April 2020 Honduras Coup and Pandemic Update

April 2020 Honduras Coup and Pandemic Update 

This month – the 4th-8th weeks of COVID-19 in Honduras – saw the Honduran state blatantly continue to prioritise money laundering of resources said to be for addressing COVID-19, and continuing to shoot people with guns and teargas bombs. These were aimed at people self-organising to close off their communities from danger, and people protesting because they are left to starve.

The month opened with the congress passing an actual policy on April Fools’ Day to dedicate the military hospital and four doctors to attend specifically to the dictator JOH and his family in case they catch COVID-19, knowing that if they receive the medical care made available to other Hondurans, they may as well be dead. The file of this policy is decree HMC-DHM-2020, file 449.

Update:1 April 2020:

219 cases, 14 dead, 3 recovered.

1115 illegal detentions, 2 suspicious deaths, 20 tortured,

45 aggressions against human rights defenders,

7 journalists beaten and arrested, their equipment confiscated, photos/videos deleted

16 protests dispersed violently, 60 evicted by discrimination, 2 illegal home raids

over 900 cars confiscated —– all between 16 and 31 March 2020.

Hospitals continue with severely inadequate equipment, staffing numbers, and PPE.

7 community human rights defenders and 2 journalists arrested and locked up overnight

At 4.30pm on 1 April 2020, in Santa Bárbara, there was a road block of soldiers and community volunteers that had been going for a week to stop all cars travelling from Cortés from entering Santa Bárbara due to about 75% of Honduras’ COVID-19 positive cases being in Cortés. An especially horrific case from Cortés is that of a 13-year-old girl who would have caught COVID-19 while in hospital, giving birth, as a rape survivor. It was in this context, at the road block, that a number of community leaders were advocating for some small vendors from within Santa Bárbara (Colinas) to be given passage to be able to sell their goods in the city centre. Given that they don’t come from Cortés and they need to feed their families, and the place they come from is under a higher level lock-down, the leaders said ‘let them in to come sell their things.’ And as they were there, advocating and negotiating, police from inside their patrol vehicle suddenly began launching teargas bombs at them and chasing them. The police, lead by Officer Alvarez, ended up capturing 7 community leaders including a 17-year-old kid, and 2 journalists who were there filming the repression – Edward Fernández of Más Canal TV, aged 26, and Roger David Iraeta, of Canal 6 Internacional, whose son saw the police bash him in the arm and handcuff him. In addition the journalists had their cameras and phones confiscated and their recordings of the violent eviction deleted. The arrestees were locked up at the police station from 7pm. In the last hour of that day, the outraged community self-organised about a hundred people to break the curfew together and marched to the police station in solidarity with those arrested demanding they be set free. The police also responded by shooting teargas canisters at these people. It was about that time that the police said they would release the arrestees, when paperwork was completed. The first to be released was the seventeen-year-old, but not until a parent came to fetch him. The rest of them weren’t released until six in the morning. They were held overnight for 14 hours, and police took no care to prevent COVID-19 contagion at any stage of the arrests. When the prosecutor examined the cases, they actually agreed that it’s the police who should be charged, especially appalled by their arrests of the 2 journalists. Why were they appalled by the arrests of the journalists and not of the human rights defenders? Because the law is crazy and permits journalism work to be carried out in the streets during lockdowns, but not human rights work, and prosecutors, at best, interpret the laws only.

 

Sugar cane company guards opened fire on campesina (peasant) families, killing one and wounding six others

Iris Argentina

On 2 April 2020, at 4am, before the above arrestees were released in Santa Bárbara, another horrific scene was unfolding in Monjarás, Choluteca (southern region of Honduras). At Los Chachos, 60 families have been in a land recuperation process there making homes and growing food to feed their families, in conflict with a monocrop sugar cane company, ‘La Grecia’, on land that should be state agrarian land as it was unused prior to the families setting foot there, but had been occupied by La Grecia’s guards. In that early hour of the day, ‘La Grecia’ private guards arrived firing gunshots and proceeded to destroy everything they could see, even the milk that children were carrying. From their gunshot attack, seven campesino people were wounded, amongst these, a campesino leader couple Iris Argentina aged 50 and her spouse Jacinto Avila. Iris Argentina did not survive the gunshot, she died in hospital at about 2pm, while her spouse Jacinto did survive, but lost his companion forever. Their journey to the hospital also was not an easy one – human rights defenders came to take them in a vehicle to seek medical attention, and as they were driving away there were gunshots aimed at them, fired by La Grecia guards of Crae’s Seguridad security company. Police were in the area at the time but did nothing to intervene, and when campesino leader Leopoldo went afterwards to the police station to place charges against La Grecia and Crae’s Seguridad, police turned him away saying they had orders to not attend to the public.

Update: 4 April 2020

IMF signed a US$140 million loan to the Honduran regime for COVID-19 – in addition to blank cheques already signed to the detriment of Hondurans, who will pay it back with interest and receive only imaginary things in return, up to a budget now of US$3,254 million.

Mass arrest against pharmacy workers

On 5 April 2020, accused of breaking the curfew this Saturday, police arrested many workers of pharmacy Siman who turned up to serve people who need medicines, to earn wages, and to obey their employer. 

Update: 6-13 April 2020

The JOH regime also continued to use sports stadiums as places of quarantine, a group of returned Hondurans are placed in an ambulance and transported to the Jose Simon Azcona Sports Stadium on 6 April 2020 until their quarantine period is over. 

An international campaign was happening at the same time calling on the release of 11 political prisoners including those of Guapinol – Human rights defenders visited the cell of Guapinol’s anti-mining political prisoners and saw they are cramped into a very small and excessively hot space without adequate ventilation. Honduran prisons were always terrible, but in this pandemic they are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. The Honduran supreme court seemed to have denied the bail the lawyers applied for because their lives were at risk, although it hasn’t been explicit about that particular file. At the same time, it is known that the courts are considering the release of the assassins who murdered Berta Cáceres – Sergio Rodríguez Orellana, Douglas Bustillo, who had been found guilty and sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment, and David Castillo, who has been locked up for 4 months while the hearing continues (in his case his lawyers are the ones using delay tactics to manipulate evidence and public opinion). This is not to mention that there are others from the Atala family who had ordered her murder who are still yet to be charged. 

8 April 2020: 312 cases, 22 deaths, 6 recovered 

11 April 2020: A commander of the 101 infantry brigade of Choluteca, Rosevelt Hernández, was fired for having refused to implement the regime’s policy of delivering emergency food packages only to National Party supporters. He was the exception, though, and this policy continues. 

12 April 2020: The JOH regime requires teachers to return to classes without the appropriate sanitary conditions nor the necessary PPE or hygiene facilities available. Teachers’ unions call on the Education Secretary to quit harassing teachers to go back to school, or to provide schooling electronically – the regime has not ensured the school children’s families have food, let alone laptop computers. 

13 April 2020: 12 doctors and 17 nurses in Honduras are not in quarantine after having been infected with COVID-19, of these: 3 are in ICU, 2 others are hospitalised. Since Dr Denise Roxana Murillo’s death at the end of March, 2 nurses have also died of COVID-19. There are protests by healthcare workers who demand PPE and ventillators, and tests for doctors and nurses who have worked in COVID-19 hospital rooms. Nationally, testing has been running on a limit of 96 tests per day. Although CABEI donated about 26,000 COVID-19 tests, they could not be used because they did not come with required reagents, so they may as well be imaginary. 

Community protesting the conversion of a school into a COVID-19 isolation centre attacked with gunshots by soldiers

On 18 April 2020, a Saturday night in the San Isidro neighbourhoood, La Unión, Lempira, the community was, in protest, occupying a school that the mayor Giovanny Reyes insisted on turning into a COVID-19 isolation centre. Mayor Reyes responded by sending the police in; soldiers attacked the people with gas and then entered the school firing live gunshots.

Update: 18-24 April 2020

18 April 2020: Honduran congress accepted Cuba’s offer to send a medical brigade to Honduras as it had to China, Italy, Spain and Venezuela, to support local healthcare workers and doctors to help flatten the curve. Along with Cuban doctors, the plane that arrived brought Honduran doctors and medical students too, who were also ready to work.

20 April 2020: 457 confirmed cases, 46 dead

24 April 2020: 591 confirmed cases, 55 dead

In a theatrical act by the Honduran regime, 3 high executives of the contingency department COPECO were fired for fraudulant implementation of millions of dollars of funding, purchasing overpriced equipment and medical materials that aren’t even useful in confronting COVID-19. One example is a load of thin paper disposable masks bought at US$5 each. A show to pretend the money was intended otherwise. Meanwhile, in real time, more people get infected, without real hospitals to go to or real tests to check if they have COVID-19, or real medicine. The regime is simply doing what it has always done, laundering through the health sector, like the IHSS money laundering case to fund the electoral campaign, back in 2011, with subsequent electoral fraud in 2017. One of the current lies was that the regime was ‘buying a hospital from Turkey’. The Turkish government clarified that there is no such transaction, but that if only the Honduran government had asked for one they would have been so happy to donate one.’ Since such a transaction does not assist in money laundering processes, it was never actually considered.

Soldiers delivering food fired teargas bombs and gunshots at protesters for asking for equitable food distribution

On 23 April 2020, in Las Metalias, Tela, Atlántida, a group of soldiers were distributing tiny food provisions named ‘bags of solidarity’, when a group of outraged and starving villagers protested occupying the CA-13 highway, asking why they weren’t given any. The soldiers didn’t speak of the orders they were given to only give provisions to National Party supporters. They simply pulled out their weapons and fired teargas bombs and even gunshots at the protesting villagers, wounding two people with their bullets; one in the head and one in the arm. The soldiers also arrested five villagers.

Military shot at brothers who self-organised a roadblock to keep their community safe, one was killed

On 24 April 2020 in the afternoon, in El Paríso community, Omoa City, Cortés, like in many other communities, there was a community self-organised checkpoint to screen movements into the community. It’s important to note that this is in the context of being in the province with the highest infection rate. Three brothers were at the checkpoint working to limit infection risks in their community when military police came and fired gunshots at the brothers, two of whom, Marvin Rolando Alvarado Santiago, and Héctor Arturo Alvarado Santiago, were admitted to hospital with gunshot wounds – Marvin Alvarado, aged 33, died in hospital. The other brother, Ronal Alvarado, was also bashed by the military police. The police charged and locked up Héctor and Ronal, who survived the military police attack, for trying to defend themselves against the police attack, and their grieving family who went to lodge a complaint that day about the police murder of their son were turned away and told to come back another day. 33-year-old Marvin was described by his family as a dad of two children, the fourth of 5 siblings himself, a good son, a friend who always acted in solidarity, and a hardworking man. Marvin was buried on 27 April 2020 at 4pm, in their community’s cemetery. His family and friends cried and held placards demanding justice as they walked with the car that carried Marvin in a coffin. Marvin’s sister said one of the soldiers who killed her brother is named Josúe Alvarado.

Police officer attacked self organised community roadblock leader for asking him to wear a mask

In Zacate Grande the community had preventatively self organised to control entry into the area using a volunteers’ roster, to try to make sure any visitors wore a mask to reduce chances of them bringing COVID-19 into the peninsula. On 24 April 2020 at about 4.30pm, a police officer wearing plain clothes and travelling on a motorcycle came, expecting entry. 30-year-old Derlin Roberto Corea Cabrera was one of the community members at the site, and asked the police to at least wear a mask, as a condition of entry. Instead of accepting the condition, Officer Lagos attacked Derlin, hitting Derlin in the head and kicking him in the back, and even pulled out a gun and fired 3 shots near him, and snatched his mobile phone before leaving. It was after 6pm when Derlin went with others to place a complaint against Officer Lagos at the police station. Derlin’s companions were not allowed in the police office to ensure nothing happened to Derlin. Officer Lagos himself was on duty so the placing of the complaint was not possible, so Derlin asked for his phone back, which he received, but the phone was no longer working. After that, Derlin’s family looked into taking him to a medical clinic or to hospital 30kms away, to assess his head injury

Police attack and arrest two friends monitoring the entrance to their community

Similarly, in Barrio El Zapote, El Mochito, Santa Bárbara, people from the community organised to watch the entrance of their community. On the morning of 24 April 2020 also, between 7.30am and 8.30am, a group of police arrived on the scene and began to approach the young Oscar Machado. Oscar’s response was to pick up his phone and start filming and transmitting live on facebook. The police’s reaction to that was beating him until he let go of his phone, starting with grabbing him and kicking him in the arm and elbow, then slapping him in the face repeatedly, and finally cornering him with the police patrol, and having police reinforcement spray him in the face with pepper spray – this did make Oscar drop the phone – he felt like he was going to suffocate and like he couldn’t breathe, and he could not open his eyes, and in that state, they kicked him in the back. His friend Eduardo Vásquez grabbed the phone quickly, and the police kicked Eduardo in the shoulder, and subsequently launched teargas bombs forcing others at the community watch point to disperse, before shuffling Oscar and Eduardo on to the police patrol, taking them into custody at the Las Vegas police station. The police also confiscated everything they were using at the community watch point – a chain, 3 spray bottles, ice cream cones, and a jar they had put there to collect money to help an elderly woman who was sick. Oscar had marks from the beatings on his back and arms and his chest hurt. The two friends were yelled at by Officer López at the station, who gave orders to go through their phones, and said things like, ‘serves you right for filming’. Officer Aviles threatened them, ‘I want to see you again on the street and you will soon see what will happen to you.’ They were in lock-up from 8am to 11am. On release those who support them took them to a health centre for first aid, medical supervision and pain medication. Oscar was referred to an orthopaedic specialist, to check for injury to his right wrist.

COVID-19 fears drive middle class attacks against the poor

The markets in Comayaguela were burnt down making an impossible situation even harder for stall-holders. JOH had from the beginning spoke badly of markets (economic spaces and food sources of the poor) as spaces of massive contagion, not saying the same of supermarkets (economic spaces and food of the rich in Honduras). His discourse sparked fascist/nazi elements to act out of fear and hate, and set fire to the markets. (Ignorant) middle class Hondurans can be overheard saying, ‘I hope all the sellers there catch the virus’, and calling market sellers ‘ignorant’. This was not the first time fascists had set the markets on fire.

Community radio member and environmentalist kidnapped

On 26 April 2020, in Las Américas, Esparta, up north, MADJ (regional environmental and social justice organisation) member Alex Cabrera was last heard from when he was with the radio team at 6.30pm, speaking up about the fire in Sorocón, and was subsequently kidnapped by men in plain clothes around midnight. Alex’s family were very outraged and worried. After midnight, a human rights defender achieved contact with him

Police attack a kid for not wearing a mask

On 26 April 2020 at the turn off to San Isidro, Copán, police and soldiers assigned to the Protección municipality of Santa Bárbara attacked a kid there, apparently because the kid didn’t wear a mask. The police officers who attacked him were driving police patrol #PN321, the youth is a community member of Protección.

