September 2017 Honduras coup update
On 13.9.17, in Omoa, Cortés, Canal 22 journalist Carlos Willian Flores was driving back with a companion from a border town with Guatemala when a vehicle approached theirs in Cuyamel, and attackers from inside the vehicle fired gunshots gravely wounding both Carlos and the companion. People from the neighbourhood gave them both first aid and rushed them to the hospital but Carlos died in hospital, and the identity and health status of the companion remained unknown. In his journalism work, on his TV program ‘Without Hairs on the Tongue’ Carlos remained critical of palm oil and biofuel companies, pointing out that just in the Cuyamelito area, thousands of hectares have been deforested for these monocrop biofuels.
Journalists attempted against last month now receive further death threats
In August, owner and director of newspaper El Libertador, Johnny Lagos and his partner who also works as a journalist at El Libertador Lurbyn Cerrato were attempted against back in August. Now, on 22.9.17, a message in the form of a painting made during the night was left for them in front of the El Libertador office – the painting was a silhouette of a crime scene and it says ‘RIP’ on it.
Persecution against UNAH students and those accompanying their struggle continued
Journalist Ronnie Huete who on 25.5.17 was tortured and then arrested and charged with ‘damages and deprivation of freedom of UNAH private security guards’, together with 19 uni students, was in September finally absolved of all charges. While threats of imprisonment now subsided, other threats continue, forcing him to undertake security measures to continue publishing his work.
On 7.9.17, at 8.25pm the Prosecutors’ Office sought a capture order against 9 student leaders who have spoken for the students movement in the press.
On 8.9.17, as early as 5am, cops and troops and investigative agents entered the uni campus where students have been occupying for 84 days. These security agents chased and attacked students and arrested 22 students and 4 human rights defenders during their rampage of violence this day, they bashed people and shot peppergas repeatedly, they hurt and injured all arrestees and others and left psychological traumas with those they hurt.
The twenty-two students arrested are: Yasser William Fuentes, Brenda Miralda, Fernando Ramírez, Pablo Madrid, Miguel Flores, Kenny Reyes, Dorian Turcios, Duncan Adonay Turcios, Jorge López, José Jorge Cruz, Dorian Álvarez, Erick Geovanny Gómez, Zuly Rodríguez, Suset Velázquez, José Jorge Chacón, Christian Sanabria, Edwin Salas, Bryan González, Santos Ruíz, Andy Villanueva, Marco Silva and Nahun Portillo, they were taken to ‘Core-7’.
A cameraperson of Interpretando la Noticia of Globo TV Oscar Zavala was driving in a Globo TV vehicle towards the campus to cover the eviction when a traffic police intercepted him and pointed a weapon to his chest.
The cops also blocked access roads to UNAH. Human rights defenders were arriving on the scene in a government human rights commission (Conadeh) minibus to intervene in human rights violations against students together with three Conadeh officials, when cops surrounded the minibus with a tolltruck ready to toll it away with everyone inside. In this moment the three Conadeh officials magically disappeared. It must have meant they knew what was happening and quietly and quickly left the vehicle with the cops assistance. The human rights defenders who remained inside demanded that the human rights of student arrestees be guaranteed and to be allowed to get off the minibus – the cops reacted to this request by beating them up and spraying them with toxic gases causing everyone inside the minibus to suffocate, causing some to faint. Cops continued their attack and arrested Tomy Morales – human rights defender of Association for the Democracy and Human Rights (Asopodehu) and journalist of pasosdeanimalgrande.com, Carlos del Cid of Ecumenical Human Rights Watch, Ariel Diaz of Association for Justice and Human Rights and Hedme Castro of ACI-Participapa who was hospitalised for the gases and was the only one subsequently released without charges earlier than the others. Others seriously hurt were not treated the same way – Carlos del Cid had second degree burns and cuts in the left eye cornea and burns in the right eye.
The 22 students and 3 human rights defenders charged with covering up and attempting were imprisoned for over 24 hours before most of them were released on bail.
On 27.9.17 in court, while the charges were finally dismissed against the three human rights defenders, student Marco Silva was denied bail by judge Melvin Bonilla. Marco is a psychology student who is a spokesperson of the MEU student movement of UNAH. He is being refused bail on the basis that this was a second charge against him having already been arrested and charged on 25.5.17 in the same context. This time, he was inside the Conadeh minibus with human rights defenders when he was arrested. So in addition to accumulated trauma, he is being imposed prison while the court cases continue. It is also worth noting that the uni authorities had published a statement threatening to be revising students’ bail and bail conditions a couple of weeks before.
On the other side, the Committee of Solidarity with the Students Struggle on 28.9.17 placed a charge against judge Karla Magdalena Vásquez Rodríguez for abuse of authority for having admitted a prosecution application for the charge against students of ‘detentación’ of public spaces on 7.9.17, since her action facilitated the subsequent eviction order and capture order against students and human rights defenders on the 8.9.17, and the refusal of bail against Marco Silva.
