Longer News Update of June 2014 re Honduras
June 2014. Five years since the coup in Honduras began. The killings and persecution and evictions continue. Model cities experiments have been made legal again and are moving along in the south of Honduras. Reports point to masses of Honduran children trying to get to US under lots of danger.
Indigenous community leader assassinated by army
On 18/6/14, José Husbaldo Guzmán Argueta (62) was running errands in the Colomoncagua centre towards a drinking water project, when he was attacked by soldier Nectaly Carranza together with another 3 soldiers and a police agent under the command of the responsible sargeant in the area – they beat him and threw him to the ground, the soldier Carranza used his M16, shot Husbaldo twice with it, one hit his face killing him immediately. A group of military then came and transported Carranza away from view. José Husbaldo is a recognised community leader of La Hacienda community of Colomoncagua, Intibucá – recognised for this service to the community and honesty
2 Journalists killed, another two judicially persecuted, another dismissed, another threatened
On 1/6/14, in the morning, in the Palestina community, Patuca municipality, Olancho province, hitmen ended the life of young journalist Oscar Anthony Torres (24) with several gunshots. Oscar worked for Patuca Stereo (103.3fm) and in La Doble M Stereo (97.1) – music stations with local coverage, since 3 years ago, Oscar directed the programs ‘radio taxi’ and ‘mañanas gruperas’ that transmitted from 5am. Police tried to say the murder is an assault because his trousers pockets were turned outside.
Globo TV Journalist of program ‘Mi Nación’ Julio Ernesto Alvarado was from December 2013 sentenced to a sixteen months ban from practising journalism plus a $250 fine (that comes with a 500 days prison term if he cannot pay). Julio was condemned as guilty for ‘defamation’ as accused by Belinda Flores, for having covered complaints of corruption against Belinda at the local university. Belinda was implicated in charges of peddling of influences and of falsifying university titles – for which the court proved that she was guilty, yet, not they subsequently found Julio guilty for reporting on crimes Belinda was guilty of, and after he paid the fine since he knew too well that the system was against him to appeal, but got the judge to lift his journalism ban on 28/4/14, this was appealed ‘successfully’ by Belinda’s lawyer within a week. Both Julio and Dina Meza, another journalist who spoke up in her work on Julio’s case, received harrassment and threats on facebook, not to mention an attempt against Julio Alvarado in March 2013.
On, 5/6/14, journalist Gonzalo Rodríguez was dismissed by Canal 6 apparently for having leftist tendencies, after a series of conversations. On 20/5/14, Canal 6 executive Joaquín Nodarse asked Gonzalo, ‘listen, you are of C-Libre, aren’t you?’ To which, Gonzalo confirmed that he was a C-Libre (committee for freedom of expression) correspondent and that he was also chosen by journalists locally as the president of the Colón journalists network. On 21/5/14, Canal 6 human resources called him and confirmed that he was away when he was at the RAPCOS (Network of Alerts and Protection to Journalists) national meeting in Tegucigalpa; Gonzalo was told that he was ‘directly affecting one of the channel’s clients that was based in San Pedro Sula’. Through investigation, C-Libre found this client to be Dinant Corporation of palm giant Miguel Facussé. ‘Dont send us notes that affect our client,’ he was told, ‘don’t mention the name of Dinant’. After returning from Tegucigalpa, he met with Nodarse as obliged; Nodarse said to Gonzalo, ‘You are affecting one of my clients. I don’t eat from the farmers, they don’t give me anythying.’ Gonzalo responded that he always covers both sides of the conflicts and that seemed to have been accepted in the meeting, but the day after that, the head of human resources called Gonzalo and told him that the Nodarse family decided that he won’t be a correspondent anymore. His text messages asking for explanation to executives ‘Tadeo y a Umanzor’ were ignored. When he went on the next Monday to drop work equipment, he was told that the real reason he was let go of was because Joaquín found out that he worked for C-Libre and concluded that he must be a ñangara (derogative term for communist). He had not been paid since January, and Canal 6 also recently arbitrarily cancelled the informative space of another journalist for making comments critical of the current JOH regime.
On 16/6/14, at 10am, TV reporter and member of RAPCOS (network of alerts and protection to journalists) Alex Sabillón was threatened opposite his work place and in front of Choloma Police station, by Miguel Callejas, who is the Choloma Council Roads Commission Director and who lives in the same neighbourhood as Alex. The threat was, ‘I don’t care that you move around with police, son of a bitch, we are going to kill you.’ He is and was accompanied by police because he was granted protection due to the amount of threats and intimidation he receives, so he was with police Selvin Omar Cardona, but this police did nothing. Miguel Callejas has attacked Alex Sabillón before – snatching his video camera on one occasion, and attacking him physically on another.
On 18/6/14, one of hardly any assassins sentenced and imprisoned (to 24 years) for killing a journalist given the high level of impunity – Jorge Alberto ‘Georgino’ Orellana, fled prison with 4 others, jumping the walls.
On 18/6/14, Intibucá Radio Progreso correspondentAlbertina Manueles Pérez was accused of sedition against the internal security of Honduras along with 30 indigenous leaders, with hearings that started on 24/6/14. Albertina was charged because she diffused the indigenous communities’ agreement to self-govern following a fraudulent council election following which Socorro was imposed as their mayor, she gave voice to that the community held a public assembly and announced that they did not recognise Socorro and nominated their own.
On 23/6/14, about 8pm, in Barrio La Hoya, Catacamos, Olancho, Radio Patria journalist Luis Alonso Fúnez Duarte (47) was arriving home with a son on a motorcycle, when he was assassinated with 5 bullets by unidentified persons who intercepted him, and without saying a word, fired shots. He ran a mixed music program, and is the 40th journalist killed since the coup.
Persecution in the courts against the indigenous autonomous council of Opalaca
Four and a half months later, the San Francisco de Opalaca indigenous community that rejected the imposition of a fraudulent Socorro municipal government and autonomous organised indigenous governance, continued occupying the council and defending their autonomy. On 30/5/14, Socorro’s supporters of National Party attacked the antennas of the Opalaca community radio Puca Opalaca. And instead of proceeding with charges the community placed of corruption against the prior Socorro Sánchez period, the courts judicially persecuted the indigenous council using prior profiling and intelligence gathering against the community. The state charged 36 activists of San Francisco de Opalaca – including community chosen mayor Entimo Vásquez, others with council positions, Jesús Rodríguez of Copinh indigenous council, and leaders of church organisations, ADRO, COCAOPAL cooperative, Radio Progreso, Radio Puca Opalaca community radio team, etc. They are accused of ‘sedition in prejudice of the international security of the state of Honduras, and usurpation of functions’. The have bail conditions that order them to not enter the council building and to sign regularly at the local court. During the hearing, the La Esperanza court was surrounded by at least 60 armed men with shields – riot police and soldiers. Their next hearing is on 22/7/14, however precariously, the occupation of the council continues.
Imposition of more hydroelectricity dams through arms and intimidation
On 9/6/14, indigenous San Rafael, Jesús de Otoro communities denounced that for days there had been an invasion against their land by INTER hydroelectricity company using armed and hooded men in their communities, towards imposing a dam their. The communities have community land title of the land and have entered a legal process to expel the businesspeople. The community has also suffered destruction of their farms and plots and repression by the Jesús de Otoro mayor, the community announced that they have begun an operation to expel the invading company.
This month, another community is entering into resistance against the damming of their river – Cuyamel River – the community is in San Francisco municipality in Atlántida. The government not only gave concession for hydroelectricity exploitation there in favour of private Honduran company and international corporations, but ceded part of the municipality to army control – installing a military contingent there that controls and prohibits people who live their, members of water juntas, and of the council, from accessing the river and water basin. Given the context, communities organised in different groupings agreed that it would be useless to insist through legal channels ‘if there are no social forces to contain this aggression against the Honduran people and their future generations’. They are under permanent threat.
A sacking, and persecution, against human rights defenders
Human Rights Commissioner CONADEH sacked Carlos Moíses del Cid García – coordinator of childhood and adolescence human rights program, hours after he submitted a report on the ‘Programa Guardianes de la Patria’. It was his job, to provide the report, but this program is a pet program of the Juan Orlando Hernández regime so it was expected that he was report that the program is good, instead of exposing critiques to it. Guardianes de la Patria, which began in September 2010, is supposeably not a recruitment program, but is a program ran for youths aged 5-23 in marginalised neighbourhoods that the army identifies, and classes and activities are run weekly in 17 military unitis around the country by army with some civilian participation, and involve over 25,000 young people/children every year. Carlos concluded in his report that the program should not have the name that it does and should not be run by the army – that it was an unconstitutional arrangement given that neither the child protection nor the education departments had asked for such intervention, and recommended that a long term department be established to attend to and execute programs and policies for children and adolescents with adequate funding and transparency to be under the watch of civil society and international cooperation organisations. Carlos also annoyed the commissioner by having taken the initiative to ask questions to and request a report from the army coordinator Amador (no response), and for having surveyed participants and wider communities of the affected communities. He gave voice through the survey that civil organisations are critical of that the program serves to naturalise the relationship of children and youth with weapons culture and to have closer relationships with the army. (Comparable but to a worse level to police citizen youth clubs in Western Sydney?).
On 4/6/14, a compañera of COFADEH (Committee for Families of the Disappeared in Honduras) was leaving an event about forced violent displacement in a capital city hotel, when she got onto a taxi, in which the taxi driver and two women and a man who acted as passengers kidnapped her and held her for two hours, driving to different parts of the city including gated neighbourhoods in which she was assaulted, beaten in the face. They tried to suffocate her and attacked and hurt her with a pen in her leg, neck and left hand. The day before, at 8am, a murder happened on the street within 100 metres of the Cofadeh office, against small business owner Ricardo Castillo Molina, who coming out of the car to go to work, was shot dead by two hitmen – his family tell that he has no personal enemies and is not known to have received threats. On 5/6/14, at 7.40am, a red car moved, and a blue car that has no numberplate immediately parked in that spot. Nobody left the blue car and it was observed that someone had stayed inside with his phone in his hand, seemingly recording with it, staying until 8.45am. Cofadeh is beneficiary of IACHR protection measures that the state has no adopted. There has been a long chain of recent past incidents against Cofadeh involving vigilance, persecution, intimidation with weapon. In May, Cofadeh presented a report about human rights situation that the Spanish Parliamentarians’ delegation had given from their visit to Honduras in April – and Cofadeh’s General Coordinator had toured with this information in Canada in April, and in May went as invited to Belgium to an EU human rights forum ‘arbitrary and summary and forced disappearnaces’.
Fake exhumation, violent eviction, and arrests against farmers of Bajo Aguan
In Bajo Aguán where more than 100 organised farmers from land occupation movements in territories that had in the last decades been taken over by palm giants, an exhumation process of a Special Investigation Unit led by prosecutor Javier Guzmán began on 16/6/14, claiming that ‘we can’t speak of impunity anymore, because the cases are being investigated, we will see the results very soon’, however, the Agrarian Platform is calling for this process to be suspended immediately because it is not transparent nor participative, they are not consulting with families of victims, and it is blatantly clear that the process is lending itself as a means for Dinant (palm company of Miguel Facussé – accused of many of the murders in the region) to clean its image as it desperately seeks to, in front of World Bank and the international community. Farmers denounce in advance that any report will have been manipulated towards this end. They demanded that the exhumation of farmers be stopped until there is concent and accompaniment of families of victims and participation of international forensic doctors that are proposed by the farmers organisations and families. There is also information that this exhumation is funded by USAID via Organisation of American States, and that US military intelligence is involved, so farmers are demanding transparency of the funding of the investigation unit. ‘Irregularities’ farmers are concerned about include that some of the bodies exhumated don’t belong to farmers assassinated in the agrarian conflict.
On 20/6/14, at 5.30pm, Sergio Calix and his compas Marlon Omar Zelaya and Bairon Leonel Ramírez were giving a villager a lift to get medical attention at a hospital in Tocoa when the three were arrested without a judicial order and taken to Trujillo police station. Sergio is the president of Gregorio Chávez farmers cooperative number 3, he has IACHR ordered protection measures since 8/5/14, the movement occupy land – Paso Aguan, that has been used by Dinant guards as a clandestine cemetary.
On 26/6/14, at 5am, a contingent of about 100 of Xatruch III led by René Jovel Martínez arrived and at 9am, evicted 400 families of Gregorio Chávez farmers movement at the Paso Aguán farm, that is being illegally appropriated by Miguel Facussé. The families began occupying on 5/5/14, 1300 hectares of land. They had the land taken from them in the 90s. A minister visited in May announcing that nobody should give support to people from another movement – should not be in solidarity with one another.
Jaime Cabrera gave testimony to that when he was arrested with 14 others of MARCA on 21/5/13, in a violent eviction, he had an officer pointing a gun inside his left year and threaten to kill him, and that when driven in the pickup of a police truck, he had his hands tied and suffered beating by batons and kicks. He said they were all treated like that.
