November 2017 Honduras Pre-Coup Repeat Update (Part 1)

You might have heard about the world cup play off. How Australia won against Honduras in the middle of November this year as the privileged Australian soccer team bought its way out of jetlag with a private plane that got the players to Sydney many hours before the Honduran players arrived on economic flights. Whatever one makes of that, less than two weeks later, Honduras had an election, on 26 November 2017, which eventuated in another electoral fraude, a widespread grassroots insurrection and what is so far, another coup and a lot of repression. What comes below will be a part one – before the election – November news update, as what goes on ‘normally’ is extreme already and needs to be known. And part two will be an election focus. An update that will come shortly, covering 26 November 2017, to about mid December 2017.

Bajo Aguán palm plantations war against campesinxs – TWO FARMERS ASSASSINATED including a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD, another wounded, violent evictions and arrests

In Bajo Aguán, when the preparation of shock groups are mentioned, it is a serious and systematic abuse about to happen, and this is precisely what happened on 2.11.17 in Paso Aguán finca as it became known that the government – army and police headed by Commissioner Juan Adolfo Zapata and Coronel Hugo Coca – and Dinant palm company were collaborating to create shock groups to attack campesinos recovering the Paso Aguán farm. This land struggle and reactive and extreme repression has a long history but this latest land recovery process began on 27.8.17.

 

nino asesinado en aguan nov

So twelve days later, 14.11.17, on the Paso Aguán finca, it was 4pm when 13 years old Leodan Macías had finished school, and rode his horse that dragged a cart into the finca to collect maize in the cornfield that his family had sown. His family worried because he did not come back. They put out the word that he had disappeared. Leodan’s grandpa Fabian Mencía let known that at 6pm he heard gunshots and as he went searching, saw his grandson’s cart with its tyres pinched at 6pm. Those who reported this wrote, that the next morning, the sun did not come up, the darkness fell where the sun set the day before, when Leodan Macías didn’t come home.’ A phonecall at 8am to Fabian confirmed what the whole family had feared, that Leodan’s body has been found, on lote 12. He had been killed. His horse had too, still tied to the cart. Leodan’s family belonged to the Rigoreña campesina cooperative. Paso Aguán is agrarian reform land designated for farmers that was illegally taken over by Dinant palm company, since agrarian reform lands cannot legally be bought or sold. Paso Aguán is an especially bloody part of Bajo Aguán, many bodies of farmers in this land struggle have been found before Leodan’s.

In another part of Bajo Aguán, in El Tumbador, a group of some 300 youths organised in Movimiento Juvenil Martíres del Tumbador had began at 4pm on 5.11.17, in less than 24 hours, at 1pm 6.11.17, a contingent of 300 police and military invaded and violently evicted the land recovery effort. They launched teargas and fired gunshots at the bodies of people present. This violent eviction and brutality against people there of all ages and genders lasted over 6 hours, during which the contingent arrested eight land defenders present: Heliberto Paredes, Nicolasa Calderon, Mauricio Urea, Argentina Berrios, Yolanda Hernández, Yolanda Hernández and Yoni Aguilar (underage) plus one more whose name was withheld.

Then, in another part of El Tumbador in Bajo Aguán on 17.11.17, men in soldiers clothes ambushed and shot at two campesinos – they killed Héctor Noé Cárcamo Catellanos instantly, the other campesino is a youth – name withheld – left gravely wounded and hospitalised. Both are subsistence fisherfolk. Héctor was a young dad, like many others of over 125 farmers killed in Aguán in the last years. His body was found on lote 37 on a Dinant part of the el Tumbador finca. He belonged to MCA Movimiento Campesino del Aguán, and is of the 300,000 landless campesina families that there are in Honduras. This attack is likely in response to a new land recovery process in the region that began on 27.8.17 by 800 campesinas and campesinos on 8 farms of Bajo Aguán. Since that date, there has been 14 violent evictions, militarisation, Héctor is the fifth campesino killed since.

Then, in another part of El Tumbador in Bajo Aguán on 17.11.17, men in soldiers clothes ambushed and shot at two campesinos – they killed Héctor Noé Cárcamo Catellanos instantly, the other campesino is a youth – name withheld – left gravely wounded and hospitalised. Both are subsistence fisherfolk. Héctor was a young dad, like many others of over 125 farmers killed in Aguán in the last years. His body was found on lote 37 on a Dinant part of the el Tumbador finca. He belonged to MCA Movimiento Campesino del Aguán, and is of the 300,000 landless campesina families that there are in Honduras. This attack is likely in response to a new land recovery process in the region that began on 27.8.17 by 800 campesinas and campesinos on 8 farms of Bajo Aguán. Since that date, there has been 14 violent evictions, militarisation, Héctor is the fifth campesino killed since.

Bajo aguan – information theft against human rights defender

On 14.11.17 at 2am, unidentified persons raided the home of human rights defender Haydeé Saravía, taking among other things her work laptop. To get in, they jumped the fence and broke some glass windows. Her work, much of which is on her laptop, includes protesting against militarisation in Bajo Aguán, and against state forces attacking farmers recovering land, against mining concessions in the region, in addition to these she is also the neighbourhood president of Buenos Aires, Tocoa, Colón. Haydeé is also one of many people granted protection measures by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights for the Honduran state to implement – it almost never implements these and is complicit in the persecution against her and others.

Student beaten arrested charged

On 6.11.17 at UNAH, students protested demanding that the expulsion and charges against 30 students during the Castellanos administration be reversed. Police came on the scene to repress launching dozens of teargas bombs, and arrested Erick Josué García (24) bashing him brutally in the face, head, back and limbs. He was taken into custody with blood all over his face. Erick is an engineering student. It was until 9.23pm on 7.11.17 that he was taken to court and given bail – something that prosecution argued against but the judge granted. Prosecution tried to argue that he should remain detained because he was recently arrested back on 8.9.17 with other students – these charges had since been dismissed however. This time, he is being charged with damages to property and attempt against police and state, although of course it was the police and state that attempted against him. Outside the court, the rain was pouring but that did not stop a group of fellow students from protesting there and accompanying Erick in solidarity. Erick feels that comradeship is the best thing he had gotten from uni.

Raid against student leader

On the night of 14.11.17, about 7.50pm, when Nancy García answered the door, a woman in jeans and t-shirt pointed a weapon at her, said they were police, ordered her to open the door, and barged in with two other armed men. They claimed that they came because someone called 911, and proceeded to stay in her house for at least 15 minutes going through her drawers and searching the rooms of her house. The attackers asked for Nancy’s ID and took a photo of it. They kept interrogating her, asking her name, where she worked and where others were. Outside there was another armed hooded man who was next to a double cabin Hilux. Nancy is an UNAH student and a spokesperson for the student organisation MAU, and has charges hanging over her since the last months from participating in the student protests. Another student leader had her home raided recently – Mirtha Gutiérrez on 31.8.17.

Student leader threatened by uni security

On 7.11.17, at the CURLP campus, student leader Felipe Avila was studying in front of the library, when a fire cracker went off from a distance and Felipe began filming. When new ESPA security supervisor Dagoberto Gonzales saw Felipe filming, he approached him angrily and threatened to hurt Felipe, then said that if he kept filming, he was going to commit to him, to say that the aggression may be more than a beating. Felipe decided to leave and Dagoberto followed him, and when Dagoberto saw Felipe was still filming, Dagoberto signalled to Felipe that he was heading towards the exit, and took a photo of Felipe’s face. It is known that there are three new guards including this one, especially hired to chase and watch students who participate in the student occupations. Felipe has also received an expulsion threat from the CURLP general secretary Rogelio Alvarez – if Felipe organised talks on campus.

Community radio Radio Taragual taken off air

On 21.11.17, at 6pm, Radio Taragual, a community radio that has been airing since 2014, was taken off air, and spontaneously came back on after 7pm. Its coming back on was not responsive to technical fixes. The same thing happened at the same time three months ago. When it came off people can tune into commercial radio channels still but not this community radio. It comes off when Alianza activists are programmed on and political topics are being discussed.

Journalist‘s contract cancelled

The news program ‘Alcanzando Retos’ has been running Monday to Friday, 5-6pm on Canal 13, since the start of a one year contract on 7.8.17 in which journalist Gabriela Bonilla contracts this space. She began to broadcast here because where she last had a space, the administrator of that media told her that she had to leave because she is being watched by someone that she knows it would put her life at risk to name (for the political contents of her news program). It is in this context that Gabriela had been warned several times to ‘lower the gas’ on political topics, especially when criticising the government in power. On 27.10.17, she organised a preelection survey on her program and as she went to enter the channel buildings to announce the survey predictions that the presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla would win the upcoming elections, she was not allowed in. On 28.10.17, she was called and advised that her program was cancelled for management reasons and that her last show was to be on 30.10.17. She protested that that was a violation of their one year contract. On 1.11.17, she asserted her way into the Canal 13 building to carry out her program for which she had a guest. A private security guard tried to stop her, saying, ‘I’m sorry miss, I have been given orders from high up that your program is not at Hondured any more because of which you can’t enter the channel.’ She was surprised but proceeded to enter, the guard followed her and she was met by the webmaster who told her she couldn’t produce her program anymore. It was in that moment that her guest arrived and she decided to do the program via facebook live.

