October 2016 Honduras coup update – murders and many blatant attacks continue
Two leaders of farmers’ land occupation movement shot dead
On 18.10.16, at 6pm, José Angel Flores and Silmer Dionisio George had just left a meeting and were in front of the La Confianza community shop where unidentified hooded heavily armed attackers on motorcycle had waited for José, and had without saying anything, fired many shots at both José and Silmer and left both dead instantly. José is the president of MUCA farmers’ movement and Silmer was accompanying José in this moment. The meeting they just left was of the La Confianza farmers cooperative directive, which was attended by about 40 farmers. José, prior to this, had received multiple death threats. He was also arrested and released without charges in March when police carried out raids in Tocoa. José is one of many that the Inter American Commission of Human Rights had granted protection order for the Honduran state to implement, in recognition of that their lives were in danger. Such order that had not led to effective protection measures to prevent him and many others on the same boat from being killed.
Assassinated: son of organiser in Bajo Aguán
On 30.10.16, a Sunday, Fernando Alemán was leaving a disco in La Ceiba and getting into his Range Rover van at the Hibou disco carpark in the La Ceiba nightclubs district, when he was suddenly approached by someone, shot at in the head, and killed immediately. The killer fled off on a motorcycle, leaving Alemán’s then dead and bleeding body on the ground. His mum is Esly Banegas, who is the coordinator of COPA – grassroots organisations in Aguán, and the secretary of Sitraina (Agrarian Department Workers Union) in Colón, and is running to become the Tocoa Libre mayor candidate. For her organising and campaigning work against the mines, privatisations, and against human rights violations, Esly has received death threats many times.
Grave attacks against Copinh continue
Lenca indigenous organisation Copinh’s then general coordinator, Berta Cáceres, an indigenous, feminist, organiser against dams and logging by big companies, winner of 2015 Goldman Environment Prize, the most well-known activist in Honduras of this time, was murdered months ago in March 2016. While some efforts have been made by the state and institutions to look to be investigating and prosecuting in the case to distract the world’s rage at her murder, there is no justice and ex-vice-minister of SERNA (natural resources department), Marco Laínez is about to be let off by the courts – he headed an institution that rubberstamped a concession which came with so much bloodshed and intimidation against those that opposed the dam project Agua Zarca. The court would be letting him off with a prosecutors’ proposal of conciliation. Moreover,, government and institutions have not cancelled the project Agua Zarca, there is no independent investigation process, no demilitarisation the respression is only heightened, and there is smear campaign by the Honduran government and foreign finance organisations like FMO, which continue to push the Agua Zarca project, claiming that it brings development.
Two copinh leaders attempted against on the same date
On 9.10.16, at the earliest midnight hours, unidentified persons arrived outside the home of Colomoncagua community leader Alexander García Sorto, and fired many shots at the main door and window of his home, where him, his spouse and their two daughters were sleeping, in this attempt against the whole family. Alexander organises against the dam project that congress vice president Gladys Aurora López pushes to impose.
Then, at 8pm, same date, when Tomás Gómez Membreño, who had stepped up as the general coordinator of Copinh following Berta’s assassination, had just left Utopía (space when Copinh and other communities come together to have workshops, meetings, etc) to go home that night and was driving the Copinh van, this Copinh van was shot at but thankfully Tomás was not hit. Tomás had suffered a first attempt against his life just a bit over five months before, when ex soldier Enedicto Alvarado shot at Tomás as he was in front of and leaving his home – this gunshot did hit him and almost snatch his life away but he survived. The pretext for this first attempt involved threats that Enedicto’s family made against Tomás for not having withdrawn charges.
Gunshots by DESA hitmen
Gunshots have been fired by DESA hitmen against the Río Blanco community to intimidate these for having continued to stand strong in resistence and defence of the Gualcarque river.
Indigenous mobilisation repressed
On 20.10.16, Copinh called a protest that was massively attended by Copinh and Ofraneh members who travelled to the capital city to demonstrate. It was massively brutally attacked by a contingent of 160 security forces including 50 riot cops and 110 federal police armed with a chemical water tank with substances that upsets the chemistry on people’s skin, with pepperspray, with police batons, and with teargas bombs. Within minutes, indigenous protagonists saw the tank advance towards them and a line of riot cops began pushing into and beating up protesters, who tried to find what space they could to flee. The cops continued the attack launching gases, aiming first at older women like Pascualita, the president of the Lenca elders’ council, and at children, who cried at the sight of the cops contingent. In the long chase, you could see roads emptied out with only people’ sandals and Copinh banners scattered and left behind. Police only began to back off the brutal attack once they saw CODEH human rights lawyers about and felt the pressure.
A piece about this:
Melissa Cardoza, a Honduran poet and feminist, and friend, compa and sister of Copinh, wrote a piece called Ataque, the original in Spanish is found here:: http://redefensorashn.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/ataque.html , and below is an attempt to translate it into English
I was observing with attention at the spiritual cycle, in which the Lenca and Garífuna symbols have come to be inseparable. I thought about how much these peoples have come together, about how much force has been brought onto them, including the pain from the assassination of Berta, and how they had included us in this ancient force of the land and the sea.