Iris Amador, a single mother who begged with her children, to feed them, was jailed for a month, banned from approaching her children, is now on bail but is threatened with a 3-8 years jail term. They asked for money outside a shopping centre. When there is work, she works to buy her children food and her little daughter with hydrocephalus special milk. The penalty for someone begging with children in Honduras can be a 3-6 years sentence, that can go up by a third when one of the children has a disability, while a guilty plea allows her to pay a fine instead or to undertake community service. She is the first to be charged with this crime, this crime of poverty.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmCroMH0R_A
Community demanding more territory threatened, prosecuted and intimidated
There are charges, threats and intimidation that continue to hang over Santos Concepción Canelas, the president of the Zavala community, in the La Sosa village. He is part of a struggle that began 12 years ago, as the community (200 families) fought for just 30 blocks (manzanas – 500 square metres) of state land, to build school, kindergarten and church community centre for the community. The Agrarian department ruled against them, in favour of Nora and Juana Isabel Torres who were given in May 2013 agrarian reform land state title. In August 2013 the prosecutor charged 25 villagers with usurpation and damages. On 4/3/14 at 8pm, Santos was arbitrarily, without capture order, arrested by Catacamas police, and locked up for 8 days in a police cell without toilets for prisoners to use, that was full of faeces and urine – prosecutor Gustavo Adolfo Varela Barahona is pointed to as the one responsible for this torture. Santos proved in the initial hearing that they did not usurp any property and the case was suspended. As well as charges, the community pointed out that a number of times the sisters Nora and Juana brought armed persons with their faces covered (who villagers say are the sisters’ nephews) to intimidate and threaten villagers and have illegally used the police, that the Torres sisters and the police are responsible if anything happens to any community member. In May, 10 charged persons voluntarily appeared and in an initial hearing on 12/6/14 showed they did not usurp any land, and proposed conciliation and the withdrawal of charges to the lawyer of the Torres sister.
News from June 2014
Model cities declared legal again, Honduras becoming more of a laboratory for free-market crazyheads as Korean company POSCO gets ready to present the results of the $4 million feasibility studies for building model cities in three municipalities. Amapala, Nacaome and Alianza. This month, charges of unconstitutionality against ZEDES were rejected by Honduran Supreme Court – it was no surprise that the judges voted unanimously in support of model cities, since judges that voted against them previously, before the bill underwent name (to ZEDE) and cosmetic changes, were sacked. The reasons the proposal is unconstitutional haven’t changed – ZEDEs WILL also vulnerabilise Honduran territory, its form of government and public interests in general, affect people’s rights to a nationality, impact on people’s rights. ZEDEs will be cities concessioned out to companies that can make its own laws, courts and tax system. And having own laws opens up Honduras as a lab for all sorts – mass production of synthetic biology, agro-production of GMOs, for instance. Still, the judges had to come up with some reasons other than that they would lose their jobs for rejecting the charges. They said that one of the reasons was that ‘none of the parts that place the charge have direct interests or are affected by the building of what are popularly known as model cities’ – but that was untrue, amongst the signatories was the organisation OFRANEH, an organisation of Afro-descendent Garífuna communities – and twenty-four Garífuna communities are within five possible model cities locations stated for the north coast of Honduras – Garífuna communities have rights as an indigenous group to prior, free and informed consent – this is violated and Honduran state is trying to get around that but denying their condition as an indigenous people.
A re-cap: Model cities are privatisation of entire cities, they are sold to foreign capital as tax free paradises without bureaucracy and state control with plentiful cheap labour, natural recources and biodiversity, and to Hondurans as a new model of development with concentration of foreign investment, technology, and jobs – selling an illusion for a society submerged in misery and darkness, that worsened with the coup. In 2008, model cities adventurists tried to implement their experiments in Madagascar with the cooperation of president Marc Ravalomana who is also a businessman – this president was deposed by massive protests and looting that made him flee, and the charter city idea cancelled. Model cities are an extreme neoliberal neocolonialist idea and model that theoretically considers the problem of poverty as one where a corrupt state reflects the lack of education of the masses who are not equipped to govern, let alone choose government leaders, and therefore the ruling needs to be handed over to <the free market>: foreigners who know better (!!!!!) to bypass ‘obstacles’ such as farmers and ethnic organisations’ resistance, corrupt and politicised judicial system. In Honduras, model cities were first approved in August 2011, declared unconstitutional in October 2012, re-introduced in congress as ZEDEs in 2013, the charges of unconstitutionality were placed again in 2014
Exodus of Honduran children to US. There is lots of news this month about an explosive number of children from Central America – many from Honduras, making the dangerous journey to the US without papers – many make this journey without their parents or carers. There have always been children and adults making this trip, knowing of the risks, of extorsion, or rape, of assassination by gangs, by the Mexican authorities, of losing a limb on the train, of not surviving difficult conditions in the desert. Apparently, US politicians are blaming it on false rumours about entitlement of entry through a provision: DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – an old policy of Obama’s not applicable today. Washington is announciing ‘new measures’ in dealing with arrivals of undocumented minors from Central America to defer these. But, the reality is that while the defacto president Juan Orlando Hernández and his wife can enjoy a holiday to watch world cup games in Brazil, for the children and adults who try to go to the US, it is seen for them a necessity – their circumstances a re so dire, they don’t see any option but to go to the US although that is itself far from accessible. While, US policies have a lot to answer for regarding the realities today of the poor majority in Honduras.
Travel warning to US citizens. Department of State sent another travel warning to US citizens about the level of crime and violence in Honduras being critically high, after having sent one on 24/12/13. Honduras has still got the highest homocide rate in the world.
Mining not bringing in money. Central American Institution of Tax Studies (ICEFI) carried out studies and reported about mining situation in Honduras 2007-2012. Statement, presentation and report were included in this. The report highlights: that data had to be gathered from UN since Honduran government is unable/uninterested in collecting this data, that communities affected by that often have several natural resources extracted simultaneously when only one is officially authorised, that the mining sector has expanded but its contribution to jobs and state revenue had been marginal, that 259 mining concessions are under investigation because of “irregularities”, severe human rights and environmental violations, that new mining law legitimises a laissez-faire mining policy, adverse to social demands, and that the Honduran state is unable/unwilling to fulfil obligation to prevent and resolve conflicts.
Psych hospital without medicine. Mario Mendoza is the only psychiatric hospital in Honduras, and it has no medicines. People travel including from remote areas to get there, thinking and being told that there is medicine. For most people, to buy this medicine is impossible. Those who seek treatment from this hospital mostly suffer chronic depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar, psychosis, paranoia, alcoholism, and dementia.
Bill of Fishing about to be discussed in Congress Plenary, on 15 July. It was first discussed in congress in August 2013, without consultation with the Garífuna people, which in September 2013 declared themselves to be against the law opening up 3 miles of coastline to prawns and aquaculture projects, and sought a ban on arrastre fishing considering it a main cause of the destruction of the Honduran Carribean. The law is limiting prior free and informed consent to ‘indigenous organisations duly accredited in the RNPA’ – National registry of fishing and aquaculture. Honduran state has many decades of practice of ignoring prior free and informed consent requirements. Problems are notable with overfishing by growth of industrial fishing activities in the last decade. The impact on the Miskita coast is no piece of cake – this overfishing caused over 400 deaths and making another 4000 disabled, from an industrial exploration without any controls – it remains in complete impunity.
Killing of taxi drivers. Report from CONADEH Honduran Human Rights Commission that – so far in 2014, about 33 people have been killed in at least 30 attacks against public transport services in Honduras – mostly by gang members demanding extorsion payments – 16 who died are passengers, 9 are bus drivers, 5 are assistants, 2 are packers, one transport owner… They mostly happened in the two main cities of Honduras. Also, between 2013-March 2014, 75 taxi drivers and 3 taxi owners have been aassassinated. Many get told to pay up or be killed.
BP sued in the US. BP, the company contracted to explore and exploit in Mosquitia, Honduras, is sued for contaminating underground waters in the US in Vermont – together with Chevron and Exxon Mobil.
Homocides denied. Security secretary denies info on homocides presented by the Violence Observatory of UNAH – suspending the national report UNAH prepared. There are complaints that Security minister and police director have not cooperated in facilitating public information – UNAH been seeking homocide statistics, and now the security secretary are interrupting this scientific annual publication that started 9 years ago.
Actions in Honduras in June 2014
New community blockades and actions are being organised, against hydroelectricity dam company INTER in San Rafael, Jesús de Otoro, and also the San Francisco community in Atlántida on the Cuyamel River – they can see that legal alternatives are exhausted, that the system is against them.
La Casa del Pueblo in San Pedro Sula, with a vision of creating popular power in its space, are carrying out a number of projects like people’s kitchen, solidarity clinic, legal advice office, low prices shop, and a popular library and bookshop – it always seeks collaboration – books donations..
The indigenous community of Locomapa on their beautiful land, held workshops and discussions to recognise their indigenous wealth and knowledge, and to talk about the different issues that affect them, the dreams they have, building the collective visions as they continue resisting a mining company.
Workshops were held over two days in which 30 women farmers participated about preventing violence against women. They learnt to give attention and company for survivors and facilitate self-help groups for women, give assistance, and undertake community measures to prevent this violence. The workshop was informed by popular education and feminist philosophy.
1. San Francisco de Opalaca continues their 24 hours blockade of the council building that began in January, resisting for their ancestral rights to be respected, and continuing their autonomous council. They developed a rotations system, taking turns to look after the office, cook in the community kitchen the donated foodstuffs, to clean, sweep and mop every morning. In February an assembly was organised of direct democracy to declare the indigenous peoples autonomous and without political parties. ‘Nothing has been given to us, we don’t want and we haven’t asked for crumbs, nor pity, nor charity; we are actors and protagonists of this indigenous construction and the community…we are working to get to the democracy, transparency, and direct exercise of power in the administration and control of our municipality and territories’ declared in Opalaca in February 2014.’ There may be leaders but who know that, ‘here, the people govern’, and that leaders obey collective will; this is part of their collective life tradition.
2. They held the first indigenous, black and grassroots pilgrimmage in 1994. They have lived historically abandoned, without electricity, running water, highways and with few schools. From 1990, the community organised with Copinh to demand its own municipality to have basic public services for communities and defend their forests for illegal logging. They walked for weeks from Opalaca to Tegucigalpa. They won in 1994 the municipality and 22 community land titles, and elected without parties a mayor to collectively self-govern with leaders from inside the community.
They love – the pristine forest, clean rivers, abundant sources of water, Lenca way of life that depends on these – and that multinationals and Honduran elite want to privatise and exploit these natural resources. They have many times expelled companies. World Bank, REDD+, Terra Group, affiliates Inersa and Rios Elétricas have all tried, and the re-imposition of Socorro as mayor re-elect was their ticket. This struggle has faced – beatings, death threats, killings. The brother of the community chosen mayor, Entimo, was killed in February. One of the members of the Elders’ Council says simply ‘we are defending the people, we are defending what belongs to us, because the office of this mayor belongs to all of us…we are defending our territory because we don’t want it to be sold’.
On 26/6/14 in Loarque, Tegucigalpa, protesters began at 7.10am to block the highway towards the south against – tolls in Zambrano for highway to the north, and high costs of beans and petrol. Police appeared from 7.30am with gases, shields and batons. Military started to appear in cars an hour after and at 9am moved to Plaza Isis Obed. Finishing at 10am, some went to Zambrano to support protests there against the toll.
For 5 years coup anniversary:
Artists began a project of reconstruction of collective historical memory – to not forget the coup, the resistance, .. using audiovisuals – collect testimonies of anonymous heros – of different periods of struggle in Honduran history
The School of Political Learning and Organisations of the Social and Grassroots Movement Platform, together with Fundación Friedrich Ebert S, Nueva Democracia, Students Countercultural Artistic Front, Socialist Students Front – organised a discussion to debate advances, challenges, and issues of the social and popular movement in Honduras, on 27/6/14. The topics include: The state of the territorial and counter hegemonic movements, implications of the current economic model. The political dimension of the repression and violence. Synthesis of scenarios and prospective look from the current situation. Reflections and proposals from the left. Reading the political situation from a systemic perspective. Moderated by Luís Mendez.
In San Pedro Sula on 27/6, a discussion was held facilitated by writer Julio Escoto about the coup and its consequences.
US-Canadian Honduran immigrants organised in collectives of FNRP/Libre/HSN made a statement declaring their commitment to continue to struggle for the changes Honduras needs, and paid homage to martyrs, as 5 years of the coup passed. ‘5 years anniversary coup protest. ‘5 years of death, fraud, repression, militarisation and corruption. Stop the violence! Defend human rights!’
In San Pedro Sula, a concert was held from 4pm in the central park – All voices against forgetting and impunity.
El Salvador – solidarity protest 5 years of coup in Honduras. – ‘you are not alone and that the sibling peoples are supporting them and not forgetting’
In Tegucigalpa and the Teachers University from 8am..at 9am they started mobilising and arrivig at 10.25am at the central park. Concert began there.
Alianza Campesina gathered and after discussion, announced that they will increase pressure measures with the increased criminalisation against farmers’ struggle by the government (with 200 in April and May joining the 4083 with charges against them, 9 who have been imprisoned for the land struggle), and protested that the congress had been ignoring the Integral Agrarian Reform with Gender Equity Bill for Food Sovereignty and Rural Development.
