Honduras coup update July 2018
General Strike against high petrol and toll prices
July 2018 had been a month of barricades of highways using buses, trucks and cars with support from students as people worked to paralyse the economy, taking direct action to force the regime to submit to lower excessive petrol and toll prices. The protests started smaller earlier in the month, and even while small there were words on 11 July 2018 that 3 taxi drivers and 2 bus drivers were assassinated between 8pm and 9pm in Reparto Abajo in Tegucigalpa, it is believed that government death squads may have been behind these. People built towards a widespread mobilisation to block all major highways around the country from 19 July 2018 – theatre events and book launches cancelled in anticipation, classes were cancelled, and long distance buses did not sell tickets for these dates.
On 19 July 2018, as people’s organised direct action were effective in putting major pressure on the regime and the streets were empty except for highway blockades with buses and taxis parked in strategic points and tyres burning there, the regime’s police and military responded with repression and violent evictions. They hit cars blockading in front of Camosa with teargas bombs. The university UNAH was attacked with teargases and the military attacks worsened as the day developed – at 2pm dozens of riot cops shot teargas and chemical water tank at people and journalists gathered there. Public forces evicted CA-5 and people talked of reoccupying. Military police of patrol 7031 threatened a taxi driver on strike in the city centre of Tegucigalpa, telling him that he will be found by others, bagged up. Military police there were taking photos of drivers on strike there. That night, at 10pm, there were noise protests with people banging on pots and pans from inside their homes at 10pm. Riot cops were out evicting protests with teargases at Las Brizas and Casamata neighbourhood.
On 20 July 2018, police threatened to pull out (more life-threatening) weapons against protesters, and in Choluteca city there was a violent eviction against protesters. In desperation, a spokesperson of the business council called the protest ‘illegal’, saying that the protest is attacking the national economy.
On 23 July 2018, in the north where protesters blocked of the Danto bridge in an effort to throw some punches at the dictatorship, security forces attacked protesters and arrested fifteen people, their names are: 1. Franklin Noel Carcamo, 2. Aldo Uriel Fonseca Velázquez, 3. Darwin Josué Ordóñez Barahona, 4. Mario Roberto Milla, 5. Misael Alfredo Lagos Castillo, 6. Joel Arturo Lainez Mejia, 7. Héctor Leonel Díaz Castellanos, 8. Juan Ramón Sánchez, 9. Fredy Adalid Hernández, 10. Oscar Javier López Mejía, 11. Wilson Ariel Álvarez, 12. Reiniery Samuel García, 13. Leo Daniel Madrid Medina, 14.Daniel Pérez and 15. Jose David López Lagos. Repression was also reported in Santa Rosa de Copán on the CA-4 highway, and in Siguatepeque where police arrested a driver. In Tegucigalpa the military attacked people in the San Miguel neighbourhood where a journalist Engel Padilla was also attacked (more in the journalists section of the news). There were violent evictions also in 3 other neighbourhoods in Tegucigalpa, in Loarque, Carrizal and Belén. 15 were arrested and taken to El Manchén police station in Tegucigalpa. Lots of people filmed incidents of police and military brutality and uploaded these on social media. The day finished with transport workers declaring that they would give the JOH regime 48 hours of strike suspension before resuming their strike.
The 48 hours suspension did not mean there was no repression or protests in that time – on 24 July, while on the bus, owner of bus company Cotul, Germán Coto, was assassinated by two hitmen who were passengers on that bus – Germán Coto was very active in the preceding days of transport strikes and protests. Similarly, on 25 July in Choloma, public transport fare collector Antonio Martínez was wounded and assassinated. This 25 July 2018, there were protests at the UNAH, stopping traffic in the La Hacienda boulevaard, and security forces drenched these in teargases.
Protests kept on at the UNAH on 26 July 2018, riot cops shot rubber bullets at students protesting there about petrol prices. Army and police also searched everyone who left the UNAH campus, and arrests were reported.
On 27 July 2018, in Villanueva, again, brutal and inhumane repression was reported, the repression toll was, four were wounded and eight arrested.
