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Honduran Leaders Murdered by Chiquita Subsidiary

CESAR VIRGILIO PINOT never made it to the community meeting. He was attacked by the private elite security forces of the Tela Railroad Company, armed with AK47s...

One year later: Is there justice in Honduras?

Chiquita Brands has been doing web searches for journalists who have exposed their corrupt activities. Keeping the activities of this corporations before the public eye may be the only way to save the lives of those who dare oppose them: otherwise their opponents quietly join the ranks of the "exiled" or the disappeared.
Honduras is one of the most impoverished countries in the americas: kept poor by well organized death squads that thrived under the protection of former US Ambasador John Negroponte. Large corporations like Chiquita Brands also thrive here, and their interests extend far beyond the banana plantations as they maintain an absolute hedgemony over resources including every thing from palm oil to... gold mining.

The following story is a typical vignette: and it most likely remains unresolved today, kept carefully out of mainstream press.


Alert: Activist Killed in Honduras

Chiquita Subsidiary Security Guards Kill Activist in Honduras! Send your urgent appeals to authorities in Honduras and the US!

April 7, 2004

Information for this alert provided by Rights Action [www.rightsaction.org].

On March 13, 2004, CESAR VIRGILIO PINOT was shot and killed by the private security forces of the Tela Railroad Company in the palm plantation Toloa Empalme, municipality of Tela, department of Atlantida, Honduras. The plantation is owned by Agro Oriental - a palm oil production unit until last year owned by the Tela Railroad Company, which is a subsidiary of the US-based multinational fruit company Chiquita Brands International, Inc - through which one has to pass in order to reach the communities of Kilometro 32, La Tomasa, Villafranca and La Union.

Inhabitants of these 4 communities are organized in an Association of Independent Palm Producers, allowing them to obtain better prices for their product and to work and to maintain their independence from the transnational corporation.

Virgilio was on his way to the community of Kilometro 32 to participate in a community meeting to address the impacts of mining on the environment and the numerous mining concessions owned by transnational mining companies in the departments of Yoro and Atlantida, as well as across the country. The 'Martires de Guaymas' cooperative has recently been involved in organizing and raising awareness about the dangers of open pit mines using cyanide solution extraction methods on human health and the environment, part of growing opposition movement in different regions of Honduras.

CESAR VIRGILIO PINOT never made it to the community meeting. He was attacked by the private elite security forces of the Tela Railroad Company, armed with AK47s (illegal weapons for private individuals, including private security companies). Another Martires de Guaymas member, who heard the shooting and came to see what was going on, JOSE NEPTALY LOPEZ, was shot twice in the leg and subsequently captured. Although the closest police post is Tela, 2 hours away - the time it usually takes for police to transport themselves to the community - police agents arrived at the site only 15 minutes after the attack began.

The following day, national police agents - accompanied by members of the same private security force, more accurately known in the region as 'paramilitaries' - entered the house of OSMAN ALEXANDER BLANCO DUARTE, whom they arrested along with WILTON RENE BLANCO DUARTE and ANTONIO BAQUEDANO RAMO, who were also present. All three are independent palm producers from the communities of Kilometro 32 and Villafranca and are also Martires de Guaymas members.

The four detainees were originally admitted into police custody, originally for the homicide of Virgilio, according to national police records. At the same time, however, the police put out a public communique announcing that a cattle rancher from the region had died, but that the motives of the crime were unknown. Also, individuals from the paramilitary force admitted to killing Virgilio, although they claimed that it was an act of self-defense, that they had been ambushed. These individuals were not required to testify; instead, DGIC (Criminal
Investigation) agents testified about the declarations of these individuals, while protecting their identities. The self-declared killers were only ever identified as Marzo 13, Marzo 14 and Marzo 15.

Although there were differing stories about the murder, no case file was opened, nor was an autopsy performed, although both are routine procedures for all homicide cases in the region. In fact, Virgilio's body virtually disappeared for over a week; authorities denied all knowledge of his whereabouts until 10 days later when they admitted to Virgilio's family that the body had been buried in the general cemetery in Tela.