Longer News Update of May 2014 re Honduras
Summary of political killings from May 2014
Rigoberto López Hernández, community defender against mining company, was assassinated on 3/5/14
William Jacobo Rodríguez, community defender against hydroelectricity dam company, was assassinated on 24/5/14
Irene Meza, resistance activist and autonomous council activist and spouse of councillor in Opalaca, was assassinated on 25/5/14
Hernán Cruz, community radio journalist and resistance leader in Copán, was assassinated on 28/5/14
Territorial struggles – mining – assassination, threats, intimidation
On 3/5/14, Rigoberto López Hernández (36) was tortured and assassinated – his body was found with his tongue cut out – as a threat for those who were going to report on this; Rigoberto is a community movement leader of the Santa Cruz community in Níspero, Santa Bárbara, that have opposed the cast and iron oxide Quita Ganas mine. Rigoberto and his neighbours organised protests and blocked off the access road to the mine in the mountain. The mountain is the water source for this and other communities.This blockade was evicted by police and military. Rigoberto then participated in a community asssembly that the mayor Leiva and a mining representative came to – Rigoberto demanded the mining company to leave, asserting that they do not accept false promises and that there is no negotiating that. He always encouraged people to see that the promises of development are false, but the destruction the mine will bring are real and to oppose the mine’s continuation. The mayor’s position had been that the mine was legal because it has permission for the authorities SERNA and INFOMIN, and called people’s saying that the mine destroys the environment and their livelihoods ‘myths’.In the 6 months since the mine began, it has destroyed over 2000km² of mountains there that before gave water, basic grains, coffee and wood, where this is now replaced with water scarcity, violence, respiratory and skin diseases and contamination.
On 18/5/14, the Tránsito community spoke up about threats and intimidation – physical, emotional and judicial, from politicians, police, military as well as from prosecutors and state officials. The community has since 24/2/14 blockaded indefinitely the entrance to a hill of the mine, to impede the companieis’ continuation in exploiting and stealing resources.
Territorial struggles – Zacate Grande – illegal detention, beating and threats
On 29/5/14, at 7.30am, Puerto Grande police station sargeant García turned up at La Voz de Zacate Grande community radio station to call two activists Ethels Corea and Miguel Vásquez – who work on the radio and have been granted protection measures for being at risk – to go meet with the police head and the human rights officer when they are supposed to correspond with the lawyers and Cofadeh human rights organisation to arrange such a meeting.
On 30/5/14 about midday, Inspector Duarte and Sargeant Garía and Nacaome Human Rights Officer Lilí arbitrarily entered the radio’s buildings without permission, interrupted a meeting of community organisation ADEPZA, so Miguel and others asked for respect and to not interrupt, Duarte then was about to take photos ‘for his report’, and Miguel left to not be in the photos and that seemed to annoy them. Police stayed for half an hour.
On 31/5/14, Miguel Vasquez was travelling to San Lorenzo, he noticed Sargeant García were in a car and followed but stayed at the las Pilas turnoff. When Miguel got off and crossed the street and went towards the market, a patrol with 4 police and 4 soldiers drove slowly behind him. One asked him for ID so he kept walking but gave his ID and protection measures papers, but a police then jumped off, pushed him and ordered him to walk behind the truck. Miguel ran to the market to try to find someone who is of the community to contact family and comrades about his arrest, but was stopped by people from a warehouse there who helped the police capture him. Police beat him and detained him from 9am. Miguel tried calling from his phone but had no credit and police took it. He tried to ask politely to make a phone call but they kept refusing, they even said they lost his papers.The state agents threatened to his ear, ‘you dog, if we don’t finish you off today’, ‘you lot are digging your own grave’, and ‘who would believe it’s you here who believes nothing can be done to you?’ Duarte then appeared and pretended not to have met Miguel and told him he was accused of illegal use of weapons despite Miguel repeating that he is a beneficiary of protection measures. Then Duarte said he reminded him of a kid who had no manners from the day before at the radio and fell silent for a bit. Duarte then started saying things like, ‘why do you not want the police to patrol the radio? What do you do on this radio? What are you hiding that you don’t want us to know? If we are good, why are you scared of us? What are the real reasons they granted you protection measures? Two and a half hours later, Miguel’s aunt came to look for him and ask him why he was arrested and Duarte told her that there was a search on the bus he was on and he got nervous and ran away so the police got suspicious of him and captured him. Cofadeh called and was given the same version. As ordered, the officers opened the cell and looked for his papers, and once outside the cell, a soldier walked in front of him and threatened, ‘you are going to pay for this!’ His comrades came from the radio after this. It was negotiated to release him without charge if Miguel did not place complaints against the beatings and threats made against him.
Inspector Duarte claimed that the operation was carried out because there was a complaint about an armed youth who was supposeably a dangerous gangster, with description of what colour and types of clothes and shoes he was wearing exactly. Shamelessly pretending that it weren’t completely premeditated. Miguel is also the General Secretary of the farmers cooperative Empresa Asociativa Campesina de Producción Puerto Grande.
Territorial struggles – Rio Blanco indigenous community defending against hydroelectricity dam company – killing, torture, illegal detentions and threats
In Rio Blanco on 24/5/14 at midnight, William Jacobo Rodríguez was assassinated when he was on his way home. William is an activist in defence of the Gualcarque river, against the dam project.
On 25/5/14, as persecution has no limits, despite that someone had confessed to the having killed William, police stationed at the DESA dam site, on a special operation against the indigenous Lenca people, proceeded to invade homes and arbitrarily and violently captured two Copinh activists Lindolfo Benítez and Salvador Sánchez – physically and emotionally torturing both following their capture, and gave death threats to the minors who were in their homes. They were released early in the day. In the process, police also threatened and verbally attacked Francisco Javier Sánchez, president of the Rio Blanco indigenous council.
Territorial struggles – Puerto Castilla – repression against protest
In the Garífuna community Puerto Castilla, in the process of reclaiming land that is ancestrally their community land to address overcrowding, was attacked by a large contingent with hundreds of teargas bombs as well as rubber bullets. The bombs exploded including in the community kindergarten and inside people’s homes. Six children were hospitalised because of the teargases. The land conflict is with the state port company Empresa Nacional Portuaria (ENP) – that used threat of violence by General Alvarez to force the community to sign over the lands in 1974. Apart from which ENP also promised a number of jobs for locals that they did not fulfil, and is known for acts of corruption and of racism by staff. The community originally received land title in 1889 that was conceded to Truxillo Railroad Company in 1921 and returned to the community in 1942. The community had also been shoved to make space for an US military base that is now an US-Honduran military base with helicopter ports and piers being built. The commuity is moving on a plot of land that Japanese company Intermares Mauricio Weizemblut Oliva, that tried to establish itself in the 90s, assumes, and is selling the land.
Territorial struggles -Bajo Aguán farmers – violent evictions, intimidation, militarisation, persecution, gunshots…
Inter-American Court of Human Rights demanded the Honduran state to provide protection measures for 123 farmer activists in the Bajo Aguán region (concrete measures to be determined with each according to their needs and situation), considering these threatened, persecuted, in urgent situations and people at risk. The main actors of human rights violations are reported to be Miguel Facussé (Dinant), and René Morales (Oleopalma). The farmers considered in danger are part of Movimiento Campesino Gregorio Chávez (5), MOCRA (3), MARCA (32), and MUCA (83).
On 8/5/14, in finca Paso Agúan where Empresas Asociativas Campesinas de Producción of Movimiento Campesino Gregorio Chávez are recovering 1200 hectares of land, farmers reported that guards and military have been using infrared lights and reflectors on the property in intimidation. This, as well as ongoing harrassment by Xatruch Operation and Dinant security and an eviction order that needs to be suspended have been noted by a special commission of officials of different state departments – Lucy Tovar (ombudsperson), Erleny Elencof, and Remberto Zavala that are ‘in support’ in words.
On 11/5/14, at 6am, security guards in a green Nissan Frontier attempted against five Movimiento Campesino Gregorio Chávez farmers and a watermelon seller who was there, with verbal aggressions and threats to their physical security and intimidating shots fired to the air of 12mm, 9mm and 22mm guns.
On 14/5/14, La Consentida that began recovering land on 11/5/14 were evicted.
On 19/5/14, Movimiento Campesino Gregorio Chávez denounced that authorities have installed military to surround the community and block their sales of palm and justify repression against farmers, when families’ occupation and palm sales are based on addressing their needs for food and medicine.
On 19/5/14, ‘El Mochito’s community in protest was evicted by army. Gunshots from guards and army against people have been reported. Oleopalma security guards under orders from landowner Reinaldo Canales surrounded ‘El Mochito’ community in intimidation. Two commandos of Xatruch and an ambulance are also mobilised to carry out an eviction that has already been threatened by Oleopalma representative Carlos Moncada.. ‘El Mochito’ are being recovered by 130 families who named themselves, Movimiento Reivindicado Segundo Gómez, after a compa who was killed in this struggle in El Mochito demanding justice for farmers in the Aguan Region. The movement organised a protest demanding clear answers of what happened to two farmers forcefully disappeared, and another two assassinated in the region, and hold the state as responsible by complicity. They announced in a communique that even if they are evicted, they will come back again.
On 21/5/14, at 6am, hundreds of families of MARCA farmers movement were violently evicted from La Trinidad and El Despertar farms by a contingent headed by Coronel Jovel Martínez and ordered by Germán Alfaro Escalante using an expired eviction order. The contingent of at least 80 arrived in four military commandos and four police patrols – Xatruch Operation, Trujillo police, and private guards of René Morales. As the executor judge spoke with leaders and looked at papers, police launched teargas bombs, beat children, youth and old people’s bodies with batons, chased people and fired gunshots at people as they ran –some may have disappeared. Human rights defenders were not permitted to take photos Witnesses saw police pull and tear off bags farmers were carrying with their belongings and threw their food everywhere. Police arrested 15, including 4 minors and 8 women, and wounded two – fracturing the arm of Glenda Xiomara Hernández (36) who was pregnant, and Ada Marina Velásquez (58) and refused arrestees medical attention. The arrestees included Mirna Yadira Pineda (14), Nolvia Berrios (35), Berta Ramos (40), Omar Espinoza (20), José Luis Chávez (28), Walter Cárcamo (MARCA president), Jaime Adalid Cabrera (35, president of Regional Agrarian Platform), Ana Maryuri Maradiaga (15), Jervin Giovanni Rodríguez (17), Silverio Orellana (53), Seida Xiomara Alemán (14), Elder Nahúm Meza (14), Wilmer Alexis Antúnez (17), and Antonio Rodríguez – a number of whom have protection orders from IACHR. After the eviction, militarisation continued and military and police stopped people from going in to check if anyone was left wounded or dead there or from getting their things. After the eviction, Dinant representative Pineda told press that Dinant security guards would be disarmed, but that ‘they would support the building of a military cuartel there’. MARCA’s lawyer Antonio Trejo was assassinated in August 2011, and the last land reclaim by occupation started on 12/7/12.
On 22/5/14, in confrontations of land conflict at La Consentida, Marvin Molina (29) who was found by the security guards was shot 3 times and wounded.
Human rights defenders – persecution including by police
Rosalinda Cruz Sequeira, one of four supreme court judges dismissed in a judicial coup in 2012 for ruling model cities unconstitutional and against human rights, denounced that they continue to be persecuted and virtually given death threats.
On 8/5/14, at 11.30pm, children’s human rights defender Casa Alianza director Guadalupe Ruela was leaving a social event of human rights defenders in Tegucigalpa and as he was in his car parked near the presidential house, 2 police on a motorcycle drove into his car crashing onto the passenger door of the car in a supposed accident and then military police grabbed him kicking, dragging and kicking him in the face, chest, back and other body parts and a soldier dragged him by feet face down on the pavement as they kept kicking his body and verbally abusing him. An officer took from his wallet his ID and $200 worth cash and confiscated his car and things inside including a Casa Alianza computer. He was taken and held at the Kennedy police station. At 1.10am Cofadeh coordinator Bertha Oliva came and saw the state he was in with hurt ribs and nose bleeding and asked for him to be taken for medical attention immediately. Initially they argued they had to do an alcohol test first and did that 6 times, before reading him his rights, transferring him to Metropolitan 1 police station, to then be taken to private hospital Viera from there where he received x-rays and was under observation. At the emergency room, a police watched over him, supposeably ordered by a prosecutor to be there, and a police patrol5-65 were at the entrance, arguing to journalists asking about Ruelas saying he was ‘retained’ not detained, and Officer Rodríguez in an act of intimdation pointed at journalist Nelso Flores and said, ‘take down the name and the media that this one is from.’ Police claimed it was an accident, denied knowledge of police violence claiming that any injuries Ruelas sustained was from the ‘accident’, and said traffic police were doing alcohol tests and that it came up positive despite that it was negative when done in the hospital. As Director of Casa Alianza he reports to the press about systematic assassinations of children in Honduras. On 5/5/14 Ruelas gave press statements critising the army program Guardianes de la Patria – as something not to address insecurity, but to militarise. On 23/4/14, he reported that there has been an average of 90 youths under 23 a month assassinated. He knows this was a premeditated abuse that happens to people linked to human rights defence in honduras and holds responsible JOH for anything that happens to him or his family. Since this, the media have been publishing stories in efforts to discredit him.
Cuban doctors in Honduras attending to patients solidarity – assaulted
On 10/5/14, at midday, El Progreso, Yoro, a group of heavily armed men assaulted the home of the Cuban medical brigade, tying up the hands of doctors, beating them up and giving death threats. They took all of the doctors’ belongings. The brigade is in Honduras attending to patients as an international solidarity act attending to people who cannot afford health services.
Politicians and their supporters
On 12/5/14, around 9.10pm individuals driving a toursim van drove in front of the car Rafael Barahona – councillor of Libre party – hitting the right side of the car, in el Country barrio in Comayagúela. The armed persons jumped out firing at least 10 shots at his car, a shot hit his hand and left arm that he used these to block the shots. He fled and went to the La Granja police station and was assisted by Red Cross and went to a hospital in La Granja. They had to surgically remove a bullet from his hand that could affect his nerves.