Update: 26 April 2020

661 confirmed cases, 61 dead, 69 recovered 

Small business owner goes on hunger strike 

On 27 April 2020, Roberto Contreras of Power Chicken in San Pedro Sula went on hunger strike as not only had he needed to close doors, but the subsequent power bill was mysteriously increased despite not operating. He also received tax bills in this time. He expressed wanting to keep his staff but was left without this choice. The pain of it all drove him to begin this hunger strike. 

A re-cap.. 

Many communities and villages around Honduras have self-organised to watch the entrances to their community and decide who enters and under what conditions, based on their assessment of the risk and on what they have agreed on as a community. Some communities are stricter and are not letting police and state officials through, some let them in on the condition that they wear masks. In many cases these community efforts have been brutally attacked by the police with gunshots and arrests, as detailed earlier. There are stories of indigenous people making masks for their community, organising from the bottom up. There are also stories of people not allowed back home by their threatening neighbours after having spent time in the high risk areas, despite having organised to quarantine themselves in their own home. People are also left to fend for themselves, without food packages (which are miserably inadequate too) unless they give in to supporting the National Party, they are without wages or earnings, still having to pay for water, electricity, petrol and food, with basics and sanitary items sold at inflated prices from shops that are near empty because of the hoarding by the wealthy. The various indigenous peoples are hit worst of all, with terrible living conditions worsened, because of lack of access to resources – eg roofs that are held up by wood planks that get blown off by the wind, being risky for families – and conflicts with mining and other industries threatening their lives and contaminating the environment that their livelihoods depend on at the same time. Their access to food also depends on the rain coming, so they have to harvest crops during this time, and the state has no welfare contingency for them. They echo the cries of the urban poor, ‘we won’t die from coronavirus, but we will die from hunger’. While quarantine is enforced upon people, it is not enforced against mining companies that continue operating unchecked.

Earlier in April, a UNAH university group of experts projected that, left unchecked, the cases in Honduras would increase to 16,558 by 30 April, in contrast to the JOH regime predicting that the curve would be flattened by this date. UNAH predicted that cases would peak in mid June with 2,800,000 infected (approximately one third of the population), and that the curve would flatten mid September. The below is an update of confirmed cases on 17 April 2020. Actual cases would far exceed official counts of confirmed cases, given that less than 100 tests are available per day. According to these official statistics, more than one in ten confirmed cases in Honduras is ending in death. And of these first four/five weeks, of the 46 COVID-19 deaths, 2 are of the 20-29 age group, 8 are from the 30-39 age group, and 10 from the 40-49 age group. These statistics are likely to show both that cases are much more widespread than confirmed, and also reflect on the plundered state of the healthcare system.

april 17 honduras

More and more, people who are fed up with the terrible injustice and official lies, and not being fed otherwise, are slowly taking streets in different provinces of the country literally driven by hunger for food, and thirst for justice and for water, in demand of respect.

As curfew has been extended week by week, the last news in April was that curfew would be extended to 3 May 2020.

March 2020 Honduras Coup Update

March 2019 Honduras coup update

 

At the beginning of this month, people commemorated that 4 years had passed since Berta Caceres the indigenous feminist environmentalist and anticapitalist leader was murdered, and continued to question how those who had ordered the murder were getting away with this. A teacher and writer who lived a life critical of the dictatorship regimes was murdered. Meanwhile, another school is left with no teachers. The pandemic also arrived in Honduras this month, devastating a people already hungry, lacking healthcare access, and militarised, bringing about a much worse state of affairs.

 

Four years after they killed Berta Caceres

 

2 March 2020 marks the passing of four years since the assassination of indigeous defender and leader Berta Cáceres who fought to defend the Rio Blanco River from DESA hydroelectricity company, and had been a prominent social leader since her youth, against patriarchy, colonisation, and capitalism. People from different organisations (even the UN was there) travelled to La Esperanza to gather over a weekend in the Utopia Centre of Gathering and Friendship of Copinh’s, undertaking a range of activities beginning with the screening of the documentary ‘Desenredar el ser’ (Unchain the being), and ending with a march around town at night with fire torches. While 7 people have been sentenced as perpetrators of the murder, people continue to call for justice. They demand that those who organised the murder in affiliation with state forces – the owners of DESA company, who are members of the Atala Zablah family – be put behind bars. The family members in question are: Daniel Atala Midence, Jacobo Atala Zablah, José Eduardo Atala Zablah and Pedro Atala Zablah.

 

Anti coup anti dictatorship teacher and writer murdered in his car

On 6 March 2020, in the city of Santa Barbara, beloved teacher, writer, and an antagonist against the JOH and previous dictatorships, Victor Manuel Rodríguez Paz, was driving his car. Victor was going to take one of his four children to school, when unidentified attackers in another vehicle stopped him and fired at least 24 gunshots at his car. 18 of these gunshots shot through the front side of the car, and six at and past the driver’s door, squarely aiming at Victor’s body. Victor died in his car. The attackers fired all these gunshots, and fled. Police came and cordoned off the murder scene. Hours later, forensic medicine came and transported his body to the prosecutors’ morgue. Victor was a teacher at La Independencia public school where he had taught for the past 15 years, and before that he taught at Dolores college. His fellow teachers and admin staff and students are all in shock and miss him dearly. Victor was very dedicated, committed and responsible with his work. He had written four books, and the city’s students read them in class. Victor was always at the marches against the coup and the dictatorship and was affiliated with the teachers’ unions Copemh and Colprosumah. Of his four children, the youngest is a one month old baby who won’t know their dad except through others and through his books. Victor’s brother was murdered two years ago, and his father murdered ten years ago.

 

Education sector local struggle in Arenales

 

School was also still on, on 10 March 2020, but not in Arenales community, where the Lenca Lenca indigenous people decided not to send their children to school, after barricading the highway the day before demanding that the Education Secretary Bueso address the problem of the school not having teachers.

 

COVID-19, militarisation, and famine unfolds in Honduras

 

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on peoples already in turmoil is beyond massive. Such as in the case of Honduras, which has been living under dictatorships since 2009, where the people are in struggle and bloodily persecuted. Where 64% of the population live in poverty and most people live under the informal economy, and what their families eat each day depends on what they have earnt that day, making stockpiling impossible. A good proportion of Hondurans also rely on remittances from family members in the US, and the US is hit severely by the pandemic, likely cutting off such remittances as survival for these family members become more difficult. It’s impossible also to practise isolation and frequent handwashing within the homes because people live in overcrowded conditions; most people share rooms, and a lot of people, like those in the capital city, often have no water coming out of their taps, with irregular water service because of dried rivers and dams from extractive projects. The hospitals are as bare as they come in terms of staffing, medicines, equipment, and PPE because the dictatorships have stripped these bare, rediverting health funds towards electoral campaigns and otherwise into pockets of those already rich.

 

While real numbers are unknown – the first confirmed cases in Honduras appeared on 11 March 2020, with two cases. One of whom was a 4 year old child who had returned from Texas, in the US. By 16 March 2020, with confirmed cases going up to three from two, and the addition of three suspected cases, a curfew and lockdown was announced to start at 10pm that night. The regime announced the measures that were to last for one week, and a ‘package’, that was approved behind closed doors back on 13 March 2020, of US$500 million (from congress, CABEI, executive, EU, etc), claiming that the regime will build 94 hospitals in 6 months, provide equipment – including obtaining 100 ventillators – and staff these hospitals. But there are no mentions of fixing up existing hospitals, and it was announced that there would be no tendering process – so it had in effect signed itself a blank cheque, to pass funds to JOH’s allies, and further privatise the health sector, while not channeling the money to address the pandemic and the needs of the population during this pandemic, protecting only those who are well off.

 

With the curfew and lockdown, in the cities with the confirmed cases (this list increases over time), people were told to stay home, and the streets were filled with police and soldiers to impose this. Within 24 hours, the regime took advantage of the pandemic curfew in Choluteca and on this first morning of lockdown and curfew, had 10 unmasked police (in the context of the pandemic) surround the home of political activist Aleyda Huete and arrest her without a capture order. The police had for months been persecuting Aleyda, aged 50, who is a leader of Bastión del Sur, a social organisation in the region that organises against the dictatorship. The region has been impressively solid and belligerent in their weekly protests for what must now be three years. Back on 19 December 2019, the police had raided her home looking for her, and when they didn’t find her there they took her partner Felipe Esquivel instead. When Felipe refused to give up information on his partner when interrogated, he was held as a political prisoner ever since. Aleyda had been in hiding for three months away from her home and family, and must have just returned when she was captured because of the pandemic. Aleyda would also currently be a political prisoner, except a massive bail of US$1000 was scraped together for her release. Aleyda is to appear in court starting 31 March 2020.

 

Another measure the regime rushed to introduce at the same time as the lockdown was the conversion of the sports stadium Villa Olimpica into a place to confine people with confirmed COVID-19, laying out the gym with makeshift beds. No more was heard about its use during March 2020 by people with confirmed COVID-19, but a group of 25 who travelled to Honduras from neighbouring Nicaragua were forced to isolate themselves there rather than in the homes they were going to. They feared that while they were there the regime would admit people with actual confirmed COVID-19, and expose them to the virus. Neighours of the stadium also protested, because the stadium had two nursing homes very close by, and also because the stadium is an inadequate space for people to look after themselves or be looked after in. The regime has access to hotels and to military buildings with facilities, and these should be given.

 

Initially during the lockdown, even supermarkets were closed. However, softdrink workers union STIBYS denounced that softdrink workers were made to keep working and not provided PPE. Similarly, workers in monocrop industries were not provided PPE. After the first day of lockdown, deemed essential services such as hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets were left open along with softdrinks production and distribution. There was panic buying, by those with the means to. Most people normally rely on markets, street vendors and corner shops for their daily needs, because it is more affordable, and as a form of mutual aid, too, since the supermarkets belong to the elite of the country. Markets were not allowed to exist during the pandemic, people weren’t even allowed to sell things in front of their homes.  

Within days, people could bear the hunger no more, and protests began sporadically. On 23 March 2020 in a neighbourhood usually alive with street vendors in Tegucigalpa, there is an image from this day of some burning tyres illuminating the night and kids jumping up and down chanting, ‘we want food!’. Similarly, on 23 March 2020, there were protests around and reports of police abuse, teargas bombs and arrests began to flood in. People in Comayagua who protested demanding food were attacked. People in the relatively empty market streets in Tegucigalpa had a police patrol pass through, shoot teargas at them, evict them and then drive on. Many others, mostly out looking for food and medicine, were arrested and bashed by police, who refused to listen to people’s reasons for being out. The most shocking case of this day was of police arresting five guys who were approaching a pop up soup kitchen for a feed outside the Ramon Ayaya Amador housing complex in Comayaguela, Tegucigalpa. Women who belong to the Iniciativa Mesoamericana organised and were serving food there in effort to share food at a time when many are starving and struggling. The arrestees were Luís Sierra, Yimy Paguada, Wilmer Hernández, Wilmer Alejandro Hernández (son of Wilmer Hernández), and Edilberto Girón López. Police took them to the police station and threatened the women serving the food with ‘we will come back for you’. The women regretfully packed up and stopped sharing food and went back to their homes. They also quickly got Iniciativa Mesoamericana to place pressure on the police to release the five, as did human rights organisation Cofadeh, and achieved their release relatively quickly.

 

The problem is, even at this time when US$500 million is poured into supposedly addressing the pandemic, not only is the health system rotten and not getting extra supports, there are no supports to help people stay at home. The only welfare package heard of is the meagre US$4 food aid package (for which US$40,000 has been assigned), which is only given to those who are poor AND show support for the National Party. People who make a living by selling things everyday say, if you won’t give us food, at least let us work and sell things to feed ourselves. Initially, the lockdown was said to be for one week, but as each week passes, another week of lockdown and curfews is announced. So protests have continued, as have cases of people being arrested while outside of their homes, mostly seeking essential services of food and medicine – the tally of COVID-19 arrestees quickly went up to over 500 – some obtained bail or were otherwise released, others remain locked up. When questioned by the media, about when they will be released, police official Zavala said, ‘when the emergency is over’, and to other questions such as, ‘is the detention registered? Are they processed in the prosecution? Are they given food and treated with dignity? Are there measures of safety and sanitiation? Can they communicate with their families?’ There are no responses from police. What’s more, there are images circulating of arrestees forced to undergo military training and forced labour. There are grave concerns for the welfare and lives of those arrested, at a time when prison must be the least safe place to be.

 

On 26 March 2020 there were 52 confirmed cases, and the first case of someone with COVID-19 having died. With this backdrop, in Marcala, La Paz, a councillor Marlon Calles who had been persecuted for some time for being against extractive projects, was harassed. The Health officials arrived at his house to inform him that he and his 64-year-old mother are suspected of having COVID-19 and must undergo testing. His mother had an emergency surgery recently and the pair have had to travel to hospital in Tegucigalpa 153 kms away on a routine basis, and it was on account of the frequent travel that they were named suspects. This did more than make their blood boil – it made his mother Paula faint.

 

On 27 March 2020, in the neglected and isolated area of Brus Laguna, Gracias a Dios, in the context of the curfew and the police suspecting a youth of not complying with the curfew, the police shot at the kid. People are of course outraged and say they would set the police station on fire.

On 29 March 2020, two weeks from the first confirmed case, there were 139 confirmed cases, from which 3 had died, and 3 had recovered. In Opatoro, La Paz, human rights defenders who were designated ‘assistants’ in their communities were ordered by council director Celin López to participate in a roster to watch that nobody unauthorised drives through the entrances to the town. They are obligated to do this, undertake 12 hour shifts, they are not paid, they are not even provided with food let alone masks or gloves, they are not facilitated with a place to rest during their shift, they are not even treated with dignity, and instead are belittled and made fun of. There are people in the community who are in solidarity with them though and bring them food.

 

On 30 March 2020 there were 141 confirmed cases including 3 healthcare workers. Remember that workers do not have access to adequate PPE, there are no N95’s for healthcare workers or hospital cleaners, but white collar state and parliamentarian employees do have access not only to special masks but disposable overalls. Stories continue to be heard of people protesting and being repressed, such as in Cholutecas, where people organised in Colonias Unidas (united neighbourhoods), protesting to demand water and food, and instead received state teargas bombs, shot in the street between their homes.