I thought about this Garilenca-ness that I like to feel, to be part of this beautiful, fighting, spiritual people, with the laughter from the flower’s lips for the good life, and the timid hands for the greeting. The candles were lighted on the side where there wasn’t much wind. Pascualita would do her ancient rituals and the drums and old songs sounded. The elders were there, Berta was amongst them, saying that we must not stop the struggle, but to intensify it instead. On the other side of the police cordon, was the police protected department of prosecution. There, were some public officials being nosy – some of them were laughing with this so typically racist laughter with which they direct at those who actually look so much like themselves.
I heard this particular sound of the riot cops boots that moves with rhythm, and a voice said, don’t be scared compañeros, but this has been almost habitual in the last years. I turned and managed to catch sight of how they had a compañera journalist pushed against a wall – she wanted to go past the anti riot cordon to do her work, she argued with them enraged. This was the last I saw of this because it was in that moment that the attack came.
And it was an attack. They arrived with the instruction to attack us, and this was just what the head of the operation told us: a bunch of crooks, delinquents, savages – was how they talked about the people of Copinh and of Ofraneh – groups that the majority of the mobilisation putting pressure on their armed men, belonged to. ‘Savages’ is the manner in which Cristobal Colón named those who lived on these lands. This word is so ancient, so old is this contempt.
Recently, a taxi driver drove me to the mobilisation said, the tank has gone past already, they are going to wet them anytime now, poor Copinhs, they kill them, they gas them, they beat them, they come here only for this. Damned prophecy of the taxi driver, damned such clear and precise conclusions built from experience after experience. They come here only for this. A woman in the same taxi said; its coz they killed the muchacha (endearing colloquial term for young girl), although, this is already some time ago now, right? Yes, the driver answered her, but they haven’t done anything about this. Here, nobody will do anything for her. Let me off at the corner, I asked the driver. Yes, seven months and 17 days exactly has passed since they killed the muchacha, our muchacha Berta.
The people of Berta were here. The people of the mountains and coasts that come with their cipotas (little ones) because everyone wants to come and demand justice, because they are women, mothers, lencas, garífunas, fighters, with dignity, integrity, legitimacy, with the right to demand justice and do whatever they feel like doing because thats what makes them autonomus persons. Because as Rosalinda says, its not a dog that they killed, they killed our sister, Bertita, and for this they have to pay. But they come here only to have gas thrown at them, to be chased, to be beaten, to get laughed at for the way they speak, and dress. They come here to be met with comments of other women as poor and indigenous as themselves, alienated by the version told by those who had given up, comments like ‘how could they come here with these children, what very irresponsible mothers’. They come here to face these idiot public officials who laugh at them through the glass walls instead of defending them as they should; and only so the people of Tegus (Tegucigalpa) yell out insults at them from their prados, and shout at them for blocking the traffic, at the time that they are running from the tank. And one must say that there also were people from here, whom gave them water when they suffocated in the gas, people whom carried them in their arms, whom accompanied them to their buses, and hugged them with affection and great admiration for their struggle and courage. People whom cry with disgust and rage at seeing a lost little girl amongst the gases, shaking like a little leaf. It was an attack. It was this way that they tell us directly and for once and for all how they intend to continue with things, just as they have come telling us the whole year: assassinations, attempts, false positives, charges, systematic denial to any type of justice. It was only last night that they killed another farmer leader and today, they repress and chase, for over an hour, a peaceful indigenous mobilisation. The newspapers and media do their part and their sickeningly racist pieces, in which they time and again refer to the those mobilising as the aggressive ones, as provocators of the police rage. All are protecting their masters, the state that assassinated Berta, the private company, the bankers, the coalliances and their tolls.
In this time that the repression gets worse.. I want to think that some peope in the world of human rights are looking at this new situation and for the crisis intervention to not be those that are on the agenda of development institutions, and for the situation to put them on their feet running until they can’t run any longer to deal with the crises that are only increasing. I want to not think that they do the work they do only because it is their jobs and for the income, trips, privileges and possible prizes and recognition. That those burning speeches they do in other places in the few minutes they are given to do it, that they can embody what is lived here, in the most brutal moments. I would like to believe that they are or become political protagonists, and not just people compiling and adding up tragedies. I dream awake of that they leave the repressive government alone, visible to the world for what they are, with that people don’t believe anymore the government’s stories of having human rights defence mechanisms, of that they don’t go to their roundtables, their ceremonies, to their tellers of tales and legends. For them to take on with all their words that those who send the police to repress, who gassed these little girls this afternoon, are the same apparatus that tells tales that they are doing everything possible to defender people who fight for their rights. So the bureaucracy entertains them. And at the very roots of this, those who pay for this whole show are the ancient allies of the repressors, ‘because the indios and blacks are worth more dead or as servants, but not insurrected, fighting over the ancient world the water and the forests, the ideas, a pleasurable life for everyone and not just for the few, because that is not the life. This is what I would like. I would like this so much. I feel hopeful because I know the principles of some of these women, although very well I know the same of others; and it excites me when I see the compas of the Women Defenders Network who put their bodies in their convictions and at the height of all that happens, even though doing so brings upon them rejection and sneers from people close to them and distant ones, who lose no time in badmouthing these from inside and outside of the country, because they came from the cradles of the complacent, heteronormative institutionality, with the facade of human rights, made through measures of patriachal democracy.