Threat of lawsuit against journalist

Pro JOH mayor Carlos Miranda of Comayagua (who have been the mayor there for now 6 consecutive terms) threatened to sue journalist Reynaldo Irías of Marte TV and correspondent also of Canal 11 for publishing on his facebook status about a corruption scandal of the JOH administration exposed in a government audit about using government funds to carry out social projects to buy votes. As he threatened to sue he said, ‘you are an idiot because you publish what the other idiot tells you, I am going to place charges against you’

More plans to kill leaders

Sometimes leaders find out they are targeted for assassination. The newest cases are Rafael Alegría of Vía Campesina Honduras, and Gilda Silvestrucci, a Telesur correspondent. They have been officially informed that they are on the lists and that there are elaborate plans to end their lives. In Rafael Alegría’s case, he has been persecuted for many years. Rafael Alegría was on 25.7.09 captured with 45 others in a protest against the coup at the Honduran border and detained for 6 hours, for ‘violating the curfew’. He has IACHR ordered protection measures that none was ever implemented. On 11.8.09 at midnight the Via Campesina office was attacked with gunshots when there were people temporarily sleeping in there, during a curfew that went from 10pm to 5am. On the following days an unknown armed person tried to enter the offices when there was a campesina leaders meeting going on. On 8.2.11, Rafael was told confidentially in Miami city US that a kidnapping and torture against him and against the FNRP resistance leader Juan Barahona was being planned. On 26.1.16, the Vía Campesina office was again at midnight hours receiving gunshots at least 11 gunshots, this time at the main entrance of the office. Rafael and Gilda are both Libre MP candidates.

Honduran immigration department block entry of international journalists, musicians, and an observer

On 16.11.17, as 4 members of the Venezuelan protest music band ‘Los Guaraguao’ arrived in Honduras, the four band members were retained by immigration for 18 hours, with the intention of sending them straight back to Venezuela, on the argument that their coming to Honduras was ‘an interference of the upcoming elections’. Their pleas for food and water were ignored by the authorities in this time – they were finally allowed to enter Honduras because of the legal action (Habeas Corpus) taken by the Jesuit organisation ERIC-SJ.

On 20.11.17, the Immigration department retained Al Jazeera International correspondent Mariana Sánchez and her photographer for almost 6 hours.

Likewise, Telesur International journalist Adriana Sivori was retained at the airport by immigration for almost 3 hours, only to be given a visa restriction of 10 days stay in Honduras. Perhaps they were actively making sure international journalists were not around when the post election repression begins.

Similarly, the day before the election on 25.11.17, an US based human rights observer Irene Rodríguez was retained in the airport for 11 hours, and when released it was only on the condition that she left as the elections finished (how would you define that? Has it ever finished?). Irene was part of a delegation of observers organised by La Voz de los de Abajo, and has been part of the international voluntary solidarity effort for several elections in Honduras. JOH have been referring to ‘foreign agitators’ who interfere with the Honduran electoral process, particularly trying to close their borders to Venezuelans. The excuse she was given for having been detained was that someone else with the same name had entered.

Pre-election smear campaign

On 25.11.17, just some hours before the election, some false info came up on social media against human rights defenders. There is a graphic that frames Carlos H Reyes an MP candidate, campesino leader Rafael Alegría, father Ismael Moreno and a young uni student as provocators of chaos. They are all involved in the campaign against the re-election of JOH.

 

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October 2017 Honduras Coup update

October 2017 Honduras Coup Update

Afrodescendent Community leader killed for opposing carbon trading project

silvinio

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

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’.

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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.

Hashtags:
#DesaAsesina
#20MesesSinJusticia
#JusticiaParaBerta
#DondeEstanLosAutoresIntelectales

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.

September 2017 Honduras coup update

September 2017 Honduras coup update

Journalist assassinated

On 13.9.17, in Omoa, Cortés, Canal 22 journalist Carlos Willian Flores was driving back with a companion from a border town with Guatemala when a vehicle approached theirs in Cuyamel, and attackers from inside the vehicle fired gunshots gravely wounding both Carlos and the companion. People from the neighbourhood gave them both first aid and rushed them to the hospital but Carlos died in hospital, and the identity and health status of the companion remained unknown. In his journalism work, on his TV program ‘Without Hairs on the Tongue’ Carlos remained critical of palm oil and biofuel companies, pointing out that just in the Cuyamelito area, thousands of hectares have been deforested for these monocrop biofuels.

william flores

Journalists attempted against last month now receive further death threats

In August, owner and director of newspaper El Libertador, Johnny Lagos and his partner who also works as a journalist at El Libertador Lurbyn Cerrato were attempted against back in August. Now, on 22.9.17, a message in the form of a painting made during the night was left for them in front of the El Libertador office – the painting was a silhouette of a crime scene and it says ‘RIP’ on it.

Persecution against UNAH students and those accompanying their struggle continued

Journalist Ronnie Huete who on 25.5.17 was tortured and then arrested and charged with ‘damages and deprivation of freedom of UNAH private security guards’, together with 19 uni students, was in September finally absolved of all charges. While threats of imprisonment now subsided, other threats continue, forcing him to undertake security measures to continue publishing his work.

On 7.9.17, at 8.25pm the Prosecutors’ Office sought a capture order against 9 student leaders who have spoken for the students movement in the press.

On 8.9.17, as early as 5am, cops and troops and investigative agents entered the uni campus where students have been occupying for 84 days. These security agents chased and attacked students and arrested 22 students and 4 human rights defenders during their rampage of violence this day, they bashed people and shot peppergas repeatedly, they hurt and injured all arrestees and others and left psychological traumas with those they hurt.

The twenty-two students arrested are: Yasser William Fuentes, Brenda Miralda, Fernando Ramírez, Pablo Madrid, Miguel Flores, Kenny Reyes, Dorian Turcios, Duncan Adonay Turcios, Jorge López, José Jorge Cruz, Dorian Álvarez, Erick Geovanny Gómez, Zuly Rodríguez, Suset Velázquez, José Jorge Chacón, Christian Sanabria, Edwin Salas, Bryan González, Santos Ruíz, Andy Villanueva, Marco Silva and Nahun Portillo, they were taken to ‘Core-7’.

A cameraperson of Interpretando la Noticia of Globo TV Oscar Zavala was driving in a Globo TV vehicle towards the campus to cover the eviction when a traffic police intercepted him and pointed a weapon to his chest.

The cops also blocked access roads to UNAH. Human rights defenders were arriving on the scene in a government human rights commission (Conadeh) minibus to intervene in human rights violations against students together with three Conadeh officials, when cops surrounded the minibus with a tolltruck ready to toll it away with everyone inside. In this moment the three Conadeh officials magically disappeared. It must have meant they knew what was happening and quietly and quickly left the vehicle with the cops assistance. The human rights defenders who remained inside demanded that the human rights of student arrestees be guaranteed and to be allowed to get off the minibus – the cops reacted to this request by beating them up and spraying them with toxic gases causing everyone inside the minibus to suffocate, causing some to faint. Cops continued their attack and arrested Tomy Morales – human rights defender of Association for the Democracy and Human Rights (Asopodehu) and journalist of pasosdeanimalgrande.com, Carlos del Cid of Ecumenical Human Rights Watch, Ariel Diaz of Association for Justice and Human Rights and Hedme Castro of ACI-Participapa who was hospitalised for the gases and was the only one subsequently released without charges earlier than the others. Others seriously hurt were not treated the same way – Carlos del Cid had second degree burns and cuts in the left eye cornea and burns in the right eye.

The 22 students and 3 human rights defenders charged with covering up and attempting were imprisoned for over 24 hours before most of them were released on bail.

On 27.9.17 in court, while the charges were finally dismissed against the three human rights defenders, student Marco Silva was denied bail by judge Melvin Bonilla. Marco is a psychology student who is a spokesperson of the MEU student movement of UNAH. He is being refused bail on the basis that this was a second charge against him having already been arrested and charged on 25.5.17 in the same context. This time, he was inside the Conadeh minibus with human rights defenders when he was arrested. So in addition to accumulated trauma, he is being imposed prison while the court cases continue. It is also worth noting that the uni authorities had published a statement threatening to be revising students’ bail and bail conditions a couple of weeks before.

On the other side, the Committee of Solidarity with the Students Struggle on 28.9.17 placed a charge against judge Karla Magdalena Vásquez Rodríguez for abuse of authority for having admitted a prosecution application for the charge against students of ‘detentación’ of public spaces on 7.9.17, since her action facilitated the subsequent eviction order and capture order against students and human rights defenders on the 8.9.17, and the refusal of bail against Marco Silva.

On 30.9.17, two university students were travelling in a bus to Comayagua when, at a checkpoint, police began arresting these and confiscated their mobile phones saying they were being taken for ‘investigation’. On this occasion, the bus was driving off with the students inside and the cops outside, but as they arrived past Comayagua, cops there made everyone get off the bus, and proceeded to arrest the two students.

In 2017 so far, 60 students had been charged, dozens threatened, a parent had been assassinated in June 2017 – Roberto Antonio Gómez, and a student also, in July 2017 – Luis Joel Rivera Perdomo.

More persecution against Ofraneh black Garífuna organisation coordinator

Mirian Miranda who is the coordinator for Ofraneh, is facing judicial processes driven by Canadian megatourism company Carivida (for ‘defamation’) as well as in regards to Ofraneh’s community radios, the latter driven by Conatel – telecommunications commission of Honduras. To add to these attacks against her, on 5.9.17, at 12.30pm , two police investigative agents including one who carried an automatic weapon and a Conatel official turned up together at Ofraneh offices in Sambo Creek, and asked for Miriam Miranda. When people responded that she wasn’t there, they threatened with finding and arresting her, saying there is a capture order against her. Miriam Miranda is an activist well known within the international community for the work she does. She said, ‘there is not much left for me to do but to hold the government of JOH responsible for any attempt against myself or members of Ofraneh.’

