Honduras Coup Update October 2015
Cases of political persecution in October 2015
On 30/9/15, MUCA farmers leader Santos Lemus (45) of Bajo Aguan was arrested accused of having assassinated 2 other organised farmers Donaneli López Alvarado and Santos Caferino of MUCA settlement La Confianza, who are counted amongst farmers assassinated in the region’s agrarian conflict which started in 2010. The week before another farmer was similarly arrested.
Chabelo – José Isabel Morales, was arrested in 2008 falsely accused of assassinating Carlos Osorto of police/landowner family. After having been imprisoned for 6 years, 9 months, and 7 days, the Honduran court system finally recognised that he is not guilty of the charges. He was declared innocent on 21/10/15 after a dragged out third judicial process. Throughout, as Chabelo was recently released to defend himself outside of prison, there was constant intimidation against himself and the family, by strangers appearing in the community near family homes and being followed by strange vehicles.
In October 2015, in Choluteca (neighbourhood fields of San Francisco de Palomar) in which women, children and older folks were beaten and wounded, and in Cortés, over 500 people have been victims of violent attacks from security contingencies of the state, without dued process. Currently, communities of Olancho are under threats of violent evictions.
Repression of protests
On 8/10/15, in the Carías Andino football stadium, when a group of Indignados attended a football match – selection between Honduras and Guatemala, Indignados carried messages of protest to speak up about corruption, and on order from the Honduran National Football Federation Fenafuth, police shouted insults and offensive words and aggressively without explaining why confiscated from the Indignados paper markers, tshirts, and flags with anticorruption messages.
On 23/10/15, it was revealed that on the night of 18/9/15 when there was an anticorruption protest of the Indignados, specialised Honduran troops were transported in United Nations vehicles to repress protesters. UNDP public relations representative Elsy Mendoza denied that the vehicle was of the UN, but El Libertador was able to confirm in an interview with the head of peace military operations unit of UN Honduras, Alfonso Puerto, that it was indeed an UN vehicle, although he claimed that ‘we carried two soldiers in it that used weapons to give security to the troops’.
Siege against indigenous territories
On 16/10/15, in Vallecito, Garífuna territory, a new group of 70 invaders entered in the morning, with that the Agrarian Department INA had titled the lands to the name of Miriam Elizabeth Mena Burgos. Soldiers blocked the way, and had instructions from above to allow the invaders to move through in their trucks. This is not the first time INA is involved in facilitating invasion by issuing illegal titles for business people interested in palm plantations, organised crime, supposed petrol in the wetlands, and model cities. This happened the same time that Garífuna organisation Ofraneh is awarded for its food sovereignty work by the US Alliance For Food Sovereignty.
The Río Blanco communities have been defending their community and river from the imposition of an unwanted hydroelectricity dam project for over three years and have lived massive persecution for their opposition that have included several killings and many more attacks. On 13/10/15, the community re-organised a camp in response to DESA dam company re-starting building of dam – DESA is building a bridge and moved construction to the other side of the river using the loophole that the other side is in a difference province, Santa Bárbara, which the company claims is not indigenous territory, when indigenous Lenca organised in Copinh are strongly against that argument, given that provinces are constructs of politicians, and there is no less indigenous connection on the other side of the river. Community members are taking 24 hour shifts at the camp site, averaging 100 persons per shift, to impede any construction, they set up an improvised kitchen in a tree shade there to cook beans and eggs for those on shift. On 15/10/15, when community members went to the lower part to look at damages that DESA has done against the mountains, DESA staff from the higher part of the hill threw large rocks towards them forcing them to run and escape this attempt against their lives. In the evenings, gunshots of intimidation of all types of firearms are heard by the community in resistance. Death threats (of being killed or disappeared) have begun against indigenous leaders who oppose the project. On 17/10/15, shots were fired at community members and one compa was wounded. Río Blanco community hold DESA and the Honduran authorities responsible for all such attacks against them.
