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Jesuits Decry Attacks on Honduran Jesuit Fr. Ismael “Melo” Moreno

Fr. Ismael “Melo” Moreno, SJ
Jesuits Decry Attacks on Honduran Jesuit Fr. Ismael “Melo” Moreno, Prominent Human Rights Activist

August 7, 2017 — On July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus, Latin American Jesuits raised an alarm for one of their brother Jesuits, Fr. Ismael “Melo” Moreno, director of the Honduran Jesuit radio station, Radio Progreso, and the Honduran Jesuit social action center.

An outspoken human rights advocate in a country plagued by government corruption and violence, Fr. Melo has worked for years to promote dialogue while advocating for the marginalized.

Last year when the national university, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (UNAH), was embroiled in student strikes, Fr. Melo sat at the negotiating table at the request of students. While agreements were reached between the students and the university, this year student strikes and protests continued, and in the aftermath many students have been injured at the hands of university-hired security forces and many more arrested. In addition, the recent murder of the father of a student activist, who was killed after attending the judicial hearing of his son, has created a climate of fear for those exercising their right to protest peacefully.


Fr. Melo at a protest.

On July 19, at a concert held on campus, Fr. Melo joined hundreds of students protesting the treatment of their fellow classmates by university authorities. Retaliating against Fr. Melo for his support of the students, the university’s rector accused the Jesuit of promoting anarchy and generating violence. The university subsequently canceled its contract with ERIC, the Jesuit-run social action center that Fr. Melo leads.

In their statement, the Jesuits of the Central American Province said, “We want to declare that the attacks directed against Fr. Melo are the consequence of working to defend the human rights of all sectors of society. … The defense of human rights … is the horizon that guides the work of the Society of Jesus in Honduras.”

The statement, which was endorsed by the president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. and the president of the Conference of Provincials for Latin America and the Caribbean, expressed strong support for ERIC-Radio Progreso and Fr. Moreno for maintaining “a spirit of open and flexible dialogue, of reasonable tolerance, and of unwavering struggle for justice.”

Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S., said, “Fr. Melo’s entire life has been devoted to freedom of expression and human rights. It’s egregious that he’s being accused of inciting violence when he’s watched dear friends like environmental activist Berta Cáceres be gunned down for speaking up for the people of Honduras.”

According to U.S. Jesuit Matthew Ippel, the public attack against Fr. Melo by the university rector is a threat and part of a pattern of attack against human rights defenders. “It is embedded in a larger narrative that makes any dissenting voice the enemy. It is deeply alarming that those who advocate for justice, for the defense of the rights of the marginalized and excluded, are being discredited, criminalized and assassinated.”


Matthew Ippel, SJ, with Fr. Melo.

Radio Progreso, an important independent voice in a country where most broadcast outlets are controlled by special interests, serves both rural communities and large cities. In the last several years, two employees of ERIC-Radio Progreso have been murdered and threats have been made against others. In late March of this year, a defamation campaign targeted Fr. Melo and other activists.

According to the Organization of American States, Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world for human rights defenders.

In 2015, Fr. Melo was honored with the prestigious Rafto Prize for his “defense of freedom of expression in one of the most violent countries in the world.” In accepting the prize, Fr. Melo said, “I believe profoundly in life, and I profoundly believe in human beings and I deeply believe that the good will prevail against any kind of evil and violence.” [Sources: Central American Province of the Society of Jesus, The Jesuit Post]

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Human rights lawyer assassinated in Honduras

A worker at a Jesuit-run radio and social action centre in Honduras has been stabbed and killed in what is believed to have been a politically-motivated attack.  CAFOD partner Carlos Mejia Orellana (pictured), a 35-year-old lawyer who worked for ERIC-RP was stabbed four times in the chest at his home in El Progreso. The Catholic aid agency vowed yesterday that the struggle for justice that he helped to lead will go on.

