October 2016 Honduras coup update – murders and many blatant attacks continue

October 2016 Honduras coup update – murders and many blatant attacks continue

Two leaders of farmers’ land occupation movement shot dead

josefloresmuca

On 18.10.16, at 6pm, José Angel Flores and Silmer Dionisio George had just left a meeting and were in front of the La Confianza community shop where unidentified hooded heavily armed attackers on motorcycle had waited for José, and had without saying anything, fired many shots at both José and Silmer and left both dead instantly. José is the president of MUCA farmers’ movement and Silmer was accompanying José in this moment. The meeting they just left was of the La Confianza farmers cooperative directive, which was attended by about 40 farmers. José, prior to this, had received multiple death threats. He was also arrested and released without charges in March when police carried out raids in Tocoa. José is one of many that the Inter American Commission of Human Rights had granted protection order for the Honduran state to implement, in recognition of that their lives were in danger. Such order that had not led to effective protection measures to prevent him and many others on the same boat from being killed.

Assassinated: son of organiser in Bajo Aguán

On 30.10.16, a Sunday, Fernando Alemán was leaving a disco in La Ceiba and getting into his Range Rover van at the Hibou disco carpark in the La Ceiba nightclubs district, when he was suddenly approached by someone, shot at in the head, and killed immediately. The killer fled off on a motorcycle, leaving Alemán’s then dead and bleeding body on the ground. His mum is Esly Banegas, who is the coordinator of COPA – grassroots organisations in Aguán, and the secretary of Sitraina (Agrarian Department Workers Union) in Colón, and is running to become the Tocoa Libre mayor candidate. For her organising and campaigning work against the mines, privatisations, and against human rights violations, Esly has received death threats many times.

Grave attacks against Copinh continue

Lenca indigenous organisation Copinh’s then general coordinator, Berta Cáceres, an indigenous, feminist, organiser against dams and logging by big companies, winner of 2015 Goldman Environment Prize, the most well-known activist in Honduras of this time, was murdered months ago in March 2016. While some efforts have been made by the state and institutions to look to be investigating and prosecuting in the case to distract the world’s rage at her murder, there is no justice and ex-vice-minister of SERNA (natural resources department), Marco Laínez is about to be let off by the courts – he headed an institution that rubberstamped a concession which came with so much bloodshed and intimidation against those that opposed the dam project Agua Zarca. The court would be letting him off with a prosecutors’ proposal of conciliation. Moreover,, government and institutions have not cancelled the project Agua Zarca, there is no independent investigation process, no demilitarisation the respression is only heightened, and there is smear campaign by the Honduran government and foreign finance organisations like FMO, which continue to push the Agua Zarca project, claiming that it brings development.

Two copinh leaders attempted against on the same date

On 9.10.16, at the earliest midnight hours, unidentified persons arrived outside the home of Colomoncagua community leader Alexander García Sorto, and fired many shots at the main door and window of his home, where him, his spouse and their two daughters were sleeping, in this attempt against the whole family. Alexander organises against the dam project that congress vice president Gladys Aurora López pushes to impose.

Then, at 8pm, same date, when Tomás Gómez Membreño, who had stepped up as the general coordinator of Copinh following Berta’s assassination, had just left Utopía (space when Copinh and other communities come together to have workshops, meetings, etc) to go home that night and was driving the Copinh van, this Copinh van was shot at but thankfully Tomás was not hit. Tomás had suffered a first attempt against his life just a bit over five months before, when ex soldier Enedicto Alvarado shot at Tomás as he was in front of and leaving his home – this gunshot did hit him and almost snatch his life away but he survived. The pretext for this first attempt involved threats that Enedicto’s family made against Tomás for not having withdrawn charges.

Gunshots by DESA hitmen

Gunshots have been fired by DESA hitmen against the Río Blanco community to intimidate these for having continued to stand strong in resistence and defence of the Gualcarque river.

Indigenous mobilisation repressed

On 20.10.16, Copinh called a protest that was massively attended by Copinh and Ofraneh members who travelled to the capital city to demonstrate. It was massively brutally attacked by a contingent of 160 security forces including 50 riot cops and 110 federal police armed with a chemical water tank with substances that upsets the chemistry on people’s skin, with pepperspray, with police batons, and with teargas bombs. Within minutes, indigenous protagonists saw the tank advance towards them and a line of riot cops began pushing into and beating up protesters, who tried to find what space they could to flee. The cops continued the attack launching gases, aiming first at older women like Pascualita, the president of the Lenca elders’ council, and at children, who cried at the sight of the cops contingent. In the long chase, you could see roads emptied out with only people’ sandals and Copinh banners scattered and left behind. Police only began to back off the brutal attack once they saw CODEH human rights lawyers about and felt the pressure.

A piece about this:

Melissa Cardoza, a Honduran poet and feminist, and friend, compa and sister of Copinh, wrote a piece called Ataque, the original in Spanish is found here:: http://redefensorashn.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/ataque.html , and below is an attempt to translate it into English

Attack

I was observing with attention at the spiritual cycle, in which the Lenca and Garífuna symbols have come to be inseparable. I thought about how much these peoples have come together, about how much force has been brought onto them, including the pain from the assassination of Berta, and how they had included us in this ancient force of the land and the sea.

I thought about this Garilenca-ness that I like to feel, to be part of this beautiful, fighting, spiritual people, with the laughter from the flower’s lips for the good life, and the timid hands for the greeting. The candles were lighted on the side where there wasn’t much wind. Pascualita would do her ancient rituals and the drums and old songs sounded. The elders were there, Berta was amongst them, saying that we must not stop the struggle, but to intensify it instead. On the other side of the police cordon, was the police protected department of prosecution. There, were some public officials being nosy – some of them were laughing with this so typically racist laughter with which they direct at those who actually look so much like themselves.

I heard this particular sound of the riot cops boots that moves with rhythm, and a voice said, don’t be scared compañeros, but this has been almost habitual in the last years. I turned and managed to catch sight of how they had a compañera journalist pushed against a wall – she wanted to go past the anti riot cordon to do her work, she argued with them enraged. This was the last I saw of this because it was in that moment that the attack came.

And it was an attack. They arrived with the instruction to attack us, and this was just what the head of the operation told us: a bunch of crooks, delinquents, savages – was how they talked about the people of Copinh and of Ofraneh – groups that the majority of the mobilisation putting pressure on their armed men, belonged to. ‘Savages’ is the manner in which Cristobal Colón named those who lived on these lands. This word is so ancient, so old is this contempt.

