May 2015 Honduras Coup update:
Massive month with the uncovering of the plundering of over US$330 million from the Social Security Department IHSS re-channelled towards funding National Party election campaigns of 2013, many accounts of assassination, attempts, threats, contempt for all life, criminalising struggle and of the speaking about of those with power committing abuses
In the last weeks it was unfolded that US$330 millions were plundered by high officials of state social security institution IHSS, at least US$90 millions of which ended in the National Party bank accounts to finance the 2013 electoral campaign of Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) – presumably, other amounts may have stayed with the various involved. IHSS is a state institution that collects contribution from workers of public and private sectors as well as from the state, and with these funds, is supposed to provide these approximately 600,000 workers and their families with a health service and pension. This embezzlement involved around ten ghost companies with which IHSS would sign multimillionaire contracts for supposed services of medicines provision, services, and medical equipment – they would make the delivery by day, and come looking like doctors and nurses and empty out the warehouse by night, to never have given anything for which they were paid, then they would in turn send by cheque a percentage of what they received as ‘donations’ to the National Party. The ghost companies that received funds in 2012-2013 include Sumimed, Insumedic, and Diprem. The plundering of funds meant that IHSS hospitals did not have necessary medicine, supplies and staffing, and based on statistics kept by doctors and research by those seeking justice, over 2880 persons have died as a result of the inadequacies of the IHSS hospital because of this scandal; they would be alive if the funds weren’t stolen. IHSS hospitals used to be known as the best hospitals in Honduras.
Radio Globo director David Romero collected the evidence the authorities hid, and was first to reveal the cheques and said he also had recordings of meetings. He showed that cheques were either made out to abbreviations that stood for ‘friends of JOH’ (presidential candidate), or ‘friends of Ricardo Álvarez (vice-presidential candidate). He pointed as responsible/complicit at National party leaders Mauricio Oliva, Ricardo Álvarez, Oscar Álvarez, high officials – Hilda Hernández (who as secretary of communications made approvals for contracts during midnight hours), Roberto Ordoñez, Roberto Ramírez Aldana, general prosecutor Oscar Chinchilla, current president JOH, ex-president Lobo, and TSC (auditing board) authorities.
One 30 years old implicated in the IHSS scandal who was amongst the intellectual authors of this fraud and knew a lot about who did what, is John Charles Bográn Velásquez – he owned a travel agency, JJ Travel and Tours (a ghost company), on the side in which he, in the capacity of an IHSS administrator, booked travel arrangement and overvalued plane tickets for IHSS staff, funnelling funds to the National party in this manner. John Charles had a capture order of Interpol in Honduras. Both him and his body guard Julio Cesar España were wounded with multiple gunshots. It seems like against the odds he may have remained alive; the court came to him in his private hospital bed, and he remains in hospital under police custody until his condition is improved, while the hearings continue, in hospital or in court.
From 29/5/15, thousands began filling the streets, starting in Tegucigalpa in the late afternoon, with lit torches, demanding the resignation of JOH, for this scandal that killed 2880.
As soon as this scandal came to be known, and just hours after the health secretary announced that 10 hospitals will be administered by NGOs, congress approved a new law called Social Protection for a Better Life, partly to confuse, to appear to be fixing up what was wrong with IHSS that had let this scandal happen, and partly to facilitate privatisation. Amongst the changes that came with the new law are the increase from 3% to 4% of the contribution from employees and a reduction in state contribution within 18 months, and being able to choose between different companies in addition to the existing RAP – Régimen de Aportaciónes Privadas. The argument presented is of that competition will heal the ills of a monopolised service provision of pensions/insurance – but what good are new competitors of the private sector like Ficohsa, a bank belonging to and serves the interests of Honduran economic elites. More likely, the steps are to further bankrupt IHSS to force privatisation. The reforms are also driven by IMF and Inter-American Development Bank, towards the same ends. The reform also leads to the subcontracting of medical services to private hospitals and clinics that would be owned by banks and companies, and charge for services that had been free and public for patients.
