January 2019 Honduras coup update
Protests against fraudulent government’s anniversary repressed – with threats, gunshots, teargases, militarisation, arrests,
On the buildup to the anniversary of the fraudulent JOH regime being in government and the corresponding protests:
On 9 January 2019, an ex police officer, Norman Mondragon, who spoke up against the JOH electoral fraude and resigned, was arrested by (current) police and detained in the first police station of San Pedro Sula.
In Choluteca regular protests against the JOH regime resumed as the year started. The concern was raised by one journalist there that some medias of the region had become silent, and that the worsening of special forces police’s repression was noted at the same time. On 15 January, in the evening, the protest was brutally repressed – security forces shot live gunshots at protesters as well as masses of teargas bombs. Ten protesters were suffocated by the gases. Lots of car windows were broken with the explosive violence of the security forces.
There was a week of protests being planned around Honduras leading up to the anniversary date of 27 January. Right before which, the security minister Pacheco Tinoco announced to the press that all protests will be brutally repressed, saying that everyone involved would be treated as vandals who are a threat to people’s safety, and who ‘wage psychological war in the social media’. Tinoco made a repeat announcement on 25 January that police will be deployed around the country so that ‘there will be normal circulation’, and that ‘very heavy intelligence work was being carried out to arrest those who disrespect the law’. You may recall, the semi insurrection efforts a year ago had people in some 80 different parts of this little country simultaneously maintain highway blocks for as long as they could. They were literally evicted using gunshots. The Honduran state was frightened about not having terrorised everybody and reminds people it is authoritarian and violent.
On the week before, protesters organised occupations of the borders to neighbouring country, and in the capital city. On 21 January, indigenous organisations occupied the El Florido Copán border with Guatemala, calling for JOH to get out, and for freedom for political prisoners and justice for renowned assassinated indigenous, feminist and anticapitalist activist Berta Cáceres. Cinph leader Salvador Zúniga reported that police attacked protesters who were mostly indigenous Lencas and Chortis, spraying these with green peppergas in the eyes.
On 24 January, social organisation ARCAH protested at the border of Trojes, El Paraíso, they were equally brutally attacked; police pushed them and sprayed them with toxic aerosol/peppergas.
On 25 January, in Choluteca, people were protesting into the afternoon and night. The reaction of the police and military was to brutally attack these – this lasted 3 long hours. Journalist Jairo López reported that police shot at protesters rubber bullets, wooden bullets, as well as ammunition gunshots against people protesting.
The same date, in Tegucigalpa, people protested at the US Embassy demonstrating against its blood stained foreign intervention. The embassy was heavily militarised with police and military. Meanwhile, in Panamá, where an international catholic youth gathering took place gathering thousands of young people around the world together with the pope Francisco, there were protests and banners as well as a beautifully coreographed performance of traditional dance, sending JOH the message to get out.
Security Minister Tinoco followed up on his threat to repress and attack protests by militarising the country with contingents of cops and soldiers in all the strategic points where protests normally take place starting the night before the major protests, on 26 January 2019. This night, in repressing people who did go to set up protests, police arrested and placed in lock-up in Manchen police station four youths Franklin Geovany Ramírez (18), Melvin Antonio Sosa and Carlos Orlando Hernández, and one other whose name journalists could not find out, with charges of public scandal. Franklin and Melvin were released the next morning, following people’s pressure for their release. However people outisde the police station also were repressed, with the shooting of teargas and rubber bullets.
On 27 January, date of one year of imposition of dictatorship. Despite all the contingents of soldiers and cops stationed from the night before. There were people everywhere – including Choluteca, Comayagua, Santa Bárbara, La Esperanza, Ocotepeque, different areas in Tegucigalpa, La Paz, Catacamas, and others, who were determined to protest and block highway this day, and proceeded to do so. There are images of tyres on fire blocking road with lots of people in many parts Honduras, and some images of police arresting a lot of tyres, piled in the police pick up truck. In one place, Las Sarrozas village, a group came out with flags and shared roasted corn cobs with anyone who yelled ‘Get out JOH!’ from their cars. There was repression everywhere, below accounts are from available reports.
In the Kennedy neighbourhood, the repression was heavy in both daytime and night time. Masses of teargas was shot at protesters. Journalist Isaac Bueso of UNE TV who was covering the protest and repression there was shot by a rubber bullet launched by the Tigres police squad into the right side of his abdominal muscle.