 

On 31 March 2020, there were 9 deaths from COVID-19, including the first healthcare worker to have died from COVID-19 in Honduras, Dr Denise Roxana Murillo. She was seen to have recently pled on facebook to Hondurans, please stay at home, even if you are hungry, drink water. It was only two days before when she felt symptoms and decided to self-isolate at home, and the next day when her condition worsened she was admitted to hospital and drips were attached to her body in an attempt to keep her alive, there was not adequate equipment available in the hospital to stabilise her, and she died. This same day, as Radio Globo journalist Lidieth Díaz was driving to work, a group of police detained her and threatened with confiscating her car and licence.

 

The month wrapped up with a lot of questions of just how the US$500 million is being spent, and also, like in Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, while the regimes of the world take advantage of the pandemic and divert attention, what are they covering up and pushing through? President JOH’s brother’s sentence for drug trafficking. Hospitals obviously continue to be in a shocking state. Lots is spent on teargas bombs against hungry people. What concessions are dished out to what industries? What is being more privatised?

Medicos-en-Choluteca-sin-proteccion

January and February 2020 Honduras Coup update

January and February 2020 Honduras Coup update

New Years Day

New Years day saw the people of Choluteca city in the south protesting on the streets against human rights violations. Only on this day there had been five murders in different parts of the country, the context of each killing is unknown except that, politically motivated or not, killings occur very often and are in impunity.

Indigenous leaders assassinated

It was already reported in December that Tolupán indigenous leader Efraín Martínez Martínez was reported disappeared and then a week later his body was found half buried on 29 December 2019 in Francisco Morazán, and that similarly, Pech indigenous leader Santos Felipe Escobar García (aged 34), was disappeared on 29 December 2019 and his body without life was found on 3 January 2020.

It didn’t stop there. On 10 January 2020, in Morazán, Yoro, Tolupan indigenous leader Vicente Saavedra was found dead, having been killed with gunshots. His body, when found, was very decomposed. Vicente was also a catholic leader, and he is very well known in the municipality. People remember him as a very humble and respectful person who never messed with anyone. They had a funeral for him in a catholic temple there.

Vicente Saavedra ene 2020

Two Campesina organisations attacked

On 26 January 2020, in Bajo Aguan, the office of COPA – Coordinator of Grassroots Organisations of Aguan, was attacked and broken into once again (this occurred on 20 December 2019, and a computer with information was stolen) by unidentified people, who damaged the building to enter, ransacked the archive drawers full of documents and other things. They took a printer with them. COPA member Carlos Leonel George together with COPA leader Haydee Saravía and campesino leader Jaime Cabrera went to the police to place a complaint about this break in – instead of investigating this break-in, the police arrested Carlos Leonel George. The police used the excuse of that there was a capture order against him. Carlos is one of 31 environmentalists who were charged for defending the Guapinol river in Tocoa, but he was part of the first group of arrestees who were released after two weeks and his case had been through the courts and was dismissed. Despite showing that this was the case, the police did not want to release him. It is believed that the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares must have pressured Honduran state authorities to reactivate the judicial files against the environmentalists who were not freed.

On 23 February 2020, unidentified persons destroyed the doors of the office of La Vía Campesina and stole a computer with information inside. La Vía Campesina leader Rafael Alegría arrived that afternoon to find that the doors were broken, and the surveillance camera monitor and a TV were thrown onto the patio, and other things thrown around and ripped up. Rafael called the National Protection Mechanism but they gave no response. From 2009 to date, this has been the 9th attack suffered by the organisation, that had included attacks against the building, its staff, gunshots against its surveillance cameras, threats, knowledge of plans to assassinate Rafael Alegría.

Updates re cases of political prisoners

Rommel Herrera the young teacher

Rommel Herrera, a young teacher who was accused of placing and setting tyres on fire, at the entrance of the US embassy, on 31 May 2019 in the context of protests of the Health and Education Platform, spent three months in maximum security prison, followed by time under custody in the psychiatric hospital – four months and counting. He has been essentially held for being part of the protests. It was the time in the maximum security prison that was traumatic for his mental health and being in a psychiatric hospital is also far from ideal for his emotional state. On 26 February 2020, his defence lawyer sought a change to his bail condition so he can be under the care of human rights organisation COFADEH instead. The judges voted, with all but one judge voting against his release into the care of COFADEH while his court case continues.

Edwin Espinal and Raúl Álvarez

The political prisoners Edwin Espinal and Raúl Álvarez who were in the maximum security prison with Rommel, who were there many months before Rommel, and were released on bail during Rommel’s imprisonment there, have their public hearing set for 14 and 15 May 2020.

Political prisoners of the Guapinol struggle against mining company Inversiones Los Pinares

In February, a Gathering of Peoples for Water and Solidarity was held at the public university UNAH in Tegucigalpa, attended by 23 representatives of different organisations nationally. They came together to share their struggles, define an action plan and also to organise in solidarity with the case of 8 compas politically imprisoned of Guapinol for at least 6 months so far. Actions were taken on 27 February 2020, including a demo outside the supreme court in Tegucigalpa, and a legal action was undertaken by CEJIL organisation. There are also campaigns in social media, calling for international solidarity with the Guapinol political prisoners.

In defence of the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers in Tocoa, People gathered in August 2018 and they began a camp for water and life in the Guapinol community, in reaction to which prosecutors and Inversiones Los Pinares emitted capture orders against 31 leaders of the communities including against Antonio Martínez Ramos, who died three months before he was charged. Amongst these there were two groups of political prisoners. The first group were imprisoned for two weeks and their cases were dismissed after. Those in this group are: Lourdes Elizabeth Gómez Rodas, Marco Tulio Ramos, Reynaldo Domínguez Ramos, Juan Antonio López, José Eugenio Esquivel Villeda, Juventino Cruz Hernández, Ally Magdaleno Domínguez Ramos, Juan Manuel Cruz Hernández, Juan Francisco Cruz García, José Santos Hernández, Carlos Leonel George George (mentioned in the COPA case earlier) and José Adalid Cedillo Mendoza.

The second group, of eight (or nine including the late Antonio Martínez Ramos) has so far been imprisoned for at least 6 months – 14 months in the case of Jeremías Martínez. They are:

Porfirio Sorto: a construction foreman, catholic church member, directive committee member of the water committee in Guapinol, and a father

Arnold Aleman: a football player, campesino, he was new to protests prior to this, and a father

Daniel Marquez: a member of Guapinol water committee, member of catholic church, and the carer for his elderly parents

Ewer Cedillo: a car mechanic, member of catholic church, and a football player

Kelvin Romero: a mechanic, small tourism operator, and a father

José Cedillo: a member of catholic church, barber, small business owner, and a father

Orbin Hernandez: Graduate in sciences and humanities, he was a teacher contracted by the council, and a leader of San Pedro area Committee

Jeremías Martinez Dias: aged 60, a member of campesina cooperative MUCA, Jeremías imprisoned in La Ceiba since 14 months ago, when he was tricked by his police escort who had orders to protect him (in recognition of persecution against him) and routinely came to his home to check on him. This day he was tricked, they came to his home and asked him to go with them to sign a document, and proceeded to arrest him in line with a prosecutor’s summon of someone named Jeremías Martínez with a different ID number whose complete full name did not match his.

As community environmental organising in Marcala La Paz heats up, a councillor was attacked again for his work in support of the environmental defence

On 29 January 2020, the mostly Lenca indigenous community of Marcala La Paz barricaded a highway between Marcala and the highway the the capital city, to blockade trucks carrying logs, during ongoing dialogues with the Forestry Department, against the uncontrolled logging in their communities. On 23 February 2020, Marcala councillor Marlon Calles found his car windows broken and his documents inside regarding the environmental work extracted, in place of the documents, the attacker left a note for him, saying, ‘you are dead now’. Marlon Calles had his car broken into and documents stolen one other time before this, and that time, unidentified persons fired gunshots near his home. Marlon had spoken up about constant threats and attacks against him for defending the environment and common natural resources of La Paz.

Indigenous environmentalists charged for asking for charges against logging company

On 4 February 2020, Iván Juárez and Meregildo Guillén, indigenous defenders of Cuaca Gualaco, Olancho, went to the prosecutors department to request investigation against the logging of forests in their community that is impacting upon their water source. Instead of charging the loggers, Iván and Meregildo ended up facing hearing and charges, accused by Nery Roberto Murillo Montalván, a logger, for the supposed crime of defamation. On 10 February 2020, the defamation case were dismissed in court as the judge recognised that they had a right to request investigation on the logging. One of the charged said, ‘we felt worried, because the forest was day by day being taken away and they are leaving us without water, now we can’t even bathe.’

Moisés Sánchez melon unionist threatened with prison and worse

On 21 January 2020, STAS union (Agroindustry and Similar Industries Workers’ Union) leader Moíses Sánchez, was charged, along with five other La Permuta community villagers, with court processes including conciliation beginning on 22 January 2020. On 6 February 2020, the conciliation process was declared failed and the court process would continue. Moíses was frustrated, ‘I don’t know what they want from me.’ He said. On the face of things, he was being charged by Mrs Dolores Rutilia Rueda, a landowner that rents its lands to Fyffes rockmelon company – he used to work there and organise in the union, he was the secretary general for STAS subsection, until Fyffes fired him for his union organising activities (his paid work was as a melon worker, union organising was on a voluntary basis). Mrs Dolores Rutilia Rueda was supposedly complaining about a road he participated in building previously when he belonged to the community council. He pointed out that it was strange for her to complain about it because she benefits from the new road – she no longer has to cross two creeks to get into her property. Moreover, it was council approved. Moíses knows that the charges are actually threats to put him in prison and threats against his life, for being someone who had organised for the labour and union rights of melon workers. The harassment and persecution he suffered had caused him including to temporarily close his small business in the community and this had made things difficult for him. So its about silencing him and not about what they officially say it is about. He has support and concern from the community about this case. The court hearing was to continue on 25 February 2020.

Priest charged

On 29 Jan, of El Triunfo, Choluteca, catholic priest Florentino Hernández appeared in court, having been sued by the Diocese of Choluteca, Monseñor Guido, a follower of the National Party, of usurping the church building and undued appropriation. Florentino was summoned in the national daily newspapers on 13 December 2019. Outside the court, communities were in solidarity with him in the hundreds. A local teacher explained that Florentino had opened the people’s eyes and helped them to see the terrible consequences mining exploitation will have for humans, and that he helps the poor, ‘he gives what he has to help his neighbour, he helps the sick with medicines even when it meant selling his things to have the money to buy the medicine.’ People know the charges are political persecution, for his work with the communities in opposition to mining projects. One of the seminarians of the church had also been expelled by the same monseñor for being a friend of Florentino. ‘We are very organised, the parish is not alone.’, the teacher said. On 5 February 2020, many villagers and human rights defenders were again with priest Florentino Hernández at the court, after some hours’ delay, were happy and celebrated because the case was dismissed.

Teachers union leader leaves, for now

On 30 January 2020, ex president of teachers union Copemh, Jaime Rodríguez, had to flee Honduras to Mexico after a series of death threats including his kidnapping on 28 October 2019 when he was tortured, his throat slashed, and he was left for dead. He confirmed it cannot be from organised crime, that the ones who have the logistics to have carried this out is the Honduran state. His kidnappers were four people with access to weapons, vehicles, and houses, that is a lot of resources. He knows what happened to him happened because he constantly criticised the government and opposing the privatisation of water, education and health. Jaime tells teachers to keep fighting, to never stop fighting, against the narcogovernment. It’s for his family that he leaves for now, but he will keep fighting and return when he can. He flew away in a plane, before which, some friends came to the airport to see him off, say goodbye, including Cofadeh coordinator Berta Oliva, whose organisation had organised his travel away for now.

Narcostate

A young anonymous guy hiding in the wild spoke to the media. He said back in 2018 he was a protected witness who gave information to the prosecution department about drug traffickers, following which, the cartel went to look for him to kill him, and when they didn’t find him, they started to kill his family. He left fleeing and made contact with the authorities, being a protected witness, and told them where he will hide and who he was with. Within days, his attackers appeared there and massacred his family in a finca, killing his mum, grandparents, two cousins and his little sister aged 2 months – killing ten of his relatives between the two massacres. Since then, he had been in hiding knowing that instead of protecting him, the prosecution department sells his information to the cartel. He wishes for asylum, to not be in the wild hiding forever.

New Migrants Caravan

On 14 January 2020, the first self organised migrants caravan of the year, thousands of Hondurans, left the San Pedro Sula bus terminal of Honduras with the aim of making it to the US, knowing all the barriers and dangers. The first of the series of caravans were around 10,000 who left together in a caravan in October 2018. In 2019, at least 105,000 Hondurans were deported in their efforts to migrate, in search for greater safety and economic opportunities.

On 20 January 2020, from this 2020 caravan, there was an image in the social media of hundreds of migrants crossing a river that has a width comparable to the length of a football field, with water up to their knees, in exodus against the JOH narco dictatorship, over Suchiate river in Mexico.

December 2019 Honduras coup update

December 2019 Honduras Coup Update

Assassination of Tolupan and Pech defenders

Around 22 December 2019, the family of indigenous Tolupán leader Efraín Martínez Martínez reported that he was missing and they were looking for him. On 29 December 2019, a week later, his body, dead, was found. Efraín is originally from La Flor mountain of the Francisco Morazán province, and was living and died in the north of Honduras.

Also on 29 December 2019, another indigenous leader, of the Pech people, was reported missing – 34 years old Felipe Escobar García. Five days later, on 3 January 2020, Felipe was found dead in El Carbón village, San Esteban, in the north of Olancho. Both Efraín and Felipes were leaders of their indigenous communities and were involved in defending their territories.

Efrain martinez y Santos Escobar dic 2019

Attempts against the lives of garifuna defenders in Masca

On 12 December 2019, in the Masca Garífuna community, gunshots sieged the home of Paula Alvarez and attempted against Paula’s life, leaving Paula gunshot wounded.

On 28 December 2019 in the night time, also in Masca, 70 years of Ignacia Piota Martínez, a Garífuna leader, was attacked by a mestizo man who fired 7 gunshots at 70 years old Ignacia. Ignacia was taken immediately to hospital and transferred to another hospital where her condition stabilised. Ignacia was the older sister of the recently assassinated Garífuna leader Mirna Suazo Martínez, killed on 7 September 2019. Ignacia’s sister Mirna was the community committee president as well as a management committee member of Ofraneh Honduran black fraternal organisation. Another Garífuna man, Oscar Francisco Guerrero Centeno, was assassinated in Masca on 10 October 2019. There are images of Garífuna women marching, holding a banner, saying, stop the assassinations against Garífunas. Ofraneh had spoken up repeatedly about how Masca had become an epicentre of violence in attempt to terrorise the community and push them out from their ancestral land so that outsiders can take over and exploit the lands for commercial gains. The land title and other state departments are complicit, by providing the outsider plunderers with land title documents and placing their names on these and through the army collaborating with these powerful groups. The Garífuna communities in struggle – who are black and matriarchal – face these in addition to insitutionalised and media socialised racism and sexism.

