February 2015 Honduras coup update
Political persecution in February 2015
Police kidnapping in the context of a struggle against hydroelectricity dam
On 4/2/15, at 8am in La Paz, at least 12 police that came in two police patrol vehicles raided the home of anti-dam-activist Luís Martínez. They showed no judicial order, and when they could not find him, they threatened his spouse Margarita Hernández with arresting her if she did not hand over her spouse – they subsequently carried out their threat, forcefully taking her with them to the Lenca indigenous community land Las Minitas in La Paz and took out their firearms and shot to intimidate indigenous community members and Margarita, who was at the point of a panic attack – they held her for an hour. While there, police raided homes of several indigenous families, breaking their doors and causing wreakage. Las Minitas is where businessman Denis Omar Chevés, who has a predatory history with the forests of La Paz, wants to impose a hydroelectricity dam project. Amongst the police present on this day was Jorge Chavarría – who had given death threats against Luís Martinez, and was seen putting on a balaclava when he felt he was being looked at. Jorge’s brother Fausto Chavarría is accused of killing activist Pedro Pérez last year.
Farmer/land struggles – reappearance in Aguan after being kidnapped for 62 hours, and violent eviction in Choloma
Young farmer/land activist Cristian Alberto Martínez who was kidnapped on 29/1/15 at 8pm, was abandoned by the kidnappers 62 hours later on 1/2/15. Cristian is an active member of Movimiento Campesino Gregorio Chávez and of the Agrarian Platform. We now know that Cristian was on his bicycle after having dropped his partner off at the church and was intercepted by a soldier and two private security guards driving a vehicle with a front end grill typical of military and Dinant (palm company infamous for its guards having killed many farmers in land conflict with it) security vehicles at the entrance of the Paso Aguan farm. Neighbours reported noticing a black double cabin vehicle drive at the entrance of Paso Aguan that is guarded by Dinant guards and 60 military personnel from Xatruch III force. Cristian was blindfolded and walked from there and then kept inside a vehicle until the day he was abandoned. They interrogated him about leaders of Movimiento Campesino Gregorio Chavez, made him take off his t-shirt, and told him that anyone or groups of the Panamá community who enters the Paso Aguan palm plantation will be disappeared by one of them. There was a massive search party for Cristian by 31/1/15 of 200, divided into three groups. When they found Cristian on 1/2/15 at a pasture owned by Gilberto Maradiaga 25 metres from the Paso Aguán farm, he had his hands tied behind his back and his feet tied together and a handkerchief tied around his neck with which they would have covered his eyes, and there were foot tracks of shoes and of Cristian’s barefeet, going from the Paso Aguán farm. He looked calm but dehydrated and psychologically tortured and was taken to his mother’s home.
Elsewhere, in Choloma, Cortés, 46 families from the community Boquitas and Morales, on the dried gorge, were on 12/2/15 violently evicted by military and police who beat up women, children, older people and men for having gone to the prosecutors to place a complaint. Gunshots and teargas bombs fired were heard. The families had been growing corn, beans, cassava, plantain and african palm on these on around 1 square kilometre of land, over 7 years that they had been there. The company they were in conflict with who would have sought the evictions is Cultivos de Oriente – whose legal representative is Jorge Crespo Bendaña. On 23/2/15, bulldozers of the state forces came from early in the morning to where the houses were and without any words began destroying the homes and crops of the evicted community.
Journalists and medias: killings, threat, persecution
On 5/2/15, in Barrio El Centro of Roatán City, on the Bay Islands, journalist Carlos Fernández (54) was killed by unidentified persons with 3 gunshots, just after having dropped the cameraperson home, having finished giving the news of the hour of Canal 27. He has worked in different TV channels in this insular province.
About 11pm on 21/2/15 in the neighbourhood 21 de Febrero in Tegucigalpa, Erick Arriaga of Radio Globo was intercepted on the street by armed men who shot him several times until he was killed, then left his body on the footpath. After that his relatives and the police came to the crime scene. At midnight they waited for Forensic Medicine to take the body to the prosecutors’ morgue in Tegucigalpa. Radio Globo is a commercial media that has been known for its journalists raising critical voices since the 2009 coup and continues to be subject to much persecution; last November the daughter of a Radio Globo journalist died a violent death in Comayauela.
On 13/2/15, David Romero, journalist and director, also of Radio Globo, was followed by a car of state intelligence for a few blocks. It was about 4.55am when he drove to the radio and noticed the car following him. He stopped for a few seconds and then accelerated to check and saw that the car did the same.
On 11/2/15 – as Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH, regime president) launched the Unicef supported program ‘Return to Joy Program and Strategy of Migrant Children’ – he threatened all the medias of Honduras, expressing that all medias of Honduras must transmit the government initiative in support of children so that the campaign is massively publicised, that if not, he will analyse what to do because the state gives the licences of the medias.