Journalists and medias persecuted
El Libertador is a newspaper that often publishes news about human rights violations and which are critical of the government. On 2/10/15, El Libertador journalists noticed a strange man who parked his motorcycle in front of the El Libertador office and was lurking around, so a journalist from the second floor balcony called out to him, saying, ‘would you like something, sir, who are you looking for?’ The man’s response was nervous, and replied saying, ‘nothing! Nothing!’ and then picked up his phone and appeared to make a long fake phone call as a pretext and to avoid further questions. A journalist took photos of him; El Libertador had in the last months cars parked there for over an hour without turning off the engine or anyone coming out, and always have the dark windows closed. As he noticed people were looking and suspicious about him, he approached the receptionist presenting himself as a technician head of the Seguermas security company and asked if the office had security systems in place. The reception replied that she did not have the information and he left her a business card that identifies him as Oscar Reyes with the landline number of 2232 0288. To investigate him, people called that number and received different responses at different times. Once when a youth answered without giving his name nor the company’s. Once when a journalist called to pass as a military yelling ‘pass me to Sánchez, quickly!’ and a young woman answered without much sense of reaction saying, ‘sorry sir, you are calling the Sandoval Lawfirm.’ Once when journalists called saying they wanted to contract the security services but need to know their National Tax Registration number, and someone called Guillermo said he didn’t have that with him on the desk, ‘but the ‘chubby’ Oscar Reyes visited you lot, is that right? Finally, C-Libre journalists called and asked for Oscar and a woman answered that he was not in, so the journalists explained that they were investigating complaints against Reyes for suspicious behavious against the El Libertador offices. She said she was Elsa Oseguera of Sandoval Lawfirm and that the building has different companies in it, that Reyes installs cameras, but then kept asking if the caller were extortionists. She took the journalist’s name and number for the boss to call back to speak about Reyes, but minutes later, it was someone who said he was Oscar Reyes who called saying he was just offering security offices and wasn’t doing anything dodgy and knew nothing about El Libertador. On 15/10/15 he again came to offer his ‘security services’.
Back on 11/6/15 at 3.06pm, the government department National Commission of Telecommunications Conatel sued the journalist representative of Canal 36/Cholusat Sur, Esdras Amado López, accusing him of sedition. However, this charge was kept secret including from Esdras himself; he found out through other sources of the National Party and approached the prosecutors department asking about it, but they denied that there was a charge against him. This secret charge began 22 days after Conatel sent a warning to him that if they ‘persisted broadcasting messages that attempt against the state security and public interest, that this telecommunications regulating body will be obliged to apply the corresponding judicial statutes.’ The charges were more particularly about having put out news about the IHSS plunder, that this money was laundered in the Banca Nacional, about the alleged participation in the IHSS case of Ficohsa ban also, as well as in money laundering operations of Panamá. Ironically, Conatel is also accusing Canal 36 of having incurred in financial crimes. On 19/10/15, Conatel authority went at midday to evacuate staff of Canal 36, and made the request to the security secretary for a heavy antiriot cops contingent, militarising it. Canal 36 journalists transmitted what happened live. As well as closing their offices, state agents did not allow the passing through of water and food. Esdras Amado López himself went to the Conatel offices from before the militarisation demanding to talk to someone about Conatel’s orders to militarise Canal 36, and about the accusations against him, but he was not attended to so he continued occupying there. Meanwhile, JOH denies that there is an intention to close media channels, but said that the banking and insurance commission has made some charges ‘to protect the finance system of the country’.
Radio/TV Globo journalist Julio Ernesto Alvarado who had been wrongly suspended from journalism following defamation charges, was on his way to Washington to attend a meeting with the Inter American Commission of Human Rights, when immigration stopped him from leaving the country, on the pretext that someone had used his identity from the 70s.
