May 2017 Honduras Coup update

May 2017 Honduras Coup update

Journalist bashed and tortured covering attacks against a student occupation

Journalist and human rights defender Ronnie Ezequiet Huete Salgado has a long history of having worked 17 years in journalism including having taught in UNAH and in private universities and has been on the scene to document many human rights violations in Honduras. In the beginnings of the coup he received death threats in relation to his work. On the night of 24.5.17, Ronnie received a phonecall from an anonymous person; the caller told him that there was an uni occupation taking place and that people’s lives were at risk, so he went immediately to the university to cover and intervene in the capacity of a journalist. As he arrived he saw a group of ESPA company UNAH privately contracted guards around the buildings – he approached and asked them what was happening, and they responded that they were not authorised to give statements. Ronnie went towards the admin building and saw a group of students who had faces covered, and the students gave their testimonies on what was happening. Ronnie proceeded to a lower level of the building where he saw a group of students in confrontation with another group of people who also had faces covered, but who had shirts removed and were holding batons. Ronnie began recording with his phone with which he can transmit live for the Brazil-based internet media for which he is an international correspondent. As tension rose higher and higher he called national and international press and also called his dad. Ronnie then tried to intervene and mediate, but it was too late, the shirtless hooded group jumped from the lower floor to the parking lot where the students were to chase and attack them. The baton-holders began to bash one of the doors towards the reception office of the building, then they swung towards Ronnie and sprayed his face with toxic pepper gas. Ronnie said he was an international correspondent and human rights defender and showed his international journalist ID, they responded by snatching his phone and ID, and began beating him with batons and kicked him to the ground. He kept insisting he was working as a journalist and they beat him harder and harder. Ronnie thought he was going to die and begged them to stop. Ronnie remembered the hooded person who ordered them to stop beating him was also shirtless and wore black pants with green stripes (perhaps that is part of the security company uniform, as he mentioned that detail about a few of these shirtless attackers) – they lifted him off the ground and told him not to move. Ronnie insisted that he was a journalist, and they told him to shut up or be bashed again. They watched him. Ronnie felt his hands and eyes burn from the pappergas, and pain on the right hand and many other parts of his body from the torture and beating. Ronnie told them he needed medical assistance, they ignored him. He doesn’t know how much time went by before he heard that another human rights defender was present and he took the risk to get away to seek help. He managed to leave the parking lot, and met his dad and a human rights defender at the reception office. Once accompanied he tried to request his phone and international journalist ID back, but was refused. The human rights defender said lets go, you need to see the doctor now, so the three went to exit the campus. On the way out a police contingent was outside waiting for them, saying they had an order to arrest anyone who leaves the building. Each showed what IDs they had – Ronnie had a journalist association ID in his pocket, but they proceeded to arrest him. In that condition of just having been beaten and needing safety and care, he was instead kept in a police cell for about 36 hours, without medical attention, sleeping on the floor, breathing in nauseating smells, with limited access to food and water. When he was finally to be heard in court, Ronnie was cuffed by feet and hands. He was asked his version of the events, and he told the judge how he was tortured. Having said that he feels even more vulnerable. Ronnie was charged the same charges as the students, and accused of being part of the student occupation. Ronnie is psychologically traumatised and is in fear for his life and needing protection.

Students arrested and smeared

There were twenty students involved in this uni occupation, 4 women and 16 men. They occupied protesting in solidarity with three student activists (Moisés Cáceres, Cesario Padilla and Sergio Ulloa) who have been locked up, demanding that they be freed and the charges be dropped. In those early hours of 25/5/17, students were first chased and sprayed peppergas by masked and unshirted security guards and then police and military entered UNAH without any required judicial orders (police and military are not supposed to enter autonomous uni campuses unless they have a court order to) to complete the eviction and arrest all students. All twenty students were held for 36 hours in the police cells, and charged with ‘provoking damages to the director’s building’ (the office door that the security guards hit, perhaps?). All students were cuffed by their hands and feet as they were taken into court for the bail hearing. The main witness for the hearings against the students is none other than the retired soldier Roger Aguilar Flores who is in charge of the ESPA security team.

As that initial court process was going on, UNAH director Julieta Castellanos spoke for over an hour at the university council meeting, in which Julieta made a series of statements to smear and incite hate towards the arrestee students who occupied. Her statements included that ‘those violent students unless they get controlled are the future of the Islamic State in this university’, she showed pictures of some of these students being student representative candidates saying they are from the Libre political party and showed pictures of Libre and Anticorruption party and PINU assemblies to show that some of these youths attended some of these assemblies.. she made comments saying that the youths who participated in this had psychological problems. She said she would sue the students that dare question her 8 years in her position, saying she will not allow it. And on the use of media by students and by her, she warned, ‘we already know who manages the page and we are going to call because they always say we don’t know who manages the page and we are going to call Mr Vice Director’ referring to Ayax Irias. ‘We are going to commission a TV slot’ against the students, she said, as they had done during student protests in 2016, through Televicentro corporation. Julieta said that there are no agreements to drop any charges. She said, she would not tolerate more protests at uni. The university authorities also went on to send a public press statement that labelled students organised in the Uni Students Movement MEU of UNAH as ‘anarchists and trotskyists’ – naming especially psychology student Marcio Silva – this was in response to a prior meeting in which students told university authorities that they would not accept the prolonging of the mandate of the current authorities that are due to finish in September 2017, since every time students exercise their rights to protest they are repressed violently.

Journalist under threats

On 22.5.17, Ricardo Patiño, journalist and director of the tv news program ‘Telavisión Edición Estelar’ spoke up about threats he has received through social media and that he was physically attacked back on 7.4.17 by a councillor of the Tela Atlántida council of the Liberal Party, Francois Ligeard, and that it was in the presence also of the prosecutors coordinator, the health director and other municipal staff of Tela, and that Francois Liegard afterwards made pejorative remarks against Ricardo on facebook. Through the same social media, the councillor Francois Ligeard made threats to hurt Patiño and another journalist Andrés Abelino Matute. Francois Ligeard has also sent threatening messages to Ricardo by mobile text messages. Ricardo has also received threats from another council employee identified as David Interiano who said on his facebook ‘the one who talks a lot of shits, their days are numbered’. Ricardo Patiño fears for him and his family’s safety and holds the mayor responsible for anything that may happen to them. These threats began after Ricardo began covering news on acts of corruption in the council headed by mayor Mario Alberto Fuentes Morales. He also gave coverage to the communities Mezapa and Pajuiles, who have for 49 days kept paralysed the building of a hydroelectric dam being set up there. Back in May 2016, Patiño spoke up about his TV program in a christian channel being closed because of political pressures from the same mayor Mario Alberto Fuentes Morales.

Garífuna community leader and journalist arrested and charged with land usurpation

On 18.5.17 in the afternoon, a community leader and member of general coordination of Ofraneh (Honduran Black Fraternal Organisation) as well as a Garífuna correspondent for Radio Progreso, César Geovany Bernárdez, after leaving an Ofraneh directive committee meeting, was arrested accused of usurping a land. The land he is accused of usurping is ancestral collective Garífuna land for which there was an illegal sale to the Canadian company Carivida (represented by Patrick Forseth) by the Santa Fé municipality council in 2013. In these times, an ecotourism project managed by Garífuna women of the Guadalupe community was establishing, but which had trouble establishing itself because of a wave of violence then by a group of fugitives who established themselves nearby and committed a series of killings. In 2012 when Ofraneh heard rumours of land sales, Ofraneh sent a statement to the Santa Fé council requesting that any admin processes for such sales be stopped – this was ignored. The Garifuna people have since 2008 placed charges against the Santa Fe council and in 2013 against mayor Noel Ruiz for sponsoring illegal sales of land to ‘involved canadians’, prosecutors never followed up on these charges, but they are prosecuting Cesar Geovany Bernárdez, who has been a major voice against the installation of Carivida’s tourism project on their Garífuna community land. And, the community was of course never consulted about supposed development plans.

Camera person gravely wounded

On 31.5.17, at about 10.30pm, when Televicentro cameraperson René Alberto Ortega (aged 29) was riding home from work on his motorcycle, through the barrio Buenos Aires in Tegucigalpa, René was shot at 6 times, 4 of the gunshots hit his body, 2 shots on his back, one on his neck and one on his left arm. He was immediately taken to hospital where after surgery, he remained in intensive care. It was not a robbery-assault since his motorcycle and objects of value were not taken from him.