War against farmers in Bajo Aguan

1500 families renewed land recovery efforts by starting occupations in several communities since 27.8.17 on lands illegally possessed by the Facussé (Dinant company) and Canales (Inversiones Ceibeña) families. From the same date, these farmers have faced heavy militarisation and persecution. The Panamá, Guadalupe Carney and Orica communities are all surrounded by army, police and armed security guards contracted by the two companies who are stationed waiting for farmers to leave to go to work to capture and torture them, to add to the list of 28 compañeras and compañeros already charged, with capture orders lying around accusing farmers of usurping lands or leading groups that defend their rights. There have also been three wounded farmers from dealings with security forces. There are 500 armed guards altogether around the Panamá community alone, where 1100 young people live, and these guards are backed up by Xatruch III force agents and police, as they together cause terror, harass, watch and humiliate the community. The vigilance go as far as doors of people’s homes. People tell of seeing track marks of military boots on their door step. Similarly, farmers of Nueva Ebanezer and Nuevo Remolino tell of being surrounded by private guards of Inversiones La Ceibeña, who move around holding heavy weapons like R15, 2-23, and AK47s. With 123 farmers killed in the last five years it meant many children in the area have lost at least one parent.

One of the 28 arrestees is Salvador Enrique of the farmers cooperative Unidos de la Mano, who was arrested on 13.9.17 by cops who came to his house and captured him there, with charges of usurpation. He had court on the next day on 14.9.17, where he was given bail conditions of staying away from the property being recovered, and from the people who accuse him of usurpation (who of course, do not own the land, even legally), and not leaving the country and going to sign in the court books every 15 days. During the process, farmers of Unidos de la Mano were being blackmailed by subinspector of DPI, Carlos Alberto Barrera, who told the occupying farmers to vacate the land in exchange for the freedom of Enrique – they said they would imprison Enrique otherwise. And as Enrique was being released, he was taken in a police patrol to his community accompanied by the same subinspector Barrera who asked members of Unidos de la Mano – Pablo Salvador Enrique, Fredy Anold Guevara, and Dennis Karin Guevara to be there when he came to release Enrique, telling farmers that the three were to be held in prison for 24 hours, again to pressure the families to leave the lands. Barrera’s visit was followed by a visit from ex coronel Juan Ramón Bustillo, accompanied by the police patrol again, to continue the chain of intimidation against families there. Bustillo is whom claims to be the owner of the land, but it is precisely because he is not that the courts have not issued an eviction order to date.

It is in this militarised environment that, at the Paso Aguan farm near the Panamá community, on 20.9.17, organised farmer José Alfredo Rodríguez was assassinated between lots 6 and 14 of the farm while working and sowing maiz. José was an active member of the Gregorio Chávez farmers’ movement. He has five children. It was his 14 year old son José Luís, who, going to the farm to bring his dad breakfast, instead, came across his dad’s body, with life stolen from it. His family said José was constantly threatened by army members and by private guards of Dinant. José is also a catholic delegate of Word of God.

Farmers reiterate they will keep fighting for their rights and for justice.

Imprisoning the poor

This September, there is an appeal process in the courts against the 3 years prison sentences ruled against Eleuterio Hernández, Nieves Hernández Dominguez and Adán Hernández (dad and two sons) for growing food for their families on land. The three belong to the indigenous community San Pedrito of Intibucá. The ruling was that the land they farmed on was forestry lands. They had never been told the land was destined for forestry before. Their parents and grandparents have been working on the same lands for more than 50 years. The Intibucá council even had inspected the land and confirmed it was agrarian land and not forestry land. The other history to this was that when they were accused, they were arrested and then released with US$500 fines each. They didn’t have the money to pay this and also knew the fines were abusive, given they had a right to farm the lands and to not be arrested and fined. It was because they did not pay these fines that the case went to court and they were subsequently given prison sentences. And, everybody knows, the motive for kicking the indigenous communities off the land is not to care for, but to destroy environment with megaprojects which only want megaprofits for private hands, and politicians help facilitate these because they get personal favours in return. Copinh indigenous organisation asks for pressure from everywhere and everyone. Twitter to @COPINHHONDURAS @PjdeHonduras (Honduras Courts) hastag #NoMásInjusticia. Call Comayagua court of appeals on 504-2772-0176, 504-2772-0136

Protesters against imposed projects arrested and charged

Back on 29.8.17, there was a protest against the installation of high tension electricity cables across the community in the municipality of la Villa de San Francisco. At this protest, cops arrested seven people including an underage person and a woman who were involved in blocking the road. Arrestees all belong to the Grassroots Independent Environmentalist Committee for Water and other resources Capirho. The arrestees are: Mario benigno Gonzales, Rodolfo Quezada Bengtson, Santos Julio Zúñiga, Juan Camilo Palma, José Jorge Aguilar (presidente of CAPIRHO), Cristian Marisol Hernández and underage Maicol Aguilar Gonzáles. The intention reported was to charge the arrestees with ‘coercion and attempt against the state’. The high tension cables are being installed for the sugar company Azucarera Tres Valles, for its biomass energy generation project and to connect this to the grid of the state electricity company ENEE. In the last days there have been over 100 people charged for protesting, – mostly uni students.

On 25.9.17, at least 14 villagers of 6 communities of Namasigue in Choluteca, who participated in demos against a solar energy company imposing itself without having consulted with the affected communities, are facing charges of ‘coercion’: Reynaldo Reyes Moreno, Leonardo Amador Rodríguez, Florentino Molina Sánchez, Luduin Javier Carranza, Gerson Armando Carranza Dávila, Magdaleno Centeno Osorio, Santos Agripino Reyes Aguilar, Erasmo de Jesús Pastrana, Ramón Azael Zúniga Velásquez, Denis Patricia Ordoñez, Raúl Carranza López, Suyapa Zúniga Ramos and Santos Armando Vázquez Rodríguez. Just who is coercing who? Similarly, in the lawsuit, prosecution also asks for protection for those who work for the company and sought military police to militarise the area, treating community members as aggressors instead of victims

Model cities failed but being resuscitated again

Imposition of model cities hadn’t been possible to date. Take one. However, the JOH regime hired a consultant, McKinsey, who drafted plan Honduras 2020, with which there is a renewed proposal of model cities and other ‘development’ projects. They have obtained the support of Inter-American Development Bank that had expressed it would invest in such projects.

Kidnapping and disappearance of journalist

On the wee hours of 3.9.17, Jan Carlos Claros, another journalist, had been disappeared in the Olancho province in the city of Juticalpa. Jan Carlos reappeared on the afternoon of 4.9.17 and spoke up about having been held when he had a confrontation with an attacker. He is reporter for ‘Guayape Visión’ and partner of another journalist América Castro who works in the same TV channel. It was América who reported the disappearance of her partner and colleague. During the ordeal, C-Libre (Committee for Freedom of Expression) tried in vain to communicate with the Tegucigalpa police spokesperson and the provincial police headquarters of Olancho but nobody ever responded. 21 journalists had been assassinated in Honduras between 2014 and May 2016 as confirmed by Inter America Court of Human Rights.

Other abuses against free press

On 28.9.17, parliamentary reporter Nincy Perdomo was refused entry to the congress. Association for a More Just Society ASJ reps also tried to enter in the morning and were refused. In the afternoon they tried again and also intervened in favour of journalist Nincy Perdomo, they were again refused entry as well.

In September, also, the same congress passed a law outlining the crime of terrorism for criminalising social protest, in which the crimes of terrorist association and cyber terrorism are punished with prison terms of 10-20 years.

Another new penal code was also rushed through and approved within 24 hours. The change was adding a new article that says, ‘who publicly diffuses repeatedly news of false rumours that terrorise people of some people, who because of this believes that themselves of their health or their assets to be in grave danger must be punished with the penalty of 1-3 years of prison, unless the acts are punished with penalties that are more grave using other parts of the criminal code.’

August 2017 Honduras Coup update

August 2017 Honduras news update

Gunfire against Libertador newspaper owners

On 24.8.17, as ‘El Libertador’ newspaper owners Johny Lagos (director) and his partner had left the office at night, attackers fired three gunshots directed at them. Whilst firing the shots, one attacker said to the other, ‘finish off this son of the b… get him in the head’. El Libertador is one of few commercial medias left that is committed to reporting news about repression and resistance.

In midnight hours, more gunshots at journalists, at their homes

On 1.8.17 at about 11.30pm, in Comayagua city, Mirian Mejía of the Canal 60 Panorama news program was sleeping when she heard several gunshots, so she got up first to check on her kids in one room to see if they were okay, then to check on her grandchildren in another room. Seeing that they were all okay she went outside to see what had happened, thinking that someone might have been assassinated. She saw that other neighbours had also come out to find out what had happened too. They received a witness account from some other neighbours who were sitting outside drinking beers nearby. These neighbours said, they saw a gold-coloured tourist van go close to Mirian’s house and these fired shots at the home’s roof. To know that you are persecuted for your work and commitment to your beliefs is a difficult thing. Mirian knows it is not a one-off because she has been two or three months before followed by a gold van like that in the city centre. On that occasion she pulled into a shop and stopped there a few minutes so that the gold van would drive on, but as she resumed driving changing her direction she was surprised to see the van still following her from a distance.