Recently, a taxi driver drove me to the mobilisation said, the tank has gone past already, they are going to wet them anytime now, poor Copinhs, they kill them, they gas them, they beat them, they come here only for this. Damned prophecy of the taxi driver, damned such clear and precise conclusions built from experience after experience. They come here only for this. A woman in the same taxi said; its coz they killed the muchacha (endearing colloquial term for young girl), although, this is already some time ago now, right? Yes, the driver answered her, but they haven’t done anything about this. Here, nobody will do anything for her. Let me off at the corner, I asked the driver. Yes, seven months and 17 days exactly has passed since they killed the muchacha, our muchacha Berta.

The people of Berta were here. The people of the mountains and coasts that come with their cipotas (little ones) because everyone wants to come and demand justice, because they are women, mothers, lencas, garífunas, fighters, with dignity, integrity, legitimacy, with the right to demand justice and do whatever they feel like doing because thats what makes them autonomus persons. Because as Rosalinda says, its not a dog that they killed, they killed our sister, Bertita, and for this they have to pay. But they come here only to have gas thrown at them, to be chased, to be beaten, to get laughed at for the way they speak, and dress. They come here to be met with comments of other women as poor and indigenous as themselves, alienated by the version told by those who had given up, comments like ‘how could they come here with these children, what very irresponsible mothers’. They come here to face these idiot public officials who laugh at them through the glass walls instead of defending them as they should; and only so the people of Tegus (Tegucigalpa) yell out insults at them from their prados, and shout at them for blocking the traffic, at the time that they are running from the tank. And one must say that there also were people from here, whom gave them water when they suffocated in the gas, people whom carried them in their arms, whom accompanied them to their buses, and hugged them with affection and great admiration for their struggle and courage. People whom cry with disgust and rage at seeing a lost little girl amongst the gases, shaking like a little leaf. It was an attack. It was this way that they tell us directly and for once and for all how they intend to continue with things, just as they have come telling us the whole year: assassinations, attempts, false positives, charges, systematic denial to any type of justice. It was only last night that they killed another farmer leader and today, they repress and chase, for over an hour, a peaceful indigenous mobilisation. The newspapers and media do their part and their sickeningly racist pieces, in which they time and again refer to the those mobilising as the aggressive ones, as provocators of the police rage. All are protecting their masters, the state that assassinated Berta, the private company, the bankers, the coalliances and their tolls.

In this time that the repression gets worse.. I want to think that some peope in the world of human rights are looking at this new situation and for the crisis intervention to not be those that are on the agenda of development institutions, and for the situation to put them on their feet running until they can’t run any longer to deal with the crises that are only increasing. I want to not think that they do the work they do only because it is their jobs and for the income, trips, privileges and possible prizes and recognition. That those burning speeches they do in other places in the few minutes they are given to do it, that they can embody what is lived here, in the most brutal moments. I would like to believe that they are or become political protagonists, and not just people compiling and adding up tragedies. I dream awake of that they leave the repressive government alone, visible to the world for what they are, with that people don’t believe anymore the government’s stories of having human rights defence mechanisms, of that they don’t go to their roundtables, their ceremonies, to their tellers of tales and legends. For them to take on with all their words that those who send the police to repress, who gassed these little girls this afternoon, are the same apparatus that tells tales that they are doing everything possible to defender people who fight for their rights. So the bureaucracy entertains them. And at the very roots of this, those who pay for this whole show are the ancient allies of the repressors, ‘because the indios and blacks are worth more dead or as servants, but not insurrected, fighting over the ancient world the water and the forests, the ideas, a pleasurable life for everyone and not just for the few, because that is not the life. This is what I would like. I would like this so much. I feel hopeful because I know the principles of some of these women, although very well I know the same of others; and it excites me when I see the compas of the Women Defenders Network who put their bodies in their convictions and at the height of all that happens, even though doing so brings upon them rejection and sneers from people close to them and distant ones, who lose no time in badmouthing these from inside and outside of the country, because they came from the cradles of the complacent, heteronormative institutionality, with the facade of human rights, made through measures of patriachal democracy.

Time is hard. The rain isn’t stopping. Those assassinated continue to find no justice. And the resistance of the indigenous and black peoples call on us time and time again from their enormous dignity and force, to understand the time, the signs, their dangerous complexity. The brutality of today, in the moment in which our ancestors were with us, it is spoken of to us, it will need to be understood with clarity, care, brave community and coherence.

Melissa Cardoza, October 2016.

Copinh: witness and human rights defender deported

On 25.10.16, Spanish citizen Luís Díaz de Terán-López arrived at the Toncontín airport in Tegucigalpa, and was deported and put on a plane three hours later. Luís has been said by the Criterio daily paper to be a key witness in the case of the assassination of Berta Caceres. Luís has lived in Honduras for a long time, working as a human rights defender in various organisations including with Copinh, and was someone very close to Berta. When Honduran Immigration Department stopped him from entering Honduras this time the Spanish Ambassador and C-Libre (freedom of speech organisation for journalists) legal adviser went immediately to the airport to intervene, but they couldn’t stop the deportation. Immigration said Luis couldn’t come as a tourist ‘when he had come to carry out other activities’, as if human rights defenders would be permitted to come as such or that it is safe to self-identify as such to the state.

Eviction threat against Garífuna community

On 13.10.16, the Garífuna Guadalupe community who were on their ancestral territories starting their own community tourism project, was harrassed by a group of lawyers with national police, with an eviction threat from Canadian porn king Randy Jorgensen. It is clear which side the state is on as the charges the community pressed against Randy Jorgensen in 2007 for illegal acquisition of lands with clear evidence of land titles was ignored, and when there was a hearing in which Jorgensen wasthe defendant in May 2016, he did not show up, but the local judge refused to order his arrest, and the state gave him environmental licences very quickly.

Repression against protesters who say no-way to the toll-way

On 3.10.16, at 33 kms going from Tegucigalpa to Zambrano, people protested highway tolls, electricity privatisation with the introduction of a US$100 electricity connection fee, and the privatisation of scarce and inadequate health care services following the US$350 million IHSS plunder scandal. At 33 kms, a number of military police patrols and tanks appeared and began attacking youths of the protests with beatings and toxic gases. Katia Cooper-Schmidt (70) and others stopped to intervene against these attacks, and Katia was hit by a police baton aimed at a youth, and another police maniac lifted her in the air and threw her onto the pavement beating her on the back and tailbone, while the soldier digged his boot in her foot to prevent her from being able to get up. They bashed her to the point of destroying her shoe, and humiliated and bullied her saying this was for ‘being a troublemaker. Katia asked ççhow could they have such violent attitude against their own people instead of understanding that their real enemies are those of the presidential house and their allies. When she was released to run and flee the brutality with another youth, a compañera, Rafaela Peréz, whom she didn’t know, helped her despite having suffered an attack herself. They tried to then keep trying to protect the youths from beatings, when another patrol appeared and ordered to arrest Katia and Rafaela Perez with 12 others that included underaged persons. Police then told Katia and Rafaela that they can be released but not the youths. They answered saying they weren’t going to leave the youths alone because they know what can happen – torture, disappearances. Luckily others found out about what happened and put out the word of alert and many human rights organisations and activists came quick to the police station to put the pressure on. They ended up being there 2 hours until Rafaela and Katia were told that their arrest order was suspended, and an order of transfer came in which the youths were transferred and not released until about 1.30am on 4.10.16. Katia belongs to the grassroots resistance collective of Miraflores.