Sweatshop abuses

Back in early April 2017, Delta Apparel (US company in Honduras) fired 40 Honduran workers. Of the 40 fired workers, 25 workers (22 women and 3 men) are demanding their jobs back. All 25 garment workers have sustained work injuries like musculoskeletal disorders – without their jobs they cannot access the treatment they need. They need to be reinstated under rehabilitation in work that is appropriate to their health conditions. They were fired with full knowledge of – because of, their injuries. All fired workers had worked for the company for between 10-19 years. The company in its marketing claims, as they all do, to be a ‘socially responsible company’.

Soldiers obstruct journalists and threatened them with prison

On 30.5.17 in Morocelí, El Paraíso, soldiers tried to take the camera equipment of several camerapersons from different medias who were there trying to cover the news. One soldier was for a whole minute holding and claiming the large camera of a journalist who never let go of the camera while others intervened telling the soldier to let go and pointing other cameras. When asked if there was an order to obstruct media, soldiers said no, but continued to try to take journalists’ cameras. Soldiers while herding journalists away from the area made between the lines threats to say that the journalists were going to prison.

Indigenous and black women of Honduras working together

Over 550 women of 6 peoples of Honduras gathered as indigenous and black Honduran women sharing thoughts and strategies on defending their culture, territories and common goods. They travelled to Tegucigalpa and gathered for 2 days. They shared their experiences of persecution faced in struggles against mining and hydroelectricity companies that plunder and marginalise their communities. They spoke up against the racist and patriarchal system which is embodied in the mining projects in collusion with the different arms of the Honduran state. They paid homage to Berta Caceres, her struggle and her emancipatory ideas, and demanded justice for her, 15 months after her assassination.

Politicians’ objection to decriminalising journalism work

Journalists association and groups of journalists campaigned for the elimination of an article in the criminal code, article 335-b which says ‘who publicly or through media or diffusion destined to the public makes apology or justification of terrorism crime or that had participated in its execution or will incite other individuals to commit terrorism or finance this, will be punished with the penalty of 4-8 years in prison’. Congress president Mauricio Oliva Herrera was on the other side of this campaign objecting this decriminalisation move. He gave examples of journalisms he considers unworthy that this law deters – journalists covering that people burnt down a Burger King, or that students occupy the university, or in protest burn buildings, or occupies channel 10 and break its windows .

April 2017 Honduras Coup update

April 2017 Honduras Coup update

Unionists held up, interrogated and threatened at highway intersection

On 15.4.17, melon workers unionists Moisés Sánchez and his brother Misael had left an union meeting and were running some union errands on bicycle before riding home when at a highway interception near the Los Balcanes finca they were surrounded by four hooded attackers armed with guns and machetes – with another two people keeping watch 60 metres away from them. Misael tried to approach one of the attackers and in the process he was swung at in the face with a machete – from which he was deeply wounded. He took advantage of that it was dark and managed to escape and seek help. The attackers had Moisés well identified saying he was in charge of all the movement and that he would pay if he kept going with it. They interrogated Moisés with many questions, wanting to know especially where he ‘kept all the information’. They snatched his bicycle and all his belongings and said, ‘you still haven’t handed me what is most needed, the phone where you have all the information. If you keep going in this you are going to suffer the consequences’. Moisés is the general secretary of a STAS Union of Workers of Agriculture and Similar Industries, and Misael is an affiliate of the same, both are workers for the company Melon Export. No bypassers driving through this intersection tried to find out what was happening and intervene or get help. The brothers live in the La Permuta neighbourhood, their community there responded immediately when they were told of the situation and over hundred people gathered to try to intervene and capture the attackers but they did not manage to, but at least the attackers did leave Moisés after 40 minutes of aggression and interrogation. Misael was on 17.4.17 discharged from hospital and continues to recover from the stab wound on his face. They continue in struggle and call out for solidarity and support.

They have been organising for many months fighting for collective bargaining, and to be paid entitlements such as minimal wage, overtime pay, prorata holidays, long service leave and social security contributions and fighting against dismissal of organised workers, long work days, unhygienic work conditions, lack of security, women being fired for pregnancy and the use of blacklists. They have for many months fought the Ireland transnational Fyffes for these abuses – the melon business was recently acquired by Japanese conglomerate Sumitom and things only look worse for the workers who are mostly women – many single mothers, and for the fight for better work rights with this escalation of repression.

Multiple operations of arrests against organised farmers

In Yorito, Yoro, on 12.4.17, at the early hour of 4.45am, police arrived at the village Las Lomitas and arrested organised farmers Manuel Reyes and Selvin Lozano. The police then went to the village Sabana San Pedro and arrested Olvin Velásquez, Roger Velásquez and Fredy Velásquez. All captures were executed without judicial capture orders. All five farmers are organised in the Campesina Unidos cooperative, and Olvin Velásquez is the president of the co-op. They were on 17.4.17 still detained without bail. They are being charged with usurpation of lands, for 418 hectares of land that the 156 families have had land title to since 1984 in the name of Manuel Colombino Mejía, Esteban Ramírez and Santa Inés Santulín. And the families had for over 10 years lived there and sown maíz and beans for the families’ subsistence there. They had faced a lot of repression in the last 6 months on these lands, including violent evictions by police and army on 1.10.16, 2.1.17 and 3.2.17 – the last being the most brutal with homes and crops destroyed and 8 farmers leaders arrested including Héctor Iván García, Jaime Adalid Castro, Otilio Mateo, Frandy Ávila, and Odilver Reyes. The farmers complain that they have been followed and given death threats by Wilder Omar Domínguez Fugon and his son Wilder Samuel Domínguez Sarmiento who drive around on a double cabin grey vehicle with numberplate DTL7730. State institutions of Land titles and Agrarian reform had disrespected the farmers legitimate land rights in giving land titles to business people. The arrested farmers and the families in the struggle are at high risk

Meanwhile, in Tutule, La Paz, a fourth alert came out on 29.4.17 that an arrested farmer, Carlos Jeovanny López Calix continued to be in custody, with the initial hearing scheduled for 4.5.17 at 11am. Carlos is a member of farmers cooperative 9 de julio de San Pedro, was captured in his home on 28.4.17, the capture order says ‘to proceed to raid his home with capture order, for usurpation of land property of Carlos Arriago.’ However during the hearing to declare not guilty/guilty to the charge, they added two more charges: attempts and death threats against Carlos Arriaga, Carlos Ivanovigch Rodriguez Maldonado and against police officers. There are another 8 members of 9 de julio farmers co-op, who, like Carlos, belong to the rural workers national federation CNTC and have capture orders against them that were pending. The farmers’ crime are working the land and being able to feed their families. Carlos remained detained thanks to the collusion of police, judges and prosecutors who obeyed the supposed landowner Carlos Benjamín Arriaga. Following the hearing, it was updated that he was released after 6 days of being in custody, but on bail measures – of signing at La Paz courts every Friday, of not leaving the country, and of not going to places that are frequented by those who made charges against him, and from having communications with them – this is while the case was ‘provisionally dismissed’.

Indiscriminate arrest of high school students

On 25.4.17, high school students were protesting outside the Presidential House demanding an education reform when a confrontation broke out as students were waiting for a delegation to be allowed inside to submit a proposal for reform. The police said a ‘mob’ threw stones at them and damaged the police tank, and they didn’t identify anyone who threw stones, but the police unleashed dozens of teargas bombs at students and chased them. Five underage students of the schools Jesús Aguilar Paz and Luis Bográn were taking refuge from the teargas 200 metres from the Presidential House, when they got arrested and charged with the damages to a police tank, although they had nothing to do with the stone throwing and police had no evidence otherwise.

Physical attack against prochoice women in demonstration

On 26.4.17, about eighty women organised in ‘Plataforma Somos Muchas’ were outside the congress building, demonstrating and demanding the decriminalisation of abortion in Honduras. They demanded decriminalisation in cases of that the mother’s life is in danger, of when the pregnancy resulted from rape, and when ultrasound shows life threatening genital deformities. The women were met with an attack with stones, sticks, knives, cans, bottles, eggs stuffed with sulphate and waterbags from an organised counterprotest led by young men wearing blue and white shirts and made up of students who are beneficiaries of the 20/20 scholarship program, and government staff. This attack was incited and organised by religious fundamentalists within church and government structures – a few days before the attack cardenal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga made public a statement vilifying these women’s work calling them ‘destroyers of families’, ‘abortionists’, even ‘assassins’, and vilifying abortion rights as ‘the right to kill’. This same and additional name-calling was echoed by the attackers. Evangelical Cofraternity also made public their disregard for women’s rights. Presidential delegate Ricardo Alvarez was amongst the people who made the call out for violent groups to attack the women, as were coordinators of the scholarship program 20/20 – who organised the transport for students and told them participation can be counted towards their volunteer hours.

