August 2016 Honduras Coup update
Known cases of political persecution in August 2016
Organised farmer attempted against
On 17.8.16, in the morning, in Tegucigalpa, Carlos Geovany Calix (28) was near the Stibys soft drink workers’ union building where he and others rested after the first day of a ‘Forum for Grassroots Unity’, when someone attempted against Carlos, wounding him with a gunshot in the right leg. Carlos lost a lot of blood and was taken to hospital where others accompanied him and his condition stabilised. Carlos belongs to La Vía Campesina and CNTC (National federation of farm workers) La Paz. The farmers’ gathering continued with farmers speaking up about many abuses.
Another organised farmer attempted against, his brother who tried to protect him was killed, and the two surviving farmers were arrested
On the night of 23.8.16, also in Tegucigalpa, in the El Rincón neighbourhood, three organised farmers of Buen Samaritano farmers’ group were out running an errand when they were attacked; José Francisco Izaguirre is the group’s secretary, Wilson Alexander Moradel is José’s brother-in-law and body guard, and Braulio Alduvin López Figueroa is José’s brother. Another detail of the context is that José was attempted against already four months prior to this by someone with an R-15. José and Wilson were accompanying Braulio to go drop some grocery money for his daughter when they were intercepted and attacked with gunshots by unrecognised armed persons at about 8pm. Braulio literally told José in this moment that if they were going to kill José, they would have had to kill him first. As the three farmers engaged in the crossfire in defence, Braulio was shot and killed instantly. Military police then appeared on the scene and arrested José and Wilson but seemingly not their attackers who started the crossfire. José, however, acknowledged that had the military police not turned up, he would most likely had been killed.
In this context of terror and killings, silencing of alternative media mean that more cases of killing and persecution occur unnoticed – the state closed another media
On 22.9.16, in the afternoon, the Honduran government’s National Commission of Telecommunications Conatel sent a representative to Mayavision and Honduvision, passed these media companies a letter signed by Conatel commissioner Dacareth García, saying that they must take Planeta TV off air. This took place within 24 hours after Planeta TV journalist Héctor Amador announced that the channel would transmit the program ‘Interpretando la Noticia’, which is headed by Globo TV director David Romero – the Honduran government closed Globo TV since mid 2016 and also has a 10 year sentence hanging over David Romero with politically motivated ‘guilty’ charges of defamation. Globo TV’s journalists broadcast to a large audience news against human rights violations and corruption cases.
Honduran government unbashfully and officially declares a battle against human rights defenders and their work
This month, the Honduran government gave its police investigation and intelligence unit SERCAA a list of names of human rights defenders it considers to be ‘hostile to the system’ and ordered investigation, surveillance, and tracking against these. Those on this list are Wilfredo Méndez of human rights organisation Ciprodeh, Dina Meza and Kenia Oliva of the Journalism and Democracy Initiative, Hugo Maldonado and Jorge Jiménez of the human rights organisation CODEH, Karla Alegría of La Vía Campesina, Cesario Padilla who graduated from UNAH in journalism and was charged for his student activism there before he graduated, plus one other who chose to remain anonymous. Of those on this list, Jorge Jímenez received a death threat on 8.8.16, and another unnamed person reported having had someone who looked like a soldier follow them almost to the door of their home; this soldier-appearance-person wore a hat and pretended to be reading a newspaper. This is in the context of that the Honduran government had circulated at least two hitlists to its elite army units, on which there are included human and environmental rights activists who are now assassinated or disappeared. Back in the eighties, death squads pasted up lists of names on the main walls of very visible buildings, and many of those whose names were on these lists ended up assassinated or disappeared.
Women human rights defenders arbitrarily arrested
On 25.8.16, a Thursday night, human rights defenders Carmen Díaz Sanchez and Karen Mejía had just left a meeting with UN human rights rapporteurs when they were arbitrarily arrested by cops with the pretext that they were being charged with kidnapping a taxi driver – something that human rights organisations including C-Libre quickly provided evidence that the pretext was a complete fib. In this ordeal, Carmen and Karen were taken to CORE 7 cells in police patrol MI037, and a cop of MI114 patrol told journalists that the cops were filming the arrestees’ faces for broadcasting in the media. Carmen’s mum is a well known journalist and coordinator of Radio Progreso in Tegucigalpa, Sandra Maribel Sánchez. When Sandra Maribel Sánchez and lawyer Edy Tabora came to intervene they were attacked by police agents Obando and Galeas – after suffering the attack, they soon obtained Carmen and Karen’s release.
Uni paints over, covering up images of Berta Caceres on campus walls
During August, uni (UNAH) authorities sent their cleaners to paint over the murals of building A1 students painted of Bertha Caceres, an indigenous feminist environmentalist anticapitalist activist assassinated in March by the state and by the dam company DESA. This is after months of heavy repression that students faced in their struggle against privatisation.
