May 2019 Honduras Coup Update
May day repression
Continuing from the mobilisations and barricades from 29 and 30 April around Honduras, there was a massive May Day mobilisation in Tegucigalpa and the heavy repression continued from previous days. Many streets in the city centre were closed off by police and soldiers. Thousands were marching and students sang with joy, ‘it’s going to fall, and it’s going to fall, the dictatorship is going to fall’ between screams of ‘Get out JOH!’ – the students were subsequently attacked with teargas bombs and chased. People were heard to chant, ‘don’t kill us.’ As well as fighting against the privatisation of healthcare and education, people demanded freedom for the political prisoners. Gustavo Cáceres, Raúl Alvarez, and Edwin Espinal had on this day passed 485 days in prison under shocking conditions.
Repression was in different parts of Tegucigalpa. On the highway that circles around the city, as people went to occupy it at the El Hato part, the repression was brutal and included gunshots. In Central Park of the city centre, as people gathered in protest and a few uni students approached the police and asked them not to follow a dictator’s orders, the police began to attack the protest and other police filmed protesters from the council building. In Barrio El Chile, and opposite the military cuartel in Valle Park, police and soldiers launched teargas bombs at protesters.
At least two people were wounded in the repression this May day. Martín Dagnese who was shot in the ear and kept in Intensive Care Unit – under police custody, he was fighting for his life, and handcuffed and watched. Journalist Yovanny Villalobos of Canal 11 was wounded with multiple wounds while covering the police repression in the Central Park in Tegucigalpa.
There were also many arrests on May Day against protesters. Taken to Belen police station and held for 24 hours were Oscar Leonel Bertrand Garcia, aged 19, Angel Armando Laínez, aged 19, and Denis Cerrato, aged 19. At the congress building, youths detained include Héctor Raúl Padilla Valle, Ariel Barrientos Hernández, Iván Isaac Gonzalez, Ariel Antonio Méndez, Erick Rivera. Other arrests mentioned included two women and one man also at the congress building, six plus teenagers who were arrested, forced onto patrol RP M-08 and locked up at the 4th police station of Comayagüela. There may have been many more undocumented arrests on this day.
Very late the night before, on 30 April 2019, in Guayape, Olancho, teacher of Modesto Rodas Alvarado high school, Richard Agurcia as killed with a number of gunshots.
Repression of protests between May Day and the general strike at the end of the month
On 2 May 2019, showing the poor conditions of the to be privatised healthcare system, there was an emergency situation this day where the Hospital Escuela teaching hospital had no water and its staff was waiting for water to be trucked in. Surgeries were suspended because of the lack of water.
On 3 May 2019, at Las Delicias, La Ceiba, at a protest, security forces fired gunshots hitting the face of a youth, killing her. On the same date in the night time, in Danlí city, police attacked another youth who was protesting the JOH dictatorship, from which was wounded on his back and arms.
On 4 May 2019, news came out that the following political prisoners of Pimienta had been released: Lourdes Gomez, Melvin Chavez, Pancho Alas Roke Alvaranga while three others continue to be locked up awaiting hearing.
On 6 May 2019 in San Pedro Sula, high school students spoke up about how the district and provincial education authorities are pushing the high school authorities of Centro Tecnico Hondureño Alemán to expel students for protesting the privatisation of education. Students imminently at risk of expulsion include Jefferson Adonay Dubon, aged 18, and Cesar Flores, aged 18.
The same day, journalist Francisco Aguirre received threats on facebook for publishing on May day a video on his facebook page Diario El Triunfo that showed a youth being arrested in the Tegucigalpa protests for having a hankerchief with vinegar for handling the teargas.
On 7 May 2019, in La Lima in Aguan Valley, there was police repression from which one protester was wounded. Perhaps in response to this or other repression, in the same region, in Saba, people blocked the road and bridge in insurrection. And from the same region again, the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares accused the media Diario Colón Hn of defamation for its news about the contamination of the river. A number of journalists spoke up about threats from Inversiones Los Pinares.