Doctor of public health system got suspended and threatened, for speaking up about increased service fees for patients are inhumane

On 25.4.17, Dr Denis Rigoberto Chirinos Santos spoke up about having been suspended and threatened. Denis is the president of the HEU (teaching hospital) Doctors’ Association. As he and a colleague had been coordinating a program ‘Family Health’ since seven years ago, he went on the program and on 1.3.17, he said on it that, ‘I am going to speak as the president of the doctors’ association of Hospital Escuela, casually today I realised that the excessive and inhumane fees increase.. that has increased about 200% in some areas.’ That was the first time he spoke to the press about this issue. He was suspended for supposedly ‘having made use of the press to facilitate information about facts and activities of the institution without having obtained the due prior authorisation…in relation to new item prices in the cashier department.’ Denis spoke up because he knows these increases are astounding and unaffordable to many who would lose access to needed treatment and services. He also commented that the hospital has much more fund than budgeted as well as that the increased fees would be insignificant to hospital funding levels. Not only is he suspended, but he receives phonecalls, ‘they call me and tell me to not talk anymore, to abandon the press, to not speak nothing anymore or there will be other types of measures to come.’ They threatened him with complaints against him for sexual abuse to smear him and ruin his career.

Human rights organisation representative attempted against

Hedme Castro of ACI Participa was attempted against. On the night of 6.4.17, Hedme arrived at her home at 10.30pm, coming home after an event for the German parliamentarians mission. She parked her car and went home, and the next day she took her car at 7.30am and drove to the office, and as she was driving by Metromall she felt that the car was losing balance, and kept driving to the office, where when she arrived she realised her tyre was very flat. Two workmates brought in a trusted taxi driver of the neighbourhood to the office to help change the tyre, and they saw that the tyre had a screw jammed into it. The workmates went to a workshop around there and the workshop’s owner took the two tyres to fix – both had screws jammed in. After that Hedme went to drive again but then the car was losing balance again and when she went to the tyres place they found all tyres had screws in them – ALL FIVE TYRES.

Attacks to right to water

International Ecumenical Human Rights Watch reported from the first trimester of 2017 on the violation of the right to water in Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela. The dams supplying water for those living in and around the capital city are storing less than half their capacity, meanwhile 35% of the capital’s residents who live in marginalised neighbourhoods (400,000) don’t receive water in their homes and have to buy barrels of water everyday from trucks. A poor family who get their water supply this way pays around $137 a month to have enough water for basic needs, while a rich or comfortable family with tap water (at least 3 to 4 days a week) pays $65 a month for water. And this is a time when the ‘municipalisation of water’ is topical. ´Municipalising water’ is privatising it, commodising it, rather than working to ensuring everyone has access to it by right. Potable water supply has been reducing because of increasing environmental contamination.

Football fans brutally beaten by cops

On 4.4.17, at about 3pm, young football supporters member of ‘Ultrafield’ of the football club Olimpia, were attacked by military police. The youth Angel Martinez tried to approach the cops to intervene as they were beating, kicking and hitting with sticks everyone who were passing through there. His attempt to dialogue was met with an attack by at least 10 cops in 3 minutes, leaving him only when he fainted and was left in a state of crisis. Those who made the complaint said these practices are recurrent by police who had even shot at members of ‘Ultrafiel’. Security Department said it has been ordered to identify the police who participated in this to suspend the police and investigate this and prosecute the police. See a captured video of this vicious police brutality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7bNJoLjYUI

March 2017 Honduras Coup Update

March 2017 Honduras Coup Update

Another ‘one year on…’, this time, following the assassination of the much loved indigenous activist, Berta Cáceres

Berta Cáceres, guardian of rivers, indigenous, anticapitalist, feminist, environmentalist activist, a very high profile one, was murdered in 2016 on 2 March. The main source of threats in this time was in relation to her work with the highly persecuted Río Blanco resistance against the damming of Gualcarque river – she was not the first activist to be murdered in this struggle. Yet, this hydroelectricity dam project Agua Zarca of the DESA company with complicity of international finance, has not been closed down. And although eight people have been arrested for her murder and five of these have been refused bail, the lawsuits continue in process and we don’t know what final rulings will be, not to mention that they were all people contracted to execute the murder, none of the power elites with personal interests who wanted Berta dead – and evidence suggest that this includes those invested in Agua Zarca, Honduran officials who receive millionaire bribes for approving such projects, those invested in similar projects whose interest it is to access such permissions easily, international finance for making this possible, and even the US state which provided two of her murderers with anti-insurgency training in School of the Americas. Investigations about those arrested have been reported by journalist – Nina Lakhani, who went through the Honduran armed forces and court documents and published the research in the Guardian on 28 February 2017.

Those arrested and charged for killing Berta

Major Mariano Díaz Chávez and lieutenant Douglas Giovanny Bustillo are the two charged who both in 1997 trained in the School of the Americas (currently renamed Institute of Western Hemisphere for Security Cooperation) in Fort Benning, Georgia, US. Mariano Díaz also then in 2005 trained in ‘counter terrorism’ in IAAFA Inter American Air Forces Academy, located since 1993 in Lackland Air Base in Texas US. Mariano Díaz and Douglas Bustillo are accused of organising and planning Berta’s murder. Douglas Bustillo retired from the army in 2008 and became the security head of DESA dam company. Mariano Díaz, at the time of arrest, was already being investigated for kidnappings and drug trafficking, although that was no obstacle with his promotion discussions that was in process at the time; he was previously deployed for 7 years in the special forces.

They were arrested in May 2016 together with Sergio Ramón Rodríguez and Edilson Antonio Duarte. Sergio Rodríguez is an executive of the Agua Zarca dam project, his colleague, DESA president Roberto David Castillo Mejía is another ex official of armed forces intelligence. In an interview in 2013, Berta Cáceres declared that Sergio Rodríguez had offered her and Copinh bribes, and when these were rejected, death threats and accusations against Copinh began, and she received text messages from Douglas Bustillo of threats and sexual abuse. Edilson Duarte is a hitman declared contracted by Sergio Rodríguez, and was identified as having fired the gunshots on the night.

Another on this hitmen group was Henry Javier Hernández, a retired sniper who worked under Mariano Díaz in the 15th battallion, a Honduran special forces unit based in Bajo Aguan formed and trained by US in the 80s that originated as a counterinsurgency unit for Honduran soldiers sabotaging uprisings in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. These special forces units continue to operate today in the guises of ‘diffusing threats’ of terrorism and drugs. Henry worked for three years in this unit before leaving the army in 2013. He worked in this Bajo Aguan region where 124 land and social activists resisting monocrop companies have been murdered in recent years. When Herny Hernández left the army, he became an informant of the military intelligency until he was arrested in January 2017. There are telephone records that show both Henry Hernández and Giovanny Bustillo were in the La Esperanza community where Berta Cáceres lived, since a few days before she was assassinated, telephone registers and testimonies also showed the two knew each other through working together in private security in the months before Berta’s murder. All three military agents have had involvements in the special forces units, which US had come 21 times to Honduras to train these special forces between 2008 and 2014. Henry Hernández himself was on the night of Berta’s murder at her house heading this operation. Evidence shows those who planned the murder had been watching and had entered her home before and knew where everything was in the dark, and where Berta slept exactly. They also entered the guarded urban area, past the on-duty guard, perhaps with their complicity.

Smear campaigns

Smear campaigns against Copinh and Berta Cáceres had been the context in which she was murdered, these were headed by DESA wih complicity of state, media and business sectors. This sowing of doubts in people’s minds about the characters and organisations targeted were used to create the conditions to assassinate her and get away with it.

Because of which, smear campaigns are extremely concerning – right now there are written publications and videos going around social media that target Copinh, Berta’s daughters and Copinh coordinator Tomás Gómez, accusing these of ‘taking advantage of Berta’s death´, aimed at influencing local and international opinions. They come from national and international power groups interested in plundering territories and common goods.

Others arrested

Months before, also arrested were Dario Roberto Cardona, an ex vice-minister of SERNA (Secretariat of Natural Resources), and Martiniano Domínguez, an ex mayor of Intibucá. They were arrested for irregularities committed with the granting of environmental licence and permission, council permissions and the expansion of the Agua Zarca project. Oxfam researched legal standing of the Agua Zarca and Berta Cáceres case and published a report in Spanish http://oxf.am/ZE4S. It revealed what appears to be an organised network of corruption that facilitated the granting of contracts and permission for Agua Zarca to operate. It showed that within 8 months of Agua Zarca’s constitution that it managed to obtain operation contracts with SERNA and ENEE (state electricity company) for electricity generation, transmission and commercialisation. That SERNA had granted concession and environmental licence to Agua Zarca without having obtained the required prior, free and informed consent. That SERNA illegitimately conceded an increase in the volume of Agua Zarca’s access to national waters of Gualcarque river, plus an extension of 20 years on the operation contract without the constitutionally required approval by the national congress. On 1 March, a Honduran indigenous peoples delegation made two charges of violations against the constitution at the decrees 67-2011 and 63-2011, which facilitated Agua Zarca. Oxfam advocates for the cases of Agua Zarca and Berta Cáceres’s murder to be joined for possibilities of obtaining more definite and concrete results, to definitively end the concession and bring all involved to justice.

