Urgent Alert: OFRANEH leader Geovanni Bernandez detained in La Ceiba

 Geovanni arriving to the courthouse in Trujillo on the morning of May 19th, the day after he was detained in La Ceiba. Photo by OFRANEH.

Geovanni arriving to the courthouse in Trujillo on the morning of May 19th, the day after he was detained in La Ceiba. Photo by OFRANEH.

OFRANEH rep and Garifuna leader César Geovanni Bernardez was detained this afternoon in La Ceiba at around 4 pm. Geovanni is being charged with usurpation or illegal possession of land by Canadian businessman Patrick Forseth of CARIVIDA Villas related to an on-going land reclamation project in the Garifuna community of Guadalupe, department of Colon. It is CRYSTAL CLEAR that CARIVIDA is illegally possessing land Garifuna land (not the other way around) and that the only way that these capture orders were permitted is through corruption and abuse of authority.

Geovanni travels all over as a representative of OFRANEH but he is originally from Santa Fe in Trujillo Bay. For several years, OFRANEH and the Garifuna communities in Trujillo Bay have been battling illegal land sales made to American and Canadian developments including the Canadian Porn King Randy Jorgensen. On November 10th of last year, Medeline David, a Garifuna leader in Guadalupe was detained and tortured by the police in Trujillo for the same CARIVIDA project and the same charges as Geovanni.

OFRANEH is particularly concerned about Geovanni because he and other Garifuna youth in Santa Fe and Guadalupe were personally threatened a few days ago by the mayor of Santa Fe who has been involved in illegal sales as well. When they were threatened, the mayor made specific reference to Geovanni's "vulnerability" referring to the fact that he knew that Geovanni travels frequently to various Garifuna communities on the coast for his work with OFRANEH. The mayor has connections inside the Honduran military.

Since Geovanni was detained in La Ceiba, OFRANEH is worried that the Honduran police will take their time to release him by insisting that he be sent to Trujillo where the capture orders came from. That would mean that they might hold him until Monday.

PLEASE CALL ALL THE FOLLOWING PHONE NUMBERS AND DEMAND:

1. Geovanni's immediate release.

2. That OFRANEH have access to speak to him in detention.

3. That all charges of usurpation be dropped against him (as they were with Medelin's case because the charges have no basis).

Call or email or message the following numbers:

Solidarity Actions Needed: Tell U.S. Company, Delta Apparel to Give 25 Injured Honduran Workers Their Jobs Back!!

  May Day March 2017. Paper sign to the right reads “Male and female workers demand that Delta Apparel Honduras give us our jobs back.” Photo credit: CODEMUH

May Day March 2017. Paper sign to the right reads “Male and female workers demand that Delta Apparel Honduras give us our jobs back.” Photo credit: CODEMUH

Between April 5-7th, 2017, U.S.-based Delta Apparel fired over 40 workers that suffer from crippling musculoskeletal injuries, from their factory in Villanueva, Cortés, Honduras. Most have worked with the company for over 10 years. 25 of the 40 workers have refused to accept any settlements and are demanding that Delta Apparel give them their jobs back.

Without their jobs, the injured workers lose their health coverage and cannot access needed medical benefits and treatments, including operations, medicines, and rehab. Since they were fired, CODEMUH, The Honduran Women’s Collective, and the workers have organized protests outside of Delta’s factory.  Delta Apparel needs to hear from you!

The 25 workers - 22 women and three men – have received medical diagnoses that demonstrate that their injuries have been largely caused by the repetitive assembly line work in the factories. Honduran law requires that Delta relocate injured workers inside the factory in order to reduce the risk factors that caused the injuries. Delta refused to do this. Instead they fired the workers, using their injuries and diagnoses as the justification! Honduran law is weakly enforced because  foreign companies are very powerful and the government is corrupt. That’s why Delta Apparel needs to hear from workers and consumers in the U.S.

CODEMUH and the 25 recently fired employees are requesting that international organizations and individuals, send letters, email, call, tweet and Facebook the Delta Apparel’s U.S. headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina. It is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.

Call, tweet, facebook, and write Delta Apparel and demand:

1.     That Delta Apparently reinstate the 25 fired workers, without conditions and without delay.

2.     That the company abide by Honduran law, and relocate the 25 workers to positions in the factories and that they stop exposing their workers to the risk factors that cause these injuries in the first place.

