 2013 the Inter American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) issued protective measures for 18 members of the community and their families, a total of 38 people. On February 22, 2014, in a public ceremony, which PROAH team members attended as international observers, Honduran authorities committed to fulfill their obligation to protect those under threat and to capture the suspected assassins.

However, the State of Honduras has not fulfilled its obligation to implement protective measures. The situation of impunity and extreme vulnerability of the community continues. Following the three murders, several families had to flee the zone for six months; one person exiled from Locomapa, has not yet been able to return. Two years after the crime, the alleged assassins, for whom arrest warrants have been issued, remain at large in the community; they and others in their group, continue to harass and threaten those who oppose mining, creating a state of terror in the community.

Another land defender murdered

On April 4, 2015, tragedy struck the community again: another member of the community, Luis de Reyes Marcía, was killed.

His body was found, brutally murdered with several stab wounds in the thorax and neck.

Luis Marcía was the husband of Vilma Consuelo Soto, a beneficiary of protective measures by the IACHR and an active member of MADJ. Her family had returned to their land on February 22, 2014 after being forcibly displaced for six months due to death threats. On returning, Consuelo Soto and Luis Marcía continued with the land struggle. Just before his murder, Luis and Consuelo had presented a complaint to the local police regarding new death threats and damage to their crops. The principal suspect for his murder is part of the same group that constantly intimidates the community.

Consuelo Soto.

Consuelo Soto.

On May 22, just six weeks after the murder of her husband, Consuelo Soto suffered another attack. According to Consuelo, a neighbor who was bothered by a visit of the District Attorney for Ethnic Groups, investigating the murder of her husband, came to her house where she was with her two grandchildren, and fired on them three times. Consuelo Soto threw herself to the ground with the two children to protect them. She fled to the home of another neighbor and then had to leave the community (listen to her testimony here, Radio Progreso). It is supposed that the gunman is also part of the group working for powerful business interests.

The police and authorities responsible for investigating these crimes and protecting the population receive constant complaints from members of MADJ and are well informed about activity in the zone. However, they constantly cite difficulties that impede their work: lack of personnel, vehicle etc. For MADJ, this reflects a lack of will on the part of the State of Honduras. According to Víctor Fernández, attorney for the organization, “many efforts have been made to compel the State to assume its responsibility to implement protective measures but it has not done so. The situation is getting worse.”(see Radio Progreso)

Those who struggle for land rights in the community live in an extreme state of insecurity. At least eleven community leaders have received death threats. Another actor who harasses the community is Finlander Uclés, a retired general who claims rights to community lands (see PROAH article June, 2014.) Recently, Mr. Finlander issued death threats against two members of the community, who are also members of MADJ and beneficiaries of IACHR protective measures.

Photo MADJ, Protest in front of the Public Ministry, May 12, 2015

Photo MADJ, Protest in front of the Public Ministry, May 12, 2015

Due to the situation of extreme vulnerability for the Tolupanes of Locomapa, MADJ demands: that authorities duly investigate the 2013 and 2015 murders; arrest warrants issued for the capture of those responsible for these crimes be acted on; the responsibility to implement protective measures and guarantee the safety and integrity of beneficiaries be fulfilled; and finally that the companies illegally exploiting natural resources in the zone be removed as they are causing violence and conflict.

For more information:

Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia, MADJ:

VIDEO on the land rights struggle of the community of Locomapa:

Comunicado April 5, 2015: “Dan muerte violentamente a indigena Tolupán en Locomapa,Yoro.”

Red nacional de Defensoras de derechos humanos en Honduras: Alert, June 4, 2015: Todas Somos Consuelo

Radio Progreso, April 10, 2015: Ante muerte de Tolupanes, Estado no atiende ni actúa

COFADEH Project to Remember the Victims of Forced Disappearance: The Route of Historical Memory

August 30, 2014

Today, August 30 is the International Day of the Disappeared.

To commemorate the lives of the 184 victims of forced disappearances during the 1980s and 90s in Honduras, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) initiated the “Route of Historical Memory” project, a pathway to landmarks of the practice of State terror during this time that arose from a clearly structured strategy using calculated and ruthless violence.


Those who dreamed of a better future were illegally detained for being insurgents or opponents of the State by COBRA (Anti-subversion Police), the TESON (Special Forces for Jungle and Night Operations), or the Group of the 14 (death squads of Intelligence Battalion 3-16).

The Route of Historical Memory, “la Ruta”, takes one to the locations where these people were arrested, tortured, and secretly buried.

The starting point is the COFADEH office, where the principal documentation is found and where the walls are filled with photographs of those who are missing: fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers who disappeared. Few returned. There is not sufficient space or words to express the pain and desperation of the families who will never know what happened to their loved ones or where they are buried.

Next, is a visit to the Merced Plaza, where COFADEH has protested against forced disappearances every first Friday of the month for 33 years. The “Ruta” continues on to horrific places like the “house of terror’, located on the estate of Amilcar Zelaya in Amarateca, where detainees endured unimaginably brutal torture before suffering a cruel death.

The gate of the Diamond House, at that time a base of the Nicaraguan Contra forces, has a structure identical to that of the gate of the estate in Amarateca. It is another location where detainees were tortured. There is a suspected clandestine cemetery at this house, near the slope to the River Frio.

It is clear that this violence is structural and continues to this today, applied differently but always in accordance with the strategy of a State that does not respect human rights.

The last stop on the “Ruta” is the “Casa Contra el Olvido”, the Home against Forgetting, an unforgettable site that emits a serene aura full of light and peace. Here, the memory of all those disappeared remains alive, intangible, waiting and hoping for truth.