Time is hard. The rain isn’t stopping. Those assassinated continue to find no justice. And the resistance of the indigenous and black peoples call on us time and time again from their enormous dignity and force, to understand the time, the signs, their dangerous complexity. The brutality of today, in the moment in which our ancestors were with us, it is spoken of to us, it will need to be understood with clarity, care, brave community and coherence.
Melissa Cardoza, October 2016.
Copinh: witness and human rights defender deported
On 25.10.16, Spanish citizen Luís Díaz de Terán-López arrived at the Toncontín airport in Tegucigalpa, and was deported and put on a plane three hours later. Luís has been said by the Criterio daily paper to be a key witness in the case of the assassination of Berta Caceres. Luís has lived in Honduras for a long time, working as a human rights defender in various organisations including with Copinh, and was someone very close to Berta. When Honduran Immigration Department stopped him from entering Honduras this time the Spanish Ambassador and C-Libre (freedom of speech organisation for journalists) legal adviser went immediately to the airport to intervene, but they couldn’t stop the deportation. Immigration said Luis couldn’t come as a tourist ‘when he had come to carry out other activities’, as if human rights defenders would be permitted to come as such or that it is safe to self-identify as such to the state.
Eviction threat against Garífuna community
On 13.10.16, the Garífuna Guadalupe community who were on their ancestral territories starting their own community tourism project, was harrassed by a group of lawyers with national police, with an eviction threat from Canadian porn king Randy Jorgensen. It is clear which side the state is on as the charges the community pressed against Randy Jorgensen in 2007 for illegal acquisition of lands with clear evidence of land titles was ignored, and when there was a hearing in which Jorgensen wasthe defendant in May 2016, he did not show up, but the local judge refused to order his arrest, and the state gave him environmental licences very quickly.
Repression against protesters who say no-way to the toll-way
On 3.10.16, at 33 kms going from Tegucigalpa to Zambrano, people protested highway tolls, electricity privatisation with the introduction of a US$100 electricity connection fee, and the privatisation of scarce and inadequate health care services following the US$350 million IHSS plunder scandal. At 33 kms, a number of military police patrols and tanks appeared and began attacking youths of the protests with beatings and toxic gases. Katia Cooper-Schmidt (70) and others stopped to intervene against these attacks, and Katia was hit by a police baton aimed at a youth, and another police maniac lifted her in the air and threw her onto the pavement beating her on the back and tailbone, while the soldier digged his boot in her foot to prevent her from being able to get up. They bashed her to the point of destroying her shoe, and humiliated and bullied her saying this was for ‘being a troublemaker. Katia asked ççhow could they have such violent attitude against their own people instead of understanding that their real enemies are those of the presidential house and their allies. When she was released to run and flee the brutality with another youth, a compañera, Rafaela Peréz, whom she didn’t know, helped her despite having suffered an attack herself. They tried to then keep trying to protect the youths from beatings, when another patrol appeared and ordered to arrest Katia and Rafaela Perez with 12 others that included underaged persons. Police then told Katia and Rafaela that they can be released but not the youths. They answered saying they weren’t going to leave the youths alone because they know what can happen – torture, disappearances. Luckily others found out about what happened and put out the word of alert and many human rights organisations and activists came quick to the police station to put the pressure on. They ended up being there 2 hours until Rafaela and Katia were told that their arrest order was suspended, and an order of transfer came in which the youths were transferred and not released until about 1.30am on 4.10.16. Katia belongs to the grassroots resistance collective of Miraflores.
Now they propose a model city in Sweden
The main proponent of model cities, Paul Romer, in September proposed that a model city be created in Sweden, to have a city in which to confine refugees there from the middle east, in a capitalist refugee camp government.
In Honduras, World Bank representative Jim Kim in April in a speech had justified the assassination of Berta Cáceres as a collateral damage of ‘development’. Garífuna communities continue to be threatened by model cities. about 20 Garífuna communities are on the list of dozens of communities named as possible model cities to be installed in Honduras. It showed the approach of this capitalist oriented development. This approach is of supposed fast economic growth, without concerns for consequences for local communities they would displace, or for climate change and the environment.
Honduras features the first episode of World‘s toughest prisons
Irish journalist Paul Conolly went to Honduras for part of a series of ‘Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons’ shown on Netflix and Youtube, in which he goes and lives with the prisoners for a week. In Honduras he went to the Danlí prison, and this was his first episode. He said prisoners control the prison inside, that the guards are happy to not control it. Inside, he observed that there are a group of ‘coordinators’, and only 12 prison guards. As well as gross overpopulation in the prison, Paul saw the ‘head’ of the prison in charge of charging tax against food businesses and mattresses vendors. He saw that some prisoners carried guns and others ate rats, because of food shortages in the prison. He filmed prisoners preparing to eat rats.