Posts Tagged ‘mining exploitation’

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

Urgent Action: Two members of PROAH held captive by armed men from the mining company in La Nueva Esperanza

July 28, 2013

On 25 July 2013, two international accompaniers from the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH), from Switzerland and France, were held captive for two and a half hours in the community of La Nueva Esperanza by armed men who guard the mining operations of Lenir Pérez, the owner of Minerales Victoria.

The armed men have been in this rural community in the department of Atlántida for almost two months, terrorizing the villagers and threatening those who refuse to sell their land to the mining company.  The threats are so serious that some villagers have been forced to flee their homes.  So far, the authorities have totally failed to respond to the situation there, and to date, the armed men continue in the village.

The URGENT ACTION (which is below and can also be downloaded in pdf HERE) includes requests for the immediate removal of the armed men from the region and for measures to be taken to halt the harassment and threats suffered by the members of the community of La Nueva Esperanza.

 For more information, see the article on the situation in La Nueva Esperanza Mining project in La Nueva Esperanza: Alarming escalation in intimidation of the community

and on the statement by the Diocese of La Ceiba on the situation there Mining in Atlántida: The Diocese of La Ceiba issues a public statement


On 25 July 2013, two international accompaniers from the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH from its initials in Spanish)1, from Switzerland and France, were held captive for two and a half hours in the community of La Nueva Esperanza by armed men who guard the mining operations of Lenir Perez, the owner of Minerales Victoria. The armed men have been in this rural community in the department of Atlántida for almost two months, terrorizing the villagers and threatening those who refuse to sell their land to the mining company.

The incident involving the international human rights accompaniers is yet another example of the seriousness of the situation in La Nueva Esperanza. The community is totally vulnerable, its members suffering intimidation because of their peaceful opposition to the mining exploration imposed upon them without any consultation and against their will.2 The threats are so serious that some villagers have been forced to flee their homes.

In the face of this situation, and in response to requests by members of the community, PROAH has been accompanying it through the dissemination of information and international alerts, and has visited the community several times.

On 24 July, the two members of PROAH spent the night at the home of a family in El Zapote, a community near La Nueva Esperanza, to accompany them in view of the threats they had received for refusing to sell their land to Lenir Pérez.3 At 9.00 am the next day, 25 July, seven heavily armed men arrived at the house, pointing their shotguns at the two accompaniers, reinforced by between 25 and 30 men with machetes, workers from the mining exploration site, who were led by a man identified as Wilfredo Funes by members of the community. He told the accompaniers that they had to leave because they were impeding the exploration work. The members of PROAH explained their work accompanying human rights defenders. At one point, Wilfredo Funes’ phone rang and he said that ‘the boss’ wanted to talk to the accompaniers. One of them asked if it was Lenir Pérez. Funes appeared surprised and said ‘You know?’ but when he passed the phone, the person hung up. Other armed men (according to members of the community, there are 12 in total there) chased after the owner of the house who was out at the time, shooting at him until he arrived at his home.

After an hour, the leader of the armed men forced the members of PROAH to leave the house, threatening to use force if necessary. He also said that if they returned, they ‘would be disappeared in the woods.’4 He forced them to walk for half an hour to La Nueva Esperanza, surrounded by the men armed with guns and machetes, who sexually intimidated the French accompanier, who is female. They were forced to delete the photos they had taken of the machinery used for the mining exploration. Then, Wilfredo Funes and an engineer from the mining company made them get into a pickup, with three armed men in the back. Before releasing them, Wilfredo Funes said if the members of PROAH reported the incident, the community would suffer reprisals. They left the accompaniers in the community of Nueva Florida at 11.30 am, after holding them captive for two and a half hours. The PROAH members waited there for an hour for a police patrol which took them to Tela.

There is no doubt that the pressure exerted by COFADEH5, PROAH, and other human rights defenders, including members of the community, in reporting the incident and requesting the immediate intervention by the national security authorities and members of the diplomatic corps, was a decisive factor in enabling them to be released.

Significantly, the day before, the human rights defenders had informed the police post in Buena Vista, on the way to the community, of their arrival, identifying themselves as human rights observers. However, the police were absent from the post during the incident.

A member of the community informed PROAH that the same night, armed men from the mining company drove through La Nueva Esperanza on motorbikes firing into the air. The family where the accompaniers were staying when they were first held captive had to flee the community for its own safety.