More information on:

Acompañantes internaciones recorren la “Ruta de la Memoria” que muestra la impunidad

¿Qué es la Ruta de la Memoria Histórica?

Reflection on the murder of Carlos Mejia, Radio Progreso

May 15, 2014

Radio Progreso Manager Murdered

Was Carlos Mejía a Target?

*This reflection was written by Lucy Edwards (PROAH, Hope in Action, Congregational United Church of Christ, Ashland, Oregon)

On the evening of Friday, April 11, Carlos Mejía Orellana, 35, was stabbed to death in his home in El Progreso, Honduras. The white Rosary his mother had given him that day was broken and on the floor of the living room of his home. Nothing of value was taken from house. His well maintained Toyota sedan sat on the carport, its alarm sounding. Why was Carlos murdered? Was he targeted for his work at Radio Progreso?

Carlos was the eldest of 11 children to parents Salvadora and Nicolas. The family moved from a rural area near Ocotepeque to the growing northern city of El Progreso when Carlos was 8 or 9. He was entrepreneurial man, an intelligent and diligent worker who began at the Jesuit radio station Radio Progreso in his early twenties, and eventually became promotion and marketing manager. He was quiet and thoughtful, and knew how to get things done. He seemed to anticipate your needs before you knew you had them.

His house was well constructed and secure. He paid attention to issues of security. The home had a high wall surrounding it, with strong gates and tightly coiled barbed wire. He had a boyfriend, but lived alone, with two socialized and friendly dogs; they were not part of the security plan. He adored them and spoiled them. They were companions.

carlos photo 2

His work at the radio station took him into the community. While shy in social settings, Carlos was not shy about the radio station. He loved his work selling ads and producing events promoting the station. He also had other jobs outside the radio station, all approved by his supervisor, Catholic priest Ismael Moreno, known as Padre Melo. Carlos had taught management classes, and recently was helping a community radio station get off the ground. He had just purchased a washing machine for his parents. It was still wrapped in plastic on in the carport the day I visited.

Carlos Mejia was one of 16 members of the Radio Progreso team granted protected measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Station employees had received threats of violence, and many journalist colleagues in Honduras have been murdered. Radio Progreso studios were occupied by the armed forces during the 2009 coup, and the station was surrounded by police on another occasion.

In a country with so many layers of corruption, militarization, violence and impunity, Radio Progreso, and its affiliated Jesuit research team ERIC (equípo de reflección, investigación y comunicación) are an irrepressible daily affirmation of freedom of expression, creativity and courage in Honduras. Their work confronts and directly challenges the corruption and impunity.

Was Carlos targeted because of his work at the Jesuit radio? At this point one can only speculate. He was murdered at his home, stabbed several times with a knife. It appears his body was posed. It appears the killer or killers removed his clothes and tried to create the illusion of another kind of murder. But the shirt he was wearing that night was never found. Someone took it. Someone took the knife. Someone left by the front door and the front gate, leaving them both open.

It appears Carlos’ attacker came to the house with him, perhaps in Carlos’ car. They ate chicken, and shortly after Carlos was attacked–perhaps initially in the living room where the Rosary was broken, and then murdered in the bedroom where his clothes were then removed.

As the marketing manager, Carlos’ work provided the financial capital for the radio. His death has been a huge blow to his coworkers and a direct hit against the radio station economically. As a gay man, his killer or killers may have considered his sexual orientation a vulnerability to exploit. Someone gained Carlos’ trust enough to be invited to his home, and murdered him.

In an immediate newspaper online account, police declared their suspicions of a crime of passion before they had conducted any investigation. No one has ever investigated the many threats against the radio station staff and management that began in earnest in 2010 and remain as permanent threats.

On April 18, U.S. Representatives James P. McGovern (MA), Sam Farr (CA), and Janice D. Schakowsky (IL) released the following statement on the murder in Honduras of Carlos Mejía Orellana.

“We are shocked and saddened by the news of the murder of Carlos Mejia Orellana, journalist and marketing director of Radio Progreso in Honduras. We extend our deepest condolences to his family members, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts and prayers are with them in this difficult time.

“We are very familiar with the important work of Radio Progreso, a community-based radio station that is a work of the Jesuits of the Central American Province. We note that the Director of Radio Progreso, Father Ismael “Melo” Moreno, testified before the U.S. Congress at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and described the constant death threats and attacks perpetrated with impunity against journalists in Honduras, including against Radio Progreso, its employees and its research arm, ERIC. Given the level of threats and violence, including assassination, targeted against journalists, the media and freedom of expression in Honduras, we are dismayed that the Government of Honduras has failed to implement protective measures for the employees of Radio Progreso, as called for by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights when, on four separate occasions over the past five years, it issued precautionary measures on behalf of 16 staff members, including Carlos Mejia Orellana, of Radio Progreso and ERIC. We are further troubled by news reports that the police had announced the murder was carried out by someone close to Sr. Mejia Orellana before any investigation had yet begun. We call upon the Honduran authorities to immediately implement protective measures for Radio Progreso and ERIC employees and to carry out a thorough investigation of the murder of Carlos Mejia Orellana to determine both material and intellectual authors of this heinous act and to bring them to justice in a timely manner.”


Beating and arbitrary detention of children’s rights defender Mr José Guadalupe Ruelas

May 15, 2014

On Thursday May 8th at approximately 11:30 pm José Guadalupe Ruelas García, the director of Casa Alianza of Honduras, was brutally beaten in front of the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa by members of the Honduran Military Police.