On 7/5/14, parliamentarians of the Libre party protested with placards and black ribbons at the main table 100 days of Juan Orlando Hernández as the fraudulent president, they sang the national anthem and highlighted unfulfilled promises, and increasing violent deaths etc, and Libre MPs having been denied rights to speak inside the congress. Threats reported to suppress the protest included the actual cutting of the electricity, and that the military and police sent by the president had arrived. Journalist Esdras Amado López denounced that there are snipers planted in the buildings adjacent to the congress.
On 13/5/14,riot police repressed with masses of teargases both inside and outside the congress. From 3pm, outside the congress about 250 protested repression in the congress and the attempt against Rafael Barahona, as well as in solidarity with farmers’ demand for a transformative agrarian reform. This protest met a heavy contingent of riot cops. At 4pm police began spraying peppergas at people, who ran in different directions chased by police while some responded to the gas with stones. A group returned to occupy the central park, and military closed roads near the congress. Police repeated massive teargas bombs eviction against people at 4.26pm and at 4.36-5pm, and at 5.40pm (activists kept fighting back and re-occupying). Meanwhile, inside the congress, at 5.29pm, after a group of Libre and resistance activists made their way inside the congress while it was in session, in occupation and protest, a heavy contingent of riot cops smashed the doors and entered congress by force evicting all 200 people inside launching teargas bombs inside, and beat people with baton and shields and trembled on them, notably, against Libre party parliamentarians (37 were present). Libre parliamentarian Claudia Garmendia fainted with the teargas and beating, and Audelia Rodríguez was also beaten. Within minutes, MPs were pushed downstairs by the military. Outside, Carlos Andino was beaten savagely by soldiers, until MP José Adalberto intervened. Mirian Yamileth Zerón was beaten in the face, both Carlos and Mirian were taken away in ambulance. MP Rafael Alegría had his right arm fractured, bronchial tube obstructed due to gas and abdominal trauma from kicking, in addition, congress president Mauricio Olivia also threatened to judicially persecute Rafael Alegría, Esdras Amado López and Manuel Zelaya Rosales. Libre MPs María Argentina Valle, and Beatriz Valle, Jari Dixon and Wilfredo Paz were beaten as well. Dozens of activists had grave bruisings from riot cops and military police brutality. See video of what happened inside congress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C2cQQOeqxo&feature=youtu.be or http://youtu.be/6KGuqnQRXok. Last repression inside the congress was on 12/8/09 when over 20 were tortured savagely after repressive bodies ambushed a protest against the coup there.
Another murder in the ongoing struggle for an autonomous council in Opalaca
On 25/5/14, in Opalaca, just after an indigenous assembly where the autonomus municipality celebrating the taking the possession, and the findings of an audit the community demanded was shared and a decision making process about the building of an indigenous governance facilitated, a group of people linked with ex nationalist candidate Socorro Sánchez arrived in a car, and
Hugo Sánchez, without saying anything, pulled out a pistol and began shooting villagers with firearms – and shot against Opalaca activists Irene Meza and Plutarco Bonilla –Irene is a resistance activist and the spouse of Libre Councillor Ada Elizabeth Méndez and was shot in the abdomen and chest, and Plutarco an exceptional activist against the coup, who was shot in the hand. As Irene’s spouse and driver drove him to the hospital by the Zarco river, they were attacked again by a group of heavily armed employees of Socorro forcing the car to have an accident before then firing six shots, killing Irene. Irene is not the first to be killed in this struggle, the brother of the autonomous council’s mayor Entimo, Justiniano, was tortured and killed in February.
Attacks against journalists – an assassination, programs cancelled,
On 28/5/14, Hernán Cruz (52) who runs a program ‘Otro Nivel’ 5-6pm on community radio ‘La Voz de la esperanza’ in the buildings of Institute of Ecumenical Services for the Community coordinated by Fausto Milla since July 2013, was kidnapped in Santa Rosa de Copán, taken towards Dulce Nombre where he was assassinated with gunshots and his body found in a taxi. His program focussed on analysis and reflection. Hernán also founded the social movement los Chuñas de San Juan de Opoa, is the coordinator of the Opoa resistance, and a Libre party activist. He was well loved and his solidarity with others are well felt and he was a role model for young people. He was someone who used to lend his projector. He also had a position as a disputes resolutions mediator at the community justice centre there.
On 26/5/14, journalist Jorge Burgos, denounced that Canal 6 management cancelled the program of his and his colleague Emy Padilla, ‘Suelte la Lengua’, which was transmitted nationally 1.30-2.30pm five days a week since 10 monhts ago. Jorge recalled that the manager Paul Misselem called and cancelled the program without giving any explanations, but Jorge knew it was because the program always denounced corruption and this upset shareholders; he criticizes defacto president Juan Hernández on his program as well as against some banks that do business with the state and some fast food companies that receive state subsidies, which are clients of the commercial radio. Some of their recent guests were José Guadalupe Ruelas, the human rights defender accusing the regime of assassinating youths in Honduras, other human rights defenders, as well as ex-president Zelaya. Emy recounted being once passed a note from the production team of a list of topics that are prohibited.
There is a generalised direction towards this type of censorship. Another example of a journalist who notices this is Ricardo Guerra of program Acutualidad Porteña of private regional channel Teleport Cortés. He said journalists always get told, ‘we don’t cover that topic here’, Ricardo is one of many journalists victim to threats and telephone insults because of the information he gives in his work.
News from May 2014
– how the academic, NGOs, and church worlds collide to reproduce rather than critique the world as it is, and more things getting worse in Honduras
University making model cities in Honduras an exciting experiment to play with
In its PR article for Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala commodifying careers in playing with ideas of controlling and ruling over entire cities, images were shown of white elite or middle class young adults being equipped with an environment to gain skills towards careers in manipulating model cities – something ‘legal’ in Honduras. The university proudly announced that Startup Cities Institute is now launched with the Lean City Lab, towards creating decision making tools, strategic planning, – by strategic planning, it refers to deciding where, structuring land auctioning, and learn what institutions and markets would best suit their interests. While it mentions that this is to advise ‘communities’ that are interested in creating model cities, it did else where outline honestly that their ‘public’ are reformers of public police, business people and ‘political activists’, and not the ‘community’. It allures students with computer labs in which people can play with experimental economy, to simulate markets and economic structures, turning this concept into a game, a stock exchange, obviously as far removed as possible from people’s realities. It also alludes to field studies where trial and error can be used. Alert!
Kansas University partner with Honduran teachers’ university UPNFM to recruit students as professional informants, against indigenous communities the students are from
This disturbing public recruitment callout for a job was noticed by an indigenous professor, with the criteria including being an UPNFM student in first or second year, belonging to an indigenous community of Honduras and speaking the language, having recognised leadership within the community, and having knowledge in computing and data collection. Applications were being received 24-31 October 2013 at the humanities faculty at the university. There was no information as to the sources of funding, the objectives or proposals, and there was no consultation with indigenous people. Some indigenous leaders have been invited the year before to Kansas university – the offer of paid work and signing collaborative agreements in the local universities made them attractive offers of what is in reality contracting informants towards destroying indigenous organising and taking over their territories. Another source found that this was a research project nationally with the title ‘Indigenous Municipalities – landuse and conflicts, to digitally map all indigenous communities – a recurrent topic of counterinsurgent geographers. This is supervised by Peter Herlihy who is accused of being paid by US Department of Defence and Office of Foreign Military Studies based in Kansas, and of having carried out research in Honduras and Mexico that are considered geopiracy and to aid counterinsurgenies and corporations. There are also two unnamed geographers and a social anthropologist involved. This is being done similar to Bowman Expeditions
NGO – Human Rights Watch links with CIA
Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquival and Mairead Maguire and about 100 US and Canadian academics sought Human Rights Watch to take concrete measures to be independent, – given that its main directives have links with the Democrats Party, US government, and even CIA – in the case of Miguel Díaz, who is a functionary of the Department of State, was a CIA analyst in the 90s, and he was on the council of advisors of HRW from 2003-2011. Other 3 members of HRW linked with US government are Tom Malinowki, Miles Frecheette and Michael Shifter.
Pope candidate Cardenal Rodríguez refuses to condemn sex abuse by priests under his wings
When asked repeatedly to comment (including by responding to written questions) on testimonies of sex abuse and torture committed by priests to journalists, with intermediaries explaining that he doesn’t have time, he is now quoted to say to a report of over 12,000 victims in Latin America, that, ‘for me, it would be a tragedy to reduce the role of a pastor to that of a police. We are completely different and I would prefer to prepare to go to the prision myself before I can do damage to one of my priests’ Cardenal Rodriguez covers up for and has sheltered a Costa Rican priest Enrique Vasquez accused of sexually abusing an acolyte and having capture orders against him for it – by receiving him for a work assignment in Honduras for Rodriguez, to help start a training centre for catholics without formal qualifications in theology. He was only let go of in Honduras when international police Interpol began to look for him as requested by the Costa Rican government – yet Interpol did not interrogate Rodríguez. Rodríguez has been mentioned as a possible successor of pope John Paull II. And Vasquez also in the 90s admitted to having sexually abused a 10 years old acolyte – but the Costa Rican Bishop who shared this information said that they only stopped recommending him when he had court charges against him.
Extradition a first
Honduran Supreme Court decided to order the extradition to US of Honduran Carlos Arnaldo Lobo -‘El Negro Lobo’ – in response to this request by US for charges of drug trafficking. The lawyer said this extradition is a violation of constitutional rights against his client, who is accused of having links with Colombian cartel Los Mellos that trafficks drugs to US on boats. Extraditions were not allowed until a reform to constitution in 2012 that made extradition possible when the a crime is linked to businesses of drug trafficking, organised crime or terrorism – this extradition constitutes a dangerous precedent
Increased violence against children in Honduras
With 4 massacres over 3 days killing 16 children under 12 this month. In the first 100 days of the JOH government, 177 assassinations against minors have been recorded.
Report on violations against journalists and freedom of expression
C-Libre published anurgent release: Justice now! Nor persecuted, nor watched over. In the past year, in Honduras there were 191 aggressions against liberty of expression registered, and 11 assassinations of journalists.
Cofadeh published the final report of the Parliamentarian Mission of Huamn Rights Observation of Spain, from 31/3-4/4, reporting a high level of impunity (98% in relation to torture, illegal detentions, political assassinations and death threats) in all types of human rights violations. ‘It’s not that democracy is at risk in Honduras, its just that there is no democracy here’
Solidarity and resistance:
The resistance in Tegucigalpa gathered in assembly, and agreed to organise the grassroots collectives in the barrios and work on popular education and mobilisation around problems that affects them most, fighting against including the privatisation of public services including drinking water, the submission of natural resources and sovereignty to private and transnational interests, the struggle for agrarian transformation, defending grassroots organisations, for justice and respect of life and human rights, to take to FNRP the proposal of a national strike, etc.
Alianza Campesina announced pressure measures for the congress to start debating the Ley de Transformación Agraria – starting with fasts and progressing to hunger strikes, and inviting the church communities to accompany these. Farmers movements nationally declared themselves to be in permanent struggle for this
Lots of statements of solidarity – including from CEHPRODEH and Radio Progreso – expressing solidarity with human rights defender José Guadalupe Ruelas García of Casa Alianza who was illegally detained, beaten and threated by police
More statements of solidarity this time condemning the assassination of environmental defender Rigoberto López Hernández in El Níspero, the statements came from including Cehprodeh, MAS, and Movimiento Madre Tierra Honduras
On 14 and 15 May there was a National Mobilisation of Territories ‘for the dignity, sovereignty, and for the freedom of Chavelo’ – Chavelo has been held political prisoner and is now condemned for 17.5 years. The mobilisation was also for the abolishment of the Agricultural Modernisation law and the approval of the bill put by farmers organisations, to abolish the mining law and for all mining and hydroelectrical projects to leave, for the model cities law to be abolished and declared unconstitutional, for impunity of femicides to end, – it was a walk from Zambrano to Tegucigalpa. Hundreds participated.
A number of solidarity statements condemned the military repression by the military and police against people protesting, both on the streets and inside the congress buildings – they came from the International Ecumenical Observatory of Human Rights and the Agape Christian church, and the Union of Writers and Artists of Honduras
On the Honduran Mothers’ Day, a group of women and their families and other women in support mobilised outside the Presidential house with white balloons and placards demanding justice for their assassinated children
The coalition of environmental networks of Honduras CNRA proclaimed against the extractive industry and model and the environmental and human rights violations that they cause, against the mining law, having fuelled already 20 conflicts causing such violations, that these have included many assassinations, and also proclaimed against the building of model cities and the false expectations that the JOH regime is generating with them
On 20/5/14, The Puerto Castilla community – an Afro-descendent Garífuna community undertook to reclaim ancestral territory historically snatched from them, as the community suffers from overcrowding – they blockaded of the highway to Puerto Castilla. They faced massive teargas repression from the state this month.
On 18/5/14, people from Adepes, Coddeffagolf, Simiente, Anafae, Cehprohdeh, Coalition of Environemental Networks of Honduras, catholic church, committees of defence of nature, etc, gathered in Jícaro Galán, Nacaome, Valle, in a march against mining and model cities, and for an integration with the peoples of the south (south of the country). It was at El Transito, Nacaome, a community that has since 24/2/14 taken indefintiely the entrance to a hill of the mine,to not permit the companies to continue exploiting there and stealing resources.
There were also solidarity statements for people of Francisco de Opalaca – a community struggle for an autonomous municipality – Via Campesina made callout for material goods for this community – medicine, clothes, beans, rice, food, etc. Collection organised for 29 and 30/5/14 at the Las Mercedes plaza outside the congress, and in the central parks at San Pedro Sula and at La Ceiba, between 6am and 6pm both days.