International Finance

Right now the construction work of Agua Zarca is on standstill, and some of the finance institutions had withdrawn or temporarily suspended, but not definitively, and there is a lot of pressure to reactivate suspended funds. On this anniversary date, a European delegation demanding human rights for Honduras followed up on one finance institution, Finnfund, in Finland. Finnfund had already previously refused to agree to Copinh’s demand to apologise for the murders and withdraw from the Agua Zarca project. This March 2017, Finnfund was asked to participate in a public dialogue to debate its role in the Agua Zarca project and its responsibility for the murder and why it has not apologised for its involvement in Aqua Zarca or responded to COPINH’s other demands. It refused this invitation.

Other updates

There has also been reports that a military agent had months ago infiltrated Copinh to inform on how they are recomposing and reorganising following the killing of Berta.

2 March was an important anniversary date. Many around Honduras and in many corners of the world undertook commemorative actions in solidarity, as well as also undertaking local and global struggles with Berta in the hearts and minds.

In Río Blanco, in other Copinh and Ofraneh communities and all around Honduras and everywhere, people continue to fight for justice and for indigenous self determination and against the imposed model.

Death threat against community radio Radio Dignidad journalist

On 23 March 2017, to the facebook page of community radio Radio Dignidad of the social organisation Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia, a message was sent, saying: ‘you are going to die like a fish by the mouth you toad of shit, to close down your page of shit, or I will be looking for you all over San Juan Pueblo and around’ . The person who posted it appears on facebook with the name of Ismael Arteaga. The facebook identity says they live in Tegucigalpa, studied in Vicente Cáceres public school and in UPNFM public teachers’ college. That was one of a series of messages, another one contained a photo of Radio Dignidad director María Dolores Euceda, as to communicate to Radio Dignidad that they had identified her as a target. In another message, they warned her, ‘don’t get involved in talking political topics’. There had already been before a history of threatening messages from this same facebook profile of Ismael Arteaga, who demands that information from the media page be removed. There is also a history of MADJ receiving threats including by text messages – for talking about political topics when carrying out journalism. Luis Ramos Mejía and Martín Fernández received threats and intimidation last year.

False alarm arrest’ against human rights defender

On 9 March 2017, human rights defender of Permanent Human Rights Observatory of Aguan OPDHA Irma Lemus Amaya went to the DPI – Dirección Policial de Investigación, to try to place a complaint about a human rights violation, and as she showed her ID, the secretary who attended to her told her there was a capture order pending against her for the crime of usurpation of lands and the police there proceeded to arrest her. This capture order was one that was carried out in 2014, for which the court had then dismissed the case definitively. When she provided evidence that there the capture order is an old nullified one that ceased all effects two years ago, they did release her, but this is not the first time Irma has been harassed this way. Nor that a human rights defender has been arrested ‘by mistake’.

Attack with stones against community radio La Voz Lenca

In the Cruz Concordia community, San Francisco, Lempira, on 8 March 2017, at 7pm, Copinh community radio La Voz Lenca was attacked with rocks thrown while the community journalists were working inside. The rocks were thrown by a number of people who came and threw rocks at the radio’s door. While they were not identified, Copinh affirmed that the rock throwers were sent by current authorities. This is another act to intimidate those speaking up against injustices such as the case of the 5 concessions in the San Juan river between the municipalities of Erandique Lempira, San Marcos de la Sierra, San Francisco Lempira – the mayor Elmer Noel Molina had already given operation permissions to the company beneficiaries.

More Smear campaigns

On 30.3.16, new reports were made of hate/smear campaign targeting Radio Progreso director – Jesuit priest Ismael Moreno – known as father ‘Melo’, at Copinh, and at Salvador Zúñiga (father of Berta Cáceres’s children), on social media networks of Honduras. In the images and texts spread around, the father ‘Melo’ is accused in the campaign of receiving ‘dirty money of drugs and from Mel’, of ‘working with Copinh’ and ‘using Radio Progreso to give Honduras a bad name’. They also accuse Copinh of ‘laundering drug money, and being the main arm of disprestige that the radical left uses against Honduras.’ Those who drive this smear campaign do it through Hootsuite.com – a web and phone app that manages the social media of the persons and organisations to then massively publish images and texts in social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, Instagram, YouTube and Foursquare. The discourse / accusations in the campaign match exactly with those managed by high officials of government against social leaders and human rights defenders, something that has been the norm since the start of the last two administrations. Even the US Embassy had pronounced that these types of attacks are ‘doomed to fail’.

Death threat against radio correspondent of Radio Progreso

In Santa María municipality of La Paz province, on 28 March 2017, indigenous correspondent of social radio Radio Progreso, Esteban Vásquez, was passing through Arenales sector where National party activists had waited for him and as he appeared, gave him this death threat, ‘if you continue your information work, they will assassinate you.’ In this region there are threats of environmentally damaging mega projects that investors want to impose against communities’ will.

Government contracts numerous national party activists for ‘cleaning’

Between hundreds to thousands of National Party activists around cities of Valle de Sula got 3 to 4 months of ‘cleaning contracts’ by councils and central government just before primary elections. They have not been assigned cleaning equipment, in fact the only duty that resembles ‘cleaning’ is removing opposition political parties’ propaganda from street posts and buildings. Their main job though is visiting homes, noting down people’s ID numbers, offering a ‘solidarity pack’ and an allowance for anyone committing to vote for the re-election of those in power now. The staff have to hand in proof of having a list of at least 24 people on this list in the last two months or their salary got withheld. And those who commit to vote have to turn up at the National Party table to vote voluntarily, under their watch presumably, or else they will be take by force to do the same. Those that get paid are paid in cash through Banadesa. Of the little salary they receive, the staff then obligated to return about US$20 of it towards the campaign of the party in government.

Fyffes update:

The melon subsidiary (one of 3 of Fyffes in Honduras) Melexsa – Melon Export SA, dismissed all its security staff affiliated with the STAS (union of agroindustry and similar industries workers). The security staff like other staff organised because their rights were violated; they don’t receive the stipulated minimal salary, or overtime penalty rates, night and holiday work penalties nor days off in lieu for extra time worked. Nor do the employers make the social security contributions it is supposed to, and no life insurance, no education allowance..

February 2017 Honduras coup update

February 2017 Honduras coup update

Another Tolupán indigenous leader assassinated

On 17.2.17, José de los Santos Sevilla was assassinated, attacked by five unidentified persons who broke into his home in the La Ceiba neighbourhood, Orica province. José was the president of the Association of Tolupán Indigenous Communities of Montaña de la Flor. He worked as a primary teacher. He formed part of a network of judicial facilitators. Having been murdered, he joins the over 100 Tolupán people in Honduras who have been assassinated in the last two decades – an extremely high number given that the Tolupán population in Honduras is only about over 20,000. Murders against Tolupán people are linked to companies and related to the Tolupán resistances against mining and logging exploitation in their communities.

Director of Women’s organisation sued for demanding justice for Berta’s murder

Because Centre of Women’s Studies – Honduras (CEM-H) called for justice for Berta and for the impunity of DESA to end, DESA filed a lawsuit suing CEM-H director Suyapa Martínez. DESA charged her for defamation, they are asking her to be fined a million lempiras (about US$42,500).

Smear attacks against Copinh continues, including against Berta’s daughters

At the end of January 2017, in a press conference, Copinh spoke up about recent images that have gone out on social media that incites hate towards the Copinh indigenous organisation, and against Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, one of the daughters of the Berta Cáceres, well known indigenous feminist anticapitalist activist murdered in March 2016. The images accuse those attacked of hating and destroying the image of Honduras, and try to make people confuse the indigenous organisation Copinh with the political party Libre to delegitimise this indigenous organisation. Smear campaigns are also widely used prior to violent persecution to confuse public opinion – like in Berta Cáceres’ case, so those attacked in this way are literally being threatened at the same time.

