February 2017 Honduras coup update

February 2017 Honduras coup update

Another Tolupán indigenous leader assassinated

On 17.2.17, José de los Santos Sevilla was assassinated, attacked by five unidentified persons who broke into his home in the La Ceiba neighbourhood, Orica province. José was the president of the Association of Tolupán Indigenous Communities of Montaña de la Flor. He worked as a primary teacher. He formed part of a network of judicial facilitators. Having been murdered, he joins the over 100 Tolupán people in Honduras who have been assassinated in the last two decades – an extremely high number given that the Tolupán population in Honduras is only about over 20,000. Murders against Tolupán people are linked to companies and related to the Tolupán resistances against mining and logging exploitation in their communities.

Director of Women’s organisation sued for demanding justice for Berta’s murder

Because Centre of Women’s Studies – Honduras (CEM-H) called for justice for Berta and for the impunity of DESA to end, DESA filed a lawsuit suing CEM-H director Suyapa Martínez. DESA charged her for defamation, they are asking her to be fined a million lempiras (about US$42,500).

Smear attacks against Copinh continues, including against Berta’s daughters

At the end of January 2017, in a press conference, Copinh spoke up about recent images that have gone out on social media that incites hate towards the Copinh indigenous organisation, and against Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, one of the daughters of the Berta Cáceres, well known indigenous feminist anticapitalist activist murdered in March 2016. The images accuse those attacked of hating and destroying the image of Honduras, and try to make people confuse the indigenous organisation Copinh with the political party Libre to delegitimise this indigenous organisation. Smear campaigns are also widely used prior to violent persecution to confuse public opinion – like in Berta Cáceres’ case, so those attacked in this way are literally being threatened at the same time.

University director directed bodyguards to attack journalist at work / another attack against protesting students

On 15 and 16.2.17, at the national autonomous university UNAH, there was a symposium on human rights and the judicial system of Honduras, which was attended by UN human rights reps, US Ambassador in Honduras James Nealon, the Honduran Ombudsman and uni authorities. A press conference – national and international – was organised as the first part of the symposium came to and end. Journalist Ronnie Huete took the opportunity to ask UNAH director Julieta Castellanos a question in relation to police brutality in the use of toxic gases inside the campus grounds, in reference to recent repression on campus against a students protest on 9.2.17, on which date three students were arrested and one of the arrestees, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, suffered cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment during a beating he was subject to by a Cobra police. Journalist Ronnie Huete’s question infuriated Castellanos, who called on her bodyguards to use force against him to silence him.

Ongoing: mass dismissals, privatisations..

In the period of October to December 2016, 1250 public service workers were dismissed – 250 from INA Agrarian Department, which has the job of processing land titles for farmers, and 800 from ENEE electricity company. Downsizing was to save almost US$1 million. No statements were made by the institutions on the impact the downsizing will have on social and public services, and on privatisation, or how what few jobs are left are saved for those affiliated with the party in power, or that the savings are to please World Bank, IMF, Inter American Development Bank, and Central American Bank of Economic Integration, so these would give loans, while the many suffer the consequences of privatisation. CUTH workers federation general secretary Joel Almendares asserted that in the last three years or so, over 20,000 public employees have been dismissed en-masse in Honduras and many have been suspended for four months without pay, that there are no opportunities for youths, and highlighted violations to collective contract and workers’ right to union organising.

Miners in Santa Bárbara protest

In El Mochito, miners marched, hugged, cried and prayed. They were on strike for a week, demanding increases in pay and for collective contracts, as despite orders by the Secretary of Work, and many meetings and negotiations, their pay remained starvation wages. Their situation is particularly precarious because of changes in company ownership – the company was sold by Nyrstarr to Morumbi Resources Inc (Canadian mining company) last year, which has committed to selling 100% of its zinc production to American Pacific Honduras which sold Nyrstar 98.04% of shares back in April 2014. Morumbi has taken possession but under the direction of the company Ascendant Resources Inc.

A recap on the Globo Witness report, ‘Honduras: the most dangerous place to defend the planet in’

In reference to 123 defenders of land and common resources having been assassinated in Honduras since the 2009 coup, and of many others persecuted, and of the 90% impunity, it is recapped that this dangerous condition in which to resist and oppose megaprojects from the communities, ‘These are a direct consequence of a lethal cocktail where generalised corruption is combined with interested of big national and international capital, with collusion with politicians and state officials, where there is no practically protected right to prior, free and informed consultation with the communities and there is impunity.’

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