On 13 May 2019, journalist of Choluteca Jairo López who covers repression of protests and about the struggles in the region, and who had been facing charges in the last 6 months with bail conditions, finally had the case against him dismissed since he was accused of throwing rocks at EEH building and leading meetings of the opposition political party and there was evidence that he didn’t. EEH is the privatised electricity provider. In the time he was on bail, he was given a list of things he was not allowed to speak about. The protection measures of having police escorts as a persecuted journalist were withdrawn from him from 28 January 2019. He received and continues to receive death threats. He was obligated to travel twice a week to sign at the court, – 41kms of travel each time – this trip costed a lot of money and time, especially being an unpaid journalist (due to persecution).
Speaking of problems with EEH, the privatised electricity company, on 14 May 2019, an elderly woman of the Carrizalito II Community in Copán Ruins received an electricity bill of 8,417.61 lempiras (about US$420), when she had not had access to electricity in her humble home for the last two years, where her spouse had been bedridden since 5 years ago.
On 15 May 2019, health care workers are having assemblies and organising, as were students.
On 16 May 2019, in Choluteca, students of different high schools there took the streets, fighting for their rights to free public and quality education. The same day, TV and radio journalist Joel Mejía had to close his media JM Vision and flee the country because of persistent threats he received, including this message he received back in February while he was transmitting live, from Carmen Lastenia Padilla, the mother of the Choluteca mayor Ramón Edgardo Cárcamo, ‘I give you 15 days to lose yourself from the map, you have fucked it up, idiot.’
On 17 May 2019, there were protests in Yoro. In Olanchito, people protested the privatised electricity company EEH that is incompetent and had burnt their domestic appliances – they dumped these outside the EEH building in protest. Meanwhile, in El Progreso, teachers, students and parents mobilised in protest against the privatisation of healthcare and education.
On 19 May 2019, at a football game at the national stadiu, many Olimpia fans started screaming ‘get out JOH’ and the police reacted launching teargases at the stadium. A copcar was set on fire outside in reaction to this repression.
On 20 May 2019, the national general strike was called and people started preparing. In the meantime, in Tocoa, Colón, a community meeting was held to declare the municipality free of mining. Instead of accepting this, the mayor Adán Funes Martínez of Libre party betrayed people and sent police and soldiers to evict people from the council building.
On 22 May 2019, in Tegucigalpa’s city centre, hundreds of high school students protested and were repressed and chased by police and soldiers with teargas bombs and aerosol cans of pepper gas. The students were protesting emergency laws that provides for teachers on strike to be unpaid and for these salaries to be paid to scab teachers who fill their positions, and to create a commission to ‘transform’ (privatise) the health and education system, amongst other measures of intervention.
On 23 May 2019, in Tegucigalpa, police captured high school students of Instituto Milla Selva, in the Villanueva neighbourhood.
On 24 May 2019, in the south of Honduras, teachers occupy highways, and in the central region of Honduras too, there was a barricade with many rocks and tyres on fire, of the CA-5 highway at El Conejo, at the turn off for La Paz.
On 25 May 2019, in Santa Bárbara in the 6 de Mayo neighbourhood, there were confrontations between police and their gasses, and people and their stones. People were there protesting the terrible services of the privatised electricity company, EEH. The same day, in the afternoon, in Danlí city, teachers were barricading. Police bashed up one woman teacher, shot teargases at people and chased people. Screams could be heard of, ‘let her go!’ ‘Study! Learn! Never become cops!’
On 26 May 2019, at 8.45pm, in Tegucigalpa in the Kennedy neighbourhood, two men suspected to be plain clothes police who were hooded jumped out of a grey ute without numberplate and knocked Marlene Sourd to the pavement, telling her that she had to stop participating in the protests, that the attack was just a little show of what can happen to her. Marlene had scratches and bleeding hands and legs from the attack. For her part, she said she will keep going even if it meant that she were to lose her life.
The General Strike against the privatisations was on 30 and 31st May, but there were major protests in many places before then.
On 27 May 2019
It was on this date that the Security Secretary threatened publicly to repress any protest actions in the education and healthcare sectors. The health and education secretaries also threatened publicly with firing any workers in protest.
There were already actions in many places on this date.
In Yoro people barricaded the Quebrada Seca bridge and highway that connected Yoro with Tela. This was violently evicted by police in the morning.