University director directed bodyguards to attack journalist at work / another attack against protesting students

On 15 and 16.2.17, at the national autonomous university UNAH, there was a symposium on human rights and the judicial system of Honduras, which was attended by UN human rights reps, US Ambassador in Honduras James Nealon, the Honduran Ombudsman and uni authorities. A press conference – national and international – was organised as the first part of the symposium came to and end. Journalist Ronnie Huete took the opportunity to ask UNAH director Julieta Castellanos a question in relation to police brutality in the use of toxic gases inside the campus grounds, in reference to recent repression on campus against a students protest on 9.2.17, on which date three students were arrested and one of the arrestees, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, suffered cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment during a beating he was subject to by a Cobra police. Journalist Ronnie Huete’s question infuriated Castellanos, who called on her bodyguards to use force against him to silence him.

Ongoing: mass dismissals, privatisations..

In the period of October to December 2016, 1250 public service workers were dismissed – 250 from INA Agrarian Department, which has the job of processing land titles for farmers, and 800 from ENEE electricity company. Downsizing was to save almost US$1 million. No statements were made by the institutions on the impact the downsizing will have on social and public services, and on privatisation, or how what few jobs are left are saved for those affiliated with the party in power, or that the savings are to please World Bank, IMF, Inter American Development Bank, and Central American Bank of Economic Integration, so these would give loans, while the many suffer the consequences of privatisation. CUTH workers federation general secretary Joel Almendares asserted that in the last three years or so, over 20,000 public employees have been dismissed en-masse in Honduras and many have been suspended for four months without pay, that there are no opportunities for youths, and highlighted violations to collective contract and workers’ right to union organising.

Miners in Santa Bárbara protest

In El Mochito, miners marched, hugged, cried and prayed. They were on strike for a week, demanding increases in pay and for collective contracts, as despite orders by the Secretary of Work, and many meetings and negotiations, their pay remained starvation wages. Their situation is particularly precarious because of changes in company ownership – the company was sold by Nyrstarr to Morumbi Resources Inc (Canadian mining company) last year, which has committed to selling 100% of its zinc production to American Pacific Honduras which sold Nyrstar 98.04% of shares back in April 2014. Morumbi has taken possession but under the direction of the company Ascendant Resources Inc.

A recap on the Globo Witness report, ‘Honduras: the most dangerous place to defend the planet in’

In reference to 123 defenders of land and common resources having been assassinated in Honduras since the 2009 coup, and of many others persecuted, and of the 90% impunity, it is recapped that this dangerous condition in which to resist and oppose megaprojects from the communities, ‘These are a direct consequence of a lethal cocktail where generalised corruption is combined with interested of big national and international capital, with collusion with politicians and state officials, where there is no practically protected right to prior, free and informed consultation with the communities and there is impunity.’

January 2017 Honduras coup update

 

January 2017 Honduras coup update

COPINH Calls for Month of Action in March 2017

Posted: 26 Jan 2017

The Honduran indigenous organization COPINH calls for a month of action demanding justice for Berta Caceres and for the indigenous communities in struggle in Honduras. La Voz de los de Abajo and the other organizations of the Honduras Solidarity Network will be organizing actions, so stay tuned to our Facebook pages and other social media so you can join in.

“Berta lives on, COPINH is strong” – COPINH calls for month of actions

On March 2nd, 2016 they assassinated our sister Berta Cáceres. They thought they would get rid not just of her as a leader recognized throughout Latin America and around the world, but also would end a struggle, a political project, that they would destroy the organization of which she was both founder and daughter, COPINH (the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras).

One year since she spread her wings, since the crime that tried to steal her clarity and leadership from us, the peoples of the world who recognize her legacy are here, walking in her footsteps, confronting the patriarchal, capitalist, colonial and racist system that is imposed upon our peoples. We have been and will continue confronting the deadly projects of transnational corporations and imperialism in every corner of the planet.

In March we won’t just painfully remember that horrendous crime, above all we will celebrate life: the life of Berta, who was born on March 4th and the life of COPINH, which was founded 24 years ago on March 27th.

For all of these reasons, we invite you to use every day of March to multiply:

* Actions of protest, resistance and struggle against the deadly policies of transnational corporations…

* Actions to defend the bodies and lives of women in the face of the patriarchal and colonial system…

* Actions against the criminalization of grassroots movements, against militarization and commodification of the lands and all dimensions of life…

* Actions to denounce the Honduran State in front of its embassies in every country of the world…

* Actions of solidarity with COPINH and with the organizations of the grassroots Honduran social movement…

* Actions to spread the thinking and example of Berta’s life…

* Moments of reflection and spirituality…

We call for these types of actions to be developed and spread through every corner of Abya Yala and the world. As movements, organizations and people, let’s accompany COPINH, embody it, multiply its march.

In all of these potential proposed actions, and all others that your creativity gives rise to, let the world shake with the cry of: “Berta lives on, COPINH is strong!”

In the face of militarization and criminalization, more struggle and organization!

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Iselaca, Mota and Etempica, we raise our voices full of life, justice, liberty, dignity and peace.

BERTA LIVES ON, COPINH IS STRONG

#justixciaparaberta #SoyCOPINH

#bertavivecopinhsigue

Global Witness report and attacks against those who are part of it

Global Witness, a wellknown human rights NGO, published a report that reiterated that Honduras is the most dangerous place on earth to defend environment, land and human rights, where one is the most likely to be assassinated for fighting to protect the planet. The report said 123 defenders of land and environment have been assassinated since the coup in 2009 in Honduras, and others have been threatened, persecuted, imprisoned, and that 90% of these cases is in impunity. It clearly pointed at the business sector as being behind these murders, and that this sector has the support of corruption, impunity, and state departments including courts, military, police, and other departments. Honduras already has 714 extractive projects and about 30 to 35% of the territory has been concessioned out for commercial exploitation. It’s not that this overview or statistics are news to anyone who has been following the atrocities in Honduras, but that Global Witness reported these, that is news, because Global Witness is influential in the ‘international community’.

So, the reaction to Global Witness circulating this report, included that Environmental and Natural Resources minister José Galdámez threatened Global Witness Director Billy Kyte, saying if Kyte does not present himself to the Honduran state to make statement about the facts he published in his report, that Galdámez’s office will proceed to request prosecutors to order Kyte’s arrest. Secretary General of government coordination Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro denied that the numbers of assassinated environmentalists named in the report were true. Parliamentarian and ex congress president and president of National party – Gladys Aurora Lopez, announced she will place charges against the representatives of Global Witness for the revealed data. There are hate campaigns by anonymous groups in social media against the UN human rights rapporteur Michel Forst who called on people to read the Global Witness report. Those whose lives are in danger in relation to this report include not only those of Global Witness who worked on and signed off on the report, but also those who gave testimonies for the report from grassroots organisations and communities: Milpah, Copinh, MADJ, Locomapa community, Barra Vieja garifuna community, and the same goes for others who spoke as witnesses and sources of information in the report.

A bill that killing and hurting people is what police, soldiers etc are hired for so they don’t get punished

State security officials kill and hurt many people around the world, and in Honduras the numbers are especially grave – but even in Honduras, once in a while, under pressure from campaigns for justice, the state plays the charades of pretending to prosecute police and army officials for assassinations. The JOH president feels this is a problem, so he proposed a bill to reform the criminal law, article 25, so that police, military, and state security servants or other competent authority won’t be investigated, judged or punished when they ‘in the course of carrying other their duties and in the use of their weapons or other means of defence, cause injury or death to a person’. They want to make official that cops and soldiers have a licence to kill. It does not only mean stopping to pretend, it facilitates for many more murders and injuries to be executed by cops and soldiers.

Violent gun-firing eviction against over sixty farmers families

The ‘9 de Julio’ farmers group consisting of over 60 farmers families have grown crops and made homes on and occupied land in San Pedro Tutule in La Paz since seven years ago. Back on May 11 in the year just gone, they were attacked in an eviction. On 28.11.16, the La Paz court ordered for an eviction for 6.1.17 against the farmers – the terrorising eviction did not take place this day and instead of rescheduled for 13.1.17 and was carried out on this date despite the fact that there is an appeal of the eviction order in process at the Supreme Court which meant they were legally obliged to hold off the eviction until a decision is made on the appeal. At 6am on 13.1.17, 12 police patrols, 3 military police commands and prosecutors representatives arrived, ignored the families’ asserting that the appeal was in place, and began attacking the farmer families. At least four farmers were wounded in the brutal assault – this included: Simpnula Indigenous Council president and Milpah member Victor Vásquez was bullet wounded in the right knee when he was filming the eviction, and David Vásquez of Tutle has perforations in the left hand. Even the UNHCR expressed concern over this forced violent eviction.

Farmers terrorised by paramilitaries in La Confianza, Bajo Aguán

On 19.1.17, it was spoken up that Bajo Aguan farmers in La Confianza were being terrorised by the paramilitary group that is linked to the assassinations of the farmers leaders José Angel Flores and Silmer Dionicio George which were carried out on 18.10.16. Capture orders exist against accused paramilitaries but as these are not carried out, they continue to operate in the region, sowing terror in La Confianza.

