December 2018 Honduras Coup Update
Attack against uni students this December 2018 – one kidnapped and killed, several arrested and politically imprisoned
On 6 December 2018, at UNAH there was a protest against the high costs of public transports when at about 12 midday, a hooded person dressed up as a student protester was seen heard and videoed to have been coordinating with a uniformed police, and saying, ‘leave now, and come back after,’ before surprising everyone by proceeding to set mini buses full of people inside on fire, and meanwhile, a police stood around and did not try to intervene, and someone else was there coordinating and ordering those who went about setting the buses on fire. At around 3pm, four students got arrested accused of this crime. Their names are Carlos Hernández, Rolando Melghem, Misael Martínez and Samia Amador. Misael for one had been in a practical performance all day for his folkloric dance class and was inside that building involved in that until 12.45pm. The real reason he in particular had been picked up is for having had an argument recently with a HCH reporter. HCH is the absolute worst and most inhumane TV news company, that is always saying what a good job the security forces are doing at repressing and controlling protests, very blatantly siding with dominant interests while smearing anyone who struggles against the system. So like others, Misael was telling off the HCH reporter, who responded by telling her photographer to start filming him, ‘film him, so that they can profile him and imprison these ones,’ and the photographer did, and she did get him arrested. Samia on the other hand was a journalism student who was there covering the protests. She is the only one of the four released about 6pm that day. When the press asked her what happened, she said, ‘I was just there covering the protest, they told me not to speak, I am okay.’ Carlos, Rolando and Misael were refused bail, denied access to human rights defenders, and were imprisoned in the Tamara prison. Their mums, classmates and teachers were outside, the prison cordoned off by the police.
While this is going on and the media focuses on getting people to think how bad student protesters are for apparently setting 3 mini buses on fire, on 9 December 2018, 24 years old civil engineering uni student who is part of MEU student organisation, Enrique Mejía Montoya, was kidnapped, cruelly tortured, assassinated and his body was inhumanely burnt using tyres on fire. Media had nothing to say.
After Carlos, Rolando and Misael had been imprisoned for 6 days, they were finally released on 12 December 2018. A public statement came out on 15 December 2018 explaining that they were released because of video evidence that none of them were involved in the burning of the buses and they were free of all charges.
Repression at protests in Choluteca – gunshots, teargases..
On 15 December 2018, special services police repressed and shot at protesters outside a government building. A number of protesters were wounded and taken into hospital emergency. Tamy Gonzáles was in such a critical state that she was unable to recognise any of her family members. The attacking security contingent was headed by Subcommissioner Villanueva of UDEP No.6, of Choluteca, with the new head of Choluteca police being Milton Obando.
On 28 December 2018, it was the 104th protest in Choluteca for 2018, and the last one for the year – people having been protesting twice a week there. This 104th protest was attacked by teargases launched at people and into people’s homes around there. Journalist Jairo López said that as a recognised persecuted journalist, he has a police escort assigned to protect him – but the police even wanted to attack the police escort. Another youth was also viciously attacked for filming there. These ongoing protests call on JOH to leave, and protest the lack of medicines and budget in hospitals, the high costs of food, petrol, and privatisation of public services.
Journalists – their lives very much threatened
On 9 December 2018, in the morning, a message was left for Radio Progreso journalist Erick Pineda, this message was written on the outside walls of his own home, the message said, ‘we give you 24 hours to leave the country. Correspondent of Shit.’ Erick is part of a Jesuit news team. They had advised protection mechanisms of Honduras that have responsibility for protecting him.
On 22 December 2018, news director Leonel Enamorado Enamorado of San Luís Santa Barbara who runs the program Más Noticias of Radio Super Z, was at his home when Councillor Jośe Rommel Rivera Orellano came by and told Leonel to get in his car and held him captive for an hour driving around the town. In this time, Jośe told Leonel that he was sick of being criticised and of ‘dirty politics’, and asked Leonel if the Libre party was financing him. To that, he said no. What spiked this was that Leonel had reported that José belonged to the purified police force, and interviewed the head of the purification comission who said that charges were coming against purified police. This same day at the central park, Councillor José Rivera Orellano’s brother, Inmer Rivera Orellano, tried to run over Leonel and threatened him in front of his children, saying, ‘the next time if you will see, the next time you won’t be saved from me, because you carry on criticising people.’