Human rights lawyer attempted against

On 30 November 2019, in a public park in Choluteca at night, lawyer and human rights defender Ely Portillo was spending time with his family, when a guy pulled out a weapon pointed it at Ely and Ely fought with the attacker. Since Ely had been granted protection measures as someone the authorities recognised as being at risk, he tried to call on this help, ‘I called and they answered, however they promised to send escorts, and to date (3 December 2019), they have not arrived.’ From the attack, Ely has a cut on his forehead that is healing. Ely is part of the legal team of Aci Participa NGO, which will be visiting human rights organisations and also state departments including the police, in the work for there to be security for human rights defenders. He experienced first hand, that there is not.

Persecution against Bastion del Sur, Barrios Bravos

On 17 December 2019, Bastión del Sur (Barrios Bravos – Angry Hoods) raised an alert about repression suffered in a number of neighbourhoods, and stated that there are organisations working hard to document the repression as well as lawyers on the cases. Especially worrying are that there are medias and members of the government political party that have publicly smeared Bastión del Sur (Barrios Bravos) calling the people involved terrorists. Those organised continue in struggle despite the risks, with the idea that, ‘if the present is of struggle, the future is ours.’

On 19 December 2019, the home of Aleyda Huete was raided by repressive state entities. Aleyda is the founder of Bastion del Sur (Barrios bravos). It was said that if anything should happen to her, her family, or other militants of Bastion del Sur (Barrios bravos), that JOH, Edgardo Loucel, Miguel Farach and Elba Reyes are responsible. She is being persecuted for struggling constantly against the narco dictatorship and its neoliberal measures.

Grassroots organisations of Aguan office robbed, organisers of the region are at risk

On 20 December 2019, the Grassroots organisations of Aguan office, COPA, was raided – its back door was destroyed, and the office was robbed. Information was stolen regarding COPA’s activities – the robbers stole the desktop computer, containing information about defenders associated with COPA in the region, including in relation to the Guapinol struggle against mining and to declare Tocoa a municipality free from mining companies. This theft places at increased risk the lives of the defenders associated with COPA. This robbery had also occurred following a media smear campaign against those who struggle defending human rights and the environment around Tocoa, Colón.

La Paz against loggers, loggers threaten leader

On 18 December, people of La Paz began occupying a highway to Marcala to close the path for logging company trucks in defence of the Opatoro forests from logging. On 30 December 2019, the CNTC rural organisation’s regional general secretary for La Paz, Sebastian Reyes, who has campaigned in defence of land and water and against logging, spoke up about receiving multiple death threats from logging companies in La Paz. Sebastian reports being followed and watched and persecuted, and had faced charges also; his home has been under siege by contracted hitmen who are there taking photos. If anything happens to Sebastian or his family, Juan Fernando Pereira, a logging contractor, is responsible.

Marcala La Paz: repression against youths and human rights defenders

On 13 December 2019, two young people, Jaime Cálix and Rigoberto Vásquez, were arrested and spent the whole day and night in court, with charges of attempted robbery and damages against the coordinator of municipal women’s office of the city, Rosemery Alvarez. The human rights network of the region, Redhil Paz, mobilised immediately to outside the court to pressure for the youths to be freed. As the trial went into the night time and people saw that the judge had left but the proceedings continued, and that the proceedings seemed biased against the young pair, they were rightly concerned about what would happen to Jaime and Rigoberto, and proceeded to occupy the court. That was about 9pm – court began 9am that day. Military police terrorised and threatened the human rights defenders there, firing their weapons. Outside the court you could see some people filming, some people yelling, and police was grabbing and threatening Lenca indigenous and human rights defenders Donatila Girón and Margarita Pineda, accusing these of agitating and driving the protest, and belittled Donatila saying that her defenders’ vest meant nothing to them, saying it was ‘pure rubbish’. and locked up both of these as well as Jaime and Rigoberto in the court that night, as others continued to protest outside demanding for the lives of Donatila, Margarita, Jaime and Rigoberto to be respected, knowing that lives under custody are lives in danger. Donatila is the aunt of one of the boys, as well as the president of Caucus Mundial organisation. Jaime and Rigoberto were held at least until, if not beyond, 16 December 2019, when hearings resumed.

A celebration for campesina cooperative 9 de julio in La Paz

On 14 December, 9 de julio, a cooperative under struggle, celebrated and partied having organised and set up running an electricity system in their community. They have gone through a lot and this was one of their dreams. Between 2010 and 2014, they had faced so much persecution, many threats, many charges, 17 violent evictions, many gunshot wounds, and had pregnant women who had been hurt in brutal repression to the degree of bringing on the abortion of their unborn babies. Despite of all this the cooperative continued recuperating land and completed another of its dreams. ‘We have fought 9 years and now thanks God we celebrate today, it is a part of the struggle and resistance compañeros and compañeras.’

Justice for Berta

Berta Cáceres, indigenous environmental anticapitalist feminist organiser, was murdered in 2016. Copinh, an organisation she co-founded and led up until she died, demanded that those who contracted for Berta’s murder to also be charged and brought to justice, and that there be an independent mission to properly investigate the case. Why are the Atala family and others free when there is the evidence of their being behind her murder?

Amongst those others not yet found guilty of Berta’s murder was DESA dam company president Roberto David Castillo, an ex military intelligence agent as well as ex ENEE state electricity company official, who is charged but no verdict had been given. It was found out in a 2009 public audit that he had corruptly continued to receive a salary from the army beyond his position there, as well as that he owned a company that was selling overpriced army products. In relation to Berta´s murder, months before the murder, Berta told Global Witness that Roberto Castillo had called her to try to bribe her to stop organising against the Agua Zarca dam project.

None of the Atala family had been charged despite ample evidence of them being behind the murder, because DESA and the Atala family have both extensive high up political connections. DESA secretary Roberto Pacheco Reyes is an ex minister of governance and justice. The DESA vicepresident Jacobo Nicolás Atala Zablah is the current president of the BAC Honduras bank and is an Atala, one of the richest business families in Honduras. Jacobo’s cousin is multimillionaire Camilo Atala, an ex government minister and owner of Ficohsa Bank, and one of the main investors of the polemic Indura Beach and Golf Resort. Jacobo’s brother, José Eduardo Atala Zablah, is on the DESA management committee and is the president of the Honduran-American Chamber of Commerce and ex head for honduras of the CABEI Central American Bank of Economic Integration. CABEI is one of the main investors of the DESA project of Agua Zarca. Another Atala, Daniel Atala Midence, is the financial director of DESA. There are others still.

JOH and TH continue trail blazing their drug trafficking histories

On 9 December 2019, one of the lawyers of the Valle Valle family/cartel and of the killed prisoner Magdaleno Meza, lawyer José Luís Pinto, aged 38, was in a restaurant when gunmen opened fired, killing him with several gunshots in La Entrada, Copán. The Valle Valle brothers themselves, Luís Alfonso and Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle, of the cartel, have been in prison in Miami maximum security prison in the US since 2014, having subsequently declared themselves guilty to trafficking cocaine to US in January 2016, and sentenced by Miami federal court to 23 years of prison.

Then, on 13 December 2019, the director of El Pozo high security prison who was a witness in the Magdaleno Meza assassination in October and was suspended from his position ‘for investigation purposes’, Ildefonso Armas, was driving a pickup truck when he was ambushed by seven attackers on the CA5 Sur highway. Ildefonso was forced off the truck and shot to death with several gunshots, the attackers then fled towards an unknown direction. Ildefonso’s prison superiors Rosa Gudiel and German McNeil did not give any reasons for why he was suspended. CODEH president Hugo Maldonado revealed that Ildefonso Armas was seeking political asylum prior to being killed, because he was worried about a possible attempt against him for having witnessed a gang member kill Magdaleno Meza in prison in Santa Barbara. Meza elaborated materials about drug trafficking where TH and JOH names appear, along with quantities of money that were received for trafficking drugs towards US, as one of the cartel operators of the brothers Valle Valles. These documents were used in court in New York in which TH was ruled guilty. There are indications that Meza had collaborated with DEA in US to reveal secrets about TH and JOH. Meza’s other legal representative Carlos Chajtur also is in fear of a possible attempt against his life.

Update on political prisoner Rommel Baldemar

On 19 December 2019, in La Granja neighbourhood court, a preliminary hearing on Rommel Baldemar’s case was held. Rommel is a political prisoner of the platform in struggle in defence of health and public education in Honduras. He is currently under custody in psychiatric hospital. People were outside the court demanding his freedom.

Women prisoners abused and tortured

On boxing day 2019, images went around of women prisoners having been tortured by soldiers in the prison of El Progreso in Honduras. They have been flogged with iron bars in different parts of bodies. There are images of their beaten bodies.

November 2019 Honduras Coup Update

November 2019 Honduras coup update

This month: one uni student of the students movement, Leonardo Castillo and a high school student, Sulmy López, were killed. Another high school student has been disappeared. An extermination plan is known – to silence opposition and to silence the drug trail of the TH-JOH politician brothers. One more exposition to JOH’s money laundering and scandals for funding the 2017 electoral campaign. Another journalist, José Arita, was assassinated. Human rights defenders Jorge Acosta and Ramón Aguilar were assassinated, another one received a death threat in his car. Villagers of Zacate Grande standing up to large landholders suffer repeat arrests. Campesinos of La Paz have court processes sitting on top of them. Guapinol community defenders against mining also has its eight political prisoners stuck in a dragged out court process, and a journalist who accompanies their struggle suffered a kidnap attempt, whilst the community there live under a state of siege as a public meeting approaches. As communities in Tegucigalpa mobilised again to protect the La Tigra national park from an enormous luxury apartments project, they suffered a violent eviction. The political prisoners from Pimienta suffer persecution outside the prison. Another political prisoner Gustavo Cáceres was finally released after almost 2 years. Surveillance intensified. Campesinos leader and his family were victims to gunshots attack in Bajo Aguan. Protests were repressed.

Two students assassinated, another disappeared

In Trujillo, Colón, on 1 November, in the night time, 25 years old student leader of the MAU (Movimiento Amplio Universitario) uni students movement, Leonardo Daniel Castillo Lagos, was murdered that night with several gunshots including one in the head, and his body was found afterwards on the shore of the Trujillo beach. Leonardo was studying psychology at the UNAH-CU campus. Both his parents were local teachers. MAU issued the following statement about Leonardo’s killing, ‘in Honduras, the government is killing us, and criminalising, jailing and threatening us. And they are stealing our dreams, for being young, for being students, for thinking differently. For bringing to light the constant atrocities of the Government and for demanding a better Honduras. We will keep screaming because of the injustices of our country. Nobody will stop us. WE ARE STUDENTS; NOT DELINQUENTS!’ MAU also blamed COHEP, the Honduran Business Council, for Leonardo’s assassination, since COHEP had just publicly demanded ‘for death squads to show protests organisers to their place’. In the midnight hours the same night, two other students who belong to the MAU, were given death threats.

 

Leonardo Daniel Castillo

In Dulce Nombre de Culmí, Olancho, on 5 November 2019, 17 years old high school student, Sulmy López, was assassinated. Sulmy is the 79th student to be assassinated so far in 2019 in Honduras.

In Tegucigalpa, on 15 November 2019, the parents of 13 years old high school student of Instituto Técnico Luís Bogran, Dayana Lilibeth Gómez Aguilera, reported that Dayana was disappeared. That day, like other days, Dayana said bye to her mum and dad and left the family home in El Carrizal neighbourhood headed for school early in the morning. What was different was, at midday, when she should be at home, she didn’t appear. Dayana was always super punctual, and was home 15 to 20 minutes after school finished. Her mum and dad got more and more worried as more time lapsed. When one and a half hours had passed, they knew that something must have happened and started looking for her everywhere. Her mum went to the school first to ask around there but nobody knew anything. She then went to ask her friends, but they didn’t knew anything. The parents thought maybe she was with her boyfriend and went to find him, but he didn’t know anything. They went to the police then, but they also didn’t know anything, and couldn’t do anything. The parents said she had depression, but she took medication and a bit of everything, and it was not extreme, ‘she just got bored and would get depressed.’ They said their daughter was never in trouble, that she is peaceful. She was a doer, she did her homework, gets excellent grades and all.

In October 2019, two students were reported disappeared from this same school, days later, the body of Oscar Daniel Mencía Cantarero was found, in Villa Cristina neighbourhood. The school principal said, ‘Oscar was always involved in the protests’

Investigative journalists pointed out that the death squads to carry out JOH and TH’s extermination plans, elaborated on next, could be behind the killings and disappearances of students, since students have been a strong voice for calling JOH to get out, for quality education well resourced by the state, and speaking up against the narco state with the TH scandal. Schools where students are most organised and belligerant, are most at risk, remembering also Oscar David, car mechanics student at Instituto Luís Bogran killed, and Dennis Avila Sánchez, 29 years old UNAH student in Tegucigalpa who was killed on 30 October 2019, near his home.

Known extermination plans

On 1 November 2019, an alert came out that the JOH regime was embarking on a plan that had already started, to exterminate those who criticise the regime, and those who used to associate with the mafias of JOH and TH who know things. The extermination would be carried out by death squads of the JOH and TH brothers, over a three months period, according to information that the JOPRODEH human rights organisation has.

They have at the end of October assassinated in the ‘maximum security prison’ Magdaleno Meza, who was involved in the mafias.

Also, on 31 October 2019, the highly ranked official, Presidential Commissioner of Transparency, Alfredo José Cantarero Callejas, whose work is to scrutinise the work of JOH regime president (including about the government’s involvement in drug trafficking), was found dead. Authorities called Alfredo’s death a suicide, saying that ‘obligates’ them to close the investigation; but Sherill Hernández Mancía who worked in Alfredo’s department – Office of Criminal Investigation – confirmed that it was possible that Alfredo was murdered.

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Julissa Villanueva, the then Forensic Medicine director of the Prosecutors Department, was fired on 21 November 2019, for apparently being slow and thorough in her work. The Medical Association was on her side. Julissa had subsequently spoken up about Alfredo Cantarero’s murder, and Julissa received death threats. She said if anything happens to her or her family or collaborators, that the state and the Prosecutors Department are responsible. She added that she is a scientist committed to uncovering the truth.