On 3.8.17 at about 3am, in La Paz province, Wilfredo Zepeda, of Dialogo Municipal program and who is a Radio Globo correspondent, heard an explosion. He didn’t think much of it at the time. It was only at 6am when someone who comes and helps clean the house pointed out that there was a hole in the wall and asked him about it, that they called the police to examine it. It was confirmed that there was a firearm bullet embedded in the wall of his home. Wilfredo has no enemies but is a journalist who supports the community, and can only conclude that the attack is related to his journalism work. Of the many possibilities is that the attack was because he recently interviewed an indigenous leader of Copinh who told him that five mining concessions have begun work on open pit mining.

UNAH – students struggle continue against privatisation, repression and authoritarianism. Repression also continued

On 2.8.17, as students protested in front of the uni calling for uni authorities to resign, over 2 hours and 15 minutes, dozens of riot cops, police and army agents evicted the protest attacking students with water tanks, and launching dozens of teargas bombs inside and outside campus buildings.

On 4.8.17, National Party MP Francisco Rivera stigmatised UNAH uni students, he went on TV news program ‘Hoy Mismo’ where he called students ‘vagrants who are becoming delinquents’, and said that if the students think they can direct the agenda of the congress, that they are ‘very mistaken in thinking that’.

On 7.8.17, at the pacific coast campus of UNAH – CURLP, students had been occupying the uni for 47 consecutive days protesting in solidarity with the three students who had been ruled guilty of charges of usurpation by the repressive courts, and also protesting against privatisation and demanding a new transition authority at the uni and for quality education. This protest was evicted and fifteen students were charged with usurpation by occupation of public building and given court attendance and subsequently bail conditions of signing at the court every Friday and not leaving the country. The names of the charged students are: Nahun Gutiérrez Yanez, Carmen María Lagos, Marvin Josué Padilla, Carlos Levi Ortéz, Bryan Yojarshi Cárcamo, Wilfredo Flores Cruz, Kevin Armando Aguilar, Luis Felipe Zepeda, Kevin Gabriel Estrada, Fausto Fernando Betancourth, Darwin Edgardo Sánchez, Adán Orlando Rivas, Harim Josué Reyes, Dagoberto Rosali Andino and Kevhin Ricardo Espinal. They add to 29 students already facing charges and bail conditions in Tegucigalpa, and one in San Pedro Sula. All are at risk of harm ordered by uni and state authorities.

An update on 11.8.17:

  • While on campus, one of the student facing charges, anonymous for security reasons, had been threatened and ‘robbed’ by someone with a firearm and had his phone snatched. When other students chased him he responded by pointing the gun at them
  • The hunger strike tent had been up for 47 days and nights by this time. Every night there are people in unidentified cars with polarised windows and no numberplates spying on and intimidating them
  • Protests have stopped classes at this point for 2 months. University authorities are using this now to announce that they are stopping to pay lecturers their salaries for having fallen behind in the curriculum and accusing these of being ‘complicit’ with the MEU students’ hunger strike
  • Journalist Ronnie Huete who had been repressed and tortured and charged for accompanying the students’ struggle, has been this month for weeks followed by strange cars in the streets of Tegucigalpa and notes interference against his mobile phone

On 16.8.17, a contingent of over 300 cops with 2 tanks of gases and water arrived on campus, and suddenly without any warning or announcement of eviction launched pepper gas against students on hunger strike. Also affected by the gases were human rights defenders and students who were there in support. There were about 50 students around (not many like there are in demos) as there was no particular event on. Red Cross rushed four students on hunger strike to hospital after the attack.

On 19.8.17, students organised in MEU presented a proposal (university constituent assembly, provisional uni government, participative democracy and transparency, keep education public, quality and secular, and stop charges, persecution and repression against students) backed by thousands of signatures to a special commission of the congress.

On 23.8.17 a smear campaign was launched on facebook by uni authorities posing as students. As the students have a UNAH Estudiantes page where they give updates to 122,000 plus followers on the student movement, the smear campaigners launched a page called UNAH Estudiantes Oficial <https://www.facebook.com/unahestudiantesoficial/#> which has dedicated itself to posting images to mock and portray negatively those it attacks, including MEU student movement and those identified as its leaders, those on hunger strike, Ronnie Huete the journalist who is persecuted for reporting on students protests, human rights organisations, and making jokes of acts of protest and masking up for safety.

On 24.8.17, judge Armando Ramón Valdez who is assigned the case of charges against 20 students, was requested by the students to obtain and see with them unedited video footage of the 70 security cameras of the administrative building, since edited videos from the same had been used to justify the arrest and as evidence, and since students are accused of property damage and who damaged the property would have been captured on camera. When the judge attended the university offices asking for the original videos, the administrative staff from the different offices all replied saying such videos would have been deleted already. The NGO C-Libre had back on 24-25.5.17 requested the same videos from the uni authority, to which the response they got was that the required information from the security video cameras needed to be obtained through the prosecutors department since the footage will form part of the evidence of the facts for the case.

On 25.8.17, Uni teachers association representatives were refused entry by security as observers to the public sessions of the university council.

And for some context, between 2010 and 2016, 21,000 students have been assassinated in Honduras -most of them high school students.

Lawyer of students raided against and arrested

On 9.8.17, in the morning before 8am, military police and ATIC (crime investigation unit) members raided the home of lawyer Laureano Carbajal in the calm neighbourhood of 21 de Octubre in Tegucigalpa. Four unmasked soldiers pounced about at the front door. Three masked ones in another exit. Six were on the footpath. Two ATIC agents raided inside. They arrested Laureano on a pretext of accusing him of falsifying documents for having obtained for a van owner a permit 3 years before he subsequently was found with drugs – a pretext that does not justify the raid. The real reason has to be because he is the lawyer defending the three condemned student activists Cesario Padilla, Sergio Ulloa and Moisés Cáceres, who were ruled guilty in June and supposed to be sentenced in July but the authorities are feeling the pressure given the guilty verdict is a clear human right violation and there are protests against this on many different levels. Laureano was also in the 80s a human rights defender helping family members demand the truth and appearance of their disappeared loved ones. When Laureano was a student he was the president of students organisation Federación de Estudiantes de Segunda Enseñanza (FESE).

More communities fighting hydroelectricity dams attacked – mob attacks, arrests, eviction and burning of campsite

Camp burning and mob attack – on 4.8.17, a resistance camp (then 136 days old) against the HIDROCEP dam of Jason Hawit (which would destroy the Nombre de Dios mountain ranges and Mezapa river) had been set on fire. Those who burnt the camp took advantage of that most people of the camp were out at the highway blockade action in Tela and La Ceiba that day. MADJ coordinator Martín Fernández and community leader and Word of God delegate Oscar Martínez were going to check out what damages had been done to the camp when a shock group of about 20 ambushed the two and attacked them with insults, batons, rocks and kicks to hurt Martín and Oscar. They were beaten in the face, back and legs. Martín’s injuries included a nasal septum fracture, severe back and left leg injury that left him limping, and they stole his phone. The 20 men were allegedly paid by Hydrocep US$6-8 each for carrying that out. The mercenaries had the complicity of the police and Atlántida council in destroying the camps. With the attack, police was less than a block away – their excuse for not intervening was that the shock group was ‘armed and throwing rocks’. Those responsible for or who carried out this attack walk around freely, while those attacked and at risk have Inter American Commission of Human Rights ordered protection measures, but are anything but protected. And police has shown that when the company calls on them, they come many and armed.

After having destroyed the campsite, police maintained a tank there to continue threatening those who maintain a blockade there.

Just six days later on 10.8.17, Oscar Martínez who just suffered the above attack was arrested by military police together with his partner Angélica, and René Mejía, Arnaldo Castro, and Orlando Castro from the Pajuiles communities in Tela when police and army came to evict those blockading. They were arrested for their defence of the Mezapa river and their community water source and organising against corrupt business people and the mayor who signed off the dam without consulting the community. They were released on 11.8.17 with bail conditions of signing at the court twice a week, and not leaving the country, and not attending public meetings. Their hearing process have been postponed because they were assigned a judge who is the sister of Tela mayor Mario Fuentes who collides with the dam projects and arrestees requested another judge. There were also capture orders against 12 community members for ‘usurpation for occupying public spaces against the state and the company Hidrocep’. Some sources say ten were charged this day. The day before this wave of arrests, the organisation accompanying the blockade MADJ received the visit of Sagrario Prudott who is the security department’s head of human rights, accompanied by police, who rather than responding to their hosts’ demands, took advantage of the visit to identify leaders in the area to target them for arrest.