Carlos and other colleagues at ERIC-RP had received repeated death threats in response to the organisation’s advocacy and communications work, through which they challenge injustice and corruption in the government, police and judicial system. The threats against Carlos were so serious that, for the last five years, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has called on the Honduran government to provide him with special protection measures. Sadly, no such protection was provided.

CAFOD currently supports the work of ERIC-RP in the Atlantic coastal region of Honduras where programmes cover human rights, water, livelihoods and disaster risk reduction. The social action centre is one of the organisations that protested against the recent appointment of Roberto Herrera Caceres as the new Human Rights Ombudsman, asserting his links to the 2009 presidential coup and mining interest groups and his insufficient experience in human rights law.

At a press conference, ERIC-RP’s director, Fr Ismael Moreno SJ, rejected rumours implying that Carlos’ death was linked to relationship difficulties and insisted that the police carry out a thorough investigation.

CAFOD’s Head of Region for Latin America and the Caribbean, Clare Dixon, said: “ERIC-RP has been one of our partners for more than 20 years, and the loss of Carlos at such a young age is deeply felt by us all. As with so many brave men and women in Latin America who have been cruelly robbed of lives spent fighting for justice, his struggle will go on, with the support of the Catholic community in England and Wales.”

According to UN statistics, Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Last year, an average of 20 people were murdered every day in Honduras, a country of just eight million inhabitants. El Progreso is close to San Pedro Sula, where the homicide rate is 173 per 100,000 people, reportedly the highest in the world outside a war zone.

CAFOD partner assassinated in Honduras

We are sad to report that last Friday, CAFOD partner Carlos Mejia Orellana was assassinated at his home in El Progreso, Honduras, but – with your support – the struggle for justice that he helped to lead will go on.  

Carlos had been stabbed four times in the chest. His death is believed to be politically motivated.

He was a 35-year-old lawyer who worked at ERIC-RP, the Jesuit-run radio and social action centre. We are currently supporting its work in the Atlantic coastal region of Honduras in programmes covering human rights, water, livelihoods and disaster risk reduction.

Carlos and other colleagues at ERIC-RP had received repeated death threats in response to the organisation’s advocacy and communications work, through which they challenge injustice and corruption in the government, police and judicial system.

So serious were the threats against Carlos that, for the last five years, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has called on the Honduran government to provide him with special protection measures. Sadly, no such protection was provided.

ERIC-RP is one of the human rights organisations that protested against the recent appointment of Roberto Herrera Caceres as the new Human Rights Ombudsman, asserting his links to the 2009 presidential coup and mining interest groups and his insufficient experience in human rights law.

At a press conference, ERIC-RP’s director, Fr Ismael Moreno SJ, rejected rumours implying that Carlos’ death was linked to relationship difficulties and insisted that the police carry out a thorough investigation.

Clare Dixon, CAFOD’s Head of Region for Latin America and the Caribbean, said: “ERIC-RP has been one of our partners for more than 20 years, and the loss of Carlos at such a young age is deeply felt by us all. As with so many brave men and women in Latin America who have been cruelly robbed of lives spent fighting for justice, his struggle will go on, with the support of the Catholic community in England and Wales.”

According to UN statistics, Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Last year, an average of 20 people were murdered every day in Honduras, a country of just eight million inhabitants. El Progreso is close to San Pedro Sula, where the homicide rate is 173 per 100,000 people, reportedly the highest in the world outside a war zone.

Tim Kaine – United States Senator from Virginia

Kaine Statement On The Murder Of Carlos Mejia Orellana In Honduras

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement on the murder of Carlos Mejia Orellana in Honduras:

“I was shocked to learn of the murder of Carlos Mejia Orellana, journalist and marketing director of Jesuit founded Radio Progreso in Honduras.  My prayers go out to Carlos’s friends and family in the  El Progreso community that welcomed me as a young student in the 1980’s.

