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Honduras: Shots fired at HRD Messrs Juan Vásquez and Sotero Chavarría as they return from negotiations on a land conflict
On 13 June 2012, Mr Juan Vásquez and Mr Sotero Chavarría were shot at as they returned from a meeting on a land conflict involving the indigenous community of La Cuchía, Santa Bárbara, and the case of an imprisoned community member.
Juan Vásquez and Sotero Chavarría are both members of the Executive Committee of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras – COPINH (Civic Counsel of Popular Indigenous Organisations of Honduras).
Juan Vásquez and Sotero Chavarría were returning from the abovementioned meeting when two unidentified individuals approached their vehicle on a motorbike and fired at least two shots at them. The attack caused them to lose control momentarily and crash the vehicle. Neither were injured but the car, which belongs to COPINH, was damaged at impact.
This attack comes in the context of ongoing intimidation and attacks against the human rights defenders and members of COPINH. On 31 March 2012, Mr Magdaleno Argueat, Coordinator of the Indigenous Council of COPINH in Las Lajitas, Colomoncagua, Intibucá, was threatened by unknown persons who insulted him and told him “a ustedes copines, que hablan mierda por esas radios hay que contarles la lengua, la represa va por qué va, pediremos que los maten” (you Copinh activists, you talk shit on these radios, one must cut your tongue, the dam goes ahead because it will, we will ask for you people to be killed).
Another member of COPINH, Mr José Saldivar Gámez, received a call to his mobile telephone in which he was warned that he would be killed if he continued to be active with COPINH. Other leaders in COPINH, Mr Rolando Gutiérrez, Ms Berta Cáceres and Mr Salvador Zuniga, have all reported receiving threats. Mr Juan Bautista, Ms Asunción Martínez and Mr Julio German were threatened with judicial processes and have received verbal death threats.
Front Line Defenders believes that the attack on Juan Vásquez and Sotero Chavarría is directly related to their work in defence of human rights and in particular their work in defence of the land rights of the farmers and indigenous communities in Honduras.