In Tegucigalpa, there was a mobilisation and the presidential guard and police violently repressed protesters. Police also attacked Azteca Honduras cameraperson Gerson Maldonado who was there covering the protests – police hit him with a teargas bomb on the left side of his head as he filmed the arrival of the mobilisation of teaching and healthcare workers. Gerson vomited from the chemical attack and was dizzy from the impact.
In Limones, Olancho, teachers barricaded the highway and forced the attacking police to retrocede away.
On 28 May 2019
In Catacamas, Olancho, police bashed up a student during the protest.
In Quimistán, Santa Barbara, the PN 144 police patrol shot a teargas bomb at people protesting at the side of the highway.
On 29 May 2019
Just as the general strike was about to begin, that night, in Yoro, an organised teacher named Johny Alexander López was at home when some unidentified people broke into his home and without saying anything, opened gunfire at him. Johny was left gravely wounded and the attackers fled the scene. Neighbours went to see what happened and found Johny gravely wounded and rushed him to the Emergency Department. It was while Johny was receiving treatment that he died. Johny was an engineer and a teacher who gave classes in the Santa Cruz del Oro high school.
30 May 2019, day one of general strike
In Colón, the campesina community of Guadalupe Carney protested against privatisation of healthcare and education – police invaded and tried to violently evict the protest from 6.30am, it was later in the morning when police brutally attacked the community with gunshots, teargas bombs, peppergas sprays, rubberbullets, and chasing people. Those hurt included a youth whose ankle was shot at and destroyed, three others were also gunshot wounded. Don Alejandro Méndez who was injured by a rubberbullet that police launched into his head, human rights defender Obed Ulloa who was bashed by the police and teargasses severely affected many people there including many children and Don Fausto, aged 87, who has renal problems and fell into a very delicate state after the gas attack. Ironically, the police was yelling at the community in protest calling them assassins and delinquents. The community had been committed in land struggle for 19 years
In Tegucigalpa, the general strike occupied the road of the Villa Olímpica neighbourhood and other places, including the Toncontín international airport where the repression was immense over more than 4 hours. Police bashed people, fired some gunshots at the protests, gassed them and wounded them with teargas bombs, militarised the runways and airport police threw stones at protesters. Flights were suspended and national and foreign travellers were not allowed out and were ushered from one area to another instead. With the police attacks, shop windows around the area had been broken. Many protesters fled to refuge in the shopping centre opposite the airport.
In Choluteca, police also fired gunshots at protesters. Known cases of people hurt include 19 year old human rights defender Deninson Escalante who was documenting human rights abuses at the protests when police attacked him, leaving marks of heavy beatings on his back, and journalist Alex Martínez of UNETV was wounded with teargas bomb that the police launched at his head when he was covering the protests.
In Comayagua, Siguatepeque, Lenca indigenous teachers, doctors, farmers and vendors were mobilising, struggling and resisting the regime’s repression, barricading the CA-5 highway, when security forces started to repress with teargas, and subsequently with gunshots when protesters returned some of the teargasses launched at them. One of these gunshots hit Claros Sánchez, who was shot in the back, just centimetres from his spinal cord. In hospital, his condition became very critical very quickly – while waiting for 15 minutes his blood pressure dropped from 80 to 40 and if the wait was longer, he would easily have died. That night, his family confirmed that he survived the surgery, but that he won’t be able to live a normal life anymore. Claros lost his right kidney and now has a tube permanently placed between his liver and lungs. Claros is a teacher in a school in Opalaca. His family emphasised that teachers have worked for a long time without pay – ridiculous when you consider that the state threatens to deduct the striking teachers’ salary to pay scab workers.
In Danlí, El Paraíso, at about 9am, teacher Saúl Iván López was leaving a corner shop where he bought a telephone recharge before travelling to Tegucigalpa to participate in the general strike, when police in front of a police chief office targetted him for a random search and arrested him, only releasing him at 2.30pm.
In Quimistán, Santa Barbara, at night, at the end of a day of protests that was heavily repressed, the police station there was mysteriously set on fire. There are concerns when these things happen especially because they are often inside jobs and mass arrests have followed in the past and political prisoners taken for prolonged periods.