Mr. Ruelas was stopped at by military police near the Presidential Palace while driving a vehicle owned by Casa Alizana and was wearing a Casa Alianza shirt, when a motorcycle carrying guards assigned to the Security Minister Corrales, plowed into his parked vehicle. At that point, military and police pulled him violently from his vehicle and threw him to the ground, kicking him brutally. They then dragged him by his feet, face down, to the main gate of the Presidential Palace. His wallet, identification and cell phone were taken and the vehicle was impounded.

Ruelas was detained by police throughout the night without access to medical attention for injuries sustained as a result of being beaten, kicked and dragged by members of the Honduran state security forces.

At 4:30 am, May 9th, Mr. Ruelas was finally transported to the hospital from the police station. At the hospital, transit police gave declarations to the press stating that his “injuries were the result of a traffic collision”. PROAH accompanied COFADEH (Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras) to the criminal court to present a habeas corpus for Ruelas and to file a report of the beating with the Public Ministry.

On the morning of May 10th, Ruelas left the hospital, where he had been held in the intensive care unit.


On May 12th, Casa Alianza held a press conference at which Mr. Ruelas expressed fear that the state has mounted a smear campaign against him and that he will suffer new attacks. He also demanded that the public prosecutor who also investigated the murder of the son of Julieta Castellanos, Rector of UNAH (National University of Honduras) take his case rather than the current public prosecutor who is married to an official at the Ministry of Security.

Casa Alianza is a well-known humanitarian organization that advocates for homeless children in Central America and Mexico. The latest monthly report by Casa Alianza’s Honduras office, which Mr. Ruelas presented on April 23, noted that in the first three months of the new Honduran government’s tenure, 270 children and young people under 23 in the country suffered violent deaths. Mr. Ruelas, an outspoken advocate for children at risk, recently stated to the media that increasingly these killings were extrajudicial executions committed by agents of the state which the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez had the capacity to stop. His statements provoked a political backlash, with the President, for example, claiming that the allegations are a smear invented by LIBRE sympathizers.

National and International human rights organizations have issued Action Alerts on behalf of Ruelas.

For more information see (in Spanish):

COFADEH demanda castigo para policías y militares que propinaron golpiza a defensor de DDHH


Swiss delegation expresses concern at the human rights situation in Honduras

October 21, 2013

On 7 October 2013, a delegation of 10 Swiss people from the Honduras Forum Switzerland (Foro Honduras Suiza) called a press conference at COFADEH’s offices to share the findings of their visit to Honduras, the aim of which was to learn about the human rights situation and democracy in the country. Their mission lasted eight days and included trips to Zacate Grande in the south and La Esperanza in the west, as well as meetings with representatives of civil society and international and national organizations. The delegation had the opportunity to hear the testimonies of victims of human rights violations and their families, and the degree of almost total impunity regarding these violations.

The organizations they met emphasized the importance of an international presence, including visits by delegations and PROAH’s accompaniment, for the respect of human rights.

The Forum delegation’s demands to the Honduran authorities include an immediate halt to the criminalization and persecution of human rights defenders, and respect for international human rights conventions, with specific reference to indigenous rights when granting concessions. It also calls for the Honduran authorities to make every effort to ensure free and fair elections, with international observers given unrestricted access to observe the process, and for their work to be supported.

The delegation requests that the international community work towards establishing guarantees that foreign investors respect human rights and particularly the rights of indigenous peoples. It also asks for the situation before and after the elections to be subject to rigorous scrutiny and that any possible human rights violations be documented and publicised.

For the first time, from January to June 2014, Switzerland will have the presidency of the G-16, the group of countries and intergovernmental institutions established in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch, whose objectives include the promotion of human development in Honduras and an increase in democratic participation. The Forum requests that the Swiss Government take this opportunity to put democratization and the human rights situation at the top of its agenda.

Honduras Forum Switzerland was founded in 2012 to raise awareness among the Swiss population about the situation in Honduras, and to advocate for the respect of human rights and an equitable relationship between the two countries. Today the Forum has about 25 members involved in various projects. It works with other groups, organizations and networks with similar aims in Switzerland, Honduras and other countries.

See the Forum’s press statement:

Press Statement Honduras Forum Switzerland

Mining: Three members of Tolupan indigenous group murdered in Yoro

August 27, 2013

Three indigenous Honduran Tolupan were shot and killed on Sunday, August 25, 2013, at a private residence in Locomapa, Yoro, in northern Honduras. The victims were Maria Enriqueta Matute, 71, from the Community of San Francisco Campo, Armando Funez Medina, 46, of Las Brisas, and Ricardo Soto Funez, 40, of Cabeza de Vaca.

Witnesses say the killings were committed by two local men under contract by wealthy miners illegally extracting the mineral antimony from the lands of the indigenous Tolupan people of Yoro.

This occurs in a context of increasing intimidation and violence against communities which peacefully oppose mining on their territory, a situation which is met with impunity (see latest article on La Nueva Esperanza).

In the case of Locomapa, the community had organized to protect their resources and to oppose mining on their land. They had spoken on the radio, denouncing the illegal exploitation by powerful mining interests and by loggers. Members of the community decided to set up a road block, allowing local traffic, but stopping mining vehicles and illegal loggers. It was on the 12th day of this roadblock that the killings occurred.

According to residents, the shootings allegedly were carried out by hitmen of the mining company. Locals say the two accused live in a nearby community and are corrupt members of the indigenous council who had directly threatened to kill the activists before the shooting, telling the wife of one of the murdered men to prepare the casket.

