November 2018 Honduras coup update
Repression of protests in Choluteca: arrests, beatings, gunshot wounds, teargas bombs
In Choluteca, there continued to be protests against the JOH regime and its privatisations and abuses every Wednesday and Saturday. On 10 November, people blocked the bridge and road to Tegucigalpa with the main message being for the private-public-alliance electricity company EEH to get out. A lot of known attacks had been unleashed against organisers, protesters, agitator of Choluteca this month.
On 15 November 2018, at about 10.30pm, in the context of protests against EEH, police and soldiers guarding this building arrested 14 years old Samuel Emilio Aguilar, saying it was because he had thrown a rock at the buildings. The police bashed him and locked him up in UNDEP. Similarly, the police arrested Curlp uni student Levi, and his compas of the Stibys union. There were news that they were finally released about 9 hours later.
On 21 November 2018, on this extra day of protest, being on a Friday, against the inauguration of the mobile parliament that started in Choluteca, there was massive police repression involving many gunshots, beatings : two underage persons, one named Wilber Josue, were gunshot wounded by police and hospitalised and another teenager who was arrested. Before that, police was bashing an old man who was selling iceblocks there. Even before that, police blocked the UNETV news team from travelling to Choluteca to cover the protests, but either they made it through anyway or at least one UNETV journalist was there, as UNE TV journalist Mauricio Rivera was there transmitting live. Mauricio was walking around and through the bridge, reporting, saying, ‘look over here, there is left over food thrown about everywhere, police officers, you need to pick up after yourselves, here you can see more soldiers than anything, look, they are shooting at the press..’ it was at that point that you can see on video teargas bombs shot towards him one after another, and the air is filled with teargas clouds, and as Mauricio continued to report, you could hear he was starting to struggle with his breathing. They were attacking him to stop his coverage. Libre parliamentarian was also using his phone to transmit live on his facebook the repression, when a police agent attacked him. He said, I am a parliamentarian. They responded with, ‘you are no parliamentarian, nor are you a journalist’, and they proceeded to push him, snatch his phone, and shoot teargas bombs directed at his body.
27 November 2018 protests: two gunshot wounded including a journalist
27 November 2018 marked the one year anniversary of JOH’s fraudulent re-election and with that, of the insurrectionary resistance against this fraud and of the reactive chain of killings and gunshots by the military state at protesters blocking highways and of the subsequent taking of political prisoners, some of whom continue to be imprisoned. To continue to protest JOH, this day there were protests in Intibucá – the home of Berta and Copinh, and in Choluteca, and in Tegucigalpa. These protests were large but smaller than a year ago, not because people aren’t feeling rage and desperation, but because they are very aware that state forces do open gunfire. The day before, people who had travelled into Tegucigalpa from other parts of the country gathered at the Stibys union buildings, they found themselves surrounded by police and people had to call on human rights defenders to come and accompany the people there to prevent this early repression.
