ABBREVIATIONS FREQUENTLY USED
ZEDE – Zones of Employment and Economic Development (newer name for model cities)
JOH – Juan Orlando Hernández (regime president for two terms, after Micheletti and Lobo)
COFADEH – Committee of Families of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras (human rights organisation)
MILPAH – Independent Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz Honduras (indigenous peasant organisation)
IACHR – Inter American Commission of Human Rights
May to December 2021 Honduras coup update: The impending exit of JOH dictatorship
This time period in Honduras saw continued attacks against peasants, indigenous communities, human rights defenders, unionists, students, political prisioners, community journalist, and also, many killings against politicians – in the context of the November election in which the Nationalist JOH regime saw that at the presidential level, it couldn’t pull off another fraud, although it can at the parliamentary and municipal levels. In addition, inroads were made into beginning several model cities (ZEDES), to add to the long list of dictatorship footprints so that it leaves a nightmare to be unravelled, as FUERA JOH – get out JOH’ becomes a reality, twelve and a half years after the military coup against the Honduran people.
Systematic attacks against peasants and indigenous people recuperating land continued including with political imprisonment and gunshots
In Comayagua, Yesenia Orellana and Luís Tejada of the 8 de febrero peasants cooperative went through a judicial persecution rollercoaster since 2017 having been charged back then with usurpation, for their participation in land recuperation to feed their families. On 7 May 2021, Yesenia and Luís were ruled guilty by the court, at which point they shared that, ‘we are worried, the family is too, as they can feel the threats and persecution against us. We have been signing at the courts for 3 years now. If we weren’t using the land it would be left unused.’ Three months later on 12 August 2021, they were sentenced to two years of prison. Immediately after this decision, Cofadeh sought for the penalty to be suspended and, to the relief of all, this was accepted.
In La Paz, back in December 2020, José Santo Vijil – participant in land recuperation of the Peasant Base in Nueva Esperanza, and Víctor Vásquez, MILPAH leader who was accompanying the land recuperation, were arrested and charged and kept politically imprisoned. José and Víctor appeared in court, still in prison, on 26 May 2021, as their lawyers appealed their unfair imprisonment. Their families and friends travelled 58 km from home to Tegucigalpa to demand for their freedom outside the courts, and this hearing was followed by another hearing on 28 September 2021 where the court in Tegucigalpa considered initially that they should be granted bail but it was determined afterwards that this is a decision for the La Paz Appeals court to make. All this mess saw their imprisonment prolonged. It was on the 28 September 2021 hearing when José could see and hug his children for the first time since his arrest 10 months before. 11 years old Yasmín couldn’t hold back her tears, ‘I don’t understand why my papá is here and not at home with us.. my papá is a decent and hardworking person’. José’s spouse Teodora López said since Jose’s arrest things got worse for them, with their children eating half of what they ate before with the economic difficulties. Their children are aged 16, 11, 9 and 7. This family reunion even was only possible because Cofadeh and an UN high commissioner representative had advocated for it. Víctor knows their imprisonment is the regime’s tactic to stop their territories defence work, and José proclaimed, ‘being imprisoned is not going to stop us from continuing to fight’. In La Paz, land and environmental defenders are heavily persecuted, it was here the Félix Vásquez the organised peasant of UTC was assassinated, and others currently heavily persecuted include Sebastián, a CNTC leader, for raising the voices of peasants and speaking up against handing over agriculture and environmental protection to the military, and Marlon Calles, a young forests defender.
In El Porvenir, Siguatepeque, Juan Mejía (62), Vicente Castro (62) and Santos Vazquez (54) of the 11 de marzo peasants cooperative were back in 12 March 2019 captured by police for walking around with a machete – a farming work tool – and imprisoned for about a week before being released on bail. However they had to adhere to bail conditions including of not going to the land under litigation, where they and their families’ life are. On 3 August 2021, the court, with peasants gathered outside in solidarity, ruled the three guilty for usurpation and not guilty for land clearing. They subsequently faced a sentencing hearing, facing 3-5 years of prison. Ultimately, 11 de marzo has for a long time sought for the land reform department INA to legalise the land on which they grow food but INA had not actioned this to the accuser’s benefit. The land mitigation is against Marco Valeriano. On 19 August 2021, on the penalty hearing, the three were sentenced to 2 years of prison. Cofadeh sought for the suspension of the penalty given that they had faced 29 months of bail conditions and finally that was accepted and Juan, Vicente and Santos were free at last. During these hearing dates the peasants outside the courts in solidarity also demanded respect for indigenous people and indigenous rights, and to investigate Marco Valeriano’s proclaimed ownership of the land. They were very worried because they had suffered an eviction in 2018 when everything they had was destroyed and that the same could happen to them now, on the land where they are growing corn, beans, and vegetables and have so for 5 years. Subsequently, on 16 November 2021, a private security guard warned the peasants that there was an eviction order in place. The very next day, on 17 November, a tractor and police entered the lands and repeated the 2018 violent eviction. The state had declared Marco Valeriano the land owner, evicted the peasant community without fulfiling their legal obligation to relocate the peasants, leaving 30 families on the streets to fend for themselves.
