Grassroots Pressure Works – You Did It! US Withholds Funds to Honduran Police!

A lovely message from SOA Watch:

Over the last few weeks, thousands of you around the country have sent messages to your Members of Congress, urging them to ask US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to suspend US assistance to the Honduran military and police, given the widespread, serious human rights violations by the U.S.-trained Honduran security forces.

Now, the US government is responding to the grassroots pressure by withholding funds to Honduran law enforcement units directly supervised by Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, the SOA graduate who became the new national police chief. Funding will be withheld until the U.S. can investigate allegations that he ran a death squad a decade ago. The strategy of using death squads for the military’s dirty work is certainly nothing new for SOA students: Roberto D’Aubuisson established the Death Squads that were responsible for much of the violence in El Salvador in the 1980’s, and Benedicto Lucas Garcia masterminded the creation of the Civil Defense Patrols in Guatemala. Mexico’s José Ruben Rivas Peña , who took the SOA’s elite Command and Staff Course, called for the “training and support for self-defense forces or other paramilitary organizations in Chiapas,” and many of the Colombian officers cited in reports about collaboration with paramilitary groups graduated from the School of the Americas (SOA). A report, released by the State Department says that it “is aware of allegations of human rights violations related to Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla’s service” and that the U.S. government has established a working group to investigate.

This is a good step in the right direction that only happened because you were pushing for change. However, we need to push further. We don’t yet know how much of the U.S. funding for the repressive Honduran state forces is affected. What we do know is that graduates of the SOA, who head state security forces under the illegitimate post-coup regime of Porfirio Lobo, continue to work in complicity with private security forces to repress small farmers and cooperatives from defending the lands that provide their sustenance. We also know that political repression is among the worst in the hemisphere: journalists, opposition activists, and LGBT activists have been murdered with impunity.

Call the Honduras Desk in the State Department at 202-647-3482and let them know that while we appreciate that some of the funding is being withheld, their report and the investigation; it is absolutely urgent that ALL U.S. military and police training and aid to the repressive Honduran security forces be cut immediately. Afterwards, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202- 224-3121 and talk to the office of your Member of Congress. Let them know that we need them to amplify our voices at the State Department, that we need them to also work for the end to all U.S. military and police training and aid to Honduras as well as for the closing of the notorious School of the Americas, where many of the people responsible for the coup and the ongoing repression in Honduras were trained.

Stand in solidarity with our compañerxs in the South and mobilize your community for the November Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia(November 16-18, 2012) to speak out for justice and against oppressive U.S. foreign policy. Join your voice with thousands of human rights activists, torture survivors, anti-war veterans, students, families, union workers, and artists from across the Americas, at the largest grassroots anti-militarization mobilization in North America. Click here for more information.


Petition in Defense of the Rights, Culture and Territory of the Garifuna People


Petition published by OFRANEH, July 25, 2012


The Garifuna People have lived in Honduras for 215 years, after being expelled from the island of San Vicente, where our culture’s ethnogenesis took place in the mid-17th century.  The loss of our communities’ traditional territory has been an ongoing process for over a hundred years. The Honduran State handed over huge tracts of land to banana companies in exchange for laying down railway infrastructure. Military officials, politicians and businesspeople joined forces to seize beachfront lands, with the pretext of “tourism development.” Our territories are being converted into protected areas, without any consultation with affected communities.


But it was the coup in 2009 that marked the beginning of a definitive offensive by the State. The appropriation of the Bay of Trujillo by Canadian citizen Randy Jorgenson – known in his country as the “Porn King” – for the creation of a tourist emporium led to the destruction of the Garifuna community of Rio Negro.


In 2010, the government that emerged out of the June 2009 coup began to promote concessions of national territory for the creation of a quasi-independent state, with its own judicial, administrative and security systems.US economist Paul Romer promoted the concept of Charter Cities (“Ciudades modelos” in Spanish), intervening in the National Congress for the quick approval of a Special Development Regions (RED) law.


Demonstrating the interest of Canadian investors in taking over the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Canadian Senator Gerry St. Germain participated in a special congressional session on RED regulations. In 2011, without debate, the congress legislated regulations for the charter cities.


Government authorities have indicated that the first RED will be located between the Bay of Trujillo and the Sico river – an area with 24 Garifuna communities that are considered to be a cultural sanctuary. This same corridor is becoming an area controlled by people associated with organized crime, engaging in the illegal purchase of lands with the collusion of government institutions.