National Party feels the pressure. It organised its own marches in defence of the party and of JOH, even closing down the congress so its parliamentarians can go, and it was confirmed by street research by journalists that many participants in the nationalist marches received between $2.50-$11 to participate. Before this scandal came to light, Supreme court confirmed changes to the constitution to allow re-election, and JOH was aiming for a second term.
Cases of political persecution in May 2015
‘Protected witness’ with evidence on the case of Soad – 13 year old recently assassinated high school student Soad – assassinated
On 26/5/15, about 6pm, 18 years old Alexandra Desiré Ordoñez was pulled of a ‘moto-taxi’ that she was on, beaten in the face, and assassinated with two shots in the head, then her body was left between the pavement and the street, face up, in the El Carrizal Dos neighbourhood. Alexandra was a key witness with information about the whereabouts of some persons behind the murder of Soad Nicole Ham Bustillo (high school student who participated in students protests and who had appeared on TV cameras furious about politicians neglecting schools and ordering repression), it was because she was a protected witness that she was taken out of the country to safety twenty days before. A week before she was killed she returned to Honduras from Nicaragua and stayed with her mum, but had left her mum’s home three days before she was killed. She studied in the same school as Soad at Instituto Central, but stopped studying there this year, and was in her second month of pregnancy when she was killed.
High school teacher under threat
On 24/4/15, in San Miguelito, Intibucá, Minelda Flores, who teaches at Minerva school, received a threat written on a sign, the sign had a drawing of a cross on it, and said, ‘you have 15 days, bitch, this old bitch is going to accompany her sister’. Minelda’s sister, Suyapa Arlet Flores was assassinated in the same town on 22/2/12. It is presumed that the threats are a reaction against her opposition of the decision of the education area manager to take three positions from this school.
Persecution and continued disappearance against unionists of university workers
On 19/5/15, Inter American Commission of Human Rights sought for the Honduran state to provide protection measures for Hector Orlando Martínez and his family, in recognition of the grave threats, risk, and harrassment that he receives because of his work within the union Sitraunah.
In May, Sitraunah unionist Donatillo Jímenez Euceda, who was last seen on 8/4/15, and was to have his birthday on 23/4/15, continues to be disappeared.
Journalists assassinated, on hitlists, receiving death threats, attacked…
On 13/5/15, in Yoro, a blind radio announcer, Franklin Johan Dubón of Radio Sulaco, when he was on his way to Agua Blanca after a celebration at someone’s house in Sulaco, was stabbed to death with machetes and also beaten in the head with a rock, after which he was dragged to a creek, in an apparent robbery according to police. Franklin’s dad is a famous keyboard player. Franklin loved music and radio presenting. On mothers day, he composed five songs which he played on radio, dedicated to his mum.
On 6/5/15, Carlos Posadas spoke up publicly on air about knowing there are plans to kill him and another journalist, both of HCH. The other journalist remains anonymous for security reasons. Carlos learnt about the plans including through warnings of the plans from state security bodies. Carlos is known by his audience as El Halcon 01.
On 7/5/15, journalist Francisco Zuniga reported receiving death threats related to covering police sources and news. The human rights commissioner recognises the risk and is organising protection measures.
On 8/5/15, in San Pedro Sula, journalists Kevin Villatoro and Iris Abigail Santos and camerapersons Rony Sevilla and Eddy Rodríguez passed through and saw council police arresting a rake driver and stopped to ask what was happening. Most of the agents seemed annoyed by the questions, and when the journalists were going to leave, an agent from a motorcycle yelled at them, to ‘get lost, because it is easy to lose you,’ and when they asked if those were words of threat, his response was to take them how they wish, and that they were watching them on the streets.