University Students’ suspension drag on
Despite that the Supreme Court on appeal of the suspended students of UNAH in Tegucigalpa ordered UNAH authorities to re-enrol the students, UNAH authorities played delay tactics on 12/2/15; the faculty deans Martha Lorena Suazo and Belinda Flores asked the students to come back the next day saying that the Director Julieta Castellanos was not there and her order is needed for their enrolment.
Threats and charges against human rights defenders
In relation to her capacity as a human rights defender (Director of organisation Xilbaba, art and culture, and of Thousand Women of Peace Project) accompanying people to make complaints at the authorities, Itsmania Pineda Platero received new aggressions and threats related particularly with her dealings with DINAF – the department of children, adolescence and family headed by Roberto Herrera Caceres and Lolis Maria Salas, related to a case of someone whose ex partner attempted against them and has custody of their son. On 13/2/15, a Dinaf employee said to her in front of many, ‘for all the recognition you might have, but in Honduras you are worth nothing nor for the press’. Itsmania said they threatened her and her family for this work of accompaniment, by a man who approached her outside the prosecutors’ building as she was leaving after giving a testimony, and that he followed them in a blue CVR without a numberplate. Three years ago Itsmania asked for protection for her relatives, and in July 2014 her family had to leave Honduras urgently, leaving their homes, jobs and lives. A week before the current threats, she reported information having been deleted from her email through intervention, and that her telephone had stopped working.
There are over 3000 human rights activists in Honduras facing judicial processes since the coup in 2009. Human rights organisation Cofadeh precisely said there are 3051 under judicial persecution in the period 2010-2014 for defending land rights, and 32 for protecting environment, 14 for defending indigenous peoples’ rights, and 8 for defending freedom of expression.
Normal procedures for when someone like Hector Martinez Motiño who suffers persecution and applies for protection measures at the Inter American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) is lengthy; and it is when this long process concludes and IACHR makes its determination to order the state to apply protection measures that security bodies begin to have meetings with the at-risk-person. Not in this case. A human rights defender in Costa Rica applied for protection measures for Hector – as well as attempts against himself and ongoing persecution in different forms by university authorities where he works, his brother who is a lawyer was assassinated in November 2013 and their spouse in March 2014. Before any determination was given by IACHR, on 30/1/15 two officials of the Security Secretary contacted Hector and looked for him in the workplace with an official memo of the Security Minister with which it was stated that because of the application he had made to IACHR that they need to visit him to agree on the protection measures that IACHR will grant him. They pressured/recommended that he did not contact his human rights defender about this and to keep their contact secret and not talk to the press ‘for his own security’. Also for ‘his security’, they took photos of his workplace and home and sent these to Security Minister Arturo Corrales using Whatsapp. In the first meeting between the police head (surname Ferrufino) with Hector, Ferrufino said that he received a call from the ‘general cuartel of the national police’ the complaint by UNAH that Hector had violated the university and that they did not want problems with the director Julieta Castellanos who was apparently angry about the news that came out about the attempt against Hector in the university carpark. Hector was called to a discharge hearing on 13/2/15. He is also getting police visit him all the time at work saying, ”I will personally make sure that they take away those protection measures from you!’
Community opposition to mining on their territory ignored, and this opposition silenced including with charges
On 11/1/15, there was an open community meeting at Azacualpa, La Unión, Copán, in which the absolute majority opposed the closing of the cemetery for the mine of Mineras de Occidente that might now be operating under the name of Aura Minerals. Despite this community decision, the company continued work in nearby areas with the intention of increasing their area of exploitation. 19 community leaders have legal processes against them because of their opposition since April 2014.
Likewise, that on 2/2/15, Garífuna communities of Iriona held a community assembly and rejected non-metalic mining concessions in their territory – Punta Piedra I and II, is being ignored by the state, which granted concessions of 10 years starting 4/12/14 for mining of iron-oxide and other minerals to Corporación Minera Punta Caxina in the Payas mountain ranges including the basin of the Bambuco river, that will affect the communities’ water sources.
Other News from February 2015
A plan held up to be just like Plan Colombia. A $1 billion plan, that started with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) writing the proposal, and the presidents of the Northern Triangle countries (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) were jumping on the bandwagon and handing this to Obama. $1 billion is being asked of the US Congress, and it would have additional supports from World Bank, IADB and donations from the EU. IADB and World Bank has in the last decade dictated neoliberal economic policies in the region that deepened inequality. US Vice-President Joe Biden holds it up as paralel to Plan Colombia – he likes the notorious Plan Colombia which militarised Colombia while imposing neoliberal measures.Likewise, Honduran government cabinet coordinator Alcerro criticised human rights and political groups opposed to this plan, and asked for unity for everyone to get behind this proposal, saying, ‘who doesn’t want in Honduras for us to create more jobs, more economic opportunities, and for the levels of life of education, health, access to land, production, productivity and infrastructure and the strengthening of the institutions and human rights to improve?’ In the end it is nothing new. This discourse and direction is always imposed in the different initiatives of the governments, it is just another big step in the direction of free trade, privatisation including using model cities and mining concessions, militarisation coupled with plunder. Politicians everywhere are capitalising on the crisis of mass out migration of children from these countries (Biden dared refer to the mass migration as a ‘dangerous security threat’), pushed out by violence and poverty, pushing this northern triangle plan ‘for prosperity’ as the solution to the violence and poverty and mass exodus – when the proposal would just exacerbate these conditions and cause further displacement of peoples as they had in Colombia.