It is believed that the attempt against Jaime Rodríguez, threats against journalist Milton Benítez, who directs the program ‘The Yellow Dog’ and spoke up against corruption, the persecution against the organisations Aci Participa and Apuvimeh, and the threats and surveillance against the Garífuna doctor, human rights defender and leader Luther Castillo Harry are all part of this plan. Also on the plan’s blacklists are ex-president Lobo Sosa (association with mafias), and journalist David Romero.

Update on the neverending expositions to JOH’s money laundering and scandals for funding the 2017 electoral campaign

The major ones had been from IHSS social security health services for workers, with scandals of empty hospitals and empty medicine pills causing many deaths, and then the drug cartel head/parliamentarian/brother of JOH, Tony Hernández, had also facilitated large sums for JOH’s electoral campaign. Now, newly uncovered are many other cases including one of the plundering of the agricultural trust (supposed to use its funds to give credits to small grains farmers), but proceeded to assign about US$16 millions to the Honduran army (which applied for a basic grains production project) for the building of a reservoir to irrigate 14 hectares of land in October 2017 (just before the election). Even the Honduras Chambers of Commerce protested this.

Journalist assassinated

On 25 November 2019, journalist of Canal 12, Puerto Vision, José Arita, had finished presenting his program ‘The Hour of Truth’ for the day and stopped to buy something on his way home when unidentified people who travelled in a tourist van fired gunshots at him assassinating him. In this last program he presented, he spoke up about being excluded from some press conferences, and he said, ‘I say to the mayor, to the public and private institutions, that I don’t know what you are scared would happen if I were at a press conference.’ From the same channel, another community journalist Santiago Carvaja of the queer community, was murdered with gunshots four and a half months before José was murdered.

Human rights defenders assassinated and received death threats

In La Lima, Cortés, on 17 November 2019, Jorge Alberto Acosta, aged 62, president of the savings and credit cooperative of the TelaRailRoad Co workers’ union (Sitraterco), was assassinated in the San Juan neighbourhood. Jorge was a human rights defender who received death threats, and the state’s mechanism of protection recognised his need for protection prior to his killing.

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The same date, in Marcala, La Paz, human rights defender and Marcala councillor, Marlon Calles, got up very early that morning and went to his car to get his charger, still very sleepy, only to realise something was wrong when he had opened the door on the drivers’ side and noticed that the glass window was broken with a cement tamper, and inside, a note, to him, saying, ‘YOU ARE DEAD’. Marlon had been speaking up against the logging of the Jilguero forest by a transnational logging company – should the logging go ahead, one of the main water reserves of La Paz province would dry out. Days prior to receiving this death threat, his car had already been broken into and someone stole a file from it about a new water project that would affect over 30,000 people in the same region, that is being pushed by local parliamentarian Juan Manuel Melgar. Marlon is known by and has collaborated with Cofadeh human rights organisation since 2018, Cofadeh coordinator said that Marlon doesn’t have any enemies, that the only possible source of the death threats are the business interests that would destroy the water and natural resources of Marcala.

On 24 November 2019, in Alianza Colina, Santa Barbara, a recognised community leader, Ramon Aguilar, was assassinated.

Villagers of Zacate Grande arrested time and again for standing up to large land holders

Back on 22 September, María Hernández was arrested with charges of usurpation, and at that time, there was an agreement made that her partner, Santos Hernández, who had six charges against him, also for resisting the expansion of large landholders, was to appear in court on the same dates as Maria. So, 25 and 26 November 2019 were their court dates at Amapala Court. On 25 November 2019, María and Santos attended court, accompanied by the president of ADEPZA (organisation of Zacate Grande Villagers for defending territory) Abel Pérez, aged 36. At 3.30pm that day, police arrested Abel at the court for a new charge in addition to existing charges. Then on 26 November 2019, the court was heavily militarised with many agents of navy, investigative police and police there. When court hearings finished, police then also captured Maria and Santos, even putting Maria’s 10 years old son on the police patrol vehicle with them this time. Abel, Maria and Santos spent this night in the police cells there. María was very emotionally traumatised going through all of that. Abel told Maria and Santos to stay calm, ‘we are going to get out of this,’ Abel had been in prison with Santos for 101 days back in 2016, and sentenced with Santos too to 5 years and 1 month of imprisonment; the sentence being under appeal. The accusing party is Jorge Luís Cassis, the latest charge against the three is related to damages to a wall Cassis built in the Playa Blanca community, a wall he built on a disputed space to impede the movement of communities who have lived where they live for over 50 years. Cassis has land titles because large landholders have control over the state institutions, not because the lands are rightly his. On 27 November 2019, Abel, Maria and Santos were released on bail.

Campesinos of La Paz attacked by courts, and police made obvious which side they do and don’t serve

Carlos Geovani Calix of the 9 de julio campesinos group in Tutule, La Paz, and who also belongs to the CNTC campesinos’ federation, had the hearing against him suspended and postponed for the second time on 5 November 2019 because the accusing party – Carlos Arriaga – did not show up to the hearing. This hearing got postponed to 8 November 2019. It was until 26 November 2019 when, in court again, Carlos Calix was found to be innocent of the charges of usurpation by the court. 9 de julio campesino group has been growing food on the land that Carlos Arriaga claimed was his since the beginning of 2010.

Also on 26 November 2019, and in Tutule as well, CNTC La Paz regional directive member, María Rosaura Vásquez, called the police because unidentified persons raided her home and took her home belongings and money for the family’s sustenance by force. The police refused to answer her call for help. Instead, it was members of La Paz human rights network RedhilPaz who went to her home in solidarity and stayed with her, to make sure she was okay.

Guapinol (community against mining) political prisoners continue in dragged out court processes and in prison, a journalist accompanying the struggle suffered a kidnap attempt, and communities approaching a public meeting are intimidated by terror tactics

The eight environmental defenders of Guapinol community and river endured another month in prison. On 5 November 2019 they had hearing, but the prosecutors did not show up, so this was postponed one day. On 6 November, the bail revision hearing was held and people were in solidarity outside with banners, but judge Lizeth Vallecillo decided again to deny them bail. During the hearing, on the balcony the floor above of the court building, police took photos of those friends, compas and family members who were outside in support while the defenders were on trial inside. An appeal was placed on 7 November 2019 again demanding their freedom.

On 14 November 2019, in Tocoa city, journalist César Obando Flores of Diario Colón hn and correspondent of Radio Progreso was one block from his home when some unidentified people who travelled in a van attempted to kidnap him, luckily, he escaped. César had been very steady in accompanying the Guapinol struggle.

On the build up to the open meeting in Tocoa organised by the council where the community aimed to declare Colón to be a municipality free from mining and expel from their community the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares (and partner factory company Ecotek), the community could feel a heavy terror campaign to try to deter people from going to this meeting. On 23 November 2019, two people were killed at the entrance of the Guapinol community – their names are Roberto Portales and Vilma Portillo. Roberto is said to be an employee of the mining company. The back story is not known, perhaps Roberto was a whistleblower. It is timely to point out that one Guapinol defender charged who had not voluntarily appeared in court to subsequently become a political prisoner, Roberto Antonio Argueta, was assassinated by hitmen. The companies (which both have as their biggest shareholders, elite Hondurans Lenir Pérez and Ana Facussé) do anything to impose their project to exploit iron oxide over 200 hectares, using open pit mining, just 150 metres away from the communities, between Guapinol, La Lempira and Ceibita – these communities would suffer grave damages to their water source, health and environment.

Tegucigalpa: Communities mobilised to protect La Tigra national park violently evicted by police

On 7 November 2019, communities surrounding La Tigra national park once again mobilised and blocked roads to La Tigra in El Hatillo, El Chimbo and Río Abajo, in defence of the environment and of their water source, against the massive luxury housing project. The communities were violently evicted by polcie with teargas bombs.

Follow up on some political prisoners from 2017 – the ten from Pimienta, and Gustavo Cáceres

Ten political prisoners of Pimienta, Cortéz, were arrested accused of burning a police station and looting, during the semi-insurrectional period post election in 2017. They were locked up in maximum security prison El Pozo for several months and released on 5 May 2018 on bail, but the freedom not only came with conditions like having to go to court to sign the book every week, but living in constant persecution and knowledge that their lives are at risk. For example, Roque Jacinto Alvarenga, one of the ten, reported on 12 November 2019, that there had been hooded people in vehicles without numberplates, and others on foot or bicycle, going near his home, taking photos of the house without any airs of shame, and then leaving. This was in addition to having had his home raided in the wee hours of the night several times. It was not enough to reinforce the doors and windows, which he tried, so when his home was still raided, he left his home to save his and his family’s life. That was not the end of it, he had many other stories of the antigang police, of a red Hilux, of a black Ford Escape, of a white Kia Sorento, of children of his extended family noticing strange people taking photos of his house, of moving, being found by them, and moving again, of not being able to do jobs he wants to do because of this highly unstable living situation, and once they even appeared while he was fixing something in someone’s home. Roque said this is part of the EXTERMINATION that the police carries out against social leaders, students, ex political prisoners, ‘I think deep down that I am also part of this extermination, but this only God would know, but yes I feel quite unsafe.’ Roque is not the only one persecuted of the ten ex political prisoners of Pimienta, another also received audio files and messages of threat through social media from the investigative police of Pimienta police station.

Another political prisoner from that period, Gustavo Adolfo Cáceres, was locked up from 21 December 2017, taken in a water delivery truck because he carried no ID, at the barricades against the regime – charged with ‘carrying explosives or war weapons’. The hearing process only began almost two years after his arrest without bail, on 28 October 2019. This hearing was then suspended and postponed to 11 November 2019 because the Prosecutors’ ‘witnesses’ didn’t show up. They also did not show up on 11 November 2019. On 14 November 2019, the court finally dismissed the charges, after his 22 and and half months spent in prison, where Gustavo tried to support his family by doing other people’s washing inside the prison. Gustavo was the first political prisoner the be locked up and last to be released from that period. He suffers from anxiety and depression from this ordeal.

Cops case suspended

On 12 November 2019, military police Denis Omar Cáceres (who is on bail) appeared in court accused of the assassination of David Octavio Quiroz back on 15 December 2017 during the semi-insurrectional protests against the military fraud, in Villanueva, Cortés. The officer’s legal team did not show up despite having been duely summoned, and the hearing was suspended.

Surveillance and profiling: against protester and political party activist

On 12 November 2019, Juan Carlos Flores, a business administration graduate and LIBRE party activist and collaborator of the assassinated indigenous anticapitalist feminist activist Berta Cáceres and her family, spoke up about profiling and persecution against him by the military police. He said in the last days of October, four military police had gone to the basketball training carrying a photo of him asking people there if they knew where he lived. Even the photo looks like one taken of him in basketball training with others, he was wearing shorts. He believes this took place because he had been seen collaborating with Berta’s daughter and Libre parliamentarian, Olivia Marcela Zuniga. There are concerns about profiling activities of the state increasing against activists.

Bajo Aguan – attackers gunshot wounded campesino leader and his family

On 13 November 2019, in the Panamá community where campesino leader Santos Torres and his family live, armed attackers shot at and attempted against their lives; they were gunshot wounded and hospitalised but luckily their condition was stable. The whole Bajo Aguán region is permanently under siege by large landholders together with police and military who dispossess campesinos of their territories. For years now the region has been militarised and many campesinos have been killed, many others charged, the state has no interest in changing this.

Protests repressed

On 6 November 2019, there was a protest in Iztoca, Choluteca, that was being violently evicted by the police. A Metro TV channel journalist was covering the eviction when police saw him doing that and pushed and knocked him and his camera about.

On 14 November 2019, in Linaca, Danlí, El Paraíso, villagers there were mobilised in a protest about government neglect – during JOH’s ‘surprise visit’ to Danlí to oversee and do public relations on the investment of about US$113 million to repair 6kms of highway around the country, which does not cover the highway the Linaca needs repaired. The community needs the road to function so that their campesino producers can sell their produce and survive within the economy. They also protested the military involvement in the agricultural industry. Instead of responding by sending construction teams to repair the highway and cancelling the army’s agricultural project, police proceeded to attack the protesting villagers viciously with teargas bombs launched at their heads, abdominals and legs from close range. There are photos of their wounds – bleeding and bruises, bleeding around the eye, eyes covered, head and scalp bleeding. They were 50m from the regional hospital Gabriela Alvarado so did not have far to go to wait for medical attention. Those wounded are José Miguel Zúniga, Kevin Javier Casco, Jonh Milton García (LIBRE municipal councillor), Jorge Miguel Martínez and Cristina Rodríguez – Cristina was hit by three teargas bombs.

On 23 November 2019, in San Juan Pueblo, military police repressed the town centre protests, committed abuses, arrested two protesters and were torturing these.

 

October 2019 Honduras coup update

October 2019 Honduras Coup update

Summary: A campesino of the Bajo Aguan territory struggle was kidnapped by soldiers and murdered. Political prisoner Rommel’s mental health crisis forced a transfer to the psychiatric hospital. A Garífuna kindy teacher killed.

Campesinos growing food in Siguatepeque were oppressed by cops and courts. A Libre party leader was assassinated.

A journalist’s family home was attacked. Police intimidated another media. 18 October 2019 was also a date of major protests nationally because the regime president JOH’s brother Tony Hernández – also then parliamentarian – was declared guilty in New York as a drug trafficker and assassin. Police attacked many times with gases and arrests against ongoing protests against the dictatorship. A teacher leader was kidnapped and left for dead. A Miskita indigenous leader and spouse (teacher) were murdered by hitmen. One more Guapinol community member who opposed Mining company Inversiones Los Pinares was arrested.

Territorial defender in Bajo Aguán kidnapped and killed

On 9 October 2019, in Bajo Aguán, when family members of Marcos Tulio Cruz (aged 44) approached state authorities about Marcos having been kidnapped, those authorities responded telling them Marcos was dead. That he was assassinated, and his body was in the Sonaguera crematorium in Colón. Marcos was part of the campesina land recuperation struggle, and was of the campesina cooperative Unidos Lucharemos, of Luzón Palmeras. Marcos’s brother Rigoberto Durán is a human rights defender. The night before, four soldiers with high calibre weapons raided Marco’s home and kidnapped him, in front of Marco’s mother and brother Rigoberto – Rigoberto tried to stop this and the soldiers bashed him to the degree of causing him to lose a lot of blood and to require immediate surgery. Unidos Lucharemos cooperative has also suffered violent eviction.

