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Updated 05/06/2009

Remembering 25 Years Ago—March 1984

March 18

Gustavo Adolfo Morales Fúnez, an economist working for the National Children's Foundation, disappears after being abducted in a busy downtown section of Tegucigalpa while on his way to the television studios of Channel 5, where he supervises the weekly national lottery. The 36-year-old married father of three is a former president of the National Agrarian Institute Employees’ Union and an outspoken government critic and activist.

Supreme Court magistrate Luis Mendoza Fugón witnesses the abduction while jogging in the vicinity, reportedly seeing six armed men in civilian clothes intercept Morales' jeep, force Morales into their van and drive off. A military police officer guarding the Foreign Ministry also witnesses the abduction but declines to respond, despite Mendoza's urging, and other nearby military personnel deny having seen or heard anything. Mendoza reports what he has seen to the press, but he is never called to give an official statement until requested to do so by the national human rights commissioner in 1993.

Morales’ jeep is later seen parked at the headquarters of the National Investigations Directorate (DNI). The Children's Foundation receives an anonymous phone call saying Morales’ car can be retrieved from DNI headquarters and additional information on Morales can be obtained by calling a certain telephone number, which is later traced to the DNI offices. Nevertheless, the DNI denies any involvement in Morales’ detention. Numerous petitions for writs of habeas corpus are presented in the days following, but none prove successful. Morales’ case is later brought before the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, in response to which the Honduran government repeatedly denies responsibility.

In October 1995 a forensic team from Physicians for Human Rights, working with the Honduran Special Prosecutor for Human Rights and the Criminal Investigations Directorate, excavate two bodies from an unmarked grave alongside the road leading to El Maguelar, a small community east of Tegucigalpa. Although the skeletons are in poor condition, experts are able to identify the body of Morales through pieces of clothing, a shoe and a dental prosthesis. In addition, his driver's license, protected by a plastic cover, is found in a pants pocket. The other skeleton is initially identified as Rolando Vindel, another disappearance victim (see below).

In January 1998 the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH) files a court complaint against former armed forces head Gen. Walter López Reyes, Col. Angel Ricardo Luque Portillo and Maj. Oscar Ramón Hernández Chávez in relation to the disappearance of some 20 people, including Morales, detained by the Honduran Armed Forces between July 1983 and September 1984. CODEH submits a copy of a recently obtained Nov. 30, 1984 report sent by the commander of the Regional Center for Military Training (see June 1983 edition) to Gen. López. The report includes a list of people "... detained ... under investigation," including Morales, who is described as having been "captured" in Tegucigalpa by the Intelligence Battalion and delivered to center on March 30, 1984.

The case does not proceed; however, on Oct. 25, 2005, the Honduran government formalizes a friendly settlement before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with the families of 16 disappearance victims from the 1980s, including Morales. Among other things, the settlement includes financial reparations to the families.

Sources

"Informe Especial." Fuerzas Armada de Honduras, Centro Regional de Entrenamiento Militar (CREM). Nov. 30, 1984.

"'Disappearances' in Honduras: A wall of silence and indifference.” Amnesty International; April 30, 1992.

“Honduras: The Facts Speak for Themselves.” The Preliminary Report of the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras. Human Rights Watch; July 1994.

“Honduras: Continued Struggle Against Impunity.” Amnesty International; Feb. 26, 1996.

“Honduras: Still waiting for justice.” Amnesty International; April 1, 1998.

"Gustavo Adolfo Morales Fúnez." Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras.

"Acuerdo de Solución Amistosa; Casos CIDH 7864, 9781,10.195, 10.313, 10. 437, 10.439, 10.453 Y 11.058  y Petición P79/HO (Desaparecidos de la Decada de los Años 80)." Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos; Oct. 25, 2005.


March 18

Rolando Vindel González, electrical technician and president of the National Electrical Workers' Union, disappears after being detained by two military officers at La Leona Park in Tegucigalpa, not far from where Gustavo Morales (see above) is abducted that same morning. At the time of his capture, Vindel is on his way to a union meeting related to the negotiation of a collective-bargaining agreement with the state-owned power company.

This is not the first time the 39-year-old father of four is detained. In January 1981 Vindel was held by the DNI on charges of subversion but released for lack of evidence. Upon his release he published a full-page announcement in the local daily El Tiempo, in which he reported having received beatings and electric shocks while in police custody. He was reportedly detained by the DNI and tortured again in September 1983 while involved in negotiations on behalf of his union.

Evidence suggests DNI agents are responsible for Vindel's capture even though Honduran authorities repeatedly deny having him in custody. The Electrical Workers' Union reports being informed by a Honduran army official, speaking off the record, that Vindel lost his mind as a result of being tortured. Further, a Nov. 30, 1984 military report identifies Vindel as one of 20 men being held at the Center for Military training (see above). Habeas corpus petitions and appeals to senior civilian and military authorities from Vindel's family and the union yield no success.

In October 1995 a forensic team exhumes the remains of a skeleton believed to be that of Vindel; however, experts are ultimately unable to definitively identify the remains. Despite the setback, Vindel's case is included in a 1998 court complaint against three military officers on behalf of the relatives of some 20 disappearance victims (see above). That complaint never moves forward, but some degree of justice is achieved when Vindel's case is included in an Oct. 25, 2005 friendly settlement before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, through which the Honduran government, among other things, grants financial reparations to the families of 16 disappearance victims from the 1980s.

Sources

"Informe Especial." Fuerzas Armada de Honduras, Centro Regional de Entrenamiento Militar (CREM). Nov. 30, 1984.

"'Disappearances' in Honduras: A wall of silence and indifference.” Amnesty International; April 30, 1992.

“Honduras: The Facts Speak for Themselves.” The Preliminary Report of the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras. Human Rights Watch; July 1994.

“Honduras: Continued Struggle Against Impunity.” Amnesty International; Feb. 26, 1996.

“Honduras: Still waiting for justice.” Amnesty International; April 1, 1998.

"Rolando Vindel González." Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos.

"Acuerdo de Solución Amistosa; Casos CIDH 7864, 9781,10.195, 10.313, 10. 437, 10.439, 10.453 Y 11.058  y Petición P79/HO (Desaparecidos de la Decada de los Años 80)." Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos; Oct. 25, 2005.


To read past editions, go to the Remembering 25 Years Ago archive.