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Updated 01/14/2008

Remembering 25 Years Ago—August 1982

Aug. 1, 1982
Jose Eduardo Lanza, a 24-year-old Honduran medical student and secretary general of the Honduran Federation of the University Students, is detained by men in plain clothes, believed to be DNI agents, near the Regis Pharmacy in Tegucigalpa. He is an outspoken critic of U.S. military and Nicaraguan Contra activity within the country, and has participated in antigovernment demonstrations demanding the release of students leaders detained on charges of subversion. Two friends who were detained along with Lanza are released the next day and say they believe he was taken to DNI headquarters. Some two weeks later, a person who had been held in a DNI detention cell reports having seen Lanza, apparently tortured to the point of near death.

For several years after his arrest, Lanza’s family files habeas corpus petitions and attempts to initiate legal proceedings against senior military and police officers, but to no avail. An Armed Forces officer denies Lanza was detained and suggests he left the country. When the family’s lawyer meets with high-ranking officers, he is shown a report claiming that Lanza was a communist agitator who had received training outside Honduras. In 1983, Lanza’s parents are informed that their son’s body is in a morgue; when they arrive, the morgue is heavily guarded by soldiers and they are unable to identify a body. Nevertheless, the officer in charge insists one of the bodies is Lanza’s.

In 1986, a member of the Nicaraguan Contras admits to having participated in Lanza’s murder. He says Capt. Alexander Hernández, a member of an anti-communist network, ordered the execution of Lanza, specifying that he should disappear and claiming the order came directly from Armed Forces chief Gen. Alvarez Martínez. Lanza was killed and his body was buried somewhere between Tegucigalpa and Choluteca. A former member of the Armed Forces’ Batallion 3-16 later corroborated the testimony. To date, Eduardo Lanza’s body has not been found.

On Aug. 1, 2007, a ceremony is held at the National Autonomous University of Honduras commemorating the 25 years since the disappearance of Eduardo Lanza and his legacy as a student leader.

Sources
“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

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras Web site, Desaparecidos en 1982.

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

Aug. 18, 1982
Germán Pérez Alemán, leader of the union of maintenance workers in airports and terminals, is beaten and abducted, in broad daylight and in front of numerous witnesses, by six armed men wearing disguises. In response to the apparent kidnapping, a highway patrol car follows the car into which Pérez Alemán was forced, eventually overtaking it. According to later testimony by a former member of Battalion 3-16 present at the time, Lt. Segundo Flores Murillo steps out of the car, identifies himself as a military intelligence agent engaged in a special operation, and orders the officers, if asked, to tell journalists that they was unable to catch up with the car. Pérez Alemán is then taken to a clandestine jail, where, according to witness testimony, he is tortured.

The family is told Pérez Alemán has been detained because he made frequent trips to El Salvador, suggesting ties with Salvadoran guerrillas; however, according to his family, the trips were to collect the payments of his Salvadoran father’s life insurance policy. The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras reports the case to the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance. On May 29, 1983, the Honduran Permanent Mission in Geneva informs the U.N. Working Group that, according to the Honduran Armed Forces, the National Investigations Directorate is carrying out an investigation of the case. The Honduran government again informs the U.N. Working Group on Aug. 31, 1983, that an investigation is being conducted, but no results are ever reported. Pérez Alemán’s fate remains unknown, and his body has not been found.

Sources
“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

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras Web site, Desaparecidos en 1982.

Aug. 31, 1982
Teresa de Jesús Sierra Alvarenga, a 25-year-old Honduran, disappears after being abducted by unknown individuals in Villa Adela de Comayagüela.

Sources
“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

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras Web site, Desaparecidos en 1982.