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Updated 01/14/2008

Remembering 25 Years Ago—June 1982

June 9
Cynthia Lee Morin, a 31-year-old American nurse from Los Angeles, and Augusto Giron Tova, a 30-year-old Guatemalan doctor, are detained by members of the Honduran military near the Mayan ruins of Copán, on the Guatemalan border. The pair were working with Guatemalan refugees fleeing civil war in their home country—an increasingly dangerous job as relief workers are becoming targets of attacks because of allegations by Honduran and U.S. officials that many refugees have rebel ties and are aiding guerrillas. Morin, who is released, says the soldiers beat her, stole her watch and money, and twice tried to rape her. She also says she saw them bind Giron’s hands and lead him away to a river gorge. The doctor is never seen again.

Days later, upon urging from the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, the military investigates the incident. Lt. Col. Lopez Grijalba, head of military intelligence, tells embassy officials the government has “conclusive information” that Giron was complicit in guerrilla activities; however, commander-in-chief Gen. Alvarez later insists that the incident was unauthorized and that he has no negative information against Giron. Near the end of June, the Honduran Army arrests four soldiers and two intelligence agents and charges them with assault, kidnapping and robbery. Commenting on the arrests, Cresencio S. Arcos, the embassy's public affairs officer, notes that the Honduran government is ''earnest about keeping [its] record clean.''

“Honduran Solidiers Arrested in the Beating of a U.S. Nurse,” The New York Times, July 3, 1982

Confidential Telegram #5231 from U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa to the Secretary of State in Washington, DC; June 24, 1982

Confidential Telegram #5342 from U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa to the Secretary of State in Washington, DC; June 29, 1982

June 11
Eduardo Colleman Martínez, 56, and his brother Reynaldo, 65, disappear after being detained in Puerto Lempira, allegedly by members of the Public Security Forces (FUSEP). The same day, or possibly the following day, their nephew Guadalupe Carrillo Colleman, 35, is also detained and disappears. The men are reportedly taken to FUSEP headquarters in Puerto Lempira and then transferred to an unknown location.

Marcial Colleman, brother of Eduardo and Reynaldo, files a habeas corpus request to challenge the men’s detention, which the court denies. In June and July 1982, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras also files legal requests to obtain the victims’ release, and those are also denied. In September Marcial Colleman asks the Honduran president and the commander of the Armed Forces to release his three family members, but receives no response to his request.

After the men’s disappearance, the Colleman family allegedly suffers threats, harassment, illegal detention and torture at the hands of Honduran security forces. Gloria Méndez Chávez, wife of Reynaldo Colleman, is tortured by FUSEP agents. In October 1982 Marcial Colleman is detained and tortured by agents of the National Investigations Directorate (DNI), and he is released only after legal interventions. Authorities of the Fifth Infantry Battalion confiscate the goods of Eduardo Colleman’s wife Elena. Meanwhile, the mother of Guadalupe Carrillo is forced to seek refuge in Nicaragua for eight years.

“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

June 12
Amado Espinoza Paz, a Nicaraguan mechanic, and Adán Aviléz Funez, a Honduran farmer, disappear after being arrested in Choluteca, allegedly by DNI and FUSEP agents. Espinoza Paz is accused of arms trafficking and having ties to Salvadoran guerrillas. On June 15, two bodies—barefoot and without indentification—are found on a highway south of Tegucigalpa; they are buried in the same place. The wife of Aviléz Funez subsequently hears a radio report on the discovery of the bodies, including a description of the clothes they were wearing. She recognizes the description as that of her husband, contacts the authorities and has his remains buried in a cemetery in Choloteca on June 24.

On Nov. 6, 1995, members of a forensic anthropology team from Argentina, invited to assist Honduran authorities in the investigation of human rights abuses in the 1980s, exhume the body of Aviléz Funez and positively identify the remains based on dental information. They also determine the cause of death as two shots in the thorax. Two days later, they recover the body of Espinoza Paz from the roadside spot where he had been buried 13 years earlier. The team is able to positively identify the body through genetic analysis of his teeth, but because of the poor state of the remains, they cannot establish a cause of death.

The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras submits criminal charges, including illegal detention and murder, against 19 active and retired military officers, and arrested warrants were issued for 13 in July 1996. Among those charged were Lt. Col. Juan Lopez Grijalba, Raymundo Alexander Hernandez Santos, Maj. Manuel de Jesus Trejo Rosa and Juan Blas Salazar Mesa, the former head of the DNI. At the end of 2006, the case of Hernandez Santos remained pending a decision from the Supreme Court of Justice, but cases against the others had apparently been dismissed.

“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: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2006.” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State; March 6, 2007