Posts Tagged ‘Padre Melo’

Honduran Jesuit, delegation plead for end to U.S. military aid

Honduran Jesuit, delegation plead for end to U.S. military aid

Honduran Jesuit Father Ismael Moreno Coto, better known as “Padre Melo,” is seen near the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 17. (Credit: Rhina Guidos/CNS.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of Hondurans led by a Jesuit priest pleaded with U.S. lawmakers May 17 to stop military aid to the Central American nation and to allow the country’s citizens living under a particular immigration status in the U.S. to remain here until conditions improve in their native country.

“We need you to support them so that they continue living in the United States because their return to our country is dangerous,” said Jesuit Father Ismael Moreno, who traveled with a group of five Hondurans to 10 cities in the United States.

They spoke to groups and organizations hoping to garner support for some 57,000 Hondurans benefiting from the Temporary Protection Status program, which the Trump administration said would end in 2020, but also for a bill named after one of Moreno’s friends, a human rights activist killed in 2016 in Honduras.

Just outside the U.S. Capitol, Georgia Congressman Henry “Hank” Johnson joined Moreno, popularly known as Father Melo, to speak about the Berta Caceres Act, which would cut U.S. military aid to the present government of Honduras led by President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Estimates put U.S. aid to Honduras targeted for “security” at between $18 million to $22 million in 2015. Many of those gathered have for years questioned whether the U.S. should be giving money to Hernandez and his administration.

Though the constitution in Honduras limited its president to serve a one-time, six-year term, Hernandez sought and snatched a second term late last year and began that second term under a cloud of illegitimacy and calls for his resignation that have never stopped. His critics, who include Moreno, have been threatened, jailed or attacked. Hondurans who oppose Hernandez say U.S. taxpayers are paying for their oppression.

Johnson, a Democrat, said he introduced his bill, named after a slain human rights leader, to stand united with “our brothers and sisters in Honduras who are being oppressed.”

“Their human rights are being denied and trampled upon by a corrupt government that is sponsored by our own government,” he said.

Human rights “don’t mean a thing to this current government in Honduras,” Johnson said. The bill has about 70 co-sponsors and “we will one day get it passed,” he said.

U.S. policies in Honduras, the congressman said, are driving people to migrate north, where Americans are saying they are part of the country’s problems, “but we should stop and think a little more deeply about what we’re doing and what is happening south of our borders as we’re making it untenable for people to continue to live (in Honduras).”

When people are oppressed, they move away from home, Johnson said.

“If we change our policies, we will create a safer and more peaceful environment, but it can’t be for the select few, it has to be for all of us,” he said.

Jose Artiga, executive director of the SHARE Foundation, said the delegation also was calling for an investigation into the killing and imprisonment of those who protested the November 2017 election that kept Hernandez in power.

“We are asking for the freedom of those political prisoners,” he said.

Neery Carillo, the sister of Caceres, the woman after whom the the bill is named, also was present to talk about her sister, her work and legacy.

“My family and I continue living with a heavy heart after three years, two months and 15 days” since she was killed, she said. “My youngest sister, Bertita, was brutally assassinated.”

Caceres, who spoke in favor of the environment, human rights and the rights of the indigenous, was shot dead in her home in March 2016. She had been protesting the building of a dam near an indigenous community. In March, the executive of a hydroelectric company was arrested for playing a part in planning her killing.

Her sister said Caceres’ death can help bring about the quest for justice she so desired but she also blamed the U.S. government for getting in the way of that by “actively ignoring the (Honduran) government’s extensive corruption.”

“Berta’s death cannot be in vain,” Carillo said. “It’s not all about Bertita. It’s about Hondurans, all Central Americans.”

The U.S. must do better to help Central Americans, she said, and they would stop fleeing their countries if it weren’t for the violence and corruption the U.S. government helped to create.

Moreno called for the U.S. to stop supporting “an illegal and illegitimate” president, and help instead to restore democracy.

