Jesuits denounce threats against outspoken Honduran priest, activists

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By David Agren

Society of Jesus has denounced threats made against an outspoken Honduran Jesuit
who has highlighted accusations of widespread irregularities in the Central
American country’s recent presidential election.

Conference of Provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean said in Dec. 30
statement that the social media hostilities against Father Ismael Moreno Coto —
better known as “Padre Melo” — were “reminiscent of the death
threats which circulated in El Salvador before the murder of Jesuit Father
Rutilio Grande,” a Salvadoran Jesuit murdered in 1977. The Jesuits also
defended eight other regional activists being threatened.

of the accusations are lies aimed at counteracting the grass-roots organizing
and the peaceful and democratic resistance which the accused, along with the
people of Honduras, are carrying out at a moment when the popular vote has been
disrespected by John Orlando Hernandez and his allies,” said the statement,
referring to the incumbent president and official electoral victor.

“This is an attempt
to create terror in the people as a strategy to demobilize them,” said the
statement, signed by Father Roberto Jaramillo, conference president. “We
hold Juan Orlando Hernandez and his allies responsible for the safety and
physical and moral well-being of the nine people falsely accused.”

Nov. 26 Honduran elections returned Hernandez to power, but only after a
lengthy vote-counting process marred by unexplained delays and improbable technical
difficulties. The incumbent also overcame a large lead held by opposition
candidate Salvador Nasralla, who was ahead with a majority of votes counted before
a long suspension of the count by the country’s electoral tribunal.

U.S. government, which has worked closely with Hernandez’s administration on immigration
and security issues, recognized the victory Dec. 22, despite irregularities
noted by election observers and calls for new elections.

has called for dialogue but has been rebuffed by the opposition, including
Father Moreno, founder of Radio Progreso. At least 30 people have been killed
in protests since the election, according to observers, who allege police
repression. A Radio Progreso transmission tower was toppled in December in an
act Father Moreno called “sabotage.”

receiving accusations that put my life at risk,” he tweeted Dec. 29. “This
is the open dialogue that the president speaks about and is backed by the U.S.

Moreno has long been outspoken in his criticism of Hernandez and the country’s
business class, both accused of corruption, improperly capitalizing on
concessions and privatizations and failing to stop the slayings of social and
environmental activists.

Honduran bishops’ conference said in a Dec. 21 statement that the country’s
electoral tribunal “has not overcome the lack of certainty regarding the
election results,” but called for calm and for Hondurans to strive for “a
grand social pact through dialogue.”

for dialogue have fallen on deaf ears previously, including after the 2009 coup,
when the opposition accused the newly installed president of using the prospect
of talk as a means of buying time.

The 2009 coup occurred
after opponents accused then-President Manuel Zelaya of illegally preparing an
attempted re-election; Honduras had allowed only one four-year term.

Hernandez, who supported the coup, convinced the Supreme Court to allow his own
attempted re-election — something observers say has poisoned the prospects of

can’t say the government has been terrible in everything,” said Father
German Calix, director of Caritas Honduras. “What people did not tolerate
is that the law was violated so (Hernandez) could run as a candidate again. (They)
feel like the law has been mocked and could continue being mocked.”

– – –

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Original Article