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Honduras: Honduran army and Its infiltration of campesino groups and persecution of former officers

Publisher United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Author Resource Information Center
Publication Date 14 October 1998
Citation / Document Symbol HND99001.RIC
Cite as United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Honduras: Honduran army and Its infiltration of campesino groups and persecution of former officers, 14 October 1998, HND99001.RIC, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df0a3c84.html [accessed 21 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Query:

1. Would a former officer in the Honduran Army face persecution for his past role in the Army relating to death squads, infiltration of Campesino groups, and his efforts to receive a pension?

2. Did the Honduran Army infiltrate Campesino groups and make some of the leaders '"disappear"?

3. What information is available about Julien Mendez from San Pedro Sula, a leader who allegedly disappeared around 1989?

Response:

Please refer to RIC Query HND98002.ASM dated 15 January 1998 for information relating to the treatment of former members of the Honduran military who may be at risk because they are knowledgeable about abuses committed or ordered by their superiors.

An America's Watch report indicates that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a judicial body of the Organization of American States, in several decisions established the existence in Honduras between 1981 and 1984 of a carefully-planned and deliberate program to conduct selective kidnappings of persons believed to be linked to subversive activities in Honduras. The perpetrators avoided identification and were able to avoid being stopped by regular police forces since they could show credentials and invoke higher orders (Americas Watch, July 1989, 69-72).

Between 1980 and 1982, the Public Security Forces (FSP) created the Special Operations Command (COE) which gathered intelligence and coordinated actions against the opposition, including campesino organizations. The FSP was supported by the National Investigations Directorate (DNI), whose job was to spy on and repress campesino organizations, unions and students. Intelligence Battalion 3-16 was also created in the early 1980s with the help of the CIA. Together with the DNI, Battalion 3-16 is blamed for the repression, capture, interrogation and disappearance of about 180 people, generally popular movement leaders (Inforpress, October 1998).

Also during the 1980s,the Honduran National Agrarian Institute (INA), responsible for administering the law that turns unused land over to peasants, was notoriously slow in responding to peasants claims for land. Because of the slow pace, some peasant organizations often launched "land invasions", occupying the land by force, to speed the process. Some invasions were undertaken after the INA guaranteed that the land was subject to expropriation. In these land invasions, some peasants were killed and peasants who pushed for faster appropriation of the land were arrested, often charged with subversion and/or armed activities, and tortured while in detention. Some were charged with crimes under the Antiterrorist Law that carries penalties of 15-20 years in prison and disallows the possibility of freedom on bail (Americas Watch, July 1989, 44-49).

The following are accounts of the detention, murder, or disappearance of peasant leaders and members of peasant organizations in Honduras

  • DNI Detains a Campesino: The DNI detained Luciano Barrera, vice-president of the Federacion Unitaria Nacional de Cooperativas Agropecuarias de Honduras (CONADEH 19 March 1984).
  • Torture of Three Campesinos: Three Campesino leaders were released by the DNI and the FUSEP after being tortured with the "capucha", a rubber hood that causes asphixiation (CONADEH 7 August 1984).
  • CODEH Denounces State Terrorism: Reynaldo Zuniga Cruz, the former regional director of the Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC) en Yoro, was assassinated in San Pedro. The action was denounced as a new form of state terrorism and considered part of a campaign of psychological war by the Proyectos Militares Tecnicos (PROMITEC) against human rights activists with the complacency of the authorities (CONADEH 27 January 1990).
  • Assassinated Campesino Leader Accused of Subversion - Reginaldo Zuniga Cruz, was accused of subversion by the group "Lorenzo Zelaya" on behalf of the police (CONADEH 27 January 1998).

According to Inforpress Centroamerican, a review of press reports, research on the campesino movement, and interviews with other campesino leaders, provided some reference to a campesino leader in San Pedro Sula who was detained in the late 1980s for a few days and then released. However, it is not clear whether this was Julian Méndez (Inforpress, October 1998).

A campesino leader, Antonio Julín Méndez, who has a similar name, currently lives in San Pedro Sula with his children. Méndez headed the National Association of Honduran Campesinos (ANACH), the largest campesino organization and most belligerent to the establishment. The government tried to orchestrate Méndez' removal from the organization's leadership in the early 1980s. After ANACH split, Méndez remained leader of one sector of the organization, but later chose to start a separate organization, the Association of Authentic Campesinos (ACAN). In an interview with Inforpress, Julín Méndez said he was threatened and harassed in 1989, but not detained (Inforpress, October 1998).

In fact, Méndez informed Inforpress that he had never been arrested, despite having been harassed and threatened for his activities over the years. After the 1963 coup, he was hidden by other campesinos to avoid capture. Later, as ANACH became more confrontational with the government, Méndez was protected by labor organizations. He became president of ANACH in 1980, and the Innovation and Unity Party (PINU) nominated him as a representative of the northern department of Cortés to the National Constituent Assembly in 1980. He won the election and served during the 18 months that the assembly existed. PINU's 5 representatives played a decisive role, tipping the balance between the Liberal Party and the National Party, the two major political forces of the time. Méndez was elected to Congress in the 1982 general elections and - enjoying parliamentary immunity - was able to continue his work for the campesino movement, despite the repressive climate under the Suazo government. After completing his term in parliament in 1986, Méndez turned over the presidency of ANACH to Luis Germán Lagos, but continued to organize other campesino groups in cooperatives. (Inforpress, October 1998).

References:

Americas Watch. July 1989. Honduras: Without the Will. New York: Americas Watch.

Inforpress Centroamericana. Telephone interview, October 1998.

Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. Recortes de Prensa. [Internet]. [Accessed on 13 July 1998].

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