From the roadblocks at El Carrizal and 3 de Mayo neighbourhoods, security forces arrested four compañeras including one human rights defender named Neepty Godoy. Others were worried for sometime about them as they did not know the whereabouts of the four. It was later known that they were in the fourth police station of Comayagüela.
At and around UNAH, students’ protests were repressed not only by teargas bombs but also by gunshots in El Hato Enmedio, where there were over 100 cobra and riot cops. Police also filmed students without any attempts to hide what they were doing.
The city that has regular protests despite constant heavy repression, was heavily militarised, and the persistent protests were attacked with teargas bombs. Journalist Jairo López was covering the protests and repression, when police (officers Rodas, Martínez, Andino and Fuentes) intercepted him and forced him on patrol PN577, without telling him why he was being arrested. Other journalists who tried to interview him after he was forced onto the police truck were treated violently by the police. Those in charge of this operation were police subcommissioners Milton Obando and Villanueva.. Milton Obando referred to Jairo as ‘the leader of the protests’, rather than as a journalist, and as a recognised persecuted journalist, Jairo was previously assigned a police escort and the police even arrested the police escort and stripped him of his weapons. Knowing this would not be a good look in the press, the security minister made up another story for the press, saying that police was chasing a truck and van where people inside were throwing stones and fireworks at the cops from which one police was allegedly wounded, and that when they stopped this vehicle, they found Jairo López, with his police escort next to him, was driving the vehicle and they were arrested for investigation. Jairo has been persecuted for a long time, including being taken off air by the public-private Honduran Electricity Company EEH
In the context of repression against protests with massive amounts of teargases, many ran into buildings to take refuge and were subsequently arrested. The list of arrestees was rather long: 1. Jorge Adalid Mejía Santos (26), 2. Gustavo Chicas López (18), 3. José Alexander Rodríguez Reyes, 4. Brayan Pereira Cruz, 5. Luís Manrique Cartagena Perdomo, 6. Santos García Sanchez, 7. José Osman Sanchez, 8. Edwin Guillermo Polanco Varela, 9. Jefri Ariel Castillo, 10. Roger Cervantes Inestroza, 11. Allan Josue Alas, 12. Alex Gustavo Chicas, 13. José Jacobo Tabora, 14. Carlos Amilcar Hernández, 15. Marvin Josué Mancia, 16. Jorge Adalid Mejia and 17. Marco Esteban Cáceres. The majority was released on the same day, except Roger Cervantes Inestrosa and Allan Alas, who the lawyers were to pressure to free them the next day. Roger was painting a mural at the Ríos college where he works during vacation periods when he was arrested. Allan was taking refuge from the teargases in a clinic near his work – a tyres workshop, when he was arrested. They were held at the Siguatepeque police station.
In El Progreso:
In Yoro, where protests were dispersed by the shooting of teargases but many more people would then arrive to take the place of those evicted, and stay some hours, the police and Tigres contingent there was heavily armed. The contingent was headed by the head of Investigation Police Department, Jimi Morazán, who was carrying a granade launcher to sheet 5 bombs in one shot. There, two journalists were attacked by police with teargas bombs shot at their bodies: El Progreso Video News EPVN reporter and coordinator Luís Sierra, and UNE TV reporter Edgardo Castro. Also on the atlantic coast, the Puller area was militarised from very early on to impede people from mounting highway blockades.
Dr Luis Amador, who is amongst many voices against the dictatorship, complained that soldiers and military police were surrounding and watching his home and medical clinic from early in the morning, posted just opposite the clinic. The medical clinic had been under military surveillance for some time.
On the next day, 28 January 2018, despite heavy repression from the day and night before, there were some more protests.
In UNAH, students showed they have no fear of the regime’s repression and will keep fighting and never give up, and put up quite a fight this day in confrontation with the police.
At the entrance of the Las Mercedes neighbourhood in Comayaguela, there had been protests against JOH, and two young law students who participated in these protests were arrested 9pm there that night. They were Alejandro Bonilla and Mario Gerardo Rodas. They were forced onto the PN-513 police patrol and taken to the 4th police station, with charges of Scandal in Public Spaces. Alejandro was released at 10am having been held for 13 hours, and Gerardo about 5pm (locked up for about 20 hours). Alejandro is a leader of the Comayaguela Libre party and a member or ARCAH, an organisation that had accompanied and led some protests in the last week.
Campesinos in land struggle – assassinated, attempted against, arrested, raided..
