Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In support of Bishop Santos

Bishop Santos in San Juan, Intibucá, May 31, 2011

Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, Bishop of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, is not one to pull punches. He has consistently spoken out for the poor in his diocese, against attacks on nature like open pit mining, and against the 2009 coup d'état. He is considered by some as a nuisance, by others as a prophet. Once again his remarks have struck a nerve.

A few weeks ago in an interview he held the rich Honduran land-owner and support of the 2009 coup, Miguel Facussé responsible for fourteen deaths in the area of the Bajo Aguan.

Facussé claims ownership of large tracts of land in this northern part of Honduras where he and associates have planted plantations of African palm for the production of palm oil. Unfortunately this large is claimed by a number of campesinos who have been rendered landless. In the past several years, according to Andrés Pavón, leader of an independent human rights group, thirty-five peasants have been killed. Miguel Facussé has a well-armed security force and has had the support of government forces in his effort. These groups are reported to be those responsible for most of these deaths.

On Monday, May 30, Facussé’s lawyer presented a charge against Bishop Santos of defamation and calumny for saying that he had killed 14 campesinos.

Tuesday, May 31, the bishop was in San Juan Intibucá with 30 priests of his diocese for the priestly ordination of Francisco Rivas. It was a beautiful celebration as priests, hundreds of people from the parish as well as from Father Francisco’s native El Salvador, came to celebrate another priest for the diocese. It was a deeply moving Mass.

At the end of the Mass one of the priests came to the microphone and read a communiqué which the priests of the diocese released in support of the bishop. The text follows:

Priests of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán

The priests of Santa Rosa de Copán, meeting in the municipality of San Juan Intibucá on the occasion of the celebration of the priestly ordination of the deacon Francisco Rivas, knowing the news that  a complaint has been filed by lawyers of Miguel Facussé against our bishop, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, makes this pronouncement in the presence of public opinion in general and Catholic parishioners in particular in the following terms:

1.     We are in solidarity with Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, the 43 parishes of the five departments  in the western region, with a population of about 1.5 million inhabitants; and we are ready to accompany him in the complete process until the truth is discovered and there is an investigation of those directly involved in the violent actions against the campesinos of Bajo Aguan.

2.     We ask the State to listen and head the outcry of the campesinos who cry out and affirm with their struggles that Miguel Facussé is the one responsible for the deaths in Bajo Aguan.

3.     We denounce the ties and preferential treatment which the Honduran State is giving to this person while the Constitution states that we are all equal. We ask, Why is there such malicious indifference by the judicial power which does not follow up on the acts,  which violate human rights, to which the campesinos of Bajo Aguan are submitted? Why isn’t there an investigation of those directly responsible for the psychological and physical attacks which campesinos have suffered in the Gulf of Fonseca, especially in the island of Zacate Grande,

4.     We demand that the Honduras state apply justice especially in regard to the problems of land ownership which are the direct causes of the deaths of campesinos in Zacate Grande and Bajo Aguan, among other cases.

5.     We invite all the parishioners to be attentive to defend the dignity of the people, to aid the prophetic voice and protect the life of our shepherd, Monseñor Santos who had given over his life for the poor and the defense of life in his 27 years as bishop.

“Hear this, you who walk over the poor and want to suppress the humble of the land.” (Amos 8:4)

Released in the municipality of San Juan Intibucá, May 31, 2011


After the text was read Monseñor Santos commented. The deaths of campesinos are not noticed. “No importa – It means nothing” that a campesino is killed. Someone in the church as to speak out, since only the diocese of Trujillo has spoken out about the land problem.

I videotaped his remarks and will review them later and share what seems important.

But I think something very important may come of this. At the Mass the bishop invited people to come with him if he has to face a tribunal in Choluteca where he made his remarks or in Tegucigalpa. But it seems that already people in the Resistance are saying that people should support Bishop Santos by stating publicly, as he did, that Facussé is responsible for deaths in Bajo Aguan.


Philip said...

Gracias, John, for keeping us informed, and all the best to Mons. Santos. He is indeed a bold and prophetic voice for peace and justice. "Basta ya" with the impunity of the rich and powerful. Abrazos! Phil Anderson, Washington, DC

Rodolfo said...

My prayers and solidarity will be with Monsenor Santos and with Hondurans people
Rodolfo Maradiaga,Californi