December 2014, Honduras coup news summary
Known political persecution in January 2014
Zacate Grande: community radio journalist and human rights defender attempted against and stabbed
On 14/12/14, on a busy village street in Puerto Grande of Zacate Grande, Miguel Angel Vásquez who is in his twenties, was going home after a meeting located at the human rights observers camp when Abelino Martínez and Mauricio Gómez waited for him from inside a home of an employee of Miguel Facussé (palm giant/businessman and amongst the few richest people in Honduras) and jumped out as Miguel Angel came pass and one of these attackers stabbed Miguel Angel aiming for the chest, and wounding his right underarm instead as Miguel Angel managed a turn. These men had just arrived in the community some days before, and the night before, one of them faked a fight with comrades of Miguel Angel’s, and when Miguel Angel intervened to stop the fighting the man tried to pick a fight with him but Miguel Angel didn’t fall into it. Miguel Angel is a human rights defender and a journalist of the community radio La Voz de Zacate Grande, where he speaks in defence of land, and for the liberation of the Zacate Grande beaches under threat by tourism and model citiy projects being concessioned. Miguel Angel has protection measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, and had survived on 31/5/14 an illegal arrest on the pretext that they picked up the wrong guy. The radio also had a history of being attacked, including having been invaded and illegally closed with the 2009 coup. It did re-open and is off-air at the time of the report of this attempt to technical difficulties.
TV owner journalist assassinated
On 15/12/14, in Comayagua, Reynaldo Paz Mayes – journalist, director and owner of RPM TV Channel 28 was assassinated at a sporting centre; Reporters Without Borders demand authorities not to discount that the crime can be related to his journalism work. Reynaldo Paz Mayes directed a program touching often on delicate topics like impunity and had received threats because of critical opinions he had expressed on the program. He was also a member of Libre party (opposition party). Police claims he could have been murdered in an attempt to steal his pistol.
Violent eviction forcing out farmers with fire
At Las Maderas, San Jeronimo, Comayagua, early both mornings of 30/12/14 and 31/12/14, agents in military wear and ski masks carried out an illegal violent eviction against over 17 families of the farmers group ‘camino al futuro’ of CNTC – National Centre for Rural Workers; they were living there before, and have been made homeless with the evictions in which their houses, and crops of corn, rice and beans were set on fire. The land conflict is with the Maradiaga family that were illegally given land titles although the Agrarian Department INA had declared the lands to be forest lands – state lands that could be for agrarian reform but not private land. The evicted farmers group had been on the land for 6 years and had been negotiating with the state to obtain land title.
Yoro: farmers evicted from land they grew food on
Guanchia, El Progreso, Yoro. On 27/12/14, evictions carried out by private security of Tela Railroad company (which grows bananas for Chiquita Brands) were reported – guards encircled farmers with high calibre weapons to evict them from 174 acres of land on which Rancho Escondido Campesina Association and CNTC farmers grew crops of maize and beans to feed their families – they live elsewhere but 18 families live on food. The farmers receive constant eviction threats from Tela Railroad Company security guards on the basis that they don’t hold direct proof of ownership, who also kicked farmers out of a farmers-built bridge to access their crops. The land is state land meaning it can be for agrarian reform.
Another eviction against indigenous vendors, this time arresting and charging several with terrorism and illicit association..
In Marcala, La Paz, on the morning of 2/12/14 at 5am, the indigenous vendors suffered another eviction by police and 10 battalion infantry army, after the eviction of 26/11/14. This time, police arrested Angel Amaya, Adalid Rodríguez, Nelson Edwin Domínguez, Luís Enrique Urquía and Roland Cruz charging theses with ‘attempt against the public administration, illicit association and terrorism’; crimes without bail provisions. At the time of the report, the prosecution in Marcala was analysing to proceed or not with commissioning these crimes. The vendors are of 100 families that belong to the Indigenous Council of Street Vendors and are in the process of negotiating with the council to let them continue to sell their products on the stone paved street like they had been doing already for over 18 years. This is happening in the context of a protest against the privatisation of market space.