CONTACT INFO:

Delta Apparel, Corporate Headquarters: 322 South Main Street, Greenville, South Carolina 29601,

Tel: 864-232-5200, Email: investor.relations@deltaapparel.com

Twitter: @DeltaApparel; Facebook: Delta Apparel

Write the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa (SmithJA6@state.gov) and insist that they follow-up with Delta Apparel and the Honduran government to ensure the workers’ voices are heard.

In all communications, please send a copy to CODEMUH at mujeresfem@codemuh.hn. Also demonstrate your solidarity for the workers on CODEMUH’s facebook (Codemuh Codemuh)

SAMPLE LETTER

May 8, 2017

Dear CEO and President Robert W. Humphreys,

It has come to our attention that Delta Apparel fired over 40 Honduran employees in early April 2017 from their Delta Apparel Honduras factory in Villanueva, Cortes. Of the 40 fired employees, 25 workers – 22 women and 3 men – are demanding that Delta Apparel give them their jobs back. All 25 workers are injured with work-related injuries like musculoskeletal disorders, as diagnosed by the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS), Without their jobs, they cannot access the expensive and specialized medical treatment they need for their injuries.

Delta Apparel knows that these workers are injured, but it simply wants to rid itself of a problem that the conditions in their own factory created! Delta justified firing the workers because of the diagnoses that the workers have been given by the IHSS, but the law is very clear: Delta is legally required to relocate the workers inside the factory in order to reduce the physical stress and risk factors that caused their injuries in the first place. However, Delta has refused in various hearings held by the Honduran Ministry of Labor to reinstate the 25 workers in jobs appropriate for their health conditions. We demand that their voices be heard! 

All fired employees have worked with the company for between 10-19 years, and all require immediate and specialized medical assistance as a result of the injuries they have developed on Delta’s assembly lines. The 25 employees should not be thrown away like a used and broken machine. They want their jobs back, and they need their jobs back so that they can continue to receive medical coverage through the Social Security Institute for the damage Delta Apparel has done to their bodies while working for them.

We demand that Delta Apparel abide by Honduran law and act as the “socially responsible” company it claims to be! Give the 25 workers their jobs back, without delay or conditions, and relocate them inside the factory to jobs where they are no longer at risk of further injury at no reduction in pay!

Sincerely,

Your Name

Cc: Jason Smith, Human Rights and Labor Representative, US Embassy in Tegucigalpa; SmithJA6@state.gov; CODEMUH, mujeresfem@codemuh.hn; Honduras Solidarity Network, honsolnetwork@gmail.com;

Semana Santa Adventure: A trip to Amapala

 Mangroves in the Gulf of Fonseca

Mangroves in the Gulf of Fonseca

 Pulling up to a seafood restaurant in San Lorenzo

Pulling up to a seafood restaurant in San Lorenzo

 
 Chiquirines cooked and ready to eat

Chiquirines cooked and ready to eat

Semana Santa or Holy Week is observed in most parts of Latin America the week leading up to Easter. A lot of Hondurans take advantage of the religious holidays where basically everything - stores, government offices, banks, etc. - close down, and hit the beaches or rivers. Its the best excuse to take a road trip, leave the cities, and look for any possible way to cool off in the extremely hot climate that begins around the same time of year.

This year, I was invited to Amapala, the main town on El Tigre Island that is surrounded by the waters of the Gulf of Fonseca in the Pacific Ocean. I have not been blogging at all in the last month because of my travels inside and outside of Honduras, including this trip to southern Honduras. I've never actually written any sort of tourist post related to my travels in the country, so figured I would give it a go. 

While visiting Amapala, we ate local seafood, took a 2.5 hour boat ride to the mainland Port of Henecán - the only port on the Honduran Pacific coast - in San Lorenzo, Valle, watched the sunsets, did a trip around the whole island, chatted with local folks, and visited the beach. 

On the boat ride to the port, and also a restaurant in San Lorenzo, we drove by Bird Island, named for the various species of birds that land or live there; tons of mangroves that protect the coast, shelter and feed the diversity of species living on land or in the water; and to our dismay, the several large vacation homes and mansions of Honduras' national elite including energy magnate, Freddy Nasser; current President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and others. 

We stayed in Playa Negra (Black Beach in English),  given its name after the color of its sand. On our first walk on the beach, we came across a small group of youth digging up "chiquirines" - a type of seafood that lives under the sand where the waves wash onto the shore. Chiquirines translates to crickets in English but I am unfamiliar with their real English name, if it even exists. On the last day, we bought some chiquirines from two local boys and decided to cook them up and try them. They were a little crunchy, but overall, delicious.