This incident is yet another example of the persecution of the villagers of La Nueva Esperanza and the entities accompanying them in defence of their human rights. Two community leaders, César Alvarenga and Roberto García, both members of MADJ (Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice), are already beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, having received death threats texted by Lenir Pérez in August 2012.6 The Guatemalan, Father César Espinoza, the parish priest for Arizona, which covers the community and who has been active in its defence, has also been the target of similar attacks, receiving threats from ‘supposed mining workers’ on his mobile phone in January this year7. It was in large part due to concern about his case, combined with the authorities’ failure to respond to the situation in La Nueva Esperanza, that the Diocese of La Ceiba issued a statement on mining in the region in June.8

In the light of these events, PROAH requests that the national and international community urges the Honduran authorities to:

– Ensure that the armed men guarding Lenir Pérez’s mining operations are removed from the area immediately.

– Immediately conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the incidents reported, requesting that the results are made public and that those directly and indirectly responsible for these threats and the intimidation of members of the community opposing the mining activity and of other human rights defenders, and for holding the members of PROAH captive, are brought to justice.

– Take the necessary measures to ensure that the harassment and threats against all members of the community cease.

–  Take urgent and concrete measures to implement the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1998.

– Ensure the implementation of the provisions of this Declaration, in particular with regards to the protection of the right of everyone “…individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”.

27 July 2013

Please contact the following authorities:

President of the Supreme Court of Justice

Jorge Alberto Rivera Avilés

Tel (504) 269-3000 269-3069


 Supervisory Board of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Junta Interventora del Ministerio Público)

Fax (504) 221-5667

Tel (504) 221-5670 221-3099

Minister of Justice and Human Rights

Ana Pineda

Director of INHGEOMINA (Honduran Institute of Geology and Mines)

Aldo Francisco Santos Sosa

Minister of Natural Resources (SERNA)

Rigoberto Cuellar

 Regional Human Rights Commissioner

Juan José Arita

 Mayor of the Municipality of Tela

David Zaccaro y

 Please send copies of this urgent action to your congressional or parliamentary representatives (and, where appropriate, Members of the European Parliament), as well as to your country’s diplomatic mission in Honduras, with letters expressing your concern at the worsening human rights crisis there. Please send copies of your letters to the Honduran authorities to the diplomatic representatives of Honduras accredited to your country.

 The Honduras Accompaniment Project was established in the country on 1 September 2010, in response to the deterioration in the human rights situation following the 2009 coup d’état. The aim of PROAH’s work is to prevent or alleviate situations of pressure or risk threatening the work of individuals and organizations who, for their defence of human rights, face imminent danger.

See article

See public statement by National Coalition of Environmental Networks

“Les perderían en el bosque”

5 Committee for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras.

Joint statement by MADJ and MAA (7.6.2013)



La Nueva Esperanza: Villagers Flee Homes in Fear

July 24, 2013

Below is a translation of an urgent alert issued by the National Coalition of Environmental Networks on 20 June (Coalición Nacional de Redes Ambientales) about the increased intimidation of villagers by armed men employed by Lenir Pérez, who is carrying out mining exploration in the area against the community’s wishes (see article Mining project in La Nueva Esperanza: Alarming escalation in intimidation of the community and Mining in Atlántida: The Diocese of La Ceiba issues a public statement). He is trying to intimidate villagers into selling land for the mining operations, forcing some to flee their homes in fear.

Meanwhile, the mining exploration continues, with the rivers now so contaminated by mud from the excavations that they can no longer be used by the villagers, who are living under a curfew imposed the armed men (see photo below). The school has been closed since early June, because of the security situation which led in the end to the teacher being forced to leave the area with his family due to death threats, leaving 35 children without classes.



Reliable sources have reported that at about 5.30 pm on Saturday 20 July, two armed men with Mr. Wilfredo Fúnez, an employee of the mining company owner Lenir Perez, visited the communities of El Zapote and La Nueva Esperanza to threaten families who are refusing to sell their land to the mining company. We have also been informed that families have had to abandon their homes and take refuge in the countryside or in the homes of neighbours, for fear of the constant phone calls being made by the outsiders who have come to the community, and of the dozen armed men, who have kept the community in a virtual state of siege for over a month.

We call on social movements and organizations to report these abuses and to demand urgently that the security is provided to the families at risk and under threat in El Zapote and La Nueva Esperanza, Tela municipality.

We also demand the presence of the Office of the Human Rights Public Prosecutor (Fiscalía de Derechos Humanos) in order to safeguard the life and physical integrity of the people at risk.

 We urge the national police to provide the security currently required by the families of these communities and to evict the people who are spreading terror and fear in these communities.

We demand that Aldo Santos, the Director of INHGEOMIN (Honduran Geology and Mines Institute), settles once and for all the lawsuits filed to cancel the concession granted to Lenir Perez, so that the natural resources that form the basis of the rural economy of these villagers can be safeguarded.

We request that this alert is publicized and that the authorities are called upon to halt the harassment, persecution and threats targeted at those defending their right to live in peace and with dignity on the land which is theirs as of right.





