April 2018 Honduras coup update
Five months on from the beginning of the fraudulent re-election of JOH and the fiery struggle to stop this dictatorship, the dictatorship continues to be such and is attacking anyone still resounding the words ‘Get out JOH’ and chasing others they remember as having been loud in this struggle. Similarly it has under siege farmers who are continuing their years of struggle for land and justice, journalists and environmental defenders are similarly persecuted for continuing to tell the stories and for being there to stop mines and dams. An ex police who joined the struggle against JOH was threatened and now assassinated.
Continued attacks againt people calling for JOH to get OUT including an assassination against an ex-police
While there isn’t currently a blockade in every highway from early every morning to stop the JOH regime that has assassinated many for participating in exactly this before, the JOH dictatorship continues to act with brutality and severity against those who keep the fire burning.
On 31 March 2018, José Duarte was murdered (40th person killed by the JOH fraud dictatorship regime). José was a police agent, but he quitted and joined in with the struggle on the streets and in social media. Before having been killed, he was seen on UNE TV speaking up about being persecuted by the police force for having taken up a position of struggle for justice.
On 3 April 2018, in Tegucigalpa, young Jorge Espinal was somewhere writing ‘Get out JOH’ when a military police launched into brutally beating him to the point of leaving him disabled.
On 4 April 2018, in Choloma, police proceeded without any capture orders to arrest 13 youths who regularly participated in the protest marches.
On 18 April 2018, in Marcovia, Choluteca, people were protesting against the fraud and calling for an end to corruption, when the protest was met with repression and some youths were arrested.
On 22 April 2018, in Tegucigalpa, at night time, lawyer Claudia and her spouse were illegally arrested by police when they were found with a flag of the Libre party – Claudia had been at a protest outside the presidential house with a placard saying ‘Get Out JOH’. As well as arresting them police tried to plant (literally) a marijuana plant in their backyard to then sue them for the possession of drugs.
On 23 April 2018, in Las Vegas, Santa Bárbara, police arrested Darwin Pacheco, who is active in the struggle against the fraude and dictatorship. He is falsely accused of having participated in the burning of the local police station during the antifraud protests there.
Also on this date, one of the over 20 political prisoners of the JOH regime Jhony Salgado, was finally released after having been imprisoned for almost 4 months. He is granted bail to continue the court case outside the prison. The charges he faces are: carrying of commercial weapons illegally, and undue use of police uniform.
The defence lawyer taking his case is Merlyn Bonilla who is herself the parent of a victim of an extrajudicial execution in Agua Blanca El Progreso.
Just to push the point further that the JOH dictatorship regime is very touchy about being told to get out, back in December 2017 when there was a campaign to write ‘get out JOH’ on the money notes of Honduras as one means of protest. THe Central Bank of Honduras president Manuel Bautista warned that all notes intentionally damaged with ‘offensive’ writings on them won’t be received by the banking institutions saying they will ‘lose their value’.
Farmers and land under siege
Especially at the region occupied by palm oil giants such as Dinant in Bajo Aguán, but also in other regions such as La Paz, farmers have faced this month sieges, threats, intimidation and arrests.
On 1 April, the Paso Aguán farm in the Panamá community in Trujillo, Colón, in Bajo Aguán had been told they will be evicted. In addition, people heard that the army will use strategies like planting weapons and drugs and then ‘finding’ these in raids in order to arrest farmers and warp public opinions, and planting infiltrators within the movement. They are resorting to these measures as they had found that farmers’ land struggles keep on going despite violent eviction, teargases, killings, threats and persecution. Back in October and November, during the soldiers’ occupation of the farm, farmer José Alfredo Rodríguez and the 13 year old Mancias were murdered on this farm.
On 5 April 2018, in Paso Aguán, voluntarily withdrawn from areas where farmers organise were Dinant guards and Xatruch army agents who have occupied there since May 2014 – but as these left in their trucks they took away with them people’s work tools, tractors, horses, etc. Farmers also point out that of the region, the area farmers occupy is small in comparison with the area Dinant and the military occupied there.
This withdrawal was not a sign of better times ahead. The very next day on 6 April 2018, the Xatruche operation arrested there Ariel Chávez at 5pm. Ariel is a son of Gregorio Chávez – the name of the farmers movement there because Gregorio was a farmer activist there who was murdered on 2 July 2012. Ariel was selling what he had harvested that day from the land he worked that he inherited from his dad. When people approached police to ask for information about the arrest of their compa Ariel, security agents threatened these, getting their weapons ready and pointing these at the community members, including at the Aguan Agrarian Platform coordinator.
Elsewhere, in Lepaguare, Tutule, La Paz, on 11 April 2018, police captured Arturo Salinas when he was on this way to work. Arturo belongs to the farmers group 8 de febrero and the group is associated with CNTC – national federation of rural workers. On his capture order it says he is accused of usurpation of land.
Another farmers group of Bajo Aguán was undersiege on 14 April 2018 – the La Concepción MUCA settlement in Tocoa, Colón. A heavy military and police contingent arrived to the home of Lazaro Peralta and of some other neighbours there, this military occupation started at 5am, without announcing what their intentions were. People feared Lazaro would be arrested because back in 2016 there was a similar operation against him in which him and his dad were arrested. Four hours on, Lazaro Peralta was arrested, as were Diego Ruiz and Bairon Peralta, all MUCA campesino leaders. All three were charged with the supposed illegal possession of weapons – Lazaro and his dad faced this charge too back in 2016 (he was found not guilty then for lack of evidence). The three were meant to have hearing for the arrest on 14 April at 8am on 15 April – however they were surprised with a new charge of attempt of assassination which caused the hearing to be suspended and moved onto 30 April. This delay meant that the three were imprisoned for 8 days before being granted bail after the new charge was dismissed for lack of evidence. The weapons possession charge remains – the regime is using his charge lots against activists at the moment as part of their strategy. Lazaro is amongst MUCA leaders who since over 2 months ago have been pushing for a MUCA assembly to elect a new directive committee for MUCA because the current one is imposed by a paramilitary group – something that would have singled these out for persecution, in a context with many farmers charged, others assassinated, some both.
