July 2017 Honduras coup update
Killed: Student activist and actor
In the midst of these months of university students struggle, including of many sociology students, on the night of 12.7.17, a group of armed and unrecognised persons abruptly appeared at the Rivera family home’s door. They forcibly entered searching for Luís Joel Rivera and did not leave until they were dragging him with them. His family desperately called police emergency numbers, where they kept reiterating that Luís had death threats against him. Police did nothing. The attackers took Luís with them, they didn’t go very far before they assassinated him. Luís was an active member of the Sociology Students Association for which he was the communication secretary. He is also an actor and the director of a threatre group Sombra Roja, and has worked as an organiser of cultural events and in arts for over a decade. Luís also has been an active part of the students movement.
Student arrested out of the blue
On 2.17.17, student Armando Velásquez was this Sunday afternoon travelling on a bus from the Atlántic coast towards San Pedro Sula, when the bus was stopped at a police checkpoint at El Porvenir, and as they checked everyone’s names, they picked him out and arrested him. Armando was back on 24.5.17 arrested with 19 other students for occupying a university building at UNAH. During this May arrest, he was also singled out at the cells in the midnight hours for interrogation. Armando was in addition one of the 75 students charged the year before but these charges were dropped because of an agreement between students and authorities then.
Evictions against students
Throughout July, there were ongoing student demonstrations including a hungerstrike by several students that lasted most of July and beyond. There were a number of eviction attacks against the students:
On 13.7.17 about 10pm, ESPA security guards and police tried to evict students who occupied the odontology faculty building using pepper gas, verbal and physical threats. The students managed to stay put but one student on hunger strike needed medical attention because of poisoning by peppergas. Students gathered evidence showing the guards smashing desks – something guards did with the intention of blaming students for property damage. They also showed the involvement of Roger Aguilar the retired military with ESPA – Roger was part of the 3-16 batallón which in the 80s disappeared at least 83 citizens.
On 17.7.17, since 7am, at the health sciences buildings, a group of hooded uniformed security guards with red and green ‘Spartan security uniforms’ were on campus holding firearms and knives and pointing these and chasing students in an effort to evict them. They beat students in the faces and bodies and wounded five students. Minutes later though, more students came and they managed to evict the ‘Spartan’ paramilitary group reverting the situation.
On 25.7.17 in the morning, security forces launched teargas bombs to evict students.
Arrestee students now also suspended for 5 years
The 19 arrrestee students from the 24.5.17 uni campus occupation were now also suspended for 5 years.
After a concert: UNAH attacks father Moreno and cancels students radio program
On 28.7.17, the Venezuelan protest music group Los Guaraguao came on campus to give a free half an hour concert in solidarity with university students of UNAH who are continuing their more than 40 days of continuous struggle. After this concert, which also is supported by Jesuit radio organisation ERIC-SJ, UNAH director Castellanos announced to the media in a university council meeting saying that she was cancelling a cooperation agreement between the uni and ERIC-SJ, so that the students radio program supported by this agreement – UNAH VOZ of journalism students, is forcibly cancelled. Castellanos based her decision on her opinion that ERIC-SJ father Moreno ‘encourages anarchy and disrespect of a legally constituted authority’ and ‘encourages practices and ways that generate violence in university youths.’
Students blamed for cancellation of academic term
At the CURLP campus, the authorities on 15.7.17, arbitrarily suspended the second academic period, they they went and gave the press the names of five student activists, announcing that it is their fault this second academic period got cancelled, inciting hate against these.
Journalists close and personal with students’ reality
On 26.7.17, TV journalist José Carlos Cardona expected to hear about the students struggle when he invited them into the studio to talk about their situation on his show ‘Sigo Yo’ which has the slot of 8-9pm, Monday to Friday. José did not expect that as the student activists Héctor Estrada and Héctor Ulloa would minutes before that be yelled death threats by people holding pistols on motorcycles just outside the UNE TV studios. ‘Death to MEU’, they yelled. Cardona was nervous and did not give the usual welcome speech. He said, ‘The life of these youths are in danger, since 2 months ago all this began, this is very regrettable… what just happened to you has me in shock, it is so extreme I don’t want to believe it, this war of hate against you, against you student leaders within MEU and all who are part of this struggle.’