Meanwhile, the accusations against the prisoners had changed. They have been charged by public prosecutor JACOBO DE JESUS ERAZO with 'illicit association,' more commonly known as the 'anti-gang law,' reformed last year to give police and judicial authorities almost unbridled power to determine who is guilty of this 'illicit association,' without requiring concrete proof of any other crime. The reformed law clearly violates several constitutional guarantees and is currently being challenged on this basis.

A further arrest was made on March 18th, when JOSE MEDARDO REYES MONDOZA was detained for the same charge. The five are accused of belonging to a band of car thieves, armed with AK47s, who rob, assault and terrorize the local population. The local population, however, has shown their complete support for the political prisoners. Community organizations, local authorities and even political party candidates have come forward to attest to their honesty, innocence and leadership. The judge, however, accused the defense - Martires de Guaymas activist and lawyer Marcelino Martinez - of orquestrating the show of community support and ordered the detention of the five prisoners until trial.

On the other hand, national and international attention and pressure seems to have made some headway. On March 26th, an arrest warrant was ordered for one of the company security agents involved in the murder, JOSE CAYETANO VARGAS, who was detained. State authorities also announced an 'independent' investigation into the case.

Prospects for an objective investigation or the impartial application of justice, however, continue to look rather bleak. Events to date have shown that authorities from different police and judicial institutions have worked to cover up the case instead of investigate it.

DEMONSTRATE YOUR SOLIDARITY

It is clear that repression and manipulation continues in this case. Please send urgent appeals to Honduran government authorities, as well as to your diplomatic representatives, demanding:

- that an exhaustive and impartial investigation be conducted into the death of CESAR VIRGILIO PINOT, and that those found responsible be brought to justice;

- that a similar investigation be conducted into the actions of national police agents and criminal investigation (DGIC) agents involved in the case, as well as of public prosecutor JACOBO DE JESUS ERAZO, and that all those found guilty of abuse of authority be removed from their positions;

- that JOSE NEPTALY LOPEZ, OSMAN ALEXANDER BLANCO DUARTE, WILTON RENE BLANCO DUARTE, ANTONIO BAQUEDANO RAMOS and JOSE MEDARDO REYES MONDOZA be freed;

- that repression cease against Martires de Guaymas members, in particular MARCELINO MARTINEZ ESPINAL, as well as against the communities of Kilometro 32, Villafranca, La Tomasa and La Union.

SEND COPIES TO:

Martires de Guaymas/COPINH, marcelinomartinezespinal@yahoo.es AND copinhonduras@yahoo.es. fax: (504) 783-0817

HONDURAS AMBASSADOR TO USA, Mario Canahuati, 3007 Tilden Street, NW, Suite 4M, Washington, DC 20008, T: 202-966-7702, F: 202-966-9751, E: embassy@hondurasembassy.org

CHIQUITA BRANDS INTERNATIONAL CORP, 250 East Fifth Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202, T: 513-784-8000. To send an email to Chiquita Brands, go to and follow instructions as to how to email them directly.

HONDURAS EMBASSY IN CANADA, T: 613-233-8900, F: 613-232-0193, E: embhonca@magma.ca

HONDURAN MISSION TO UNITED NATIONS: 866 UN Plaza Suite 417 New York, NY 10017, T: 212-752-3370, e: m.suazo@worldnet.att.net

CANADIAN AMBASSADOR FOR HONDURAS, Louise Leger, 3d Floor, Bulevar San Juan Bosco, Colonia Payaqui,Tegucigalpa,Honduras, t: (011 504) 232 4551,
f: (011
504) 239 7767, tglpa@dfait-maeci.gc.ca ,

USA AMBASSADOR TO HONDURAS, Larry Palmer, 011 [504] 236-9320 / 238-5114, Fax. (504) 236-9037 Vilma Cecilia Morales, Honduran Supreme Court President, f: 011 [504] 233-6784 (or 7921)

Ricardo Maduro, President of Honduras, f: 011 [504] 221-4552

Dr. Oscar Alvarez, Minister of Security, f: 011 [504] 220-4352



DOGSPOT

 
 


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Re: Honduran Leaders Murdered by Chiquita Subsidiary

What is the status of investigation-what coverage was provided by Honduran and US newspapaers?
 

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