And on this anniversary date, they did open gunshots. In Tegucigalpa at 6.15pm, Geovanni Sierra of UNE TV, was reporting live from the scene of repression, that was already filled with teargas which was hurting children especially. Police joined by shopping centre private guards and soldiers were attacking protesters who were trying to flee the gas there, and protesters were surrounded by riot cop cordons and metal fences, when Geovanni started to say, ‘they are shooting, they are shooting, they are shooting! From the yellow bus, (pause), oh no! They wounded me, they wounded me, they wounded me, arrrgg, they wounded me, they wounded me, no, I can’t, old man, okay they’ve wounded me, that bus over there, I am losing blood, they wounded me in the right arm, I can’t feel my arm, they wounded me they wounded me’, ‘I will take you, I will take you (another voice)’ ‘they wounded me in the arm, I am okay, they wounded me, it’s hurting a lot’, ‘compas we will take him over here, come come, lets go, lets go.’ The gunshots that came from the yellow bus also wounded Angel Avila, a unionist of Sitraunah, the workers union of the public university UNAH, who was shot in the left arm. So the yellow bus was of INP – national prison department. The department confirmed that its police fired the gunshots that hit Geovanni and Angel. Its statement said the bus carried prison police and 8 prisoners who were being transferred. Their excuse for the attack was that they needed to ‘stop protesters from freeing the prisoners’ and that the protesters were ‘violent’, and so, as well as stopping protesters from freeing the prisoners, they had to take action to protect the prisoners and the prison police from the violence, ‘the protesters threw rocks at the INP bus, … face with such violent actions, the prison agents used what resources they had in their disposition, from which, the journalist Geovanny Sierra resulted wounded.’ The labour law in Honduras does not obligate employers to cover their employees in case of injuries at work, so Geovanni is without social security, and there will be financial difficulties in addition to generally recovering from the gunshot wounded arm. INP representative McNeil proceeded to offer to pay the costs of hospitalisation for Geovanni, without extending the same to others wounded from the same incident. Geovanni did not accept, saying his life and all the harm caused by the police weapon are priceless. It’s not that he didn’t need the money, of course, but they are offering it to try to buy out of their culpability. Geovanni has been told that he was shot with a veretta, from this information he concluded that the shots were fired with an intention to kill.
Also on this date, it was reported that the JOH regime sent soldiers to raid the home of ex captain Santos Orellana, as he is an ex soldier who had spoken up about JOH’s close relative Tony Hernández being a drug trafficker. In the raid the agents tied up their home’s domestic worker and interrogated her for information about the ex captain’s children. This raid occurred 4 days after the news being transmitted about Tony Hernández having been captured in the US in relation to drug trafficking.
On 30 November 2018, in La Lima, police kidnapped a protester, and did not release the protester under pressure of people around. There was an alert and grave concerns for this protester.
For screaming Get Out JOH
On 4 November 2018, at Dos Caminos, somebody screamed, ‘get out JOH’ to the police there. The police responded by beating this person in the face and different parts of the body, and slamming this body into the police truck floor.
Other attacks against journalists and the press – raid, state neglect, assault, smear
At around 5.20am on 10 November 2018, in Choluteca, about 30 hooded criminal investigation police surrounded the home of journalist Jairo López, raided his home, hit his spouse, pointed a gun at her in front of her daughter, and then, with a capture order, arbitrarily arrested Jairo and pushed him into a white double cabin van plated HAJ1374 and threatened him with a gun. They did not tell anybody where they were taking him. For seven hours, apart from an initial phonecall in which he told his family the numberplate and that he had been threatened with a gun (he could not say more as security agents snatched away his telephone at this point), his family and friends and fellow journalists did not know where he was and whether he stayed alive. He was locked up and then taken to court in Valle over 7 hours later. Fellow journalists and others gathered in large numbers outside the court in solidarity. By 6.20pm, he was released and granted bail, charged with damages against EEH (private public alliance electricity company of Honduras since February 2016), but with bail conditions of not giving declarations about the case and not participating in any protests and not leaving Honduras. This is not the first attack he has had from EEH, he had in his recent TV space El Informador spoken up criticising EEH for the negative impact it has on people in the south of Honduras, and subsequently lost this TV space he had. He said EEH was responsible for this. He also criticised JOH and congress president Mauricio Oliva in his work. As a recognised persecuted person he is a recipient of national protection mechanism measures, but that never prevents this type of state persecution.
On 15 November 2018, Faluma Bimetu community radio member, community organiser for over 25 years and Garífuna fisher Secundino Torres went out to fish and was caught in the currents and let his family know by phone which way the water was taking him before he disappeared. His family and community and some individuals in solidarity from different places are searching everywhere for him and doing what they can, but 15 days later they are still looking and had only found his boat and belongings. National and international authorities are largely absent in the search efforts.
On 22 November 2018, at 7.30pm, Ely Portillo, who is the director of the liberty of expression unit of Human Rights Defender Lawyers, was in front of his own home when two men hopped off their bicycle and viciously bashed him up and slammed him into the ground. One made a fist to punch him in the abdomen. Ely gathered all his strength to scream as loudly as he could to get help – some neighbours did hear him and came out to find out what is happening and as soon as they came out the attackers fled. Ely had previously been attacked by police and riot cops who shot 6 teargas bombs at his home forcing his whole family to evacuate.
On 2 November 2018, 80s death squad leader and security advisor of the previous government and ex candidate of party-in-power Billy Joya smeared the digital news website www.criterio.hn on a TV program, saying that criterio.hn journalists are ‘shameless radical leftists and populists’, after an article appeared on the site about Billy Joya having charged Libre parliamentarian Jorge Calix for defamation in having informed about state security’s assassination of 2 students, but that the court had declared the defamation charges inadmissible. Billy Joya had recently appeared in the same TV program, in tears, about his visa having been revoked by the US embassy in Honduras, being a recognised human rights violator. Note that the journalists of criterio.hn are at risk because smear campaigns are usually followed by further attacks, whether assassination or injury, or charges.
Protests against mines and dams persecuted, militarised, …
In Reitoca, there are community protests against the building of a hydroelectricity dam of Progelsa company over the Petacón river. On 12 November 2018, two environmental defenders of Reitoca, having been charged with usurpation and damages, attended hearing. On 24 November 2018, they became free of Progelsa’s charges. They are grateful for the emotional and economic supports of their community through the process.
In Guapinol, near Tocoa city:
The Guapinol community continues to protest companies attacking their water sources following the violent eviction of their protest camp on 27 October 2018. On 11 November, the community held a community assembly to voice their opposition against this concession in protected areas that are destroying the community’s water sources. As they gathered in assembly, the community was surrounded by military and police forces, and the roads going towards the site were heavily militarised with checkpoints where soldiers forced people off buses and small cars, and checked every bit of equipment and papers, intimidating people and controlling their movement. In the following days, the number of checkpoints between Guapinol and Tocoa city entrance increased, that within a 5km stretch of highway, there were 5 military checkpoints.
On 15 November 2018, weekday news program ‘Más noticias de Colón’, director on canal 22, Rigoberto Mendoza, was surprised by a call on his mobile from an investigative police agent summoning him to make a testimony about the protest against the hydroelectricity dam in Guapinol near Tocoa. Surprised and suspicious, because Rigoberto had covered the violent eviction of Guapinol on 27 October 2018, in which he and other journalists were also attacked by the police and military contingent of 1000, and because Rigoberto has also spoken up about death threats he had received because of his work, and that he had been followed when leaving after transmitting his program. Also that his son and photographer Erick Mendoza had suffered attacks to his health with the teargas in the eviction.
On 24 November 2018, people in Tocoa city organised a caravan protest, declaring Tocoa free of mining.
On 29 November 2018, police went inside the home of 63 year old campesino Jeremías Martínez Cruz, showing Jeremías a capture order and arresting him with charges of usurpation and damages against mining company Inversiones Los Pinares and the Honduran state; basically for participating in the camp against the mining company. This same file has 18 capture orders open against defenders of Guapinol. The first hearing is scheduled for 5 December 2018.
In Pajuiles, Atlántica:
Pajuiles has been in protests for over a year now. On 4 November 2018, the Pajuiles community blocked the Panamerican highway in protest against the building of a hydroelectricity dam over Mezapa river by Hidrocep company.
In San José, Lenca indigenous territory:
On 18 November 2018, a grassroots plebiscite was organised by the Convergence Against Continuism CCC, about mining and the JOH regime. More than 20% of enrolled persons attended, the results are as follows:
On agreeing or not to mining – 97.8% voted not, and 0.2% voted yes.
On whether they are living in a constitutional and democratic state – 96.9% voted no, and 0.7% voted yes.
On agreeing or not with the JOH regime and the extractivist model – 96.1% voted no, and 1.7% voted yes.
Community leader assassinated
On 11 November 2018, unidentified persons assassinated Berta Aurora Rodríguez Matamoros (aged 45) inside her own home. Berta is the president of the Las Pavas neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa. Her spouse is the president of the teaching hospital workers union, José Girón.
Threatened lgbti member killed
Jonathan Cruz of the lgbt community had received lots of threats, because of which he was going to flee to Costa Rica – his mum had already bought him a suitcase. However, before he managed to flee, he was assassinated, and was buried on 10 November 2018 at 10am. Jonathan was attacked 3 years ago, his intestines were damaged, and his community accompanied him throughout his treatment and recovery from this attack. Because of the threats and prior attack Jonathan was under ‘protection’ measures. He was not protected from his murder.
The exodus this November, precarious journeys and horrifying destinations
At 11.30pm on 31 October 2018, the Honduran people in exodus to the US had an emergency meeting to change how they were to proceed the next morning, because they were previously promised help from the Veracruz state governor Miguel Angel Yunes Linares in the form of 70 buses or 150 vans that were going to take them to Oaxaca. They were promised this, but because the Mexican federal government blocked this offer under pressure from the US government, this was withdrawn very late the night before the buses were to take everyone. The buses were going to mean that they didn’t have to walk through long stretches with too many curves, hills, and too few towns to receive them and a complete lack of medical services en-route, so they decided against this because many children were in delicate health conditions and needed to know that they are passing through places with health services and help in general. They decided instead to walk to Veracruz an area that has a high level of gang violence, because walking to Oaxaca was impossible.
The risk that they ran because of the buses having been cancelled did turn out to be a great tragedy. On 2 November 2018, during their walk, they were somewhere in Puebla and three trucks appeared and from them, ‘help’ was offered; ‘helpers’ pushed desperate women and children into the trucks KY88765 registered in Mexico, GX3391C registered in Guerrero, and a van KXC7906, they were obligated to get in and then told that the trucks had to be padlock closed so that people couldn’t see from outside who were travelling in it. Armed men were guarding the whole time. They began to obligate the women to make payments. The first time they handed over what little they had. The second time, they said they had nothing to pay, and eight hooded men appeared then, one entered, and announced that they were all sold. 65 children and 7 women. A handful managed to escape to tell others some of what happened, they escaped in a moment when the armed commando wanted to swap some of the victims between the vehicles around. The children and women are most likely being sold to sexual exploitation and child labour.
On 10 November 2018, in Nuevo Laredo, near the border of Mexico with US, federal police and migration police stopped a bus of migrants and ordered 19 Hondurans including 5 children aged 1-12 inside to get off. They didn’t want to get off because they were told they would be deported to Honduras. The 19 Hondurans were arrested as was the bus driver and everyone had their personal documents confiscated.
On 12 November 2018, one month from when the walk began, a month of sun, rain, repression, discrimination, perserverance later, the first group of Central Americans of this exodus reached Tijuana, Mexico, the border of US, including about 80 people of the lgbti community, who intend to be the first ones to ask for asylum from the U.S. authorities.
In California, there are collections being undertaken in solidarity to support migrants of the exodus. And back in Honduras, there has been marches in solidarity with the migrants, including in La Paz.
On 18 November 2018, a Honduran migrant named Darwin Donaldo C. Z. aged 34 was in a migration detention centre in Tapachula, Mexico, when he decided to use his own shirt to hang himself, choosing suicide over deportation back to Honduras.
On 23 November 2018, a Honduran migrant called Jeremías, of Las Aradas, died in Mexico.
On 25 November 2018, at the Mexico-US border, where almost 500 asylum seekers have reached out of over 7000 Hondurans fleeing the dictatorship, poverty and violence. What they flee are conditions that US policies have direct contributions to. Rather than changing the harmful policy, the Trump US government approved the sending of about 5200 soldiers to the US-Mexico border. From one side of the borders to the other, these soldiers fired teargas and gunshots at the 500 unarmed asylum seekers. US government tries to smear the Hondurans fleeing in desperation as some media stunt. While it is a massive group travelling together, normally, already, about 400 Hondurans leave Honduras everyday, that’s 100,000 a year.
Meanwhile, back in Honduras, nurses and doctors at the teaching hospital complain that not having adequate equipment nor medicine there means some people are killed for lack of medicines, and others killed from getting the wrong dosis, not having drip drums. This and other conditions are some of what people flee.
Repression in the education sector: school principals persecuted and uni students wounded
On 8 November 2018, Gabino Vasquez School principal was threatened with being fired, its students having participated in independence day marches and played the song Get Out JOH there.
On 24 November 2018, in La Lempira the Lucila Pérez school principal Marco Antonio Reyes was arrested under charges from La Unión mayor accusing him of damages to state property – building a mobile wall at the school without having sought permission. Prior to the arrest, he was already persecuted – the state had not paid his salary for 14 months.
On 28 November 2018, state security forces entered UNAH autonomous university and wounded students there. When they saw that the press and human rights defenders were there, they turned around and left.
Arrests and confiscations against campesina people
On 4 November 2018, Inspector Rosales and Officer Castellano arbitrarily arrested Aguan Regional Agrarian Platform Coordinator Jaime Cabrera together with his motorcycle. On his release, he was told that his motorcycle was being confiscated unless he pays US$450, money he did not have. The reason they gave for confiscating the motorcycle was that two men rode on it at the same time, but this is not illegal where they rode. In contrast, a Dinant palm giant company employee Manuel Toledo was arrested at the same time for driving motorcycle without a licence, taken to the same police station in Tocoa, but he was released with his motorcycle.
On 15 November 2018 in the afternoon, in the El Progreso region, Juana Carranza, who belongs to the campesina cooperative Reyes Rodríguez Arevalo, and to CNTC campesino confederation, was on her way to Tegucigalpa to seek treatment for epilepsy, when she was arrested again for usurpation. Juana was transferred between police stations while under custody, stressing out people who were supporting her and not being informed of her whereabouts. She was released on bail conditions the next day. She already had the same charges from 10 years ago and has had gone every week for the last 10 years to sign at Potrerillos courts as her bail condition.
More news on the murder in March 2016 of indigenous anticapitalist feminist activist Berta Cáceres
On 13 November 2018, an anonymous ex special forces Honduran soldier who fled and travelled with the exodus told the press while in Mexico that he and others knew of JOH’s orders to assassinate Berta Cáceres, and also that one of the killers is Herzog Arriaga, another special forces soldiers, who had pretended to be an activist and got very close to Berta and earned her trust to then assassinate her. The soldier said it was Herzog Arriaga and one other man who had entered her home that night, and that Herzog Arriaga fired 6 gunshots. He said that JOH already had his eyes on her when he came into power while she organised against mining projects and in support of campesino struggles, and the order came in relation to her fight to stop the Agua Zarca hydroelectricity dam project. For knowing what happened, this annonymous ex-soldier and 18 others were imprisoned for some time through orders of JOH. They had been released since and this ex soldier took the opportunity of the exodus to flee. He highlights that Herzog Arriaga is not amongst the people charged.
On 29 November 2018, the hearing in relation to the assassination of Berta Cáceres concluded, finding seven of the eight accused guilty, the sentencing hearing witll be on 10 January 2019. Found guilty were: Edilson Atilio Duarte Meza, Elvin Heriberto Rápalo Orellana, Henrry Javier Hernández, Oscar Aroldo Torres Velásquez, Mariano Díaz Chávez, who was working as a military agent in the moment of the assassination, Douglas Geovanny Bustillo, who was head of security of DESA, and Sergio Ramón Rodríguez Orellana who is head of social environmental and communications department of DESA. Emerson Duarte Meza was absolved of charges as one of the material authors of the assassination. The family of Berta made the following statement, emphasing that many people who were behind the murder had been left out, that a system of impunity continues, that the social structures are left as they were before, that true justice would require a radical transformation for which they will keep fighting. https://libya360.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/family-of-berta-caceres-condemn-court-decision-that-denies-justice/
Updates on some of the political prisoners
On 26 November 2018, 9 of the political prisoners of Las Vegas, who were arbitrarily accused of setting a council building on fire in June 2018, have been freed.