On 27/5, at UNAH, with the administrative chaos, students of association of social work students held an assembly in which they decided to occupy the social science building. It came from the authorities not consulting and deciding to transfer these building for Juridical Sciences – when students have countlesss needs – structural, logistical, material, thjat are not satisfied by the authorities – from lack of classrooms, oversized classes to other things like insecurity in transport, commodification of education, not including students in decision making, intimdating students from protesting , etc. Sociology students joined in, and others associations are starting to organise in solidarity
May Day – massive turnouts – priorities spoken of were: refoundation of the state with a new constituent assembly, demilitarisation of society and state, self determination of people, ending neoliberalism replacing with a social system, approving agrarian transformation bill, rescuing of fought for teachers rights, and many others
On 19/5/14, at night, 130 families decided to enter to recover the farm ‘El Mochito’ in left margin of the Aguan river – lands snatched from farmers families by landowner Reinaldo Canales and the state has been complicit, in his support. They named themselves the Movimiento Reivindicado ‘Segundo Gomez’ after a compa of this struggle was found dead in El Mochito, like many others, for demanding justice for Aguan farmers. They demand clear answers instead of mediatised reports about the forced disappearance of 2 farmers and 2 other farmers’ deaths in this region, and hold the state responsible for their silence that has generated the impunity. They announced they will continue recovering the land and even if and when evicted, will come back to occupy again.
17 International organisations expressed profound concern of new attacks against farmers families in Bajo Aguan
April 2013 Honduras coup update
Political persecution cases in April 2013
A journalist killed, others arrested, followed, threatened and impeded in their work..
On 11/4/13, in the midnight hours, Carlos Mejía Orellana was murdered with 4 stabs in the thorax, inside his home. He is a lawyer and has worked for many years as the head in the marketing and sales of Jesuit radio Radio Progreso and recently of ERIC, and of the printer San Ignacio in El Progreso. Due to serious ongoing threats, the Inter American Commission of Human Rights had ordered the Honduran state to protect his life many times – on 2/7/09, 26/4/10, 3/5/10, 2/6/10 and 27/5/11 but no measures had been taken.
On 1/4/14 at 9am, near Parque Central, Catacamas Olancho police agents temporarily arrested journalist and Canal 45 TV reporter Cesar Rosales and confiscated his work equipment, deleting all the images on his video camera.
On 3/4/14, Canal 6 correspondent Dennis Menjivar, who reports on the police in the Choloma city of Cortés – is being followed by vehicles everyday since he began news coverage about the capture of accused drug trafficker ‘Negro Lobo’ – each day as he leaves his home, cars follow him until a certain point and then disappear as if by magic – it was first a Ford Ranger and now 2 tourist vans that have dark windows and no numberplates, all going the same route. Dennis was the victim of an attempt 2 years ago from shots fired from a vehicle without numberplates as he was leaving home after he reported on a Villa Nuria massacre where he questioned the work of the security minister and an official told him to watch his words – an attempt that remained in impunity.
On 22/4/14, despite ‘El Negro’ Lobo’s legal representative Raúl Suazo Barillas having expressed that El Negro wanted to be interviewed by journalists, soldiers of Primer Batallón de Infantería refused entry to journalists Lidieth Díaz and Wendy Funes of En Exclusiva program of Globo TV Honduras. El Negro was to be the first Honduran to be extradited in response to a request from the US government, accused of drug trafficking.
On 28/4/14, ‘Fuera del Camino’ news director on www.laradiopopular.net José Onorio Cruz spoke up about being victim to being watched and followed near where he lives. He is in fear for his family. Recently, when inside a shopping centre in Choluteca, ‘a man came up to me and told me that journalists of the Libre Party had bee well identified so be careful’ and then threatened him not to ‘andar con papadas con nosotros’. A neighbour also confirmed that someone on a black motorcycle stopped at his home’s gate and stayed watching the inside of his home, weeks before. In December 2013, as he left the El Observador forum, two me on motorcycle told him to stop talking about the National Party, that ‘journalists of the resistance like me had to be disappeared. José also collaborates with covering news in Choluteca for Radio Progreso and Radio Uno. José describes his work as analysing the reality from a people’s rights based perspective, criticising the ultraright Honduran, speaking up against corruption, and militarisation of society and state.
Liberation theologist under fire from the right
On 2/4/14, in Lepaera, Lempira, over 100 national party activists accompanying nationalist mayor Edgar Murillo occupied into the night the parrish home of Esteban Guzmán putting up messages against him. There are national party agitators (including mayor Edgar Murillo, and German Péres, Marcio Lara, Juan José Bautista) who are pressuring for actions of violence to be taken against Lepaera villagers who came to support their religious leader Esteban Guzmán who practised liberation theology – he holds a position of preferential for the poor and against the coup. Police and military police were present, and of course they did nothing to prevent bloodbath that may come still. There were cars without numberplates around, who may have been profiling supporters of father Esteban. The pressures to force father Esteban out began when Darwin Andino arrived to the Copán Diocese whose agenda is to remove all liberation theologists from these Western parts of Honduras. Some months ago a high power bomb was launched at the gates of the priest’s home and no investigation had been carried out.
Under siege and under threat: territorial and environmental defenders
On 21/4/14, a comunique came out denouncing eviction threats against MARCA coming from Xatruch operation headed by Coronel René Jovel Martínez, in favor of landowner René Morales who is the executive president of Oleopalma palm company – the threat is including against 3 hundred families of Trinidad Farm of Truillo who could be evicted after 21/4/14 based on an eviction order dated February 2014. About 12 months before MARCA received a court judgement favourable to them, only for it to be reversed almost immediately and their lawyer Antonio Trejo murdered months later. In the same region, Ariel Padilla (20) was kidnapped and tortured by Xatruch Operation when he was on security duties at Cooperativa San Esteban, where he was forcefully kidnapped and taken to Balastera where he was beaten in different part of the body, had his weapon stolen from him, and was given death threat for if he spoke up about what happened.
On 23/4/14, a land registry commission – Daniel España, Manuel Valladares, José Marín, and Saúl Figueroa – arrived in Nahuaterique (population 14,000) of La Paz, telling villagers there that the Honduran government is dividing Nahuaterique territory into 4 parts, into municipalities of Santa Elena, Yarula, Cabañas and Marcala, with support by the mayor of each. 300 villagers gathered in opposition to this territorial intervention – they expressed fears also of military intervention.
The Honduran state has not complied with IACHR orders dated December 2013 to protect lives of over 50 MADJ (Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia) members who are at risk as human and environmental rights defenders involved in struggles of Nueva Esperanza and Locomapa against mines and logging companies. Those granted the protection measures said that they are the ones who had to achievely engage with the state to assume responsibility and that they contiue to be at risk and in some cases are at more risk than before. And that those who give them threats are state officials and businesspeople who feel their profit interests threatened by the struggles of MADJ and the communities in protection of the nature and environment. The conflicts are fueled by the current government’s policy to submit territories to national and transnational business.
News briefs from April 2013
Work towards having the International Penal Court to qualify what happened in Honduras as crimes against humanity continues: a delegation of Spanish parliamentarians accomaied by human rights specialist Enrique Santiago visited Honduras to bear witness to human rights violations and work on providing the necessary data to International Penal Court, for this to eventually investigate and judicialise individuals whom in their positions within the state promoted or contributed to systematic human rights violations.
Enrique Santiago and other mission members at the Spanish embassy looked at the Billy Joya case – where Billy Joya, a state agent applying national security doctrine, was responsible for grave human rights violations – he belongs to 3-16 death squad, and was responsible for kidnappings, tortures, forced disappearances in this ‘lost decade’ – he was sued in 90s, with a detention order in Honduras – but he refuged in Spain and was sheltered by a religious centre linked to Opus Dei in Sevilla city where he was hidden for months with a false identity, working including as a catechist for young people. When he was detected by torture victims of Honduras, human rights defenders sued him and he appeared in the courts asking to be extradited back to Honduras. He was freed on arrival to Honduras, the case was filed away in Honduras and then in Spain too.
Impunity persists with killing of women and journalists and human rights defenders. And others, but these were highlighted this month. Femicides have an impunity rate of 94%, 636 women were assassinated in 2013, thats one every 14 hours. At the same time, UN human rights experts Frank Le Rue and Margaret Sekaggya are asking the Honduran government to end impunity in cases of attacks to journalists and human rights defenders through rapid and exhaustive investigations, and pressuring for protection measures to be given to those for whom such measures had been requested by the Inter America Commission of Human Rights, as well as for UN recommendations to be adopted.
Prosecution not surprisingly shamelessly defends model cities as constitutional, when organisations charged that model cities aren’t constitutional in relation to articles 294, 303 and 329 – related to national sovereignty, form of government, and internationally recognised basic rights. The prosecution’s position was published in a brief in El Heraldo. Related to model cities, some of the pressures experienced since the coup include threats of forced expropriation in Trujillo against the afrodescendent Garífuna Rio Negro community by Canadian investor Randy Jurgenson. Model cities laws were approved in February 2010, charged as unconstitution immediately, declared unconstitutional on 18/10/12 – and within two months the judges who passed this judgement were fired by the congress under other pretexts. In 2013, ZEDE – that is almost the same as the law made unconstitutional with a little more wordplay, was passed. The main discourse used is attracting foreign investment.
Some resistance of Hondurans and solidarity actions with Honduras
The Santa Barbara Environmentalist Movement made a declaration expressing concern about the current government’s policy to continue handing over and concessioning territories and natural and common goods to transnational capital and private companies, often with support and sometimes active promotion and representation for the companies by MPs and mayors and often with manipulation of open meetings. They asserted that not only do the companies destroy the environment but cause and bring displacement, impoverishment and misery to communities. Facing this, MAS opposed the mining and hydroelectric companies in their communities in El Nispero, Zacapa, Petoa, Atima, and others, as well as against the privatisation of the Nispero state hydroelectricity plant.
OFRANEH, on the month of Afro-descendence heritage celebrations, made a declaration outlining how this month is whitewashing by the Honduran state to claim they are interested in Afro-descendent culture and welfare when this celebration began by the state at the same time as policies that facilitated the stealing of their community lands, when this population as well as the indigenous are excluded in Honduras while those with power in the country are descendents of European and Arabic and jewish backgrounds. As such they took this occasion to speak up against the assaults against their land, culture and language, spoke up against being put to dance and celebrate by the government when the one thing worth celebrating are the Garífuna communities that are in resistancein defence of their territorial and cultural rights, and against being domesticated and bannished again from their lands and territories.
The Network of Christian communities for Peace and Justice expressed their solidarity with the team of Radio Progreso and ERIC and the Jesuit congregation with the recent assassination of their staff Carlos Mejía Orellana
Magdalena Morales, a human rights defender and lawyer for farmers in land struggle – the General Secretary of CNTC farm workers’ federation, who was arrested and charged arbitrarily, is now at least having the charges absolved provisionally against her. She accompanies the communities in Agua Blanca Sur who reclaim the land wrongly occupied by sugar company Azunosa.
The campesina articulation alliance and la Via Campesina inaugurated an Agrarian Campesino Observatory, where a network is formed of journalists strengthening the farmers movement. The journalists – especially young farmers, receive training on popular communication, to become spokes persons of their organisations and learn to use new technologies that they have been excluded from. They are from Anach, Adroh, CNTC, Codimca, UCIH, Carpal, Muca, Frenajuc from the north, centre and south regions of Honduras – each youth in charge of a region is given a computer, internet modem, and usb memory to assist with this work.
Similarly, RAPCOS was formed – of over 45 jouralists in the Bajo Aguan region – standing for network of alerts and protectio to journalists. They also analysed the situation of freedom of expression – an universal right – in the region. They highlighted including of how the recently approved Ley de Secretos Oficiales violates the right to be informed and to inform.They also spoke of plans to speak in high schools about the right to freedom of expression.
In the capital city a protest was organised by women in front of the Presidential House, demanding an end to homocides, illusttrating their demands placing a large number of coffins for the public to see, as well as black body bags tied up. They highlighted that in 2013 there were 636 violent deaths against women registered, all remaining in impunity.
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo Extractivo Minero sent a statement expressing solidarity and joy with the mobilisation of 50 communities organised that achieved the declaration of El Negrito as the first municipality of Honduras free of mining exploitation.
- On 23/3/14, the Association of Returned Migrants with Disabilities AMIREDIS – of Honduran immigrants, visited Guatemala city – was a group of 16 Hondurans aged 29-50 from El Progreso,Yoro – they visited about migrants rights – they had accidents in Mexico on their attempt to get to the US, only to return to Honduras with legs or arms amputated on the dangerous journey. They said they will visit everywhere, all over Central America about the dangerous conditions they were under in search of employment and better life conditions. This journey means for many of them to ‘confront the places and memories of their encounter with the Beast – the train in Mexico. This group began in 2006, at which time was motivated by a movement of women with disappeared relatives in Mexico.. Their demands to Honduran authorities are for immigrants to be protected, for the persecution to stop, and for possibilities to have employment and salary – so partly the tour is to show how they are neglected and excluded. . Many more couldn’t come including of MOCSAN, not being able to afford the trip. They tell their stories, and contextualise their lives and pressures and dreams
Prominent Honduran human rights activist Bertha Oliva of Cofadeh (Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras) was invited by Canadian organisations where she visited and spoke in many meetings at universities and the human rights, Honduras solidarity, church and environmental organisations and the Canadian parliament about the human rights situation in Honduras over one week.
