Jesuits Defend Human Rights Leaders in Honduras Amid Attacks

BY ISN STAFF | January 3, 2017

On December 30, 2017, the conference of Jesuit provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean released a letter defending Fr. Ismael Moreno, a Jesuit priest in Honduras commonly known as “Padre Melo,” holding Honduran president “Juan Orlando Hernández and his allies responsible for the safety and physical and moral well-being of the nine people falsely accused.”

The letter is in response to a flyer circulating on social media, falsely accusing Fr. Moreno and eight other regional leaders of inciting violence and involvement in narcotics trafficking.

In the letter, Fr. Roberto Jaramillo, S.J., president of the conference of Jesuit provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean, compares the flyer to “death threats which circulated in El Salvador before the murder of Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande. ‘Be a patriot – kill a priest,’ said the flyers in that case.”

Fr. Moreno is the director of Radio Progreso, a Jesuit-sponsored human-rights radio station, and the Reflection, Investigation and Communication Team (ERIC), a Jesuit social action and analysis center, both based in Honduras.

Fr. Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., speaks with attendees after his keynote presentation at the 2014 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.

Honduras has been experiencing significant unrest since a contested November 26 presidential election. Early election results showed the opposition’s candidate, Salvador Nasralla, in the lead. However, shortly after, results suddenly stopped coming in. When the polling system came back up after a 36-hour delay, the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) reported that incumbent Hernández was in the lead.

The TSE’s long delay, its lack of transparency during that time, and the close alignment of its authorities with the ruling government have sparked doubt about the legitimacy of election results, prompting thousands of Hondurans to take to the street in protest—efforts were met with police and military action leaving several dead and many more wounded.

Despite the flyer lacking a clear call for murder, Matt Ippel, S.J., an American Jesuit scholastic and close friend of Fr. Moreno, recently told America Magazine that he believes the “flyer is part of a familiar pattern of suppression in Honduras,” citing the case of Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist and friend of Father Moreno, murdered in Honduras in March 2016. “It starts with ignoring [oppositional voices], then it moves to delegitimization, which is where this flyer would fall under. Then to criminalization, then to assassination,” Ippel said.  

On December 17, 2017, Radio Progreso offered a proposal to rectify the inconsistencies the electoral process. The Jesuits in Canada and the United States and Central American Jesuits have also spoken out about the current situation, and Pope Francis offered prayers for peace in the country.  

Join ISN in calling for justice in Honduras here.  

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