“We have faith in the struggle of this moment. We have faith in the struggle of the future, and we have faith in the future of an authentic brotherhood between the people of Honduras and the United States,” he said. “Let us support one another, let’s build a bridge now, not build a wall, but a bridge toward justice and peace between Honduras and the United States.”

http://waccglobal.org/articles/radio-progreso-defending-human-rights-in-honduras

Radio Progreso- Defending Human Rights in Honduras

By Sean Hawkey with revisions by WACC staff on March 12, 2018

An interview with Fr Ismael Moreno, Director of Radio Progreso


 

 

 

Fr Ismael Moreno, affectionately known as Melo, is a Jesuit priest, human rights campaigner and the Director of Radio Progreso. He is pictured leading prayers at an ecumenical vigil outside the US embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Radio Progreso is a Jesuit radio station based in El Progreso, Honduras. The station is internationally recognized for its role advancing human rights, promoting peace, supporting community-based communication initiative, and advocating for environmental protection across Honduras. Radio Progreso has been broadcasting since the 1980’s and has been involved in numerous community mobilization efforts in support of Indigenous people, Afro-descendants, peasants, women, and youth, both in Honduras and across Central America.

Honduras has been mired in a series of human rights and democratic governance crises since 2009, when then-president Manuel Zelaya was ousted in widely denounced coup. High profile corruption cases, weakening institutions, and impunity followed.  The country is presently one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, human rights defenders, LGBTQ activists, and environmentalists[i]. Latent discontent in the country erupted in late 2017 following a disputed and highly controversial presidential election that ultimately saw Juan Orlando Hernandez, the incumbent president, elected. The situation sparked mass demonstrations and violent state repression[ii][iii][iv].

Radio Progreso has been at the forefront of the post-election movement to call for transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights in Honduras. Fr Ismael Moreno, Director of Radio Progreso, spoke with Sean Hawkey during his most recent visit to the country.

Sean Hawkey: How do you assess the current human rights situation in Honduras?

Fr Moreno: ‘We need to have a firm understanding of what’s behind the current moment, [behind] this situation. There are systemic issues [to be addressed]. The institutions of this government do not guarantee human rights. The rule of law is subject to arbitrary decisions of a small group led by Juan Orlando Hernandez who have control over the three powers of the state (the executive, legislative, and judicial branches). [That means that the protection of] human rights depends on the will of the government team, and not on the institutional [and legal] order that should protect human rights.

The precariousness of human rights here is that it is [ultimately up] to the people in charge of the Honduran regime. The defence of our human rights depends on how much the President’s team likes us, or rejects us.

For example, if the Department of State of the United States, warns Juan Orlando Hernández that the human rights of particular people should be protected, their rights [will be] protected, temporarily. However, the human rights situation is still precarious [because there is no system in place to protect people’s rights]. It doesn’t depend on the rule of law.

I was talking to a representative of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and she told me that she spoke to the President, and [to] the Minister for Security, and asked for my human rights to be respected. That means that my human rights will be respected, but not because human rights per se are respected here, but because the current situation is one where there is arbitrary protection of people’s rights because of political pressure.

The situation for us, human rights defenders, while Juan Orlando Hernandez is in power, is [one of] permanent and growing danger.

 

Sean Hawkey: What is the role of the media in the current crisis?

Fr Moreno: Media in Honduras is intimately linked to the groups who have power. In fact, power in Honduras is ultimately expressed through the capacity to control the media. The well-established national media in the country are associated with the five [most] powerful groups that exist in the country. Those are Grupo FICOHSA, Grupo Atlántida, Grupo Dinant, Grupo Terra and Grupo Karim. These groups bring together the 17 most powerful groups in Honduras, the 17 most powerful surnames in Honduras.

The media – TV, radio and the printed press- normally follow the script [set by these powerful interests] that [says] that they shouldn’t [get anywhere near the interests] of those groups. [The media in Honduras] ultimately expresses the interests of these powerful groups.

