Honduras: campesino leader detained without charge

Local police detained a national Honduran campesino leader, Juan Ramón Chinchilla, on Aug. 4 in Copán Ruinas in the western department of Copán and held him almost 21 hours without offering a legal justification. Police stopped Chinchilla at around 11:30 AM as he was returning with friends from a wake for a relative in a nearby community; the charge was apparently riding without a seatbelt. Chinchilla's friends paid a fine for the traffic violation, but police continued to hold the campesino leader on various pretexts, such as a supposed need to wait for a deputy commissioner. They finally released him at 8 AM on Aug. 5.

Chinchilla is a member of the National Executive Committee of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), which coordinated resistance to the military coup d'état that removed then-president José Manuel ("Mel") Zelaya Rosales from office in June 2009. He is also a member of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), which represents thousands of campesinos in a land dispute in the Aguán Valley in northern Honduras; the group's members have suffered violent attacks from the police and the military.

On Aug. 2, two days before Chinchilla's detention, two young campesinos were arrested in the community of Las Pilas, Trujillo municipality, Colón department, according to MUCA, which represents the families at the estate where the youths were arrested. The campesinos—Salvador Flores and Olvin Rivas, who is a minor—were charged with illegal possession of firearms. Attorney Rodolfo Zamora wrote in an email that "while they were held in the office of the National Police in Tocoa [a city in Colón department], a police captain…gave an order to have the youths pose without shirts on and with arms in their hands. That's what they did! I personally heard and saw what I'm telling you. I explained that they were violating the Constitution and the code for criminal trials, and, of course, they didn't care." (Adital, Brazil, Aug. 5 from Food First Information & Action Network (FIAN) Honduras; FNRP statement, Aug. 4 via Vos el Soberano, Honduras)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 8.

See our last posts on Honduras and Central America.