Fuentes de entera confianza nos han informado que a eso de las 5.30 Pm de este sábado 20 de Julio,  2 hombres armados junto al señor Wilfredo Fúnez, empleado del empresario minero Lenir Pérez,   han llegado a las comunidades de El zapote y Nueva Esperanza, para amenazar a las familias que se resisten a vender sus tierras al empresario minero. Se nos informa igualmente que las familias han tenido que abandonar sus casas y refugiarse en el monte o en casas de vecinos, por temor a las continuas llamadas telefónicas que están realizando los extraños que han llegado a la comunidad y se teme que estén llamando a la docena de hombres armados que desde hace más de un mes mantienen prácticamente un Estado de sito en la comunidad.

Hacemos un llamado a las organizaciones y movimientos sociales a denunciar estos atropellos y exigir de manera urgente que se brinde seguridad a las familias en riesgo y bajo amenaza de las comunidades de El Zapote y Nueva Esperanza, en el municipio de Tela.


De igual forma exigimos la presencia de la Fiscalía de Derechos Humanos para que garantice la vida y la integridad física de las personas en riesgo.


Hacemos un llamado urgente a la policía nacional para que brinde la seguridad que en estos momentos requieren las familias de las comunidades antes mencionadas y que desalojen a las personas que están sembrando el terror y la zozobra en estas comunidades


Al abogado Aldo Santos, Ministro Director de Inhgeomin le exigimos que resuelva de una vez por todas las acciones judiciales interpuestas para que se cancele la concesión otorgad al empresario Lenir Pérez y se salvaguarden los Bienes Naturales que constituyen la base de la economía campesina de esos pobladores.

Se solicita Difundir esta alerta y llamar a las autoridades para el Cese del Hostigamiento, la persecución y las amenazas a quienes defienden su derecho a vivir en paz y con dignidad en las tierras que les pertenecen por Derecho Propio.


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:

17 Siria Valley environmentalists free of charges, but their fight continues

February 22, 2013

On February 20, PROAH accompanied COFADEH’s lawyers and the Committee of Environmentalists of Siria Valley. That morning 17 environmentalists from the Siria Valley filed into the 5th courtroom of the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice accused of impeding a private deforestation project in their area. The delegation was so large that they couldn’t all fit in the courtroom’s allotted space for defendants. The case is now two years old (link in Spanish). PROAH has reported on the case and accompanied the Committee during that time. On April 7, 2010 approximately 500 community members gathered to protest and defend the trees that protect a watershed in their area that supplies the surrounding communities. Of the hundreds of protesters, 17 were accused of impeding a deforestation plan that the Committee of Environmentalists of the Siria Valley has denounced as illegal due to issues surrounding land tenure. At the end of 2009 they had filed a grievance with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and to this date have received no response.

Before the hearing a letter from international organizations addressed to Honduran authorities and the Canadian ambassador was circulated. The letter expressed “worry for the criminalization of the defense of the environment and human rights in Honduras” and support for the 17 environmentalists. The letter also quoted a Siria Valley community member: “How is it possible that the public prosecutor for the environment can accuse environmental defenders whose only objective is the defense of life and the protection of water?” (This public prosecutor is specifically responsible for prosecuting cases that have to do with the environment.)

The defense was able to prove 5 of the defendants were not even present at the protest on April 7, 2010. The defendants were represented by Kenia Oliva and Karol Cardenas of COFADEH (Comité de Familiares de los Detenidos y Desaparecidos de Honduras). In his testimony, Carlos Amador (General Secretary of the Committee of Environmentalists of Siria Valley) expressed that the case was purely a criminalization of environmental defenders. On Monday, February 25 the presiding judge Mario Díaz read the resolution of the case absolving the accused of all responsibility and leaving them free of all charges (link in Spanish). One of the defendants, Reynaldo Guerra, a former mayor in the Siria Valley region, expressed the Committee’s contentment with the decision and said “we continue to be committed to the protection of the environment, as much mining exploitation as deforestation.”

Carlos Amador, General Secretary of the Environmental Committee of Siria Valley; photo from the Committee's Facebook page.

Carlos Amador, General Secretary of the Environmental Committee of Siria Valley; photo from the Committee’s Facebook page.

A battle was won on February 20, but their fight continues. Carlos commented that it is just a momentary step and that “there are more difficult things coming for environmentalists.” The long-disputed mining law that passed recently in the Honduran Congress presents a whole host of new challenges for environmentalists across the country. Specifically in the Siria Valley Five Star Mining (owned by Gold Lake)  has set its sights on the region to exploit iron, according to Carlos. The company already has a presence in Monte Redondo in northern Honduras. “It’s a double threat with the approval of the new law. Siria Valley is going to become a place for a lot of new businesses to come exploit gold,” said Carlos. He is sure that this will not be the last attempt to delegitimize environmental activism, adding, “Companies will look for any other mechanism to continue criminalizing environmental defenders.”