March 2014 – more murders, machete stabbings against activist family, many organisations almost closed down..
Known political persecution cases in March 2014
Summary of political killings in March 2014
Organised farmers Alma Yaneth Díaz Ortega and Uva Erlinda Castellanos Vijil were assassinated by hitmen on 27/3/14
Son of organised farmers leader, who is a local court judge, Lenin Casteñeda was killed by hitmen on 14/3/14
Lawyer and resistance activist José Nicolás Bernárdez, was killed by hitmen on 14/3/14
An attempt and violent machete stabbing against three community activists of Rio Blanco that defend their territory from the imposition of hydroelectricity dam project Agua Zarca since 1/4/13
Near midday on 5/3/14, María Santos Domínguez was on her way home after preparing with others some school lunch for children, when at least five people who were hooded and armed with machetes and sticks who had hidden and waited for her ambushed her – with one of the aggressors Fausto Vásquez shouting, ‘this time we are going to take your life from you, india gran p…, not even Copinh will defend you. You are an agitator and now you are going to learn not to stick your nose into these things. Getting rid of you will be enough, that will end all this noise.’
Her spouse Roque calls her frequently to ensure she was okay because of constant death threats – so when he called for the 4th time this day and she answered, she told Roque she was surrounded, so Roque rushed off to look for her with their son Paulo (12). When they found María, she already had deep machete wounds on her – they split her thumb first and went onto wound her head and chest, and the attackers, in an out-of-control state, were beating her with sticks and stones. Roque tried talking with them, asking them not to kill his spouse, and when little Paulo ran to his mum’s side to help her, one of the attackers slashed the machete at this little child, slicing off his right ear and part of his face. They also attacked Roque, wounding him in the head and body and almost cutting off his hand. The three managed to escape and ran to find help, all three were left gravely wounded. Only one of these attackers was detained despite the complaints.
María, Roque and Paulo are community activists. María is the coordinator of the Rio Blanco and northern Intibucá indigenous council. They have received constant death threats and aggression for their active resistance. The attackers, some who previously destroyed the crops of María and Roque’s family, are sympathisers of the Agua Zarca hydroelectricity projects. María’s brother Tomás García was assassinated by the army on 15/7/13, as the community mobilised, without any weapons, towards the dam site. Soon after this, she appeared on a video shared on social media, saying that she will defend the river with her life too, that if they killed her, it would be a matter of pride for her to give her life to this struggle.
See the pictures of María, Roque and Paulo following the attack on this article: http://www.rel-uita.org/index.php/es/derechos-humanos/item/4490-ni-balas-ni-machetes-detendran-nuestra-lucha-por-el-agua-y-la-tierra
Two organised farming women assassinated, a farmer’s activist persecuted by army, and another attempted against by hitmen
On 27/3/14, at 7.30am, Alma Yaneth Díaz Ortega (46) and Uva Erlinda Castellanos Vijil (48) were assassinated as they were coming home after a day of work on the land – they are members of Empresa Asociativa Campesina Bella Vista at the Bella Vista village, in Pimienta, Cortes. They were assassinated for reclaiming their right to the possession of land that the agrarian department had granted them.
On 29/3/14, around 6.30pm, as José David Ramírez was returning after visiting his grandmother who lives in the Lempira community and as he stopped to talk with some friends outside a home in this community, hooded soldiers with black balaclavas jumped off a patrol threatening the three youths. Minutes later, a soldier shot the gun against José but missed him and he left running to hide inside the Lempira settlement farm around Tocoa, 12 hooded soldiers hopped on the police patrol and 4 motorcycles to chase him. When they couldn’t get him, they forced his friend nicknamed ‘Mel’ onto the patrol and made him take them to José’s home – luckily nobody was inside – the soldiers kicked the door down and found that. His dad Raúl Ramírez said that they had to change homes months ago already due to persecution. Raúl is the treasurer of the farmers’ movement MUCA. Just the day before this attack, farmers organisations met with police lawyer Vegas, traffic police head Rojas and DGIC investigator Alemán, about supposeably ending persecution in Aguán.
(Exact date unknown at time of compilation) Miguel Sánchez was attempted against, shot with 6 AK47 bullets, at the farmers cooperative San Miguel Arcángel of farmers movement ECARLON in Urraco Pueblo in Progreso Yoro. He was left in a grave state.
Judicial persecution against human and land rights defenders
On 8/3/14, lawyer, human rights and land rights defender Marleny Cruz was arrested by police and taken to the Pavana police station, transferred to the San Pedro Sula police station 24 hours later where she was charged with usurpation, aggravated robbery and damages ‘in prejudice of’ CAHSA sugar company and against DNIC state investigative agents José Zacapa, José Rodríguez, Cristhian Alemán, and Edgar Aguilar – the charges are based on having allegedly participated in the lands occupation and of instructing farmers of San Manuel Cortés (MOCSAM) to attack a group of DNIC agents. It was until 2pm, 11/3/14 that she was finally released with the bail conditions, of signing at the court every 15 days and to not to go near the plantations.
Who is Marleny and what motivated this detention and charges? She accompanies and gives legal support to MOCSAM farmers’ territorial struggles against the sugar companies CAHSA and Azunosa, and is the legal representative/advisor for MARCA and MUCA. In May 2013, Marleny went to collect testimonies from victims – MOCSAN members began recovering land that the state had granted them since the sugar companies were exploiting the land without permission, but as they reclaimed the land farmers were subject to an armed attack by Azunosa and CAHSA guards. In this attack, farmer Valentín Avelar was killed and Celso Ruíz wounded and died in hospital, and others were wounded. Marleny also worked closely with Antonio Trejo in cases of detention and repression against farmers of Aguan including MARCA, until Antonio was assassinated on 22/9/12 – she followed up on the cases Antonio was working on after he died – for which we were surprised now with a capture order dated June 2013 for her work on these cases. Marleny also works as a primary school teacher in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa, and as a private lawyer, and has worked a lot voluntarily with human rights organisation CODEH as well.
Others mentioned to be under judicial persecution:
Human rights defender of farmers Duni Ortiz, Ricardo Domínguez a farmers leader in Valle de Sula, and at least 4000 other farmers around Honduras.
Close call – cancelling and uncancelling of legal status of over 5000 NGOs
On 7/3/14 civil organisations expressed outrage, as the Honduran Executive Department ordered the cancellation of the legal status and subsequent closure of 5429 NGOs – the list was published in La Gaceta #33367 of 28/8/14 amongst which were many organisations that criticise current and past regimes. It began with the Unit of Registry and Monitoring of Civil Associations URSAC which gave the pretext – proven to be made up – that the listed NGOs did not comply with the provision of financial reports and activities of inscription of the directive committee by the due dates.
It was until 14/3/14 that the human rights and governance minister Chang Castillo apologised publicly, said it was a mistake, that the cancellations will not go ahead, promising to modernise computer equipment and staff training and dismissing URSAC director Jorge Montes. That it was a decision made to close organisations critical of the JOH regime would not be admitted to. Already, there has been a series of such decrees to this policy – Maduro’s decree 700-A-2003 to regulate, control and monitor the funds of civil association that they suspect financed the mobilisations that demanded rights in the context of growing mobilisations, and the 2011 Ley Especial para el Fomento de las Organizaciones No Gubernamentales de Desarrollo, to the same intent.
The almost made illegal organisations include: Centre of Women’s Studies Honduras,
‘Las Hormigas’ Intibucá Women’s Union, C-Libre,, Centre for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights Defence in Honduras, National Network of Defenders in Honduras, Women’s Network of Colonia Ramón Amaya Amador, Centre of Studies and Action for Development in Honduras, the San Pedro Gay Community, Colonia López Arellano Women’s Movement, Ecumenical Institute of Community Service, Colectivo Color Rosa, and many others…
Two lawyers assassinated on one day, one is son of a MUCA founder, the other a resistance activist
On 14/3/14, in Tocoa, Colón, hitmen on a pickup truck assassinated Lenin Casteñeda (32) with at least 6 gunshots, outside the door at Lenin’s home as he was going home from work around 9.30am. As well as the son of Adolfo Castañeda, one of the founders of MUCA farmers movement, he is also a local court judge in the Iriona municipality. Adolfo said over a year ago he received a threat of killing who he loves most. Adolfo holds the landowners of the region responsible, as well as with the complicity of militarisations and the investigation teams and disarmament decree that have allowed the continued impunity.
Also on 14/3/14, In San Pedro Sula, hitmen on motorcycles sprayed with bullets and murdered lawyer and resistance activist José Nicolás Bernárdez while he was driving his van in the morning. José is also an ex pre-candidate for the Libre party, and a previous UD party member.
Killing and violence/torture by army and police
On 12/3/14, student Erland Misael Carías Moncada (24) was supposebly on a motorcycle driving through a military and police checkpoint, when they told him to stop and he didn’t, soldiers shot and killed him. The excuse they gave was that they confused him as a member of the ‘Los Espinoza’ gang – San Luis and Esquias communities are under siege and living in tension and fear without freedom of movement, by both the Los Espinoza, as well as by military and police operations.
Another accused of passing a checkpoing and not stopping by police, was priest Bonifacio Alvarado, on 24/3/14, at 10.30am. When he passed a police patrol vehicle, Guarita police suddenly turned around followed him and shot at least 15 shots at him, when he stopped and asked why they were following, they screamed, ‘get off, get off! – then pulled him out of the car, beat him up, had his face hooded for an hour with no justification, and handcuffed and tortured him. His shirt and pants were torn. They asked for the bag of church collection money and told him he will have to answer to prosecutors for it although there were just small coins there. They put the head of the gun in his mouth and said ‘you are a drug trafficker’. Bonifacio is the parish priest of Tomalá, Lempira. Police claims the patrol was a checkpoint and that the police response was justified, for not having stopped.
NEWS SHORTS FROM MARCH 2014
Rising femicides – women’s bodies…
This International Women’s Day, feminist organisations highlighted that femicides continue to go up in Honduras, 606 in 2012, and 632 in 2013. On the other hand, through feminist advocacy, a bill is currently put to lift the prohibition of the morning after pill.
Canadian congress chambers debating Canada Honduras FTA
While this FTA is under debate since the collateral agreement was signed on 5/11/13, advocates highlight that the FTA if not cancelled will increase exploitation, militarisation and repression in Honduras – apart from facilitating notorious Canadian companies like Goldcorp that caused skin diseases in families of Valle de Siria, Gildan that violates workers rights, and investors in tourism that displace communities, that the approved Mining Law that Canadian government provided consultancy to shaping has mining companies paying 2% towards security forces of Honduras, towards the militarisation and repression.
JOH militarises municipalities where model cities will be built. The regime is installing security groupings called ‘Fusinas’ to 45 municipalities of Choluteca and Valle, in the name of reducing insecurity, and saying they want to do this everywhere.
New national human rights commissioner the ombudsman on the side of transnationals. Roberto Herrera Caceres was the selected candidate in this controversial process to determine the commissioner for 2014-2019, after having coup supporting Ramón Custodio for the last 5 years, having many assassinations remaining in impunity. Roberto Herrera Caceres has a history of supporting mining processes in Honduras without free, dued, prior and informed consultation and consent, including having granted the British Gas petrol concession without consulting the Misquitia indigenous people – thanks to him, British Gas formalised just now in a special ceremony at the Presidential House its incorporation into the Initiative for Transparency of the Extractive Industries of Honduras.
Aguan Agrarian Platform calls for eyes on new the investigation process
As the prosecutors team arrive in Aguan, where over 115 farmers have been assassinated, the Aguan Agraian Platform demanded transparency in this investigation process, and highlighted root causes of conditions being concentration of land and land grabbing, monocrop expansion by transnational companies, state criminalisation (and persecution/complicity with) of farmers struggle, and spoke up about intentions of the courts to evict MARCA farmers of Trinidad and Despertar who won their land in court until that was reversed – the courts also in complicity with landowners condemned to 17 years and 6 months in jail, and how 7000 hectares of land still need to be handed over according to the April 2010 agreement with MUCA. Point being there is no trusting the regime in this investigation neither.
One of the few police judicially processed for repression are getting away with it. San Pedro Court of Appeals resolved to dismiss the case against police Hector Ivan Mejia Velasquez and Daniel Omar Matamoros Avila who were accused of violating functionaries’ duties, illegal detention, serious damages and injury, against Napoleón Ernesto Bardales, Radio Uno, Ribin Pavel Núñez, the band Café Guancasco and 38 people illegally detained. Police brutally repressed under the command of Mejía and Matamoros, a mobilisation in 2010, including destroying Cafe Guancasco’s music equipment.
Some of the dirt on model cities ideologist Klugman. Accusations against Klugman include – promoting assassinations of bus drivers in Guatemala as part of terror campaign to get Pérez Molina elected on iron fist platform. That the just finished Lobo government also used Klugman as advisor for his electoral campaign back in 2009 – reflecting on tone chosen by the party then that if iron fist were not used, insecurity and chaos would result, and also in its campaigns to call opposition candidates ‘communists’. A Guatemalan Paper confirmed that Klugman wrote speeches for Reagon.
Pay up, Standard Fruit – Standard Fruit Company Subsidiary ASISA did not pay the $2 million it owed to EACI Empresa Asociativa Campesina de Isletas EACI cooperative. This amount was ordered by the court in March 2014.