Families mourn for three community members killed while opposing illegal mining (PROAH)

Families mourn for three community members killed while opposing illegal mining

Eyewitnesses say the two perpetrators arrived at the roadblack on motorcycle at 5:30 Sunday afternoon, drunk, and opened fire on the dozen or so activists there. Two men died in the entryway to Maria Enriqueta Matute’s house. Then she was shot as she came out to see what was happening.

The two suspects remained free Monday, and reportedly returned to the same house three times, to threaten and intimidate the grieving families who were awaiting the bodies from the morgue.

Caskets carrying the remains were transported by pickup to the community Monday night, where the three were waked at the house where they died. They were buried Tuesday morning, August 27.

The local community and human rights organizations are asking for justice in the case. Several other community members have been directly threatened by the same men.

La Nueva Esperanza: So far, a situation of flagrant impunity

August 25, 2013

Despite the concern generated nationally and internationally by the kidnapping of two members of the PROAH team on July 25, 2013 by armed men working for Minerales Victoria mining company1, the gunmen continue to terrorize the community of La Nueva Esperanza, in the full knowledge of the state authorities, including the Ministry of Security.

Although police were mobilized to search for the international observers, and the Public Prosecution Service (Fiscalía) is actively investigating the case, no effort has so far been made to capture the armed men who, since early June, have been threatening community members who refuse to sell their land to the company.

The family, at whose home the PROAH members were seized, were forced to flee La Nueva Esperanza for their own security, followed by another member of the community on August 3, after he received threatening visits by the armed men from the company that wants his land for its operations. Members of the community have informed PROAH that the men regularly fire guns during the night to intimidate villagers and that two more armed men arrived in La Nueva Esperanza on August 10, 2013.

The community school continues to be closed due to the security situation, and because the teacher was forced to leave the area after receiving death threats.

All of these incidents have been reported to the authorities and have occurred despite the existence of a “police station” very close to La Nueva Esperanza, in the community of Bella Vista, which was imposed on the communities in January 2013 by the Mayor of Tela, David Zaccaro, without any consultation. In reality, the “station”, manned by ten police officers, is the private home of a member of the community who collaborates with Minerales Victoria. The officers are fully aware of the presence of the dozen armed men linked to the company, having escorted them into the community on June 5, 2013. Local representatives of the Public Prosecution Service and the National Human Rights Commissioner (CONADEH) have confirmed that these police do not have a logbook to record incidents or their activities, indicating that they are carrying out their functions without any controls in place.2

Prior to the arrival of the armed men in the community on June 5, 2013, acts of intimidation on the part of the police installed in the zone included death threats issued to journalist Leonardo Amaya Guevara on February 18, 2013 as he reported on the activities of the community of Nueva Esperanza in defense of their environment .3 However, the most serious incident involving officers from the police station occurred on June 3, 2013, when members of the community were victims of acts of aggression and intimidation, including death threats, with two of the policemen firing at the feet of villagers including a 79-year-old man. In response to the community’s protests, all of the police officers involved were changed on June 5, 2013. However, that same evening, the community witnessed the new police officers escorting the armed men with the mining company into the zone.4

Since then, these police have turned a blind eye to the armed men’s activities, the kidnapping of members of the PROAH team being a prime example. The day before the incident, they had informed the police station of their arrival, identifying themselves as international human rights observers. However, during the kidnapping, not one of the 10 police officers was at the station.5

Demonstration outside the Public Prosecution Service building in La Ceiba on August 9, 2013

Demonstration outside the Public Prosecution Service building in La Ceiba on August 9, 2013

Despite the abuses they have suffered, the villagers of La Nueva Esperanza continue to be steadfast in their opposition to the mining operations, with the support of the national and international community. On July 27, just two days after the kidnapping, 250 national and international activists formed a convoy to visit La Nueva Esperanza and to show their support. On August 9, there were peaceful demonstrations in Tela and La Ceiba in solidarity with the people of La Nueva Esperanza and to protest against mining in the region. Outside Honduras, actions have included a letter sent to the US State Department in which 24 US church denominations and organizations have registered their concerns about the situation in La Nueva Esperanza.

See Urgent Action of June 27, 2013.

2   Joint statement by MADJ and MAA (7.6.2013)

Oficio No. SJDH-DM-N. 0083-2013; Video:

4    Joint statement by MADJ and MAA (7.6.2013)

5  See Urgent Action of June 27, 2013.

Mining in Atlántida: The Diocese of La Ceiba issues a public statement

July 3, 2013

The Diocese of La Ceiba called a press conference on 26 June to issue a statement expressing its concern at the mining concessions in the department of Atlántida. The event, held at the bishopric, was attended by priests from the various parishes in the department,and led by Monsignor Michael Lenihan, the Irish-born bishop. PROAH volunteers attended as observers.


In the statement, the Diocese restates the Catholic Church’s commitment to sustainable development, the protection of the environment and support for the poor as well as highlighting the need to treat natural resources as a common good. It also expresses deep concern at:-

– the environmental and human impact of the mining concessions being granted in the Department,
– the failure of the authorities to consult affected communities, which unanimously oppose the concessions,
– the intimidation of opponents of mining both within the communities and those who support them, and the use of state security forces for repression.

The blood of mining operations is water”

The statement makes particular mention of La Nueva Esperanza (see our blog posted on 20 June) and  expresses the Diocese’s full support for its parish priest, Father César Espinoza, who has been the target of threats because of his support for the community (see El Tiempo article – in Spanish). He, along with the rest of the Diocese, continues to be firmly opposed to open-cast mining in the region, stating that, because of its impact on springs and river basins, “the blood of mining operations is water”.