In San Antonio de Gualaco, Olancho, on 24 June 2021, DPI investigative police arrested Nahuatl indigenous environmentalist leaders of Gualaco Environmental Committee José Lauriano Escobar and Elvin Rufino Munguía, with charges of land usurpation. They are accused by logger Nery Murillo, owner of Forestry company MTS. Twelve Nahuatl communities have lived on their lands since 1906 and 1926. Nery Murillo and MTS had been observed to slowly spread their tentacles since the 1990s (according to an anonymous resident) and expand in the area logging and extracting resin. José and Elvin were released on bail on their 14th day of imprisonment on 7 July 2021, but not before adding extra charges of damages and threats against Murillo the day before. José Lauriano was especially shocked to be charged with threatening Murillo when he had never threatened anyone and despite the threats from Murillo, they had been completely non-violent and trying to resolve issues legally in a bid to prevent violence and prevent losing everything they have for generations worked so hard for. The judicial proceedings are especially blatant in this context of that the communities are legal owners of the lands and community members know they had inherited the lands from their grandparents. There is no evidence of threats and damages from the community but the communities are reporting and providing video evidence that Murillo and MTS have heavily armed people intimidate people, threaten to destroy their homes, and control the movements of the communities to the point that they are worried that their travels would be impeded in cases of medical emergencies – all this, and authorities fail to intervene, let alone investigate. 200 families had been unable to grow basic grains, corns, and beans due to the threats and terror. Murillo had placed a chain on a road to Cuaca so that there is only one way to enter and leave each community and these ways have been heavily militarised by Murillo’s guards for more than seven months. Murillo had also caused the area to not have access to telephone reception. Police only ever act to capture indigenous leaders and not ever in their protection. Just 3 kms out from the village there are unidentified men with guns asking people to get out of their cars and show their papers to be able to go through. Murillo’s men also prohibit movement at some hours of the night. When people ask authorities to follow up the response had been, ‘we haven’t been able to’, ‘we aren’t obligated to’, or ‘we can’t’. This is despite having council confirmation on 5 August 2021 in a meeting with the mayor, that MTS does not have council permission to log; that MTS is there illegally. One of the threatened community members is 70 years old José Clara Oliva who went with others to prevent loggers from logging in an area of the community, ‘he (Murillo) came to my home, they told me that they were going to throw me in prison, because we are being obstacles and stopping the trucks. We are natives here, my old parents and all of us have lived here, we have lived well up until now, only have had this problem of them taking over land that isn’t theirs for taking.’ Similarly José of Lagunitas said, ‘firstly, there is this chain and second, they are invading my property, that he says is his, when nobody has bought this land off me. He has come with authority and with armed men and wants to dispossess me. I am 78 and I have never seen this man, now he wants to remove us and take out a forest.’ Environmentalist and teacher Rafael Ulloa said, ‘I don’t know why this man is putting up a chain, when I came in 1997 and got involved in politics here, there wasn’t a road here, the person who built the road was Don José Oliva, he was the community committee president and with the support of another cooperative and some council funds the road was built. It wasn’t built by Nery Murillo, so he has no authority over this road. The way things are, next he will say he will make a model city here and evict everyone, this is what we are facing.’ In addition to the militarisation by its security guards, MTS is destroying the community’s forests and water, and has intention on extracting metals including from Carlos Escaleras National Park.
In Los Llanos, Taulabé, 12 de septiembre peasant cooperative members José Dolores Aguilar (53) and Enrique River (68) who had been charged since 2014 and imprisoned for 6 months in 2015 before being released on bail. They have had bail conditions for 6 years of staying away from the land they were charged on and signing at the Siguatepeque Court which implicated travel expenses and lost time from work. They are subsistence farmers working to feed their families. The pair attended court on 22 Juy 2021 and 26 September 2021 when finally the charges were dismissed due to prosecution being unable to demonstrate their participation in the accused crimes. In their testimonies, the pair spoke about the situation of Honduran peasants.
In Yuscarán, El Paraíso, where six land defending food growing peasants of the Rancho del Obispo community had faced 11 years of charges and hearings, were finally free from the court process despite having been found guilty for ‘usurpation’. The 5 years prison sentence with bail conditions against Raymundo Eguigure, Alex Fernando Flores, Antonio Obando, Felipe Eguigure, Randolfo Laínez and Francisco Suazo was nullified. This meant they could finally return to participate in their peasant cooperative ‘Hermanos Unidos’ with the 80 families there. They were so hapy to be reunited with their families – Francisco has 12 children, having lost a lot of time, having aged, and having lost time from cultivating land. The land they occupied wasn’t being used, they were literally charged for growing food in lands that wasn’t fenced off, when at that time suddenly somebody self proclaimed himself the land owner and forced six peasants to leave their homes and lives through the judicial persecution.
In La Paz, on 9 September 2021, Brayan Alfredo Aguilar, of the peasant base Panes del Matazano, went to the police to obtain his criminal record for his resume, when the attending police saw that there was a capture order against him and arrested him then and there and charged him with usurpation; for recuperating a piece of land for the subsistence of his family.
In Trujillo, Colón, on 16 September 2021, police and investigative police together with Mrs Rosario Murillo, drove in cars without numberplates, to the Waba To and Barauda Garífuna community in the Julio Lino barrio, carrying an eviction order against the youth Antonia Portillo. Human rights defenders of the Cristales and Rio Negro community and others involved in ancestral territory recuperation came together and stopped any police actions this day. Mrs Rosario Murillo is known to be a key person in persecuting, harassing, and systematic dispossession against the Garífuna Waba To community. In the last year the community and its defenders has experienced increased systematic siege and aggressions and attempts of forceful displacement by state forces in complicity with elite entrepreneurs. They call out for people to speak up and support their efforts to defend territory.
In San Esteban, Olancho, indigenous Pech communities of about 400 families of Santa María del Carbón is little by little they are losing the land and culture they have fought so much for, the community vice president Karen López expressed that ‘many mestizos are invading our land, everyday they continue to dispossess us, and we have asked for help, but we haven’t received any responses. (But) because we have always searched for solution, we never lose hope, we know we can recuperate these lands.’ As well as dispossession, many families have lost crops of corn, beans and cassava through the pandemic, through droughts, through the Eta and Iota hurracanes, but they had made do with what they harvested, surviving on cassava for the most part.
In Bajo Aguan on election day, 28 November 2021, land defenders of Remolino peasants cooperative vicepresident Enner Mercedes Ramos and treasurer Eugenio Mejía were out in Tocoa city buying a few things at the shops when they were arrested by Francis Reyes Contreras, the head of security of Inversiones Ceibeña, together with a Tocoa police patrol. Enner and Eugenio were taken to Tocoa police station where, despite legally occupying their lands, they were charged with land usurpation. Since several international human rights organisations were present in the region as electoral observers, Permanent Action for Peace representatives went to accompany Enner and Eugenio. Police and Inversiones Ceibeña appeared to have chosen this morning to persecute Remolino peasants to sow fear in the peasant community just as people are planning to venture out to vote.
Again, in Bajo Aguan, on 17 December 2021, armed not only with a court issued eviction order, 150 police evicted 80 families of the San Isidro peasants cooperative. There were threats of further evictions against peasants cooperatives of Bajo Aguan, as the eviction order was to expire on 21 December 2021, with peasants expecting that one group could be evicted on each of these days leading up to Christmas. Back in 2012, the San Isidro cooperative had won its land title after an arduous court process, only to then face the assassination of their lawyer and comrade Antonio Trejo, after which the land title was subsequently taken away by the courts. From this, the evictions began in 2019 under a context of extreme violence. Two days before the eviction, the cooperative had applied for protection in the Francisco Morazán national court, and this was admitted, but two hours after, the judge executor issued the eviction order against the community, illegally, and to benefit elites and companies including Dinant palm oil company. It is also no coincidence that the same judges ordering the eviction of Guapinol are also behind this and other evictions in Bajo Aguan.