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News on political prisoners – Rommel to psychiatric hospital, Gustavo continues inside

Rommel Herrera, a 23 years old teacher who fought for quality and public education and health services, and who is also studying at uni himself, has been a political prisoner since 30 May 2019 at the La Tolva high security prison, charged (not sentenced, not given bail) with burning tyres at the entrance of the US embassy. His human rights lawyers have been applying for the court to change the measures applied against him in light of severe depression, anxiety, and being a suicide risk, and this went to hearing on 10 October 2019. His relatives and ex-cellmates also political prisoners joined him in court in solidarity. They were very worried about him. In prison, Rommel helped in the kitchen, but mostly, his time in prison had been very lonely, and he didn’t feel tough to fit in there, especially ever since fellow political prisoners Raúl and Edwin were released on bail. The court requested from the Forensic Medicine department a certificate on his depression and on the risk of him taking his life. Since the lock up began, Rommel became depressive, hallucinative, and suicidal. Rommel was seen by his visitors to be constantly moving his legs and putting his hands on his face partially covering his eyes for a long period of time. His mental health state had weighed very heavily on his relationships with his family too. His visitors had noticed that with each visit, Rommel deteriorated to be more scared, more annoyed, more angry, and more suicidal. They tried to give him attention and support but knew the thing he needed most was to be out of the prison.

On the follow up court hearing on 18 October 2019, the court ordered his transfer to a psychiatric hospital in acknowledgement of the severity of Rommel’s state of mental health. Hospitalisation under police custody is his bail condition. So, he is not free and it is not known what would happen to him if and when his mental health improves, if that happens before his trial completes – the court stated it will make further rulings when this time comes. Rommel’s father is happy because at least in the psychiatric hospital, he can visit his son more frequently than in the maximum security prison where he was held for four months. That and Rommel would receive treatment – they continue to be fearful Rommel could take his life. So, on this very day, his dad, mum, cousin, and the human rights lawyers of Cofadeh and compas of the committee of liberation of political prisoners in Honduras followed the police vehicle that drove him back to the prison to complete exit paperwork, and then at 4pm, they followed him to the psychiatric hospital, where they arrived at 6pm. They did that to make sure Rommel didn’t stay another night in the prison, and to accompany him as much as it was possible to.

Meanwhile, the other political prisoner who continues in prison from this period, Gustavo Cáceres Ayala, had his hearing begin. On 21 December 2018 during the protests against the electoral fraude Gustavo was arrested by the police at the La Democracia bridge barricade – he was working, in a truck, that delivered water towards San Pedro Sula but was stuck in traffic – the reason he was arrested was that the police asked everyone for ID and he didn’t carry any – but they also proceeded to set him up by photographing him with some props that the police placed with him. He also said they put a black bag over his head while they intimidated him and interrogated him saying, ‘where are the drugs?’. Gustavo has a brain injury and has the mental age of a 6-9 years old – a forensic medicine doctor confirmed this in court – but he decided he wanted to testify. On the prosecution side, two witnesses did not show up (army bomb expert Bayron Fuentes, and social worker María Lucila Hernández), only the police who arrested him – Edwin Wada Herrera and Alexis Urbina – gave their testimonies, although they contradicted each other about why they arrested him, where, and what he was wearing. The hearing was suspended and postponed to November because of the prosecution’s missing witnesses.

Zacate Grande struggle – large landholder against villagers

Attacks and territorial pressure against villagers of the peninsula of Zacate Grande continue.

On 10 October 2019, Wilmer Rivera of community radio La Voz de Zacate Grande went to the police station to ask for his file after he heard from Valle municipal council authorities that there was a capture order against him, apparently for a charge of usurpation. When Wilmer was there asking for his file, police arrested him. It was only with pressure from Cofadeh human rights organisation that he was subsequently released on bail.

On the afternoon of 12 October 2019, large landholder Jorge Cassis Leiva and his employees accompanied by hired armed men proceeded to build a stones and concrete and barbed wire wall over a space under litigation known as El Plantel. This wall was going to lock inside a whole community – 50 families, who won’t be able to have any vehicles enter or leave, blocking their free movement. The families went to break the wall knowing they would be attacked for doing that but also knowing that they had no choice as being locked in was not an option. There was police there but they knew the police would just watch Cassis’s men attack the families, that if police does anything, it would be to join in the attack against the families. The tension was sustained, the day after, on 13 October 2019, police gangs went around the Playa Blanca community in Zacate Grande looking for campesino men and women. Police and Cassis’s guards harassed Adepza (territorial struggle organisation) member Darwin Aguila. Cassis’s guards also give death threats to women compas who defend their territory in Zacate Grande. Gunshot in the air, likely shot by landholders’ employees, were heard on the night of 16 October 2019 in the Playa Blanca community. Gunshots again were fired on 18 October 2019, as Cassis’s guards showed rage at seeing the wall broken. The guards threatened with more capture orders against any new leaders, and took photos of all the people. Confrontation was looming. Despite the threats and tension, the people of this community remain firmly in struggle as they are disposed to die defending their territory.

Garifuna kindy teacher and black fraternal organisation member killed

On 12 October 2019 in the afternoon, María Digna Montero, well loved Garífuna kindergarten teacher and a member of Garífuna Honduran black fraternal organisation Ofraneh and of its working group of intercultural bilingual education, was at her home in her backyard when unidentified attackers broke in and fired several gunshots at her there, assassinating her, and then fleeing.

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Campesinos of Siguatepeque who grow food oppressed by police and courts

On 12 October 2019, in El Porvenir, Siguatepeque, campesino Héctor Orlando Velásquez of the campesina base/cooperative 11 de marzo was at home when cops arrived, searched his car, and showed him a capture order with charges for being part of a land recuperation process in conflict with supposed landholder Marco Antonio Valerio Barahona. The police proceeded to arrest Héctor. Cofadeh human rights organisation went to visit him at the police cells, and it was the next day when he had hearing in court. The hearing was initially programmed for 9am, but got postponed to 1pm, and it was actually 2pm when he finally went to hearing. Bail was granted with the advocacy of Cofadeh, but there was paperwork to do and it was 4pm when he was reunited with his family and land recuperation compas outside. He is one of several charged – his compas Vicente, Juan and Santos were arrested and imprisoned for 6 days back in March 2019 and continue to have charges hanging over them, having also charges of turning forest land. ‘The regime treat us campesinos with hatred, like we aren’t humans’, Héctor said, ‘we simply dream of a world where we can live, harvest, and have no fear.’ The initial hearing for all four are on 23 October 2019.

At the initial court hearing on that date of the four (23 October 2019), they were accompanied by compas of the La Paz human rights network who had travelled to be there. The case against Héctor Velásquez was dismissed – Cofadeh proved that Héctor did not usurp land, but at this point, the charges against Vicente, Juan, and Santos all continue. Héctor said he is hopeful that his case being dismissed is a step towards the dismissal of the cases against all his compas as well. What are the stories of these compas? There is Vicente Castro, aged 60, the president of 11 de marzo, who smiled, with his unbreakable spirit, as he spoke of the oppressive bail conditions against them, of the expense of travelling to the Siguatepeque court to sign the book every week, and of not being able to work the field – effectively forcing his resignation as the cooperative’s president, and from going there to grow food. Vicente is worried about the self-proclaimed owner appearing again with machinery to destroy their crops – he did that in October 2017. There is Santos Vásquez, aged 49, who was arrested while helping a friend to sow and grow food. And there is Juan Mejía Euceda, aged 61, who was actually locked up for 9 days. It has been hard for him travelling to court every Friday, as well as paying the fare, he loses a day of work – he would normally earn $6 on this day. Juan expressed frustration especially at being prohibited from approaching the land where he had been growing food for over 15 years.

Libre politician assassinated

On 16 October 2019, politician of opposition party Libre, and previously of Liberal Party, Rigoberto Turcios Ayala, known affectionately as ‘the countryman’, was assassinated. Police taped off the crime scene quickly. People don’t who who the killer is or where they went. Rigoberto’s family was not around when he was killed, and aren’t allowed to see his body until the authorities are done investigating.

An attack against a journalist’s family, and police intimidation against another media

18 October was a day of attacks against journalists.

Journalist Jairo López and his partner and her small daughter of Choluteca, had to leave their life and abandon their home in Choluteca because of intense persecution including illegal arrests, death threats, physical attacks and confiscation of his vehicle by police, and being fired from a media he worked for because of orders from politicians and the business sector. But, on 18 October 2019, Jairo and his partner had to go to Choluteca because his partner had to apply for a licence for her work, having lost her job and is not earning a salary because of being forcefully displaced. It was lucky that they decided not to sleep in the home they abandoned on this visit, because that night, in the dark of the night, their home was raided and trashed, things inside were turned upside down – drawers pulled out, things threw all over the place, the stove pulled out, and toilet paper thrown around everywhere. One can only imagine what may have happened to them had they been home – the raid would have been timed knowing they were in town.

In Tegucigalpa, at dinnertime, two police trucks with about eleven cops with helmets and shields on stationed in front of Radio Globo in intimidation while journalists were working and transmitting inside.

18 October 2019 was also a date of major protests nationally because the regime president JOH’s brother Tony Hernández – also then parliamentarian – was declared guilty in New York as a drug trafficker and assassin

There are many ways this fact of Tony Hernández (Juan Antonio Hernández aka TH) as the head of a drug trafficking cartel played out. TH, who made deals and orders to kill, as brother of JOH (Juan Orlando Hernández), as a parliamentarian. TH had control over who was in government – some of the drug money went to the election campaign and into imposing the electoral fraude. Also, the state security forces protected him and were under his command. Also, he ordered his hitmen who killed people who knew things, people he didn’t like, people who threatened the drug movement business, and people who annoyed himself as a politician and his brother JOH too. From the New York hearings (2-18 October 2019) and through press investigations and anonymous and exclusive interviews from the last two years, it came to light that TH headed Los Cachiros, a cartel responsible for 78 assassinations including some journalists. One of the journalists sprayed with AK47 bullets was Nahúm Palacios, two days after he sought protection after having received death threats in March 2010. A director of a local news channel, Nahúm was just 34, he was publicly opposed to the military coup, spoke up about campesino land rights in Bajo Aguán, and about organised crime in the region. It’s for his critical work for which he received threats. Another victim whose death was ordered by Los Cachiros – was journalist Aníbal Barrow, who was kidnapped and killed very brutally with gunshot and then cut up and fed to crocodiles by Los Gordos – the remains of Aníbal’s body were found by a lake 16 days after he was kidnapped. The last person he had spoken to before being kidnapped was another journalist who was affiliated with Los Cachiros. Someone who worked as a hitman of Los Cachiros, who lives a fugitive and disappeared person, revealed anonymously that his boss was a powerful parliamentarian who was well known and charismatic, but who would when he disliked or was annoyed by someone, would smile a certain way with his lips as he gave an order to kill. He also explained how TH controlled the courts so those guilty are ruled innocent and vice versa, an innocent person might collaborate to do prison time to receive money for their family, only to be killed when they finishes the prison term because of what they knew. He explained how it worked. His boss held parties to which he invited only people who had some association with the organisation – there were often some very popular journalists who went there, journalists who collaborated and found out information about other journalists and passed the information back onto the cartel; this is what happened with Aníbal. Evangelical pastors also went to the party, some benefited from the drug trafficking knowingly, but there was one case of two pastors who didn’t know. Sometimes people involved want to leave, but because of what they know, there are orders to kill them. Some tried to bribe or blackmail TH, and get killed for trying. Some others get killed have nothing to do with anything, killing them being a strategy to divert the attention from something else happening at the time. Other gangs asked Los Cachiros for help in covering up the murder of Villatoro, and Los Cachiros helped distort the case using bribes and threats to the police – the police chose the bribes over the threats. There are many other stories and testimonies about TH’s drug trafficking, the above is just to touch the surface.

In this context, the police and the media pledged their alliance to the state, to continuing as before – attacking social and political opposition. As people mobilised these days, the police and military threatened to hurt those who critique them, and ‘restore order and peace’. The churches and medias (maybe some of the same ones who go to the Cachiros parties) repeat their lines too about not disturbing social peace, showing they are on the side of upholding status quo. People on the streets, and there are many, on the other hand, say, enough is enough. JOH needs to get out. The cartel needs to get out of the administration. Corruption – finance sector, speculators, money launderers – needs to end. As do the handing over of Honduran territories to transnational companies and extractive industries. All these elements that keep making poor people poorer and precarious to violence as well.

The rage is organised. There were national strikes and barricades all over with countless tyres on fire. In Francisco Morazán, barricades were presente in Santa Lucia and Tegucigalpa at about twenty different strategic points around different neighbourhoods. There were also strategic points at sometimes different sites in the provinces of Comayagua, Olancho, Santa Barbara, Copán, Cortes, Yoro, Atlántida, Colon, Valle, Intibucá, La Paz, Choluteca.

On this day, we know of reports of police and military repression in Tegucigalpa, and the compa Luí Fer was arrested and locked up in the 5th police station.

Get out JOH! Ongoing protests and gases and arrests

The next days there were in different places and different times of the day, a lot of protests in caravans, barricades, street mobilisations against the dictatorship.

There was also repression.

On 20 October 2019, in La Masica, police and soldiers intimidated and arrested young people.

On 21 and 21 October, as well as general mobilisations, nurses and assistant nurses of Ocotepeque gathered in assembly organising about the lack of supplies and staffing to attend to patients – so severe that patients only receive attention in emergency and critical wards, and the transport workers in the meantime decided to barricade the Panamerican Highway in Valle. On these days, people saw the streets heavily militarised. Lots commented that under the Honduran soldier uniform, there were also Colombian, Israeli and US paramilitaries. The soldiers used chemical weapons. A young student learning to be a teacher at UPNFM (teachers’ university) was arrested at the mobilisation there on 21 October, his name is Douglas Esaú Ramírez. He was locked up at El Manchén police station and Cofadeh human rights organisation went to check up on him and saw that he had been beaten up by police, with lots of marks on his body from the beatings.

On 24 October 2019, there was a gigantic and strong mobilisation demanding JOH to get out in Tegucigalpa at the UPNFM. Not far into the march, the police and tigres closed off the road of the protest route, but people were determined and made it through much more slowly using the footpaths on the sides of the road – only when all the people had gotten through did the police cordon dismantle and move on. A short while after, police began to attack the protest with teargas bombs. People refused to be dispersed and some regrouped to the meeting points and others had gotten trapped in the teargas and sought refuge in a nearby shopping centre, as cops continued launching the teargas bombs without caring what or who they would hit, launching including into a full parking lot. The protest went onto a roundabout near the teachers’ pension building INPREMA, where police again proceeded to attack and had the reinforcement of several police patrols, who chased protesters – mostly young protesters – who fled that area and moved onto occupying the La Hacienda bulevar and then the Villa Olimpica Stadium, continuing strong – it was around there that 18 years old Nahúm Flores was seeking refuge in a shop and police violently captured him and forced him onto a police patrol where he was then locked up in the Kennedy police station. The protests went onto the outside of the UNAH campus, and then inside, where the police again attacked these firing gases inside the campus. So despite attacks, the mobilisation went on for many hours. Nahúm was released hours after his arrest.