Another five days later on 15.8.17, a massive contingent of heavily armed police with riot gear and teargas arrested Albertina López (6 months pregnant, was taken to a private clinicafter to check on her pregnancy because her baby didn’t seem to move), José Rodríguez (underage), Kevin Linares, Juan Bautista Santos and Wendy García. Human rights observers were asked to refrain from taking photos. What happened was that they were blocking the road to not allow heavy machinery onto the dam building site, and a heavy machinery did come and the community blocked its way, but then within half an hour another heavy machinery came escorted by police. Tela police head ordered the community to let the machinery through and the community asked to see the warrant. Police responded by violently arresting, pointing guns and firing teargas bombs into people’s homes, into the camp including the cooking area, and chasing and capturing leaders who were blockading with complete disregard for that children, old people and pregnant women were around. Police also confiscated motorcycles of community members who placed them there to block heavy machinery from coming through, the same way police smashed windows of cars placed there for that purpose. Arrestees were kept in inhumane conditions. Teenager José Rodríguez was beaten by police while under custody. Pregnant Albertina López was also treated with violence and was supervised by male police officers the whole time of being in custody. They were charged with illicit meetings and damages released on bail and in the last of three dates of subsequent hearings on 28.8, 29.8 and 1.9, the judge announced that charges against these were dropped.

The blockade against HIDROCEP of Jason Hawit had on 15.8.17 marked 145 days of continued resistance in defence of the communities’ right to water, and to protect the river and mountain ranges. There are also communities blockading nearby another hydroelectricity dam company Ingelsa of Emín Abufele. There are 20 communities that have joined in these struggles.

Albertina who was arrested on 15.8.17 and had joined in one of the camps since some months ago said following this arrest, ‘they have arrested me twice already, but the struggles makes us stronger. I don’t feel scared, just concern for my pregnancy. All this motivates us to keep going and struggle. The violence, persecution, and evictions aren’t going to stop us. It has not been easy, but neither is is impossible’ ‘Now I understand the words of the compañera Berta Cáceres. Her assassination was something that I felt deeply, but I never thought that we would have to fight the same struggle, that we were going to have to find the same courage that she showed to defender the Gualcarque river. Today it’s on us to defend the Nombre de Dios mountain ranges, the Mezapa river and all the rivers of Honduras that have been sold and plundered.’

Attacks against Garífuna people, radios and territories

Black Garífuna communities have long been in struggle particularly against Canadian companies who plunder their territories for tourism. As the Canadian companies take over by moving in and getting their names on the papers illegally endorsed by state authorities, communities continue to resist and organise.

On 7.8.17, Canadian businessperson Patrick Daniel Forseth placed charges of defamation and injuries against four Garífuna rights defenders: Mirian Miranda – Ofraneh (fraternal organisation of black people in Honduras) coordinator, Medelin David, Neni Avila and Letty Alvarez. Forseth owns ‘Carivida’ Mercantile Society together with Randy Jorgensen – known as porn king – and the two of them try to take over Garífuna territories in the region for their tourism megaprojects. There is a long history of charges by these business partners who have the support and complicity of council and state authorities. This May had Garífuna defender and Radio Progreso correspondent Cesar Geovany Hernández arrested by police for ‘usurpation of lands’ through charges placed by Forseth. November 2016 had Medelin David arrested through charges placed by Jorgensen.

The day before, on 6.8.17, Waraguma Garífuna community radio received a second resolution from the telecommunications commission Conatel in which Waraguma is named a ‘rebellious’ radio and threatened its closure quoting the an older resolution it said it has sent and saying that the radio’s right to defence had long ago expired. And as Waraguma is of Ofraneh, Ofraneh Mirian Miranda, who was charged as above, was then summoned to appear on 14.8.17 at the prosecutor Angela María Figueroa’s office, to declare about ‘the facts related to the complaint in which the offended is CONATEL’ and bring the documents to show that the radio frequencies of Ofraneh community radios have been renewed. Another Garífuna radio was also threatened with closure through a resolution by Conatel in 2014 – Sugua Community radio. Another Garífuna radio, Faluma Bimetu, was intentionally set on fire in the beginning of 2010. The community radios broadcast news, strengthen culture and language, and speak up in defence of ancestral territory against illegal sales to entrepreneurs of the north development of model cities on these lands.

A week later on 15.8.17, the congress approved LFT – Law of Strengthening Tourism, without many changes to the bill, proving the state’s tendency to auction off its territories to investors. The law includes auctioning of indigenous territories, tax incentives for investors, the handing over to tourism exploitation of protected areas and national parks, wildlife refuges, and archaeological parks. It legalises expropriations when they find a way of justifying them as ‘works of utility and public needs’. Banana Coast, a cruise ships port that has dramatically diminished patronage over several years, is an example of a project that had been justified as a work of utility and public needs. They are justified on the grounds of promised job creation and under the guise of sustainable tourism without regard for the impact that the project has for indigenous and other communities or the environment.

Another smear campaign targeting journalists

A webpage http://nosquedaclaro.com has been created to smear journalists’ reputation and put their lives at risk. This site has articles that argues that journalists (journalists with a human rights defence focus) it smears are linked to organised crime and drug traffickers. This site so far attacks David Romero of Radio Globo, and Renato de Jesús Alvarez of Corporación Televicentro.

Towns getting roadblocked by politicians

The neighbourhoods Santa Rosa and Cruz Roja is accessed using one road that was damaged a year ago and was being worked on by a contractor but which abandoned the project without finishing it. People don’t know what happened, maybe the council did not pay the builder? All they know is, the road is breaking on both sides, and every time that it rains the road gets narrower. And it is under pressure all the time as those who live there depend on water that gets carted in on trucks, which puts pressure on the road.

Human rights defenders of Zacate Grande get 5 year prison sentences

On 18.8.17, courts ruled the prison sentence of 5 year and one month each for Zacate Grande community leaders Abel Pérez and Santos Hernández for ‘taking advantage’ of a public beach. A re-cap on this case: Abel and Santos are subsistence farmers and fishers and also organise within the community to oppose the taking over of land by large landowners. To support their meagre income, as they had done in previous years, they cleaned up the beaches and carpark for easter and charged visitors a small parking fee. They were charged in April 2015 and have been imprisoned for around 100 days each initially before being granted bail.

Attempt against a lgbti human rights defender

Human rights defender and program manager of Development Centre and LGBTI cooperation ‘Somos CDC’, Osmin David Valle Castillos was being persecuted and in fear for his life and sought protection measures from the Honduras state – but all they gave him was a few security cameras installed in his office. Days later, on 10.7.17, Osmin was stabbed and gravely wounded on many parts of the body on 10.7.17. In the last 7 months in Honduras, there have been 24 lgbti persons assassinated.

Farmers abused and getting framed for murder

On 27 and 28.8.17, about 800 campesina families recovered 8 farms in Bajo Aguan. Five of these were violently evicted by police under the command of Subcommissioner Juan Adolfo Zapata and army agents led by head of Xatruch III, Hugo Coca. A number of the farms were legally agrarian reform land that are not for private exploitation: Paso Aguan, Remolino, el Plantel and los Laureles. In Paso Aguan and Remolino, armed guards were also participating in these evictions. Hugo Coca was intimidating and threatening community members of the Panama community, the Xatruch Operation made a military station at Paso Aguan farm.

During the night of 27.8.17, the Dinant (palm company of Facussé) armed guards Santos Misael Guzmán Bautista and Juan José Salazar Villeda were misteriously found dead 6 kms from Panamá community. Farmers who found out about the killing on the 28.8.17 do not know what happened to these and call for investigation. Dinant guard Obdulio Pequera made public accusations against the farmers’ movement for these deaths. Despite that a number of farmers there have been assassinated in the last years, some at the hands of guards, it would have been impossible for the farmers to kill them because the farms are always watched by the military and security guards, the farmers were grouped in protest and were not involved in any confrontations with guards that day.

At the same time, on 28.8.17, in the midnight hours, farmer Edgardo Rodríguez of the farmers cooperative Nuevo Evenecer was shot at several times by armed guards of Inversiones Ceibeña. Nuevo Evenecer works on the Remolino farm which is in conflict with the large landholder Reinaldo Canales who says the land is his, despite the land title papers stating that it belongs to the organised farmers.

July 2017 Honduras coup update

July 2017 Honduras coup update

Killed: Student activist and actor

luis-joel-rivera

In the midst of these months of university students struggle, including of many sociology students, on the night of 12.7.17, a group of armed and unrecognised persons abruptly appeared at the Rivera family home’s door. They forcibly entered searching for Luís Joel Rivera and did not leave until they were dragging him with them. His family desperately called police emergency numbers, where they kept reiterating that Luís had death threats against him. Police did nothing. The attackers took Luís with them, they didn’t go very far before they assassinated him. Luís was an active member of the Sociology Students Association for which he was the communication secretary. He is also an actor and the director of a threatre group Sombra Roja, and has worked as an organiser of cultural events and in arts for over a decade. Luís also has been an active part of the students movement.

Student arrested out of the blue

On 2.17.17, student Armando Velásquez was this Sunday afternoon travelling on a bus from the Atlántic coast towards San Pedro Sula, when the bus was stopped at a police checkpoint at El Porvenir, and as they checked everyone’s names, they picked him out and arrested him. Armando was back on 24.5.17 arrested with 19 other students for occupying a university building at UNAH. During this May arrest, he was also singled out at the cells in the midnight hours for interrogation. Armando was in addition one of the 75 students charged the year before but these charges were dropped because of an agreement between students and authorities then.

Evictions against students

Throughout July, there were ongoing student demonstrations including a hungerstrike by several students that lasted most of July and beyond. There were a number of eviction attacks against the students:

On 13.7.17 about 10pm, ESPA security guards and police tried to evict students who occupied the odontology faculty building using pepper gas, verbal and physical threats. The students managed to stay put but one student on hunger strike needed medical attention because of poisoning by peppergas. Students gathered evidence showing the guards smashing desks – something guards did with the intention of blaming students for property damage. They also showed the involvement of Roger Aguilar the retired military with ESPA – Roger was part of the 3-16 batallón which in the 80s disappeared at least 83 citizens.