A further attack against peasants of Remolino cooperative in Bajo Aguan was carried out on 27 December 2021. As the families of the Remolino peasants cooperative pacifically entered the land for which they have legal title as owners, they were faced with a bloody attack of at least 50 heavily armed security guards of Inversiones Ceibeña under the orders of excoronel and current head of security of Inversiones Ceibeña, Francis Reyes Contreras. The security guards fired gunshots with R-15s, Fal, and shotguns, against the bodies of including children, women, and older folks. The attacking security guards were accompanied by a police patrol that was present, and which watched the violent attack by Inversiones Ceibeña but did not intervene. They carried an illegal eviction order by judge Víctor Manuel Meléndez Castro of the Trujillo Court. At least six resulted wounded from this attack: Santos Rosales (47) with pellet wound in face, José Antonio Gracias (54) with pellet wounds in legs, William Joel Sorto (28), with pellet wounds in legs, Wilder Pérez (16) with R-15 gunshot wound in left leg, and Carlos Alexis Torres (17), with R-15 gunshot wound in stomach, and Enmer Mercedes Ramos Rodríguez, with pellet wound in the back. In Enmer’s case she was in court just on 10 December 2021 for usurpation charges, but the charge was dismissed due to the accuser Francis Reyes Contreras not having authority to begin the charges. Amidst the attack the community managed to disarm and hold the security guards with the R-15s: Juan Martínez Orellana and Yensi Fidencio Portillo Acosta and handed the pair unharmed to the police. The community is placing charges against the pair for homocide attempt against 7 peasants. Not surprising due to the system siding against peasants, the next person being processed for charges was again a peasant; on 28 December 2021, William Joel Sorto, who was hospitalised having been pellet wounded, on his discharge was arrested by investigative police on an usurpation charge.
Updates on political prisoners from students, environmental and protest movements
Rommel Baldemar, the young teacher and uni student who has been under political imprisonment for two years, ever since the regime decided to accuse Rommel, after unknown persons set tyres on fire at the entrance of the US Embassy on 31 May 2021 during the protests defending public health and education in Honduras. Rommel was initially imprisoned in the maximum security prison for four months where his mental health deteriorated and he became suicidal. He was transferred to the Mario Mendoza psychiatric hospital where he continued to be imprisoned and kept away from his family. On 1 June 2021, two years and one day after those tyres were on fire and he had been ruled guilty to complicity to the tyres having been on fire back (for having participated in the protests) in February 2021 when he was sentenced to four years of prison and paying damages and doing community work, a commutation hearing was held where Cofadeh requested for the remaining two years to be commutated and for the community work he had done teaching patients in the psychiatric hospital to be counted and for the payment of damages to be absolved – the US Embassy was wanting to ask Rommel to pay US$1.7 million in damages – the court will name another amount taking into account that Rommel is unemployed due to the imprisonment. On the streets there are paintings on the walls demanding Rommel’s freedom, and his commutation was achieved. On 5 June 2021, a big crowd of family and friends received Rommel outside the prison gates, Rommel could finally return to be with his family, to cook and have the soups he loves, but one great loss is irreversible, ‘I feel joyful to leave and be free, but I carry an emptiness inside me, because I won’t be able to see my grandad-dad (his grandad who raised him), because the system didn’t let me bury him as it should have.’ The first place he went to in his recovered freedom was to visit his grandads tomb. His grandad died on 31 August 2020, amidst the sadness of his grandson Rommel’s turmoil. Rommel called out to people to fight with nobleness, ‘lets struggle friends, this does not end. No justice was ever done, but I thank God for letting me leave the hell I was in, up to now no justice was done for me, justice never came, I was unjustly charged since 31 May 2019, I am another Honduran victim in the regime’s impunity and thanks to God I left this hell.’
Eight Guapinol defenders
Despite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions’s determination on 14 June 2021 that the eight Guapinol defenders’ detention is arbitrary and against local and international laws and in contravention against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights, the eight defenders continued in political imprisonment, and the company Inversiones Los Pinares continued destroying the Guapinol river and is extending their damage to the Carlos Escaleras national park. In addition, on 23 July 2021, another Guapinol defender, Reynaldo Domínguez, who had been part of a group that was arbitrarily arrested and held between January and February 2019 and released after two weeks’ imprisonment with charges dismissed, was in the Pajuiles community when police arrested him and held him for an hour before dropping charges again, in an act to continue to terrorise those in this struggle not currently imprisoned. On 27 August 2021, the 8 defenders had been imprisoned ‘preventively’ for two years and this preventative lock-up had expired, but Tocoa prosecutor sought for Supreme Court to extend this, and the Supreme Court, clearly under the influence business elites Lenir Pérez and Ana Facussé, obliged. This outraged the defenders’ families who travelled more than 8 hours to Tegucigalpa to demonstrate outside the supreme court demanding their freedom. One defender’s partner said she was able to visit her partner a few times, but her three children hadn’t been allowed to visit their dad. ‘They (the 8 defenders) are all very responsible people in their communities, who worked hard, and who never thought that by fighting the projects, for defending the water that everyone needs, they would wait years in prison away from their families and children. As a family we know that defending water is not a crime.’ All legal demands to release all or one defender were ignored by the Honduran courts. These ignored demands include of Cofadeh’s habeas corpus for 66 years old Jeremías Martínez to be freed and looked after by his family due to severe gastritis, reflux and other conditions that are aggravated by imprisonment where prisoners’ dietary needs and medical attention needs are ignored. Back in March 2021, Jeremías was absolved of all charges but somehow never released and the absolution was undone, and then courts had agreed that he could be on house arrest instead but again the courts then ruled that he could not be until the file of all Guapinol defenders was closed. A judge executor Rita Vasquez is nominated, but Jeremías continues in prison, where his life is in danger. Another request was made on 15 December 2021 by Cofadeh to have Guapinol political prisoners home before Christmas, this was another demand that fell on the deaf ears of the court. Before that, on 1 December 2021, in hearing, when Cofadeh sought the recordings and transcriptions of past hearings as prosecution witnesses had changed their statements, the court did not want to pass these over, showing that it is not transparent.
On 22 June 2021, in the afternoon, Investigative Police agents arrested 30 years old nutrition student at UNAH Hery Yovani Flores Quiroz, when he was leaving his home with his mum and going to a demonstration against ZEDE model cities, outside the supreme court. They arrested him on charges of starting a fire, this time at Punto Farma pharmacy back on 24 October 2019 during protests defending public health and education, of which he was a participant. He is active in MEU uni students movement and in the Libre party and was imprisoned for several days during court hearings where family and friends gathered outside in solidarity. There were also international observers of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Peace Brigades International who also weren’t allowed inside the courts for the initial hearing, but the pressure must have been felt by the courts because several days later, on 27 June 2021, Hery was released on bail measures, people came and celebrated at the prison gate with flags and chanting, ‘get out JOH!’ ‘We did it!’ and ‘Viva Hery!’