On the way back from Amapala, we stopped on the main road in Pespire, a southern town with arguably the best small yellow mangos in the country. Pespire mangos can be found in most of the Tegucigalpa markets, and I can definitely say that Pespire mangoes alone, have converted me into a major mango lover. 

 Sunset in Amapala, behind a huge Ceiba tree

Sunset in Amapala, behind a huge Ceiba tree

Nelson Garcia Presente: One Year Without Justice

Español ABAJO

One year ago today, COPINH member Nelson Noel Garcia Lainez (39) was murdered outside of his home between 11:20 and 11:30 am in the small city of Peña Blanca, municipality of Santa Cruz de Yojoa in western Honduras. Nelson's murder was widely reported in national and international press as he was the second COPINH member assassinated in less than two weeks after the March 2, 2016 murder of COPINH's General Coordinator and well-known activist Berta Cáceres.

 Graphic by artist Pat Perry

Graphic by artist Pat Perry

Earlier that morning on March 15th and the day before his murder, Nelson had been present at a land reclamation project organized by 150-180 families in an area known as Rio Chiquito in the municipality of San Francisco de Yojoa, Cortes. For two years, since July 16, 2014, Nelson Garcia and his family including his wife Mercedes Yolanda Zelaya Mendoza and four children, Nelson Ariel (15), Cristian Noel (14), Cesia Abigail (11), and Steven Adonay (5) had been involved in a land struggle that identified and coordinated their actions as a base community of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).

After returning to his home a short distance from the land recuperation, a young man, assisted by unusual individuals believed to have been monitoring the Garcia home hours earlier, approached the family's home. Nelson accompanied by his son Cristian arrived in his car when the young man walked up, pulled a gun and shot at Nelson thirteen times – four times in the face, and once in the chest. Mercedes drove him to a clinic where Nelson died. The murder was witnessed by three of his family members: Mercedes, Cristian and Steven.

Following Nelson's murder, the Garcia family and relatives have faced non-stop threats, largely perpetuated by the negligence of Honduran authorities to investigate the circumstances surrounding Nelson's murder and the source and reasons of the on-going threats against his family. Nelson's wife, Mercedes, and her four children are still displaced from their home and unable to return to their community as a result. Although an arrest has been made in the case, the continuing threats suggest that the criminal perpetrators enabled by the high levels of impunity and lack of investigation, are still free.

Today, one year later, one year without justice, we remember and honor Nelson Garcia.

 

***********************************   SPANISH TRANSLATION   ***************************************

Nelson Garcia Presente: Un Año Sin Justicia

Hoy hace un año, un miembro de COPINH, Nelson Noel Garcia Lainez (39) fue asesinado afuera de su casa entre 11:20 y 11:30 am en la cuidad pequeña de Peña Blanca en el municipio de Santa Cruz de Yojoa en el occidente de Honduras. El asesinato de Nelson fue reportado ampliamente en los medios nacionales y internacionales porque fue el segundo miembro de COPINH asesinado en menos de dos semanas despues del asesinato de la Coordinadora General de COPINH y activista muy conocida, Berta Cáceres.

En las horas tempranas el 15 de marzo y el dia antes de su asesinato, Nelson estuvo presente en una recuperación de tierra organizada por 150 a 180 families en una area conocida como Rio Chiquito en el municipio de San Francisco de Yojoa, Cortes. Por dos años, desde el 16 de Julio 2014, Nelson Ariel (15), Cristian Noel (14), Cesia Abigail (11), y Steven Adonay (5) habian estado involcrados en la lucha por la tierra identificado y coordinado con el Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indigenas de Honduras (COPINH).

Despues de regresar a su casa ubicada a poca distancia de la recuperación de tierra, un joven, apoyado por desconocidos quienes se cree estaban vigilando el hogar de la familia Garcia desde temprano, se acercó a su casa. Nelson, acompañado por su hijo Cristian Noel dos hijos, llegaron en su carro cuando el muchacho venia caminando sacó una arma y le disparó a Nelson trece veces – cuatro veces en la cara y una vez en el pecho. Mercedes lo llevo a la clínica donde Nelson se murió. Tres miembros de su familia, Mercedes, Cristian y Steven fueron testigos del asesinato.