On 9/5/15, in Bajo Aguan, journalist and lawyer of Canal 37, Juan Carlos Zelaya, who always announces news of irregularities committed by state investigative detectives and collaborates with the grassroots organisations of Aguan and with women’s organisations, was subject to his licence being cancelled and his car confiscated and subsequently to stalking by police. The harassment began when he parked on the streets of Tocoa for his spouse to do an errand during a time of festivity, and police approached him to say he was parked badly – as the discussion blew out of proportion and the traffic police director Carlos Rojas came into the picture, they decided that Juan was a ‘brat’ and to suspend his licence for a year. They profiled him with photos and video imaging proclaiming that they can do that because they were ‘high authority’. DNIC investigative police told him, ‘because you go around saying bad things about us, because of this, nobody likes you here at the police’. It was the next day that the police waited for him outside Canal 37 and ambushed him and confiscated his car. On 14/5/15 when he went to the Prosecutors Department to place a complaint against police for abuse of authority, he noted that a police patrol followed him, and when he was inside, they drove in front of the building seven times.
In one of many cases of robbery that is likely to be more for the personal information than simple common robbery, on 9/5/15, journalist Franz Rivera Barahona of UTV – a TV channel of the university, left UTV to meet a friend, when three people approached him having come off a tourist van without numberplate, and took his phone when he had UTV ID on him, and the phone of his friend. This was followed by his car with dark windows being then broken into on 11/5/15, and the aggressors having taken out only his iPad and his notebooks of his English classes from inside his backpack. Franz is known for his diligence and critical thinking. He is concerned that both his phone and iPad have information such as his diary and contacts of people he interviewed and his social network accounts, and personal photos, especially since he is always making comments via social networks accounts criticisms about the government, injustice, about the IHSS scandal.
On 13/5/15, David Romero, director of Radio Globo, who exposed evidence (cheques, and mentions of recordings) of National Party having plundered the social security department IHSS by $300 million for its electoral campaigns in 2013, as well as the party’s links to drug trafficking, is subject to death threats, and accepting police protection due to grave threats – something he had on other occasions been offered and had refused. The death threats are coming including from Mara ’18’, a well known gang in El Salvador and Honduras. Some threats explicitly ask him to shut up about IHSS corruption and to be careful. There was also an occasion when Globo staff detected unknown persons inside their buildings looking at security camera locations. David said if something happens to him, JOH, the national party, and ex-security minister Oscar Alvarez are responsible. Radio Globo journalists have been heavily persecuted since the coup, several have been assassinated.
On 25/5/15, a date celebrated in Honduras as a day of journalists, Honduran Telecommunications Commission Conatel sent Canal 36 (Cholusat Sur) a notice saying they will proceed to close Canal 36, unless it ‘abstain(s) from emitting news which harm national security and public interest’ and named any news that risks the political, social, economic and juridical structure of the country as having that effect (practically, any information that may arouse interest in social change). The pretext for accusing them of having ‘provoked panic nationally’ was that Canal 36 journalist Esdras Amado Lopez re-transmitted news transmitted by HCH, about known plans of a coup against JOH. Canal 36 diffuses news including about the IHSS corruption scandal. Reporter also of Canal 36 Richard Smith Casulá who had carried out field investigations and revealed that National Party paid protests participants $2.28 (50 lempiras) for attending them in defence of JOH and the national party, received death threats by phone calls from unknown persons who said if they kept doing reports about discovering about the famous 50 lempiras, they were going to kill them.
C-Libre, Committee for Freedom of Expression, published its 2014 Honduras report called ‘Against the Forced Silence’, in which they showed there were 94 acts of aggression against freedom of expression, that they were mostly from the last months, and mostly committed by people who form part of the state structure – 70% being from executive power of state, the rest being council employees and unknown persons.