Another murdered journalist

On 17.1.17, in the afternoon, in the Suyapa neighbourhood in San Pedro Sula, journalist Igor Padilla of HCH TV channel was at a toyshop shooting a commerical when he received a phone call telling him to leave where he was, and as he did what he was told, unidentified people from two vans sprayed him with over 20 bullets, taking his life. It is likely that this assassination is associated with either his work as a journalist, or his participation in party politics and the recent merging of political parties, or both; on 12.1.17, an alert was sent out by C-Libre (Committee for the freedom of expression), of that a facebook identity ‘Jowe Agular’ sent threats against HCH journalists, and made a post directed to HCH owner Eduardo Maldonado, saying, ‘Don Eduardo, I give you a month to fire this mara of Ms Elsa Oseguera, or else I will kill Suliz or Ernesto’ – this post was full of spelling mistakes and was posted on 4.1.16. Also, a press statement was made by Corazón Azul Movement political party’s Eva Fernández saying on 17.1.17 at midday in an interview with Radio Globo that she hoped that Igor’s joining of the alliance won’t mean that her or her followers would be targetted. Igor is the 63rd journalist killed in the last 15 years in Honduras. 95% remain in impunity. Over 50 of these cases were after the 2009 coup, of which 24 were concentrated in 2014 and 2015. More broadly, 39 journalist and media workers were assassinated in 2016 in 7 Latin American and Carribean countries (Honduras included), compared to 19 in Syria and 20 in Iraq. What the cases have in common is the silence on the cases and self censorship in the press, and that those who contracted the murders is the politically corrupt in the provinces and states associated with economic powers, and to big foreign mining companies and drug cartel, human trafficking, and that the assassinations remain in complete impunity.

Campaign for working conditions of Melon workers in Honduras continue

This January an international mission made up of international organisations including IUF – International Union of Food Workers, visited Honduras to amplify an international solidarity campaign with melon workers fighting for their rights. Hundreds of workers work for subsidiaries of Fyffes (Irish) transnational melons company – 80% of these are women, most are on temp contracts, and half of the women are single mothers. They fight for their rights to organise in unions, to not work such long days that all they do is work, to be paid the minimal wage, to be paid overtime, for holiday pay, for the accumulation of long service leave, for their entitlements to workers’ health services for which employers have an obligation to pay contributions but often don’t. They also fight for better conditions of hygiene and security, against women being fired for being pregnant, and against blacklisting. They have fought for these for some time now, and last year saw dozens of workers fired for participation in union organising just as workers were pushing to negotiate a collective contract, and many others feared not being re-contracted for the new season for the same – the campaign efforts managed to ensure that most of workers were re-contracted, but 35 were left out of this, and work conditions have not improved. Workers got the Choluteca regional Industrial Relations Office to order the companies to pay a millionaire amount to the workers, having confirmed the violations, but when Fyffes subsidiaries appealed, their influence had the central IR office overturn the regional office’s decision, saying that temporary workers can’t form or benefit from unions. Directives of unions STAS and Festagro have received threats and one compañera had to leave the region for a time because her life was in danger. Workers however continue to organise.

In this context, to pressure this company and also the market and associated state bodies, a Make Fruits Fair international campaign was launched. At the same time, Fyffes, a company that has a representative answer in public forums that Fyffes is unconcerned with improving workers rights, is a directive member of ETI – Ethical Trading Initiative – which has not kicked Fyffes out, because ETI is funded mostly by companies and the British government, so it exists to provide marketing for products for its member companies, rather than to advocate for workers. And things look to get worse, Fyffes, an Irish company, had signed a contract in December to sell the company to Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo at over 750 million euros – Sumitomo is in 66 countries and has 65,000 workers under these, and the capitalisation of Sumitomo goes up to over US$15,000 million.. http://bulatlat.com/main/2015/04/12/thousands-of-banana-growers-decry-wage-cuts-under-new-piece-rate-system/.

Soldiers killed seventeen year old

‘Incidents’ like this often happen: on 2.1.17, 17 year old Edgardo José Moreno Rodríguez was killed by military police in Olancho. It is a reminder that very dollar given in military aid translates to human rights violations against poor women and men of Honduras.

December 2016 Honduras coup update

December 2016 Honduras coup update

Attacks against uni students of National University of Agriculture in Catacamas

Uni students of UNA Catacamas has been occupying the campus for a month in resistance against the uni administration when on 16.12.16 the students were attacked by people paid to hurt the students – they entered and slashed out horrendously and left some students wounded by stabs with machetes and knives. These contractors also damaged uni buildings and vehicles that students had been looking after and occupying. Police watched on and did nothing to intervene to try to stop the attacks. Strangely enough there were even reports of police having been attacked by these contractors. There had also been heavy confrontations between student activists and uni staff, as well as a situation in which over 200 people which include staff and students under manipulation of the authorities, had forcefully entered the campus with the intention of removing documents from the director’s and administrative office, presumably to protect these from being exposed to corruption.

Then on 21.12.16, student leader Isaias Rodríguez Duarte, for having named on his facebook page the uni security staff Andrés Gallardo as someone guilty of damaging a fence of the uni during confrontation between students and the uni authority, was surprised by a public threat made against him (Isaias) by Andrés’s sister Jandi Gallardo who threatened him there implicitly saying that she ‘will put a price on his head’.

Also, back on 7.12.16, student leader Josué Wilton Cruz Salvador had been referred to in a fake note as having committed crimes of ‘illicit association’ on the facebook page of food technology faculty staff Tony Herrera. Josué has been verbally offered scholarship, job, masters fees lifted, etc, in exchange for not opposing the authorities and not being a student leader. Despite of everything Josué continues firm in his struggle in the student movement and occupation.

Cultural centre raided

Paradiso is a cultural centre in which people gather and hear poetry readings of Honduran poets, listen to Honduran musicians, and where there is an exchange of poems, books, zines, cultural projects, and the sharing of political and artistic visions for the new society being built. On the night of 22.12.16, Paradiso was raided by soldiers in the middle of a poetry performance night of young Honduran poets. The excuse the soldiers gave for the operation was that they suspected there was drug dealing in there.

Another discrediting attack against human rights organisation Cofadeh

Following a chain of attacks including a website that published articles accusing Cofadeh of covering up the ‘truth’ of who murdered farmers’ leader Juan Angel Flores recently, insinuating that the murder had to do with drug trades and not land conflict, a letter was then circulated on 13.12.16 that faked being a letter from Cofadeh. The Cofadeh logo, slogan and narrative was used. The fake letter had as its signatory Bertha Oliva – fakely so, she did not write the letter, and the letter was used to make believe that Bertha Oliva had proposed as a solution to the UNAG crisis with the students’ occupation, for the political organisation Los Necios OPLN to be used as the mediator to get students to hand over the buildings. The letter also cited that Oliva and UNAG director Escoto have been in dialogue – something that had not taken place. The intention of the letter is to make believe the argument that Cofadeh has affiliations with political parties and act according to the interests of these rather than from a human rights perspective, to discredit its work, to weaken its credibility, and attack it.

As farmers and indigenous groups continue to fight for justice, there continues to be no justice carried out by authorities, which instead, attempt to distract and confuse onlookers

In Bajo Aguan, as farmers held a forum commemorating human rights day on 10.12.16, they invited human rights organisations, grassroots organisations and authorities from the Aguan region to attend, and in the forum demanded royal commissions on the assassination of farmers in Aguan and for those responsible for the murders to be brought to justice. That day about 2pm, a group of fifteen youths from the community entered land near them that is under dispute with palm company Dinant to reclaim it. Both Aguan Permanent Human Rights Watch and Coronel Coca Cantarero of Xatruch military operation entered too and saw that the youths did not carry any weapons, further to which when the coronel asked them to leave to which they did not put up any resistance. In this context, Dinant spokesperson Roger Pineda proceeded to tell the press that ‘armed men’ had invaded the Paso Aguán farm and shot against ‘unarmed Dinant security guards’, there is no doubt that these lies are told to confuse and distract so past and future violence against farmers in land struggle can be easily dismissed by many as something too muddy to make judgements about, despite mountains of evidence that over a hundred farmers in the land struggle have since the coup been disappeared, assassinated and have appeared on military black lists, their lives taken and threatened by palm company in partnership with state security forces.