So, the media in Honduras is extremely conditioned by the owners, who are part of these economic groups, and who have more power than any government. They are the real government, and they have the ability to veto any sort of candidacy that could affect their interests. These are the five groups that were behind the coup of 2009, these are the five groups that are behind the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernandez, and these are the five groups that have the power of veto over any candidate that [even remotely resembles] Manuel Zelaya. Manuel Zelaya represents a threat to these five powerful groups.

These five groups are tightly linked to the embassy of the United States of America. For the government of the United States, Honduras is of geopolitical [importance], though they have no interest for what life is like in the country. They are wary of political instability. They prefer alliances with [established] politicians, even if they are tainted by corruption and are responsible for human rights abuses.

The media here, in many different ways, try to hide the reality that people live, try to hide the extreme differences between wealth and poverty in Honduras, and that the wealth is in so few hands. And they try to hide the repudiation of this [inequality] by the majority. And they try to maintain a situation that favours investments by the five groups and the United States.

The media here, in essence, abuse freedom of expression. They work against the role of the media, which is to inform, generate informed opinion and generate a culture of participation and coexistence and peace.

Sean Hawkey: How does the media and the powerful groups behind it exercise this power?

The big media are the property of these sectors of power. So, for media that aren’t following the script- the ones that have relationships with human rights defenders and with the opposition, and that are [beyond] the control of the government and these five powerful groups- there is a five step process that is sharply adhered to.

The first step is to ignore them. For us [at Radio Progreso], who have a different point of view than the government’s, or who question the government, we’ll never be invited to a TV station to give express our view. They’ll never run a story on who we are and what we do. We are ignored.

When, for different reasons, we can’t be ignored, they will twist information about us, on what we do, they will stigmatise us, they will discredit us. For example, they won’t talk about what we do or say, but they will call us rebels, revolutionaries. They’ll say that we stand in the way of development, or they’ll say that we are linked to organised crime, or that we have old ideas that [are incompatible] with modernity. They stigmatise us, they discredit us.

If that doesn’t work, they’ll try to co-opt us, to bribe us in many different ways. It can be with money, but not necessarily with money. It might be through recognitions, invitations to participate in bodies or events that deal with human rights, to go to five-star hotels. All of this is to make journalists [linked] with the opposition feel like they belong there.

When that doesn’t work then they try to criminalise us, which is the fourth step. When discrediting us doesn’t work, trying to buy us off doesn’t work, and we can’t be ignored, then they criminalise independent media. That’s why the Penal Code has been reformed, to enable accusations of terrorism and treason.

If none of that works, then they go to the fifth step which is assassination.

Sean Hawkey:  How has this affected Radio Progreso?

We’ve been ignored, but they can’t ignore us completely. They’ve tried to co-opt us and buy us off. Last year they tried to give me the government prize for human rights, I would have been part of their game if I’d accepted it. That hasn’t worked. They’ve tried to stigmatise us, they’ve produced posters [with supposed links to organised crime for example]. Attempts have been made to criminalise us. They have sabotaged our transmission tower in Tegucigalpa. And now we are trying to avoid that last step.

Photos by Sean Hawkey https://www.hawkey.co.uk/index


 

[i] Human Rights Watch. 2018. World Report 2018: Honduras.  https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/honduras

[ii] DW. 2018. “Honduras military clashes with protesters over president’s re-election”
http://www.dw.com/en/honduras-military-clashes-with-protesters-over-presidents-re-election/a-42241116

[iii] Reuters. 2018. “Honduran president sworn in amid protests after election chaos” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-honduras-election/honduran-president-sworn-in-amid-protests-after-election-chaos-idUSKBN1FG0NL

[iv]Sandra Cuffe. 2018. ”US-trained police are hunting down and arresting protesters amid post-election crisis in Honduras”. The Intercept.  https://theintercept.com/2018/02/20/honduras-election-protest-tigres/

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO1ocvVRxg0

Padre Melo: Pastoral and Transformational

Luke Hansen | 10/29/13
http://www.americamagazine.org/content/all-things/padre-melo-pastoral-and-transformational

Padre Melo (left) speaks with Chabelo Morales (center) at the penal farm of La Ceiba, Honduras, on Sept. 9, 2013. Mr. Morales is from a campesino settlement called Guadalupe Carney, named after Jim Carney, a U.S. Jesuit who was disappeared in Honduras 30 years ago.