On 17.7.17, since 7am, at the health sciences buildings, a group of hooded uniformed security guards with red and green ‘Spartan security uniforms’ were on campus holding firearms and knives and pointing these and chasing students in an effort to evict them. They beat students in the faces and bodies and wounded five students. Minutes later though, more students came and they managed to evict the ‘Spartan’ paramilitary group reverting the situation.

On 25.7.17 in the morning, security forces launched teargas bombs to evict students.

Arrestee students now also suspended for 5 years

The 19 arrrestee students from the 24.5.17 uni campus occupation were now also suspended for 5 years.

After a concert: UNAH attacks father Moreno and cancels students radio program

On 28.7.17, the Venezuelan protest music group Los Guaraguao came on campus to give a free half an hour concert in solidarity with university students of UNAH who are continuing their more than 40 days of continuous struggle. After this concert, which also is supported by Jesuit radio organisation ERIC-SJ, UNAH director Castellanos announced to the media in a university council meeting saying that she was cancelling a cooperation agreement between the uni and ERIC-SJ, so that the students radio program supported by this agreement – UNAH VOZ of journalism students, is forcibly cancelled. Castellanos based her decision on her opinion that ERIC-SJ father Moreno ‘encourages anarchy and disrespect of a legally constituted authority’ and ‘encourages practices and ways that generate violence in university youths.’

Students blamed for cancellation of academic term

At the CURLP campus, the authorities on 15.7.17, arbitrarily suspended the second academic period, they they went and gave the press the names of five student activists, announcing that it is their fault this second academic period got cancelled, inciting hate against these.

Journalists close and personal with students’ reality

On 26.7.17, TV journalist José Carlos Cardona expected to hear about the students struggle when he invited them into the studio to talk about their situation on his show ‘Sigo Yo’ which has the slot of 8-9pm, Monday to Friday. José did not expect that as the student activists Héctor Estrada and Héctor Ulloa would minutes before that be yelled death threats by people holding pistols on motorcycles just outside the UNE TV studios. ‘Death to MEU’, they yelled. Cardona was nervous and did not give the usual welcome speech. He said, ‘The life of these youths are in danger, since 2 months ago all this began, this is very regrettable… what just happened to you has me in shock, it is so extreme I don’t want to believe it, this war of hate against you, against you student leaders within MEU and all who are part of this struggle.’

The day before, on 25.7.17, during the morning, as La Tribuna cameraperson Arturo Hernández was covering the eviction against students at UNAH, he was wounded by police – a stone impacted his head. Students helped Arturo get help and take him to a safe place and got him to the care of Red Cross Honduras. Security forces were launching teargas bombs to evict students.

Human rights defender smeared

On 12.7.17 UNAH CURLP director Alina Molina in a tv interview smeared Costa Rica-based human rights defender Ana Franzen calling her a ‘psychiatric patient’ for speaking up against UNAH authorities and their implications in the persecution and assassination of Hector Martinez Motiño.

Attempt against lives of Copinh leaders

On 30.6.17, Copinh leaders Sotero Chavarría, Asunción Martínez and Bertha Zúniga Cáceres were travelling together in a car after having met with the Cancire community. While driving along, their car was intercepted by four unknown people armed with machetes, but they managed to escape swerving to avoid contact with the attackers, but not without having been hit by a stone thrown at the driver’s window. Minutes later, a black Toyota Tacoma PCH1886 that was at the initial attack tried to crash into them and push them over the edge. When that did not force them over the edge, the Tacoma drove in front of the Copinh car and braked in front of them, but the Copinh driver managed to break away in a different direction and escaped. The Cancire community like the San Antonio, Higuito, and Cedrito is organised with Copinh and is standing to lose their water sources if the building of the Puringla-Sazagua hydroelectricity dam that is supported by USAID funding goes ahead. Bertha Zúniga Cáceres is the daughter of the assassinated Copinh coordinator Berta Cáceres 16 months ago, Bertha the daughter is the current coordinator of Copinh.

FMO and Finn Fund – withdrawn but not without any buts

On 6.7.17, following tireless campaigning and pressure of Copinh communities, there was finally official confirmation that FMO and Finn Fund have withdrawn from the assassin hydroelectricity dam project Agua Zarca – however they have ignored Copinh recommendations about the responsible exit they should take. For one part it meant they are still promoting a decision making process on a hydroelectricity project even though the Lenca indigenous communities have clearly rejected this and that continuing to put this on the table only invites more violence and repression against the communities. For another part FMO and Finn Fund have not recognised their responsibility for the deaths and human rights violations through their contributions to Agua Zarca. Copinh continues to demand that they recognise their responsibility.

Corrupt teacher gives death threats against journalist

On 5.7.17, for having spoken up about teacher Félix López having found an administrative loophole to get paid for teaching without fulfilling a teaching role, Trujillo based journalist Miguel Dubón received death threats from Félix, who said, ‘this son of hundred thousand bitches of Miguel Dubón has me tired but today is your end, you will die slow you ungrateful piece of rubbish’. Miguel is journalist and director of the Noticiero Independiente program of the Warumuga Garifuna community radio of Ofraneh. He is also a correspondent of Radio Globo and of Radio Progreso.

State fines and threatens to close a garífuna community radio – Waruguma

On 27.7.17, Conatel (Honduran Telecommunications Commission) threatened to close the Garífuna community radio Waruguma (Estrella) and also sent Ofraneh received a resolution signed by Conatel president Javier Duarte García, which declared the community radio as ‘rebellious’ and imposed a fine of 30,000 lempiras (US$1300). The document referred to a proceeding that began on 1.6.11 when they also tried to close the media using the law Ley Marco del Sector Telecomunicaciones. Waruguma and other Garífuna community radios do work of defending ancestral territory, speaking up against illegal land sales.

Radio program ordered closed

On 6.7.17, journalist Jorge Oseguera spoke up about that after having remained on air for 3.5 years and almost daily messages telling him to watch out and to stop talking about certain topics, his news program on 96.1 FM of Buenos dias Buenas noches San Pedro Sula’ was removed from ‘Radio International’ programming in an unilateral decision made by the owners. Jorge described himself as a pretty aggressive journalist and is also a correspondent of HRN. He received an average of 150,000 calls a year on the program.

June 2017 Honduras Coup Update

June 2017 Honduras Coup Update

This June 2017, 8 years since the military coup begun, the repression is heavy against uni students and the continued struggle in Río Blanco to kick out the hydroelectricity dam project Agua Zarca and demand justice for the murder against Berta Cáceres and for many other grave abuses and murders there. Another farmers group was evicted very violently with the full force of state, this time in La Paz. A journalist was assassinated after constant death threats. State official, politician and church leader all speaking publicly hate speech and smearing and attacking groups – student activists, marxists, lgbti persons, and others.

Parent of arrestee student who participated in solidarity protests and media interviews, murdered at his door

On 24.6.17, at 5.30am, Roberto Antonio Gómez was assassinated with gunshots just as he was about to leave for work, at the door of his home, in the neighbourhood Brisas de Valle in Tegucigalpa. He is the dad of Andy Gómez, one of 20 uni students arrested and charged at an uni students occupation on 24.5.17. Roberto accompanied his son participating in court solidarity protests together with other students’ parents and other student compas. There are photos of him holding up a placard which said, ‘I want my children to have a public education that is quality, without repression or authoritarianisms. Roberto had participated in different meetings with human rights defenders organisations that support the students’ movement. He participated in media interviews at the protests, for HCH he said, ‘we are against this downtrodding of the university that is trying to take away the rights of the students, and we want this to resolve in the best way – through dialogue.’ His murder is comparable to that of 13 year old high school student Soad Nicole Ham, who was interviewed by the media where she spoke up about lack of furniture in classrooms and called on the president JOH to get out, before she was found assassinated on the streets of Tegucigalpa.

A verdict of guilty ruled against 3 uni student activists

Cesario Alejandro Padilla, Moisés David Cáceres, and Sergio Luís Ulloa were charged with usurpation in 2015 for having been organisers in a student protest in opposition to a detrimental academic regulation reform at the UNAH university. When students regrouped in 2016 to keep fighting to defend public university education, uni authorities responded by arresting and charging 103 students – the authorities and students ended up negotiating and the agreement made included with withdrawal of all charges against protesting students. This agreement was witnessed including by UNHCHR because of the immensity of the persecution against students. Despite this, uni authorities failed to fully comply with this agreement by continuing the charges against Cesario, Moisés and Sergio, culminating in the grave ‘guilty verdict’ ruled by the Supreme Court on 7.6.17 for the usurpation charges they got following student occupation protests. UNHCHR affirmed the graveness of this in violating international human rights standards, and in opening way for criminalisation of different groups of rights defenders. UNAH of course does not respond regretting what it does, instead, in its public statement in response, attacks UNHCHR for ‘not having gathered all relevant information’ in forming its position, insinuating particularly that the student protests are ‘violent’ and that UNHCHR in failing to ‘recognise that’ is contributing to the ungovernable state of affairs and messing with processes of forming ‘responsible citizens’.

UNAH: charges plus now expulsion hearings

Not only were the 20 students arrested and charged for their solidarity protests with other students who were judicially persecuted before them, but to add insult to injury, on 16.6.17, they were all summoned to expulsion hearings, and are so threatened with being expelled from uni.

