October 2017 Honduras Coup Update
Afrodescendent Community leader killed for opposing carbon trading project
Silvinio Zapata Martínez, a Garífuna leader of the Masca community, aged 73, was closing up a restaurant around midnight on 14.10.17 when shot at with firearms by two attackers, Silvinio was taken to hospital and died there. http://www.oncenoticias.hn/ambientalista-honduras-es-el-pais-mas-peligroso-del-mundo-para-defender-el-medio-ambiente/ this prior link has a video on it of a police report with people grieving in the morgue, having lost someone they loved. Masca has been under siege for some time by ‘investors’, who have plundered already much of the Masca ancestral territory but have their eyes on plundering more. Silvinio was very active in organising in defence of the Masca River, since the company Hidromasca has been pushing to dam this river as part of a carbon trading scheme signed off by the UN, in the name of tackling climate change. Damming the river would, of course, destroy the ecosystem and river damaging the environment and hurting the community. So, the community had been protesting to put brakes on this project being imposed without consultation; this imposition being something that happens all the time. Hidromasca belongs to the ex Energy Commissionor of the previous Lobo administration, Salomón López, showing the close connections between state and business. Further to the imposition of this dam, Masca was also in an area where a model city was to be imposed upon, because of which people who live there are also affected by real estate speculations.
Bajo Aguan – violent evictions gunshots arrests teargas bombs beatings
The Panamá community of campesina families has been for years in a land recovery process in Paso Aguán. It is land that was assigned as agrarian reform land for landless farmers, but as always, big business, in this case palm oil company Dinant, twist authorities and get their way outside of the law. The latest campesina land recovery process began on 27.8.17 at the Paso Aguan farm. On 17.10.17 at 8am, some 300 police and army officers of the Xatruch III operation under the command of colonel Hugo Coca, evicted the families from the land. Hours later, the families returned to take possession of the land again. The reaction was severe repression. At 6.30pm, Dinant security guards, backed up by police and army, invaded, pointing their guns at people. They fired gunshots at the bodies of campesinas and campesinos who were there to recover the land. The contingent also launched teargas bombs. Through this attack, Darwin Josúe Ramos (15) was wounded, and Mario Rosa (20) and José Luis Lobo (35) were beaten by army and police officers. All three belong to the Gregorio Chávez campesina cooperative. The families, despite the gunshots and teargas bombs, continued to take possession of the Paso Aguán farm. Dinant backed up by state forces, was equally determined to repeat the same heavy repression. On the next morning on 18.10.17, phone calls were made, ‘they are shooting at us, please call and put pressure on the police, on the UN commissioner, on the human rights commissioner’, they tried to inform the world as it happened again, as gunshots and teargas were aimed and shot again against occupying families. Paso Aguán has for many years been constantly full of heavily armed security guards, and soldiers were stationed out there permanently. It has also been a clandestine cemetery for dumping and burying the bodies of disappeared and assassinated farmer leaders. There are at least five documented cases of these between 2011 and 2017; Ramón Lobo has been buried on lote 18 in 2011, José Antonio López in lote 3 in 2012, Gregorio Chávez on lote 8 in 2012, the skull of an unidentified person in lote 26, found in 2016 and José Alfredo Rodríguez in lote 6 in 2017. And that doesn’t count others who have been murdered whose bodies were taken elsewhere.
In another part of the Bajo Aguán region, another group of campesinas and campesinos organised under the farmers cooperatives Nuevo Ebenezer and Nuevo Remolino, newly installed camp at 4pm on 22.10.17, in El Remolino farm. These campesin@s have land title there, but large landowner Reinaldo Canales says the land belongs to his company Inversiones La Ceibeña, and called on the authorities to kick out the campesin@s. Riot cops and soldiers answered Canales’ call and were at the site next morning at 11am violently evicting farmers using bullets and teargas. Human rights defenders from the cooperatives said that over 120 people were at the eviction and had to flee running for their lives, but that at 4pm they only knew that 40 of these were safe. At the eviction six women defenders got arrested – Sindy Ramos, Vilma Rosa, Deysi Rosa, Elsy Rosa, Kenia Rosa, and Raquel Méndez, along with two of their partners, one of whom was wounded.