“Too often, Honduran officials have dismissed threats and attacks against journalists, and questioned whether the violence was connected to the victims’ profession.  In Carlos’s particular case, police have announced possible conclusions without even the start of an investigation.    Premature and speculative judgments cannot be allowed to stand in the way of a thorough investigation.  This must not be yet another homicide in Honduras that goes unpunished.

“Honduran police failed to protect Carlos, despite repeated requests to do so from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  The police need to take immediate steps to protect Carlos’s surviving colleagues at Radio Progreso and its research arm, ERIC, who also live under constant threat.”

Domingo, 13 Abril 2014 23:55

¡Auxilio doña Lisa Kubinske!

(Lisa Kubinske es la embajadora de los EE.UU. en Honduras quien señaló a Juan Orlando Hernandez como futuro presidente de Honduras)

Roberto Quesada

“Esta acción criminal contra nuestro compañero de equipo Carlos Mejía Orellana es un golpe a nuestro trabajo, a nuestra institución y por lo tanto denunciamos este hecho, porque vulnera el trabajo de comunicación, vulnera el derecho que tenemos a la libertad de expresión y vulnera la vida de todos y cada uno de los miembros de nuestro equipo.”—Ismael Moreno (cariñosamente “el Padre Melo”), sacerdote jesuita, director de Radio Progreso.

Los asesinatos en Honduras siguen desesperadamente, como para no dejar duda que ese primer lugar del país más violento, sangriento del mundo no se lo quita nadie. No faltará quien se sienta orgulloso de por primera vez tener a Honduras primera en algo.

Ya casi el pueblo hondureño se ha acostumbrado a que encuentran a unos cuantos encostalados, otros atados, mutilados, en fin los asesinatos en su más diversas formas, tonalidades como para ser exhibido en una vitrina como apetecible producto a la venta.

Y aquí se dice guerra entre maras, ajuste de cuentas, en algo andaba, no era mansa palomita, pero es una desgracia para el pobre muerto, que encima de estar muerto, se le culpa de su muerte. Y reina la impunidad a todo nivel. Aunque no crea hay mucha gente en Honduras que no sabe qué quiere decir la palabra impunidad, pues se lo decimos con sencillez: Es cuando se asesina, roba, se delinque de cualquier manera y no existe castigo alguno para los malhechores.

Pero entre estos crímenes, sobresalen unos, los que se hacen selectivamente. Esto se ha venido acentuado en Honduras desde poco antes del golpe de Estado del 28 de junio del 2009.

Poco antes del golpe comenzaron a asesinar a personas cercanas al entonces presidente constitucional Manuel Zelaya Rosales, y desde entonces a la fecha, eso no se ha detenido.

Carlos MejiaY uno de estos  asesinatos, que tiene todas las características de provenir del terrorismo de Estado, es el del joven responsable de mercadeo y ventas de Radio Progreso y miembro del Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación, ERIC de la Compañía de Jesús en Honduras, Carlos Hilario Mejía Orellana.

Este tipo de asesinatos, así como las intervenciones militares a gran escala, se dan generalmente en fechas en que la población esta distraída por festividades. Para navidad o año nuevo, Semana Santa en que la mayoría de la gente anda pensando en playas y otras diversiones, se ordenan este tipo de crímenes.

De esta manera se evita la repercusión de la prensa, sobre todo en los países que tienen una prensa no tan servil a los intereses de la minoría pudiente y de los extranjeros injerencistas, como es el caso de Honduras.

Y el hecho pasa como una noticia que pocos vieron y cuando se regresa de vacaciones ya hay nuevos asesinatos, nuevos problemas después de haber despilfarrado lo poco que se tenía en el festín semanasantero, y el asesinado pasa sin pena ni gloria al otro mundo.

Por supuesto que el asesinato de Carlos Mejía es calculado para darle un fuerte golpe bajo a Radio Progreso. Emisora insigne, emblemática con su postura digna contra el criminal golpe de Estado, de hecho, nosotros colaboramos tanto retransmitiendo sus noticieros como pasándoles informe de primera mano, tal como alimentamos a Radio Globo, Cholusat Sur, sin costo alguno, de pura fe en la solidaridad, durante lo álgido del golpe de Estado que aún persiste en Honduras.