The plan will increase the funding for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement assistance to America – which mostly go to the police forces, from $100 million in FY2014, to $205 million in 2015, channelled using the Central American Regional Security Initiative. The plan mentions objectives to include ‘creation of special economic zones’, ‘improving labor market conditions’, ‘development assistance’ (to increase competitiveness), and $250 million for ‘improved governance’ or ‘improve citizen security and access to justice (IADB has already promoted a multimillionair project of this sort that failed, called Proyecto de Paz y Convivencia Ciudadania, valued at $22 million). Another major part of the plan is for infrastructure contemplated in the Plan Puebla Panamá ‘Mesoamérican Project’ for creating logistical corridors, electric interconnection, and hundreds of hydroelectricity dams that has for over a decade formed part of the ‘development’ narrative promoted by the IADB.
Looking closer at this model, within Central America, the same state and business actors pushing for this plan met at Indura Beach in Tela Bay, a site where, next to them was a community whose territory and environment has been affected by the imposition and building of this tourists emporium next to them. It is not for the community’s development. They have no jobs, no opportunities, and their territory and environment is being plundered by the tourism industry.
At the same time, an US government report of Office of Trade and Labor Affairs just came out highlighting in Honduras the illegal use of child labour and systemic labour law violations by employers for which the Honduran state is unable to control. The report was a response by the urge for investigation from three years ago that came from AFL-CIO and 26 Honduran unions and other groups, that filed complaints of violations to minimal workers rights as outlined in the free trade agreement, on union organising, bargaining, wage, health and safety, and child labour protections.
Honduran Congress approved a bill for the state energy company ENEE to ‘borrow’ US$100 million from the pension funds, to ‘address energy emergencies’ in Aguan Valley, Olancho, at the Atlantic Coast and in the western region of Honduras – contracts are not yet finalised, US company General Electric is amongst those negotiating to provide 4 plants of gas generation. Those critical of this move warn that it is a trap because ENEE will be unable to pay back, and will force the pension funds of the teachers, public and health sectors for example to push ENEE to privatise in order to pay these back so these workers can have retirement payouts, etc.
Again, one political party (National), excluded members of another (Libre) in a parliamentarian meeting, this time it is with EU. Zelaya (Libre coordinator) was invited, and he delegated to MPs Sherly Arriaga and Argentina Valle and these were denied access.
Development Banks privatise hospital. In the name of ‘Modelos de Descentralización’, – that are recipes of IMF and IADB, Hopsital Enrique Agilar Cerrato in Intibucá had been handed over to private unknown hands without consulting people who would be affected – IADB lent $2 million to pay these private hands – this debt will be given to those affected. Even before that, privatisation had already began, with charges for medical appointments and births and nights stayed in hospital beds. There are threats to replace public pharmacies with private ones. With medicine distribution, NGOs already assume this function and make profits from it; further privatisation will mean scarcity of medicines and materials.
Surveillance; the other side of the coin of militarisation as response to violence. For a city officially not at war, Honduras’ second biggest city has been for some years now the city with the highest homocide rate in the world. To appear to address it, instead of reducing inequality, the city authorities are about to massively install surveillance cameras, putting aside $4-7 million to install the system of 2300 security cameras in Valle de Sula. Accompanying this installation will be the creation of a 911 emergency number, a central monitoring station of the videos to be controlled by Fusina – Inter-institional security forces, and more police and patrol.
Highlights of resistance against hydroelectricity dams this February 2015
The indigenous community Santa Saca whose territory was invaded by a dam company owned by Arnol Castro and Gladis Aurora López (Vice President of National Congress), mobilised and activated alert mechanisms and at least for now got the company to leave and promise not to come back to try the plunder.
Community leaders travelled all the way from their homes around the Patuca River (a very complicated journey that involves water travel) to the capital city to stage a permanent protest. They killed and butchered a cow in the street in front of the State Energy Company that is complicit in massively damming the Patuca River and pledged to stay living their in the street and not leave. The energy company promised to pay for their lands and now 400 families are directly affected having lost land to live and grow crops on, and 800 other families are indirectly affected by this landgrab. They are demanding compensation. The dam is a set of three dams that will produce over 600 megawatts of energy, and when finished in 2017, will flood over 20,000 acres in the region and will be the region’s biggest hydroelectric project costing US $350,000.
Hondurans Protest Over Lands Lost in Hydroelectric Project