On 4 January 2019, Attackers assassinated Noel Isac Delcid, 32 years old and administrator of MUCA farmers movement of Bajo Aguán, from the La Confianza settlement.
On 15 January 2019, in Sabá, Colón, Jorge Mejía was going from one place to another with 17 years old Oscar Alvarez, when the two of them were fired at repeatedly with gunshots from attackers who fled after firing the shots. The attack would have been meant for Jorge Mejía, a campesino leader of the Unidos Lucharemos cooperative, who had received death threats related to this struggle. It is not known whether they were left in grave conditions.
On 15 January 2019, in El Progreso, a number of campesinos organised in CNTC – national federation of rural workers, had been captured. This occurred in the context of constant persecution from the state that defends companies rather than the campesinos, and of persecution against the campesino group Nuevo Esfuerzo, in relation to lands they are on that the Chiquita banana company wants.
On 26 January 2019, in La Paz, a police patrol raided the home of José Amílcar Rodríguez of the Calaveras El Matazano campesino base ‘5 de noviembre’.
Territory Defenders – against mining, dams, megatourism – kidnapped, arrested, shot at, raped and stoned to death
On 16 January 2019, the coordinator of black Garífuna people’s organisation Ofraneh Miriam Miranda was travelling with two other women defenders also of Ofraneh, when the three of them were arrested by soldiers on the Tocoa highway near the Guapinol community. The soldiers treated them with a lot of disdain and tried to confiscate their car illegally.
On the same night, inside the Guapinol community, gunshots of high calibre weapons were heard, and someone found a bullet engraved into their house. The gunshots were fired by mining company Los Pinares’ security guards.
Also on 16 January, near Tegucigalpa, the Progelsa hydroelectricity dam company’s security guards used weapons against and brutally repressed the Reitoca community which has a protest camp where Progelsa wants to build the Petacón dam. This was in front of a police contingent that watched and did nothing. At the same time, Progelsa had bribed impoverished people of the Muluaca community to approach the Reitoca community, dressed in yellow vests, to pressure the Reitoca community to withdraw the protest camp. They had even sadly bribed a human rights defender.
On 23 January, Garifuna community leader Celso Guillen was for the fourth time arrested with charges of usurpation despite of that the previous usurpation charges have all been dismissed. The accusation came from Canadian business people who have usurped Garifuna community lands.
On 26 January 2019, aggressors in a white double cabin car without numberplates that belongs to Progelsa company kidnapped two comrades Alexander Martinez Ilovares and Nelson Hernandez, of the Agua Caliente community. Their lives are in danger.
On 27 January 2019, garífuna/black and young Belkis García was raped and stoned to death by unknown attackers who are not garífuna/black men. Her body was found near a bridge. This rape and assassination took place on community land in Sambo Creek – garífuna territory that is being usurped and privatised for exploitation.
Journalists – a couple’s children murdered, one sued for defamation (see protests repression for journalists attacked by state security in protests)
On 13 January 2019, in the night time, Paul Alexander Reyes John, aged 27, was assassinated when he was outside his home in the La Guadalupe barrio of the capital city – unidentified persons came out from a van to assault him with another person who was walking about, then they shot him. Paul was taken to the HEU teaching hospital, but he died there. Paul was the son of journalists Walter Reyes and Nancy John. The parents said Paul was a good noble person, so many who knew him are very saddened.
On 31 January 2019, there was a conciliation hearing scheduled in a lawsuit against journalist Carlos Martínez who had been charged by parliamentarian Bernardo Enrique Yllescas for defamation. The accusation is related to Carlos reporting on that Yllescas had put forward a bill in May 2018 to reactivate military conscription/obligatory military service, something that was abolished in 1994 through campaigning work out human rights defenders. Carlos had already been charged with defamation previously – by parliamentarian Brenda Mercedes Flores, but this charge was withdrawn afterwards.
The continuous plight of migrants
Another massive caravan left Honduras for the US leaving from the San Pedro Sula bus terminal on 14 January 2019. They left ignoring both the scare campaigns coming from the US government, and also from the Honduran JOH regime pleading people to not leave. Their lives in Honduras is simply too hard, with no jobs, and with terrorising gang violence, so people left risking their lives and futures, for the chance that they and their families may survive, because they are likely to be killed by hunger or gang violence in Honduras.