Chain of persecution against farmer in mono-crop palm contaminated Bajo Aguan
On 6/5/15, farmers leader of Movimiento Campesino Gregorio Chávez, Santos Marcelo Torres told of threats and attacks against his family, including illegal home raids, and armed men ambushing and pointing guns at his children aged 6 and 7 back in April. The children were told to leave, that they are not wanted there; they ran and escaped – after that on 20/4/15 unknown persons with a grey car with dark windows came to take photos of the home and farmyard when the family was doing chores outside, and on 22/4/15, the spouse and children were forced to abandon the home, seeing a grey car with several soldiers who came into the yard and nearby places causing terror.
Then, on 12/5/15, Santos Torres was headed to the COPA (Aguan Grassroots Organisations Coordinator) office when he was arrested by plain clothes police supposedly of the investigative unit DNI along with 5 military police heavily armed with faces covered by balaclavas, at which time they compared his ID with the name on the capture order and saw the names did not match as the order had ‘Santos Avad Hernández Torres’ on it – but they still forced him to go with them where the same was confirmed at the police station. The warranted was being accused of damages, causing fire and aggravated robbery against Exportadora del Atlántico (owned by Miguel Facussé, palm giant accused of many assassinations against farmers and in possession of Paso Aguan farm that Gregorio Chávez movement is in process of recovering). Santos Marcelo was held at the Trujillo police station until a preliminary hearing on the next day when he was made to appear before judge Fredy Cenén (a judge known to be biased in favour of Miguel Facussé, palm giant of Dinant). Judge Fredy saw the ID and saw the name was different. The judge ruled that despite the name difference, that Santos Marcelo Torres was Santos Avad Hernández Torres and was to be placed on trial – and enforced on him bail conditions of signing every 15 days at the court, to not leave Honduras, AND to not do human rights defence work. During the hearing, five soldiers, three hooded, one plain-clothes, and all heavily armed with bullet-proof vests, remained outside the court until half an hour after the hearing finished.
Santos Marcelo Torres has been subject to many incidents of persecution over the years that has intensified from June 2014. These included having guns pointed to his head in front of his spouse and children, and surrounding his family home with the family inside from outside and killing their chickens and pigs. He is recognised by Inter American Commission of Human Rights of needing protection measures due to persecution by private guards and Xatruch forces. The Gregorio Chávez movement, that involves a community of 450 families, has suffered a number of assassinations and disappearances and many violent evictions.
Imposition of model cities felt: curfew, pressures…
In Zacate Grande, which is of the municipality of Amapala – municipality designated as the first in line for conversion into model city, a curfew to not go out after 6pm has been imposed against young people, and after 9pm for adults; all threatened with being arrested for being out. One 16-year-old was threatened with arrest several times by police. Police did arrest three underage persons on 25/5/15, for breaking the curfew. What’s more, police refused to hand over the youths to their parents and families. The curfew was in place after an in an open meeting of the Amapala council, it was agreed to restrict the circulation of people who live in Zacate Grande. People in Zacate Grande have for years struggled to recover their territories, invaded by landowners and big business.
On 29/4/15, in another far end of Honduras in the north, the Tela council tried to impose a ‘workshop on territorial diagnosis’ that was promoted by Coalianza – Commission for the Promotion of Public Private Alliances, which promotes for the area to become model cities – this ‘workshop’ was opposed by the community, including many persons who are already under persecution and has this recognised by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights.
Garifuna communities under siege – Garífunas are Afro-Indigenous Hondurans and their territories are also heavily targetted for model cities
On 5/5/15, the Garífuna Nueva Armenia community alerted to their being under siege by a group of heavily armed hitmen who claim rights over the land the community is on from whom their community title had been illegally robbed. On 8/5/15, early in the morning, of the Nueva Armenia community, a group of armed men tried to kidnap Jésica García, a directive member of the Garífuna organisation Ofraneh, near the Papaloteca river. Hours after this attempted kidnap, a group of armed men confronted Carolina Castillo pointing guns at her and stopped her travelling outside of the Nueva Armenia community, forcing her to return. Of this community, there are capture orders in place against several community members issued from the Security Ministry, the same body that has carried out evictions against them. The land around Papaloteca river has ancestrally been Garífuna land. They were first displaced from the left of the river by Standard Fruit Company (now DOLE), and when DOLE left, organised crime tried to dominate the territory. The latest involved rumours about there being petrol in the wetlands near the Papaloteca delta, and hitmen this month are said to be sent by Heriberto Andonie Sevilla Andrade who has links to the Jutiapa council. The community was given land title for this land they use for subsistence farming in 1994, but this was snatched away in 2010.
