February 2016 Honduras coup update
2nd or 3rd of March does not fall into February. But on this date, well, one of these dates, because we don’t know if it happened before or after midnight, but, indigenous organisation Copinh coordinator and co-founder Bertha Caceres, who won the Goldman Environmentalist Prize in 2015, was while sleeping in her home, murdered by hitmen who broke in. She is about the most wellknown grassroots activist in Honduras internationally, and had worked hard including on the campaign of Rio Blanco, to not allow Agua Zarca project, of the DESA and previously SINOHYDRO companies backed by international finances, to dam the sacred indigenous Gualcarque River. She is known for standing up with indigenous communities against dams and mines and for self determination, empowerment of women, and for speaking very clearly against ‘green energy’ industries that contaminate and violate communities and environmental rights, against false models of ‘development’, against false solutions when addressing causes of migration. More about her and what happened in the March 2016 update, coming up very soon. Take note that a number of threats and attacks have been documented against her and the organisation Copinh in February alone.
Five indigenous activists of Tolupan community assassinated
Nameless in order to protect survivors in a situation where nobody’s safety is even likely, five people of the Tolupán tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa were assassinated on 21/2/16; four of these died immediately, the fifth was gravely wounded, taken to San Pedro Sula to hospital, but where they then died. They were killed at caserio Cabeza de Vaca Número 2. From Locomapa, with this new massacre, there are now 17 Tolupanes of Locomapa who have been murdered in this context of the state being in complicity with clandestine mining and logging companies. Victims of assassinations are of the community which defends the territory and the environment. Prior to this massacre, the last assassination was in April 2015 against Luís de Reyes Marcía, and the massacre before this one was against four tolupanes on 25/8/13.
Indigneous community and Copinh threatened during protest
On 20/2/16, Lenca people accompanied by Copinh organisers protested against the hydroelectric dam project Agua Zarca, this protest was repressed by staff of DESA and of San Francisco de Ojuera Council and army, police, guards and hitmen. Berta Cáceres, Copinh and the Rio Blanco community also received death threats: from Mayor Raúl Pineda and deputy mayor, what’s more, over 100 of these including Bertha were detained and later released. About this day, Copinh sent a statement saying, ‘we demand respect for our right to mobilise and to protest, the right to walk to Gualcarque river to defend life and the Lenca territory. We accuse the engineer Sergio Rodríguez of DESA as well as Mayor Raúl Pineda and the nationalists for threatening the physical and emotional wellbeing of our compas.’ The protest against Agua Zarca isn’t new, the community had with Copinh mounted a blockade since 1/4/2013, but the construction has now moved to the other side of the Gualcarque river to make it more difficult for protesters to stop it.
Eviction against 50 indigenous families
On 25/2/16, police, investigative agents, and army, armed with an illegal and arbitrary court order from judge Mario Pineda, raided, and violently evicted 50 Lenca families of the Jarcia community in Guise, Intibucá. Attacks were indiscriminate and were against including pregnant women, children and older folks. The order was made in favour of businessman Lenin Pérez, who was directly involved along with the contingent in destroying the evicted homes of these families with bulldozers.
Other threats Berta Caceres received in February
On 16/2/16, armed men followed Berta Caceres and other Copinh members who were leaving Río Blanco. They were followed in a car from Pan de Encima until Zacapa.
On 25/2/16 during the eviction against Lenca families in Guinse Intibucá, one state investigative agent there harrassed Berta and told her that they would not help her ‘if something were to happen to her’. One of this group of investigative agents was involved in the assassination of Bernardo Pérez and was in December 2015 detained for illegal possession of weapons, but was released after having been openly supported with money and influence by the DESA head of security Jorge Avila. There are clear links of collaboration between DESA and the state in threatening the Lenca people, in attacking people who oppose the Agua Zarca dam project.
On 26/2/16, at 5pm, Berta was in San Pedro Sula and she received a phone call informing her that a car was circling around her home.
On 6/2/16 Marlon David Martínez Caballero (27) was assassinated together with four others in the midnight hours in the Ríos Piedras neighbourhood in San Pedro Sula. Marlon was until two years ago the director and journalist of TopMusic radio station where he worked for four years, in Tegucigalpa; Topmusic belongs to the Invosa group, which also owns Radio Cadena Voces (RCV). RCV director Carlos Lópe said Marlon was something who had critical thinking and covered issues including delinquency in San Pedro Sula. Invosa group journalists have suffered severe persecution including assassination, threats, gunshots against RCV building, glass on RCV car broken.