The setting was informal: Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., known as “Padre Melo,” wore shorts and sandals and sat on a couch in the living room of his Jesuit community. Surrounded by friends, coworkers and visitors from two U.S. delegations, he spoke into his laptop computer. Yet the impact was undeniable: Padre Melo was broadcasting his nightly radio program, “America Libre”; his voice and message were reaching 1.5 million Hondurans through the airwaves of Radio Progreso, a Jesuit-sponsored communications apostolate.

During this broadcast, Padre Melo told the story Inti-Illimani, a Chilean folk music group who were essentially exiled from their country and whose music was banned under the military rule of Augusto Pinochet. He interviewed Rafael García, S.J., a member of a visiting delegation (of which I also took part) and pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Albuquerque, N.M. Padre Melo urged community members to attend the march, Mass and celebration of the life of Jim (Padre Guadalupe) Carney, S.J, which I wrote about here [4]. To the untrained eye, Padre Melo might have been simply enjoying food and kinship with the diverse group gathered in his home. But, in fact, this evening broadcast captured Padre Melo’s unique brand of pastoral care that he seemingly offers to every person he encounters.

Padre Melo is the director of ERIC (Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación), a social analysis and action center, and the aforementioned Radio Progreso. But these responsibilities do not keep him from building relationships with and offering support to a wide range of members of Honduran society. As quick with a quip or an affectionate pat on the back, Padre Melo’s pastoral ministry has helped him develop relationships with a far-reaching and varied cross section of people that at once keep him grounded in the struggles of people but also connected to leaders in Honduran society. During the delegation I experienced the work of Padre Melo in many different capacities and settings. Here are some examples:

  • Padre Melo celebrates Mass on Sunday evenings in a small chapel in El Progreso with a congregation comprised of talented young adult musicians, elderly community residents, devout young women and experienced community organizers.
  • In the capital city of Tegucigalpa, at the most prestigious university in the country, Padre Melo participated in a panel that marked the beginning of a formal relationship between ERIC and the university, and he also tenderly offered support and prayers to Julieta Castellanos, the university president whose son was kidnapped and murdered by police.
  • At a prison farm outside of La Ceiba, Padre Melo’s friendship with Chabelo Morales has helped inspire a legal challenge to Morales’s wrongful arrest, trial and sentencing. International attention and pressure, aided by Padre Melo, has helped bring the case up for reconsideration. Also, Padre Melo’s rapport with the guards and prison director has helped protect Chabelo from violence inside the prison.
  • Padre Melo’s longtime friendship with the president of Honduras’ largest union has refined the integration of worker’s rights into Padre Melo’s social analysis, even while he extends warmth and companionship to the leader who has recently struggled with health concerns.
  • Padre Melo’s relationships with movement leaders has helped build a network among individuals and communities resisting intimidation from mine companies to vacate their land, pushing back against land seizure by a sugar company, and organizing resistance to violence against women.

Honduras is in dire need of strong civil society groups and organizations to counteract political and police corruption, rampant gang and drug trafficking violence, and subversion of laws and judicial systems to the interests of wealthy and powerful individuals and companies. By offering far-reaching and inclusive pastoral care to a wide range of communities, Padre Melo is sowing the seeds to grow a community of committed people capable of transforming what is often a fragmented and polarized country.

Nicholas Napolitano is provincial assistant for social ministries for the Maryland, New England and New York Provinces of the Society of Jesus.

video watch at:

http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/centers/humanrights/Videos/melo.html