On 12-15/5/15, the whole Barra Vieja community was undergoing hearing in Tela court, accused of invading (being land usurpers) their own ancestral territory. It started in 2007 when the Tourism Department IHT made a complaint in reference to the interests of tourism project ‘Indura Beach’ which instigated evictions carried out in August and September 2014. The Garífunas who have used the territory since 1885 following displacement from the old Triunfo de la Cruz (Tela city of today), persisted and came back to the land, for which they were summoned to court.
The Punta Piedra and Cusuna communities have their rights to the community’s prior, free and informed consent violated. An iron mining concession of 10 years was granted to Ramón Lobo (brother of ex-president Lobo)’s mining company Caxina. He visited on 12/5/15, the communities opposed his presence.
The communities of Santa Rosa de Aguan and Chapagua suffer the ecological and sanitary damages caused by palm and banana plantations there; alongside the destruction of flora, fauna and biodiversity, homes and properties near the riverbanks have been destroyed as have homes of Vista Hermosa village and river current that stops cars from going through, and ferrous oxide has been detected in the water by Dos Bocas community. The pollution dates back to 2006, and due to pressures from community, the government paid contractors to carry out works to stop the flooding – the first job was poorly done and the closed diversion of the river re-opened, then in 2010 the government paid Cordon’s Heavy Equipment construction company around $4.5 million and then another $2.5 million, but without ever ensuring this work was carried out effectively, leaving the community with a damaged uninhabitable environment and some companies richer in the process.
Assassination, attempt, and state persecution against indigenous activists resisting dams, mines and logging this month.
Moíses Durón Sánchez is part of Copinh and is a leader who led the recovery of land in Somolagua, which started on 28/4/15, from which date the community began to receive threats and aggression, including presence of heavily armed and aggressive persons – complaints to authorities did not lead to action. Less than a month later, on the afternoon of 20/5/15, Moíses was assassinated by hitmen, in the place of the community land recovery, in Somolagua, Santa Barbara. Copinh knows that the hitmen are linked with the Río brothers (Florencio, Miguel, Saúl and Arsenio), who had invaded and stole the community land from 25 families, with complicity from parliamentarian Mario Pérez and his cousin Sergio Pérez and criminal court peace judge Carlos Sagastume (by contributing munition for weapons to hitmen that have included state security agents, and in criminalising the community land recovery struggle). Then on 22/5/15, Mario Pérez, congress secretary and member of National Party, told the press that he will sue Berta Cáceres, coordinator of Copinh and Goldman World Environmentalist Award winner of 2015, for defamation in having released information about his complicity in the murder of Moíses.
Just weeks after Vilma Consuelo Soto’s spouse Luís Macías was assassinated, on 22/5/15, in an attempt against her and her family, Vilma’s home was sprayed with bullets. Vilma is a human rights defender and indigenous activist of the Tolupan tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa in Yoro. She has suffered severe persecution and intimidation since 2013, including surviving a violent episode in which three compas that include one woman of her tribe were assassinated by hitmen, for which her and two families had to flee their territory – the siege never did end but they decided to return in February 2014. Having come back, she also reconnected to be part of the resistance and struggle for the logging and mining companies to leave their territory and for recognition and respect of the community’s territory, including as part of Movimiento Amplio Dignidad y Justicia. With Luís Macías, they were raising four of their grandchildren. Despite the assassination of her spouse, she decided to stay in the community. She knows the hitmen are the same people in each attack, the police knows that too but does nothing. Vilma Consuelo is a holder of IACHR ordered protection measures.