On 20/10/15, journalist Ricardo Ellner was getting off his car to go to a cafe in Tegucigalpa to work on a new publication when he was closed in on by two motorcyles with one rider on each, and told, ‘you son of a bitch’. Ricardo finished taking out the computer and turned around, to hear one of them repeat, ‘yes, you son of a bitch, you talk alot,’ and the other motorcyclist said, ‘we are going to cut your tongue’. Ricardo Ellner is a correspondent of Nuestra Patria Grande, a collaborator of Rebelión, Kaos en la Red, Clarín (Colombia) Resumen del Sur, and Radio Michoacán (Chile). He accuses the JOH government for anything that may happen to him or his family, and reaffirmed his commitment to speaking up, ‘they could assassinate me but they won’t obtain my silence, I will keep speaking up, every time with greater force…they could cut my tongue, but my libertarian spirit will remain intact.’
Environmental defender and family persecuted for opposing dam
On 23/10/15, in El Listón, Quimistán, Santa Bárbara, Kevin Ramírez, defender of natural resources spoke up about death threats and persecution he has been suffering for opposing the Paso Viejo dam government has concessioned to the Canahuati family against community will. Kevin has received threats and notes since 2012 from another member of the same community. In July, someone by the name of Isaías Méndez went inside his home supposably to kill him – they did not find him, and instead grabbed Kevin’s spouse Dilicia Rodríguez and threatened her with a machete on her neck. Kevin has received many threats, notes and messages. The first notes say he had 15 days until they were going to kill him – they got prepared for it but nobody came. ‘Today what they say is that they must remove me, they say “one has to shut up the beak of this tiger or one must get rid of him, whatever it takes.’ Authorities that received complaints took no actions, they only offer to facilitate ‘reconciliation’, between him and the giver(s) of death threats! He then heard gunshots near the home and in the street, and his children tell him, ‘dad, it’s that man´, these nights they could not sleep. On 30/9/15 IACHR granted him protection measures, but these are practically useless as the state is complicit with the persecution. Kevin was left with no option but to leave this community.
Forcing participation in improving JOH/National Party image
In El Progreso, students recorded and shared evidence of their teacher bribing students to attend an activity to show support for the president JOH. ‘Activate’ is a government sponsored program to promote sports. This teacher told the class she will be there from 6am and was taking a list of who will go. Students then questioned what is the relevance of that activity to their spanish class, and expressed that they did not want to go and play JOH’s games. She said that it wasn’t a government activity and anyone who wants to go can go and would get points for it, and for those who don’t to not whinge after.
Dismissals from neoliberalism
On 19/10/15, 1000 staff of state electricity company ENEE who were suspended 90 days ago were officially decidedly fired, and this day ENEE was militarised to impede those dismissed from entering. With these newly dismissed, ENEE now has 2000 dismissed. The justification, is simply that the institutions can decide to do that.
This month, health authorities announced to the press that they dismissed two health employees who took photos of newborns having been put into cardboard boxes in Atlantic Regional Hospital. The concern is on damaging the image of the hospital, in contrary, the concern is not to examine the conditions of the hospital and ensure good health-promoting standards.
As Banco Continental was frozen by implications in money laundering involving drug trafficking, little attention is given to what will happen to wellbeing of those most affected – 3000 are likely to be dismissed, workers may not be paid, people who kept money in the bank may lose their savings. Two have been dismissed so it is beginning.
Update on killed uni unionist
It just came out that Hector Motiño, who was killed 17/6/15, had a hearing in court on 12/6/15, in which he was asked, are you disposed to publicly apologise to prevent the proceeding of this suitcase (of defamation) against you? Hector replied, ‘I have no reason to do such a thing!’. ‘Then this hearing is failed, and the complainant is free to proceed with suing you!’. The hearing went for six minutes, and the hearing was adjourned for the parties to present their evidence, but it never went to that, Hector was killed five days later.
Child killed by military police
A child aged 11 who was to turn 12 on the coming 4/12/15, Joslyn Isaac Martinez Rivera, was killed by military police. He died in hospital. He was shot from in front, in Gracias a Dios neighbourhood, Planeta, San Pedro Sula. His dad said his son was playing with his little friends near their home, when for no reason, the military police started to fire gunshots. He was going to finish primary school that year, her mother cried. Neighbours made a protest to demand justice and warn authorities that there is no justifying killing this child, and that they know it was not a one off. Fusina police institution spokes person claimed that police was fired at and that firing was a response, although witnesses confirmed they only saw bullets of military police, not of other weapons.
News briefs from October 2015
October began with a callout for a general strike and there were highway blockades in Danlí, Puerto Cortés, Olancho, Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and Choloma. Reports were that it wasn’t huge, but this is not to say it won’t be next time.
Corruption has been the catchword and this October there has been much news of a few big fish having confiscations against certain corrupt beings and entities, however, property is removed by certain big fish, and passed onto other big fish, and all big fish is ultimately involved in corruption, and this exercise seems to be a public relations one benefiting certain big fish, JOH president for example:
The Rosenthal family (that boasts a president of a football team Marathón, ex investments minister under JOH, banker, politician, ex parliamentarian) had at least 20 properties confiscated from them, under accusations related to drug trafficking and money laundering by US Department of Treasury. These rich folk took their belongings and left their homes. Their lawyer says the Honduran government could be sued for millions if they are found to be innocent.
US Department of Treasury also cracked down on Banco Continental‘s involvement in money laundering of drug trafficking, and has imposed forced bankrupcy on the bank and announced the bank will be passed onto the Honduran state; JOH obliged and expresses his support. 11,000 staff may not receive their salaries, and 220,000 clients are told they could withdraw $9000 from their accounts. People began to express concerns that this will happen to all banks and the financial stability will be ruined, JOH is prohibiting such talk, and said whoever talks of financial crisis in the social media are members of organised crime.
Also belonging to Grupo Continental is a newspaper that can sometimes be critical of the government: Diario Tiempo. The government has not expressed this month what are its intentions with the paper or its workers, while its funds have been blocked and the workers affected.
From the states and institutions supposedly combating corruption, there is definitely nobody speaking of transferring control of the institutions to workers as an alternative.
Ficohsa bank is also receiving attention for moving and covering up the plundered funds of the workers’ health institution IHSS, this is recognised by the prosecution department and by Canal 36. They used open accounts to make it hard to see where funds have come from and where they go.
Of the IHSS scandal, vice congress president Lena Gutierrez is also up for confiscation of goods and property for corruption in the sale of ‘pharmacueticals’ (some made of flour) to the state. Another up for confiscations is Fabio Lobo, son of ex president Lobo, in relations to drug trafficking.
What do people want to see in ‘attacking corruption’? Honduras signed and was first to, an anticorruption agreement with Tranparency International, a German organisation, a year ago, but it seems to be about publicity show rather than any genuine disposition to changing ways. At the same time as the lack of progress in relation to this agreement, massive mobilisations appalled with blatant and impacting corruption scandals, there are places where the Honduran government is expected to at least play a part in looking like it is working on corruption where it surprisingly does not – Honduran government sent zero delegates to Inter American Commission of Human Rights meetings on the topics of corruption and judicial independence.
Via Campesina and FIAN Honduras examined the impact of free trade agreement between US and Central America and Dominica Republic, 10 years on, and saw that it had weakened farmers’ produce economy of basic grains, increased national dependence on imports of food, and empowered monocrop production for export like of palm oil and sugar cane, which are very damaging to the environment.
On 29/10/15, Honduran president JOH met with Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, in complicity with crimes of the Israeli occupation against Palestinians.
Mining is expanding in Honduras, there are currently 7 metallic and 300 non-metallic mines under exploitation, and another 950 sites are being investigated for profit feasibility for mining, JOH keen to give out lots of concessions.
National Party is keeping its sympathizers in check. He warned them that if they don’t go attend the recording of a commercial ‘Honduras Actívate’, in which the government promotes sporting and exercise requiring 100 youths and adults to wear sports clothes to appear on it, that the nationalist Alan Alemán will note who attends and who doesn’t and proceed to cancel public work contracts of those not supporting.
Transgender persons and sex workers began new organisations to have their rights recognised. Sex workers complain that of the clients who rape the most are police and military police, on top of which they extract $10 against them to be left to continue working.
A new law of fishing will bankrupt the sanctuary of 3000 artesan fisherfolk, it was approved in end of September, without consulting those who will be affected including many Garífuna indigenous people whose livelihood is in this.