One of these 20 is Henry Orlando Rodríguez D Vicente, who was in 2015 charged with sedition by UNAH legal rep Horario Baquedano under instructions of UNAH-CURLP director Alina Molina, and academic secretary Rogelio Alvarez. The same charged him again in 2016 and made a capture order against him for ‘usurpation’, from which he was freed through the legal work of NGO lawyers. He was then this year again arrested and charged and given bail conditions, and now summoned to an expulsion hearing on 16.6.17.

Another of these is José Manuel Gonzales Serén, a Lenca indigenous journalism student who participated in the students’ campus occupation. Not only is he summoned to an expulsion hearing, but as a scholarship recipient, he had this scholarship cancelled by the uni authorities on 26.6.17, which cleared stated that the cancellation of the scholarship was because of his involvement in the occupation of the university.

Students’ solidarity protests again evicted violently, several students arrested

On 16.6.17, UNAH uni students in both San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa city campuses camped from the night before occupying UNAH buildings in solidarity with 26 compas who are facing expulsion. Students from both campuses suffered arrests, teargas cans being launched at them and being chased:

In San Pedro Sula, police arrived at 3am and asked students to leave by 6am. When students were still there at 6am at the uni gates, police approached the students and the students asked to see the eviction order from the court. The prosecutor accompanying the police replied saying no eviction order was required (this was untrue and the eviction and subsequent capture were illegal), and called on a large riot squad of the police and began evicting students. Seeing so many cops, the students fled inside the uni buildings, and the prosecutor gave the order to capture the occupation participants. Police under sub-commissioner Nuñez initially hesitated to carry out the order to capture students, but proceeded to do so when the order was given a second time, and captured at least one student.

In Tegucigalpa, there were lots of riot cops and teargas cans. Many were massively affected and suffocated by teargas including people who were receiving treatment in the dentistry and nutrition faculty buildings and the students and educators, as well as the human rights defenders, journalists and camerapersons who accompanied and gave coverage to the student protests. This day, in Tegucigalpa. 6 students were arrested.

Security guard attempts against student the way they previously did against staff

In the last few years, a number of incidents have been reported by activist staff (including one subsequently murdered by other means) of the uni that security contractors of the uni would put holes in their tyres while they are parked, to provoke accidents to involve the targeted ‘trouble-making’ person as instructed by officials of the uni. On 27.6.17, a student spotted an ESPA (UNAH contracted private security) guard putting a hole in another student’s tyre and began filming this – when the guard realised he was being filmed, he fled quickly. Days before this, students had made a demand for ESPA’s contract to be stopped given that students had on different occasions been identified by security guards, their demand was followed by ADUNAH educators’ associations then demanding the same. Students also demanded the end of military presence on campus, given that this military presence puts lives at risk.

More death threats against copinh members

Death threats against Copinh (Council of indigenous and grassroots movements of Honduras) members had been constant and intensifying, as had dealing with these people who threaten them being armed. This is in the context of the community and Copinh members continuing to defend their territories from being invaded by people linked with DESA who are everyday pushing still to impose the ‘Agua Zarca’ hydroelectricity dam. On 21.6.17, in the morning hours, a number of armed men again threatened Copinh members while they were working the land at la Vega de Culatón. One of the armed men threatened with killing at any moment the children of Francisco Javier Sánchez, the coordinator of the Río Blanco indigenous council and member of the general coordination of Copinh. Copinh’s complaints to the authorities about the threats and the destruction of their cornfields fall on deaf ears while those making the threats continue to walk around freely, and receive backup security by police even. The lives of Copinh members at Río Blanco are at high risk, especially when they are working on their ancestral territories in la Vega del Achiotal and la Vega del Cuatón, as they are the places DESA has invaded to try to build the dam project. The context to this is that the Madrid family from another province of Santa Bárbara, had illegally plundered Lenca territoriy and sold part of this to DESA, and DESA staff have since been threatening Copinh members including Berta Cáceres before murdering her. One of them threatened with ‘fixing things’ with Berta and warned about watching out for consequences. Franklin of the Madrid family has in particular pointed firearms at Copinh members in Río Blanco, and has fired shots to the air near Copinh members while they work on the ancestral territory.

Update on Berta and Copinh’s case

More than 15 months following Berta Cáceres murder and a bit over 4 years since the beginning of the Agua Zarca dam project imposed against community wishes, the preliminary murder trial continues. The lawyer representing Copinh and Berta puts forth that Berta’s murder was not planned months before, but, rather, since the beginning of the DESA project as the organised opposition begun. The state had not made much information available regarding the investigation, and that Berta’s murder – as well as the plundering of land with threats and coercion affecting others also, involved the complicity, coordination and participation of state security forces, parallel structures and hitpersons linked to DESA, and used security systems, the building of a network of informants, the following and attacking of peoples. At the same time that this trial continues and defendants’ lawyer makes their shameless attempts to discredit all witnesses on Copinh’s side, the finance organisations are also trying to appear to be ceding to the demand of ceasing finance to Agua Zarca through mainstream articles that speak of their decisions to abandon the project (eg FMO and Finnfund as published on Guardian on 4.6.17), while none of the banks (FMO, Finnfund, CABEI) actually made any official declaration towards such commitment.

Massive eviction against farmers in La Paz

On 13.6.17, about 6.30am, to evict 22 farming families of the farmers group 23 de febrero occupying 168 acre of land, came 150 national police in 3 military commando operation (Cobra) trucks carrying many teargas bombs, which they launched without mercy. On this land the families laboriously nurtured the land and grew maíz, beans and coffee – all this was slashed off by the military and the civilians that were with them. These 22 families have been occupying these state lands that were not privately owned for 6 years, prior to their occupation the land was unused for over 30 years since the death of the person in possession many years ago. Out of the blue, with complicity by the council mayor who also harrasses members of the farmers’ group, papers suddenly appeared in the last months naming the siblings Iris Avila and Dario Avila as owners of these lands – it was they who sought and obtained the eviction order. This farmers group that was based at the la Piedra community at the Tepanguare village in the La Paz province belonged to the CNTC rural workers national federation.

Journalist murdered following constant death threats

On 15.6.17, journalist of tv channel 45TV in the Ceiba city in Atlántida, Víctor Funes, ‘the people’s journalist’, was assassinated the moment he arrived home. It was 4.29 am in the morning of 15.6.17, a security camera captured the precise moment of the assassination of journalist by a person who drove a motorcycle whose face was covered by the security helmet. Víctor was the director of the ‘Nocturnal Panorama’ program on channel 45, running 10-11.30pm at night. With his assassination there are now 67 journalists who have been assassinated in Honduras from 2003 to date. He received death threats, almost daily, from unidentified persons who called or texted his phone. One of the threats was in April 2016 when he transmitted a video of an assassination of a driver on Cristina transportes intercity buses, carried out by a woman. Funes received threatening calls demanding that he stopped speaking about this topic. Funes also had won internal elections in national party as an MP candidate.

Uni authority, politician, and evangelical pastor smearing and spreading hate

Uni authorities on 23.6.17, the same time as the hearings against students they had initiated began, launched a smear campaign in the media against student activists Mirta Gutiérrez, Héctor Ulloa and Kevin Ramos. They released a video to stigmatise these on mainstream media, portraying these as adversarial to the uni authorities.

On 24.6.17, parliamentarian and cartoonist and TV program director Darío Banegas published a homophobic cartoon on newspaper. Through the cartoon he spreads a message of hate towards lgbti persons, already heavily stigmatised to the point where between 2009 and now, over 240 persons of lgbti background have been murdered, with a number of cases substantiated as killings driven by hatred against sexual diversity.

Meanwhile, evangelical pastor Evelio Reyes also made hate speeches in the media telling people not to vote for politicians who don’t share their faith and values – and proceeded to spread hate against those who are outside of traditional heterosexual marriages, those who seek decriminalisation of abortion, and those who seek to redistribute wealth and ‘thereby attempt against private property and free competition and fair profits’. He said, ‘don’t vote for immoral, homosexual and lesbian candidates who corrupt God’s model.’