Father César Espinoza who has received death threats

Father César Espinoza who has received death threats

A process “at stalemate”

The Diocese, which has sought to mediate between the affected communities and the mining companies and authorities, organising two meetings between them in April, has taken this unusual step of issuing a statement because it feels that the process has reached a deadlock, with the authorities failing to honour their commitment to provide the communities with full information on the concessions that affect them, while at the same time going ahead with exploration activities which are in themselves damaging to the environment, and allowing the intimidation of the communities by the security forces and armed civilians to continue.

We’ve organised two meetings with all the parties and there has been dialogue but we’ve concluded that all the communities are opposed to these mining companies” said Father Víctor Cámara, Parish Priest of Jutiapa.

The full original statement is available in Spanish, and in English below and pdf.


 The Diocese of La Ceiba, fulfilling the mandate of the Diocesan Assembly held on 1 June 2013 at San Isidro parish church, attended by about 120 pastoral workers from every parish, to issue a public statement on the issue of mining throughout the Department, and specifically in the Florida district, in the Parish of Our Lady of the Pillar in Arizona, … would like to inform all People of God, all people of good will, the authorities and the general public that:


  1.- Our earth is God’s creation and gift and we therefore have to treat it with respect. We human beings, created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), are called upon to be responsible stewards of the goods of creation, we are called upon toto till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

2.- Jesus made clear with his words and deeds that God is the God of Life (John 10:10). Being faithful to the teachings of the Gospel requires us to regard life as a gift from God in all creation. This integral and interdependent dimension to all of creation means that human beings must act responsibly.

3.- The following of Jesus and the mission are intimately linked. “The mission of evangelization cannot proceed separated from solidarity with the poor and the promotion of their comprehensive development” (AD1 545). For “…the living conditions of many of those who are abandoned, excluded, and ignored in their poverty and pain stand in contradiction to this project of the Father and challenge believers to greater commitment to the culture of life. The Kingdom of life that Christ came to bring is incompatible with such inhuman situations. If we try to close our eyes to these realities we are not advocates of the life of the Kingdom and we place ourselves on the path of death.” (AD 358)

 4.- Living in the Spirit of Jesus, we are called upon to reaffirm the option for the poor, vulnerable and excluded, the favoured beneficiaries of the Kingdom and the first victims of the negative effects of the current socio-economic model and the natural disasters caused by global climate change.


5.- We do not have the right to exploit the earth’s resources “irrationally demolish[ing] sources of life” (AD 471)

6.- The Social Doctrine of the Church emphasises that [a] correct understanding of the environment prevents the utilitarian reduction of nature to a mere object to be manipulated and exploited” (CSDC2 463). On the contrary, human intervention in nature must be governed by respect for other people and their rights and for other living creatures (CSDC 459). It also implies taking responsibility for ensuring that future generations can inherit a habitable world.

 7.- We reaffirm the need to preserve planet earth as the “shared home” of all living beings. The Blessed Pope John Paul II warned us of the risks of regarding the planet solely as a source of economic resources: “…the environment as ‘resource’ risks threatening the environment as ‘home’”(CSDC 461). For this reason, it is essential to assess the long-term environmental cost of mining activities.

8.- Regarding the activities of extractive industries and the use of non-renewable natural resources, we must bear in mind the principle of the common use of the goods of creation, especially vital resources such as water, air, and land. This is the fundamental principle of the entire ethical and social order (Laborem exercens3 19)

9.- Another fundamental principle of the Social Doctrine guiding the Church in its commitment to promote comprehensive and sustainable development is the principle of the common good. “To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity.” (Caritas in veritate4 Para. 7). In addition, “The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction” (Message for the World Day of Peace 20105 Para. 12)


  10.- The avalanche of proposed mining projects in our department of Atlántida, which are reported to amount to several dozen, seeking to exploit areas of high ecological value. Atlántida has a unique natural beauty, with 12 areas protected as national parks, accounting for 40% of its territory, it is the region with the highest production of water in the country, and it has a coastline suitable for tourism and with chains of coral reefs. Do we want to jeopardize all this beauty and wealth?

 11.- The environmental impact of these projects and the negative consequences for the life of rural communities. So far we have no evidence that environmental impact assessments have been carried out with the participation of those affected. The lack of information in this regard makes us suspect that these supposed environmental impact assessments lack credibility and technical quality. We can not embark on a journey in the name of development that will bring more harm than good.

  12.- The lack of transparency and the secrecy with which this process of granting concessions is being conducted, behind the backs of the communities that will be seriously affected, and without informing them. There is the desire to impose these projects on the communities without any consultation and with the excuse that “we have permits” and “it’s legal”. Is it possible to undertake these projects without taking into account the views of the communities? As a Church we say that it is not and oppose this abuse of both individual and collective human rights.

 13.- The conduct of the police and state security forces who are biased in favour of those who control capital and wield influence. We do not believe that the police are acting in this case to protect the population, which has always been peaceful, but rather in favour of a party arriving to transgress legal boundaries and its own motto of “protect and serve”. Why are there COBRAs6 in the area with a provocative attitude towards the population which has lived peacefully without a police presence? We object to the State provoking the population in this area with its security forces. We are concerned about the motto of the COBRAs – “Victory or death”? Victory over whom exactly?

14.- The conduct of local authorities which are failing to act transparently, denying the people the right to decide. Why has it not been possible to organize a referendum so that it is the population that makes the decision? Why are operating permits being granted regardless of the views of the communities directly affected? Why are our authorities turning their backs on the people whom they should be serving by seeking the common good? Why this distance and lack of fluid communication with those whom they represent?