On October 18, 2011, a group of lawyers filed a motion of unconstitutionality regarding the REDs to the Supreme Court of Justice. This past February 25, the Attorney General’s Office (Ministerio Público) declared that there were grounds for the motion to proceed. Immediately, the National Congress began a campaign to pressure and influence the court, including a threat to make cuts to its budget.


The independence of the judiciary – an element without which democracy itself is in question – is at stake inHonduras.



Urgent Action by Greg McCain

On Friday July 6th I witnessed the exhumation of the body of Gregorio Chavez Aranda on one of the fincas (palm plantations) of Miguel Faccusé. He had been missing since July 2nd. Two months prior to his disappearance, Senior Chavez complained to Faccusé’s private security guards about the ongoing theft and killings of his farm animals by the guards.

His body was found many miles deep into the finca, but only approximately a mile from where the guards have been camped out. Gregorio’s head was covered with a small plastic bag and he had severe trauma to the back of his head as evidenced by a large wound and the pooling of blood inside the bag. The community of La Panama, of which Gregorio was a respected member, had tried to search the finca but were stopped by the guards when they had come to that section. Members of the Human Rights Observatory of the Aguan as well as Karen Spring from Rights Action and Mary Dean and myself had visited the Chavez family on Wednesday July 4th. We also spoke with members of the National Police and relayed to them the grave human rights violations that they were engaged in by riding up and down the roads of the community while acommpanying the heavily armed private security guards, a clear symbol of intimidation of the community.

Finally on Friday, the National Police, after much pressure from the community, agreed to accompany members of the community onto the Finca to allow them to search for Gregorio. They found a crudly dug shallow trench covered by palm leaves with many flies buzzing over it. After many hours of waiting for a forensic team to finally show up members of the community, including members of Gregorio’s family dug up his body.

Also, Jacobo Erazo Lopez, member of MUCA-Right Bank and partner in the campesino cooperative La Tranvio was assassinated last week in the community of Quebrada de Arena.
Tell the US Embassy that as the Embassy has maintained a close relationship with Miguel Facusse (principal owner of the Dinant palm oil company) and trained military forces in the region, they must act now to bring Gregorio and Jacobo’s assassins to justice:
Nathan Anderson
Human Rights and Labor Attaché
U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa
Office: (504) 2236-9320 ext. 4733
Cell: (504) 9719-0289

If you speak Spanish, call Honduran officials:

Ana Pineda, Minister of Human Rights (504) 9982-6801
Commissioner Mejilla – Departmental Chief of Police for Colon: (504) 9761-3669
Police Station in Trujillo: (504) 2434-3211

Polis Letter Update

The sign on date for the Polis letter has been extended to June 21st! Please contact your Representatives to urge them to sign. If you have already contacted them- please take the time to follow up with them, especially if they are not on the list of signers below.

Below is an update sent from Gary L. Cozette, Program Director of CRLN and HSN-CAT

HSN Colleagues & Friends – Here is the latest list of signers to the Polis letter addressing the murders of 70 LGBT Hondurans since the coup.  The letter remains open for signature for two more days.  If your rep is not on the list, please contact the foreign policy staffer in the DC office of your rep in the U.S. House to ask him or her to join in sign.  The letter is again included below.

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Rights Action: Urgent Action!


U.S.-D.E.A. Must be Held Accountable

 Please write your Congressional Representative and Senator to insist that the U.S. end its so-called drug war in Central America and that it fully assist in obtaining justice for the victims of the May 11, 2012 massacre in Ahuas, Honduras, during a joint operation by DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents and a special Honduran police unit created by the DEA. 

Below, find a sample letter and a list of key members of the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, which have oversight of the DEA.  When you write your Congress Member and Senator, please emphasize the DEA Oversight hearing on June 20, 2012, but after the hearing still write asking offices to direct questions to the Department of Justice.


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What Our Delegates Have Been Up To:

Many of our delegates have made public report backs on our findings. Below are just a few of them.

Tell Somebody with Tom Klammer Podcast Featuring Judy Ancel, Alice Kitchen and Melissa Stiehler

KRCB Public Radio featuring Maria Robinson

Counter Punch Article “The DEA and the Return of the Death Squads” by delegate Greg McCain

Kansas City’s Report Back Event

And there’s more to come!