On 30.9.17, two university students were travelling in a bus to Comayagua when, at a checkpoint, police began arresting these and confiscated their mobile phones saying they were being taken for ‘investigation’. On this occasion, the bus was driving off with the students inside and the cops outside, but as they arrived past Comayagua, cops there made everyone get off the bus, and proceeded to arrest the two students.
In 2017 so far, 60 students had been charged, dozens threatened, a parent had been assassinated in June 2017 – Roberto Antonio Gómez, and a student also, in July 2017 – Luis Joel Rivera Perdomo.
More persecution against Ofraneh black Garífuna organisation coordinator
Mirian Miranda who is the coordinator for Ofraneh, is facing judicial processes driven by Canadian megatourism company Carivida (for ‘defamation’) as well as in regards to Ofraneh’s community radios, the latter driven by Conatel – telecommunications commission of Honduras. To add to these attacks against her, on 5.9.17, at 12.30pm , two police investigative agents including one who carried an automatic weapon and a Conatel official turned up together at Ofraneh offices in Sambo Creek, and asked for Miriam Miranda. When people responded that she wasn’t there, they threatened with finding and arresting her, saying there is a capture order against her. Miriam Miranda is an activist well known within the international community for the work she does. She said, ‘there is not much left for me to do but to hold the government of JOH responsible for any attempt against myself or members of Ofraneh.’
War against farmers in Bajo Aguan
1500 families renewed land recovery efforts by starting occupations in several communities since 27.8.17 on lands illegally possessed by the Facussé (Dinant company) and Canales (Inversiones Ceibeña) families. From the same date, these farmers have faced heavy militarisation and persecution. The Panamá, Guadalupe Carney and Orica communities are all surrounded by army, police and armed security guards contracted by the two companies who are stationed waiting for farmers to leave to go to work to capture and torture them, to add to the list of 28 compañeras and compañeros already charged, with capture orders lying around accusing farmers of usurping lands or leading groups that defend their rights. There have also been three wounded farmers from dealings with security forces. There are 500 armed guards altogether around the Panamá community alone, where 1100 young people live, and these guards are backed up by Xatruch III force agents and police, as they together cause terror, harass, watch and humiliate the community. The vigilance go as far as doors of people’s homes. People tell of seeing track marks of military boots on their door step. Similarly, farmers of Nueva Ebanezer and Nuevo Remolino tell of being surrounded by private guards of Inversiones La Ceibeña, who move around holding heavy weapons like R15, 2-23, and AK47s. With 123 farmers killed in the last five years it meant many children in the area have lost at least one parent.
One of the 28 arrestees is Salvador Enrique of the farmers cooperative Unidos de la Mano, who was arrested on 13.9.17 by cops who came to his house and captured him there, with charges of usurpation. He had court on the next day on 14.9.17, where he was given bail conditions of staying away from the property being recovered, and from the people who accuse him of usurpation (who of course, do not own the land, even legally), and not leaving the country and going to sign in the court books every 15 days. During the process, farmers of Unidos de la Mano were being blackmailed by subinspector of DPI, Carlos Alberto Barrera, who told the occupying farmers to vacate the land in exchange for the freedom of Enrique – they said they would imprison Enrique otherwise. And as Enrique was being released, he was taken in a police patrol to his community accompanied by the same subinspector Barrera who asked members of Unidos de la Mano – Pablo Salvador Enrique, Fredy Anold Guevara, and Dennis Karin Guevara to be there when he came to release Enrique, telling farmers that the three were to be held in prison for 24 hours, again to pressure the families to leave the lands. Barrera’s visit was followed by a visit from ex coronel Juan Ramón Bustillo, accompanied by the police patrol again, to continue the chain of intimidation against families there. Bustillo is whom claims to be the owner of the land, but it is precisely because he is not that the courts have not issued an eviction order to date.
It is in this militarised environment that, at the Paso Aguan farm near the Panamá community, on 20.9.17, organised farmer José Alfredo Rodríguez was assassinated between lots 6 and 14 of the farm while working and sowing maiz. José was an active member of the Gregorio Chávez farmers’ movement. He has five children. It was his 14 year old son José Luís, who, going to the farm to bring his dad breakfast, instead, came across his dad’s body, with life stolen from it. His family said José was constantly threatened by army members and by private guards of Dinant. José is also a catholic delegate of Word of God.
Farmers reiterate they will keep fighting for their rights and for justice.