May 2017 Honduras Coup update

May 2017 Honduras Coup update

Journalist bashed and tortured covering attacks against a student occupation

Journalist and human rights defender Ronnie Ezequiet Huete Salgado has a long history of having worked 17 years in journalism including having taught in UNAH and in private universities and has been on the scene to document many human rights violations in Honduras. In the beginnings of the coup he received death threats in relation to his work. On the night of 24.5.17, Ronnie received a phonecall from an anonymous person; the caller told him that there was an uni occupation taking place and that people’s lives were at risk, so he went immediately to the university to cover and intervene in the capacity of a journalist. As he arrived he saw a group of ESPA company UNAH privately contracted guards around the buildings – he approached and asked them what was happening, and they responded that they were not authorised to give statements. Ronnie went towards the admin building and saw a group of students who had faces covered, and the students gave their testimonies on what was happening. Ronnie proceeded to a lower level of the building where he saw a group of students in confrontation with another group of people who also had faces covered, but who had shirts removed and were holding batons. Ronnie began recording with his phone with which he can transmit live for the Brazil-based internet media for which he is an international correspondent. As tension rose higher and higher he called national and international press and also called his dad. Ronnie then tried to intervene and mediate, but it was too late, the shirtless hooded group jumped from the lower floor to the parking lot where the students were to chase and attack them. The baton-holders began to bash one of the doors towards the reception office of the building, then they swung towards Ronnie and sprayed his face with toxic pepper gas. Ronnie said he was an international correspondent and human rights defender and showed his international journalist ID, they responded by snatching his phone and ID, and began beating him with batons and kicked him to the ground. He kept insisting he was working as a journalist and they beat him harder and harder. Ronnie thought he was going to die and begged them to stop. Ronnie remembered the hooded person who ordered them to stop beating him was also shirtless and wore black pants with green stripes (perhaps that is part of the security company uniform, as he mentioned that detail about a few of these shirtless attackers) – they lifted him off the ground and told him not to move. Ronnie insisted that he was a journalist, and they told him to shut up or be bashed again. They watched him. Ronnie felt his hands and eyes burn from the pappergas, and pain on the right hand and many other parts of his body from the torture and beating. Ronnie told them he needed medical assistance, they ignored him. He doesn’t know how much time went by before he heard that another human rights defender was present and he took the risk to get away to seek help. He managed to leave the parking lot, and met his dad and a human rights defender at the reception office. Once accompanied he tried to request his phone and international journalist ID back, but was refused. The human rights defender said lets go, you need to see the doctor now, so the three went to exit the campus. On the way out a police contingent was outside waiting for them, saying they had an order to arrest anyone who leaves the building. Each showed what IDs they had – Ronnie had a journalist association ID in his pocket, but they proceeded to arrest him. In that condition of just having been beaten and needing safety and care, he was instead kept in a police cell for about 36 hours, without medical attention, sleeping on the floor, breathing in nauseating smells, with limited access to food and water. When he was finally to be heard in court, Ronnie was cuffed by feet and hands. He was asked his version of the events, and he told the judge how he was tortured. Having said that he feels even more vulnerable. Ronnie was charged the same charges as the students, and accused of being part of the student occupation. Ronnie is psychologically traumatised and is in fear for his life and needing protection.

Students arrested and smeared

There were twenty students involved in this uni occupation, 4 women and 16 men. They occupied protesting in solidarity with three student activists (Moisés Cáceres, Cesario Padilla and Sergio Ulloa) who have been locked up, demanding that they be freed and the charges be dropped. In those early hours of 25/5/17, students were first chased and sprayed peppergas by masked and unshirted security guards and then police and military entered UNAH without any required judicial orders (police and military are not supposed to enter autonomous uni campuses unless they have a court order to) to complete the eviction and arrest all students. All twenty students were held for 36 hours in the police cells, and charged with ‘provoking damages to the director’s building’ (the office door that the security guards hit, perhaps?). All students were cuffed by their hands and feet as they were taken into court for the bail hearing. The main witness for the hearings against the students is none other than the retired soldier Roger Aguilar Flores who is in charge of the ESPA security team.

As that initial court process was going on, UNAH director Julieta Castellanos spoke for over an hour at the university council meeting, in which Julieta made a series of statements to smear and incite hate towards the arrestee students who occupied. Her statements included that ‘those violent students unless they get controlled are the future of the Islamic State in this university’, she showed pictures of some of these students being student representative candidates saying they are from the Libre political party and showed pictures of Libre and Anticorruption party and PINU assemblies to show that some of these youths attended some of these assemblies.. she made comments saying that the youths who participated in this had psychological problems. She said she would sue the students that dare question her 8 years in her position, saying she will not allow it. And on the use of media by students and by her, she warned, ‘we already know who manages the page and we are going to call because they always say we don’t know who manages the page and we are going to call Mr Vice Director’ referring to Ayax Irias. ‘We are going to commission a TV slot’ against the students, she said, as they had done during student protests in 2016, through Televicentro corporation. Julieta said that there are no agreements to drop any charges. She said, she would not tolerate more protests at uni. The university authorities also went on to send a public press statement that labelled students organised in the Uni Students Movement MEU of UNAH as ‘anarchists and trotskyists’ – naming especially psychology student Marcio Silva – this was in response to a prior meeting in which students told university authorities that they would not accept the prolonging of the mandate of the current authorities that are due to finish in September 2017, since every time students exercise their rights to protest they are repressed violently.

Journalist under threats

On 22.5.17, Ricardo Patiño, journalist and director of the tv news program ‘Telavisión Edición Estelar’ spoke up about threats he has received through social media and that he was physically attacked back on 7.4.17 by a councillor of the Tela Atlántida council of the Liberal Party, Francois Ligeard, and that it was in the presence also of the prosecutors coordinator, the health director and other municipal staff of Tela, and that Francois Liegard afterwards made pejorative remarks against Ricardo on facebook. Through the same social media, the councillor Francois Ligeard made threats to hurt Patiño and another journalist Andrés Abelino Matute. Francois Ligeard has also sent threatening messages to Ricardo by mobile text messages. Ricardo has also received threats from another council employee identified as David Interiano who said on his facebook ‘the one who talks a lot of shits, their days are numbered’. Ricardo Patiño fears for him and his family’s safety and holds the mayor responsible for anything that may happen to them. These threats began after Ricardo began covering news on acts of corruption in the council headed by mayor Mario Alberto Fuentes Morales. He also gave coverage to the communities Mezapa and Pajuiles, who have for 49 days kept paralysed the building of a hydroelectric dam being set up there. Back in May 2016, Patiño spoke up about his TV program in a christian channel being closed because of political pressures from the same mayor Mario Alberto Fuentes Morales.

Garífuna community leader and journalist arrested and charged with land usurpation

On 18.5.17 in the afternoon, a community leader and member of general coordination of Ofraneh (Honduran Black Fraternal Organisation) as well as a Garífuna correspondent for Radio Progreso, César Geovany Bernárdez, after leaving an Ofraneh directive committee meeting, was arrested accused of usurping a land. The land he is accused of usurping is ancestral collective Garífuna land for which there was an illegal sale to the Canadian company Carivida (represented by Patrick Forseth) by the Santa Fé municipality council in 2013. In these times, an ecotourism project managed by Garífuna women of the Guadalupe community was establishing, but which had trouble establishing itself because of a wave of violence then by a group of fugitives who established themselves nearby and committed a series of killings. In 2012 when Ofraneh heard rumours of land sales, Ofraneh sent a statement to the Santa Fé council requesting that any admin processes for such sales be stopped – this was ignored. The Garifuna people have since 2008 placed charges against the Santa Fe council and in 2013 against mayor Noel Ruiz for sponsoring illegal sales of land to ‘involved canadians’, prosecutors never followed up on these charges, but they are prosecuting Cesar Geovany Bernárdez, who has been a major voice against the installation of Carivida’s tourism project on their Garífuna community land. And, the community was of course never consulted about supposed development plans.

Camera person gravely wounded

On 31.5.17, at about 10.30pm, when Televicentro cameraperson René Alberto Ortega (aged 29) was riding home from work on his motorcycle, through the barrio Buenos Aires in Tegucigalpa, René was shot at 6 times, 4 of the gunshots hit his body, 2 shots on his back, one on his neck and one on his left arm. He was immediately taken to hospital where after surgery, he remained in intensive care. It was not a robbery-assault since his motorcycle and objects of value were not taken from him.

Sweatshop abuses

Back in early April 2017, Delta Apparel (US company in Honduras) fired 40 Honduran workers. Of the 40 fired workers, 25 workers (22 women and 3 men) are demanding their jobs back. All 25 garment workers have sustained work injuries like musculoskeletal disorders – without their jobs they cannot access the treatment they need. They need to be reinstated under rehabilitation in work that is appropriate to their health conditions. They were fired with full knowledge of – because of, their injuries. All fired workers had worked for the company for between 10-19 years. The company in its marketing claims, as they all do, to be a ‘socially responsible company’.

Soldiers obstruct journalists and threatened them with prison

On 30.5.17 in Morocelí, El Paraíso, soldiers tried to take the camera equipment of several camerapersons from different medias who were there trying to cover the news. One soldier was for a whole minute holding and claiming the large camera of a journalist who never let go of the camera while others intervened telling the soldier to let go and pointing other cameras. When asked if there was an order to obstruct media, soldiers said no, but continued to try to take journalists’ cameras. Soldiers while herding journalists away from the area made between the lines threats to say that the journalists were going to prison.

Indigenous and black women of Honduras working together

Over 550 women of 6 peoples of Honduras gathered as indigenous and black Honduran women sharing thoughts and strategies on defending their culture, territories and common goods. They travelled to Tegucigalpa and gathered for 2 days. They shared their experiences of persecution faced in struggles against mining and hydroelectricity companies that plunder and marginalise their communities. They spoke up against the racist and patriarchal system which is embodied in the mining projects in collusion with the different arms of the Honduran state. They paid homage to Berta Caceres, her struggle and her emancipatory ideas, and demanded justice for her, 15 months after her assassination.

Politicians’ objection to decriminalising journalism work

Journalists association and groups of journalists campaigned for the elimination of an article in the criminal code, article 335-b which says ‘who publicly or through media or diffusion destined to the public makes apology or justification of terrorism crime or that had participated in its execution or will incite other individuals to commit terrorism or finance this, will be punished with the penalty of 4-8 years in prison’. Congress president Mauricio Oliva Herrera was on the other side of this campaign objecting this decriminalisation move. He gave examples of journalisms he considers unworthy that this law deters – journalists covering that people burnt down a Burger King, or that students occupy the university, or in protest burn buildings, or occupies channel 10 and break its windows .