Solidarity actions in Honduras in March 2014
Radio Progreso and ERIC shared this story – that they were surprised by a group of families from a nearby rural community, who showed up at the community where the broadcasting took place, inviting them, and everyone else around – dozens of people, to share with them a bowl of beans soup,with plantain, cassava, pieces of meat and sausages complete with chile and some cool tamarind juice. It was declicious and energised everyone. They called it a ‘frijolada’, and was organised by some families that met the day before and decided that part of their community harvest would be to make a community meal to share with whoever needs a plate of food instead of selling the surplus, in dissent against market logics – to instead, in spirit of friendship and solidarity, define the richness of life with life and sharing, from these families who live materially simple lives. They did this in memory of Father Romero on the 34th anniversary of his martyrdom, and as a commitment to fight for the freedom of political prisoner and farmer activist Chabelo – they have a photo of him on a banner on the tent they used to give away food.
Villagers in Nispero communities in Santa Barbara occupied from 24/3/14 a highway towards the open pit zinc mine near the Santa Cruz Village, demanding the company and the Mayor Leiva to leave. Enough is enough – the pollution is giving people respiratory illnesses, and destroying Quitaganas mountains where coffee, corn, beans and tule used to grow. The mine is also causing the privatisation of a government hydroelectricity plant there that the community is trying to prevent.
El Negrito villagers also protested against mining and logging of trees in the natural reserves in their communities that would put their lives at risk.
On International Women’s Day,while
- farming women mobilised demanding land rights and integral development and the immediate approval of the Ley de Transformacion Agraria, as well as for the immediate end to violence and threats against farmers communities by landowners,
- Tribuna de Mujeres Contra los Femicidios made demands to stop rising femicides, they said, with 636 femicides in 2013, ‘our body is our territory, it belongs to us, not to the church, nor to the state, nor to the men, we have the right to decide over our own body. We speak up that, still, in Honduras, us women do not have the right to use Morning After Pills; that abortion is criminalised and that women are constantly abused in the streets, in the universities, and in the work places. As long as our autonomy is not respected, neither the state nor the society can speak of democracy nor security.’
- The feminist movement in Honduras held a forum analysing the high femicide rates
Organisations of civil society in Honduras OSC-H published an open letter expression their opposition to the reselection of Ramon Custodio as the new Human Rights Commissioner in Honduras for 2014-2019 – he was around including during the time of the coup when lots of people were assassinated by state security bodies and these were left in impunity.
The coalition against impunity published an open letter against the then imminent cancelation of the legal status of 5429 NGOs in Honduras including a number that belong to this coalition.
The Plataforma Agraria Regional del Valle del Aguán made a public statement about the need for a real agrarian reform that redistributes land, demanded the regime’s compliance with the agreement signed in MUCA in April 2010 for which it still needs to pass over 7000 hectares of land and carry out promised social projects, and spoke up against the bad intentions of the judicial system to evict MARCA farmers of Despertar and Trinidad cooperatives. It condemned the complicity of prosecutors and judges with the landowners, such as in the case of Chabelo who after having been kept already for 5 years without a sentence, is now sentenced to 17 and a half years for a murder he did not commit. It condemned the state policy to criminalise, persecute and assassinate farmers leaders and peopleclose to them. It asked everyone to remain alert, and demanded the investigation being carried out to be transparent
Conversations were held at the end of March at Casa de los Pueblos about opposing model cities in the religious Suyapa village in Tegucigalpa
Via Campesina is launching campaigns in support of villagers of San Francisco de Opalaca and their autonomous municipality government, where they have occupied the council and suffered an assesination as a backlash against the community resistance. The campaigns come in the form of – a press conference, information diffusion, to run an international campaign to provide social, economical and political support, projects with support from La Via Campesina towards agricultural production and training for youths and women of Opalaca, putting together a team of sociologists, economists, technicians, and lawyers to carry out a study and to see how to make development projects for the communities, and to organise a collection of clothes and goods for the Opalaca community villagers.
Via Campsina women’s commission, met with representatives of the farmers organisations ANACH, CNTC, CODIMCA, UCIH, ADCP, MOCSAM and MUCA, and with INA authorities, about the situation of farming women. Issues highlighted included that land is far less given to women than men although they contribute to 70% of food production in Honduras. They formed a committee, and demanded INA to reform article 79 of agricultural modernisation law which says that where the woman has applied for a land title, it will be granted in the name of her partner, for INA’s Women Unit to play a role of ensuring women have access to the ruiral development projects, for INA to look for ways to improve farming/indigenous/garifuna women’s access to land, for INA to elaborate a budget with gender concerns to assign resources accordingly.
Santa Barbara held an environmentalist festival called ‘¡Asi es!’ over a weekend with gala, joy, and comradeship.. organised by Movimiento Ambientalista Santabarbarense MAS. There was theatre, poetry, with youths, and lots of typical dishes like tamales and coffee and chilate with pumpkin with honey, and a succulent lunch. The acts opened with an indigenous spiritualist ritual. Two STENEE compas gave an exposition there with information about how the company’s destructive plans with the state El Nispero hydroelectricity dam selling out. They spoke of how the mayor Pablo Leiva who is of Libre today is aligned with the mining company that destroys the mountains and soil there, and that similarly the MP who is Libre today, Dennys Antonio Sanchez Fernandez, voted in favour in congress for the damaging Mining Law that Lobo and JOH promoted.
International human rights organisations sent a letter speaking up against the human rights violations against the political prisioner José Isabel ‘Chabelo’ Morales. They called for his immediate freedom. They accused the Trujillo prosecutor José Reynaldo Canales, the judges of Trujillo and Ceiba – Carol Jacqueline Ortega, Luis Alberto Juárez, Ricardo Geovany Rodríguez, the La Ceiba Appeals Court judges – Dilia Iracema Guillén, Garin Enoc Urquía, Rubenia Esperanza Galeano, and Police subcommissioner of Olancho Henry Osorto Canales – who gave threats, intimidation and abused his authority as a police. They demanded complete investigation of human rights violations against Chabelo, and against his family and community. They called for all military, police and security aid to be cut, since they – especially from USAID towards Honduran police, feed the human rights violations in Honduras.
February 2014 longer news update
Cases of known political persecution in February 2014
At San Francisco de Opalaca: where a community, at the council level, refused to accept nor the electoral fraud, nor the continuation of a council mayor Socorro Manueles and team who had for four years been behind miners and the selling of natural resources. The community said, no more, we did not vote for you, and occupied the council building, and on 15/2/14, held a taking of possession act of the council team the indigenous community knows it voted for.
On 6/2/14, on its 13th day of occupation, the following threats were reported:
–Judicial threats in the form of charges, against Entimo Vásquez (legitimate mayor), Oneyda Elizabeth Mendoza (councillor), Albertina Manueles Pérez (indigenous journalist and Radio Progreso correspondent), Damacio Gutiérrez (UTC member), Danilo Gómez Rodriguez (UCIH-Via Campesina member), Santiago Dimas Bautista (councillor and copinh member), Carlos Lorenzo (ADROH secretary general)
–Death threats against Pascualita Vásquez (cultural coordinator of Copinh Coordinator and of elders council), Berta Cáceres Flores (general coordinator of Copinh), and against municipal leaders of Copinh in San Francisco Opalaca: Magin Manueles (Zapotillo), Santiago Dimas Bautista (Plan de Barrios), and Juan Vásquez Vásquez (Lagitas)
–Eviction threats – against the community on their own ancestral territory for which they hold community land titles under Convention 169.
On 9/2/14 in the midnight hours, Marta Vásquez and her family had their home raided and family belongings taken and burned including clothes, shoes, uniforms, diplomas, stationery. Marta is the daughter of the should-be-mayor Entimo Vásquez. Just 7 days before, Justiniano Vásquez and his family were subject to a similar act. Justiniano is brother of Entimo. This was reported on 10/2/14 by Rene Altamirano of Libre that these acts were carried out by Hugo Sanches, a cousin of the fraudulent mayor who was sworn in by TSE electoral commission – Socorro Manueles.
On 21/2/14, Justiniano Vázquez, whose family home was raided and belongings burnt, was assassinated – his body was found near a small gorge of El Jengibral near the centre of Monte Verde of Opalaca, with stab wounds, signs of having had hands tied. He is a member of Libre party. Someone called Juan Rodríguez was reported to be captured and held as a suspect – he had previously threatened both Justiniano and Entimo. Juan Rodríguez belongs to a group called Mancha Brava Nacionalista. The community points to Socorro Sanchez as the intellectual author of the assassination. Justiniano leaves behind spouse Eladia Lemuz Pérez. Four days before his murder, a commission of human rights, justice, governance and decentralisation departments of Honduras government visited and instead of trying to help resolve complaints, they ‘expressed empty and inconsistent arguments to not undertake an administrative, legal and integral audit and even gave threats of suing community leaders for sedition.
Indigenous Organiser assassinated
On 16/2/14, Pedro Pérez was assassinated – shot in the head with a 9mm weapon by Fausto Chavarría, left in a comma and died on 18/2/13 in Hospital Escuela. Pedro is a directive member of Las Minitas lenca community indigenous council, and a member of Coordinadora Indigena del Poder Popular de Honduras. His killer Fausto has for months been sowing terror in the Minitas community where business people plan to build a hydroelectric dam that would privatise the river. Fausto also threatened another activist 3 months ago, against Luis Martinez, coordinator of Las Minitas Indigenous Council. Fausto was often around with the Tegucigalpa police Jorge Chavarría who carried heavy weapons and has complaints filed against him.
Courts standing by sugar company Azunosa of SABMiller to attack/evict farmers
Farmers organised under ADCP and CNTC that began a land recovery process in May 2012 following an agrarian department decision to expropriate Azunosa as illegal occupiers of 3644 hectares – since they are in excess of legal land ownership limits, are now exposed to imminent eviction because of a Supreme Court decision in December 2013 to revoke the expropriation order issued in May 2012. Even before this the families have suffered a lot, including 4 violent evictions, a lot of harrassment, threats, destruction of hundreds of hectares cultivated with basic grains, and 108 farmers charged.
Rio Blanco: a charge dropped, but three others remain. Rio Blanco is the site of a blockade against an unwanted company dam, the blockade began on 1/4/13. Copinh – an indigenous organisation that accompanied (but not led) this struggle has been subject to judicial persecution.
The dropped charge is for supposed ‘illegal possession of firearms in prejudice of the internal security of the Honduran State’ against Copinh coordinator Berta Caceres. The ongoing charges are from the company DESA together with the prosecutors, of ‘coercion, usurpation, and continued damages’, they are against Berta Caceres, Aureliano Molina and Tomás Gómez. These are appealed also.
Persecution against defender of Valle de Siria
Valle de Siria has a community that has fought against an open-pit gold mine, and that continues to suffer health and skin conditions caused by the mine.
In February, Carlos Amador Alemán has been followed by two vehicles –a white double cabin pick-up and a grey van, that parks in front of the channel and stays there 40-50 minutes, and on four occasions, they were there just minutes before Carlos enters the channel. He observed that nobody gets out of these vehicles. In December 2013, he was followed by a motorcycle driver of a black motorcycle without numberplate, he did not react but this was repeated several times. In 2011, he was unfairly sued together with 17 others for defending the right to drinking water for the people of Valle de Siria. Who is Carlos? He is a human rights defender and community journalist – he is the director of two news spaces on radio and tv – ‘Linea directa con el pueblo’ (Sat and Sun) and ‘Contacto con la Noticia’ (Mon-Fri news program at Porvenir). He is also an environmentalist, primary school teacher and the current secretary of the Valle de Siria Environmentalist Committee, and a member of Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo Extractivo Minero.
Expulsions against uni students announced at UNAH
On 20/2/14, Ayax Irías – Vice Director of orientation and students affairs of UNAH, announced to the press that processes have begun to expel students of UNAH and especially against members of Movimiento Amplio Universitario MAU and some independent students. This is an act of criminalising protest – the students held an assembly demanding an extension for the date fees have to be paid – because it was changed from 21 to 10 days arbitrarily without informing students. Students mobilised to the director’s building to demand a hearing with the director Julieta Castellano.
Case of political prisoner Chabelo – organised farmers – now ruled ‘guilty’ for murder
Chabelo, José Isabel Morales, was held already for 5 years and two months, when on 7/2/14, he was ruled guilty in court, sentenced to 17.5 years of jail. This is despite the case having relied only on a few testimonies – from witnesses who kept changing the important details of their stories, which should make the evidence unreliable – but the Trujillo Sentencing Court doesn’t think so.
Chabelo is accused of homicide against Carlos Manrique Sorto Castillo in 2008; Carlos died with gunshot wounds. Chabelo is an organised farmer of Movimiento Campesino de Aguan MCA, based in Guadalupe Carney in Trujillo. Carlos Manrique Sorto is a cousin of the influential police subcomissioner and landowner Henry Sorto – who was involved in a land conflict with MCA. Where Carlos was shot, a fire was set, and 11 died, all relatives of Henry Sorto.
