5 years ago, I froze when I awoke to a message that Berta Cáceres had been murdered. I immediately called her close COPINH colleague, hoping it wouldn’t be true. But it was. Just the evening before, Berta had messaged asking when I was coming; I couldn’t believe she was no longer alive. I dropped everything and headed to La Esperanza, Honduras. The situation had been intensifying for Berta and COPINH since the fall, when DESA began its second attempt at constructing the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project and COPINH, with Berta’s leadership, again organized to stop the project and defend the sacred Gualcarque River.
SOA Watch mourns the death of Sister Dianna Ortiz, OSU, who passed away on February 19th. We give thanks for her life and remarkable witness for peace and justice, to end torture, and to hold the U.S. government accountable. Her spirit, strength, compassion, and courage touched many lives.
In November 1989, while serving as a Catholic nun in Guatemala, she was abducted and brutally tortured by the U.S.-backed and trained Guatemalan military, under the supervision of a person from the U.S. referred to as ‘Alejandro.’ Her subsequent quest for the truth about the role of the U.S. government in human rights abuses in Guatemala — including a five week fast in front of the White House — led to the declassification of documents that helped exposed the role of the U.S. in the genocide in Guatemala.
On February 18th, OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras) launched SUNLA (Garifuna Committee for the Search and Investigation of the Disappeared from Triunfo de La Cruz), an independent and interdisciplinary investigative body made up of international participants who will search for the truth regarding the forced disappearance of Sneider, president of the Triunfo de la Cruz community board, and community members Suami, Milton, and Gerardo. Prior to the July 18th 2020 abduction, the young Garifuna men, particularly Sneider in his role as president of the community, were socially and politically active in the ongoing struggle to keep Afro-Indigenous culture and communal lands from being lost to forced displacement by Honduran officials seeking to make way for tourism and foreign investment on the Caribbean north coast.
On February 23rd, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act in the U.S. Senate. The bill would:
- Suspend U.S. assistance to the Honduran military and police, including U.S. military/police training and equipment, until the Honduran military and police cease committing human rights violations and those responsible for human rights violations are brought to justice.
- Prohibit exports of U.S. munitions, including semiautomatic firearms, tear gas, tasers, and more, to the Honduran military and police.
- Direct President Biden to sanction and stop supporting Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has been named as a co-conspirator by U.S. federal prosecutors in drug trafficking cases (yet is considered a U.S. ally and is still in power due to U.S. backing).
- Support the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Office in Honduras and the creation of a United Nations anti-corruption mission in Honduras with the ability to prosecute corruption cases against high-ranking government officials (a long-time demand of Honduran civil society).
We can’t just close Guantanamo Bay prison, we also have to abolish the injustice that allowed it to exist
“I believe it is time for the detention facility at Guantanamo to close its doors,”Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wrote in his written responses to Congress during his recent confirmation hearing.
As a longtime advocate of closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, these are welcome words. But we can’t just close Guantanamo, we need to abolish it.
Abolishing Guantanamo means more than just closing the physical prison or transferring the 40 prisoners still detained. It will entail deconstructing the entire ‘war on terror’ paradigm, which treats terrorism as an exceptional form of violence that necessitates extraordinary interventions.
On Friday January 29th and Saturday January 30th, for the second time, the human rights defender María Eugenia Mosquera was threatened by Whatsapp while she was in Buenaventura with representatives from Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) Peace Presence, Fellowship of Reconciliation Austria, and Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective. She received Whatsapp messages to her personal cellphone from the number +57 317-694-3450 between 1:40 PM and 7:16 PM on Friday and another message on 12:33 PM Saturday.
On March 20 & 21, 2021, in celebration of World Water Day and the communities that put their lives on the lives to defend water in the face of militarization and threats, Mutual Aid Media, COPINH, OFRANEH, and SOA Watch will host a Mini Film Festival. It will include the world premiere of the documentary La Lucha Sigue (The Struggle Continues) about the struggles of the Lenca and Garifuna peoples in Honduras. Each of the three films will be followed by discussion panels with some of the visionary women leaders featured in each film. A large group discussion will close out the festival.