Violent eviction against occupying indigenous farmers in La Paz
Equally horrendous, around the same dates, in a different region, in Lepaguare, San Pedro de Tutule, La Paz, on 20.10.17, a violent eviction was carried out against a group of 17 indigenous subsistence farming families which have been recovering 28 hectares of land for several years to date. The farmers group is called Fuerzas Unidas, and they are part of the National Federation of Farmworkers CNTC. Early this morning, they were barged in on by a police and military contingent of over 200 agents loaded with shields, batons, and gas masks, under the command of commissioner Daniel Molina, accompanied by prosecutors Yasmin Angela Varela Chinchilla and Wilmer Sánchez. They came in response to an eviction order sought by self-proclaimed landowner Nancy Chinchilla. This contingent came firing their gunshots and teargas. Blas Bardales, aged about 35, was gunshot wounded. Blas belongs to another nearby farmers’ group – Casa Blanca, and came to accompany in solidarity against the eviction. They did not stop at attacking people’s bodies, police set fire to the homes and slashed the crops people grew for their families with machetes. The 17 families were left without homes nor livelihoods. Little ones couldn’t breathe, affected by gases. A woman fainted. The attacks were grave despite the presence of human rights observers there of MILPAH – independent indigenous Lenca movement of La Paz.
Death threat for being an advocate opposing mining in Tocoa
The pastor Erlin Henrriquez is amongst voices of the Abisinia community in Tocoa speaking up against mining exploitation in the community, given that the mining will contaminate and destroy waterways there. It was after a community assembly on 15.10.17, in which the community collectively decided to oppose mining in their community, that pastor Erlin Henrriquez received a phone call. The caller told him that he was ‘on a list to be eliminated’, seeing him as an obstacle in the imposition of the mining
Journalists assassinated, shot at, given death threat
Osmin España (50), was a community journalist who mixed critical journalism with humour. He ran and directed ‘The Show of the Prince’ and was in the process of writing a book about the historic memory of this city, Santa Rosa de Copán. From his show, he is known around there as the TV prince or ‘el Pimpin’. On 4.10.17, an anonymous call was made to emergency services saying there was someone in the Osorio neighbourhood who was wounded in the face. He was taken then to hospital as an unidentified wounded person, with a gunshot wound in the face. It was the medical staff at this hospital in Copan – who recognised who he was, an exceptional journalist. The doctors declared him brain dead on examination, and transferred him to Mario Catarino Rivas hospital, to be operated on by neurosurgery specialists. At Mario Catarino Rivas, he died on 5.10.17, at 10.45am. Osmin is the fourth journalist to be assassinated in Honduras in 2017, taking the tally up to 69 journalists since 2010 in Honduras.
Extorsion on public transport and against small businesses and families in Honduras is a very difficult reality affecting many Hondurans everyday. On 18.10.17, ConfidentialHN journalist Lidieth Díaz was at the FNA (anti-extorsion police) questioning FNA agent about why an extorsionist was not captured, when a hooded FNA agent told her, ‘get lost, because if you don’t, we will disappear you’.
On 23.10.17, at La Entrada, Nueva Arcadia, Copán, in the morning, Canal 12 Telemaya cameraperson Carlos Oveniel Lara was heading to work, when he was assassinated. He had previously informed state authorities that he was receiving death threats. Carlos has worked in this TV channel for over 8 years and was well known there.
One journalist survived an attempt against his life but is now ruthlessly dismissed by his employer
Back on 30.5.17, Televicentro cameraperson René Alberto Ortega was shot at several times. After 15 days of hospitalisation and 90 days of rest and rehabilitation, he went back to work on 5.9.16. Instead of welcoming him back, he was asked verbally to go to IHSS workers health service to confirm with documentation that he was fit to return to work. René agreed and went to IHSS the next day. On 26.9.17, he was still waiting to hear back from IHSS when René was called by his work to a discharge hearing, accused of not having gone to work on the dates 30.8.17-5.9.17. He was given a letter this date of 26.9.17, notifying him that he was fired.
And other journalists were silenced some other ways
On 9.10.17, journalist Issac Calix of Insular, Bay Islands complained that stemming from pressures from Roatán Mayor Dorn Ebanks, his tv program ‘Elections 2017, your vote is your voice’ of the TV channel ‘More TV’ was cancelled. It had a space that he paid for. He is also a correspondent of Hoy Mismo and TN5 tv news programs of Televicentro.
On 18.10.17, there was a protest at a meeting of the president and presidential candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández. Journalist Humberto Orellano, director of RCTV – Chains Breaking Television, was filming amidst protesters as he was entering the event when a security guard removed him. ‘They told us that the journalists with cameras could not enter, so I protested saying that was not logical, to not let us in.’ He was let back in. He had also on 12.10.17 and 14.10.17 been impeded from attending two political meetings in Copán.
Berta’s case more than 1 and a half year later..