Attacks against communities and environment
On 3 July 2018, environmental defenders of Valle de Siria spoke up about threats they have been receiving from Herman Ritchel. Herman Ritchel is a man who applied to set up (he is setting it up and then selling it off to Ormat company based in Nevada, US) a geothermal project in this community and he is sending threats to leaders of the Environmental Committee of Valle de Siría (CAVS) who have been organising and speaking up against the project, of the environmental damages it will cause. The threatened leaders are CAVS secretary and community journalist Carlos Amador, CAVS president Roger Escober, CAVS treasurer Rodolfo Arteaga and also Olga Velásquez. The project being imposed is called 12 Tribus and sadly, it is known as the second project of death that Valle de Siria is confronted with, having recently suffered and been traumatised from the immense health and environmental consequences of the Entremares open pit mining project, and the persecution that came with opposing that project. Carlos is receiving threats in the forms of Whatsapp messages and calls, and the others have known that they are being watched and followed. Rodolfo grows food where Hermán Ritchel intends on building 12 Tribus. Like with the Entremares project, prior to the threats, there were attempts to bribe them, and when these had failed, the threats had begun.
But what are geothermal projects and what is so bad about them? As well as studying these in general and getting environmental impact studies, CAVS activists travelled to Usulután El Salvador where such a project had been installed since 20 years ago. Environmental impact studies point to that the company will be drilling holes in the ground between 3 to 5 kilometres deep. The drilling is facilitated by the use of chlorohydric acid, peroxide, caustic soda and other chemicals mixed together, to be able to install the tubing inside the ground. This process contaminates the waterwells and ground water used by people, farm, animals, wildlife and flora – the same as fracking, only, instead of fracking for gases, the company is fracking for heat. There would also be chimneys from which vapour escapes day and night, and noise pollution too. In the areas marked for drilling, they get rid of all natural life around it – trees, forests, water, rocks, sand, etc, so that nothing can fall onto the tubing. They would drill chains of up to 30 holes, and an exaggerated amount of water is extracted within seconds and minutes. In their visit to Usulutan, when within the 1 km radius, people can smell a pungent eggy smell that gives you headaches. People saw that crops don’t grow anymore in the area, and that people lost their property rights, and there are acid rains, and people spoke of others who died of kidney problems and of people who developed kidney and lung cancers. And people spoke of the noise so loud their ears hurt when the drilling began, and of earthquakes that affected homes of people. The Valle de Siri community already had the Playa river contaminated by Entremares open pit mining, and the water is so drastically reduced that there is only water in the river during rainy times. If Tribus 12 goes ahead, there is likely going to be no water left at all or it would be much less and extremely contaminated.
On 16 July 2018, Santos Suazo was leaving a shop when he was stabbed to death by a hitman, in El Retiro community in Arizona, Atlántida. Santos Suazo belonged to the camp in defence of the Jilamito river, a community that has camped out for 14 months with the support of MADJ environmentalist organisation, against the building of a hydroelectricity dam that would destroy the Jilamito river. Santos was very dedicated and committed to the caring for and protecting of common and natural resources.
On 18 July 2018, people from different organisations and different regions of Honduras were gathered in Tegucigalpa, marching and speaking up about the attacks their communities have received as they organised against the imposition of mining projects.
On 19 July 2018, in violation against Afro-descendent communities’ right to self determination, the imposed building of a thermal electricity project began, against the will of the Sambo and Corozal communities.
In Amapala, in the south of Honduras where communities have had to defend themselves for years from pressures, threats and charges, the communities had to more recently defend themselves from the taking over of their homes by model cities. On 24 July 2018, members of the Islitas community spoke up about unknown military persons having come to dispossess them of any land in the community’s possession that contains access ways to the beach. The community consists of at least 98 homes and over 100 families, who have lived there for many decades and survive as subsistence farmers. Losing access to the beach will mean the loss of their livelihood.
Attacks against subsistence farmers
During July 2018, subsistence farmers – 23 families – of Quimistan, Santa Bárbara, spoke up about landowners’ violent evictions against their farmers cooperative Nuevos Horizontes. They have suffered four evictions already and police and soldiers have set their homes on fire. An organiser surnamed Guerra had lost his son to assassination and 3 comrades have suffered gunshot wounds in an ambush. Santos Aguilar Perdomo received a gunshot in his face and also has charges against him, so suffers deep psychological and emotional traumas. The cooperative has existed for over 18 years but the state has not legalised their lands. They have millions of lempiras worth of food crops that they stand to lose as there is no protection to their crops, nor for their lives or homes.
Attacks against journalists
On 2 July 2018 in Olanchito city, journalist Javier Rodríguez was arrested by police. Police also broke his video camera by force.
On 7 July 2018, in Cortés, journalist Meilin Coto of TN5 and Hoy Mismo San Pedro Sula city was singled out amongst other journalists and suffed around by a hooded police.
On 23 July 2018, cameraperson Engel Padilla of Canal 11 was filming military repression against protesters in the San Miguel neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa when 20 riot police, surrounded him and attacked and grabbed him by force as he continued to hold onto and film with his large camera. They arrested him and damaged his work equipment. Other journalists and camerapeople went o the police station to put pressure on in solidarity until he was released.
The same date, HCH journalists complained of protesters throwing stones and drink cans at them and calling them sell-outs for siding with the JOH regime. The context though was they covered the news protected by police and talked up the police like they were serving ‘people’ by being ready to evict the protests, saying that teargas bombs were ready in the tone of ‘don’t worry about the protests anymore’, at the same time saying that police are aiming to evict peacefully if people will only agree to leave instead of be dispersed by being shot at, chased and attacked.
On 28 July 2018, journalist Cesar Silva was invited to attend the meeting of Inter American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) at the Hotel Marriott, the entrance of which was cordoned by military police. The military police had orders to not allow Cesar Silva to enter. In this meeting, families of victims of assassination, political imprisonment and victims of persecution in relation to the recent post electoral repression were there to speak with the Freedom of Expression Special Rapporteur of IACHR Edison Lanza. Cesar was invited there to speak of the persecution he had faced as a journalist. When Cesar was stuck outside, Edison Lanza himself went out to the entrance to appeal to the military police to let Cesar in appealing to the fact that keeping him out was authoritarian. This is the same Hotel Marriott that political prisoners Edwin Espinal and Raúl Alvarado were accused of setting on fire.
On 30 July 2018, in a capital city hotel where the health department was hosting an event, journalist Jorge Estrada of UNE TV was refused entrance by the guards of honour of the first lady Ana García de Hernández – who was attending the meeting. The guard was recorded to say, ‘I am not doing this to you because I want to, they have given me an order and I have to comply with it.’ In response, Jorge protested pointing to that another journalist was just let in, so then he should be let in too – but Jorge was not let in as the order was not to block all journalists from entering, but specifically, to block those of UNE TV. It made no difference that even the health department public relations staff tried to intervene and ask the guards to allow any journalists to enter.
Attacks by borders
On 10 July 2018, Honduran father Eduardo Almendarez who was deported by US authorities, asked to have his 11 years old son back. The father and son were separated by immigration authorities, the 11 year old son held in Texas apart from his father since a month before. This is one of many cases like this.
Palm oil farmers
Back on the first week of June 2018, an employee of Dinant palm oil company, Manuel de Jesús Arita Hernández (66) was tying palm fruit on the top of his truck in the course of his work, when the load came falling and collapsed over him fracturing his spine and causing his blood in the brain to coagulate immediately. The emergency operation costed around US$60,000. The employer Dinant refused to pay for it saying it was not Dinant’s responsibility, so it was only the solidarity of friends, families, neighbours, all chipping in fast, that saved his life. Meanwhile the same Dinant goes around putting the word out internationally that Dinant is contributing to peoples wellbeing through packages of compensation and benefits and a supposed health program that workers enjoy.
On 29 July 2018, farmers and families belonging to the San Isidro cooperative on the right side of the Aguan river spoke up about how Dinant guards have threatened them, and how state agents have come summoning people and their land documents originals, and how their area has been militarised, since early on 28 July 2018 when they resumed their struggle to recuperate and defend the land there. Their history with the land is that it belongs to the farmers. It was won in court in 2012 by lawyer José Antonio Trejo, who was assassinated 3 months after winning in court, and months after his assassination, the cooperative San Isidro, Trinidad and Despertar were one by one dispossessed. There had been arbitrary arrests, physical and psychological torture against young and old alike, and women as well as men, bullet wounded, forced out by military.
Politicians attacked too
On 13 July 2018, the Libre councillors of Las Vegas municipality in Santa Barbara were attacked and threatened by other members of the council for refusing to sign points of the minutes – The Libre councillors are threatened and at risk of harm, charges and stigmatisation.
There was one police assassinated, and the media blew up the case, while no magnitude was given to the thousands of civilians who have been assassinated, ambushed, exiled, persecuted, etc.
On 23 July 2018, 19 of 38 people implicated in the corruption case known as the Pandora case were arrested and held preventively for a couple of days in the Tamara prison until their hearing, accused of money laundering, fraud, falsification of public documents – amongst these was the 2017 election’s presidential candidate of the Liberal party Elvin Ernesto Santos. Amongst others are parliamentarians and ex government officials.