In the Garífuna indigenous black communities of Triunfo and Punta Piedra, they continue to struggle to have their collective titles of their ancestral lands recognised and guaranteed – this and for the state to cover legal costs, compensate the communities for the violations by providing a community development fund, and for the murder of their community members to be brought to justice was ordered to the Honduran state one year ago by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights. The state had pretended to accept responsibility at that point, but not surprisingly, one year on, has not implemented its promises to guarantee these lands or bring justice in the cases.

Violations against Garifuna rights including to their territories continue. Similarly, a year ago on 28.12.15, a group of Garífunas were attacked by soldiers at Barra de Iriona in Colón, the youths Joel Palacios Lino (24) and Elvis Armando García (19) were killed by the soldier, with complete impunity one year on.

November 2016 Honduras coup update

November 2016 Honduras coup update

51 uni students charged, 8 uni students expelled, … lecturers dismissed.. tension escalates, bulldozer used against students wounding 3, danger to lives felt

At the National University of Agriculture, UNA, in Olancho, on Saturday 19.11.16, many students began occupation of the university demanding participation in making decisions that affect them, and protesting actions of the Marlon Escoto authority (who they ask to step down) in failing many students and condoning sexual abuse by some lecturers against students, other problems within the veterinary medicine faculty, delays in students graduations, the arbitrary and politically motivated expulsion of eight students in and unfair mass dismissal of 17 lecturers in the days prior. The university vice-director Carlos Manuel Ulloa is whom students seek to replace Marlon Escoto as director – Carlos was suspended as the vice-director in August. The students seek a restructure of courses and to prevent a crisis in the university foreseeing that this would hurt the poorest students most. From the beginning of the occupation, police had threatened to violently evict students, and more students got expelled once they come to be recognised as one of the students fighting for changes; Marlon Escoto ordered the expulsion of 79 students and threatened to cancel the third academic term.

The repression and terror campaign against students and confrontations between students and police only escalated as the occupation continued. On 22.11.16 conservative daily newspaper La Tribuna published a video on its website showing an incident where uni authorities used a gigantic bulldozer to attack students. You can see on the video that students were trying to maintain a line and not back down as a bulldozer advanced towards them and towards a fence. The bulldozer did not stop when it had come up against the wall, the driver with the bulldozer wounded three students <http://www.latribuna.hn/2016/11/22/video-muestra-crisis-educativa-la-una/&gt;. It is also reported that hitmen are threatening the lives of students involved in the occupation.

On 23.11.16, the prosecutor Keyri Johana Montalván Acosta issued capture orders against 51 students (file 137-2016) – there are over 800 students who are part of this occupation. She is charging these 51 students with the crime of occupying a public space of a state property, in prejudice against the state of Honduras and the state electricity company ENEE. With the capture order, are conditions of detention and secrecy. The 51 students are: 1. Gerardo Alcides Alvarez García, 2. Ana Cristina Amaya, 3. Elvis L. Aparicio Morales, 4. Melvin Javier Arita E., 5. Nancy Vanessa A. Bejarano, 6. Roy Orlando Arita Mejía, 7. Daron Josue Artola M, 8. Tomasa del Carmen Ayala D, 9. Oscar Orlando A Funez, 10. Marco Antonio Barahona Santos, 11. Roger Francisco Benítez Pineda, 12. Laura Denisse Berrios, 13. Ingrid Celeste Bustillo M., 14. José Abraham C. Mendoza, 15. Erlin Arel C. Padilla, 16. Angel Noe Carranza Pineda, 17. Edwin Joel Cerrato Zelaya, 18. Edin Oney del Cid Gomez, 19. Jose Alberto Discua Cruz, 20. Mario Antonio Duron Castellano, 21. Keny Mauricio Funez, 22. Lillian Esther García, 23. Greysi Areli Cerón Sanchez, 24. Maria Iveth Andino, 25. Dalma Yanel Inestroza Martínez, 26. Nancy M. Isaula Rivera, 27. Edgar Joel L Moreira, 28. Erlin Josue Lemus del Cid, 29. Luís Miguel Martínez Matute, 30. Darwin Enoc Mejía Montoya, 31. Deidin Armando Mendoza, 32. Elias Antonio Nuñez Mendoza, 33. Nolvin Roel Osorto Espinoza, 34. Julissa Kensy Palma Flores, 35. Edas Humberto Paz Sanchez, 36. Mario Fernando Pinel Gradiz, 37. Kevin Samir Ponce Raudales, 38. Erwin Omar Ramos Diaz, 39. Josselin Paola Ramos Dubón, 40. Alex Noe Reyes Doblado, 41. Edil Fernando, 42. Diana Gabriela Reyes Zúniga, 43. Ana Karina Rivera Najera, 44. Josselin Mariela Rivera Paz, 45. Luís Alonzo Rivera Zepeda, 46. Roger Edgardo R. Molina, 47. Lenin Alonzo R. Betancourth, 48. Allan Jasser R. Chavez, 49. Edras Rodimiro R. Mejía, 50. Sergio Alexander Romero Soler, 51. Elvia Elizabeth Rubio Arita.

The prosecutor also ordered for the occupation to be immediately evicted and sought the nomination of a judge executor.

Police, navy and court target and attack Garífuna community members at request of Canadian company that stole Garífuna land

On Garífuna land of the Guadalupe community, after three years of being left vacant and idle, fifty Garífuna youths recently decided that it was time to take back land that belongs to their community from the Carivida company that forced their community off the land since. The fifty youths started a land recovery occupation, organising rosters of cooking, cleaning, clearing and security. They were set on their dreams of building their homes and livelihoods there, ‘how is it possible that our people had to abandon their lands and die of hunger? As the young people we have the duty of doing something, for the life of our community and to stop the illegal sale of our lands’. For weeks coming, the police patrols in the area had been increasing. On 10.11.16, when Medelín Davíd Hernandez (28) who has a capture order issued against her since 3.11.16 for her participation in the occupation, was gathered there with five of her comrades chatting away, four full police and navy patrols arrived and entered the land without saying a thing, and began to chase the five youths and handcuffed all of Medelín’s comrades. Medelín resisted arrest to try to buy time for people from the community to come help them out. When she tried to call Ofraneh Garífuna organisation’s coordinator Miriam Miranda, a woman police stopped her grabbing her by the left arm and twisting it with force towards a handcuff position, from which Medelín struggled. The woman police called out to two male navy agents, who came and grabbed both Medelín’s arms but Medelín was determined and managed to break free from their hold and she threw herself onto the ground. It was then that Medelín’s 6 year old son began to cry and scream for the agents to let her go. The agents forced all the six youths into the state security patrols. They had Medelín held down on the vehicle floor, and beat her in the ribs and twisted her arms and insulted her. Medelín persisted in speaking up and telling them not to treat her as if she were a delinquent when she was defending Garífunas’ right to recover their ancestral land. The patrols took the youths to the Trujillo lock-up-cells. However, at Trujillo, the other youths were released while only Medelín was kept, and for many hours, ‘they locked me up in a cell that was very wet and dirty, and they refused to give me a foam mattress to sleep on. But I didn’t care. I knew that they weren’t going to break me, and that sooner or later I was out of there,’ Medelín was brought before a judge after the many hours of cell time and she was released but with bail conditions imposed of not going near the land recovery site and of not leaving the country, ‘They accuse me of usurping a land that is ours. This is completely inconceivable. It’s disgusting, since they are practically dragging me out of my home.’ At court, Ofraneh’s lawyer obtained Medelín’s release. She was not the only one who had a capture order against her, there are three other community members including Celso Guillén who is an ex-president of the community council. Celso said he is taking security measures, not only against the impending capture, but also to safeguard his life, because he knows in this situation that their lives are in danger. Medelín only went from strength to strength, she said the police persecution only served to strengthen her convictions, because despite of everything, she never felt alone, she felt the unconditional support and accompaniment of her community, family, and of the organisation Ofraneh. ‘We need to be united, because the plan of this government is to become owners of our lands, our beaches and mountains, and selling these to the highest bidder. But they won’t achieve this. We are going to continue recovering lands and territories.’