Communities and advocates defending indigenous territory and nature against mines, dams and megaprojects also being attacked..
On 4 April 2018, Eulogia García who has received a chain of threats spoke up about new threats she is receiving from an identified National Party activist. Eulogia is a defender who actively opposes a mining company, and who defends indigenous and women’s rights as a Lenca indigenous woman. She is of the San Antonio Chuchiltepec community in the Zacapa municipality in Santa Bárbara. She belongs to MAS – Santa Barbara Environment Movement.
On 5 April, the El Triunfo community of Choluteca were protesting and calling on the mining company that wants to impose itself there to leave, when the company’s agents fired gunshots against women there. In response to the gunshot attack, people threw stones at the attackers.
On 12 April, in San José, La Paz, two police armed with guns and bulletproof vests arrived at the door of Liliam López and her children, asked her son at the door for water and then used that as a pretext to enter the house and once inside they began threateningly searching the house. Liliam’s son asked to see the search warrant saying they can’t do that without one, the police ignored him and continued searching, raiding. When they were done and had found nothing incriminating, they took a photo of the son and left without saying anything, and fled by flagging down a moto-taxi. Liliam López is the women’s coordinator of the indigenous organisation Copinh. When a complaint was placed at the police about the raid, police said they have no record of themselves doing that. Not only was the raid itself a grave violation, it is also a sign that the lives of those targeted in this attack are at risk.
On 14 April, the Pajuiles sector is on alert as they are taking direct action to blockade the Hidrocep company from moving in their machinery to imposing and building the hydroelectricity dam Los Planes. If this project goes ahead, the water source of the community is threatened. The community blockading the machines from the area are at risk of attacks from the company and state.
This same day, in La Paz, Lenca indigenous leader Hilario López has been released after having been found not guilty for the charge of homocide, however, the charge and hearing continue for the charge of illegally carrying weapons.
On 30 April 2018, in Arizona, Atlántida, mayor Arnoldo Chacón is being charged and threatened for accompanying communities in opposition to mining and hydroelectric projects there on the Hilmaito river. The Hilmaito river is the main water source in the area. He is doubly charged with defamation and usurpation of land, together with 4 community leaders. Through Radio Progreso, concerns are raised too about possible plans to assassinate him, given that his lawyer Carlos Hernández has been assassinated.
On 5 April 2018, at night time when students who work during the day took night classes, hooded police and military under the direction of a prosecutor surrounded the Genaro Munoz school and entered it en-masse and in the name of a prevention operation. They began to search all the students, in some cases taking advantage of the situation to sexually harass – to touch the intimate parts of some female students’ bodies.
In Costa Rica, the student activist and Honduran refugee Eduardo Urbina who has been detained for a few days by the Costa Rican migration authorities (where he was living and seeking asylum), was finally granted refugee status as a politically persecuted person in Honduras and released from immigration prison.
On 19 April 2018, police and cobra squads violently evicted launching teargases repeatedly against students protests at the UNAH campus in Tegucigalpa. There was one protest in solidarity with a UNAH-VS student who has been raped on campus, demanding a safer environment to study in. Another protest was of the MAU broad university movement commemorating the 30th anniversary of the capture and subsequent disappearance of Roger Gonzáles.
Threats and intimidation against journalists
On 23 April 2018, Noti Omoa owner, and Omoa Cortés correspondent for HRN radio and Sinprodoh TV, Mauricio Ortega, received death threats on a facebook message. The message read: “Mauricio no te metas donde no te incumbe x andar ese micrófono diciendo lo que no podes quedar con el osico llena de moscas malparido” – which is something along the lines of – Mauricio you and your microphone, get out of what is none of your business or you will be dead and have flies covering your body. The message was sent from the facebook name of “Mgp Capitan Barcaza”. The same day he got this threat, he was followed in the car at night by a black van without numberplate when he was driving home with his spouse and daughter after having gone to a family gathering.
On 24 April 2018, in San Francisco, La Paz, Olancho, journalist Carlos Roberto Flores was filming a car accident scene involving the police patrol PN-614, in which the police was arresting a motorcyclist, when police threatened the journalist carrying credentials to stop recording or have his camera confiscated. When he continued the police approached him to hit at the camera and at the same time, touched the gun the police carried. The footage of this was put on San Pancho TV.
On 25 April 2018, in Choluteca city, Mega Red Nacional (national mega network) journalist Johana Arecely Contreras was intimidated for the fourth time this year by state security agents. This time, she was covering police repression at a protest in which police launched peppergas at young people who had to flee and find refuge, when she was attacked by police. The video showing what happened is here: https://www.facebook.com/MegaRedNacional/videos/2037652866450046/ – it shows the police tried to hit Johana with a baton and then started to film her face – and immediately at least 5 uniformed agents ambushed her to intimidate her and invade her space, yelling at her, ‘look for something else to do, its better if you go to sleep’. Johana was filming police repression in which they launched pepper gas at young people and they had to flee and find refuge. Previously, back in January, soldiers on patrol 6314 obstructed her work twice, and on 28 March 2018 motorised police officer Moran attacked her directly when she was covering a protest – she was on a motorcycle and officer Moran aggressively forced her off the motorcycle and snatched and threw away her mobile phone with which she was transmitting live and beat her.