Press Conference about Health Impacts of San Martin mine and Honduras’ Proposed Mining Law

August 28, 2012

On August 1, 2012, members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee (Comité Ambientalista del Valle de Siria) traveled to Tegucigalpa for a press conference about the health impacts of the San Martin mine. PROAH accompanies the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, whose members have been criminalized for their efforts to defend the environment, and was present for the press conference, held as part of the Continental Day of Action Against Canadian Mega Resource Extraction. It was led by Dr. Juan Almendares, a medical doctor who has worked extensively with communities affected by the mine in Honduras and the coordinator of the Movimiento Madre Tierra (Mother Earth Movement) of Honduras.

The San Martin mine, owned by Canadian mining company Goldcorp, operated in the Siria Valley from 2000 until 2008. Dr Almendares and community members report that the mine has left behind a legacy of health and environmental problems due to the mine’s contamination of the water in the area with heavy metals. According to Dr. Almendares, when the mine opened in 2000, only 8 out of every 100 people in the area had skin problems. Ten years later, after the operation of the mine, this figure has increased ten-fold, to 80 out of every 100 residents. High levels of heavy metals – lead, arsenic, and mercury – have been found in the blood of both children and adults in the Valley.

A recent photo report by Carlos Amador of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee documents the “serious endemic health crisis [that] continues to unfold” in the Siria Valley. The report includes testimony from community members, such as Juana Aceituno, who explains, “Look at how sick I am. I never had problems like this. It was when the mine came that I got sick. I have a lot of pain and I don’t know what to do about it. This Canadian mine came here and ruined everything.”

Last month, members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee traveled to Guatemala for the People’s International Health Tribunal to testify about the health effects of the San Martin mine. The Tribunal heard testimony from people affected by Goldcorp mines in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras and in its verdict stated:

“All of the cases that have been presented have the common elements of: (a) contamination and the irreversible loss of water sources, (b) irreversible environmental devastation: disappearance of mountains, ecosystems and changes to the hydrologic cycle, (c) dust that is constantly inhaled and that contains heavy metals and toxic substances that include carcinogenic elements that accumulate in organisms, (d) effects in the chain of life: destruction of crops and soil, illness and death of wild and domestic animals. In the testimonies, we have heard people talk about skin and eye illnesses, hair loss, skin rashes, miscarriages, infertility, premature births, birth defects and death of newborns, joint pains, auditory damage, gastrointestinal problems, nervous system problems, cases of poisoning that have led to death….We heard from ex-workers of Goldcorp whose health has been affected because they suffer from frequent intoxication, leaks, toxic chemical explosions, and workplace accidents due to a lack of equipment and security measures. These accidents have also led to death.”

Pedro Landa, Coordinator of CEHPRODEC (Honduran Center for the Promotion of Community Development) and facilitator of the National Coalition of Environmental and Social Networks of Honduras (Coalición Nacional de Redes Ambientales y Sociales de Honduras) noted at the press conference that 70% of mines in Latin America are owned by Canadian companies or companies with headquarters in Canada and it is no coincidence that the Canadian government sent experts to ‘advise’ on the proposed mining law currently being considered by the Honduran Congress. In a recent article, Jennifer Moore of Mining Watch Canada examines the role of the Canadian government in the proposed mining law in Honduras and finds that “the Canadian government is spending taxpayer dollars to help set up a favourable legal framework for Canadian mining operations against the will of Honduran civil society.”

Numerous Honduran civil society organizations have rejected the proposed mining law that the Honduran Congress is currently considering. This proposed law would end the current moratorium on new mining concessions, paving the way for the 300 mining applications that were stalled by the moratorium to move forward. It allows for open-pit mining — which 91% of Hondurans oppose, according to a survey by the CESPAD (Center for Democracy Studies) and the World Lutheran Federation. The National Coalition of Environmental and Social Networks of Honduras released a statement about the recent ‘socialization’ process in which the Mining Commission of the National Congress and government agencies held briefing sessions about the proposed law. The Coalition notes, “In all these “briefing” sessions, the above-mentioned public officials have tried to deceive the population by telling a series of half-truths which, according to ethical principles and values, are complete lies.”

The first half-truth they cite is the claim that “the new law better protects natural resources,” noting that “the truth of the new law” is that “it makes it possible for buffer zones of protected areas to be subject to mining concessions, it fails to safeguard the human right to water for the population, … removes from municipalities their authority to designate zones as protected, … [and] relaxes the requirements for obtaining an environmental license.” Read the whole statement from the National Coalition of Environmental and Social Networks of Honduras here.