These police abuses against Medelín and others originated as requests that came from Canadian businessperson Randy Jorgensen, who owns Carivida. Carivida stakes claims on some Guadalupe community land. Randy Jorgensen is also known as porn king, being the founder of Adults Only Videos – the biggest porn chain in Canada. The story of the conflict with Carivida started in 2000, when the community was beginning a project of community tourism on 3.3 hectares of land to address their economic situation and began to prepare the land and build the cabins for this, but they had problems with the building materials that meant the project’s inauguration was delayed for some years. In this time they looked for a caretaker while they sought more adequate building materials, but the caretaker went on to fraudulently, in complicity with the local judge and council, obtain the community land’s papers and sold it illegally to Carivida’s general head and legal representative. This is one part of a broader story of dispossession against Garífuna communities on the north coast of Honduras. Garífuna community lands, and there are 100 km square of these, are territories that are by law supposed to be protected from sale to foreign investment. However between 2007 and 2009, despite the communities’ resistance, and in disregard of the laws, Randy Jorgensen’s private and Honduran state mafia kicked the community out of Río Negro where his company Grande Trujillo Autoridad S de RL built the Banana Coast wharf for cruise ships, and his other company Life Vision Developments forced out communities off Cristales, Santa Fé, San Antonio and Guadalupe, for vacation homes and mega tourism projects – Life Vision Developments became the biggest real estate agent in Trujillo with over 600 hectares of seaside land. Both Grande Trujillo Autoridad and Life Vision Developments are financially backed by a Canadian investment group called Fast Track Capital. It was the end of 2009 that the Trujillo council declared that the project was useful and necessary and passed a resolution to compensate people who had to moved. However the families were not compensated and they were paid crumbs and left on the basis of threats.

In 2010, the Garífuna community placed charges against Randy Jorgensen for usurping their lands, and applied for courts to completely nullify the illegal sales contracts of the community lands to Jorgensen. The charges were official from the end of 2011, but four years went by before the first preliminary hearing was even scheduled. On 13.11.15, judge Victor Manuel Meléndez provisionally dismissed the case. The Cristales y Río Negro community’s legal representative as well as the prosecutor appealed this, and in March 2016 the La Ceiba court of appeal ordered for the case dismissal to be revoked. It was until 20.10.16 that hearing process formally began and Jorgensen had bail conditions of signing at the court every 15 days and of not leaving Honduras while the hearing process continues. On the other hand, the Banana Coast cruise ship wharf is itself not doing well in this big business with dramatically less cruise ships deciding to continue to schedule trips to Trujillo every year. Pressures continue though, in Guadalupe and other communities, ‘they continue trying to convince the whole world that this is development, but for whom? They come from other countries, they consider us second class citizens, they marginalise us and make themselves owners of our lands to create their tourism projects. This is development only for the rich, and more poverty for our people.’

Human rights defenders arrested

On 5.11.16, about 8.30pm, words went out that for having refused to pay the unjust highway toll at the Zambrano tollway 35kms from Tegucigalpa, Sandra Marybel Sánchez and Karla Lara were arrested and taken to the military police detention centre. Sandra Marybel Sánchez is a wellknown journalist with a critical voice and human rights defender, and Karla Lara is a wellknown singer songwriter of the resistance with an incredible voice and a human rights defender. Earlier that day, five others were retained by police after they participated in a mobilisation that called for security for transport drivers.

Smear campaigns against human rights organisations including Cofadeh and Honduras Solidarity Network

In November, a number of attacks were made in the form of smear campaigns against human rights organisations, with Cofadeh and Honduras Solidarity Network especially under attack. The attacks were made through press statements from regime president Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) and on a blog called Defensores de Honduras.

JOH on 10.11.16 said in an interview with journalist Renato Alvarez that human rights organisations ‘receive funding from criminal groups’ and only carry out work in the interests of these groups; JOH horrendously said that those that human rights organisations say are the human rights violators are the actual victims whose rights need protecting! Then on 18.11.16, JOH made further complaints to the press about human rights organisations, saying that they influence international judgements about the country’s human rights situation. He also said that the human rights organisation’s coordination is associated with the operation of organised crime in Colon (Bajo Aguan).

JOH’s accusation about Cofadeh and paramilitaries in Aguan gives us some clues as to who might be behind the dubious website Defensores de Honduras (defenders of Honduras) – which has very few tabs and only two articles published, and claims to belong to a group of farmers struggling for human rights. The very few articles feature an article called ‘who protects the hitmen of Bajo Aguan’ – in Spanish and in English, in which it basically claims that the human rights organisations Cofadeh and Honduras Solidarity Network protect one guy the articles say to be an ex farmers leader responsible for the assassinations in the area, who apparently also has links to drug trafficking, and that the organisations only exist in addition to push their ‘extremist political views’. One article is about this supposed hitman who is responsible for the many murders of Bajo Aguan. Another is called ‘Terrorist Cells Amongst Ourselves – Defenders of Honduras’ – the website has tabs such as the ‘farmers’ struggle’ – yet the only articles that exist are about a supposed situation of ‘in-killing’. The facebook page is less blatant to try to appear to be a human rights page – it said it is there as farmers demanding justice for the deaths in Bajo Aguan, and actually called for justice for environmentalist Berta Cáceres and others killed in between sharing those articles of theirs to place confusion in readers’ minds. Similarly, the article accused Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) of ‘sharing the same extremist ideas of Bertha Oliva (of Cofadeh) and Rafael Alegría (of La Vía Campesina and politician of Libre party). The articled featured a photo of Bertha Oliva as the coordinator of Cofadeh and of Karen Spring as the coordinator of HSN. Not only are these smear campaigns disorientating for people trying to understand what is going on, they also often pre-empt attempts to assassinate the people being smeared.

Meanwhile, in Bajo Aguán

MUCA farmers movement calls out for human rights accompaniment because they are sure assassinations will continue, and they call for justice. They pointed out that the agreement with the government in 2010 now shows itself to be full of empty promises – agricultural machinery, housing, health, education and human rights – none of these have been guaranteed in practice. Families are struggling earning US $4 a day, with which they can’t even cover the land rent they are supposed to pay. There was supposed to be disarmament of Dinant staff as previously announced but death threats with weapons by Dinant security have only intensified. Eg, in the Panamá community, Agrarian Platform coordinator Jaime Cabrera and his family receive constant threats. Their home is constantly surrounded and watched by soldiers.

In the name of coming inside a home to fumigate, public health staff enters and snatches laptop with info of activists

On 14.11.16, as the spouse of Gilberto Ríos – FNRP resistance International Relations coordinator and communications commission member, and coordinator of Libre Party – answered the door, a man dressed as a public health official said they were going inside to fumigate. As the spouse went to find and check with Gilberto, this man made this way inside, snatched the laptop computer and fled. The laptop carries many files of photos of social leaders, journalists, minutes of political minutes, communiques, documents and registers or documents of communications with all the countries of the world because of Gilberto’s work within the FNRP. This information theft has made precarious everyone who has had contact with FNRP through Gilberto. There is a witness to this laptop theft at risk. The investigative police has not touched the case four days on from it.

Update – Copinh

Months since the assassination of Copinh coordinator and Goldman prize winner Berta Caceres, charades continue with the Honduran government at times trying to deceive people in believing that they are working to bring about justice – ex vice-minister of natural resources Darío Cardona Valle has been captured and imprisoned while his hearing continues – he was initially given bail on 11.10.16 but this was revoked; he is charged with abuse of authority for having authorised an increase in the capacity of the Agua Zarca Dam project (which Berta campaigned against) without having first consulted the Lenca indigenous community.

Further attacks on indigenous peoples‘ right to consultation

It is contradictory that this November, the Honduran state at an Inter American Commission of Human Rights hearing on ‘Situation of Indigenous peoples and right to consultation in Honduras’ recognised that it had violated indigenous rights to consultation, and points to that there are officials being judicially punished for having given environmental licences for extractive projects without consulting indigenou peoples, yet at the same time be introducing a new law that removes the very same legal responsibility to consult indigenous peoples. A new bill has been introduced, taking from a model from Perú where it had caused many social conflicts – the new bill proposes to reform the law so that the state has the final decision on consulting indigenous peoples or not in an given project, so indigenous people could in law simply have access to information sessions but not consultation. The pressure for this reform came primarily from UNDP UN-REDD program – a program of ‘forestation’ that has driven out many indigenous communities around the world. Not consulting has been the norm in practice, changing the law would simply allow the norm to continue without any legal avenues to appeal to.

Transport company owners and workers flee

Because of widespread desperation, the security situation of drivers of buses and taxis has become worse with drivers assassinated, being subject regularly to extortions, burning of vehicles, etc. Many from this sector are fleeing. While wealthy transport company owners have to option of abandoning their lot and obtaining political asylum in other countries more comfortably, the many poor drivers flee without papers and seek new livelihoods precariously. Instead of taking responsibility for addressing this condition, JOH distracts people saying it is all about drug traffickers.

Students obligated and manipulated to promote JOH’s reelection

On 3.11.16, students in Comayagua received a whatsapp communication telling them they had to go to the Comayagua central park that day at 1.30pm without being told what it was for. When they were there they were told by Marte TV that they would be filmed into a video demanding for scholarships to continue, saying the slogan ‘we want this to continue’. They were told this participation would count towards their community work hours. They felt disgusted when they found out later that they had been used to make a re-election campaign video for the current JOH regime.