On 25 October 2019, in Tela, from Bo. El Retiro, this message came out: ‘They are shooting at us, they are soldiers, they are shooting to kill!’ in the context of continuing protests.

31 October 2019 was also another day of national protest, with mobilisation on campuses and highways, telling JOH to get out.

Campesinos in La Paz in court limbo and in grief

In Tutule, La Paz, it was going to be the final day of initial hearings for Carlos López Cálix of ‘9 de julio’ campesino cooperative. The hearing was, however, suspended to continue on 5 November 2019 because the witnesses of the prosecution did not show up. His family is under a lot of anxiety, worrying that they could imprison him, because it had already happened before, he was locked up in 2017 for almost four months, under charges of usurpation. The charges date back to July 2010, when 9 families began a land recuperation process to grow food for their families, and the charges were placed again all the members, who were mostly given bail except for the time Carlos and a compa Samuel Edgardo López Martínez were locked up in 2017 for almost four months. Being in court makes Carlos think of Samuel. Samuel died under misterious circumstances on 18 February 2018. Carlos knew that if Samuel were still alive, he would be in the courtroom with him, as he was before; in the courtroom and in the prison. Samuel’s mother also cried, knowing he would have been there. The land was under dispute with Carlos Arriaga since 2010, and Arriaga had sold the land to the state agrarian department INA in 2017. The cooperative wishes to pay INA the amount it paid to Arriaga, in exchange for the land title, but everything, all their lives, remain in the air.

Teacher leader kidnapped and left for dead

On 28 October 2019, a Monday, 54 years old teacher and lifelong union organiser Jaime Rodríguez left his spouse Martha and home in the morning on a bus to run some errands. That afternoon, Jaime was kidnapped and forced into a vehicle – his kidnappers blindfolded and tied him up and tortured him with ice and bashed him that whole night. The next day, on the Tuesday, at 5pm, a group of unionised lecturers of the university for teachers (Colpedagogosh) held a demo about Jaime’s disappearance, demanding that his kidnappers released him alive. That Tuesday, at 6pm, Jaime´s kidnappers took him from the place where he was tortured, to a river, where they cut him in the neck and threw him into the river, believing he would have died. Jaime used his survival instinct by lowering his head and pressing his beard strongly against his chest as they cut his throat to minimise the injury. Thrown away in the river and throat slit, local people saw him and rescued him from that river, which was near Herrera park. The local people thought he looked like a beggar. At the same time, his spouse Martha had been running around trying to look for him at the police stations and morgues and at the teachers’ organisation COPEMH office, and had with Cofadeh human rights organisation sought for the police to carry out a search for Jaime – the police response was, ‘we will do it tomorrow’. Unwilling to sit and wait when every hour can make the difference between life and death, Cofadeh began just after 7pm to retrace his steps and undertook to search for him at Parque Herrera and talk to people around there, while Martha was on her way to the Cofadeh office. It was in that moment that Jaime could use the phone of one of the people who rescued him to call Martha, at almost 8pm, when Martha happened to be nearby and was able to find him within two minutes and rushed him to hospital where he was immediately attended to and kept under medical observation. At these moments in hospital and for a while after, Jaime was unable to talk – any speaking could damage his vocal chords in those moments – he did say a line on video however when interviewed by the press – ‘nor a step back’, – to keep fighting. When he was discharged, he left in a wheelchair, and got into a vehicle to go home accompanied by a police patrol – the family said, no, we don’t want police escort, but the police agent said there was no choice, that he had orders from higher up and had to comply. It is clear that death squads and the state were involved and were trying to make it look like it wasn’t them. Finally at home, Jaime had to rest, and take time to heal from the physical and emotional trauma. He had been constantly politically persecuted and had spoken up publicly about being in fear for his life, having always fiercely opposed the JOH and prior coup regimes, and led teachers struggle and had shown himself to be unbendable. A friend and compa of his told the story of how he saw ‘Jaimito’ really angry once, ‘get out of my office, now!!’ his friend hear him tell someone who came to see him. So this friend was surprised as it was out of character, and asked, ‘what happened?’. ‘Look compa, this compa wants to bribe me! This guy told me he is establishing a cooperative in the Centro America shopping centre, to offer personal loans to teachers since we are all fucked with the coup mongers, but that I were to facilitate him access to the teachers’ contacts and that the profits would be split in 3 parts, one part for him who came up with the idea and for other leaders who are already on this game, another part for administration and the employees of his cooperative, and a third part were to be more or less 50,000 lempiras for me.’ So the friend joked and said, ‘oh I understand Jaimito, it was too little cash that this idiot was giving and you were angry because of this, right?’ Jaime gave his friend an angry stare for a few seconds and said, ‘look compa, don’t fuck with me, don’t make me unleash that guy in me again. Best we smoke a cigarrette to calm me down’ they left laughing and smoking.’ Jaime has always been tireless and firm in the struggle. The dictatorship also fired him as a teacher to try to get rid of him.

From the protests of high school students against the dictatorship, two students have been kidnapped and one of these confirmed dead two days later, and another 15 years old was bashed and arrested by police

On 29 October 2019, at 2pm, as high school students of Luís Bogran Technical Institute led protests against the dictatorship, 18 years old Oscar Daniel Mencía Cantarero, in his school uniform – green pants, white shirt and black shoes, was kidnapped by hooded people who dragged him and one other student away. His fellow students demanded that he be freed alive. Relatives looked everywhere for him – police stations, hospitals, the morgue, but had no luck. On 31 October 2019, however, it was confirmed that Oscar had been assassinated, a young person of the struggle, a promise, of many, of the country. His face from when he was alive is shared around as they keep their memories of him alive.

Also on 29 October 2019, from the protest at the Jesús Milla Selva Institute, police arested and bashed up 15 years old high school student Génesis Torres, charged her with ‘attempt’, and locked her up in ‘Core 7’ police cell.

One uni student attacked by state forces and terrorised, another had the charges against him dismissed after two years

In El Progreso, Yoro, people protested on campus on 9 October 2019 demanding for JOH to get out. There, the Tigres squad got agitated and attacked a student who had several times before been beaten by police in protests – Saraí Rodríguez, now aged 23, but this attack was worse. It was worse because Saraí faced a squad of about 80 Tigres agents, and one of them grabbed her by the neck and pushed her face down onto the ground above a teargas bomb. Even the head of the Tigres himself ordered the squad to stop pushing her. Saraí was in a protest again hours later when she noticed a man who she knew was not part of the social struggle, who was there watching and profiling protesters. Saraí went home then for safety, but she found out from others after that an unidentified person was asking for her by name at the protest, and went back to the direction he entered the scene from when he couldn’t find and isolate her. Saraí believes firmly in the importance of fighting in the streets and not being scared of the government, to break down the dictatorship. She does not believe in political parties, which don’t produce governments that serve their peoples. She is thinking about the future generations as she struggles. From the protests there this day, another was wounded by being hit by a teargas bomb and needed medical attention.

On 25 October 2019, UNAH student Kenny Reyes who was charged in September 2017 together with 33 other students and a human rights defender, finally had the charges against him for protesting dismissed.

Obligatory military service’s return looms

Back in May 1994, a broad social movement and a 14 days hunger strike struggled and won the abolition of obligatory military service. In October 2019, nationalist parliamentarian Chávez Madison was pushing to bring it back. Some of the social leaders who worked hard to organise the struggle against obligatory military service from 1994 came back together to speak up against this now. There are already too many soldiers even without conscription, with 20,000 just in the army, not counting military police and other repressive forces.

Miskita indigenous leader and spouse who is teacher murdered by hitmen

On 31 October 2019, in Puerto Lempira, Gracias a Dios, hitmen on a motorcycle ambushed and fired gunshots at a couple in a car, killing both. The couple are indigenous Miskita community media journalist and human rights defender and leader of opposition political party Libre and president of Puerto Lempira community council, Buenaventura Calderón aged 73, and his spouse, a teacher, Maribel Bolian, aged 38. Buenaventura died immediately, and Maribel was taken to hospital and died there. Buenaventura was someone who loved the land, territory and his mother tongue Miskita, and was involved years before in the reconstruction of the history and memory of the disappeared people in collaboration with Cofadeh human rights organisation. He had spoken up about death threats against his life many times.

Buenaventura y Maribel

One more Guapinol community member who opposed Mining company Inversiones Los Pinares arrested

On 1 Ocotber 2019, police and military who guard the buildings of mining company Inversiones Los Pinares arrested Osmin de la O Cedillo of the Guapinol community when he was crossing the road. This is in the context of there being eight environmental defenders held as political prisoners for resisting against the imposition of Inversiones Los Pinares since 26 August 2019.

Other news from October 2019

  • In the context where if there were consciousness in the leadership in army ranks particularly, they could take action to oppose the JOH regime, with the released news of TH being convicted for drug trafficking. JOH ordered the firing of 11 coronels of the armed forces, perhaps this is him not taking any chances.
  • One of many Honduran migrants, Exon David Berrios of Guadalupe, Trujillo (Bajo Aguán), was trying to migrate when in the journey, he was beaten up by Mexican police and gravely hurt.
  • A report showed that Honduras has the highest index of deaths by Dengue in Central America, with at least 144 deaths to 1 October 2019, mostly young children.

September 2019 Honduras coup update

September 2019 Honduras Coup Update

Attacks against those who defend public health and education and called for JOH to get out

On 1 September 2019, in San Juan Pueblo, Luís Alonson Marqués, a youth who pushes a cart and sells icecreams, and who participated in the last protests of the health and education sectors, was kidnapped at 1pm this day. Luís has a life partner with whom he had procreated a son. No further news is known following the kidnap.

On 5, 6, and 7 September 2019, high school students of ICVC (Instituto Central Vicente Cáceres) were occupying a major road demanding JOH’s exit, a truck was also parked across the road barricading it. The students were heavily repressed by the military police with teargas bombs.

15 September is a date when the ‘independence’ of Honduras is celebrated, with marching bands of high schools, so it is a major date of protest, involving largely students, with the message of ‘what independence?’. As the state expected rebellion, it published a Ministerial Agreement (no. 0754-SE-2019) less than a month before on 16 August 2019 establishing sanctions for those who on this date carry signs, clothing, banners, accessories and other manifestations that exhibit political content differing from the theme of the official national parade.’ Threats were repeated on 11 September 2019 to punish any teachers and students who repeat the line ‘Get out JOH’ or sing songs of the same message. Teachers were threatened with having their pay deducted if they protest, despite that this year 15 September is on a Sunday and as such is not a workday for teachers.

On that 15 September 2019, the threats did not prevent protests, and there were students protesting and calling for JOH to get out at the San Pedro Sula Stadium where the official parade was, and in many other places including in Tegucigalpa and Choluteca. All protests were repressed by police. In Tegucigalpa, several were wounded by the police and military repression, including three journalists who were there covering the protests; photojournalist and human rights defender Cesar Fuentes was hit in the forehead by a teargas bomb launched by state security agents. There was overall a lot of teargas filling the air of Tegucigalpa and some young people ran to the Cofadeh human rights office to seek help and refuge. Meanwhile, in Choluteca, teacher and human rights defender Mabel Carolina López was participating in the protests, holding a sign that said ‘get out JOH’ – with the alphabets in many colours and the sign full of cute drawings and details like in children’s books. Mabel held that sign at the main entrance of the school, in front of a police cordon and a police tank, and behind a group of teachers. Then, another line of police and soldiers moved directly towards Mabel, and they shot her from behind, hitting her in the right leg. Mabel was taken to hospital where she was treated by a surgeon who confirmed that no fragments of bullets were left in her body, and who kept her under observation in hospital with antibiotics and painkillers to prevent any infections. In addition to attacking Mabel, the police and soldiers also attacked the teachers Ingrid Prince and Ingrid Sierra. The teachers protested despite threats of economic sanctions from the JOH regime. As for Mabel, it was not the first time she has been tortured by the state, back on 12 August 2009, she was tortured with 24 others, for protesting the coup.

In Chinacla, La Paz, a group of high school students of Instituto General Francisco Morazán barricaded and occupied the school protesting the return of Esli Ramírez Romero as their school principal. This school principal had been authoritarian and made changes without consulting students like changing the class hours from 8am-1pm to 7am-12noon when some students cannot arrive at 7am – instead of realising that imposing the change was wrong, she locked the school gates after 7am and anyone who arrived late were punished with having to clean the school buildings instead of receiving classes. She also forced haircuts on the young people, threatened to not graduate students, swapped the high school and primary school buildings and simply never listened to students and parents. So students protest, enough is enough.

Attacks against environmentalists who defend the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers

On 1 September 2019, seven arrested environmentalists of Guapinol whose campaigns are in confrontation with the Inversiones Los Pinares company of the couple Lenir Pérez and Ana Facussé (the daughter of the now dead infamous murderer and millionaire of the palm industry, Miguel Facussé), were refused bail and sent to Tamara prison. The arrestees’ names are: Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, José Abelino Cedillo, Kelvin Alejandro Romero, Arnold Javier Alemán, Ever Alexander Cedillo, Orbin Nahún Hernández and Daniel Márquez.

On 2 September 2019, judge Lisseth Vallecillo ordered for the seven defenders to be transferred to Olanchito prison. On 6 September 2019, just hours after the seven’s lawyer had put in an appeal against the decision to deny them bail, and just as the seven were about to be transferred, they were told a Coronel had just called ordering for them to be taken to La Tolva maximum security prison instead where they had kept recent and current political prisoners, in atrocious conditions. Before their transfer, other prisoners gave them shirts, but as they were being taken, the guards removed their shirts and confiscated other personal hygiene items, belongings and money

On 9 September 2019, from 8am hundreds of community members of the Guapinol and surrounding communities barricaded the access road of the Pinares mining project in the Cayo Campo community, demanding the release of the seven defenders of Guapinol and San Pedro rivers, as well as for the cancellation of the mining project. There was a lot of police and people feared the possible violent eviction. And on 18 September 2019, over 200 national, regional and international organisations signed a letter condemning the state for imprisoning the seven political prisoners of Guapinol.