Now they propose a model city in Sweden

The main proponent of model cities, Paul Romer, in September proposed that a model city be created in Sweden, to have a city in which to confine refugees there from the middle east, in a capitalist refugee camp government.

In Honduras, World Bank representative Jim Kim in April in a speech had justified the assassination of Berta Cáceres as a collateral damage of ‘development’. Garífuna communities continue to be threatened by model cities. about 20 Garífuna communities are on the list of dozens of communities named as possible model cities to be installed in Honduras. It showed the approach of this capitalist oriented development. This approach is of supposed fast economic growth, without concerns for consequences for local communities they would displace, or for climate change and the environment.

Honduras features the first episode of Worlds toughest prisons

Irish journalist Paul Conolly went to Honduras for part of a series of ‘Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons’ shown on Netflix and Youtube, in which he goes and lives with the prisoners for a week. In Honduras he went to the Danlí prison, and this was his first episode. He said prisoners control the prison inside, that the guards are happy to not control it. Inside, he observed that there are a group of ‘coordinators’, and only 12 prison guards. As well as gross overpopulation in the prison, Paul saw the ‘head’ of the prison in charge of charging tax against food businesses and mattresses vendors. He saw that some prisoners carried guns and others ate rats, because of food shortages in the prison. He filmed prisoners preparing to eat rats.

September 2016 Honduras coup update

September 2016 Honduras coup update

Known cases of political persecution in September 2016

Barber assassinated after criticising Honduran president, mayor and parliamentarian on his own facebook page

On 25.8.16, Wilder Arony Gonzales (25), a barber, was assassinated, he was shot by attackers who fired shots from inside a moving taxi without having said anything beforehand. This murder happened in front of the Hacuna Matata barber shop in the Pizati neighbourhood. Back on 7.8.16, Wilder wrote on his facebook criticisms against president JOH, and the La Ceiba mayor and MP. Wilder wrote:

‘Look mr president, I am Wilder Arony Gonzales Valle, I am from La Ceiba, and there’s something I want to say to you, with a lot of respect, before you were to keep seeing the people of this country as the handkerchief that you carry in your pockets, ‘coz it’s better not to do something about the crime rate in the La Ceiba city because you don’t let people have better job opportunities not with those little jobs of the green code, I am a barber and it worries me that yesterday in the Pradera neighbourhood they killed a colleague of mine, and that with the inept team of the prosecution and police and all the farce that you have the honour of presiding. You only shelf away cases. Please don’t forget it was the people who chose you to preside this country, please don’t destroy it and trample on this country with your so called welfare packages and promises of better jobs, not with your miseries. Teach and educate the people, to hold their heads up high so that mediocre people like you don’t spit on their dignity. It makes me sad to see my people walk in so much poverty, this being the fault of people who have no shame in stealing and manipulating laws to their favour. Remember mr president this position is for 4 years. Help out, since your salary in your pockets is a lot, help this people and the new generations will thank you for it. Have a beautiful afternoon Juan Orlando Hernández #JUANORLANDOHERNANDEZ #RODOLFOIRIASNAVAS #CARLOSAGUILAR ‘

Back in March 2015, the 13 year old high school student Soad Nicole Ham was also assassinated after criticising JOH publicly, having appeared on TV doing so.

Violent eviction against farmers occupation with gunshots and beatings, several wounded including a baby

On the morning of 28.9.16, at 5am, 210 families belonging the farmers cooperative Nueva Ebenezer began recovering several hectares of land of the Remolinos Cooperative that is under illegal possession of large landowner Reinaldo Canales. Within minutes of entering to set up camp, the families were violently attacked by private security guards of Reynaldo Canales. Two women and a baby and a child were wounded – Reina Mireya Figueroa (46) had a gunshot hit her in the right leg, Gregoria Hernández was beaten in many parts of her body, baby Yader Said Velasquez – only nine months old, was beaten and bruised in the face. Details about the wounded child was not made public.

Indigenous Tolupán defenders forced to go into hiding

On 21.9.16, a meeting took place of Tolupán tribal council representatives, in which the directive committee, which consists of people who had been facilitating the sale of the territory and natural resources of the community, broke their previous agreement to protect Tolupán indigenous territory in this meeting. Indigenous defenders already received death threats from business people of the region. They were furious and called the directive council out for selling out. Because of the death threats, five indigenous defenders – Ramón Matute, Celso Cabrera, Santos Matute, Jamil Matute and Consuelo Soto, found themselves forced to leave their homes to go into hiding. They all hold protection orders from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in recognition of that they are persecuted and their lives are in danger.

Ongoing attacks against Copinh – arbitrary arrest, file stolen, finance organisation FMO made a shameless ‘report’

2.9.16 marked 6 months since the night indigenous Copinh coordinator and tireless organiser against the DESA killer-hydroelectricity dam, Berta Cáceres was assassinated.

At 2.20am on 8.9.16, Copinh community radio member Olban Milla was leaving his home to meet up with other Copinh members to travel to the capital city mobilisation demanding justice for Berta, when he was arrested by police. He was released afterwards without charges, because the arrest was arbitrary even in the state’s own game. The protest was to put pressure on the court as the hearing was taking place of charges against the ex vice minister of natural resources SERNA, Jonathan Laínez, for having granted DESA the concession to Agua Zarca in violation to the indigenous peoples’ right to consultation. Copinh calls on the immediate imprisonment of all public officials involved in authorising the Agua Zarca project against the will of indigenous people on their territory. This and similar concessions given had led to repression and terror campaigns against indigenous people, and this includes the assassination of Berta Cáceres.