The regime’s witchhunt continued regarding US Embassy tyres on fire incident of 31 May 2019 in the context of the protests for public health and education. On 4 August 2021, the Honduran authorities arrested yet another UNAH student, Henry Bonilla Acevedo, who studies banking and finance, accusing him of this crime. On 7 August 2021, his family and comrades demonstrated outside the court, demanding his liberty, but his imprisonment continued. On 20 November 2021, it was made public that he is an epilepsy patient at the Mario Mendoza Psychiatric Hospital having suffered from epilepsy since age 8, and that imprisonment can aggravate his condition. It was 4 months and 10 days of imprisonment later when Henry was finally released on bail on 14 December 2021, his family and friends and Cofadeh defenders waited outside the prison gates since the early hours while the prison processed paperwork. Cofadeh confirmed that there was never any evidence of Henry’s participation in setting those tyres on fire. While in prison, Henry worked in the administration of the prisoners’ eatery, and now he just wants to be at home with his family.
Jhony Salgado was under political imprisonment for over 4 months back in 2018, accused of carrying weapon and using police uniform inappropriately in a protest – the evidence was fabricated against him by his arresters, and he was not even at the protest they accused him of attending in a police uniform. He had been on bail since, but was due to attend hearing on 11 August 2021, but this was suspended, prolonging the prison sentence threat limbo.
Attacks against journalists and human rights defenders and organisations
On 15 July 2021, unidentified persons raided the home of human rights defender of the Arcah (Alternative for Community and Environmental Reinvindication of Honduras) legal team, and extracted her laptop computer, containing information on the struggle against el Cortijo poultry company to protect the Choluteca river. This raid and information theft puts both the human rights defender and Arcah organisation at risk.
On 18 July 2021, at the Tegucigalpa airport, human rights defender Marine Pezet was deported from Honduras. Cofadeh coordinator travelled to the airport to defend her and bear witness. Marine is from France and has lived in Honduras for many years with her spouse (also human rights defender) Pavel Nuñez. Marine was for several years part of the Proah team providing human rights accompaniment in Honduras through the coup.
In Valle de Síria, Francisco Morazán, on 28 July 2021, about 8pm, without any excuses, 5 men in police uniform raided the home of environmental defender Olga Velásquez, screaming and forcing their ways into different parts of the house, with a strange opening line of, ‘where is the catholic church?’ They came in a grey Hilux with numberplate 04919. Olga had noticed a similar car parked outside her home together with a police vehicle some days before that.
In Omoa, Cortés, on 16 September 2021, military police forced NotiOmoa journalist Mauricio Ortega off a minibus and arrested him and took him to UDEP 5 police station. Mauricio had been persecuted repeatedly and his spouse Gabriela Cerrato, also a journalist, feared for his life.
Also on 16 September 2021, about 1.30pm, when traffic police was about the confiscate the vehicle of journalist Bryan Hernández, an argument broke out with them about his having broken some traffic rule and he began to film the interaction. As Bryan began to film, the annoyed traffic police arrested him and cuffed his hands and threw him onto the police wagon. He is son of another journalist and his colleagues were concerned because they went to look for him at the police station and he was not found there. To their relief, Bryan was released about 9pm that night.
On 20 November 2021, Telesur journalist Adriana Sívori flew into Honduras to report on the upcoming elections but was deported at the Honduran airport and not permitted to realise her work.
On 2 December 2021, unidentified people damaged the car of human rights defender Nidia Castillo.
On 9 December 2021, Honduran telecommunications commission Conatel made another attempt to close the Garífuna community radio Faluma Bimeto de Triunfo, amongst other attempts during 12 years of dictatorship. Faluma Bimeto de Triunfo is the first community radio in Honduras and is an important part of the Garífuna territory defence work.
On 9 December 2021, witnesses saw Sitraihnfa union vicepresident Julián Manzanares captured by hooded men and forced into a car without numberplates. Julián was able after to communicate that he was being detained in the DPI police investigation department and that he was being held politically whilst police is telling the media that he was arrested for ‘sexual aggressions’.
Riot squad against villagers demanding reconstruction
On 18 June 2021, Chamelecon villagers who after months of putting up with disrepair of hurracane damage and were in fear of new floods under these conditions protested demanding reconstruction of land structures damaged by the Eta and Iota hurracanes. Instead of sending repairs, the regime sent a massive riot squad that was shooting tear gas and water from water tank as the riot squad advanced towards people evicting them. Soldiers were walking with guns in their hands pointing their guns at people.
ZEDES – 4 Model cities started as JOH dictatorship was on its last leg
It appeared that as the JOH regime knew it was losing the electoral game soon it was in the mode of taking last shots against Honduran territory and sovereignty with several ZEDE contracts signed and underway, these having been previously on standstill since reforms approvals in 2013. The first place to be sold was Prospera, Roatán (touristic coastal region), which has installed its own judicial system with 13 judges it appointed and a new system of digital citizenship and appears to be plotting its own criminal code, and Bitcoin has replaced the lempira as its official coin. Second place to be sold was Morazán, Choloma (industrian region), which has put in place its own police and social laws and labour laws and is currently advancing to expropriate thousands of Hondurans who are obstacles to the ZEDE’s expansion. Third place to be sold was Orquídea, San Marcos de Colón, Choluteca, which has established English as the official legal language. Fourth place to be sold was Mariposa, which is still revealing its foothold, having announced itself to be placed in the west, south and Atlántic coast of Honduras. These projects were on display in an international event involving JOH on 16 October 2021, called ‘Liberty in our lifetime’, which was hosted by the business lobby ‘Free private cities’ in Switzerland, and attended by global elite coloniser-wannabe’s, to sign off more pieces of Honduras to buy and control. It is ludicrous the idea that there are empty pieces of land in Honduras just needing entrepreneurs given the situation of countless landless peasants struggling to find and recuperate a piece of land for their family’s subsistence. This selling off of territories and expropriation against Hondurans that doesn’t even return taxes to national and local governments is imposed despite widespread opposition by the JOH regime and government departments including of justice, migration, border control and property. The National Movement against ZEDES demands for the property management and business strategies from ‘Liberty in our lifetime’ to be declared inapplicable and illegal on Honduran territory, for prosecutors to open files of sedition against Hondurans and government authorities that have established business arrangements with foreigners in this event, and for the congress to approve the law, ‘initiative of citizens’ which embeds the citizens participation mechanism. The Movement against ZEDES signed off with, ‘our territory is not for sale.’
Another attack against indigenous people in Gracias a Dios
On 16 September 2021, misquito indigenous people suffered another attack from which four miquitos were killed and twelve others were gravely wounded. People were terrified to speak up and there is inadequate medical attention for survivors. Honduran army lied and said it was a confrontation of drug traffickers, which shows it is involved in covering up the attackers.
Pandemic mess: schools used as military bases and then students and teachers are preemptively pushed to return to school early
While school buildings are empty due to the pandemic, it was uncovered on 23 June 2021 that under orders of the Education Department, public school buildings in the Choloma lowlands were being used as military bases.
Then, on 28 July 2021, JOH announced semi-inperson education was to return, with less than 1% of the population having received two doses of vaccines, and JOH having exaggerated the numbers of vaccinated teachers to 42,000 of 100,000, which was disputed by Coprum teachers union president who confirmed only 20,000 of 100,000 teachers had at least one dose, and without supplies of PPEs to the schools. Whilst there are shared concerns that half a million children are excluded from school under distance education due to lack of internet access, Copemh teachers union leader Fidel García al considered the return too rushed and too risky, advocating instead for the return to school to be postponed to 2022 with PPE supplies, he projected that returning to school early would bring contagion and death to families, teachers, and hospitals and considered JOH’s decision as a strategy to increase contagion to the point of preventing the election and therefore postponing his own exit.
Elections: oppositon victory at presidential level, but fraud at parliamentarian and council levels, a number of candidates and party coordinators attempted against, mostly against opposition
On 16 June 2021, parliamentary candidate for Libre and leader of Medical Union of Honduras (CMH) and president of IHSS Medical Association, Dr Ligia Ramos, who had been a constant critic of the JOH regime, especially regarding COVID-19 management, was forced to exile from Honduras having been warned of a plan to kill her. In solidarity, a teachers union leader helped push human rights organisations to get her and her family out of Honduras quickly to save their lives. Persecution against Ligia began before the pandemic, as she was part of the movement in opposition to the IHSS corruption and then part of the platform for health and education movement. After many weeks, Ligia returned to Honduras on 27 August 2021 and in October, IACHR granted further precautionary measures for her and demanded investigation of the persecution against her.
On 21 August 2021, when different political parties and candidates were at INFOP government buildings on a work meeting to compile and organise the printing of ballot papers for the upcoming election, physical attacks, aggressions, threats and even gunshots broke out from representatives of the National Party against opposition representatives over three hours forcing this meeting to be postponed to the next day, building the atmosphere already of another fraudulent election filled with violence.
People of Morolica, Choluteca had been occupying and demonstrating for a month to demand transparency in the upcoming election, having witnessed the mayor José Prestación Barahona of National Party having people travel in from other council areas to enrol to reelect him. National Party activists had attacked protesters about 3 times, even using teargases of the police, which they shouldn’t technically have access to, and gunshots had also been reported, when, on 2 September 2021, two police came at 11pm telling protesters that he had the mayor’s order to evict them. What stopped them was people asking in front of human rights organisations for the eviction order, to which police turned back and said, ‘see you tomorrow’.
In San Antonio de Flores, El Paraíso, massive confrontations broke out with attacks by national party activists against Liberal Party mayor candidate on 5 September 2021 when this candidate spoke up about people being transported in from other jurisdictions to enrol and vote, just as enrolment was closing, to reelect nationalist mayor Alex García.
Similarly, also on 5 September 2021, parliamentarian candidate for San Pedro Sula, Lesbia Betina Cruz Martínez of Libre party was making a live video report on how National Party transported busloads of people from other municipalities to enrol there and were given money by the party; this gathering and paying of people occurred inside the DIUNSA shop. She was speaking up and filming when suddenly several attackers jumped on top of her to interrupt her video. Libre vice mayor Alexa Solórzano called 911 and two police came but they said because they were on a private property that they couldn’t intervene, but they said they could instead arrest the victim and others of the Libre party there, to which they protested. After that, lawyers accompanied Lesbia to make a report that night, but again, she faced victim-blaming from the prosecutor who said she provoked the attack by offending the nationalists and calling them cachurecos and pointing out that they were paying people from other areas to vote for them.
In San Luís, Santa Bárbara, also on 5 September 2021, Libre mayor candidate Rommel Rivera had just closed the enrolment and the change of address processes when he was leaving the National Persons Registry (RNP) building and was being followed, watched, verbally abused, and he noticed some national party representatives arriving near the RNP building armed. Rommel tried to ignore them and leave. He got on a bus and saw it was filled with people from another municipality and told another activist to not register the persons who were on this bus as their enrolment was illegal. He was near a cornershop later that afternoon when an attacker jumped out from hiding and fired several gunshots at his body. When the shop owners took Rommel to a medical centre they were being followed by the attacker so they went to the police station. Rommel was wounded in the right ankle and was under medical observation for some days and returned to campaigning, ‘I fear for my life, this is a political attack, here, nobody wants violence.’
On 5 October 2021, legislator and queer activist and human rights defender Aldo Dávila reported on his podcast that the national civil police had just reduced his protection measures, which places him as risk as he is constantly receiving threats.
On 10 October 2021, in La Esperanza, Intibucá, during the midnight hours, at least 4 individuals attacked and attempted against the life of current parliamentarian of Libre Party and indigenous defender Olivia Zuniga Cáceres. The attackers beat her and tried to strangle her and stole a white van from her home. Olivia is one of the daughters of Berta Cáceres, the indigenous leader of Copinh who was killed by attackers who raided her home at night. Olivia had been very vocal in the campaign seeking justice for Keyla Martínez, the young nursing student who was killed under police custody.
On 21 October 2021, in San Pedro Sula, Riccy Moreno, who was recently in the preelections as a Libre parliamentarian candidate, was driving when another car crossed and stopped in front of hers causing her car to crash into this one and another car crashed into an electricity pole. Witnesses saw a man got out from the car that caused the accident, walk up to Riccy’s car door and grabbed her as she struggled to try to break free, when he pulled out a gun and shot at her at least 6 times, left her for dead and fled. Riccy was taken to the emergency of a city private clinic gravely wounded. She is a journalist who works for Campus TV.
On 11 November 2021 in La Paz, the Santiago de Puringla council governor of Liberal Party, Oscar Leonel Moya Flores was killed in front of his children by hitmen with firearms on their family farm. His family believes this can be related to the elections, because, although he hadn’t reported death threats, Oscar once told his spouse that he didn’t want his three underage children to go with him to their family farm without explaining why. On this day, the three children went to drop him food there. His grieving family said Oscar was a defender of the people, they demand investigation.
In San Jerónimo, Copán, on 13 November 2021, the Liberal Party was having its political campaign closing party when an attacker appeared and fired gunshots wounding attendees Luís Gustavo Castellanos, Carlos Anael Madrid, Manfredo Tábora Alvarado and a twelve years old kid. Luís Castellanos was rushed to a private clinic by his family and died in the clinic, his body was taken by his family to be buried. The other wounded youths were taken to the hospital.