Today, January 18th, marks 6 months since the forced disappearance of Albert Sneider Centeno Thomas, Milton Joel Martínez Ávila, Suami Mejía Garcia, and Gerardo Misael Trochez Cálix from the Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz on Honduras’ northern coast.
The young Garifuna men were forcibly kidnapped by armed men identified as agents of Honduras’ Investigative Police Agency (DPI) and never seen or heard from again. The Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz, part of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), has been demanding the Honduran government comply with an Inter-American Court of Human Rights sentence to clearly demarcate their land and ensure their right to it. Albert Sneider Centano (pictured above on right), President of the Triunfo de la Cruz community and one of the forcibly disappeared men, was a vocal leader in these efforts. Six months after the forced disappearances of Albert Sneider Centano and the other Garifuna young people, the U.S.-funded and backed Honduran government has given no real answers.
As the attention of the country focuses on the white supremacist violence that terrorized the U.S. Capitol, we must acknowledge that white supremacy and U.S. policy inflict terror on communities across the globe every single day. The work to dismantle white supremacy and U.S. empire is urgent and ongoing.
The below organizations sign on to this public statement to express our deep concern for the life and wellbeing of human rights defender María Eugenia Mosquera, after a series threats made against her person.
On the afternoon of January 7th, she received a series of threatening WhatsApp messages, sent between 12:04 pm and 3:52 pm to her cell phone from the number +57 3042014754. The person identified himself as part of “The group that is in the area”, also writing “we are the guys who are going to look for you, keep going around and you will see”, “do not get caught, you went and talked, that is unforgivable.” They finally told her that, “you have three guys watching you.”
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“The SOA Watch staff collective is spread across continents, working with allies and compas throughout the Americas on everything from reports documenting the impacts of US trained, funded and supported state officials; to organizing virtual spaces for popular education and movement building webinars, workshops, and book clubs; to support for urgent actions and solidarity with communities and allies most affected by US led and backed state violence…”
At the end of this incredibly difficult year, we want to take a moment to thank you for being part of the SOA Watch community. Together, we continue to confront a global health crisis amplified by long-standing impacts of labor exploitation, capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and state violence on marginalized communities. Our work to dismantle US Empire and end state violence is only possible with you and because of you.
On December 10, 2020, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned two former Haitian government officials for their roles in planning a brutal massacre while they were high-ranking government officials in a government receiving significant U.S. aid and support. One of the officials, Joseph Pierre Richard Duplan, the Departamental Delegate for President Moïse’s regime, is accused of being the ‘intellectual architect’ of the November 2018 La Saline (Lasalin) massacre, in which at least 71 people in the Lasalin neighborhood of Port-au-Prince were killed, women and girls were raped, and over 400 homes were destroyed. The neighborhood was targeted as it was known for its opposition to the U.S.-backed Moïse regime.
Today, on International Migrants Day, December 18, 2020, we are reflecting on the pain, suffering, death, and disappearances that have been so pronounced this year. Collectively facing a global pandemic, communities worldwide have continued to resist state-sponsored violence, the practice of placing profit over people, and the root causes of migration that have brought many into the borders of a violent United States. Their protests have reminded us that the status quo of unabated violence cannot and will not continue to be the norm.
We are also reminded of how difficult the struggle to leave home, to leave family, to embark on a journey without the certainty of survival, without the guarantee of return, or without the guarantee of a life without fear or persecution, requires bravery and resilience. We uplift those who have taken great risks to work for a better life for their families.
Rooted in Resistance Virtual Vigil
Vigilia Virtual Enraizades en Resistencia
On Wednesday, October 7th we presented our report, From the Beginning to the End: The United States in the Colombian Armed Conflict, to Colombia’s Truth Commission. We will be sharing more about the report with you soon! Meanwhile, read the report in Spanish here, and check out the following recordings of the presentation: