April 2017 Honduras Coup update
Unionists held up, interrogated and threatened at highway intersection
On 15.4.17, melon workers unionists Moisés Sánchez and his brother Misael had left an union meeting and were running some union errands on bicycle before riding home when at a highway interception near the Los Balcanes finca they were surrounded by four hooded attackers armed with guns and machetes – with another two people keeping watch 60 metres away from them. Misael tried to approach one of the attackers and in the process he was swung at in the face with a machete – from which he was deeply wounded. He took advantage of that it was dark and managed to escape and seek help. The attackers had Moisés well identified saying he was in charge of all the movement and that he would pay if he kept going with it. They interrogated Moisés with many questions, wanting to know especially where he ‘kept all the information’. They snatched his bicycle and all his belongings and said, ‘you still haven’t handed me what is most needed, the phone where you have all the information. If you keep going in this you are going to suffer the consequences’. Moisés is the general secretary of a STAS Union of Workers of Agriculture and Similar Industries, and Misael is an affiliate of the same, both are workers for the company Melon Export. No bypassers driving through this intersection tried to find out what was happening and intervene or get help. The brothers live in the La Permuta neighbourhood, their community there responded immediately when they were told of the situation and over hundred people gathered to try to intervene and capture the attackers but they did not manage to, but at least the attackers did leave Moisés after 40 minutes of aggression and interrogation. Misael was on 17.4.17 discharged from hospital and continues to recover from the stab wound on his face. They continue in struggle and call out for solidarity and support.
They have been organising for many months fighting for collective bargaining, and to be paid entitlements such as minimal wage, overtime pay, prorata holidays, long service leave and social security contributions and fighting against dismissal of organised workers, long work days, unhygienic work conditions, lack of security, women being fired for pregnancy and the use of blacklists. They have for many months fought the Ireland transnational Fyffes for these abuses – the melon business was recently acquired by Japanese conglomerate Sumitom and things only look worse for the workers who are mostly women – many single mothers, and for the fight for better work rights with this escalation of repression.
Multiple operations of arrests against organised farmers
In Yorito, Yoro, on 12.4.17, at the early hour of 4.45am, police arrived at the village Las Lomitas and arrested organised farmers Manuel Reyes and Selvin Lozano. The police then went to the village Sabana San Pedro and arrested Olvin Velásquez, Roger Velásquez and Fredy Velásquez. All captures were executed without judicial capture orders. All five farmers are organised in the Campesina Unidos cooperative, and Olvin Velásquez is the president of the co-op. They were on 17.4.17 still detained without bail. They are being charged with usurpation of lands, for 418 hectares of land that the 156 families have had land title to since 1984 in the name of Manuel Colombino Mejía, Esteban Ramírez and Santa Inés Santulín. And the families had for over 10 years lived there and sown maíz and beans for the families’ subsistence there. They had faced a lot of repression in the last 6 months on these lands, including violent evictions by police and army on 1.10.16, 2.1.17 and 3.2.17 – the last being the most brutal with homes and crops destroyed and 8 farmers leaders arrested including Héctor Iván García, Jaime Adalid Castro, Otilio Mateo, Frandy Ávila, and Odilver Reyes. The farmers complain that they have been followed and given death threats by Wilder Omar Domínguez Fugon and his son Wilder Samuel Domínguez Sarmiento who drive around on a double cabin grey vehicle with numberplate DTL7730. State institutions of Land titles and Agrarian reform had disrespected the farmers legitimate land rights in giving land titles to business people. The arrested farmers and the families in the struggle are at high risk
Meanwhile, in Tutule, La Paz, a fourth alert came out on 29.4.17 that an arrested farmer, Carlos Jeovanny López Calix continued to be in custody, with the initial hearing scheduled for 4.5.17 at 11am. Carlos is a member of farmers cooperative 9 de julio de San Pedro, was captured in his home on 28.4.17, the capture order says ‘to proceed to raid his home with capture order, for usurpation of land property of Carlos Arriago.’ However during the hearing to declare not guilty/guilty to the charge, they added two more charges: attempts and death threats against Carlos Arriaga, Carlos Ivanovigch Rodriguez Maldonado and against police officers. There are another 8 members of 9 de julio farmers co-op, who, like Carlos, belong to the rural workers national federation CNTC and have capture orders against them that were pending. The farmers’ crime are working the land and being able to feed their families. Carlos remained detained thanks to the collusion of police, judges and prosecutors who obeyed the supposed landowner Carlos Benjamín Arriaga. Following the hearing, it was updated that he was released after 6 days of being in custody, but on bail measures – of signing at La Paz courts every Friday, of not leaving the country, and of not going to places that are frequented by those who made charges against him, and from having communications with them – this is while the case was ‘provisionally dismissed’.
Indiscriminate arrest of high school students
On 25.4.17, high school students were protesting outside the Presidential House demanding an education reform when a confrontation broke out as students were waiting for a delegation to be allowed inside to submit a proposal for reform. The police said a ‘mob’ threw stones at them and damaged the police tank, and they didn’t identify anyone who threw stones, but the police unleashed dozens of teargas bombs at students and chased them. Five underage students of the schools Jesús Aguilar Paz and Luis Bográn were taking refuge from the teargas 200 metres from the Presidential House, when they got arrested and charged with the damages to a police tank, although they had nothing to do with the stone throwing and police had no evidence otherwise.
Physical attack against prochoice women in demonstration
On 26.4.17, about eighty women organised in ‘Plataforma Somos Muchas’ were outside the congress building, demonstrating and demanding the decriminalisation of abortion in Honduras. They demanded decriminalisation in cases of that the mother’s life is in danger, of when the pregnancy resulted from rape, and when ultrasound shows life threatening genital deformities. The women were met with an attack with stones, sticks, knives, cans, bottles, eggs stuffed with sulphate and waterbags from an organised counterprotest led by young men wearing blue and white shirts and made up of students who are beneficiaries of the 20/20 scholarship program, and government staff. This attack was incited and organised by religious fundamentalists within church and government structures – a few days before the attack cardenal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga made public a statement vilifying these women’s work calling them ‘destroyers of families’, ‘abortionists’, even ‘assassins’, and vilifying abortion rights as ‘the right to kill’. This same and additional name-calling was echoed by the attackers. Evangelical Cofraternity also made public their disregard for women’s rights. Presidential delegate Ricardo Alvarez was amongst the people who made the call out for violent groups to attack the women, as were coordinators of the scholarship program 20/20 – who organised the transport for students and told them participation can be counted towards their volunteer hours.
Doctor of public health system got suspended and threatened, for speaking up about increased service fees for patients are inhumane
On 25.4.17, Dr Denis Rigoberto Chirinos Santos spoke up about having been suspended and threatened. Denis is the president of the HEU (teaching hospital) Doctors’ Association. As he and a colleague had been coordinating a program ‘Family Health’ since seven years ago, he went on the program and on 1.3.17, he said on it that, ‘I am going to speak as the president of the doctors’ association of Hospital Escuela, casually today I realised that the excessive and inhumane fees increase.. that has increased about 200% in some areas.’ That was the first time he spoke to the press about this issue. He was suspended for supposedly ‘having made use of the press to facilitate information about facts and activities of the institution without having obtained the due prior authorisation…in relation to new item prices in the cashier department.’ Denis spoke up because he knows these increases are astounding and unaffordable to many who would lose access to needed treatment and services. He also commented that the hospital has much more fund than budgeted as well as that the increased fees would be insignificant to hospital funding levels. Not only is he suspended, but he receives phonecalls, ‘they call me and tell me to not talk anymore, to abandon the press, to not speak nothing anymore or there will be other types of measures to come.’ They threatened him with complaints against him for sexual abuse to smear him and ruin his career.
Human rights organisation representative attempted against
Hedme Castro of ACI Participa was attempted against. On the night of 6.4.17, Hedme arrived at her home at 10.30pm, coming home after an event for the German parliamentarians mission. She parked her car and went home, and the next day she took her car at 7.30am and drove to the office, and as she was driving by Metromall she felt that the car was losing balance, and kept driving to the office, where when she arrived she realised her tyre was very flat. Two workmates brought in a trusted taxi driver of the neighbourhood to the office to help change the tyre, and they saw that the tyre had a screw jammed into it. The workmates went to a workshop around there and the workshop’s owner took the two tyres to fix – both had screws jammed in. After that Hedme went to drive again but then the car was losing balance again and when she went to the tyres place they found all tyres had screws in them – ALL FIVE TYRES.
Attacks to right to water
International Ecumenical Human Rights Watch reported from the first trimester of 2017 on the violation of the right to water in Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela. The dams supplying water for those living in and around the capital city are storing less than half their capacity, meanwhile 35% of the capital’s residents who live in marginalised neighbourhoods (400,000) don’t receive water in their homes and have to buy barrels of water everyday from trucks. A poor family who get their water supply this way pays around $137 a month to have enough water for basic needs, while a rich or comfortable family with tap water (at least 3 to 4 days a week) pays $65 a month for water. And this is a time when the ‘municipalisation of water’ is topical. ´Municipalising water’ is privatising it, commodising it, rather than working to ensuring everyone has access to it by right. Potable water supply has been reducing because of increasing environmental contamination.
Football fans brutally beaten by cops
On 4.4.17, at about 3pm, young football supporters member of ‘Ultrafield’ of the football club Olimpia, were attacked by military police. The youth Angel Martinez tried to approach the cops to intervene as they were beating, kicking and hitting with sticks everyone who were passing through there. His attempt to dialogue was met with an attack by at least 10 cops in 3 minutes, leaving him only when he fainted and was left in a state of crisis. Those who made the complaint said these practices are recurrent by police who had even shot at members of ‘Ultrafiel’. Security Department said it has been ordered to identify the police who participated in this to suspend the police and investigate this and prosecute the police. See a captured video of this vicious police brutality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7bNJoLjYUI