Tolupan leader Adán Mejía assassinated, the second Indigenous leader killed in Honduras in less than 48 hours

Published by Brent Patterson on

On December 29, The Guardian reported: “On Tuesday, local media reported the killing of yet another defender, Adán Mejía from the indigenous Tolupán people, who was allegedly attacked on his way back from tending to his corn crops in Candelaria, a rural community in the northern department of Yoro.”

And Sandra Cuffe, a Canadian journalist based in Latin America, has tweeted: “Mejía was killed [on December 29] in Honduras, just 2 days after the murder of Lenca community leader Félix Vásquez. Violence against leaders protecting ancestral territories has increased during the pandemic and 7 have been killed this year.”

The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), a grassroots organization working with Garifuna (Afro-descendant and indigenous) communities, has further drawn attention to this assassination of an Indigenous land defender.

OFRANEH tweeted: “Assassination of Adrian Mejia, from the Calendaria tribe, Yoro, adds to the list of more than a hundred indigenous Tolupanes murdered, their territory being plundered by the illegal exploitation of wood and mining.”

OFRANEH has also noted: “Murders and criminalization of indigenous defenders is an indicator of the absence of a rule of law and respect for prior consultation in Honduras. It is one of the most dangerous countries on the planet for defenders of Mother Earth.”

The Guardian’s New York City-based environmental justice reporter Nina Lakhani further notes: “Honduras became one of the most dangerous countries in the world to defend natural resources and land rights after the 2009 coup ushered in an autocratic government which remains in power despite multiple allegations of corruption, electoral fraud and links to international drug trafficking networks.”

Lakhani adds: “The nexus between political and economic elites means crimes against environmental defenders are rarely prosecuted. Investigations into allegedly corrupt officials who sanction large-scale projects without legally required consultations and environmental impact assessments are also rare.”

The Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project has previously posted: “Since the coup d’état took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009, PBI has followed with growing concern the serious deterioration of space for the defence of human rights faced by organizations, communities and human rights defenders in the country.”

Canada and Indigenous rights in Honduras

PBI-Honduras accompanied journalist and human rights defender Dina Meza has stated: “Giving resources to the Government of Honduras is giving them tools so that they continue to violate the population. The focus of the international community is very important to curb all these human rights violations.”

In 2009, Canada provided $16.4 million in official assistance to Honduras. Between 2010 and 2016, Canada’s bilateral aid disbursements to Honduras totalled $175 million, with average disbursements of $29 million per year.

Notably, on July 30, 2009, about a month after the coup, The Globe and Mail reported: “Canada is still providing training to members of the Honduran army, despite the military coup that sent the Central American country into turmoil late last month.”

By October 2010, Canada also began negotiations towards a free trade agreement with Honduras that includes investment protection provisions that favour mining companies. In August 2011, Canada’s then prime minister Stephen Harper visited Honduras. And by January 2013, the National Congress passed a new General Mining Law that MiningWatch Canada has documented was heavily influenced by Canada.

In March 2014, Cuffe reported that despite Indigenous opposition to oil and gas extractivism, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) financed technical assistance to the hydrocarbon sector in Honduras.

Second Indigenous leader assassinated in less than 48 hours

Violence against Indigenous leaders who protect ancestral territories and common goods has increased in the midst of the pandemic in the face of an offensive by businessmen and state officials who come to dispossess Indigenous peoples. Extractive projects, ZEDEs (zones for employment and economic development), and the control of the territory promoted by organized crime.

Indigenous people murdered in the last year for the defense of ancestral territory:

Enough murders and criminalization of Indigenous leaders!

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