Imprisoning the poor
This September, there is an appeal process in the courts against the 3 years prison sentences ruled against Eleuterio Hernández, Nieves Hernández Dominguez and Adán Hernández (dad and two sons) for growing food for their families on land. The three belong to the indigenous community San Pedrito of Intibucá. The ruling was that the land they farmed on was forestry lands. They had never been told the land was destined for forestry before. Their parents and grandparents have been working on the same lands for more than 50 years. The Intibucá council even had inspected the land and confirmed it was agrarian land and not forestry land. The other history to this was that when they were accused, they were arrested and then released with US$500 fines each. They didn’t have the money to pay this and also knew the fines were abusive, given they had a right to farm the lands and to not be arrested and fined. It was because they did not pay these fines that the case went to court and they were subsequently given prison sentences. And, everybody knows, the motive for kicking the indigenous communities off the land is not to care for, but to destroy environment with megaprojects which only want megaprofits for private hands, and politicians help facilitate these because they get personal favours in return. Copinh indigenous organisation asks for pressure from everywhere and everyone. Twitter to @COPINHHONDURAS @PjdeHonduras (Honduras Courts) hastag #NoMásInjusticia. Call Comayagua court of appeals on 504-2772-0176, 504-2772-0136
Protesters against imposed projects arrested and charged
Back on 29.8.17, there was a protest against the installation of high tension electricity cables across the community in the municipality of la Villa de San Francisco. At this protest, cops arrested seven people including an underage person and a woman who were involved in blocking the road. Arrestees all belong to the Grassroots Independent Environmentalist Committee for Water and other resources Capirho. The arrestees are: Mario benigno Gonzales, Rodolfo Quezada Bengtson, Santos Julio Zúñiga, Juan Camilo Palma, José Jorge Aguilar (presidente of CAPIRHO), Cristian Marisol Hernández and underage Maicol Aguilar Gonzáles. The intention reported was to charge the arrestees with ‘coercion and attempt against the state’. The high tension cables are being installed for the sugar company Azucarera Tres Valles, for its biomass energy generation project and to connect this to the grid of the state electricity company ENEE. In the last days there have been over 100 people charged for protesting, – mostly uni students.
On 25.9.17, at least 14 villagers of 6 communities of Namasigue in Choluteca, who participated in demos against a solar energy company imposing itself without having consulted with the affected communities, are facing charges of ‘coercion’: Reynaldo Reyes Moreno, Leonardo Amador Rodríguez, Florentino Molina Sánchez, Luduin Javier Carranza, Gerson Armando Carranza Dávila, Magdaleno Centeno Osorio, Santos Agripino Reyes Aguilar, Erasmo de Jesús Pastrana, Ramón Azael Zúniga Velásquez, Denis Patricia Ordoñez, Raúl Carranza López, Suyapa Zúniga Ramos and Santos Armando Vázquez Rodríguez. Just who is coercing who? Similarly, in the lawsuit, prosecution also asks for protection for those who work for the company and sought military police to militarise the area, treating community members as aggressors instead of victims
Model cities failed but being resuscitated again
Imposition of model cities hadn’t been possible to date. Take one. However, the JOH regime hired a consultant, McKinsey, who drafted plan Honduras 2020, with which there is a renewed proposal of model cities and other ‘development’ projects. They have obtained the support of Inter-American Development Bank that had expressed it would invest in such projects.
Kidnapping and disappearance of journalist
On the wee hours of 3.9.17, Jan Carlos Claros, another journalist, had been disappeared in the Olancho province in the city of Juticalpa. Jan Carlos reappeared on the afternoon of 4.9.17 and spoke up about having been held when he had a confrontation with an attacker. He is reporter for ‘Guayape Visión’ and partner of another journalist América Castro who works in the same TV channel. It was América who reported the disappearance of her partner and colleague. During the ordeal, C-Libre (Committee for Freedom of Expression) tried in vain to communicate with the Tegucigalpa police spokesperson and the provincial police headquarters of Olancho but nobody ever responded. 21 journalists had been assassinated in Honduras between 2014 and May 2016 as confirmed by Inter America Court of Human Rights.
Other abuses against free press
On 28.9.17, parliamentary reporter Nincy Perdomo was refused entry to the congress. Association for a More Just Society ASJ reps also tried to enter in the morning and were refused. In the afternoon they tried again and also intervened in favour of journalist Nincy Perdomo, they were again refused entry as well.
In September, also, the same congress passed a law outlining the crime of terrorism for criminalising social protest, in which the crimes of terrorist association and cyber terrorism are punished with prison terms of 10-20 years.
Another new penal code was also rushed through and approved within 24 hours. The change was adding a new article that says, ‘who publicly diffuses repeatedly news of false rumours that terrorise people of some people, who because of this believes that themselves of their health or their assets to be in grave danger must be punished with the penalty of 1-3 years of prison, unless the acts are punished with penalties that are more grave using other parts of the criminal code.’