Honduras: activist priest forced into hiding

Father José Andrés Tamayo, an activist Honduran priest who was the Central American recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for 2005, went into hiding shortly after the June 28 military coup that removed President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from power, according to phone calls he made on July 1 to New York’s Spanish-language daily El Diario-La Prensa and the US-based Catholic News Service.

On June 29 Tamayo joined a group of several hundred protesters who were taking seven rented buses from the eastern department of Olancho, where Tamayo is based, to Tegucigalpa to join ongoing demonstrations against the coup. When soldiers shot out the buses’ tires near the town of Los Limones, the protesters decided to block the road. During the night of June 30-July 1 the soldiers attacked, beating the protesters and firing their weapons “in all directions,” according to Tamayo, who escaped into a house and hid under a bed. Some protesters were arrested and taken to a police station, where they were beaten, stripped and threatened with shotguns before being released after four hours.

Tamayo was in hiding when he made the calls. There have been several attempts against the priest’s life since 2001 because of his campaigns to protect the forests; he had been assigned bodyguards by the previous government, but they were apparently withdrawn after the coup. (Catholic News Service, July 1; La Opinión, Los Angeles, July 2 from ED-LP; New America Media, July 2, translated from ED-LP)

With the de facto government clamping down on independent media and most international reporters concentrated in Tegucigalpa, there has been little coverage of repression in the countryside following the coup. “The country is heavily militarized, and there are reports of people imprisoned, detained and even disappeared,” Pedro Landa, executive director of the Catholic charitable agency Caritas Honduras, said on July 1. A group of about 30 soldiers shut down Radio Progreso, a Jesuit-run station in the northern city of El Progreso, on June 28. The staff reopened the station the next day, despite threats from coup supporters. (CNS, July 1)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 7

See our last post on Honduras.