Statement by the Honduras Solidarity Network of North America
Our network emphatically rejects the recent accusations against Padre Ismael “Melo” Moreno made by the Rector of the National Autonomous University Julieta Castellanos on July 25, 2017 in which she accused the Padre and members of the Jesuit organizations in Honduras, as well as members of electoral opposition parties LIBRE and PINU of being responsible for the current crisis at the UNAH and of “fomenting anarchy”.
Members of the HSN are very familiar with the work of Padre Melo, Radio Progreso and ERIC-SJ over many years. That work has always been to understand the problems and needs of the majority of Hondurans, to give them a place in which to express themselves, and to advocate for solutions that would strengthen democracy and end conflict and violence – not foment it.
Ms. Castellanos’ assertions that Padre Melo is responsible for the crises and violence in the University is not only absurd but dangerous. It is part of a campaign to discredit critics of the Honduran regime and its officials; it seeks to intimidate free speech and political opposition and puts these defenders and communicators at risk for their lives. There is a pattern of such accusations by government officials and friends of the regime against Honduran and international DDHH groups and against Hondurans . Other well known targets of these inflammatory accusations have included Berta Caceres of COPINH (assassinated in 2016) and recently her daughters, as well as Berta Oliva of COFADEH. In Honduras, where impunity and human rights violations are endemic, these kinds of accusations are in fact threats and put the named defenders at a clear risk for physical violence, and even death.
Calls for the Rector and government to dialogue in good faith with the students, to comply with previous agreements with the students, and to end the criminalization and state repression against the student movement are necessary and legitimate activities for human rights defenders and for Honduran society.
We also are watching, with profound concern, the violence against the students. We condemn the selective assassinations of students and their family members, and the militarization of university campuses around the country that has been ongoing for many months. We have not forgotten the assassinations of other student activists in recent years such as 14 year old Soad Nicole Ham Bustillo, murdered in March of 2015 after denouncing President Hernandez on national TV.
We also condemn the general impunity for crimes against defenders of the environment, indigenous rights and land rights, of journalists and of those opposing the regime that include Berta Caceres Flores, Margarita Murillo and the hundreds more murdered since the coup in 2009.
The US and Canadian governments continue to provide substantial money, training and resources to the Honduran Security and Police apparatus. We continue to observe that this assistance only facilitates and helps to perpetuate human rights violations and state violence against the people of Honduras. This aid must be ended – or that reason we support the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act introduced in the US Congress on March 2, 2017.
We hold the Honduran government responsible for the safety and liberty of Padre Melo and the entire team of Radio Progreso and ERIC-SJ.
Honduras Solidarity Network in North America (HSN) July 31, 2017