On 11/5/15, in the midnight hours, six indigenous Lenca leaders who oppose the imposition of a hydroelectricity dam project on the Chinacla river were captured by Márcala police, led by officers who are death squad members including Hernán Ventura who persecutes people there and has repeatedly given death threats to Roberto Benítez, one of the arrestees. The other arrestees were Norma Pérez Sánchez, Natividad Pérez, Isidro Gómez, Héctor Mejía, and Lázaro Pérez Lorenzo, and they were not released until 4pm, after appearing in court and being given bail. Behind the dam project are Gladis Aurora López (also president of the National Party) and her spouse Arnol Castro. With charges hanging over them in addition to militarisation and death squads’ presence and living in a state of threat, they and others continue the struggle.
On 30/5/15, in Planes, Santa María, La Paz, at 8am, Luís Martínez, part of the resistance against the building of a dam in the Las Minitas community, was captured and accused of usurpation of land and setting a home on fire. He undertook no such action, but is being persecuted by business people who have the state on their side. Already, last year, of the Minitas Community, Pedro Pérez was assassinated; his killer knows the law would not touch him, that if there are any capture orders, they would be against the Las Minitas indigenous community members.
Son of human rights defender murdered, and stalking/intimidation against women’s human rights defender
On 27/5/15, Rolando Alberto Andino Arévalo (40), son of human rights defender Marigza Arévalo, was murdered. Rolando himself worked as a baggage handler of buses, and was in a booth in the entrance of the neighbourhood Flor Número Uno, in Comayaguela, when 3 unknown persons came and shot him point blank with multiple gunshots killing him instantly. Another person who was talking with Rolando was wounded with two shots in the leg. A fire engine took the survivor to hospital. Rolando’s mother Marigza dedicated her whole life to defending human rights in Honduras, including looking for refuge for people who have suffered persecution. She founded both Cohapaz – Honduran committee for peace action, and Asociación Madre Tierra, her work being driven by her love for life..
On 17/5/15, still with an 18 months prison sentence hanging over her in addition to a lifetime of threats for her long struggle in defending women’s rights, Gladys Lanza was followed over a long trail, starting from 9.30am when she left home and having walked only half a block, two motorcycles without numberplates came up to her, stopped on both sides of her, ‘my reaction was surprise’, and then the motorcycles went different ways, but only four blocks further on had ´the stockiest one’ reappeared and followed her in the street parallel to the buses. She saw the man checking that she got on the bus. The ride was 45 minutes, and when Gladys got off to wait for a taxi, a strange car with dark windows and no numbperplates appeared parked. A taxi took her to do a bank errand in Boulevard Morazán in Tegucigalpa, and she saw the car following the taxi and also parked in front of them in the bank. She stayed in the bank half an hour hoping the car would leave but it didn’t, so when she returned to the taxi, she told the driver to be careful as they were being followed, and the driver managed a turn at the lights to finally lose the car.
Social leaders and organisation persecuted
On 18/5/15, information came out about three cases of persecution against social activists. It revealed that Comayagua social leader Anselmo Romero Ulloa was being followed by unknown persons who drove in cars without numberplates and who have tried to break into his home. It told of that at the midnight hours on 13/5/15, there were two unknown cars circling around and watching the offices of La Via Campesina. It also revealed that social leader/poet/videos producer/journalist Luís Méndez was confronted with a motorcycle that hit his parked car, only to face as he stepped off his car the motorcyclist, armed. Before that, two months ago, the private security of the Monte Verde neighbourhood where he lived were approached by two motorcyclists who came pretending to be air conditioning technicians to try to access his home.