Copinh indigenous journalists detained by guards of the first dame
On 4/2/16, at 1.15pm, as the first dame Ana García was holding a manipulative public act in Valero Meza school in Intíbuca, the young Copinh journalists Rolando Gutiérrez and Selvin Milla were aggressively, arbitrarily and unjustly detained by the first dame’s guards and soldiers. Rolando and Selvin are part of the community radios Guarajambala and La Voz Lenca, and also belong to the community defence team of Copinh, and were at the event to cover it critically. They were pointed at by the Intibucá mayor Javier Martínez, and immediately the guards and soldiers went to capture them, drag and push them to behind the classrooms and threatened them with imprisonment for ‘being oppositional and for being against the government’. The guards took off Selvin his personal documents and the filming equipment of both and deleted the contents of these. Other Copinh compas of that locality intervened to stop the physical attacks, but the two were taken in a police patrol to the police station, and not freed until 6pm that afternoon.
First dame’s guards’ second attack against journalists in February
On 11/2/16, this time it was at a launch of an investigation unit of violent deaths of women and femicides in Honduras that the guards of the first dame Ana García attacked journalists. Rony Espinoza of Radio TV Globo was trying to enter the event and was told that there was an order to not allow in journalists of Radio and TV Globo. Oxfam International also had its entry into the event temporarily restricted. C-Libre journalist and human rights defender Tomy Morales intervened for Rony to be able to go in to cover, but not without her being subject to verbal attack by the staff of Ana García. Having entered, Rony tried to interview Ana García when she was being interrogated by journalist Rosángela Soto of Hoy Mismo, but was stopped by the presidential guard of García. When Rony asked them to let him interview her, they pushed him, wrestled him and grabbed his shirt in front of everyone. Femicide is an issue close to Rony’s heart; Rony’s daughter Merelym was a young woman who was killed violently, whose case remains in impunity.
Organiser judicially persecuted for using social media
Elvin Molina’s neighbours told him that hooded men walk around with photos of Elvin in their hands, and took photos of his spouse, family, and even the dog. On 20/1/16, four hooded armed men came off a car and went to arrest Elvin, and when Elvin asked what he was being arresting him for, they replied that they were simply taking him for investigation. For someone who ‘wasn’t being arrested’, it is ironic that he was then released on 22/1/16 and given bail. Elvin was accused of a ‘financial crime’… it is not that he money laundered, but that he criticised banks on social media, giving ‘false information’ about powerful banks Ficohsa and Occidente, for their money laundering and their links to corruption. Throughout February Elvin dealt with adjournments not knowing how long this were to hang over him for. Finally, there was a hearing held in March, and in this hearing, the judge asked the police why they captured him when thousands have spoken up on this topic in the social media, the investigative police Pierson Aragón Regalado answered that, ‘he is not a common citizen, since he is the leader of the Employees of Alimentos Continental and was also part of the ‘Indignados’ which is the group of people who are against the president, apart from which he is a member of the political organisation Casa del Pueblo which is an organisation that supports the Libre party, and because of the fact that he is a leader, his publications generate more impact!’. At that point, the judge dismissed the case as the accusation was a violation of Elvin’s freedom of expression. Elvin worked hard organising as one of 11,000 ex employees of Grupo Continental who lost their jobs and did not get paid their entitlements.
Dismissal threat against unionist
RNP union president Edy Moncada was notified that he would be dismissed; this has not been carried out yet, and it is hoped that it doesn’t. This is in the context of other unionists having been dismissed and public sector organisations having meetings.
News Briefs from February 2016
Update on IHSS scandal. Lena Gutierrez’s family is accused of crimes against health of the Honduran people, and of fraude against the state and irregular sale of medicine, having sold aspirin that don’t dissolve in people’s bodies, causing harm to patients. Her lawyers are now pressuring for the Supreme court to resolve her legal situation. They are pushing for prosecution to carry out the preliminary hearing.
Teodoro Bonilla, the vicepresident of the judiciary council, has a suspension from his duties as ordered by court. He is also under house arrest and is prohibited from leaving for country and from communicating with two people named Delmy Elizabeth López and Liz María Ernestina Núñez. But no, this is not for abusing his power and complying with an order from JOH the president to send journalist David Romero to prison – another judge spoke up about this as he was pressured by Bonilla to hurry Romero’s case and put him in prison, instead, the crime is for abusing authority by trying to favour a family member to avoid justice for a charge relating to organised crime.