Honduras: anti-mining activists face death threats

Members of communities opposing open-pit mining in the northern Honduran department of Atlántida have received death threats because of their activitism, according to a June 7 communiquĂ© issued by the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) and the Atlántida Environmentalist Movement (MAA). The groups said police agents in the service of Lenir PĂ©rez, owner of the Alutech metal company, assaulted members of the Nueva Esperanza community on June 3, intimidating them and making death threats. On June 6 the residents received additional death threats from a group of “heavily armed men” operating in the area with the support of the national police, the communiquĂ© charged. The groups blamed Tela municipality mayor David Zaccaro, who “instead of supporting the communities has made common cause with the mine owners, especially Lenir PĂ©rez…who is carrying out violence and provoking the communities.”

In a separate statement, a Catholic group, the Caretian Missionaries, charged on June 10 that “alleged mineworkers” had made threats by text message on Jan. 28 to Father CĂ©sar Espinoza, a priest who opposes the mining, and to nuns in the group. The MADJ and the MAA asked for national and international organizations to write to Human Rights Minister Ana Pineda (apineda@sjdh.gob.hn), Director of Protection for Human Rights Defenders Rodil Vazquez (rvasquez@sjdh.gob.hn), Mayor Zaccaro (alcaldiadetela@yahoo.com) and other officials to ask the government to end the repression and the threats. (ReligiĂłn Digital, Madrid, June 15; Adital, Brazil, June 25)

Meanwhile, violence continues against campesinos demanding land in northern Honduras’ Lower Aguán Valley. On the morning of May 30 gunmen on a motorcycle shot campesino leader Marvin Arturo Trochez Zúñiga and his son Darwin Alexander Trochez dead while they were drinking coffee in their residence in La Ceiba, Atlántida’s departmental capital. Marvin Trochez’s wife was seriously injured. The double murder brings the number of campesinos killed in the dispute since January 2010 to 104, according to the North American group Rights Watch.

Marvin Trochez was active in the Campesino Movement of National Reclamation (MCRN). He was a leading figure in the June 2011 occupation of the Paso Aguán estate, which is managed by cooking oil magnate Miguel FacussĂ© Barjum’s Grupo Dinant company; at least five people, including four security guards, were killed in a violent confrontation there on Aug. 14, 2011. A year later, on Aug. 9, 2012, Marvin Trochez’s oldest son, also named Marvin, was killed on the estate along with another campesino identified only as “Carlos.” Three more MCRN members, Orlando Campos, Reynaldo Rivera Paz and JosĂ© Omar Rivera Paz, were shot dead on Nov. 3. Fearing for his own life, Marvin Trochez began carrying a handgun, but this led to his arrest for illegal weapons possession. He eventually went into hiding with his family in La Ceiba, where he had relatives. (La Haine, Spain, June 5, from Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán, MUCA; Rights Action press release, June 6, via Scoop, New Zealand)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 30.