Tras el asesinato de Nelson, la familia Garcia han enfrentado amenazas continuas, perpetuadas en gran parte por la negligencia de las autoridades hondureñas quienes fallan a investigar las circunstancias de su muerte y el origen y razones de las amenazas en curso, contra su familia. La esposa de Nelson, Mercedes y sus cuatros hijos aun estan displazados de su hogar y no pueden regresar a su comunidad. Aunque se han realizado un arresto en el caso, las amenazas continuas indican que los autores criminals habilitados por los altos niveles de impunidad y la falta de investigación, todavia estan libres.

Hoy, un año despues, un año sin justicia, recordamos y honoramos a Nelson Garcia. 

World Bank-funded Dinant Corporation Implicated In Drug Trafficking .... Again

Honduras is being shaken up by a court case in the New York Southern District Courts against Fabio Porfirio Lobo, the son of ex-Honduran President Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo. On Monday, March 6th in New York, a witness called by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Lobo's case, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, implicated various Honduran politicians and elite in the drug trafficking activities of Rivera Maradiaga's drug cartel Los Cachiros. Rivera Maradiaga is one of the leaders of the Los Cachiros cartel that was identified by the United States Treasury in September 2013 as a "drug trafficking organization."

Testifying before a Federal Judge, Rivera Maradiaga criminally implicated former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, his brother Ramon Lobo, his nephew Jorge Lobo, the current Security Minister Julian Pacheco, two Congressmen - Congressman Oscar Nájera for the department of Colon and Congressman Fredy Nájera for the department of Olancho - and the LIBRE mayor of Tocoa, Adán Funes. Rivera Maradiaga also mentioned the well-known Facussé family that owns the Honduran company, Dinant Corporation.

Below is a translation of an article published by UniVision written by Juan Cooper that outlines Rivera Maradiaga's mention of Dinant Corporation and how the World Bank-funded Dinant Corporation has been ONCE AGAIN implicated in drug trafficking activities in Honduras.

Drug Traffickers Used Landing Strip of Honduran Millionaire Businessman According to Witness in US

From UniVision News online

By: Juan Cooper, March 9, 2017 9:03 pm

A confessed Honduran drug traffickers said to have received a metric ton of cocaine on landing strip of the powerful Facussé family.

 Honduran police burns a narco plane in the department of Colon | Photo by AP

Honduran police burns a narco plane in the department of Colon | Photo by AP

The United States Government suspected for more than a decade that the landing strips of the extensive plantations of the billionaire businessman Miguel Facussé Barjum in Honduras, one of the most powerful men in that country, were used by drug traffickers.

This week, prosecutors of the Federal Government of New York added evidence in this regard: a convicted drug traffickers said in 2013 that he used a landing strip in one of Facussé’s plantations to land a plane full of drugs coming from Venezuela.

The confessed Honduran drug trafficker Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, former leader of the Cachiros cartel, did not clarify if Facussé, who died in 2015, or his family, were aware of the operation.

A spokesperson for Dinant Corporation, the company that the Facussé family manages, did not rule out that the incident had happened but said that its an uncontrollable situation.

“As many others in the region, we have been victims of drug traffickers, who have used our property in an illegal manner, without our knowledge, cooperation or permission, to carry out their smuggling activities in our country,” responded Roger Pineda Pinel, director of Corporate Relations and Banking.

In his statement, Rivera offered additional details of several incidents where supposedly his organization received favors from ex-Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, and of some of their relatives, in exchange for juicy bribes.

The statements are part of the judicial process for drug trafficking against Fabio Porfirio Lobo, son of the former Honduran President, who pleaded guilty in May 2016, and Rivera is one of the witnesses of the Drug Enforcement Agency of the United States (DEA).

 Organizational chart of Los Cachiros by OFAC | US Treasury

Organizational chart of Los Cachiros by OFAC | US Treasury

Rivera affirmed that he received protection from Fabio Lobo at the end of 2013, when preparing to receive a plane loaded with 1,050 kilograms of cocaine coming from the state of Apure in Venezuela.

He recalled that the drugs would be shipped by his Colombian contacts, and that the aircraft would land in the Farallones community in the department of Colon on the shores of the Caribbean sea.

Days before, Rivera had contacted Fabio Lobo by phone to request protection because a “large shipment” would be arriving.

Lobo arrived to the city of Tocoa, capital of the department of Colon, with his security personnel in three, blue, Toyota Prados with police sirens, and they stayed in the Hotel Sanabria to await the arrival of the drugs.

