August 2018 Honduras coup update
In August 2018, it was the students in primary school, high school and university who carried on the struggle against the increase in transport costs, since they and their families are hit hard by these. Students protested demanding the return of student transport allowances and the lowering of transport fees in general. There had been at least 12 days of road blocks throughout this month by the students and as many ruthlessly brutal evictions, and at the end of August, two high school students were removed by state investigative agents from one of their homes and their bodies found on the streets near their school afterwards. At the same time, there have been lots of attacks by the state against journalists who tell news of struggle and repression and corruption, while more HCH journalists who tell news that speak of police as the good guys and protesters as inconvenient and irrational complained of being abused by protesters in different contexts of struggle and confrontation. Campesinos, environmentalist and community struggles also continue as does the repression against these.
Killings, and multiple violent evictions against students – school and university aged – in protest
On 1 August 2018, a massive repression was executed by police against students protesting at UNAH. At least three uni students were wounded, as was a human rights defender of International Ecumenical Human Rights Watch Francisco López, they were apparently wounded by ‘rubber bullets’. Students were outraged and half destroyed a bus breaking its windows with stones.
On 8 August 2018, outside UNAH near the Suyapa Boulevard where uni students were protesting, a red ford tourist van drove past firing three gunshots at students there. UNE TV was filming and on their footage, the gunshots could be heard. Six days prior, in the midst of student protests, right-wing-journalist Renato Alvarez of the Frente a Frente program of Televicentro had on his program called on state intelligence authorities to identify students and prepare charges for them, saying that the students were causing chaos.
On 16 August 2018, after the police and military repression against high school students already the day before, police again repressed and violently evicted students in three cities of Honduras. In San Pedro Sula, students of several public schools gathered for a roadblock at the toll booths and were evicted with teargas bombs. From this teargas bombs attack one of the youths told the press he was suffocating and had to go to hospital. In El Progreso, Yoro, 200 students of Perla del Ulua school occupying the highway on the Quebrada Seca Bridge were attacked by a plain clothes person who fired gunshots at these. The attacker was reportedly arrested by police after. In Tegucigalpa, students of ITH and Jesús Milla Selva schools who occupied the Boulevard Fuerzas Armadas highway were evicted by police. As the day developed and the evicted school students went on to join the protests of the uni students, the joint protest at the vehicles gate of UNAH was subsequently violently evicted.
On 22 August 2018, two students of the Central Vicente Cáceres school were protesting the raise of bus fees when police arrested and bashed both of them and took them to the Los Dolores police station at the city centre of Tegucigalpa.
On 23 August 2018, in the Kennedy neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa, police launched teargas bombs by the hundreds against primary and high school students. There were also reports of gunshots having been fired at the youths and children. Some videos of the repression by teargas bombs against the children:
On 30 August 2018, in Tegucigalpa, a major mobilisation was organised by Convergence Against Continuism (broadly against the dictatorship, called for freedom for political prisoners and also voiced the students’ demands about transport costs.) In the Kennedy neighbourhood, hours after the mobilisation had finished, the bodies of two students were found on the street near their high school (ITH) in an area known as ‘la montañita’ – the two students are Mario Enrique Suárez Gómez (19) and Gerson Daniel Meza Medina (18). Their bodies showed signs of execution, and as words went out about their assassination, images also poured out in social media of evidence that they were kidnapped from one of their homes by two government investigative agents of ATIC department – they kidnapped the pair, took them handcuffed, suffed them into a black vehicle without numberplates. Mario and Gerson wore the same clothes in which they disappeared and were handcuffed still when they were being killed. Their friends said Mario and Gerson were active in organising the student protests. ITH students protested at least 12 times blocking roads and getting evicted violently each time. After the images about ATIC came out, the government made statements saying that there have been ‘criminals’ going around ‘pretending’ to be ATIC. Mario and Gerson are not the first either, to be arrested, disappeared, and then their bodies dumped for all to see.