Dirtiness of mining
The villagers of Azacualpa, La Unión, in Copán are tired of mining companies’ meaningless words, and are feeling the increasing tension and intimidation. Minerales de Occidente SA, a subsidiary of Canadian transnational Aura Minerals, emptily promised to build 360 homes by 14/8/14. Not having fulfilled that and wanting to expand, they wanted to start by closing the community cemetery and blasting it. The community held an open meeting in January in which they expressed the opposition of the absolute majority this this, but the company just proceeded to blast the area next to the cemetery with dynamites. Geologists told villagers that the environment had been contaminated beyond living standards and their community need to be displaced. Azacualpa and neighbouring communities have been affected by gold mining by the company and have protested, and have suffered the reactionary threats and harrassment, as documented by human rights organisations.
In Choluteca, where communities have protested and made clear that they do not want mining companies in their region, authorities have deceptively visited communities asking people to sign onto lists from which a distribution would be made of welfare packages. Instead of seeing welfare packages, however, those who have signed will find that they signed instead a petition in favour of mining companies. The mayor also complained to the authorities about having had his signature faked to the same effect in the context of an open meeting.
Even the politicians are being targeted
On 25/5/15, a statement was made about persecution suffered by the oppositional party Libre. It spoke of how a month ago, Mayor Enrique Alejandro Matute Meza and his family of San Francisco, Atlántida, suffered an unjustified raid at home by police. They intimidated these and left without having found any justifying evidence for the abuse. It referred to when a week before the statement, Rafael Sarmiento in Juticalpa, Olancho, who just two days after having announced publicly his aspirations with the party, had his home militarised and was accused of illegal carrying of weapons. They found nothing to sustain the accusation. On 19/5/15, Department of Prosecutors seemingly out of nothing accused Libre mayor Reynold Arturo Castro Castro of embezzlement and audited the council (San Manuel, Cortés) documentation and found nothing.
As well as death threats, president of the PAC party (anticorruption) Salvador Nasralla received a threat from the National Party that announced they will sue him for defamation, after Salvador appeared on Frente a Frente of Televicentro, and spoke about the IHSS scandal of the National party.
Other news from May 2015
- Funds for JOH’s election campaign did not only come from IHSS, there was also over $332,000 channelled from congress, through a payroll manipulation for ‘logistics, travel expenses for journalists, vehicles hire and publicity’, paid to Hilda Hernández, director of the National Party campaign and sister of JOH, revealed by Esdras Amado López.
- When Ricardo Álvarez was mayor of Tegucigalpa, his administration plundered through overpayments of high officials and fraudulent contracts, etc, over US$15 million. TSC, state auditing board, covered up this scandal by only uncovering about $300,000 of the full amount, with attention on more minor irregularities only.
- While Honduran economy is in debt and considered not to do well by Central American Monetarial Advisory, the banks in Honduras are making lots of profit. In 2014, the profits made include, banks that made the most profit in 2014: Banco Atlántida made US$28.8 million, Banco de Occidente made $27.7 millions, Ficohsa made $25.7 millions, Banpaís made $20.3 millions, BAC made $13.6 millions, and Banco Azteca made $12.1 millions. Combining the safes of the Banks in Honduras in May 2015, you would find in them approximately $4600 millions.
- Drinking water is also being privatised, but municipalised first. Workers of SANAA occupied to protest the municipalisation and later privatisation of drinking water, and to the impending loss of about half their jobs. This law was already applied for eg in San Pedro Sula, where the council concessioned water to Italian company Aguas de San Pedro. People there receive constant increases in water rates, get billed for metre reading, experience rations, have poor administration, poor water quality and poor maintenance of aquifers.
- Ticking human rights boxes without improving human rights, the Honduran regime is opening an UNHCR office in Tegucigalpa, and passed a law for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists and justice operators. Unionists and social activists continue to be disappeared, assassinated and threatened meanwhile. There are things they say they will make available to persecuted persons under this law, so we can monitor and see if this happens where people think they would be useful – those things are – telephone equipment, radio, satellite telephone, video cameras, locks, lights, bulletproof vests, metal detectors, personal police protection, immediate evacuation, and relocation. In the latest UN periodic exam of human rights, UN increased the number of recommendations from last time, notes the different areas of grave levels of violations. Meanwhile, Honduran representatives not only undertake these aesthetic changes, but claimed the use of military police are an advance for human rights, and lied and said homocide rates have lowered to 66.4/100,000 – World Health Organisations says Honduras continues to have the highest homocide rate in the Americas with 103/100,000 being homocide victims a year.