According to Rivera’s narration, the next day the drug was received by Noé ‘Ton’ Montes and his mother,Erlinda ‘Chinda’ Ramos, two alleged members of Los Cachiros who controlled the area of Farallones.

An official of the Honduran Military Police called ‘Fortin’ was who sent the information from the radar to the landed aircraft without mishap, the witness said.

In the middle of the account, the Prosecutor of the Southern District of New York Emil Bove asked Rivera:

“What type of landing strip did you use in Farallones?”

And he replied: “The private landing strip of Mr. Facussé”

The prosecutor continued: “The private airport?”

Rivera replied: “Yes, sir”

The drogs were loaded on a truck that arrived to Tocoa, where Fabio Lobo with his three official cars waited to escort it on a journey that spanned half the country, passing through La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula to reach La Entrada in the department of Colon.

According to his account, Rivera and Lobo went in one of the vehicles in the caravan that guarded the vehicle loaded with the ton of cocaine during the 400 kilometer journey by road, managing to navigate the questions of officers in various police and military roadblocks, until you reach Copan where Digna Valle, who is currently serving a sentence for drug trafficking in Miami, received the goods.

For this operation, the son of ex-President Lobo received $50,000, but according to Rivera, was not satisfied because they should give a commission to General Julián Pacheco, the current Honduran Security Minister.

 Miguel Facussé Barjum, founder of Dinant Corporation | Dinant Corporation

Miguel Facussé Barjum, founder of Dinant Corporation | Dinant Corporation

Facussé

Miguel Facussé Barjum, who began his career transforming warplanes into commercial aircraft in the 1940s, and became one of the most powerful men in Honduras, had already been under the radar of the U.S. Government.

 A cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa dated March 19, 2004 leaked by Wikileaks, mentioned the landing of a narco aircraft in one of his private landing strips: “a law enforcement source provided information that the aircraft successfully landed March 14 on the private property of Miguel Facusse, a prominent Honduran, who is one of the nation’s wealthiest individuals, leading industrialist, and uncle of former Honduran president Carlos Flores Facussé” says a part of the cable.

In a statement to Univision, the Dinant spokesperson said:

“We strongly condemn the use of our properties or any other property to carry out illegal activities related to drug trafficking. We continue to assist the competent authorities in their efforts to combat drug trafficking, immediately reporting any illegal activity that could be found to have occurred on our properties.”

Facussé was the founder and owner of Dinant Corporation, formerly Química Dinant, which became a conglomerate of food and cleaning products with various brands of canned food, snacks and house products.

The company is known for having the license for the production and marketing of the Central American market of Mazola cooking oil.

Palm Oil

One of Dinant Corporation’s most profitable businesses are the twelve thousand hectares of African palm plantations it owns in the Aguan and Lean Valleys that feed two extraction plants and an palm oil refinery in the city of Tocoa. Palm oil is a valuable input used in different industries, like food and cosmetics, around the world.

 Honduran youth patrols the conflict zone between campesinos and Dinant | AP

Honduran youth patrols the conflict zone between campesinos and Dinant | AP

Throughout the country where these crops are planted, Dinant Corporation have been accused of generating violence to confront hundreds of peasants and dispossessing them of their land in order to expand its African palm plantations.

A World Bank internal audit performed in 2013 after the institution granted credits of $30 million to Dinant Corporation established that during confrontations with campesinos inside the company’s land, several people had been killed “because of inappropriate use of private and public security forces under Dinant’s control or influence.”

Dinant has responded on several occasions that these allegations have no foundation. In a statement the company said:

“We care deeply about the wellbeing of our employees, the thousands of farmers who supply our processing plants, and the surrounding communities of which we are an integral part. We will remain members of these communities for the long term, helping to enhance the quality of life for all citizens that live and work there.”

 Facussé, who died at 90 years of age, was known for having a strong temperament and for his proximity to political power. He openly supported the military coup that toppled Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, and was at that time the exacerbation of campesino clashes with Dinant Corporation.

At the time of the growing human rights crisis in the Lower Agaun and other zones of influence of Dinant, the same territory was tapped by the Cachiros organization in order to carry out drug trafficking operations with the support of figures like Fabio Porfirio Lobo. Days after having published the Wikileaks cable, Miguel Facussé said that he would do whatever possible so that drug-laden planes would not use his private landing strip again.