November 2015 Honduras coup update
Cases of political persecution in November 2015
Threats and orders of imprisonment and assassination, beatings, harrassment against journalists, and threats to close medias with critical voices, and massively dismissed media workers not receiving their pays.
On 13/11/15, Honduran Supreme Court ruled Globo journalist and owner David Romero guilty of charges of defamation, for which he can be sentenced to a prison term of up to 8 years and 4 months. As this decision was announced, from early in the morning, outside the court, there was a heavy contingent of military and police that was later joined by a water tank and more police and soldiers with backpacks filled with teargas bombs. Sentencing will take place on 6/1/15 and it is declared that once the sentence is given, there is no changing it. In July, ex sentencing judge Echenique complained of pressure by judge Bonilla that originated from JOH (regime president) to find Romero guilty and imprison him. Original charges were placed by Sonia Galvez accusing Romero of defamation for having revealed her involvement as a state official in corruption and it is from these charges that he is declared guilty, however, the repressive move is more clearly a reaction to his more recent role in investigating and revealing National Party’s scandal which plundered from the IHSS health and social security institution US$350 million to finance its electoral campaigns. Romero is currently on bail, with conditions of not approaching and avoiding publicly referring to Sonia Gálvez. Nine days after this ruling, Romero revealed recordings of transcriptions of phone conversations between Rigoberto Cuéllar (spouse of Sonia Gálvez) and his friend Roberto Cardona captured by Technical Agency Of Criminal Investigation which show they had plans to execute him had the court not decided to sentence a prison term against him.
On 12/11/15, journalist Andres Molina was leaving an event of the NGO Transparency International in Marriot Hotel in Tegucigalpa when he noticed 3 white Prado vans in which the state security secretary – retired general Julian Pacheco travelled. Alarmed by this, he recorded images of these vehicles and then found himself surrounded by two police who had no visible IDs on them, followed by another group of state agents. One agent snatched his phone but after some minutes, forced Andres to destroy with his own hands the images he recorded. Andres works for RDS community radio and an international news agency and is also a human rights defender and works through social media also. He is a recipient of Inter American Human Rights Court protection measures from having been a victim of a military attack against Radio Juticalpa during the earlier days of the military coup.
On 12/11/15, between 7.45pm and 8.15pm, Canal 36 journalist Ely Vallejo was leaving work when three heavily armed men kidnapped him in a blue Hyundai vehicle with tinted windows, shoving him between two men in the backseat and passing a police checkpoint without any problems. They proceeded to take him to a hotel room where they beat him, took his belongings, and told him to get lost. Before that, on 10/11/15, Ely was covering a protest of JOH sympathisers in which JOH arrived to inaugurate the office of the San Pedro Sula Contributing Neighbours Council, when such sympathisers beat him up and broke his work equipment close to military police but who did not intervene. Ely has a longer history of being persecuted including having had to leave the country in January after having been followed constantly .
Since 27/10/15, Diario Tiempo has been closed from Rosenthal family properties having been confiscated from US originated drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Its staff has gone without being paid since. Authorities are not taking actions to use confiscated properties to pay out the workers
Honduran telecommunications commission (Conatel) has been threatening to close Canal 36 and now is also threatening to close Globo radio and TV. Conatel commissioner Marco Midence signed a notification saying if Globo keeps talking on their programs about the financial instability and scarce credibility of the banks (Globo has been broadcasting about the errors and ommissions of the National Commission of Banking and Insurance and about the forced liquidation of Banco Continental, and involvement in violations by Banco Ficohsa, and IHSS plunder that implicates including Marco Midence’s mum) that they will close the medias.
Journalist and director of Canal 36, Esdras Amado López, had information that he was being charged since March by Honduran Private Business Council Aline Flores; when Esdras sought to be given a copy of the charges placed against him over several days,the women’s prosecutor Luque with whom Flores placed the charges told him he could have this information on the condition that he signs to not refer publicly to the charges against himself. This file is being managed by General Prosecutor Rigoberto Cuellar. Aline Flores is also the owner of Corporacion Flores which distributes Toyota products in Honduras.