Then on 29.9.16, Judge María Luísa Ramos was driving home from court at night in her car, and was for some reason carrying the judicial files of Berta Caceres, when unidentified persons drove in front of her to block her path, ordered her with a gun pointed to stop and open the window. They got her to get out and they drove away with her car. There are reports however, that the car re-appeared only minutes later, showing they were interested in the files, and not the car. Court authorities told through twitter @PjdeHonduras that they have a copy of the file and that the extracted file will not cause any delays or ‘limitations’ in the court processes. The file had been classified to the degree that the victims were not given access to read it in violation of their FOI rights. The case in question of the file was for charges for assassination against Berta, against Douglas Bustillo, Mariano Díaz Chávez, Sergio Rodríguez Orellana, Edilson Astilio Duarte Meza, and Emerson Duarte Meza – all affiliated with DESA or the state security institutions.

Months ago, FMO temporarily withdrew its funding to DESA before when it was feeling the heat of the campaigns, not because it regretted having been one of several dirty development finance companies that funded DESA and its murder of activists who get in the way of the imposition of the dam project. Recently, it ‘sent a mission to investigate the situation’ – without having included in this investigation talking with the family of Berta Cáceres, and ‘reports’ that Copinh and community activists acted outside of the law and were violent, that the responsibility institutions like FMO and state organisations and DESA were not to the degree named by human rights organisations, and that the Agua Zarca project is instead, a magical solution to the community’s problems, and recommended for it to be reopened. Copinh, needless to say, is infuriated by the FMO report. The reality is the opposite. Violence, coming from DESA and the state, had been systematic and included the assassination of four Copinh members, and hundreds of cases of intimidation and aggressions by security guards, police and military against the communities. Plus, another money that the project brings simply enriches the wealthy. Copinh calls for the immediate and permanent withdrawal of finance to the Agua Zarca project by FMO, Finn Fund and CABEI. As succinctly as Berta would put it, Copinh questions the imposition of projects in the name of ‘development’:

So-called “development” has meant assassinations, aggression and repression against the Lenca people. What kind of development has to be implemented with the barrel of a gun and indignity?

Education Minister told principal – remove the students’ Berta Cáceres mural, or be suspended

On 7.9.16, Education Minister Marlon Escoto threatened to suspend the principal of Instituto Central Vicente Cáceres if he did not remove a mural that students painted to highlight the struggle of Berta Cáceres in defence of rivers and forests. Escoto is ex Libre activist, current national party activist. The mural is known with the name of ‘Berta, martyr of the nation’ with the line ‘whoever does not love their country does not love their mother’ in this month of September in which Honduras celebrates ‘independence’.

Environmentalist subject to smear campaign, activists get death threats

On 1.9.16, environmentalist and indigenous rights defender Ana Miriam Romero, who has been awarded the Front Line Defenders prize, spoke of how the National Party president and congress vice president Gladis Aurora López pays people to harrass activists and give them death threats. Ana said that she herself ‘prefer to die struggling and not on my knees to the state’. There has been a smear campaign against Ana, accusing her of having gone overseas to learn guerrilla tactics, ‘terrorism things’, and to bring money and weapons to arm her guerilla – when she went to Ireland to receive her Front Line Defenders award. Her local church and some community members also spread rumours saying she had affairs with men in an attempt to hurt her relationship with her husband. Church leader father Ronald of Santa Elena started rumours against her saying she is seeking international funds for personal rather than community benefit. Father Ronald is a supporter of the construction of the hydroelectricity dam on Rio Chinacla, and goes around with the same leaflets that the mayor has to promote the building of the dam.

Persecution against journalist for covering students’ struggle

On 8.9.16, as students occupied an admin building of UNAH to demand an end to the repression against their comrades, Telesur in English correspondent Gerardo Torres covered this. A day later, Gerardo was accused of having led the occupation as an ‘outside agitator’, in an electronic media led by journalists who work for UNAH director. Gerardo denied this accusation, he was there as a journalist.

Incidents of journalists being assaulted and having their car stolen after work

On 30.9.16, Canal 11 journalist Guillermo Paz Manueles was arriving home from work when he was assaulted and beaten by two armed men who then stole his car, in the Las Colinas neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa. As well as reporting for Canal 11, Guillermo also leads the La Entrevista program in which different political and social topics are discussed on weekdays, in the Grupo R-Media channels.

On 19.9.16, journalist Belinda Rodríguez of Canal 51 was kidnapped for a few minutes and had her car stolen near where Guillermo Paz had his car stolen.

Smear campaign against Honduran and international human rights activists and journalists

Smear campaigns continued, this time through an article in social media on the website Nos Queda Claro (It’s made clear to us), in which human rights defenders and journalists were mentioned as being affiliated with one of two oppositional political parties – Libre and PAC, and were stigmatised, as agents whose focus is to ruin the reputation of Honduras in the international eyes, because ‘they hate Honduras’. Those who were focuses of this smear campaign were EFE photographer Gustavo Amador, Reuters photographer Jorge Cabrera, El Libertador director Johny Lagos, University of California academic and New York Times columnist Dana Frank, Spanish journalist and correspondent of New York Times Alberto Arce, director or Radio/TV Globo David Romero, human rights NGO Rights Action co-director Annie Bird, The Guardian freelance journalist Nina Lakhani, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales, Telesur in english correspondent Gerardo Torres, and artist and composer Pavel Ñúñez.

Rockmelon company and subcontractors abuse workers

A new rockmelon season is about to begin but those rockmelon workers who have been organising in the STAS unions to push their employer Fyffes (Irish company) and their three subsidiary contractors to stop violating their workers’ rights, do not think their contracts will be renewed. The rockmelon workers are mostly women and many are single mothers. María del Carmen Erazo (47) works there and has been for ten years. She is a single mother with four daughters, the eldest two, aged 24 and 22, work with her there. María was fired along with 20 others in April for starting a union chapter at their workplace, and were told clearly that union organising was the reason they got fired. Some who stayed on took on union organising despite the almost certain imminent dismissal. Working in solidarity, the new committee gathered evidence for 92 workers – including María, to take the company to tribunal for not paying the benefits workers are entitled to. They get less than the minimum wage, get no long service leave, nor overtime pay, nor holiday pay, nor sick pay; people go to work sick because they can’t afford a day’s less pay. People lose their whole lives to work because hours are long and hard and the company doesn’t provide transport to pick up and drop off workers on starvation wages who instead spend hours walking to and from work. There are many other dodgy things. María’s sister was fired for being pregnant – something that happened to many others. People also get fired for having gotten injured at work! And then, there is the blacklist.. one of the bosses snapped at an union organiser, saying, ‘you are in deep shit for getting involved in the unions. You are blacklisted and you will never get a job again’. There are also OH&S problems, like of 100 women having gotten poisoned by herbicides and chlorine being applied on a field next to them. Many don’t speak up, because they are afraid of impacting on the job security of other family members working for the company. However, there are many staunch and adamant that things need to be changed and continue to fight for them.

Shell has just acquired BG and is about to drill

In 2013, BG was given by the Honduran state a concession for exploration and possible exploitation of petrol over 35,000 km squares. The deal was announced in 2012, then in 2013, events occurred as follows in this order: On 27.5.13, a contract was signed between natural resources department of Honduras SERNA and BG. On 5.8.13, SERNA sent a letter to indigenous organisation Ofraneh to propose beginning supposed consultation. On 15.8.13, congress approved the contract signed between SERNA and BG. So, without consulting, BG began exploration work. Now, in February 2016, Shell acquired BG, and announced it will begin drilling the continental platform, to finish exploration work that BG began. This step is making a terrible thing worse because Shell has a particularly shocking human rights record that has included the assassination of activists.

August 2016 Honduras Coup update

August 2016 Honduras Coup update

Known cases of political persecution in August 2016

Organised farmer attempted against

On 17.8.16, in the morning, in Tegucigalpa, Carlos Geovany Calix (28) was near the Stibys soft drink workers’ union building where he and others rested after the first day of a ‘Forum for Grassroots Unity’, when someone attempted against Carlos, wounding him with a gunshot in the right leg. Carlos lost a lot of blood and was taken to hospital where others accompanied him and his condition stabilised. Carlos belongs to La Vía Campesina and CNTC (National federation of farm workers) La Paz. The farmers’ gathering continued with farmers speaking up about many abuses.

Another organised farmer attempted against, his brother who tried to protect him was killed, and the two surviving farmers were arrested

On the night of 23.8.16, also in Tegucigalpa, in the El Rincón neighbourhood, three organised farmers of Buen Samaritano farmers’ group were out running an errand when they were attacked; José Francisco Izaguirre is the group’s secretary, Wilson Alexander Moradel is José’s brother-in-law and body guard, and Braulio Alduvin López Figueroa is José’s brother. Another detail of the context is that José was attempted against already four months prior to this by someone with an R-15. José and Wilson were accompanying Braulio to go drop some grocery money for his daughter when they were intercepted and attacked with gunshots by unrecognised armed persons at about 8pm. Braulio literally told José in this moment that if they were going to kill José, they would have had to kill him first. As the three farmers engaged in the crossfire in defence, Braulio was shot and killed instantly. Military police then appeared on the scene and arrested José and Wilson but seemingly not their attackers who started the crossfire. José, however, acknowledged that had the military police not turned up, he would most likely had been killed.

In this context of terror and killings, silencing of alternative media mean that more cases of killing and persecution occur unnoticed – the state closed another media

On 22.9.16, in the afternoon, the Honduran government’s National Commission of Telecommunications Conatel sent a representative to Mayavision and Honduvision, passed these media companies a letter signed by Conatel commissioner Dacareth García, saying that they must take Planeta TV off air. This took place within 24 hours after Planeta TV journalist Héctor Amador announced that the channel would transmit the program ‘Interpretando la Noticia’, which is headed by Globo TV director David Romero – the Honduran government closed Globo TV since mid 2016 and also has a 10 year sentence hanging over David Romero with politically motivated ‘guilty’ charges of defamation. Globo TV’s journalists broadcast to a large audience news against human rights violations and corruption cases.

Honduran government unbashfully and officially declares a battle against human rights defenders and their work

This month, the Honduran government gave its police investigation and intelligence unit SERCAA a list of names of human rights defenders it considers to be ‘hostile to the system’ and ordered investigation, surveillance, and tracking against these. Those on this list are Wilfredo Méndez of human rights organisation Ciprodeh, Dina Meza and Kenia Oliva of the Journalism and Democracy Initiative, Hugo Maldonado and Jorge Jiménez of the human rights organisation CODEH, Karla Alegría of La Vía Campesina, Cesario Padilla who graduated from UNAH in journalism and was charged for his student activism there before he graduated, plus one other who chose to remain anonymous. Of those on this list, Jorge Jímenez received a death threat on 8.8.16, and another unnamed person reported having had someone who looked like a soldier follow them almost to the door of their home; this soldier-appearance-person wore a hat and pretended to be reading a newspaper. This is in the context of that the Honduran government had circulated at least two hitlists to its elite army units, on which there are included human and environmental rights activists who are now assassinated or disappeared. Back in the eighties, death squads pasted up lists of names on the main walls of very visible buildings, and many of those whose names were on these lists ended up assassinated or disappeared.

Women human rights defenders arbitrarily arrested

On 25.8.16, a Thursday night, human rights defenders Carmen Díaz Sanchez and Karen Mejía had just left a meeting with UN human rights rapporteurs when they were arbitrarily arrested by cops with the pretext that they were being charged with kidnapping a taxi driver – something that human rights organisations including C-Libre quickly provided evidence that the pretext was a complete fib. In this ordeal, Carmen and Karen were taken to CORE 7 cells in police patrol MI037, and a cop of MI114 patrol told journalists that the cops were filming the arrestees’ faces for broadcasting in the media. Carmen’s mum is a well known journalist and coordinator of Radio Progreso in Tegucigalpa, Sandra Maribel Sánchez. When Sandra Maribel Sánchez and lawyer Edy Tabora came to intervene they were attacked by police agents Obando and Galeas – after suffering the attack, they soon obtained Carmen and Karen’s release.

Uni paints over, covering up images of Berta Caceres on campus walls

During August, uni (UNAH) authorities sent their cleaners to paint over the murals of building A1 students painted of Bertha Caceres, an indigenous feminist environmentalist anticapitalist activist assassinated in March by the state and by the dam company DESA. This is after months of heavy repression that students faced in their struggle against privatisation.

On 25.8.16, students further protested demanding justice for Berta Cáceres, and for uni persecution to stop; uni authorities had just suspended two lecturers Margarita Pavón and Nelson García for having spoken up against the repressive measures the authorities had taken against the students and for having expressed solidarity with the students’ organisation MEU. There are also documented cases of threats by authorities of imposing early retirement against other lecturers. These attacks are contrary to an agreement signed between the authorities and students for any measures to punish students and teachers for protesting to be undone, for any reforms to be postponed, and for students to stop protesting. The authorities were first to break the end of their deal in what was considered a partial win for the students. Also, in publishing articles about this, journalist Ronnie Huete received a threat, through a threatening phone call, from a photographer of a mainstream media.

Another environmental activists under threat

On 31.8.16 , Kevin Donaldo Ramírez Vásquez shared a documentary in which he told whoever watches it that he suffers threats, intimidation and persecution, and those responsible for whatever might happen to him are regime president JOH, Quimistán mayor Juan José Guevara Figueroa, Nationalist MP Martha Concepción Figueroa, owners of Paso Viejo and Cuyagual hydroelectric dam projects Johnny Canahuatti and Emilio Medina, and frontmen Juan-Angel Martínez and Apolonia Quintero of El Listón community. Kevin said that in addition to these, the Cuyagual hydro company engineer with the surname Luna is asking for Kevin to be disappeared. Kevin is in fear for his life, he has been threatened with having his home burnt, and his spouse, Dilcia Rodríguez Santiago had about a year ago on 28.7.15 suffered an attempt against her life by Isaías Méndez, who is Juan Angel Martínez’s brother-in-law. Kevin and Dilcia have two small children. Kevin himself has from age 29 been a community leader involved in human rights, environment, community and church organisations. He had from 2012 worked through the church with youths in a process of consciousness-raising, and worked with 40 communities in defending nature. He defends the El Merendón mountain ranges, the core of which is Cusuco National Park, from which the river and underground waterways flow and which supplies water to communities of five municipalities. Hydroelectricity and mining companies with government backing want to divert this important water source of the communities for their for-profit exploitation. The Cuyagual dam has already caused disastrous environmental damage against biodiversity and human life at the outskirts of Cusuco National Park. Quimistán, despite having generally good access to water, is prone to flooding and drought when El Niño and La Niña hit, this vulnerability is worse when hydroelectricity dams are built.

Young politician with activist background murdered

On 9.8.16, young politician Kevin Ferrera was murdered. Kevin was a founding member the Indignados organising structure, and was lawyer and president of the Liberal Party Youths. He spoke up against corruption and was involved in helping organise recent protests against the reelection of JOH. Murdering Kevin sends a clear message to anyone who speaks up against the system and government, even within the narrow boundaries and rules set by the same.

Protest militarised with snipers

On 27.8.16, at 9am, at the Supreme Electoral Court, the protest against JOH’s re-election was militarised with cops and soldiers, the roofs and main entrances had snipers on them.

Mass sackings and attack against any supposed land reform from Agrarian Department restructure

INA – Agrarian Department, exists to carry out agrarian reform and assign collective land titles to landless farmers. On 1.8.16, INA executive Ramón Lara announced that with the restructure, 400 of INA will be dismissed. This restructure makes up as part of a bigger ‘restructure’ (aka privatisation) in which 6000 are dismissed from government departments also of electricity, children and family, telecommunications, waterways, transport, ports and revenue. Honduras already has 40% unemployment. Those losing jobs at INA are being given the ‘choice’ of receiving their payouts immediately but only 70% of what they are entitled to, or accepting a delay of between two to five years and getting their full entitlements then. There are also 70 staff ready to retire who are being pressured similarly to accept delays in being paid. As well as dismissing 400 workers, INA is closing regional and sector offices and offices for attending to indigenous and Afrohondurans. The offices’ real estate and other goods will be auctioned off. The farmers are those who will worst feel the burden of these cuts. Bajo Aguan is one of the INA offices being closed, in the context of regional monocrop expansion and land ownership concentration in very few hands, it is a site of bloody conflicts that has left dozens of farmers assassinated that desperately needs just redistribution of land to landless farmers. Between 2014 and 2016, INA suffered a budget reduction of US $7.5 million, this amount is roughly what INA owes to workers in backpay, this debt being what justified the need for the restructure. The restructure was made policy on 23.7.16.

Other news this August 2016

World bank more blatantly dismisses human rights. In early August, World Bank made new regressive regulations, amongst which is a policy they call the ‘requirement of collective support’ within the new law of ‘Property and Program of Lands Administration in Honduras’ – this is in relation to the always violated legal requirement of prior, free, and informed consent when a project (eg mining, hydroelectricity, carbon trading) is being proposed where indigenous communities live. The new policy allows the free, prior and informed consent to be skipped when there is a group of people who have expressed support for the project financed by World Bank, giving them license to ignore those who are against and whose lives will be impacted, and likely displaced by the project, that is not to mentioned that communities globally also get massacred for opposing projects.

It also came out this month that Cardenal Rodriguez of Honduras receives US $44,000 every month for his ‘personal expenses’, (which in the last 10 years adds up to US$5.7 million), while other heads of churches in Honduras receive $1000 a month, and occasionally $4000 in cases of excesses, but these are given for improving the church and not for personal expenses. This was revealed by documents of the Catholic University of Honduras UNICAH.

Honduras coup update – July 2016

Honduras coup update – July 2016

July 2016. Yet another assassination against a woman who organised against megadam projects. A gun-in-the-head threat against a youth who already suffer an extremely painful history of persecution for forming part of a community of resistance at Rio Blanco against the Agua Zarca – DESA dam – which in collusion with army and police is responsible for killing Bertha Caceres this March 2016. Massive repression and eviction against a national uni students’ occupation that involved charging 75 students – some suffered arrest and were detained for over 24 hours while others suffered the anxiety of capture orders having been issued against them. Break in and information theft against activist organisation Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia and critical press El Libertador. For details of all this and more, see below

Anti-dam organiser murdered

lesbia

Lesbia Janeth Urquía Urquía was last seen alive by loved ones on 5.7.17 as she left home on her bicycle. Her body was found in the Marcala council tip on the next day, with machete stab wounds in the head and in other parts of the body. Lesbia belonged to both MILPAH (La Paz Lenca Movement) and Copinh – the indigenous organisation headed by Bertha Cáceres who was killed four months and four days before Lesbia was to be killed, for her work in organising and campaigning against the damming of Rio Blanco. Like Bertha, Lesbia is a mum, she has two daughters and a son. She joined Copinh in 2009 following the military coup and began organising against the damming of the Chinacla river in 2010, when this river was concessioned alongside many others around the country. Most of these concessioned rivers are within indigenous territories and imposed without the required consultation – ironically the state is in the process of staging to appear to address this problem by discussing a bill specifying mechanisms of this consultation, when Lesbia was murdered. The Chinacla river is concessioned to La Aurora SA, which is owned by congress vice president and National Party central executive committee president Gladys Aurora López and her spouse Arnol Castro. This powerful couple backed up by the state and its security forces have been a constant source of threat for those who opposed the dam. The murder also happened just days before a community vote that was organised by MILPAH for the 10.7.17, that was to be held in fifteen different schools, that was meant to give voice to whether the community wants or not the imposed Aurora dam project and for territories to require registration. MILPAH wanted to involve the authorities in this consultation process but this was rejected by authorities which initially tried to talk MILPAH out of organising the consultation and info sessions, and when that failed, the education district department held an emergency secret meeting with school principals making the decision to revoke the permission MILPAH had obtained to use the fifteen schools for the meetings and vote. This boycott was headed by mayor Victor Ventura, by Santa Elena priest Angel Galeano, by district education director René Carcamo, and by Tomás López, who even went to the lengths of coordinating delegates of The Word, to paste up onto poles and walls posters that stigmatise indigenous Lenca people. Murdering Lesbia was a clear message of threat against MILPAH and everyone organising to oppose the dam. Lesbia is not the first martyr… of her indigenous Lenca community, Santa Elena, La Paz; nine indigenous MILPAH members had been killed in 2015. Despite of everything, MILPAH continues to resist, persist and speak up.

Attacks continue against the Rio Blanco community which resists the Agua Zarca/DESA dam

Being in the international radars for having assassinated Goldman Environmental Priza Winner Berta Caceres has not deterred the DESA company from meting out further threats and acts of violence against those who oppose this dam. Back in July 2013, soldiers accompanying DESA guards murdered Copinh leader Tomás García and gunshot wounded his then 17 year old son, Alan, in the process. Now on 23.7.16, at 6pm, when Alan, now 20, was in the community, a man pulled out a gun and pointed it at Alan.

There are a chain of other threats from DESA, hitmen and state security forces during the last months that is being spoken up about now.

  • It was reported that one night around midnight, hitmen affiliated with DESA came to the Tejera community and threatened to burn the homes of Copinh members while they slept. It became known that DESA security head Jorge Avila has photos of the Rio Blanco Copinh members to identify and attack them. Jorge has told some people that he is going to find out where certain Copinh members live, in order to go and assassinate these.
  • It was reported that another DESA staff had threatened to kill Copinh member Armando Pineda Sánchez.
  • There was an incident in April in which a cop, one that said he was transferred from Bajo Aguan to Rio Blanco, was beating up a Copinh member when he told him, ‘I am used to killing people, I have not only killed one; I have a whole cemetery. Copinh members are even easier to kill.’ As he said this, DESA’s security head and two guards watched and laughed.
  • There are some land illegally sold to DESA that Copinh members are growing crops on at Vega del Achotal, the land being their ancestral land. At the end of June, beans crops of two Copinh members were sprayed with poison and destroyed
  • At the same Vega del Achotal where lenca people persist to grow food on their ancestral land, there have been incidents of threats from Aquilino Madrid, who has ties with DESA and a long history of giving death threats against Copinh members for their opposition to the Agua Zarca project. On 23.5.16, Aquilino Madrid pointed a rifle against a group of 25 Copinh members who were arriving to work on the land there, and threatened a minor there with hurting him if he ever saw him again. On 10.6.16 Aquilino came again to intimidate people working on the land.
  • Another recent attack was against Copinh leaders Rosalina Domínguez and Francisco Javier Sánchez. On the night they returned from a trip in Europe where they campaigned for the permanent withdrawal of funding to DESA/the Agua Zarca project (which the finance organisations FMO and Finnfund banks only temporarily suspended), four hooded men went around Rio Blanco asking about the two of them.
  • On a recent visit by international press journalists to Gualcarque river, the journalists came in a car and were obstaculised by some branches that blocked their way there, so they simply moved the branches and drove along. When they were leaving the river, they found logs of wood blocking the path at the same place. Higher up they came across another blocked path with huge rocks that weren’t there hours before.

Those in solidarity with the Rio Blanco communtiy continue to call for the permanent withdrawal of funds to the Agua Zarca project from Central American Bank of Economic Integration, FMO and Finnfund. Another bank has been identified to be complicit with the murders and human rights violations is Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, which is registered in Wall Street, is the Offshore Guarantor for the project. There are also campaigns to stop many million dollars of US’s continuous military and police aid to Honduras.

Smear campaigns against those in solidarity with Copinh

There have been smear campaigns on social media against a number of supporters of Copinh – against Karla Lara – a very talented artist who belongs to feminist networks, the national network of women human rights defenders in Honduras and PMSPH – platform of social and grassroots movements of Honduras (networks to which Bertha also belonged to, and she also suffered such smear campaigns), and – against Susy Nuñez and Fabricio Herrera, who collaborate with Copinh with workshops they facilitate, and – and against Claudia Korol, a member of popular education collective Handkerchiefs in Resistance. There are also smear campaigns against Copinh directly with stigmatising fake Copinh social media pages having been set up.

Uni students massively smashed by state forces but stood strong together

Following on from June, a massive students movement and campuses occupations and state repression that began on 1/6/16, lots more struggle and repression continued throughout July.

On 1/7/16, in Tegucigalpa massive contingent of 500 cops, tanks and vehicles requested by uni authorities turned up on campus at 5.45am, blocked all the main exits to not let anyone leave safely, then went inside at 6am and in front of press and human rights organisations executed a violent eviction, wounding one student. They arrested 24 students including two minors then and there, and issued capture orders against 19 others. A number of the arrestees were bruised in different parts of the body from the police brutality. The names of the 24 arrestees are: Alejandra Raquel Flores Sosa, Saul Antonio Marroquín Díaz, Carlos Antonio Castro del Cid, Daniel Abraham Vásquez Díaz, Kelyn Johanna Reyes Carranza, Jenifer Vanessa Flores Sánchez, Kevin Antonio Montoya Pérez, Wagner Eduardo Guillén Fúnez, Reynaldo Josué Madrid Rubio, Hezron Jacos Mairena Cárcamo, José Misael Flores Paredes, Jorge Elías Velásquez Contreras, Alejandra Michel Avila García, Elvin Alberto Flores Alvarado, Ariel Alejandro Salinas Fúnes, Cristóbal Javier Vásquez Díaz, Saire Mayel Banegas Ramos, Allan David Ordóñez Aguilar, Carlos Emilio Flores Sosa, Emmi Noemí Jiménez Zelaya, Roy Arístides Martínez Montes, Roberto Isaac Barrientos Díaz, Andrea María Flores Sosa (underage) and Nelson Daniel Blanco Navarro (underage). Those underage were to have their hearings in the Children’s Court. Police began immediately to gather profiles of the students they had arrested. The names of the 19 other students with capture orders against them issued this date by judge Neptaly Ever Mejía are: Ariel Alejandro Alvarez Valladares, Cinthya Rosibel Flores Villanueva, Jorky Melissa Madrid López, José Adonay Pineda Elvir, Luis Carlos Rivera Lara, Edwin Adalid Santamaría Portillo, Daniela Alejandra Rico Rivas, Gabriela Verenice Cubas Ochoa, Génesis Fabiola Chávez López, Eduardo Enrique Aguilar Oseguera, Josué Isaías Palencia Mejía, Mario Roberto Reyes Tejada, Fausto Manuel Cálix Márquez, Gerson Daniel Mota Turcios, Veanney Sebastián Rivera Aguilera, Kenneth Stefan Aguilar Coello, Jenny Gissel Núñez Palma, Mariela Núñez Reyes and Génesis Aracely Andino Vásquez. All charged (arrested or had capture orders against them) were being accused of sedition, usurpation and damages against the internal security of the state of Honduras and of UNAH university.