In San Luís, Santa Bárbara, also on 13 November 2021, at 10pm, unidentified attackers arrived at the home of Libre political leader and governor candidate, Elvin Casaña, and murdered him. His close collaborator, Rommel Rivera who survived an attempt weeks before, described Elvin as a tireless fighter for those in need.
On the afternoon of 14 Novermber 2021, in another political meeting of the Liberal Party, attackers assassinated Francisco Gaitán, the mayor of Cantarranas in Francisco Morazán. Francisco is remembered as attentive, polite and respectful. He leaves behind a daughter and many others in a state of pain and powerlessness.
After Francisco Gaitán’s murder, the Liberal party mayor of Cedros, Francisco Morazán, David Castro, had announced on the same date that he too had received death threats from National Party representatives and after his colleague’s murder, although he continues to run for reelection as mayor, that he was to cease campaigning. ‘Evidence aren’t worth anything here. I fear for me and my family’s life, since at the national level, they can’t give us security.’
Also on 14 November 2021, but this time at a campaign closing party of the National Party, in Corquín, Copán, of Mayor Amilcar Paz, an attacker arrived at the party with a machete killing two and wounding one at this party before his capture by police.
On 17 November 2021, in Campamento Olancho, the mayor candidate of the party Movimiento Independient Todos Podemos, Héctor René Estrada was driving in a car when unidentified attackers travelling on a motorcycle attempted against his life firing multiple gunshots at his body. Héctor was gravely wounded and taken to a health clinic in Tegucigalpa and continued to be unstable.
On 18 November 2021, in El Progreso, Yoro, the Saviour of Honduras Party mayor candidate Juan Carlos Carbajal was driving his car back with passengers after their work meeting together that night, including with parliamentarian candidate Maribel Espinoza, when attackers fired gunshots at his vehicle. ‘Thanks God we are okay… nobody left wounded, they were just some shots at my car, but this is a clear threat against us. We can only say that we are not scared. They can do what they want, we are going to keep working.’
On 24 November 2021, at 2pm, in Yocón, Olancho, the Liberal Party leader Dario Urbina was arriving at the other side of the village where he lived when attackers jumped out from hiding in the bush and hit him with a gunshot. Dario was rushed to the emergency department but he died on the way there, leaving sadness for those left behind.
On the night also of 24 November 2021, in Esparta, Atlántida, the Libre mayor candidate Javier Villalta was driving home when attackers attempted against his life. Luckily the bullets hit the car only. His body guard returned gunshots and two of the attackers were wounded.
On election day in Honduras, 28 November 2021, when ballots were open to vote for the next president, parliamentarians and council positions, as the CNE (National Electoral Council) announced fines for any politicians that declare themselves the winners early (as JOH had falsely done in the last election), reports were made including of a cyber attack against the CNE server resulting in the census information database webpage being down. There were reports of a massive turnout at the voting centres despite the terror felt and any other barriers such as mobility limitations and being depressed, grieving, or having just had an operation. There was a clear determination to vote JOH out. There were different human rights organisations carrying out observation work and these advertised their hotlines for reporting any irregularities and human rights violations witnessed on this day. Reports received included that a number of human rights defenders in north west Honduras reported having received death threats via messages on their computers, amongst other reports of irregularities and fraud, such as in the Valle de Sula school where a lot of voters weren’t able to vote, and observers were not allowed inside to monitor the vote count. And there were reports for example of a journalist seeing four military vehicles carrying ballot boxes that they claimed to be empty kits but looked very suspicious.
As the count continued into the following days, reports continued, including of blackouts on 30 November 2021 in some areas, of National Party trying to steal the ballot papers of the Danli council on 2 December 2021, of stolen votes at the moment of entering counted votes into the computer, for example on minute 8805, a Libre parliamentarian candidate had 70 votes but 0 votes were entered, and on minute 10134, which had been tampered by those counting to reelect nationalist parliamentarian Ebal Jair Dñiaz Lupián. Then there was the case of nationalist parliamentarian candidate Leda Lizethe García Pagan, who from one voting table mysteriously received 300 votes when only 228 people voted at that table. While at the national level, a fraud was not managed, it was however at council and parliamentarian levels, with many reports of inflation of national party votes in many provinces, that resulted in losses of positions for Libre. Demands came even from Cortes Chambers of Commerce to recount votes and carry out special scrutiny, at the parliamentarian level, and this was begun on 8 December 2021.
As predicted by polls, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the spouse of the coup overthrown president Manuel Zelaya in 2009, was voted in as president elect to take possession of the presidency of Honduras in 28 January 2022, to end 12 long years of dictatorship.
Threats, attacks and even another assassination also continued after the election. In La Campa, Lempira, armed men on the night of 30 November 2021 tried to raid Sabino Sorto’s home but apparently went to the wrong place, according to witnesses. The attack was against the Libre coordinator there who had been fundamental to Libre winning the council elections. In Santa Cruz, Lempira on 6 December 2021, Libre leader Margarito Hernández was assassinated by unidentified persons with several gunshots.
By 23 December 2021, two arrests were made at the Electoral Logistic Centre in Infop, including for the crime of inflating vote numbers for Ebal Díaz of National Party. Whether impunity still dominates is yet to be seen as there were 2298 reports of electoral crimes related to this 2021 election and at this point, 32 people have been charged and just two arrested.
The predictions of Xiomara Castro de Zelaya’s victory was recognised including by the newly appointed US Ambassadar Laura Farnsworth Dogu, who was said two weeks prior to the election to have very clear that the diplomatic relations that US should continue are with the future Libre government and president. For 6 years, there had been no US Ambassador in Honduras to substitute James Nealon due to the lack of expectation of stable diplomatic relations. This does not mean however that the diplomatic relations will be friendly. Laura Farnsworth Dogu is closely linked to the US Army, and the Comando Sur has trained many soldiers in high positions in Central American armies. It is feared that she may have been nominated to intervene due to the US government’s probable boxing of Libre with South American socialist governments, to pressure the new state to act in the convenience of US interests, as had been the role of many US diplomats in the Americas.
Twelve years of dictatorship came with many martyrs, gigantic debts, countless deleted files, plundered health and education systems, criminal networks, and people stricken by pandemic. For years people have screamed Get out JOH, and Get out Micheletti, and Get out Lobo. A number of people of resistance had been assassinated by the dictatorship for screaming just that. Now the last head of the dictatorships is getting out, a long rebuilding process is ahead.
Struggles on the build up and beyond
It is a huge relief to see JOH on his way out. Ballot boxes alone would never have seen JOH leave. JOH leaving provides a hopefully safer environment for peasants, worker, indigenous communities, women, queer people, the many sectors of the social movements, to realise their revolutionary dreams and struggles.
Even through the pandemic, and even as elections were coming up, struggles had continued, in territory defence, on May Day, in teachers’ protests and assemblies, on International day for the eradication of violence against women just three days before the election when feminists took the streets and were attacked by police, struggles demanding freedom for political prisoners, protests month after month against model cities, there was a visit from a Mexican delegation to share and compare experiences of political prisoners, pandemic, social and militarisation conditions, and it was the work of social movement Movimiento Amplio that drove the finance corporation of International Development of United States to exit the INGELSA hydroelectricity project Jilamito on 28 May 2021, a project that had brought death and violence to the communities.
On social movements related to hydroelectricity projects of death, from 11 May 2021, around 100 people, mostly indigenous Lencas and Garífunas, set up a feminist camp outside the Supreme Court that they had named the ‘Viva Berta camp’, to demand justice for Berta Cáceres (powerful voice against the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River, and in the struggle against capitalism, feminism, for indigenous and environmental rights, as tireless leader of Copinh) inside the court building. At that point, seven men had prison sentences of 30-50 years, but they were the ones who carried out the murder, not the ones whose interests it were and who had organised her murder from high up. A camper said, ‘it’s important to organise ourselves and struggle, make them feel the pressure. Even though we don’t believe in their justice, the judicial system, we are making them feel that we are watching every step they are taking in the cause of our compañera and sister Berta.’ In this camp, the campers shared food. They observed Covid safety protocols each bringing their own plate, spoon and cup and observed social distancing. They had collectives of kitchen, health (including two doctors), media, logistics, cleaning, art, security, and Mayan cosmology; this last collective attended to Berta’s altar and kept candles and flowers arranged in the stone circle marked as the energy centre. The camp was indefinite and they welcomed anyone who believed in doing justice by resistance.
Inside the court buildings, the process to bring David Castillo to justice – David was one of the main organisers to Berta’s murder – this process was a long one. It was set for 6 April 2021, but was postponed to 26 April 2021, but again had to be suspended because the people who were demanding justice outside were followed, watched, profiled and harassed, and this hearing resumed on 11 May 2021, the date Viva Berta camp began. David Castillo was the head of DESA company, he had also been a special forces official, trained in US. Listening to his testimony over the long hearings would have made anyone sick as he tried to paint a picture of himself as a personal friend of Berta. Berta’s daughters and mum knew Berta had always identified him as her persecutor, who watched her and wanted her dead. The dangerous soldier used playful seductive language and negotiation with those who would be his victim; David Castillo had proposed million dollar bribes asking Berta to abandon the opposition to DESA on the Gualcarque river to which she always told him to fuck himself. The pressure was on outside the courts at the camp and at the international level with much campaign work led by her daughter Berta Zúniga-Cáceres who took on the coordination of Copinh and campaigned endlessly for her mum. Hearing conclusions began on 28 June 2021 – a date that marked 12 years of military coup in Honduras. On 5 July 2021, David Castillo was unanimously declared guilty for assassination against Berta Isabel Caceres Flores and an assassination attempt against her friend Gustavo Castro. On 4 August 2021 a penalty hearing was held in which both the prosecutor and Berta’s family sought for the maximum sentence of 30 years, with the defence asking for 20 years and dared during this hearing to allege that Berta Caceres is mestiza rather than indigenous. Berta was murdered in her home on 2 March 2016. The Courts having been pressured to bring David Castillo to justice, the Atalas will be the next in line to be brought to justice for the murder. The Atalas: Daniel, José, Eduardo, Pedro, and Jacobo Atala Zablah, are the owners of DESA, with connections to secretaries of security and defence. The Atalas started with bribing the local council for DESA to be installed on this river, on the pretense that the community on the river weren’t indigenous. At this point the police and military on the Zacapa checkpoint planted a gun inside Berta’s car to place charges against her. The Atalas also paid a journalist to organise a few people to dress up as indigenous and pose for an advertisement saying they were in favour of the company’s destructive project. The Atalas also contracted a ‘writer’ to write a perverted ‘biography’ of Berta’s life injecting conspiracy theories to try to cause a moral death as a military strategy. This ‘bestseller’ did not so much as lit one spark. The Atalas’ machinery are still on the river. Now Castillo is sentenced, it is the Atalas’ turn, and then it will be JOH, who protected the Atalas, and then the powers of the world that benefit from this and other imposed extractive projects of death.
More on courtrooms and prosecutions in these months
On 6 May 2021, there was no justice done was Rinel Argueta who would have turned 40 then had he not been murdered by Tigre police in a tigres operation almost a year before. Four Tigres police were on trial but despite their confessions that they fired the guns, and the bullets that killed Rinel matched the weapon, them having had 5 hours and 45 minutes to manipulate the crime scene – which was the time it took for investigative police to arrive, the court’s ruling was that there was inadequate evidence. The family and Cofadeh will appeal this and keep fighting. Rinel’s brother Adrián said he was disappointed but he was not surprised, ‘it was a huge punch in the face for the family and for the memory of Rinel. There is a dead person, but they are trying to make believe that he killed himself!’
Junior Alfredo Godoy, who was attacked mercilessly by a gang of police on 19 March 2019 and continues to require medical treatment from this physical trauma and have his work capacity affected, this victim had also been charged with ‘assault police’, and has had to adhere to bail conditions, of signing weekly at the court, not making contact with two police he was accused of assaulting, and of not leaving he country. This hearing was scheduled for 21 June 2021 but the court arbitrarily postponed it on the day to January 2022. Facing prolonged court process, Cofadeh successfully applied to change his signing requirement at the court from weekly to monthly, as the signing causes loss of work days and the frequent travel exposes him to Covid-19 risks.
In July 2021, when Italian man who lives in Santa Ana de Yusguare, Giorgio Scanu, assassinated a poor 78 year old man, Don Juan de Dios Flores, just for having stepped on some of his plants, and people reported this to the police which did nothing about it. When someone saw that the police was not going to do anything and took justice into their own hands, police assured that they have video evidence and will come after the one/those who killed Giorgio Scanu.
David Quiroz was assassinated with a gunshot by military police when he was participating in a protest against the 2017 electoral fraud on 15 December 2017. The hearing against military police Denis Omar Cáceres for the murder of David Quiroz kept being delayed, from 28 August 2021, to 13 and 14 Sepember 2021. When taken by military police to the hearing stand, he was taken like a colleague and not like another prisoner. The conclusion of the hearing was then postponed to 1 October 2021, when despite clear evidence to find him guilty, the court announced, shockingly, that he were not guilty.
Five students who were arrested in a cultural act demanding justice for Keyla Martínez, the nursing student murdered under police custody faced charges of illicit protests, damages, starting a fire, public disorders, injuries and attempts. After appeals by Cofadeh, on 29 August 2021, charges were dismissed against 3 students, while 2 others continue to be threatened by prison sentences for damages to police equipment, despite lack of evidence of their participation in such.