Garifuna community under siege by council towards imposing dam
On 18/12/14, it was reported that not only is the council of Ceiba in the process of imposing a hydroelectricity dam project (for electricity production and to supply drinking water) on the Cuyamel river on the Garífuna community of Sambo Creek that will provoke environmental damages including the aggravation of coastal erosion, without prior consultation with this indigenous community as required by international convention but seldom respected by Honduran authorities, but that the council has the Sambo Creek community under siege.
UNAH authority announced students’ suspension for two academic periods
Back in November, students Moisés Cáceres, José Luís Herrera, Cesario Padilla, Javier Barahona, Sergio Ulloa and Dayanara Castillo who participated in protests in October were subjected to a hearing process for which they were not permitted a lawyer or due process. On 18/12/14, just before Christmas, as UNAH closed its year of activities, it announced that these students will now be suspended for two academic periods. These authorities also sent another student to jail and is charging another group of social sciences students with ‘unlawful holding of public goods’. The authorities appear to seek to disappear students without the way they used to disappear students in the 80s, but with the same principles of authoritarianism and dictatorship.
Human rights defender declared innocent of usurping land
On 10/12/14, Irma Lemus, human rights defender who had an initial hearing in November being charged with land usurpation, robbery of cattle, damages and prejudice against the Fondo Ganadero and extorsion and was subject to bail conditions – all this for her human rights work supporting land struggle and defence, was declared innocent of the charges given the lack of evidence presented by prosecution at the hearing. On this date of hearing, 500 marched in Tocoa in solidarity with her.
News briefs from December 2014
- New official member of Whitewashing Club: Inter American Commission of Human Rights. IACHR maintains a black list by naming a few countries of the continent as human rights violators in their annual reports – somehow IACHR officially announced that following their visit on 1-5 December in Honduras monitoring the human rights situation, that they will not include Honduras on the list of human rights violating countries, while Cuba and Venezuela still remain on the same black list. They promise the report for 2014 for Honduras will be finished and available within the next months. It is blatantly ignoring the constant violation of the already neoliberal constitution, the impunity and slowness in applying justice over hundreds of assassinations – many of which politically motivated, it is ignoring the plunder and corruption over state and pension funds, the cutting spending on health, education and infrastructure next to the constant increases towards maintaining military police for example, the constant violation of workers rights in private and public sectors, how indigenous rights under convention 169 are never respected, etc.
- World Health Organisation report showed Honduras government report on assassination statistics to be a lie: Honduran authorities claimed assassination rates had reduced to a now 69 people per 100,000 assassinated in 2014. WHO just published its report showing in 2014 Honduras had the rate of 103.9 assassinations for every 100,000 people of the population. Honduras remains amongst the most violent countries in the world, followed by the second most violent of the continent being Venezuela at 57.6 assassinations for every 100,000 people.
- CONATEL Honduran Commission of Telecommunications pushes new regulations towards providing radio frequencies to whom they want in the name of democratising communication. Community radios met at the end of November to analyse this Regulation of Services of Diffusion with Communitarian Ends with CONATEL having self-nominated as representing the interests of community radios. The community radio participants pronounced that not only did they not name representatives to represent their interests, but ‘we are no against the granting of licences to churches, friends and politicians of the current party in government, what is really unacceptable is that they do it in the name of us whom really make community communication, we don’t think it is fair either; what we do believe to be fair and necessary is the approval of a real proposal of community radio with clear game regulations, for private, mixed, church, state and community radios.
- Agrarian Department INA paid 38 million lempiras (about US $2 million) to ‘owners’ for lands that did not exist or were overvalued between 2011-2013 during the period for which Cesar Ham was minister – fraudulent – Ham managed the buying-selling of 8 properties in different parts of the countries, some of which did not exist and others were overvalued.