State persecution against communities defending their territory and environment
On 17 August 2018, four members of the Puerto Sierra Community of Playa Blanca Village around Zacate Grande had been charged by landowner Jorge Luís Casis Leiva, accused of damages. They have capture orders against them, their names are María Veneranda Cruz, Oneida Cárdenas Flores, Yésica Cruz and Jacinto Hernández Cruz. They join the long list of people in the area who have lived for generations on the beaches there and are persecuted for defending themselves from being pushed out of the area, in a struggle that started 18 years ago. Already, over 70 people have faced charges, there has been violent evictions, persecution, forced displacement, two political prisoners – Abel Pérez and Santos Hernández who have been sentenced to 5 years and a month prison terms. They are appealing the sentence. This repession is in addition to attacks against the community radio and community journalists.
On 28 August 2018, in the Florida sector in Atlántida where around 300 people gathered in assembly and road block to stop the entry of mining project machinery onto a site, two police patrols arrived, and people feared what this intimidation can mean because of history of police brutality.
Meanwhile also on 28 August 2018 in Tocoa, Colón, the city of palm plantations and farmers movement region Bajo Aguán, people have set up camp since 1 August defending the area against mining, a camp called Campamento Guapinol Por la Dignidad, in defence of water and of life, of the rivers around, including of Guapinol river and San Pedro river. The businessman Carlos Alfonso Escaleras Mejía is pushing to impose the destruction of the area for his mining venture of company Los Pinares, using mega machines and dynamites to blow up the mountain and life. A lot of damage has been done already and things will only get worse – there are pictures around showing how tap water comes out in the Guapinol community and it literally looks like a bucket of rockmelon smoothie, but it is pure contamination of industries, you would not drink it. The environmental impact will be far reaching if the company is given the space to keep going, 900,000 people of the municipality will be affected, not to speak of the rivers, wildlife, and plant life. Threats and intimidation have started against people – armed groups have arrived to threaten people at the camp – the armed groups directed a message to one comrade of Ceibita Tocoa saying they have information and lists that blames the organisations COPA (Coordinator of Grassroots Organisations of Aguan) and Fundación San Alonso Rodríguez for getting people fired up and resist – so it was a threat to say these organisations will be targetted for persecution.
On 30 August 2018, Santa Barbara region’s Copinh (indigenous organisation) coordinator Faustino Enamorado Guillén and about ten others had been captured by police this morning who raided people’s homes, workplaces, etc, having a list of people they suspect of setting the council and police building on fire in protest.
Attacks against campesinos and campesinas
On 9 August 2018, a campesino woman suffered a miscarriage, in the context of living and struggling in the 9 de julio campesina cooperative, which has suffered heavy state repression including 27 violent evictions.
On 13 August, human rights defender Irma Lemus of the Aguan Permanent Human Rights Watch has already suffered a lot of persecution and smear campaigns. The latest attacks against her had been calls from private numbers, in which someone tells her that there is ‘already a price for her head’, to please watch out and take all the necessary security measures to save her own life. Should anything happen to her, she knows that the Honduran state is behind this. Her life and Rigoberto Durán’s have been attempted against back on 29.11.15 and the medical files with evidence about this had somehow been disappeared from the San Isidro of Colón hospital. Similarly, they place complaints twice at the prosecutors’ department and not only had there been no response but their files there had also been extracted. Family members of hers have also suffered aggressions.
On 17 August 2018, in Atlántida, in the Lis Lis Salado community, at around 11pm, a compañera and regional leader of CNTC (campesinos federation) was asleep in her home when her home was set on fire, luckily she woke up in time and was able to escape through the window and be safe, in this attempt against her life and the burning of her home. The Lis Lis Salado community has an ongoing onflict with the Standard Fruit Company, along with a seven years old land title case sitting in government drawers. The community is also situated on a beautiful beach area near the border with Colón, so is also target to landgrabbing for tourism megaprojects.
On 31 August 2018, when soldiers violently evicted farmers from the San Isidro cooperative in Bajo Aguán, Colón, community journalist and campesino leader Vitalino Alvarez was filming the abuse when the soldiers got angry at him, beat him brutally and broke his camera and dispossessed his work equipment from him. They hit him in the face and other parts of the body. Vitalino was taken to a hospital centre for medical attention. Vitalino reports for local TV channel Canal 5 of Bajo Aguán and is a member and spokesperson of the campesino movement MUCA.
Attacks against Journalists
On 1 August 2018 where students’ protests were going on at UNAH, police was heavily repressing students, and cameraperson Emilio Flores and other journalists were there filming, and at around 4pm police attacked Emilio and others – Emilio tried to escape but in the process he was chased by several police who told him to hand over his camera equipment and to take off his mask which protected him from the teargases, when he refused to give in his camera the police began to hit him in the back with a baton. When police was reaching for his mask to remove it, he took advantage of that focus to break free and run away.
