Urgent Action: U.S. Embassy Must Attend Guapinol Trial for Concluding Remarks on February 4, 2022

The eight water defenders from Guapinol, sector San Pedro and broader Tocoa region, have spent over 2 years in prison. They are accused of trumped up charges for defending the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers from a mining operation led by Honduran mining company Inversiones Los Pinares with investment ties to the largest U.S. steel companies, Nucor Corporation.

It is without a doubt that the water defenders are in prison because they are seen as messing up both an investment for one of JOH’s cronies, Lenir Perez, who owns Inversiones Los Pinares, but also because the water defenders are blocking an important investment opportunity for a U.S. company seeking raw materials for their operations.

Summary

The trial against the water defenders started in December, was suspended, and then began again a few weeks ago in mid-January. Honduras Now has been posting daily trial summaries hereThis week on Friday, February 4th at 9 am, the concluding remarks will be delivered in the courthouse in Tocoa, Colon (about a 6 to 8 hour drive from Tegucigalpa). The concluding remarks lay out a summary of the case from the perspectives of the prosecutors, the ‘private accusers’ representing mining company Inversiones Los Pinares, and each of the defense attorneys. The water defenders are present as well. The presence of Embassies officials and international human rights observers is important to tell the judges and the corrupt judicial system that people are watching.

The Ask

We have been asked to request that the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa attend the concluding remarks on Feb 4th starting at 9 am. So far, the U.S. Embassy has not attended the trial citing Covid concerns. But this is not a fair reason. The courtroom in Tocoa is strict about Covid measures, respects social distancing and restricts the number of people allowed in the courtroom.

The Action

We are asking organizations and individuals to do two things: 

1) Write their Congress representatives and ask them to call or email the State Department and/or the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa and ask them to attend the trial this Friday. 

Tell your representatives that a U.S. company has an investment relationship with the Honduran mining company that is an actor in the trial. Tell them that Congressional representatives should be concerned about human rights related to private sector investment, especially since the U.S.’s strategy to resolve the migration crisis is to promote private sector investment in Honduras.
Another strategic event happening this week on Thursday, February 3rd that may help this action, is that there is a Foreign Affairs House Congressional hearing about the Biden Administration’s policy in the Western Hemisphere. The State Department will be on the hot seat. Congress representatives on the Foreign Affairs Committee could ask about the Guapinol case and/or ask the state department to attend the hearing in Honduras the following day. Mention this to your or a Congressional representative. Ask them to ask a question about Guapinol.

2) As an organization or individual, write to Ariel Jahner, the human rights representative at the U.S. Embassy (jahnerar@state.gov) and insist that she or a representative of the Embassy attend the hearing.

Tell the Embassy that:

  • Strict covid measures are being implemented in the courthouse. Only 10 observers are able to enter and the guard checks body temperatures upon entrance. Masks are mandatory.
  • If the U.S. Embassy seeks to increase private sector investment in Honduras to curtail migration to the United States, they must insist on respect for human rights. The presence of the U.S. Embassy may help demonstrate this.
  • Several Congressional representatives have tweeted and shown concern about the Guapinol case. These include Senator LeahyJan SchakowskySenator Merkley, and others. The State departments’ Under Secretary for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights Urza Zeya also tweeted about the Guapinol case.
Photo by: Guapinol Despierta