15.- In fulfilment of its mission to work for reconciliation and unity, for respect for the dignity of each person and the common good (cf Lumen Gentium71), the Church continues to promote open and transparent dialogue between the different parties in society involved in socio-environmental conflicts. In this way the Church wishes to help in each case to stop the escalation of conflict, to prevent the outbreak of violence and to find a just and sustainable solution.


  16.- The Diocese of La Ceiba demands that the State, before authorizing any mining activity:

Ensures that there is prior consultation with the involvement of the representatives of the villages and communities affected in the decision-making on the potential implementation of such projects.

– Meaningful and reliable Environmental Impact Studies with the participation of the affected communities.

– The Church also demands that the State, through the mining authority, provides the population with adequate information on the results of the study.

17.- That a dialogue is opened up in the area and in the entire Department to reach a consensus on the paths towards equitable, humane and sustainable development. We support tourism in Atlántida, because of both its beaches and mountains, investment in forestry systems, fishing, agriculture and cattle production, handicrafts… Is mining the future for Atlántida? We do not think it is and we know that there is a need to find other viable alternatives, more humane and sustainable, and agreed by consensus.


 18.- The inhumane pressure to which the communities in Florida district are being subjected, particularly Nueva Esperanza, in Tela Municipality, Arizona Parish, Atlántida.

19.- The introduction of high-calibre weaponry into the district, all permitted by and in collusion with the police in the area with the purpose of silencing the voice of communities resisting the imposition by force of a project which threatens their future.

 20.- The presence of heavily armed men in the area brought in from outside the district who are threatening all those opposed to the project by acting like hired killers.

 21.- The threats to and pressure on community leaders who are giving us lessons in integrity and honesty with their faith and their love of life.

 22.- The strategy of divide and rule towards members of communities. The mafia-like strategies of spreading chaos and distrust between people with “informers” “eavesdroppers” etc

 23.- The defamation and threats targeted at Fr. César Espinoza and the missionary team at Arizona by unscrupulous businessmen and those groups they have influence over. As the Church of La Ceiba we support Arizona Parish’s pastoral work which is based on a commitment to the poorest, in line with the Church’s rich social doctrine, supporting communities fighting for the right to life and the common good of the population.


 24.- We do not wish the region to descend into violence…but if it does we hold responsible the businessmen who have acted impetuously and hastily, prepared to do anything to exploit the region against the will of its inhabitants, thereby demonstrating their recklessness and arrogance; those in command of the state security forces for giving orders which jeopardize the safety and lives of simple and peaceful people; the police carrying out orders to act against their own people, serving private interests, and the local authorities for failing to inform and consult the people in a transparent fashion.



We ask Saint Isidore the Farmer, lover of the land and patron saint of our diocese, and Saint Francis of Assisi to enlighten us all so that we may find the wisest solution to the problems we are facing. To them we commend ourselves.

 Issued in the city of La Ceiba on 26 June 2013

 Mons. Michael Lenihan, O.F.M

Bishop Diocese of La Ceiba

 Fr. Francisco Sánchez Argueta

Vicar General Diocese of La Ceiba

 Fr. René Flores Pineda

Chancellor Diocese of La Ceiba

Fr. Víctor Cámara Cámara

Episcopal Vicar of the Pastoral Ministry

1 Aparecida Document – Concluding Document of the Fifth General Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Bishops, which took place in Aparecida, Brazil in May 2007.

 2 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

6 Police officers specialized in riot control and special and tactical operations

7Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, promulgated in 1964, and one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Mining project in La Nueva Esperanza: Alarming escalation in intimidation of the community

June 20, 2013

The community of La Nueva Esperanza, in Atlántida department, is fighting to protect this piece of tropical paradise in the mountains just inland from Honduras’ Caribbean coast, in the face of a new mining concession granted to Minerales Victoria to exploit iron deposits. The company’s owner is Lenir Pérez, son-in-law of Miguel Facussé, the major – and notorious – businessman and landowner, and it operates through Pérez’s company, Alutech, part of Inversiones EMCO, based in San Pedro Sula, which specializes in making steel structures.

Villagers from La Nueva Esperanza

MADJ and MAA denounce the intimidation of the community

In a joint statement1 released by MADJ (Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia – Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice) and MAA (Movimiento Ambientalista de Atlántida – Atlántida Environmental Movement), which are supporting La Nueva Esperanza and other nearby communities affected by the project, have reported an alarming escalation of intimidation since the beginning of 2013, and especially in recent weeks, by Lenir Pérez’s company and the police and armed civilians who support it. Two community leaders, César Alvarenga and Roberto García, both members of MADJ, are already beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), having received death threats texted by Pérez in August 2012.23 Father César Espinoza, the community’s parish priest, a Guatemalan based in the nearby town of Arizona, who has been active in defence of the community, has also been the target of similar attacks, receiving threats from ‘supposed mining workers’ on his mobile phone in January this year4.

PROAH visited the community at the end of May and mid-June by invitation of the community itself and MADJ so that we could see the situation at first hand.

Exploring the area under concession with the villagers

The classification of iron oxide – a legal loophole

Due to the moratorium on metal mining for environmental reasons, still in effect,5 the company obtained the concession for non-metal mining – iron oxide – though everyone in La Nueva Esperanza knows that in addition to this mineral (and coal), the hills surrounding the small community are rich in gold, with panning for gold in streams forming part of their tradition. The application for a non-metal mining concession is one of the loopholes that allow companies to circumvent the moratorium. Under DEFOMIN (Dirección Ejecutiva de Fomento de la Minería – Mining Development Executive) and now under the new Mining Act (Ley de Minería)6 (more details below), the classification of iron oxide mining as metal or otherwise depends on what the company which has gained the concession states it is going to use it for, that is, if it is for metal products, the oxide is classified as a metal, but it is enough for the company to say that it will use it to produce cement, for example, to have it classified as a non-metal concession.

