Honduras: kidnapped journalist found murdered

A charred and dismembered body thought to be that of Honduran journalist Aníbal Barrow was found on July 9 in and around a lake in Villanueva, near San Pedro Sula in the northern department of Cortés. Barrow, the host of a popular morning talk show on the Globo TV channel and also a math professor at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, was kidnapped by armed men on June 24. Police said they had captured four men involved in the crime and were seeking six more; according to police, a “protected witness” led them to the body. National Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares told reporters that no motive had been established for the killing. Barrow’s death would bring the number of Honduran journalists killed since 2010 to 28, according to human rights groups. (Reuters, July 9, via Huffington Post; El Heraldo, Tegucigalpa, July 10; Upside Down World, July 14, from IPS)

Honduran journalists are frequently subjected to death threats. According to the Federation of Agro-Industry Workers Unions (FESTAGRO), which includes unions of banana and other agricultural workers, the group’s director of communications, José María Martínez, has been repeatedly threatened through anonymous phone calls. Martínez hosts a radio program, “The Unionist on the Air,” on Radio Progreso each Friday evening. He has reported on labor abuses and human rights violations at various farms, including the Tres Hermanas estates, which supply bananas to Chiquita Brands International Inc, a multinational based in Charlotte, North Carolina; Tres Hermanas products are certified by the New York-based environmentalist nonprofit Rainforest Alliance. The death threats specifically mention Martínez’s talks on the radio. An anonymous message to his wife warned: “Tell your husband if he doesn’t shut his mouth on the radio we’re going to kill him.” A car without license plates was seen circling Radio Progreso just as Martínez’s program ended on July 5.

FESTAGRO suspects that the threats may be coming from Tres Hermanas. A note on the Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) Facebook page suggests that messages expressing concern and demanding protection for Martínez and investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators should be sent to Tres Hermanas owner José Lorenzo Obregón (jolobregon@gmail.com); Chiquita Vice President for Labor Relations Manuel Rodríguez (mrodriguez@Chiquita.com); the Rainforest Alliance (info@ra.org); and Ben Gedan at the US State Department Honduras Desk (gedanbn@state.gov). (FESTAGRO communiqué, July 9; HSN, July 9)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 14.

Note that Chiquita Brands has also been implicated in grave human rights abuses in Colombia.