The day before, on 25.7.17, during the morning, as La Tribuna cameraperson Arturo Hernández was covering the eviction against students at UNAH, he was wounded by police – a stone impacted his head. Students helped Arturo get help and take him to a safe place and got him to the care of Red Cross Honduras. Security forces were launching teargas bombs to evict students.
Human rights defender smeared
On 12.7.17 UNAH CURLP director Alina Molina in a tv interview smeared Costa Rica-based human rights defender Ana Franzen calling her a ‘psychiatric patient’ for speaking up against UNAH authorities and their implications in the persecution and assassination of Hector Martinez Motiño.
Attempt against lives of Copinh leaders
On 30.6.17, Copinh leaders Sotero Chavarría, Asunción Martínez and Bertha Zúniga Cáceres were travelling together in a car after having met with the Cancire community. While driving along, their car was intercepted by four unknown people armed with machetes, but they managed to escape swerving to avoid contact with the attackers, but not without having been hit by a stone thrown at the driver’s window. Minutes later, a black Toyota Tacoma PCH1886 that was at the initial attack tried to crash into them and push them over the edge. When that did not force them over the edge, the Tacoma drove in front of the Copinh car and braked in front of them, but the Copinh driver managed to break away in a different direction and escaped. The Cancire community like the San Antonio, Higuito, and Cedrito is organised with Copinh and is standing to lose their water sources if the building of the Puringla-Sazagua hydroelectricity dam that is supported by USAID funding goes ahead. Bertha Zúniga Cáceres is the daughter of the assassinated Copinh coordinator Berta Cáceres 16 months ago, Bertha the daughter is the current coordinator of Copinh.
FMO and Finn Fund – withdrawn but not without any buts
On 6.7.17, following tireless campaigning and pressure of Copinh communities, there was finally official confirmation that FMO and Finn Fund have withdrawn from the assassin hydroelectricity dam project Agua Zarca – however they have ignored Copinh recommendations about the responsible exit they should take. For one part it meant they are still promoting a decision making process on a hydroelectricity project even though the Lenca indigenous communities have clearly rejected this and that continuing to put this on the table only invites more violence and repression against the communities. For another part FMO and Finn Fund have not recognised their responsibility for the deaths and human rights violations through their contributions to Agua Zarca. Copinh continues to demand that they recognise their responsibility.
Corrupt teacher gives death threats against journalist
On 5.7.17, for having spoken up about teacher Félix López having found an administrative loophole to get paid for teaching without fulfilling a teaching role, Trujillo based journalist Miguel Dubón received death threats from Félix, who said, ‘this son of hundred thousand bitches of Miguel Dubón has me tired but today is your end, you will die slow you ungrateful piece of rubbish’. Miguel is journalist and director of the Noticiero Independiente program of the Warumuga Garifuna community radio of Ofraneh. He is also a correspondent of Radio Globo and of Radio Progreso.
State fines and threatens to close a garífuna community radio – Waruguma
On 27.7.17, Conatel (Honduran Telecommunications Commission) threatened to close the Garífuna community radio Waruguma (Estrella) and also sent Ofraneh received a resolution signed by Conatel president Javier Duarte García, which declared the community radio as ‘rebellious’ and imposed a fine of 30,000 lempiras (US$1300). The document referred to a proceeding that began on 1.6.11 when they also tried to close the media using the law Ley Marco del Sector Telecomunicaciones. Waruguma and other Garífuna community radios do work of defending ancestral territory, speaking up against illegal land sales.
Radio program ordered closed
On 6.7.17, journalist Jorge Oseguera spoke up about that after having remained on air for 3.5 years and almost daily messages telling him to watch out and to stop talking about certain topics, his news program on 96.1 FM of Buenos dias Buenas noches San Pedro Sula’ was removed from ‘Radio International’ programming in an unilateral decision made by the owners. Jorge described himself as a pretty aggressive journalist and is also a correspondent of HRN. He received an average of 150,000 calls a year on the program.