Minutes later, at the same protest, student journalist Kency Gissel Grandez Duron (21) was there covering the protest for Conexihon, when dozens of police attacked her. Police grabbed her and snatched and stole her mobile phone with which she was transmitting live and in that moment you could hear her saying ‘the police is attacking me, no, ayy, they are attacking me,’ and you could also hear on the live broadcast a police ordering her to take off her mask ‘take off the mask, take off this shit, take in some gas’. The police called her a daughter of a bitch and hit her in the head, kicked her, launched teargas bombs towards her and others. Kency also managed to find a hole to escape and run away to not be arrested. Police could be heard arguing and yelling at one another for having let her escape.
On 16 August 2018, in San Pedro Sula, journalist Ely Vallejo of Canal 36 Cholusat Sur Plus was covering the high school students’ protest about the increase in public transport fees, when a police woman beat them up. The police also proceeded to smash their transmission equipment. In this video he points to his red, burning and painful shoulder and face, having captured this just as they were on their way to a clinic https://www.facebook.com/Catrachos504Organizacion/videos/222408065101028/. Ely has previously been subject to police brutality and death threats and has had to flee the country to safeguard their life, in relation to their journalism work.
On 17 August 2018, journalist Jairo López informed people on his TV program ‘el informador’ about a mobilisation the day before in San Lorenzo, Valle, against the privatisation of the state port company and state electricity company, when at 4.50pm, his program was suddenly paused and blanked out, and he told by one of the channel’s executives, ‘see, you just go around flying… try to put a channel on youtube or something’. Just like that, Jairo lost his TV space, for critising Empresa Energía Honduras – a public private alliance of energy provision that began in February 2016. The same exectutive had told him before that the channel had received calls from CONATEL telecommunications comission, accusing Jairo of doing ‘hate apologism’ in his news space.
On 21 August 2018, journalist Sandra Maribel Sánchez was transmitting a program live at the Tegucigalpa Radio Progreso cabin, when within minutes after going into the topic of the privatisation of health services in conversation with the doctors association president Suyapa Figueroa, Sandra received a death threat telephone call in which she was warned that she had better stop talking about the privatisation of health services, unless she wants to end up where other ‘loud mouths’ have ended up. The call showed up as a private number and she only answered because she was expecting an overseas call.
On 22 August 2018, observers were disappointed to hear UNE TV reporting that ‘the police authorities managed to arrest four students’ because UNE TV had been the only mainstream media that has not been pro-police, pro-government. It is heard that it is getting a lot of pressure and is its strong alternative voice seems to be breaking.
On 29 August 2018, journalist Dasaev Aguilar and the cameraperson, both of Irani news chain in Honduras, Hispan TV, were filming in support, on the road outside National Defence Department building. As they were filming, a solder approached him and said it was prohibited to film because it is a private place. Dasaev replied asserting that it was a public institution and space and that he had to right to keep filming. The soldier threatened him saying, ‘it means shit all to me that you are a journalist’. This was the third incident of threat or attack from the state he had suffered this year in the course of his work as a journalist.
On the other side, pro-police pro-government anti-resistence journalists of HCH continued complaining about attacks and aggression from people who are affected, stigmatised, and appalled by their reporting. On 20 August 2018, Brenda Moncada of HCH was covering the students protests and complained that a student had thrown a stone that hit her. On 30 August 2018, Angel Sevilla of HCH was likewise reporting on the street vendors’ confrontation with the council police from the police perspective when he was chased by street vendors. He went to hide and was helped by a colleague Alex Cáceres who made a similar complaint to Brenda and Angel just the month before.
Another attack against street vendors
Elsewhere, in Siguatepeque, Comayagua on 29 August 2018, council police attacked street vendors who sold food as their livelihood. When they tried to find another spot to sell, police saw them and proceeded to evict and capture the people.
Displacement by the state
On 19 August 2018, fourteen families marked their two months anniversary of setting up make shift homes on the city street facing a government department that manages land titles, having been evicted by the state from their homes where they have lived for 58 years – where they even had land titles but these were snatched from them. On this day they also held a wake for a young woman who died amidst all that had happened.