Honduras indigenous leader’s detention challenged

The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), a legal advocacy group with offices in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and the US, has requested a hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) about the case of Honduran indigenous leader Berta C├íceres, who was ordered into preventive detention on Sept. 20. CEJIL director Marcia Aguiluz said the group has also raised the case with the United Nations. C├íceres, an indigenous Lenca, is the general coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). The government has charged her with damaging property in connection with her support of protests by indigenous Lenca communities against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on and near their territory. Aguiluz said that the “criminalization of Berta C├íceres” is an “example of a new manner of persecution, since it’s the use of the judicial apparatus to keep rights defenders from carrying out their work.” (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Sept. 26, from EFE)

Correction: On Sept. 22, we reported, following our source, that C├íceres was sent to prison on Sept. 20. Rights Action confirmed by email that as of Sept. 25 she was still free.

In other news, according to a CID Gallup poll of 1,220 voters surveyed between Sept. 6 and 12, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the presidential candidate of the newly formed center-left Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), was leading with 29% of voter preferences in elections now scheduled for Nov. 24. She was followed closely by Juan Orlando Hern├índez of the rightwing governing National Party (PN) with 27%; Mauricio Villeda of the center-right Liberal Party (PL) continued to trail far behind with 16%. Castro and Hern├índez were in a statistical tie, since the poll’s margin of error is 2%. Despite Castro’s good showing, 33% of those surveyed thought Hern├índez would win, against 28% for Castro. One reason for the disparity may be another of the poll’s findings: there are “doubts about the capacity of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal [TSE] to organize and execute honest and transparent elections.” (Honduras Culture and Politics, Sept. 26)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, September 29.