Then, on 27 December 2018 at 5.40pm at the Fausto Rodriguez stadium, in front of a group of almost 30 people, Inmer Rivera Orellano spotted Leonel, and yelled, ‘aha daddy, I wanted to grab you just like this.’ Leonel initially escaped with people around him, but Inmer managed to get Leonel in the middle of a field and gave him two stabs with an iron baton and two kicks to his body and back. His wounds required for him to rest for 10 days. Leonel has had been reporting for four years from 12 to 2pm everyday, and he has been many times before been intimidated by the public official.
Earlier in the month, there was a demo in solidarity with another journalist Geovanny Sierra of UNE TV outisde the Prisons Department, Geovanny having been shot in the arm in November; fellow journalists each protested with casts on one of their arms.
Human rights defender threatened by state security agent
On 20 December 2018, Irma Lemus, who is a defender of a number of human rights organisations of Bajo Aguán, was accompanying a judicially persecuted woman, when Irma was threatened by a DPI agent for doing this accompanying work. Irma has already previously spoken up about other threats from police at different times.
Attacks on campesina people, their food, their homes, their lives
In Saba, Colón, amidst palm plantations, from the beginning of December 2018, military and police had surrounded the homes of campesina families of the Unidos Lucharemos cooperative, harassing and intimidating these to the point where nobody felt safe to go out. On the 4 December 2018, The military and police were joined by others and proceeded to destroy the families’ crops of plantain and other food crops that they had grown to feed their families. After that, the security contingent continued to occupy the area with the intention of forcing the families out of their homes and livelihoods.
On 9 December 2018, charges of land usurpation were laid against a number of people, including José Anibal Zelay, belonging to the Buenos Amigos campesino cooperative in Cortés which was founded in July 2017 on agrarian reform land and have grown food crops to feed their families. The judicial persecution is attacking those in land struggle, after the community removed a concrete wall, and the company Cementos del Norte SA laid claim on the land, removed light posts. The company owner Saul Noe Coello Paz also made threats against Buenos Amigos, and had sent gangs to attack these. In the night, motorcyclists enter the field and fire gunshots into the air.
On 29 December 2018, the partner of the son of the Las Delicias Campesina Cooperative and affiliate of the national rural workers federation CNTC in El Progreso, Jesica María Castillo Sauceda disappeared, and her family reported this on 30 December. She sells Avon products and sandals for her livelihood, and was travelling this day to La Cantona community to go collect a box in relation to this work, but the person she arranged to pick up from said she never made it there that day. Jesica was looking forward to travelling the next day to Nicaragua with her four children to visit her dad and bring her some food. When her family approached the police worried about her, the police laughed in their faces saying she must have ran off with someone else instead of helping search for her. On 31st December at 11.30am, her body, having been killed, appeared in Corte Culebra.
Defenders of territory against mining and sugar industries – held political prisoner, got death threats, chased, wounded, burnt, discapacitated
On 5 December 2018, following the arrest in 30 November 2018 against 63 years old defender against mining Jeremias Martínez, the court denied him bail, holding him as a political prisoner accused of usurpation and damages against Inversiones Los Pinares mining company. People occupied the CA13 highway indefinitely, demanding that Jeremias Martínez be free
On 7 December 2018, 35 families of community Corrales de Piedra, which is near the mining project of Inversiones Los Pinares, have been given death threats and notice to leave their community. They are amongst many people in favour of the mine so are especially attacked.
On 7 December 2018, campesina people in San Marcos of Santa Barbara spoke up against damages to people’s health, environment and crops by the sugar cane company Chumagua SA that used a plane to fumigate its plantations and in the process contaminated and damaged others’ crops. Chumagua also burns sugar canes and in the process produces and dumps chemical wastes into the river where people – fishers, children, etc, who have entered the river got burnt, one to the degree of not being able to walk anymore. The company guards have also invaded the La Persa community and chased farmers there accusing these of causing damages to the sugar cane company – these farmers had not even done that though, damages were carried out by others affected by the contamination.
