In Honduras, the son of a prominent human rights leader was shot dead on Oct. 20 in what appears to be the latest assassination targeting campesino organizers fighting massive palm oil plantation companies in the valley of Aguán in northern Honduras.
Fernando Alemán Banegas was shot several times as he exited a nightclub in the city of La Ceiba. He’s the oldest son of Elsy Banegas president of the Coordinating Committee of Popular Organizations of Aguán. This comes after two campesino leaders in the Aguán region were also assassinated earlier this month (see our message from last week). Fernando Alemán Banegas ¡Presente!
Just days before on October 18, José Ángel Flores, the President of the Unified
Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MUCA) in Honduras and fellow MUCA leader Silmer Dionisio George were assassinated in front of doezens of people as they came out of a meeting. The Agrarian Platform of the Bajo Aguan denounced that they were murdered by a paramilitary group that colaborates with high ranking military officials. They also report that the United States Special Forces have trained Honduran special forces units at the 15th Battalion base in Rio Claro, which is linked to the death squads. Earlier this year, a former soldier with the Xatruch Task Force, which operates out of the 15th Battalion base, reported that the military unit had been given hitlists with names and photos of campesino leaders in the Aguan.
José Ángel had survived a previous assassination attempt by a member of the paramilitary group last year. He and others had reported threats and violence by the paramilitary group to the US Embassy backed special investigative unit in the Aguan, but the paramilitary group to continued to operate with impunity. Simler had also faced threats previously, having to go into hiding in 2014. 150 campesinos in the Aguan Valley have been murdered since the 2009 military coup.
Two days after the assassination of Jose Angel and Silmer, the Honduran state security forces aggressively repressed a peaceful mobilization demanding justice for the March assassination of Berta Caceres by the Indigenous Lenca organization COPINH.
The police, military police, and Cobras threw large amounts of tear gas into a crowd with many children, hit people with police batons, and chased them long distances. Tomas Gomez, current Coordinator of COPINH, has been followed by the military and twice had shots fired when he was driving.
While the assassinations and attacks on social movements continues unabated in Honduras, the US State Department recently certified that the Honduran government is taking effective steps on human rights, including to protect activists and human rights defenders, in order to enable $55 million in US aid to flow to Honduras. This is ridiculous. The State Department is in fact enabling the continued bloodshed and murders of activists in Honduras through this certification. The certification sends a clear message that it does not matter how many people are assassinated, nor how much military repression there is, the money will continues to flow.
Let Congress know that conditions on aid are not enough, as the State Department has shown they will certify conditions are being met while assassinations continue. As Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes in The Hill, ‘there is plenty that Congress can do even now. Individual senators, for example, on committees such as Appropriations and Foreign Relations, can make it enormously difficult, and maybe impossible, for U.S. security aid to be disbursed to Honduras. That kind of justified obstructionism could put tremendous pressure on the Honduran government to respect human life and rights.’
Already e-mailed? Make a phone call asking to cut off US security aid to Honduras (call the Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or better yet, visit the office of your Senator or your Congressperson. To see if your House member has already co-sponsored HR 5474, the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, click here.
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