Garifuna indigenous leader attempted against
In Trujillo, on Garifuna territory, on 27/11/15, Vidal Leiva, president of the Committee in Defence of Garifuna communities lands of Cristales and Rio Negro was attempted against by hitmen, reciving 3 gunshots, including in his lung, and in his liver, although he is in stable conditions. The attack against him was a block from the office of Quinceavo Batallon de Infanteria in Trujillo. Other community leaders are in fear because of existing threats against members of the community including being followed by people outside of the community. These occurred in the context of a court case of the community against the Canadian Randy Jugersesen for usurpating of the land since 2007 for building a tourism complex for which there was a hearing on 13/11/15. Ofraneh Garifuna organisation asserts that this attempt is the result of the submission of the Garifuna territory to foreign investors as part of the neoliberal experiment for model cities in Honduras. Puerto Castilla of Trujillo in particular is targeted for the implementation of model cities. The 4000 villagers who live in Castilla have been notified unofficially that they will be re-located to Plan Grande, outside of Trujillo Bay.
Farmers persecuted and attempted against in Bajo Aguan
Dozens farmers in Bajo Aguan experience everyday ‘visits’ from heavily armed security guards, who come accompanied by state soldiers, threatening farmers with destroying their crops, or with killing or disappearing a family member if they are seen there again, while they are working the land. One of these persecuted farmers is Jose Rodríguez Gálvez of the Panamá community, where the Gregorio Chávez farmers’ movement is. Recently, 4 guards and 4 soldiers came and told him that they were sent by Roger Pineda with orders to evict the region, and that he could harvest what was there already but if they see him again they would ‘fire a shot and throw me in the Aguán river’, adding that there were no permission anymore there or anywhere else. He has grown crops of maiz, beans and cassava for the sustenance of his family on a hectare of land along the Aguan river. He was twice in September threatened by guards with destroying the maiz and cassava crops. Threats against him began when he cultivated land at El Briche from where he was removed and beaten, since which whereever he has gone to work land, Dinant staff appear and begin intimidating and threatening him, and at the same time, contaminating the environment and causing damages affecting farmers all around all the time. Soldiers have also visited him at home to reiterate threats. This is in addition to attacks affecting all farmers – when armed guards see bicycles by the river, they fire shots to intimidate whoever is fishing. When military is stationed in the palm tree fincas near Panamá community, as their vehicles drive past, they abuse everyone including children, women, older people, and would drop teargas bombs near the football fields where youths are playing. This community had two leaders killed and their bodies found buried in the palm plantations.
On 29/11/15, at 4.30pm, two human rights defenders of the Permanent Observatory of Human Rights in Aguan (OPDHA) were attempted against; Irma Lemus, the OPDHA subcoordinator and Rigoberto Durán, OPDHA member were riding on motorcycles together when unknown persons in a white car attempted against them, smashing into their motorcycle and then fleeing away, on a street that goes from Saba to Tocoa. Irma and Rigoberto were gravely wounded and taken to hospital; Irma was left with her pelvis fractured and hospitalised – she has seen white cars follow her twice before.
Attacks against community resisting against the damming of the river in Rio Blanco.
On 6/11/15, gunshots were fired to threaten Copinh indigenous organisation members including children, and rocks were launched at them by armed men from above – from El Barrial. This attack and threat occurred shortly after the UN Special Relator on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mrs Victoria Tauli Corpus came to visit Rio Blanco and community members in resistance exposed the violations by DESA’s Agua Zarca hydroelectric project. On 22/11/15, Copinh members saw and recorded photographic evidence of some police accompanying a guard in looking after the private interest of the hydroelectricity dam project, while the Security Minister Julian Pacheco denied that police stay on the Rio Blanco site or in the Santa Bárbara one – another site where privatisation of the river is under way, destroying forests and ecosystems there.
Another military attack against another dam resistance
On 19/11/15, as farmer women and men protested outside of and against a Chinese multinational – Sinohydro, which is building the Patuca III dam on the Patuca River – the longest river of Central America, the military unlocked their guns to repress people.
Mining goes ahead against community will
Villagers of San Martin, Choluteca back in September to a council held open meeting, in which 537 voted against mining, and 1 voted in favour. Despite this clear will of the community, mining continued and is damaging the ecosystem, and authorities do nothing to stop this.
In the Honduras-Mexico football match, Fenafuth – football association of Honduras, prohibited Hondurans from protesting against regime president JOH – if anyone does, including if they had bought tickets, it was announced that they would be kicked out, and that there were instructions for repression.
On 4/11/15, UNAH (Autonomous University of Honduras) students began an occupation at 9.15am protesting about the grave state economically, politically and socially Honduras is in, and exclusive policies being dictated at the university. At 11am, students were going to wrap up the protest and leave if the police contingent that were there would not proceed to violently disperse these. Before leaving, students burnt two tyres to make a last mark, and police interpreted this as students breaking the pact and proceeded to attack students with masses of suffocating teargases. Students went for the gate and responded with stones and home-made fireworks. The confrontation continued on and off and from 11.21am included the use of a toxic water tank on the police side. Confrontation finished at 1.20pm. During the attacks, the TV grapher reporter Carlos Martínez of HCH passed out because of the teargases, and had to be taken to hospital. Indignados protester Miguel Briceño was beaten and arrested during the protest and complained that the police station gave ‘the order to disappear him’.
On 13/11/15, at 7.50am, at a protest against the judicial persecution against David Romero near the Supreme Court, police threatened an indignados leader Melvin Roberto Osorto Aguilera, with ‘encostalarlo’ (- putting him in a body bag). That occurred as Melvin approached the police to ask them to let the sound car which accompanies the protest through as it was being blocked by police cones. The (traffic) police’s response was for him to ‘eat shit’, and when others told the police to be respectful, the police repeated for him to eat shit and gave the death threat. Melvin took a photo of the police to make a complaint. About a week later, he was retained by a police line for 10 minutes for having a protest t-shirt on when he tried to get past the police line at the Las Brisas neighbourhood.
On 25/11/15, women were protesting against violence against women, on this international day of elimination of violence against women, when doing so they were subject to police and military brutality. They were 40 women of Centre for Women’s Rights and Women’s Network of the Cruz Roja neighbourhood, and were defying a security fence put to disallow entry into the government house by protesters, when the uniformed agents proceeded to bash the women with batons and threatened them with weapons. Three women were arrested and beaten up and shuffed into the police pick-up patrol, other compañeras intervened to de-arrest these. Merari Medina (15) was hit by an agent in the face, Merari’s mum Evelin Cuellar immediately defended Merary, to which the agent beat both of them; when they tried to arrest Evelin, Evelin threw herself onto the ground and Merari did as well, and the two were dragged by the agents. Police twisted her arm, left her scratches there and her face bruised, her foot beaten, and abusively told her to shut up and stop annoying them. Merary said, ‘I am protesting, because I want to be just like my mum and defend our rights…’ Coinciding with being repressed herself, Evelin’s brother Selvin Lenin Cuellar (33) was being kidnapped and assassinated in a massacre against seven youths aged 19-35 including one woman, who are labourers, bus fare collectors and students. Evelin hears the media say that the victims are involved in illicit and gang activities, which engages Evelin, who said, ‘I know my brother, he lived for his spouse and children, he was a fighter, he fought for a healthy neighbourhood. The struggle I carry out in the streets, Selvin did in his community.’. The other arrestee was Alejandra Corea who was five months pregnant. When Alejandra told her (state) captors that she was pregnant, they told her ‘then why are you here?’ and said to ‘get this old girl off’, and threw her off the patrol, at which another compañera held onto her to protect her from getting beaten by police. Many others were beaten, including two underage women. Men police also later ordered women police to beat up women, the feminists beaten up by women police are with the surnames Padilla, Bonilla and Díaz, and are three of four feminists who received threats from police this day.
On 26/11/15, as CURLP campus UNAH students protested using paintings about the assassination against Hector Martínez, 5 months and 9 days following the assassionation against this lecturer and unionist who was heavily persecuted by CURLP/UNAH authorities, the students were met with intimidation, threats using weapons, and profiling by ESPA security guards under the campus director Alina Molina’s orders. In the context of Alina Molina having made Hector Martínez go through 104 discharge hearings and attempts to discredit him through UNAH publications, she was offended by students making visible his murder. Prior to this, on 5/11/15, students painted a mural for Martínez, this was destroyed afterwards by security guards. Students have Inter American Court of Human Rights protection measures ordered because of constant threats and attempts by university authorities.
Breaking illusions of judicial independence
On 10/11/15, prosecutor René Montalban told the press, ‘I can’t stand the pressures from UNAH director Julieta Castellanos anymore’, in relation to the case of students who have been criminalised. He is assigned the case of the uni student Josúe Armando Velasquez, who was accused of usurpation against UNAH on 28/7/15 when students occupied the UNAH admin buildings. He was under pressure to re-adjourn the case when it should have been closed the same day. The same pressures are also against the other charged students – Cesario Padilla, Moises Caceres and Sergio Ulloa. On the other hand, prosecution is not processes the charges human rights defenders made against Julieta Castellanos for abuse of authority and violation of basic rights against the students.
Unionists threatened and one fired
Unionist of FESTAGRO Nelson Nuñez had his spouse and himself forced to leave the home they had shared for 9 years, worried for themselves and their family. Back on 25/10/15, when Nelson returned home after negotiating contracts, his spouse told him that while he was out, two unknown men in a pickup truck with polarised windows had surrounded their house and took photos in the morning. The day after she called him crying, as the same van parked outside their home again.
Health authorities officially fired, president of assistant nurses association of Honduras ANEEAH, María Janeth Almendares Rivas, from her position in Aníbal Murillo Escobar hospital in Olanchito; her dismissal was announced by a dismissals note on the noticeboard signed by health minister Edna Yolany Batres Cruz on 25/11/15, which had the dismissal date as 1/12/15. She was way at the time on a union meeting in the capital city, so it was her colleagues who saw the note and told her. She had 15 days to contest this in the tribunal if she wants. Prior to her dismissal, María made statements to the press on 21/10/15 about the health secretary hiding statistics about dengue and chikungunya and about irregularities in the purchase of medicines and linking these to deaths from chikungunya. In addition, on 10/11/15 she complained to the Human Rights Special Prosecution about the same. On 27/10/15 she was called to a discharge hearing to give evidence and argument about the declarations she had made – she did not go. Assistant nurses of ANEEAH striked a day in solidarity with María.
Isela Juarez is a union leader of Sitrasemca, who works for the Tocoa Council as a Human Development Department Assistant. She has been followed by a double cabin vehicle with polarised windows and no numberplates in the last month. Persecution against Isela has been on and off and began back in 2011 when she placed a complaint to the prosecutor about acts of corruption by the then mayor of the National Party, Hector Hernández. Today he is a back up MP for Colon. Isela received threats from trusted staff of the ex-Mayor. Followings by cars without numberplates began in 2012, and vamped up again after June 2015 when Indignados marches started. On 14/9/15 the harrassment was such that a car hit the back of her motorcycle and made her crash into the car in front of her. Sitrasemca has in the last months made public complaints against the Libre mayor Adan Funez’s administration for violations against workers’ rights, giving of mining, water and plumbing concessions and at the same time privatising public services. In turn, she has also been repressively transferred twice to dangerous work in other locations without any provisions of security or logistics as a measure towards forcing her to resign. Isela also belongs to the coordination of grassroots organisations in Aguan (COPA) and has spoken up about these violations in both roles.
Politicians also persecuted
On 13/11/15, president of the executive council of Liberal party Mauricio Villeda declared that there is political persecution by national party against some liberal party leaders, mayors particularly, in electorates where national party wants to recover ruling.
News Briefs from November 2015
Confiscation and freezing of big business for their involvement in money laundering and drug trafficking should be good news but isn’t for most. In the recent cases such as the Rosenthal multimillionaire family confiscations, the order is from US courts, and confiscations aren’t nationalised and given to workers control, let alone used to pay workers – 11,000 direct employees of Grupo Continental and 25,000 indirect employees are without pay. IMF intervention is unlikely to be concerned about this. One of the Rosenthal properties frozen happens to be a business that keeps 11,000 crocodiles to later sell their meat and skin to US markets, ‘as well as to preserve the species’. There is no money to feed the crocodiles and they are dying and are being boxed to be burned.
2 children law proposal. To address ‘overpopulation’, Honduran politicians are proposing for each Honduran woman to have up to two children. In wanting this, they are opening up experiments with women’s bodies, removing people’s right to decide how many children they want to have and autonomy over their bodies and lives in addition to Honduras already having contradictorily criminalised the distribution of morning after pills. It is proposed that this would be ‘promoted’ by having a welfare package available (US$500 a year) to families with 2 or less children only, when the welfare package is supposed to address extreme poverty. For this law to go through would mean small families with good economic circumstances can have this money, while it will be denied to desperate bigger families. In China the infamous one child policy was imposed 1979-2009 with threats, pressures, fine, abortions and forced sterilisation. Such policies cause sterilisation, giving away of children, trafficking of organs of children, abandoned infants.
Secrecy law with prison terms was approved in January and applicable from 7/3/14. This affects journalists especially – for revealing secrets of politicians, diplomatics and military with relation to state security, a prison term of 4-7 years can be ruled.
JOH regime president wants to further censor ‘red letter news’. With increasing crime and violence, instead of addressing root causes, he plans to censor media outlets that publish news about massacres and violent deaths, claiming by doing so, medias are ‘contributing’ to delinquency. Likewise, congress secretary Mario Pérez wants to have declared as terrorists, whoever ‘provokes’ massacres and other crimes in Honduras.
On 29/11/15, it was reported that in less than a week, there were 4 massacres in Honduras, in which 27 people were killed.
GRAIN and World Rainforest Network published a research report showing that the most effective means of feeding everybody in the context of climate change is giving lands back to small farmers and indigenous peoples to work these. REDD+ carbon trading projects do the opposite, by placing restricting to the access and use of land by small farmers and indigenous peoples and by contrast enabling expansion of big industries and companies (which constantly and massively displace small farmers and indigneous peoples) everywhere through carbon trading mechanisms. Report link: https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5322-how-redd-projects-undermine-peasant-farming-and-real-solutions-to-climate-change
Along the same lines, regime president JOH boasted in the media that because it has 4 UN Clean Development Projects – another form of carbon trading projects in which ’emissions reductions’ are bought and sold, that this makes Honduras a leader in fighting climate change.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered for the four judges fired in 2010 for protesting against the coup to be reinstated, that the state was guilty of many violations in having fired these. So, five years later, will this mean that Adán Guillermo López Lone, Luis Alonso Chévez de la Rocha, Ramón Enrique Barrios Maldonado, Tirza del Carmen Flores Lanza, will be reemployed in their roles now?
Indigenous Garífunas took Canadian ‘porn king’ Randy Roy Jorgenson to Honduran courts for illegal possession of 81 manzanas of land where his company Life Vision Development sells gated holiday homes to North Americans on the carribean coast of Honduras. He got the land through fraudulent sales stealing the Garífuna ancestral land of Rio Negro and Cristales. Garífunas were not surprised about the case being provisionally dismissed for lack of evidence knowing of the judge’s bías towards favouring investors. Garífunas have 5 years to provide more evidence to have the case reheard, they will be doing so.
New evidence re IHSS (Honduran social security institution) scandal (plunder of US$350 million towards National Party electoral campaigns) published by Globo. A 2013 audit of CA Technologies company shows their implication in facilitating this plunder and directing funds to electoral campaigns of nationalist JOH and Ricardo Álvarez. CA Techologies legal representatives Oscar Roberto Laínez Reina and Jorge Daniel Herrera were declared by prosecution as protected witnesses rather than as defendants because they have information that can finally reveal all the quantitative details to this plunder, as to who received how much. CA Technologies also has a subsidiary COSEM that had a contract with IHSS. Other ‘foundations’ identified to have plundered are Resplandor Sol and Noche Buena.
A honduran MP (Liberal Party) of Bay Islands Jerry Hynds was detained in US airport in Houston. In his luggage, was a 22 calibre gun.
Another Liberal MP, of Yoro, Maritza Varela proposed a bill to approve a National Day of the Baleada – a national dish, on 19/10 every year. On the one hand, it seems trivial, on the other hand, the dish also has a ‘funny’ name, baleada can be understood as shot, by gun.
Honduras Business Council president Alin Flores said JOH is full of it about Honduras becoming an international logistic centre, she said that it is said without studying if there are favourable conditions for such development. JOH’s plans to make Honduras into an international logistic centre ties in with his turning places of Honduras into ‘model cities’ concessioning away expansions of land to companies.