Even as this caravan was just beginning and past ones are in Mexico, grave news continue pouring in of Honduran migrants in their journeys. On 14 January 2018, Nerlin Rochez (Rocky) who was always there as part of the struggles to recovery ancestral garífuna land, was found assassinated while travelling in as part of the exodus in Mexico. The same day, Ruth Resendiz (of the caravan), had been kidnapped in the Mexico City, news came out the next day that people were still looking for her. On 15 January, Kely Abigail Hernandez of the caravan was run over and killed, leaving behind her daughter.
Two best friends traveling together shared with a journalist their story. The journalist named them Elmer (aged 26) and Denia (aged 21), since they needed to tell the story annonymously. Elmer and Denia decided to got in the caravan together to look out for one another, they left on the caravan of 14 January 2019. The journalist asked them, how much did they carry for the trip? They laughed and said less than US $8 between the two of them. This is not their first attempt, they tried to flee on 27 December 2017 from Choluma, where the homicide rate is very high, but that time, they were deported when they were near Mexico city. Denia has been looking for work for two years and had not found anything. Elmer received death threats from gangs.
On 16 January 2019, as around 500 migrants leaving Honduras reach the Guatemalan border, there was a hunt by the security forces against migrants aged under 21, whether or not they were accompanied. Of these 500, some passed through with their documents, others without documents were returned on buses. Dozens were insisting to be let through. Things were sometimes heated, there was a confrontation the night before – migrants and police shot at each other, migrants with stones and police with teargases. There were images on the media of people walking from Esquipulas to Chiquimula in Guatemala.
On 24 January 2019, the Mexican state had registered that 9120 Hondurans entered Mexico just in these 24 days, who are seeking visas for humanitarian reasons. These numbers do no include many others who have not been officially registered. These are clear signs of a humanitarian crisis.
The migrants not only live in these conditions of vulnerability and precariety, but there are politicians that go out of the way to incite hatred and racism against the migrants and turn other poor people against them. Not only the atrocious Trump had done that. Back in October 2018, Tijuana (Mexico) mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum told the press that the Honduran caravan was ‘different’ to other migrants, pointing to their lack of papers and saying all sorts of things to dehumanise these. The next day, some hundreds of struggling Mexicans organised a protest telling Hondurans they weren’t welcome there, throwing stones at these. Politicians turn poor people against other poor people by emphasising that public services are limited, so that people show their rage at migrants rather than at their state and the state of the world. This happens everywhere, very sadly.
Politician ruled guilty of defamation
Some politicians are persecuted too. Current Libre parliamentarian and ex police commissioner Maria Luisa Borjas was charged with defamation against businessman Camilo Atala. Maria Luisa Borjas had spoken up about the assassination of main social leaders, and against corruption, in a way that is direct and without ambiguities. She spoke up about Berta, naming public figures who are wellknown as suspects of intellectual authors of Berta’s assassination, and about how 20 high level police officials were involved in killing young people. Maria Luisa Borjas had received death threats for these. On 28 January 2018, the judicial president declared Maria Luisa Borjas guilty of the charges. She could be sentenced to between 2 years and 8 months to 4 years in prison.
Killings and a disappearance – specific contexts unknown but is the overall context of things that happen in Honduras nowadays
On 19 January 2019, a humble man named Roberto Cuellar died at the hands of soldiers in Gracias, Lempira, near the San Sebastian plaza. Roberto’s children became orphaned.
On 21 January 2019, judge Jorge Salvador Serrano, brother of judge of constitutional court Jorge Avilio Serrano, was assassinated in Santa Barbara, in a dark quiet street.
On 24 January 2019, in the Torocagua neighbourhood, an unidentified woman driving a grey tourist van without a numberplate was assassinated by a motorcyclist who was subsequently arrested.
On 26 January 2019, Elmer Antonio Villalta was last seen leaving his home at 7am for work, his family was seeking help to find him.
Melon workers stuffed around by Fyffes/Sumitomo as the company plays games to regain fair trade stamp.
Fyffes/Sumitomo signed an agreement with STAS union just before Christmas, to enter into a negotation process with STAS during January/February 2019 and recontract 60 workers who were dismissed because of their affiliation with the union. These workers never were recontracted. They arrived 3 times to work and were not allowed in. The last time they went they were blocked off by hundreds of people who aggressively expelled them. Days before, the board of STAS received a letter from the fake union Sintrasuragroh (of bosses, etc) that it will be Sintrasuragroh that negotiates with Fyffes/Sumitomo not STAS.