- US representatives tell Hondurans, ‘don’t worry about those increased US navy helicopters flying above you, they are just doing exercises, get used to them, they will be around a bit this year.’ (paraphrased). The exercises include shooting practices and logistics. They say it is about coordinating and training of ally forces for dealing with ‘common security challenges’ with a focus on ‘rapid response’. This will be the largest and longest (200 days) deployment of US marines in Central America since about 1989 – there will be 180 based at the US base in Honduras (a site historical for counterinsurgency training, such as of Contras of Nicaragua), plus another 100 in other parts of Honduras and in Belize and El Salvador and Guatemala. They are hushing about the exact start date of the mission, but say it coincides with the start of the hurricane season, which would be 1 June. They say they will jump in and help should natural disasters occur. There are many examples globally of how armies and international aid ‘help’ during natural disasters. The other pretext for intervention is war against drugs. Historically, US military presence has never been good news for Central Americans, they usually meant massacres, mass human rights violations, support for tyrant, and plunder of resources.
- Honduras’ spending on its military has also grown, by 420% in the last decade, according to Alianza por la Paz y Justicia. In Juticalpa, FUSINA, under ‘Operation Hope’ just raided 10 homes, flying over these as well, against those they ‘suspect of drug trafficking or organised crime.’ Apparently from neighbours’ reporting
- As model cities may start any day now, pending final plans and investors, ridiculous promotion has begun. There is a set on videos on ‘how to grow a city in Honduras’. For a taste, it has model cities promoter Mark Kluggman saying, ‘try our cool and groovy idea instead of going on the dangerous la bestia!’ (La bestia is the dangerous train in Mexico Central American migrants go on in attempt to improve desperate conditions). It also sells the idea of turning citizens into shareholders, ‘to get a vote, you can own a piece of land or a part of a business,´ more likely, if the poor in these areas have a piece of land now, they are likely to be forced to sell these to the buyer of the concession, and have less control over their surroundings than they do already. Where model cities are moving in, there is no land that does not have someone’s name on it, so displacement is around the corner.
- In Choluteca, and particularly, in Cuculmeca Hill, in San Juan Arriba, El Corpus, the Commission of Promotion of Public-Private Alliances in Honduras is launching a tender for an industrial mining park, a $5 million project, in the name of sustainable development. El Corpus is where in July 2014, 11 miners were trapped when there was a landslide, and only three were rescued alive, the rest had their bodies found buried five months later. It is an area of self-employed miners, who do have really terrible and dangerous conditions and don’t earn much. However, it is questionable whether the state and private companies taking over this land would make their work safer, better remunerated, or more stable. The state claims it wants to dig in to pull out funds for social programs. With the mining law in place after the coup, lots of investors have shown interest, and there is a view to expand from about 300 mines today, towards around 950 mining sites.
- Ex president Lobo’s son arrested by U.S. D.E.A. and extradited in an anti-drugs operation. Fabio Lobo Lobo was in Haiti when DEA and Haitian police arrested him and extradited him to New York. He is accused of conspiring to drug traffic (5 kgs of cocaine) into US, a crime punishable by life sentence. When asked by the press about this, his dad said, ‘if he is guilty, he has to answer to the law,’ and said he hopes his son is innocent, in which case he has his support, that otherwise he doesn’t. Property and money he obtained through this are subject to confiscation by US. The arrest was probably prompted by the Maradiaga brothers (in custody of U.S. authorities for drug trafficking)’s informing. InSight Crime predicts that this incident will make Honduran elites nervous.