On 25.8.16, students further protested demanding justice for Berta Cáceres, and for uni persecution to stop; uni authorities had just suspended two lecturers Margarita Pavón and Nelson García for having spoken up against the repressive measures the authorities had taken against the students and for having expressed solidarity with the students’ organisation MEU. There are also documented cases of threats by authorities of imposing early retirement against other lecturers. These attacks are contrary to an agreement signed between the authorities and students for any measures to punish students and teachers for protesting to be undone, for any reforms to be postponed, and for students to stop protesting. The authorities were first to break the end of their deal in what was considered a partial win for the students. Also, in publishing articles about this, journalist Ronnie Huete received a threat, through a threatening phone call, from a photographer of a mainstream media.
Another environmental activists under threat
On 31.8.16 , Kevin Donaldo Ramírez Vásquez shared a documentary in which he told whoever watches it that he suffers threats, intimidation and persecution, and those responsible for whatever might happen to him are regime president JOH, Quimistán mayor Juan José Guevara Figueroa, Nationalist MP Martha Concepción Figueroa, owners of Paso Viejo and Cuyagual hydroelectric dam projects Johnny Canahuatti and Emilio Medina, and frontmen Juan-Angel Martínez and Apolonia Quintero of El Listón community. Kevin said that in addition to these, the Cuyagual hydro company engineer with the surname Luna is asking for Kevin to be disappeared. Kevin is in fear for his life, he has been threatened with having his home burnt, and his spouse, Dilcia Rodríguez Santiago had about a year ago on 28.7.15 suffered an attempt against her life by Isaías Méndez, who is Juan Angel Martínez’s brother-in-law. Kevin and Dilcia have two small children. Kevin himself has from age 29 been a community leader involved in human rights, environment, community and church organisations. He had from 2012 worked through the church with youths in a process of consciousness-raising, and worked with 40 communities in defending nature. He defends the El Merendón mountain ranges, the core of which is Cusuco National Park, from which the river and underground waterways flow and which supplies water to communities of five municipalities. Hydroelectricity and mining companies with government backing want to divert this important water source of the communities for their for-profit exploitation. The Cuyagual dam has already caused disastrous environmental damage against biodiversity and human life at the outskirts of Cusuco National Park. Quimistán, despite having generally good access to water, is prone to flooding and drought when El Niño and La Niña hit, this vulnerability is worse when hydroelectricity dams are built.
Young politician with activist background murdered
On 9.8.16, young politician Kevin Ferrera was murdered. Kevin was a founding member the Indignados organising structure, and was lawyer and president of the Liberal Party Youths. He spoke up against corruption and was involved in helping organise recent protests against the reelection of JOH. Murdering Kevin sends a clear message to anyone who speaks up against the system and government, even within the narrow boundaries and rules set by the same.
Protest militarised with snipers
On 27.8.16, at 9am, at the Supreme Electoral Court, the protest against JOH’s re-election was militarised with cops and soldiers, the roofs and main entrances had snipers on them.
Mass sackings and attack against any supposed land reform from Agrarian Department restructure
INA – Agrarian Department, exists to carry out agrarian reform and assign collective land titles to landless farmers. On 1.8.16, INA executive Ramón Lara announced that with the restructure, 400 of INA will be dismissed. This restructure makes up as part of a bigger ‘restructure’ (aka privatisation) in which 6000 are dismissed from government departments also of electricity, children and family, telecommunications, waterways, transport, ports and revenue. Honduras already has 40% unemployment. Those losing jobs at INA are being given the ‘choice’ of receiving their payouts immediately but only 70% of what they are entitled to, or accepting a delay of between two to five years and getting their full entitlements then. There are also 70 staff ready to retire who are being pressured similarly to accept delays in being paid. As well as dismissing 400 workers, INA is closing regional and sector offices and offices for attending to indigenous and Afrohondurans. The offices’ real estate and other goods will be auctioned off. The farmers are those who will worst feel the burden of these cuts. Bajo Aguan is one of the INA offices being closed, in the context of regional monocrop expansion and land ownership concentration in very few hands, it is a site of bloody conflicts that has left dozens of farmers assassinated that desperately needs just redistribution of land to landless farmers. Between 2014 and 2016, INA suffered a budget reduction of US $7.5 million, this amount is roughly what INA owes to workers in backpay, this debt being what justified the need for the restructure. The restructure was made policy on 23.7.16.
Other news this August 2016
World bank more blatantly dismisses human rights. In early August, World Bank made new regressive regulations, amongst which is a policy they call the ‘requirement of collective support’ within the new law of ‘Property and Program of Lands Administration in Honduras’ – this is in relation to the always violated legal requirement of prior, free, and informed consent when a project (eg mining, hydroelectricity, carbon trading) is being proposed where indigenous communities live. The new policy allows the free, prior and informed consent to be skipped when there is a group of people who have expressed support for the project financed by World Bank, giving them license to ignore those who are against and whose lives will be impacted, and likely displaced by the project, that is not to mentioned that communities globally also get massacred for opposing projects.
It also came out this month that Cardenal Rodriguez of Honduras receives US $44,000 every month for his ‘personal expenses’, (which in the last 10 years adds up to US$5.7 million), while other heads of churches in Honduras receive $1000 a month, and occasionally $4000 in cases of excesses, but these are given for improving the church and not for personal expenses. This was revealed by documents of the Catholic University of Honduras UNICAH.