The international human rights and criminal law specialists Gaipe carried out an independent investigation, and revealed with evidence that a lot of planning and time preceded the assassination of Berta Cáceres, indigenous Copinh leader assassinated on 3.3.16. Gaipe accessed records of telephone, and text and Whatsapp messages, revealing a communication web of an operation to kill anyone in the way of the imposition of the Agua Zarca project. Gaipe showed that this web included public officials, state security apparatus, high level officials, intermediaries, DESA private security, and that the plan involved controlling, neutralising and eliminating anyone in the way – generating the rupture of the community’s social fabric, discrediting campaigns, infiltration, following, threats, hitmenry, sabotage of Copinh’s communication equipment and coopting justice operators, security forces and reinforcing structures of security forces. State police and military forces have always supported DESA in attacking the Rio Blanco community in resistance against the dam, rather than take any action to protect the community from DESA’s attacks. They showed that Berta had been watched and followed since November 2015, and that in February 2016 it was communicated to a DESA high official that there was an operation to kill Berta then, but that it aborted that date. On 2.3.16 the same high official communicated with one of the executors of the murder and again on 3.3.16 – before and after the assassination. The DESA high officials, as well as staying in touch with the hitmen, also stayed in touch with Security and Police departments to be updated on the legal proceedings, in a way that they have access to more information and sooner, whereas Berta Cáceres’ lawyers and family are left in the dark. The family had to seek for some hearings to be suspended repeatedly because needed documents were never served to them. Berta’s lawyer Victor Fernández said, ‘these people talk on the phone without any fear, with certainty that they would never be touched by justice. We are talking about the state agents, parallel security structures and high executives of DESA company, people who control the destiny of our country.’
To date, eight people linked to DESA and public security structures have been arrested and are being trialled for the murder. The information around the murder had been kept very secret, making it hard to identify and bring to justice all the intellectual and material authors of this assassination. Gaipe’s recommendations agreed with Copinh’s demands – all permissions and concessions to Agua Zarca be cancelled. That no dams in Lenca communities be authorised without free, prior and informed consultation. To keep checks on the companies´ power and influence and manipulation. To investigate and bring to justice everyone linked to DESA and state security who had a part in this criminal web against Berta and against the Rio Blanco community and Copinh members – noting that the latter continues to be under siege. For investors and finance institutions to respect their obligation to make sure there is prior free and informed consent with indigenous and afro-descendent communities before they can finance anything. For the Honduran state to respect the work of human rights defenders. To reiterate, those who have blood on their hands against Berta, Rio Blanco community and Copinh are: DESA – David Castillo, Atala Zablah family and other directives, the finance of CABEI, FMO, FinnFUND; USAID, SERNA, Banco Ficohsa, Voyth Hydro-Siemens, Honduran armed forces, police, private security forces, Cohep (Honduran business council), AHER (dams council).
Copinh calls on the Honduran social and grassroots organisations and movements to keep advancing in the defence of territories and of life and to show that Berta did not die, that she instead, multiplied. Copinh also calls on the international solidarity to accompany them in demanding justice.
For begging, a single mother was imprisoned, and her baby removed
Jenny Marilu Cruz, aged 29, was in Tegucigalpa, on 18.10.17 in the afternoon, arrested by police for ‘begging in a prohibited area’. As they arrested her they took off her her 17 months old baby daughter to the Children and Family department. As well as being threatened with a prison sentence, she is being threatened with losing custody of her baby. ‘I had no option, I am a single mother, I haven’t been able to find a job, and the government had also excluded me for the assistance programs’ she said, with tears swelling up in her eyes. She affirmed that she has had to go to beg on the streets of Tegucigalpa everyday in order to feed her children, that a lot of people do help out, but there are others ..
State entity fires its freedom of information officer for performing her duty of providing information
The state electricity company ENEE head Jesús Mejía fired its officer of access to public information – Emy Marcela Reina. He accused Emy of ‘corruption and using information’ to damage the company. This saga started when a citizen asked Emy for, amongst other things, a ‘copy of the receipts of food supply services, a copy of the register of Siafi, and the budget assigned to Enee’s communication unit. She was given her notice of dismissal on 30.8.17, saying that the information she provided were ‘restricted information’
Facebook closes feminist pro-choice page
The Ecumenic Women for the Right to Decide attended a demo against femicides in Honduras outside the presidential house on 28.9.17, on the international day of free and secure abortion. Following this, when they tried to access their facebook page, they saw that it had been closed down. When they investigated and questioned as to why, the response they got was that there were religious complaints. When the women tried to reopen their page, facebook asked them for personal and group documentation in order to be allowed to open a new page.
An update on a one sided ‘crossfire’
Evidence just came out five years after the US DEA attack, showing that what occurred was not a crossfire – something that DEA has claimed during these five years, but instead an unilateral massacre by the DEA against people on the water taxi.
Scholarship students manipulated to pay back their scholarship
Have you heard of something like this before? UNAH vice director Ayax Irías made an open threat against 166 students who are recipients of scholarship, that they must pay the the UNAH authority what they have received of the scholarship, in order to be allowed to graduate. Some of these students, believing this threat, have succumbed to paying.