Journalists around the country have been attacked in these protests in addition to some mentioned above. UNE TV journalists Leonidas Maradiaga and Victor Rodríguez for transmitting live as the military arrested a youth without giving any explanations and interviewing victims of military police’s teargas attacks. Cameraperson of the program Panorama Cultural e Informativo PCI of Canal 51, Jonathan Herníquez and the journalist Andrés Moline were attacked, with the teargas bombs hitting their bodies.
In Comayagua, as police forcefully repressed the protest in front of the uni there, Radio Globo correspondent Sandra Pérez was victim of their teargases. Viva TV journalists Roger Corrales and Nathalia Reynoth were chased by a police patrol after they filmed the teargas bombs police launced at the protest in Choluteca. Also, journalists correspondents of Radio Globo and of Canal 51, Wilfredo Zepeda and Fabricio Garibaldi were given verbal threats and of their informative material being taken from them. A police said to Wilfredo, ‘these of Globo only talk shit’ and then one of the agents bolted his gun in front of him.
31 May 2019 Day 2 of general strike
In Tegucigalpa, there were mobilisations and very severe repression in many parts.
Many reports of security forces firing gunshots and chasing people while opening fire, in addition to teargas bombs. For example there was shooting by the police against protesters in the San Miguel neighbourhood. Suyapa Figueroa, organised doctor, spoke up about doctors having been bullet wounded this day. People heard the following police order at the protests, ‘if they advance, shoot them.’
In the city centre, shops were hurrying to close as people were chased and there was chaos, in between screams of ‘Get out JOH’. The barricades were effective to the point of people spotting that ambassadors from other countries had to walk on the CA5 highway. Protesters and teachers organisers witnessed the Red Cross vans were once against involved in collaborating in the state repression by helping transport teargas bombs.
There were several arrests this day:
Sociologist who gave classes, Milton Leonel Reyes Navarrete had been arrested at the Morazán Boulevard with a minor charge and was held at the El Manchen police station. It was announced that he would be released the next day after 24 hours of arrest.
Another locked up for 24 hours at El Manchen was Adrian Francisco Palma.
There was another youth arrested with him who was released earlier as he was very sick with fever and asthma and they wanted to accuse him of burning tyres and there was nothing.
The youth Rommel Valdemar Herrera Portillo appeared initially to be charged with public scandal/disrespect along with others – accused of calling the police sons of bitches. His brother was also arrested, at el Manchen, this day, whereas Rommel was locked up in Core 7. The brothers are both sons of a teacher, nephews of another teacher, and are both uni students. However, the charges became aggravated burning and damages and he was retained as political prisoner. There were fears that all the arrestees would be accused of the burning of US Embassy – another apparent inside job of the state as US Embassy is never without security to randomly have a few tyres dumped at the door and for these tyres to be on fire. It was symbolic and the US Embassy was not burnt down. Plus, a police truck was seen and photographed transporting tyres towards that direction. Rommel was accused of this. The update on 11 June 2019 was that he continued to be locked up at La Tolva high security prison, where two other longer term political prisoners have been held for many months. His lawyers are to appear in court this date with an appeal, and the next hearing date is 24 June 2019.
Uni student Jeffry Alexander Blanco was seen to have been captured by police of the JOH regime and there were concerns about his disappearance but there were confirmations in the following days that he had appeared.
In Santa Rosa de Copán, teachers of Ocotepeque, Lempira and Copán barricaded, there was heavy repression at the 6 de Mayo neighbourhood in La Entrada, police went around kidnapping people there, taking some arrestees, and leaving some wounded.
In Brisas del Valle, Cofradía, police was also shooting at protesters using live gunshots. There was a note at about 11pm saying that there was a death there, that the police of the dictatorship had killed him.
In Calán, Villanueva, Cortés, the military police also opened gunfire at the people on general strike against the emergency laws. From this brutal repression, the youths Edgardo Diaz and Rigoberto Hernández were critically wounded and were hospitalised in Catarino Rivas hospital.
In Talanga, Brenda was wounded in police repression. There were images of her bleeding in the head.
Meanwhile, in May 2019, the desperation that only grows had about 10,000 Central American migrants detained by US border police in a one week period in Texas. The detention centres were compared with concentration camps by commentators.