Iron oxide

Possible seam of gold on the banks of the creek

As well as allowing them to avoid the moratorium, such a classification means that mining companies can obtain a concession with fewer requirements, fewer environmental controls and lower taxes. Furthermore, once the concession is obtained, by simply notifying the authorities, companies can take up metal mining, a much more profitable operation for themselves and with a far greater impact on the environment and health of the inhabitants. (The extraction of iron oxide can also have profound impacts on the environment and health of the inhabitants of the communities living near the mine, but its advantages over gold mining, for example, include the fact that chemicals such as cyanide are not applied to extract the metal and nor is as much water used).

The concession at La Nueva Esperanza

Minerales Victoria, Lenir Pérez’s company, obtained a concession for 1,000 hectares, although it applied for 11,0007. The area subject to the concession includes 16 communities which, because their economy is based on farming, would lose their livelihood through the depletion or pollution of streams and springs. They are therefore resolute in their opposition to the entry of the company onto their territory. According to the patronato (community council), only 3 of the 45 families of La Nueva Esperanza support the mining company because they are already involved in its operations. Although the villagers refuse to sell their land, the attempts by the company, supported by the Mayor of Tela, continue, and many are receiving threats and pressure to sell their plots. In addition, the company has already begun work on land owned by residents of La Nueva Esperanza, according to information provided by the patronato. It has fenced land, cleared woods and started exploration at various sites, including at the edge of a creek that provides water to the community.

Trial trenches

Increasing harassment of the community and environmental damage

The local tension has been gradually increasing in recent months. To prevent the passage of the company’s vehicles, in February the community put a chain with a padlock across the road near the home of Don Enrique, an elderly man who is emblematic of the community’s resistance. However, on the night of the 13th of the same month, police shot at the chain, breaking it and destroying the lock. The officers involved in the events had no identification. In response to the complaint filed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministerio Público) by members of the community, the authorities publicly acknowledged that they had acted illegally. Despite this, the police continue to go the community without identification, which is giving rise to doubts about their true identity. There are suspicions that the men, although in uniform, are actually private security guards for Lenir Pérez’s company. Since then, attempts to promote a dialogue between the people opposing the mining project and the mining companies have not achieved any results. On the contrary, the threat to the community continues to intensify.

For example, on Saturday 25 May, when they assumed that the villagers would be at the carnival parade in La Ceiba,workers from the company tried to enter the concession area with two truckloads of machinery, with a police escort. However, the people were in the community celebrating a birthday, and with a collective effort, prevented the trucks from entering. Following this incident, which was reported on Radio Progreso, on Sunday 26 May there was a meeting in the banks of the creek that separates the community of La Nueva Esperanza and the land under concession to plan protests on a national scale, given the lack of response from the company.

Despite the community’s resolute stance, the harassment and threats have multipied in recent weeks. On Monday 3 June, a group of policemen entered the community, approaching the concession area and, in response to the villagers’ protests, fired their guns, fortunately without causing any injuries. Shots were also heard that night. Then, on the night of 5 June, a group of about 20 men, dressed in civilian clothes, with no identification and heavily armed, entered the community to spread terror among the people through repeated death threats. Faced with this dangerous situation, the villagers are suffering a “state of siege” that continues, forcing them to stay locked in their homes for safety. The community’s schoolmaster decided to suspend classes, and the village’s security situation is increasingly difficult.

Rocks heaped up to block the path of the company’s lorries

It was in the face of the gravity of the incidents and the risk of worsening violence in the community of La Nueva Esperanza, that on 7 June the villagers, backed by MADJ and MAA, denounced and condemned the constant threats by employers in the aforementioned statement, which calls on local and national authorities, as well as national and international civil society, to intervene and demand a cessation of the violence related to the mining project. The community reiterated its opposition to mineral extraction on its territory, and demanded the cessation of these activities and the definitive departure of the company.

However, the harassment continues. On 14 June, three men from the community were in a house when they received a phone call warning them that armed men were approaching. The three decided to flee, but were pursued by the armed men who opened fire. The three, fortunately unharmed, were forced to hide until the armed men went away8. When PROAH volunteers attended mass in the community on 19 June, they saw two men armed with guns near the church, one of them trying to hide.

The summit (already with trees felled) on 29 May

The summit on 17 June

Meanwhile, there is an increasing amount of damage to the community’s environment due to the so-called ‘exploration’ activities. Minerales Victoria workers are making illegal roads, breaking down private fences without the owners’ permission and felling trees at the roadside which are the community’s heritage. A particularly painful blow to the community has been the destruction of El Manguito, a mango tree located halfway up the hill between La Nueva Esperanza and El Carmen where all travellers used to rest and then continue on their way, enjoying the breeze and its cool shade. In addition, the effects of the operations on water sources are already beginning to become apparent: a creek that used to be clear has become muddy, contaminated by soil excavated during road-building and other works.