Los funcionarios que frisan cifras, que los ponen como loros en estaca a mentirle a la población hondureña de que el crimen ha bajado (ha bajado de los cerros a la ciudad), ni ellos mismos se creen lo que los ponen a decir; por eso tartamudean, se equivocan, se enfadan ante ciertas preguntas, por eso el Gobernador no permite preguntas, da los “informes” y sale corriendo.

Entonces los hondureños/as, ¿a quién podemos pedirle auxilio? Pues a los verdaderos jefes, a los Estados Unidos. Los demás son monigotes puestos allí para devengar jugosos salarios, prebendas y meterles el cuento de que son importantes, cuando en la realidad para el ala radical estadounidense solo ellos importan, los demás son objetos desechables. Allá el Gobernador que se crea el cuento.

Es aquí en donde debería de pronunciarse Doña  Lisa Kubinske, embajadora de los EEUU, encargada de darnos la más moderna democracia a los hondureños/as, que se pinta para andar visitando “tigres” e inaugurando bases militares, pero se llama al silencio ante estos asesinatos fuertemente sospechosos de ser terrorismo de Estado. Nos predican la ejemplar democracia estadounidense, pero con palabras no con hechos, la jefa del gobierno de Honduras, Sra. Kubinske, debería jalarle las orejas al Gobernador y ordenarle, exigirle que cesen todo tipo de asesinatos, pero especialmente los selectivos, encaminados a silenciar al pueblo hondureño, cercenando la libertad de expresión, matando la libertad de prensa.

Asesinan a miembro del Equipo de Radio Progreso 
Alerta 017-14 
12 de abril de 2014

Carlos Mejia2Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre).- Carlos Hilario Mejía Orellana responsable de mercadeo y ventas de Radio Progreso y miembro del Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación, ERIC de la Compañía de Jesús en Honduras, fue asesinado a puñaladas la noche del viernes 11 de abril en su casa de habitación en la colonia Suazo Córdova de la ciudad de El Progreso, departamento de Yoro, al norte del país.

En conferencia de prensa el sacerdote jesuita, Ismael Moreno, expresó que el hecho sangriento es un golpe directo, no solamente a la vida de Carlos Mejía y su familia, sino que también al trabajo que realiza Radio Progreso y el ERIC.

“Esta acción criminal contra nuestro compañero de equipo Carlos Mejía Orellana es un golpe a nuestro trabajo, a nuestra institución y por lo tanto denunciamos este hecho, porque vulnera el trabajo de comunicación, vulnera el derecho que tenemos a la libertad de expresión y vulnera la vida de todos y cada uno de los miembros de nuestro equipo. Para nosotros es altamente sospechoso que este hecho criminal haya ocurrido justamente en las vísperas de semana santa, cuando todo mundo se retira a sus respectivas vacaciones especialmente los entes responsables de la justicia, y cuando también es mucho más fácil que los hechos lamentables como estos pasen a un segundo y tercer término, por lo tanto nosotros presentamos como altamente sospechoso que ocurra precisamente en estos días”, explicó el padre Moreno.  

“Su asesinato es una muestra más del fracaso de las políticas de seguridad del Estado hondureño y de su falta de voluntad política para adoptar las medidas efectivas de protección establecidas por la CIDH. Frente a ello, exigimos una investigación seria y diligente que conlleve a la identificación, juzgamiento y sanción de todos los responsables de este crimen, sean actores materiales e intelectuales”, exigió Joaquín Mejía, también miembro del ERIC.

Con el fin de proteger la vida e integridad de Mejía Orellana la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) había otorgado medidas cautelares el 2 de julio de 2009, el 26 de abril de 2010, el 03 de mayo de 2010, el 02 de junio de 2010 y el 27 de mayo de 2011.