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Updated 09/28/2008

Remembering 25 Years Ago—April 1981

(español)


April 22

Twelve Salvadoran refugees, along with four children, are arrested in various parts of Tegucigalpa by members of the National Intelligence Directorate (DNI) and the Public Security Forces (FUSEP). The group includes Nora Trinidad Gómez de Barillas, 29, the secretary of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero before his assassination; her husband Jose Maruicio Barillas, 33; their three children, Nora Patricia, 11, Mauricio Gerardo, 5, and José Daniel, 2; siblings Ana Elsa Arce Romero, 22, Jesus Enoé Arce Romero, 25, and Eva Sara Arce Romero, 23—all students; Ana Córdoba Ramirez, 23; Claudia Maria Domínguez Amador, 21; Salvador Fabián, 29; Francisco García, a 27-year-old journalist; Ana Maria Sierra, a 23-year-old student; Marta Alicia Navarro, a 27-year-old student; her mother, Concepción Navarro, 55; and her daughter, Urusula, 3.  

A Dutch agronomist, Bert Beekman, witnesses FUSEP agents pushing family members into a blue Toyota pick-up truck. He recognizes most of them because he had done volunteer work with a humanitarian relief organization helping Salvadoran refugees in Honduras. Three days later, he reads in the Honduran newspapers that the children he had seen put into the truck had been turned over to Salvadoran Red Cross officials at the border by the Honduran Immigration Service. Fearing for the lives of the adults, he decides to make a public statement about the detention and submits written testimony to the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Honduran authorities deny that they are holding the people Beekman saw being abducted.   

On June 11 the U.S. Embassy in Honduras receives an intelligence report confirming that the Barillas and Navarro families had been detained by the DNI at the request of Salvadoran authorities, who suspected that several family members were part of a guerilla support network. According to the report, the Hondurans held and questioned them for several days, but failed to obtain useful information; some of their interrogators had been trained by the CIA. In response, Salvadoran authorities sent their own interrogators, who used extremely brutal techniques that made it impossible to release the families in Honduras without serious political repercussions. The solution was to send a Salvadoran Air Force plane to Tegucigalpa and repatriate them. Some of the detainees were witnessed boarding the nonstop flight, but when the plane arrived, they were no longer there; it is reported that the passengers were thrown from the aircraft. Binns learns that along with the four children, Barillas’ mother-in-law had also been turned over to Salvadoran authorities at the border. There are reports that Gómez and Barillas had remained in Honduran custody, but that is never confirmed. 

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 

“The United States in Honduras, 1980-1981: An Ambassador’s Memoir.” Jack R. Binns. McFarland & Co. Inc.; 2000 

Comite de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras Web site, Desaparecidos-1981 

Reports of the International Commission for the Defense of Salvadoran Refugees, 1981 

“Public Declaration by Berk Beekman, Agrarian Engineer,” May 29, 1981


April 26
Gerardo Vega Barbosa, a Costa Rican citizen, disappears after being detained in El Guasaule, on the border with Nicaragua, allegedly by Honduran Armed Forces Army Capt. Oscar Barahona.  

Source

“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 


April 27

Carlos Antonio Ramírez Lemus, a 26-year-old Guatemalan student and secretary of the "Oliverio Castañeda de León" Students Association, disappears while in transit through Honduras. Honduran military personnel, who tell the Ticabús driver that they are “following orders from superiors,” arrest Ramírez Lemus in front of the other passengers. Lemus’s wife connects this case with that of Gerardo Vega Barbosa, detained and disappeared under similar circumstances a day earlier.  

Source

“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