Repression against La Tigra environmental and community defenders who say no to the imposition of a massive luxury housing project

On 2 September 2019, communities barricading the road to the La Tigra National Park Site and defending the forest and water were repressed with teargases.

On 7 September 2019, communities used rocks, pieces of wood, and anything else they could find to blockade the roads to the La Tigra National Park at El Hatillo. They know rich people want to live there because it’s one of the last places in the city where the water is not running out yet. The rich want to privatise the water for themselves at the expense of many others. Meanwhile, the Honduran government was issuing emergency drought alerts.

On 9 September 2019, with rocks and tyres on fire and lots of people, barricades of all entrances to La Tigra reserve and national park, at Chimbo, Hatillo and the exit to Olancho started at 4am and continued into the night, despite repeated repression and militarisation by police full of riot gear to evict the communities. The resistance only got stronger and more determined to stay and struggle with each attack. One of the banners said, ‘if you drink water, have conscience.’ Police attacked with massive amounts of teargases – hundreds of teargas cannisters were seen at El Chimbo alone – and toxic water tanks, launching of stones, and even with gunshots after the other forms of attack at the El Hatillo and exit for Olancho sites. The police gunshots were captured on video by La Tribuna TV, while police spokesperson Jair Meza denied it, saying, no, we didn’t use guns. The denial was particularly curious given protesters, including a woman and at least one uni student in the protests who were in the protest, were gunshot wounded this day. The student of UNAH was gravely wounded and hospitalised in HEU. Another student was accompanied by Cofadeh human rights organisation, having fainted after taking beatings in the face by the police – this student could not record what happened to them that afternoon. Others were hurt from teargases and stones of the police. Others still were arrested, like 34 year old Raúl Humberto Varela Ortiz was was taken to the Comayaguela 4th police station, having been arrested at the exit to Olancho in the repression, when he and others passing through were arrested – he was on his way to sell loads of beans. Cofadeh pressured for and achieved his release

After the protests that day, the mayor and project developers announced the suspension of the project. The communities knew better and said, no, they are demanding the complete cancellation of the project, not just its suspension, and that areas already logged had to be reforested. And, ‘we need more water, not less.’ – the communities have been putting to the government for three decades now that they need more water supply dams for the city, and for creeks to be reforested. Instead of addressing the issue of the lack of water, the government is prohibiting ‘excessive uses of water’ of residents (not of industries) – against people who never have access to enough water for bathing, cooking, washing, housecleaning and drinking. Meanwhile, the government uses massive amounts of water in its watertanks to evict communities that protest the whole situation. The communities reiterate their demands, to respect land possession of villagers, to abolish the existing laws and agreements that give ways to logging, privatising waters and handing over the power over the management of the territories, and instead ensure territories and water solutions are community controlled.

On 12 September 2019, environmental minister Jose Antonio Galdames was punished for having announced and given instructions for the cancellation of the Bosques de Santa María elites’ housing project involving 1886 luxury apartments, 29 shopping centres, a mountain hotel, a church, a private school, a lake for recreational aquatic activities, a horse riding club and highways, – he was fired from his position, ‘you won’t be a minister anymore,’ he was told, ‘you will instead head the office that will coordinate the green climate fund,’ a project that involves milking millions from the UN for greenwashing projects. It’s not that he was a good minister and did a good thing, but he didn’t have a choice – he granted the environmental licence for the environmentally destructive project back in 2016, and with the current protests, he felt the pressure and knew he would be charged. He couldn’t please everyone though, with the president of the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce Guy de Pierrefeu, and ex presidential candidate and current Liberal Party MP Elvin Santos who owns building company Santos y Compañia, and others pushing for the Bosques de Santa María project. For the project to go ahead would severely intensify the water and drought crisis that is already very much there. Government aerial photos show that the Laureles dam is only 32% filled and the La Concepcion 18% and both were expected to run out shortly should the lack of rain continue, and continued logging threatens to further intensify this crisis.

On 17 September 2019, there were barricades again from 4am in the three entrances of La Tigra National Park, and a grassroots assembly of the communities was held at El Hatillo football field at 10am that day. At first, it seemed that because the Mayor was present giving a speech that the police refrained from using teargases while the speeches lasted. Instead, police was arresting people and fired some gunshots, to not affect the air that the mayor breathes. That morning, in Cofradía, police’s live bullets grazed Victor Zuniga in the right shoulder – others from the protest gave him first aid, and it was confirmed hours later that Victor’s life was no longer in danger. No details are known of the arrestees from that morning. Police also launched stones. In the afternoon, Jhostin Padilla, aged 21, was in the protests when police gunshot wounded him in the pelvis and he was operated on. Jhostin’s grandma Maria, aged 62, was in shock, sitting at the footpath of the hospital entrance waiting for the operation to be over, to know if Jhostin was going to be okay. Police also chased people, and at 2pm that day arrested Adan Ramos, José Ramírez and Renán Ortega, who were told they would be held for six hours for investigation and then released, unless the police were to press charges. The repression was intense, but like on 9 September 2019, the communities did not disperse despite the arrests and gunshots.

On 23 September 2019, the government published a law in the Gazette, declaring environmental licence permissions as ‘reserved information’, to facilitate more hiding of information about deforestation, etc.

Garífuna leader assassinated

On 9 September 2019, in Masca, Omoa, Cortés, Mirna Teresa Suazo was in her restaurant when two hitmen on a motorcycle swung by and fired gunshots at and killed Mirna. Mirna was a Garífuna leader and community council president of Masca. She fought hard particularly for the care and cleanliness of the beach there. There had been a number of unusual assassinations against members of Garífuna communities in the last weeks then – many of which are related to land ownership and management while others are to do with organised crime. In this case, Masca is next to Cuyamel, an area where model cities are being pushed for and there are pressures to hand over territory possession. The Masca community had also managed to prevent hydroelectricity dams from being built there several times.

Mirna Suazo.jpg

Eviction, charges, disappearance and assassination against indigenous Tolupan defenders

On 9 September 2019, in Yoro, indigenous Tolupán defenders were at a camp they set up to defend forest and territory from logging companies when they were evicted by the logging companies’ heavy machinery and also attacked by a group of people with machetes and sticks.

On 12 September 2019, whilst Tolupán indigenous defenders had placed over 30 charges against INMARE logging company and never see any actions by the courts, the INMARE owner Wilder Domínguez who wants to put the indigenous defenders in prison to be able to log and deforest ‘in peace’ got the court to summon the defenders to a hearing within 24 hours of the charges being placed. 9 indigenous defenders were charged, their lawyer obtained bail for these.

Indigenous Tolupán leader of the Locomapa community, Milgen Idan Soto Avila, aged 29, was last seen on 23 September, as he said goodbye to his family and was on his way back to the Tolupán Camp of Dignity to Defend Tolupán Forest and Territory. Milgen was one of the 9 defenders charged by INMARE and a council of sold-out indigenous leaders. His friends, family and compas have been worried that he may have been killed since his disappearance, particularly since Milgen had spoken up about death threats against him for being in the social struggle and defending forest and territory, from leaders of the sold-out council. On 27 September 2019, people knew a body was buried clandestinely and were worried it was Milgen, but continued to search for him, hoping to find him alive. On 28 September 2019, people found his belongings, and 20 hours after, had confirmed that the body buried in the site where INMARE company was logging until 23 September 2019 was the body of Milgen Idán Soto Avila. At the time of his assassination, Milgen had spent 23 days at the camp (the camp itself had been going for 700 days), where he facilitated workshops and discussion for others from the tribe – he was coming back from a short visit to his family. There had been around 20 assassinations against Tolupán members of the Locomapa community who fought against logging within the last years – some of these relatives of Milgen’s – eg Salomón Matute and Juan Matute killed in February 2019, and Milgen always spoke up against these assassinations and the impunity. Milgen also took on the work of providing security for Ramón Matute, the coordinator of their tribe with the MADJ organisation, and had been part of the education and assembly processes for a long time. Despite living in a very impoverished and forgotten area, being of this Tolupán tribe, in his short life, Milgen had learned to play the guitar and spoke a little English and was able to have conversations with English speaking visitors who have come to visit the tribe.

Just one day after confirming that Milgen was assassinated, in the El Portillo community in Las Vegas, Victoría, Yoro, at about 6pm on 29 September 2019, hooded and persons armed with guns fired shots at and killed Tolupán leader of the Las Vegas de Tepemechin tribe, Adolfo Redondo, who is also a Tolupán territory defender. Adolfo is from a region that has no electricity nor internet.

Adolfo Redondo.jpg

Rio Blanco – yet another attempt against the life of an indigenous leader there

On 28 September 2019, in the Rio Blanco community, Rosalina Domínguez and others were working at La Vega del Culatón – ancestral Lenca land where they grow food, but where the DESA hydroelectricity company wishes to possess, when Donato Madrid arrived to harass and threaten everyone working there. The Madrid family has a history of attacking the community farming this land, and also for involvement in the assassination of Berta Caceres. Rosalina approached Donato and told him he had to leave and to stop harassing people who were working there. Donato’s response was grabbing the collar of Rosalina’s shirt and then trying to hit her with the machete at her neck – he was clearly trying to kill her. Rosalina managed to defend herself and community members managed to remove him from the land they were working on. The Madrid family walks around in complete impunity in relation to Berta’s murder too. Rosalina is okay but her life is at risk. Solidarity needed from everywhere. Do speak up about the attacks against the compas of Rio Blanco.

A repeat arrest, ten years later

Emerson Martínez is 32. In Siguatepeque city n 20 September2019, Emerson went to the police station to report that his ID documents had been stolen from him, and instead of attending to this, the police arrested Emerson telling him that he had a capture order from the beginning of the military coup, back in 2009, with charges of terrorism, illicit association and fabrication of war materials against the Micheletti regime. Emerson had no idea that all these years there was a capture order there. He was under police custody and was taken to Tegucigalpa – which is normally a two hours drive, but the police took him on a detour via different police stations and loading him in different police pick-up trucks including one that went on a delivery round to distribute food to different police on duty, and this journey stretched out to being 7 hours long – made even longer by the fact that police bullied and made fun of him the whole time and called him names, joking that they should be careful because he could throw a bomb at them. In Tegucigalpa, he was imprisoned in the Comayaguela court cells, where when he was 22, he was captured, imprisoned and tortured, and Cofadeh human rights organisation pressured for and achieved his release as he was gravely beaten up back then. Being held overnight in the same space forced him to relive all this. The next day Cofadeh obtained bail for him in court, with the next hearing date being 24 September 2019. During these few days, Emerson was very worried about what would happen to his family if he goes to prison. He stayed in Tegucigalpa in this time instead of going back to Siguatepeque and then back to Tegucigalpa for court, probably because he could not afford this transport expense. What’s more, the police that had custody of him told him he was headed for La Tolva maximum security prison. On 24 September, the court ruled in his favor and dismissed the case.

Journalist almost kidnapped at gunpoint

On 26 September 2019, journalist Sandra Maribel Sánchez was on foot arriving to her home when someone who had the build of a soldier got off a motorcycle without a numberplate and pulled out a 9mm gun, pointed it at her and told her to get into a car there – it was sheer luck that another car was driving by very slowly, and the attacker thought it must have been someone who knew Sandra, and he left without her. Sandra Maribel is persecuted – by threats and charges, for speaking up as a journalist against corruption and abuses and plunder facilitated by the government She runs a radio program called 2 more than 1 on Radio Progreso.

Arrest in Zacate Grande, against a very persecuted family of the territorial struggle

On 22 September 2019 at 3.30pm, Maria Hernández, aged 52, was near her home in Playa Blanca, Zacate Grande, when investigative police intercepted her and arrested her on charges of usurpation, and held her in the Amapala court cell overnight without having at this stage told her why she was arrested. Maria was given bail the next day with bail conditions of traveling to sign at the San Lorenzo court every fortnight (a very costly obligation), to not leave Honduras, and to not communicate with the landowner Jorge Luís Cassis, who pressed the charges against her. Hearing will start on 9 October 2019. Maria was very touched by the solidarity of all the compas who had travelled to accompany her and pressure for her release. Maria’s partner is Santos Hernández, who had been imprisoned by similar charges from Jorge Luís Cassis from back in 2015, and who is also currently dealing with usurpation charges from Heriberto Cruz. Maria was worried about what could happen to her 8 year old son who was with her at the time of her arrest and was with her partner/his dad when she was under custody. Cassis’s employee has also physically attacked Santos, back in February, to the point of him being hospitalised with wounds in the head and legs.

Progelsa dam company continues to charge villagers of Reitoca while also trying to poison the whole village

The Reitoca Lenca indigenous community is struggling against the imposition of a hydroelectricity dam project by the Progelsa company. On 24 September 2019, members of the Reitoca Lenca Indigenous Council, Wilmer and Orlando, had their preliminary hearing, having charges from the company. There was a demo outside the courts in solidarity. And on 29 September 2019, villagers who struggle against the dam project sensed a strange smell in the water in the river, and decided to walk around to see if they can see what had happened, and found a bottle of herbicide by the shore of the river. The Reitoca villagers were shocked that someone of Progelsa had tried to poison them by contaminating their drinking water in this way – some 150 people of 35 families drink the water from this river – Petacón, that they found to have been sprayed with herbicides.

Daughter of human rights followed in the Aguan

On 28 September 2019, the daughter of Aguan human rights defender, Irma Lemus, was going from the Trujillo bus terminal to the city centre when a stranger who was tall, white skinned, long haired followed her, abruptly asking her questions. The daughter was scared and tried to stay a while at a corner shop hoping he would leave. She then went towards the city centre and saw that he kept watching her and walking behind her, following her pace as she went quicker, slower, or stopped. Luckily, she ran into an uncle who helped her. Irma is worried for the safety of her family, especially of her daughters.

New land recuperation process of MUCA campesinos

MUCA campesino movement fought for and signed an agreement with the government for land reform in 2010 but the government had not fulfilled its promises and MUCA has no option but to undertake direct action as a result. So on 23 September, at 5.30am MUCA began land recuperation of land that has been confiscated from the Rivera Maradiaga family in Zamora, Tocoa Colon, property that is currently under the title of the Office of Confiscated Goods OABI and is being watched by military.

Girl fled from Congo only to be killed in Honduras

On 29 September 2019, a 5 year year old girl who fled with her family as a refugee from Congo and was in Honduras at the border to Nicaragua, was assassinated with machete by attackers who tried to assault her parents.

Police terrorised subsistence fisherfolk

In Mosquitia, indigenous people were fishing in the sea when about 6 police with rifles walked into the sea in their uniforms towards the fisher folk – the women and men started recording this, saying, ‘look how they are threatening people with their guns, people who are just trying to work.’