On 18 December 2018, indigenous environmentalists and territory/forest defenders and elders Servio Avila and Porfirio Cordova were violently attacked for defending their territory. From the beating Porfirio was gravely bruised in the head.
Precarious and ended lives of Honduran migrants
On 20 December 2018, Honduran migrant Gerson Suazo was arrested in Mexico. He was being referred to with hostility to by his captors as a leader of the caravan, and as such fears for his life.
On 22 December 2018, Honduran migrant Nelson Espinal aged 28, had been back in Honduras for about one week after the US government denied him asylum and deported him, when he went outside to buy a plastic rubber for the horse in the corner shop that night and was assassinated by 15 gunshots, just blocks from his home. He lived in a neighbourhood dominated by the Mara 18 gang in Tegucigalpa. He told his sister shortly before he was killed, that, ‘I have to leave, if I stay here they are going to kill me.’ Nelson worked as a labourer, builder and painter of homes, and was planning to try to go to the US again, having set 10 January 2019 as the date to leave for Mexico. His funeral was held in his mother’s home, his body in a coffin donated by the government. His crying mother Sara cried for justice for her son.
This month also, in Mexico, two teenage Honduran migrants aged 16 and 17 were assassinated, one was strangled and the other stabbed to death. They were in Tijuana at the border to the US. Another youth who was with them survived but was wounded and is under protection. The trio were apparently travelling alone.
General conditions of living in Honduras
A few things that happened showing what it is like living in Honduras for most.
On 3 December 2018, in the light of day, amidst many soldiers and police, unidentified people assassinated a lawyer named Reynaldo Barahona, in front of the Supreme Court in Tegucigalpa.
On 4 December 2018, a mother told about how her daughter was hospitalised at Catarino hospital, diagnosed with some illness and sent back home, but what she had was Dengue Hemorrhage, and as she was being taken back to hospital, she died.
On 4 December 2018, young Dennis Alvarez was at the parking lot of a capital city shopping centre when in a mistaken moment he reached with his car keys towards trying to open a car that looked identical to his, as that happened a soldier – Banhprovi head Sandra Ismari Martínez Hernández was drink driving and watched Dennis and fired gunshots at him, wounding him in the head and leg. The soldier fled, and Dennis was critically hospitalised, before he died on 7 December 2018 in the Teaching Hospital.
On 16 December 2018, outside the sports stadium, at the final game of Motagua-Olimpia, there was confrontation, and police and military proceeded to launch teargas bombs at the bathrooms of the stadium.
Between December 2017 and February 2018, a number of people were made political prisoners during the semi-insurrectionary period following the fraudulent reelection of JOH. There are several who continue imprisoned, and others who continue to have charges against them, from about 1 year ago now. See and share this video made by filmmaker Jesse Freeston about political prisoner Edwin Espinal and the current context https://www.facebook.com/318605205311679/posts/503944090111122?sfns=cl.
Electrical engineering student Allan Izaguirre was someone who struggled financially and worked hard on campus selling his phone data, selling phonecalls – something different people did on campus. Earlier in December, a group of other people who worked doing the same thing threatened him telling him to stop working there (in competition), then in mid December they beat him up so badly on campus that he was hospitalised. On 29 December 2019, he died from the injuries. His sister was taking up a collection towards his funeral.
Fair Trade USA took a really long time to disqualify Fyffes/Sumitomo melon and pineapple plantations in Honduras and Costa Rica from their fair trade certification, but it did finally happen in December 2018. Ethical Trade Initiave suspended Fyffes much earlier, in May 2017. There are ongoing complaints and campaigns against their systematic violation of laboural and union rights. The company set up a fake union and harasses staff that organise in the real one and does not recognise the real one. They make their workers work long days, they don’t pay minimal salary, nor long service leave, nor provide social security. There are bad conditions of hygiene and security at work. They blacklist staff.