Judge Wendy Carolina Rivera tried to close the file of charges against police Esther Ponce and Arecely García on the argument that the crime happened too long ago. The pair were charged with torturing and illegal arrest against teacher Agustina Flores López during a protest, 3 months into the military coup when overthrown president Manuel Zelaya was inside the Brazilian Embassy and people were outside in his support and were subsequently violently evicted, on 22 September 2009. Agustina is Berta Cáceres Flores’ sister and when thad happened Berta contacted Cofadeh immediately. Judge Wendy Carolina Rivera reluctantly held a final 6th hearing on 10, 14 and 15 December 2021. As Agustina Flores gave her testimony on the witness box she said judge Wendy Carolina Rivera kept looking at her watch, to which, Agustina said, ‘I have waited 12 years for justice, you can wait a moment longer’ and continued her testimony. The police Aracely García and Esther Ponce were declared guilty but only for the crime of ‘harassment’.
Many people gathered outside the court on 27 October 2021 on this hearing date against the police accused of murdering nursing student Keyla Martínez when she was under police custody – like other hearings before that for Keyla, it was heavily militarised outside the buildings and the people outside were attacked by police and soldiers. People got ready for the next hearing date of 3 December 2021 with presence of international observers from Peace Watch Switzerland and Peace Brigades International for increased safety, but this hearing was suspended. It was the hearing sought by defence to nullify the charge but they had withdrawn this request having acknowledged that the charges would not be nullified.
On 12 November 2021, the court had unanimously decided to absolve ex mayor of the National Party, Arnaldo Urbina, of 183 crimes of abuse of authority and embezzlement in relation to misuse of public funds.
On 23 November 2021, in Olancho, the Juticalpa court did not allow international observers in an initial hearing against police for illegal arrest and torturing the siblings Roberto and Heidi Amaya on 20 May 2020 during curfews when they had gone out on banking errands on a day when Heidi was authorised to do errands and Roberto was not but Roberto never left the car until forced to by police.
Families continue to search for their disappeared loved ones
Many families continue in search of their disappeared loved ones after many months. A few of their stories are below, but there are many more. Very often there are posts of people who lost their loved ones, sometimes last seen taken into police custody, sometimes during curfews, sometimes they are families that organise, but not every case. Disappearances had been way too common in the last years in Honduras.
More than a year passed since territory defender of La Paz, Susana Vásquez received a video of her disappeared son Osman Daniel Vásquez Martínez being pushed unconscious into a police vehicle PN-089 on 27 July 2020, and police hadn’t given responses more than once in April 2021 when they sent a criminal investigation agent to take her statement, but the family continue searching. Susana said, ‘I don’t have any answers, I still continue in hope, I haven’t heard anymore from him, and I tell you that the actions I have taken are at the international level’. When Osman disappeared it was during the militarised curfew in relation to the pandemic. The family remembers all the beautiful moments that they have shared with Osman all the time, the laughter they shared, and everytime they remember, they cry. They are always hoping he is alive and appears. At the time prior to his disappearance, he was living with his grandma, and the family tries to avoid talking about this in front of her. The hardest moments had been when people have said that he is buried in this or that place and they go to look, with fear of finding him, because hope that the dead body is not his, and that they find him alive instead.
Also disappeared during the curfews, on 18 July 2020, were four Garífuna defenders Milton, Suami, Snaider, Gerado of the community Triunfo de la Cruz. The Garífuna community continue in search for them and demand for justice for their families.
Four years after the disappearance of the always smiling young Manuel de Jesús Bautista Salvador, his family is still hoping to find him alive. Manuel is described by neighbours, friends and family as peaceful, friendly, always helping others, as someone who tried very hard despite of a hard childhood, someone always smiling, who just wanted to be able to do well do be able to help his mum. Manuel worked in a factory and was very much a homebody, somebody quiet who liked to listen to music. When he disappeared, he had dropped his girlfriend home, and was with other young people when they were grabbed by military police during a curfew that the regime had imposed to curb the protests against the electoral fraud of 2017. The other youths were released very beaten up, but not Manuel, who hadn’t been seen since.
Desperate migration journeys to US under impossible conditions: a journalist asylum seeker in immigration detention in US, migrants from Honduras, Central America and surrounds in south of Mexico and Guatemala, and journeys of migrants from Haiti, Cuba and Congo
Honduran independent journalist who is a correspondent of Conexihon, C-Libre and Cofadeh, Thirzia Karina Galeas Núñez (aged 34) sought asylum in the US in May 2021, having been threatened and attacked by agents of the JOH and Lobo regimes since 2010. Instead of providing her with asylum, US arrested and detained her in the Stewart detention centre in Georgia. She reported on the topics including of freedom of expression, access to public information and assassination of journalists especially in rural areas. Thirzia received her first threat during Lobo, and again something similar under JOH, having been told by an agent of the JOH government that her ‘head had a price on it’, amongst other threatening messages she had saved as evidence. In addition, when reporting at protests, the teargases and police brutality she was exposed to left her chronic health problems requiring medication. In the detention centre Thirzia is without her needed medications. She is in a small cell with people who have COVID and is scared of catching it. When she and her colleagues were distributing humanitarian supports once to journalists affected by Eta andg Iota hurracanes in November 2020, a car driven by government agents followed them. She is a scholarship recipient of IWMF.
Caravans of migrants continue from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti and other regions of Mexico. The immense amount of migrants there are overwheming and they are there despite of risks to their lives with over 2800 migrants having been assassinated in south of Mexico. There is a camp in Tijuana set up on 19 February 2021 called El Caparral where the migrants with hopes for their future, gather, and organisations try to help with their immediate needs but were very much overwhelmed. The Mexican government closed borders with Guatemala on 18 March 2021 causing many families to be stuck on the Tecún Uman border. Mexican organisations try to find ways to go and assist the migrants with their paperwork so they can pass through into Mexico.
Many migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Conga, and other African countries pass through Honduras on their long journey to the US. While Hondurans who could try to help them, Honduran police had made giving these migrants a lift a crime that costs the helper a car confiscation and a hefty US$200 fine. This help criminalisation made it very common to witness groups of migrants walking 80kms between Trojes and Danlí in Honduras, a dangerous journey in which the families risk getting assaulted, extorted, and tricked. Sadly, there are cornershops that charge these migrants ten times the usual price of basic food items. Some of the families have travelled for years already, their journeys paused by the pandemic and they had stayed at refuges and some women made a little money doing people’s hair on the way. People of Trojes who are in economic difficulties themselves in solidarity had organised collections and buses and pressured for the fines from police to stop too, although extortions against the migrants including from local police continue and those who help migrants do so risking punishment.