Despite being a complex and messy case with lots of participants, the crime scene was only closed off 24 hours after the act, prosecution only arrived on the scene three days after the acts, and only carried out two days of investigation. And they did not start at the crime scene, they went to the Agrarian Department office INA to get a list of committee directives of farmers cooperatives registered in the last year, and took these as names of suspects and then went to look for anything to use as supporting evidence. Their investigation involved having 300 photos of suspects and showing them to a witness who did not have the capacity to recognise anyone, given that he had a bullet through his lung that was filled with blood, that was in turn filling the brain with blood and not oxygen and making him faint. In this state, the witness ‘recognised’ 32 people and attributed each to a particular crime. For killing Carlos Manrique Sorto he first accused Carlos Armando Ruíz who couldn’t have done it because he is from Poncaya mountain in Olancho, that is not only far away, but he hadn’t left it, and had never been to these parts of Aguan. He then accused someone else who couldn’t have because he was in prison for a year at the time. Then he pointed to Chabelo as the person who took the lids of the petrol tanks of some cars to set on fire. Another witness said he was a kilometre away and saw Chabelo – who he described as dark-skinned, short, and solid (when Chabelo is actually tall and gets called ‘chele’ by people for his whiter skin) – and said ‘Chabelo’ left the place with an AK47, when in 2010 he said it was a machete; each time he gave a testimony whether to an investigator or prosecutor, the story changed. Henry Sorto was another who changed his story; initially he declared that when his nephew Manrique was dying, he did not know of the participation of Chabelo. But on the second time, he said that his nephew exclaimed that ‘the one who shot me was José Isabel Morales and he wants you to hear how he kills me’, he also said that he talked on telephone with Chabelo. Prosecutors did no other investigation. It was on this that Chabelo was ruled guilty of causing the death of Carlos Manrique Sorto.
As well as having been locked up for 5 years without sentence when the legal limit is 2 years, he was constantly denied dued process. Chabelo lost an eye, had his tongue broken, lost his teeth, while undertaking cleaning duties at the Porvenir prison. While in prison, his dad and a daughter of his died, and he was not allowed to go to the burials. It has been really hard on the family, hoping and waiting over the five years, and Chabelo never being given a real opportunity to demonstrate his innocence. As the hearing took place, he received threats of harms to his family if he were freed.
There has been support and solidarity from many corners of Honduras and of the world. There is an appeal for the Supreme Court to respond to. And while Chabelo’s brother said, ‘this system does not allow for the defence of farmers and working class people who struggle for land’, Chabelo was the one to reassure his brother, ‘don’t worry brother, we are going to get out of this, the struggle has not finished’, when the guilty verdict was dropped on them.
In Bajo Aguan more than 100 farmers have lost their lives in the last 4 years through the land struggle.
Medical negligence against a human rights journalist
On 13/2/14 in the midnight hours, journalist Francisco Rodríguez Enamorado – known as Chico or FRE, died in the hospital Hondureño de Seguridad Social IHSS. Initially he was taken to hospital with a hypertension crisis – but they barely gave him treatment and sent him home instead of keeping him in observation. When his condition got complicated, his family decided to pay and take him to a private clinic where they gave a grave diagnosis and suggested for him to be transferred back to IHSS emergency where there is better equipment and adequate staff – but he died shortly after going back to IHSS. Over 25 years, Chico always covered human rights violations and gave coverage to critiquing political parties, economic groups, international and local mafias, churches and ex governors. He worked for Diario Tiempo. He always had human sensitivity as he carried out his journalistic work. Tiempo stopped paying employers contributions to the journalists pension/health fund a while ago so today him and his family do not have access to the health insurance or funeral expenses they should be entitled to.
Other news this month
The Climate Change Law : biofuels and REDD projects.
The month before, a market-based Climate Change Law was passed by the Honduran congress alongside lots of other legislations. It was market-based in that:
Article 33 propels the use of direct vegetable oil, comissions the Forest Conservation Department ICF and Council of protected areas CONAP to create strategies towards increasing production of vegetable oil – so this article is about promoting the biofuels industry to have more on market vegetable-based energy than coal-based and ultimately relies on african palm expansion in Aguan and everywhere. Already today, there are 4 hectares of African palm for every hectare of wetlands in Honduras, such palm expansion will put wetlands further at risk and increase Honduras’ vulnerability to climate change, not to mention the human rights violations it has already caused.
Article 12c promotes the ‘national strategy of adaptation and mitigation in climate change’ – which sounds good, but then it outlines only market based mechanisms such as CDM (clean development mechanisms) and REDD+ projects and similar forms of environmental compensations for conserving natural resources in Honduras. They are all false solutions that allow industrialised countries to keep polluting, while changing hands (from communities to companies) of control of tropical forests. Policy is that consent and consultation needs to be prior, informed and free – but this is always policy and rarely practiced by Honduran authorities. There are already lots of damaging CDM projects in place in Honduras promoting palm, hydroelectricity (lots of dam concessions were given out in the last 4 years) and other industries over communities’ lives, livelihood, self-determination and destroying the environment. As for REDD+ Honduras is at a preparation not implementation stage so the impact is still to hit if it is not stopped. There are lots of horror stories where it is implemented, eg Sengwer of Kenya, in the Cherengany mountains, is at a point of being evicted with support of World Bank funding REDD preparation strategy – just now, in end January 2014, over 1000 Sengwer homes were burnt down by Forestal Service officers and military police units in the name of preserving forests. The same World Bank financed and promoted a Property Law in Honduras that waters down community land titles to give way to such projects. The Kenyan REDD+ evictions are likely to be replicated in Honduras given the state of impunity that exists – and is likely to start in these places: Montaña de la Flor, La Moskitia, Lenca forests, etc.
Honduras itself, amongst the most vulnerable to climate change, has just started petrol exploration on Moskitia, that is likely to destroy the Mesoamerican reef system. Other concessions still to be announced.
Korean company POSCO had begun feasibility studies and planning to build the first model city in Choluteca, Honduras
Around the table brewing this neocolonial plan over two hours one day in February, was: the new defacto president of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez, the mayors and parliamentarians of the provinces Choluteca and Valle, conservative model cities ideologist Mark Klugman, and the guests – South Korean Ambassador Kim Rai-Hyug, and members of Koica (South Korean Development Agency) and South Korean investors including the company POSCO that has signed in 2011 a memorandum of understanding with the Lobo regime towards the building of model cities in Honduras.
What are model cities again and how it came up in Honduras
There are cities where companies can do what they want, in impunity – so they are deregulated and states are complicit and companies do already everywhere in the world have more say in our parliaments about what laws are passed than the people ever do. Model cities are going the extra step and actually saying, actually, forget pretences, let the companies have and run part of the country officially. It involves carving out boundaries and letting them create for those parts of the country, its own tax and tax collection system, judicial system and law set, budget and planning.
When passed initially, model cities were called Regiones Especiales para el Desarrollo (special development regions), today they are called Zonas de Empleo y Desarrollo Económico (employment and economic development zones). The name change came about when RED was declared unconstitutional by the 4 of 5 judges of the Constitutional Court of Honduras in October 2012, and then soon after, these 4 judges were dismissed, and then in June 2013, ZEDE was passed. Changes beyond name and cosmetics in ZEDE is unlikely (little information is publicly available for examination), it seems to be the same model cities resucitated. ZEDE is questioned including by the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which on 4/2/14 examined the Honduran report and situation and expressed concern, and especially about the state’s intention on submitting Garífuna (afrodescendent) territories to foreign investment, and also about the Honduran state’s appalling track record in disrespecting indigenous communities’ right to consent/consultation that is prior, informed and free. Leaders of social organisations such as indigenous organisation Copinh have, as they had in the past, placed charges of that ZEDEs, like REDs, are unconstitutional, given that they violate sovereignty, and slices Honduras and dishes it out on sale to a wide range of investors and companies.
Who is selling the idea and how
Executive Secretary of Council of Ministers Ebal Diaz said it is about turning Honduras into a pole of national development in Latin America and creating a globally competitive space, to attract investment, selling it as jobs and economic growth, and even daring to say it will not rely on cheap labour, rather, security for companies – as if cheap labour weren’t part of that package. The government said it will create markets for medium, small and even micro companies, help towards fulfiling goals of Plan de Nacion, to making Honduras an investors’ paradise. Within the congress model cities are willingly supported even by Libre (supposed electoral arm of resistance) parliamentarian Bladimir Bonilla. There is a commission that will be a team of people overlooking the model cities process – it is mostly secret at the moment except that it includes the daughter of the now deceased ultraconservative Ronald Regan.
History of POSCO, the company that plans to build the model city
POSCO claims it will take ‘all the environmental precautions’. Daewoo companies – a subsidiary of POSCO – was in Madagascar when the people overthrew the Marc Ravalomanana regime around 2009 – before the overthrow, POSCO obtained from the Ravalomanana regime 1.3 million hectares for free for supposed agricultural use. Accusations of human rights violations are also in its record including as it was about to carry out a metal project in Odisha, India, 8 special rapporteurs of UN sought the project’s suspension due to human rights concerns
New team to investigate mass assassinations and human rights violations against farmers in Bajo Aguán – a response to pressure from human rights organisations? Or is it really a cover-up plan to whitewash?
A specialised unit’s creation was announced by general prosecutor Oscar Chinchilla to be made up of 4 teams that will include elite police officers, investigation analysts and personal assistants from the prosecutors department to investigate the assassinations and other abuses in Bajo Aguán. Recently Human Rights Watch denounced that Honduran authorities’ inaction there aggravate impunity, highlighting that nobody had been condemned in any case of the homocides, and only one case had made it to court, but was provisionally dismissed pending further evidence, but never restarted. This also came at a time when in October last year, when several prosecutors protested their salary conditions, they got transferred instead of having their demands met – amongst these was Edy Tabora, who was then sent to Bajo Aguán by himself – a highly dangerous job given the level of investment of big landowners getting their way using hitmen, security services and complicity with the authorities. He was sent without any technical or logistical support – not even a computer. He was pressured to accept it, and went, but ended up leaving the prosecutors, with inadequate support to carry out the work meaningfully. In contrast the announced new unit not only is well staffed and supplied, but Oscar Chinchillla promised that if 24 months is not enough, if whatever is assigned is not enough, extensions and increases in funding are available. To date, around 150 organised farmers had lost their lives due to attacks by security guards and paramilitary bodies at service to landowners of area – investigation and justice is overdue but it is uncertain what to expect from this unit.
Billy Joya will train a new team of 90 council police in Roatán. The Liberal Mayor just initiated this new force of 90 council police, to build police station, buy vehicles, weapons, certification, training, GPS system, buy boats, etc and is contracting as advisor/trainer Billy Joya – an ex member of the 3-16 death squad batallón accused of mass human rights violations. He would teach techniques of repression, counterinsurgency and torture methods. His claim is that he will convert the island into a ‘crime free zone’ within 12 months, and will implement the monitoring of exits and entries, camera technology and police response in attending to calls.
If you live or pass near a jail in Honduras, talking on telephone or catching internet around there is about to end. As a measure supposeabily to control crime coordination from inside prisons for which authorities say 40% of kidnapping and hitmenship involve such communications, the areas around 24 prisons around Honduras are about to lose telephone signals – something that will affect more than 500,000 people, and 13,000 inmates. This violates human rights on many levels and the impact for the affected will include econonimc, social and safety considerations.
A commissioner guest to the congress, who is not a parliamentarian sits on parliamentarians’ seats, presses the voting button on this chair and a chair next to that one twice, and when caught, resigned… His name is José Antonio Pineda. His position is as the commissioner of Coalianza – a government commission that promotes public private alliances. He was invited as what was being approved are public private investment projects – to share some words, but not to vote. However he voted, and the security guards, and others who saw him, did not stop him or remove him. All this is captured on video. Now he is sued for usurping parliamentarian functions.
Lots killed and either wrapped up or cut up in 2013. According to a report of UNAH Violence Observatory, in 2013, 181 of many more killed were either wrapped up – 133, in bedsheets or plastic bags, and – 48, were cut up. Most bodies found these ways were in Cortés or Francisco Morazán – the provinces where the biggest cities of Honduras are.
Some examples of resistance and solidarity in Honduras in Feb 2014
San Francisco de Opalaca continued in struggle throughout February against electoral fraude, locally. On the 13th day an assembly was held in Monte Verde with the elected council, elders council, indigenous municipal council and Copinh. They continued despite death threats and eviction threat, and continued demanding the full recognition of the elected council, that was on 6/2/14. On 15/2/14, they organised and held a taking of possession act.
With new alerts of mining companies starting exploitation in la Nueva Esperanza in the Tela province, the community organised a convergence accompanied by Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia and PROAH Honduras Accompaniment Project to hold the new mayor to his words of keeping mining companies out.
La Voz de los de Abajo accompanied Chabelo Morales and condemned the guilty verdict ruled against Chabelo based on distortions of evidence and outright fabrications of such with flippantly changing testimonies from witnesses.
Survivors and families of victims of assassinations related to the land conflict in Bajo Aguan gathered demanding an end to the impunity, with now 5 years of continuous assassinations and repression in these palm plantations. They publicly spoke up about the impunity and about the state complicity.
The charge against Berta Caceres of ‘illegal possession of firearms in prejudice of the state of Honduras’ got dismissed at last, with solidarity and pressure coming from different corners of Honduras and of the world. However, other charges against herself and also Aureliano and Tomás of Copinh continue.
On 14/2/2014, the 2 years anniversary of the fire of the Comayagua prison killing 362 people, the Comité de Familiares y Victimas del Penal de Comayagua organised a mobilisation in the centre of the Comayagua City mobilising towards the prison carrying photos of their loved ones and placards, demanding the truth, and demanding to have fulfilled promises to give medical and psychological attention to people locked up who are survivors of the fire as well as to relatives of those who died in the fire, and demanding to restructure the 24 prisons – to improve on the transition process, to improve the conditions and electrical wiring of the prisons.
Advocates made 14 new charges that model cities, now under the name of ZEDEs, are unconstitutional – by members of Plataforma del Movimiento Social y Popular and of Copinh.