El Manguito on 19 May

El Manguito on 17 June

The new Mining Act and open cast mining

In Honduras, La Nueva Esperanza is another piece of the mosaic of communities opposed to mining companies operating in the country without the consent of affected communities. With the new Mining Act9, adopted on 23 January by Congress (although still suspended due to lack of implementing regulations10), at least 300 new concessions are expected, corresponding to about 15% of the country’s land area. According to social movements and the spokespeople of the communities affected by mining activity, the views of affected populations have not been taken into account. Rather, the law was written with the input of corporations with a direct interest, and foreign embassies. One of the most striking examples is open cast mining. Although according to a 2011 survey11, 91% of Hondurans were opposed to it, the Mining Act, by not even mentioning this type of mining, does not put any restriction on it, but instead makes its continuation implicit, as argued by the CNRA (Coalición Nacional de Redes Ambientales – National Coalition of Environmental Networks)12. While countries like Costa Rica have banned open cast mining throughout its territory, and in many other Latin American countries the debate is in progress13, Honduras is retaining a practice devastating to the environment and which also offers very little employment for local people.

Other serious weaknesses of the new Mining Act include: the possibility of populated land being subject to concessions (with the consequent risk of eviction of entire communities); businesses being granted priority in the use of water sources; lack of protection of communities’ water sources, unless they are located in a ‘water producing area’ already designated as such; the lack of access to financial and technical information, which remains in the hands of businesses and the lack of free, prior and informed consultation of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, as provided for in Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), ratified by the government of Honduras14. Under the new Act, the consultation of all communities, whether indigenous or not, is scheduled after the initial exploration phase, ie when the company will have already obtained a first form of concession, occupying communal territory and investing its capital. The opposition of a community could give rise to legal countermeasures and financial penalties imposed on the State, under international treaties ratified by Honduras15. There is already a precedent for this with Pacific Rim, the Canadian mining company, with its multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Salvadoran state.16

Mining as an ‘economic engine’: high expectations, low royalties

In response to the concerns of journalists and the communities affected, the authorities maintain that the engine for Honduras to escape its current state of poverty is the extraction of its hidden wealth, left mostly untapped by the Spanish conquistadors. The Ministry of Natural Resources (Secretaría de Recursos Naturales) estimates that over 60% of the national territory is potentially suitable for mineral extraction, both metal and non-metal. Santos Gabino Carvajal, president of ANAMINH (Asociación Nacional de Minería de Honduras – National Mining Association of Honduras), said that, once the new Mining Act enters into force, it will begin to attract investment into Honduras from industrialized nations such as China, Canada and the United States which could ultimately amount to up to US $4 billion17.

Despite these high expectations, it should be noted that both the canon territorial (the rent paid per hectare for the concession) and the taxes that the state will raise are very low. In addition, the taxes are subject to self-assessment by the companies. Under the new law, the total tax for metal mining is 6% of the value of sales18, (even lower – 2.5% – for non-metal mining) of which 1% is destined for the mining authority, 2% for the municipality where the mine is located, and 1% for ‘development projects’ managed by COALIANZA (Comisión para la Promoción de la Alianza Público-Privada – Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Partnership). The remaining 2% takes the form of a security tax. That means that, apart from the 1% for COALIANZA projects, there is no other mechanism that allows a form of national distribution and socialization of the wealth produced by mining19, but instead the strengthening of the security forces in a country which has already embarked upon a disturbing process of militarization.

2 IACHR precautionary measures – PM 342/12 of 3 October 2012 – César Adán Alvarenga Amador and Roberto García Fúnez, Honduras. (in Spanish only)

3 P.1 of the MADJ and MAA statement.

4 Ibid. P. 2.

5 A ban on new mining concessions was originally imposed in August 2004 by the Minister of Natural Resources, Patricia Panting, for two reasons: 1. The Siria Valley Environmental Committee (Comité Ambientalista del Valle de Siria) and the Civic Alliance for the Reform of the Mining Law (Alianza Cívica por la Reforma a la Ley de Minería) proved that DEFOMIN (Dirección Ejecutiva de Fomento de la Minería – Mining Development Executive) was granting concessions to Goldcorp without complying with the legal procedures and 2. The National March for Life (La Marcha Nacional por La Vida) which demanded the cancellation of all mining and logging concessions. The Minister also sacked DEFOMIN’s director. The current moratorium on metal mining was imposed by President Zelaya in February 2006, through Executive Decree PCM-09-2006, citing in the preamble the need for ‘rational exploitation of the nation as well as the least impact in the environment and reuse of mined areas for the benefit of the community’. Under the decree, the moratorium would remain in force until the introduction of amendments to the 1998 Mining Act (Ley de Minería de 1998). Although the controversial new mining act was passed in January 2013, it has not so far entered into force due to the lack of implementing regulations. As a result, the moratorium remains in place for the time being. (Executive Decree PCM-09-2006 published in the Official Journal, La Gaceta, No.30,928, 14.2.2006. Also available at

See also the report of the Commission of Truth P.57-58

(All documents cited are in Spanish)

7 19 metal mining concessions have already been granted in Atlántida Department, most of them in Tela municipality, amounting to 24,600 hectares (6% of the department’s land area) and 14 non-metal mining concessions have been approved (Source: CEHPPRODEC (Centro Hondureño de Promoción para el Desarrollo Comunitario – Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development) Situation as at 16.6.2013)

8 Report No. CEIN-PROV-0101-2013-04187

11 Survey by CESPAD (Centro de Estudio para la Democracia – Study Centre for Democracy) – September 2011

12 CNRA Press Release (23.1.2013) ‘Nuevo atentado contra la población de Honduras: Ley de minería entrega territorio y población como mercancía’ (‘A fresh assault on the Honduran population: Mining Act hands over territory and populations like commodities’) (Available at

18 Article 76 of the 2013 Mining Act.

19 Particularly worrying when one takes into account the damage mining operations can inflict on the environment and health of people outside the municipality where the mining is taking place, and even to transport infrastructure. See for example: