December 2015 Honduras coup update
Cases of known political persecution in December 2015
Kidnapped human and environmental rights defender and community radio DJ.
On 22/12/15, at about 10am, Wilmer Alexander Ramos Rivera (24) was riding on a motorcycle headed to San Juan Pueble where he runs a program on community radio Radio Dignidad, when three hooded men intercepted him and ambushed him with firearms, forced him to stop, and to be kidnapped by threatening to kill him if he resisted. He was held for over five hours, during which time he was interrogated about his activities, about where he was going, about his comrades in the Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia (MADJ) of which he is the coordinator for his province – Atlántida. They took his cameras, phones and diary which were used to carry out MADJ work. He was surprised when at 5pm he was left free to go. Radio Dignidad is a the radio voice for MADJ, and MADJ has been part of some major resistance processes in the region – communities in San Francisco and Arizona declared their territories as territories free of mining exploitation and hydroelectricity dams, and in Arizona an open meeting was held in which people spoke up about the corruption of mayor Adolfo Paguada Saybe, who is making deals with hydroelectricity business people. Two years before, Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) granted protection measures for the MADJ leaders of the region because of threats against these, but the Honduran state had not complied in providing these with protection; a common outcome of these protection orders.
Honduran Navy assassinated a Garifuna (Afro-descendent Indigenous), and wounded another, and say, oops, we thought they were drug traffickers
On 27/12/15, at 5.30am, in Barra de Iriona community in Colón, Honduran navy soldiers assassinated a garifuna – Jostin Palacios Lino (24) and wounded another, Elvis García (19), on the side of his body – gravely hospitalised in Tocoa. It was 5.30am, and there were Garífuna villagers’ cars headed to the beaches when one car broke down blocking the others. While some people from other cars were approaching to help, a navy patrol approached and without saying anything began to fire shots, culminating in the assassination and attempt, they also gave no reasons to those who witnessed this. It was later that soldiers told the press that they shot because they confused the villagers with drug traffickers, in an attempt to justify their killing, like the US antidrug forces and Honduran forces had done in Mosquitia before when they massacred Miskitos people. This assassination and attempt took place a few days after IACHR sentenced the Honduran state as responsible for violating collective property rights against the Triunfo de la Cruz (where they concessioned tourism investment projects without consulting with the community) and Punta Piedra Garífuna communities (where there is a land conflict with the Agrarian Department – INA – knowing the land was Garífuna land).
Indigenous activist assassinated
On 20/12/15, Javier Vásquez Benítez, member of MILPAH indigenous Lenca movement of La Paz, was assassinated. His body was found on a cliff in Santa Elena municipality in La Paz. The crime is related to the defence of the community territories against the installation of the Los Encinos hydroelectricity dam.
Unionist and whistleblower seeking asylum
Assistant Nurses union president Yaneth Almendárez is seeking political asylum, possibly in Australia or Canada, as she has been suffering persecution and is in fear of her life. In addition to having been fired initially as a nurse from the Aníbal Murillo hospital in Yoro for speaking with the press about the deaths by dengue and chikunguña fever because of neglect by government, which was then silent about these deaths, Yaneth was in December dismissed as the president of the assistant nurses union ANEEAH – there was a resolution by URSAC – Unit of Registration and Monitoring of Civil Organisations, to have her dismissed from her ANEEAH position; URSAC is headed by Juan Pablo Hernández Alvarado, who is a brother of JOH. In addition, ANEEAH agreed to this decision given that its directive had been infiltrated by national party members who are linked with health secretary Yolani Batres, with whom Yaneth had some major run-in’s with in the last months for speaking up.
News about past political assassinations and attempts
10/12/15 Honduran judicial system declared the soldier Kevin Yasser Zúniga guilty for having assassinated lenca leader Tomás García Domínguez, but it absolved the charges of attempted assassination by the same against the victim’s surviving son Allan García (who was shot several times) saying the soldier did not have the intention of killing Allan, and gave a sentence of 30-90 days in prison for this. The court case continues and the lawyers of the soldier said they will appeal and try to get him bail on ‘good behaviour’ grounds. This process was to continue in January.
Following up on the assassination of university union organiser and lecturer Hector Martinez Motiño, several officials of the university authorities have been named as intellectual authors by a human rights defender from outside Honduras:
Aleyda Romero, president of the UNAH management committee – as someone who has planned for months the murder and contributed to paying the hitmen.
Alina Molina, CURLP campus director of UNAH – as someone who had planned for months the murder and contributed to paying the hitmen, and who was direct author of the first attempt in July 2014 at the CURLP parking lot.
Julieta Castellanos – UNAH director for covering up and negligence – she knew of the testimony of an ESPA staff (private security company) and should have investigated and acted on about the first attempt, and in this way prevented the second attempt before that happened. Julieta is also presumably using her power and influence to slow proceedings on this case.
Also accused – General Prosecutor, Oscar Chinchilla, in ignoring the investigation file of ATIC and not having started the dued legal process.
Hospital militarisation and threats against doctors, in the name of the first dame.
On 16/12/15, the paediatric ward of Hospital Escuela where children in critical states are kept was stormed abruptly into by a military troop armed with guns, saying they were there to ensure the safe entry of the first dame Ana Garcia, the spouse of JOH, for when she did finally arrive. Their invasion was also without showing their IDs. Doctors said they understood the procedures about accompanying the first dame, but asked the soldiers to be sensitive of that there were children with illnesses like Meningitis there who are affected by the militarisation, and asked the soldiers to leave but to come back only when accompanying the first dame who was still not there. The military threatened doctors to not complain about their presence. Following all this, the military did return, with a dog, further contaminating the sensitive environment. A doctor said, ‘I asked them not to bring humans, and they bring me a dog!’
On 3/12/15, César Ham and his family fled Honduras in fear of being killed. He is the ex head of the Agrarian Department INA, – there was an attempt against him and his family months ago, in which his bodyguard died. Investigations about the attempt have not advanced much. Ham is still recovering physically from the attempt. He is also an ex parliamentarian of Partido Unificación Democrática.
News Briefs from December 2015
The Honduran regime continues to be propped up by big funding sources of the world. JOH celebrates funding approvals from US and from the World Bank.
From the US, the Plan de Alianza para la Prosperidad del Triangulo Norte de Centroamérica was announced approved, at $750 million (reduced from $1 billion previously announced), to be spent in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. It supposedly is to address the crisis of mass migration of unaccompanied children to the US, of course the spending plans look no different to the status quo, which rarely improves anybody margainalised’s condition and always worsens such – the strategy involves ´border security, reintegration of migrant and attention to causes of migration flow via programs to improve education, generate employment support for families, confront gangs and professionalise police forces in Central America’.
From the World Bank, $50 million have been approved – it says to ‘support social programs’, and then in finer prints, ‘to support fiscal sustainability and improve competitiveness in Honduras as a base to maintain a system of social protection and generate employment opportunities’ – another word, the infamous and mythical ‘trickle down’ approach. The fund and ‘strategy’ is for the period 2016-2020. To look like it is about supporting social programs, they gave part of this loan to broadening a subsidy to marginalised families so some more families in extreme poverty receive assistance from the ‘better life’ government program.
The Agrarian Department INA has announced restructure, and that 50% of their staff will be dismissed in 2016. It says there is no way around it, pointing to that it has not had money to pay its staff holiday pays for the past three years. INA works with land titles and land reform, its having less staff will affect farmers and indigenous peoples in land conflict situations.
It was also announced that DEI – executive revenue department – will be closed and re-opened as a new institution in 2016 along with the new tax policy. The official version is that this will allow this institution to be re-staffed with highly competent and qualified staff, and changes will bring better pay and housing and social assistance for government staff and families. Many outside are critical and say this is the beginning of privatisation of DEI.
There are already many deportations, but more are being warned. More specifically, Honduran migrants in US who arrived without papers after 1/1/14 and have a final deportation order, who may be hundreds or thousands and include children, will be forcefully returned to Honduras. ICE border and immigration office of US in charge of the deportations said these measures will be focussed on ‘individuals who represent a security threat, public security and border security’ and added that ‘amongst these are individuals who “crossed the border recently, and people who have received a deportation order on or after 1/1/14”. San Diego University professor and researcher Elizabeth Kennedy warned that not only are many such migrants driven by grave economic need, but many amongst these are persons who if returned would be assassinated, that they are persons needing protection. Elizabeth finished a new study of case studies of returned immigrants who after being deported from Mexico and US, were assassinated. She also asserted that there is no ‘increased wave’, that migrants to the US had always been many and will always be. In 2014, there were about 68,000 unaccompanied minors, 68,000 families and 60,000 single adults came came to the US from Central America as migrants.