The 22 arrested students (not counting the minors, who were not taken to the same court) were arrested around 6am on Friday 1/7/16, and were imprisoned until following their 2pm bail hearing on Saturday 2/7/16. The court and police system were blatantly abusive; out of the pretext of the judge being scared of students reacting, the 22 students were taken in their court each with both of their hands and feet handcuffed together, and as they were asked to declare their basic information to the judge they had a police pointing a gun at each of them. For all they had to go through, the students kept up one another’s morale with the help of lots of solidarity with students, parents, defenders and social activists waiting outside for them. Arrestees were able to laugh, ask to see a football match, and celebrate the birthdays of two of their friends during their detention. When they were released from court that day they were met with many hugs. They were not free though, having hanging over them the charges and bail conditions of not participating in protests, not leaving the country, and signing in the court’s register every week. Meanwhile, the scabby prosecutor had the nerves of arguing that being a student himself, the protests need to stop, because, ‘I feel affected, I haven’t been able to go in and work for a better grade because in any moment there can be a protest and something could happen to me.’

This was not only in Tegucigalpa but in other campuses as well. An eviction was carried out the same date against students at the north in UNAH-VS in San Pedro Sula, and at Comayagua campus as well. Of the CURLA campus, FRU student movement president Alirio Argueta had the CURLA lawyer accompanied by investigative police turn up at his home and arrest him there. In Olancho, three students were charged. And, on 2/7/12, UNAH director Julieta Castellanos announced that there were disciplinary processes against teachers who according to her had supported the student movement.

On that eviction date, one student Flor Raquel Euceda was being disappeared by eviction police. This is her testimony: ‘when I was going to cross the road, a patrol parked on the side of the road I was on, and told me that there was a capture order against me – they hadn’t even asked what my name is! Before I knew it, I was inside the police patrol. I couldn’t react in time, and when I was inside I started to scream and there they began to beat me; they threw two punches at me, one in the eye and the other in the stomach. After that they cornered me to a corner in the back seat. In my satchel what I carried was something to cover my face, some food, my phone and some money. I managed to sneakily get my phone from my bag and hid it in my body so they wouldn’t take it off me, after that they took my satchel. I didn’t carry ID on me, so they told me to give them all my personal information. I refused, and in response, they snapped me. Only the driver wore police uniform. The other was plain clothed …a time came when they parked and left the patrol and left me by myself. In this moment I took out my phone and told who I could of what was happening to me. When I took a photo of the bruise on my eye they came back and took the phone off me but they didn’t go through it and they both sat at the front, leaving me by myself on the back seat … I was getting desperate and so I began to hit the windows of the patrol with the hope that someone were listening. In this moment they began to yell insults at me. They threatened to hurt my family and they told me that for “being rebellious is how women end up in body backs on the sides of highways”. After that, they parked and went to leave again, they left a cheap phone next to the police radio, I didn’t think twice and grabbed it and called my family and gave them more or less the address where I was, and very nervously I put the phone back to where it was … if it weren’t for people speaking up about this in the media I don’t know what would have happened to my life. This is all, I don’t want to keep thinking about the most hard and difficult time that I have lived in my life. I am sorry.’

One of the UNAH students who had a capture order against him is Fausto Cálix. Fausto was at the eviction, but friends helped him escape UNAH and to go on to escape the city as because of the capture order, he had to go into hiding, far from his family. He is part of the MEU student movement. His mother suffered a lot and worried that they could kill Fausto. Fausto comes from La Paz where there is a strong indigenous community resistance against dams. During the days prior to the eviction, Fausto had been followed several times by plain clothes agents who drove cars without numberplates. ‘You can get killed just for being young, and you become even more targeted when you get involved in student movements… they could imprison us, but they will never imprison our ideas, our principles and convictions, for the student struggle and the Honduran people.’

Following the 1.7.16 eviction, the campuses closed and filled with soldiers only to open their doors again on 6.7.16, but not without the campuses filling up with cops. Students also re-occupied. This day, the dean Victoria Zelaya threatened uni student Nery Cruz, who studies chemistry and pharmacy, telling him, ‘you are the one stirring up these building occupations inside UNAH, you will be the next one!’

There was a dragged out negotiation process between uni authorities and students, with students calling for all charges to be dropped, for participation in decisions that affect students, and against privatisation processes. The privatisation processes are driven by international finance organisations like IMF and World Bank. On the authorities’ side, they continued to threaten the closing of the term for many or all faculties as the academic calendar rolled on with protests, repression, and campus closure instead of the authorities ceding to students´ demands adequately.

Another testimony came from the mum of Elizabeth Castillo, who participated in the solidarity protests. Her daughter, Elizabeth, a sociology student has been in exile for over a year because of capture orders and charges against her in addition to death threats by telephone.

There were a total of 60 students charged (arrested or with capture orders) this year from the different campuses in Honduras, and a total of 75 students who by mid July 2016 were under ongoing charges given that there are students with as-yet-unrevoked charges and capture orders from the year before. After many hours and days of negotiation, at last towards the end of July the uni authorities agreed to drop all charges against the 75 students in exchange for the the student occupations not continuing, and a process was set up for the different affected persons to go through and discuss the proposed changes with the authorities, facilitated by mediators.

Broken into – MADJ office and El Libertador office

MADJ – Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia is an organisation that works with communities the struggle against mining, hydroelectricity and logging megaprojects and corruptions and its coordinators undertake courtcases and provide representation and legal support for a number of activists in Honduras – current cases they handle include seeking justice for Berta Cáceres, UNAH students, indigenous Lenca and Tolupan peoples. On 13.7.16, the MADJ office in San Pedro Sula was broken into. The break in was very swift – one person had within five minutes (as captured on building security cameras) taken files, gone through bookcases and desks searching these, took hard disk drives, computers and cameras and fit these within two suitcases. The person did not take any cash, projector or other valuable office equipment lying around. He took only things that held information, including of court cases.

El Libertador is a newspaper that gives voice to stories and opinions against the dominant and powerful in Honduras. On 27.7.16, the El Libertador office was broken into at night. There were obvious signs that they were searching for documents and left many valuable things like famous paintings untouched. In effort to steal information, they took 4 USB sticks, a portable desktop computer, 2 external hard disk drives, 3 company mobile phones, the national tax register of El Libertador and 2 cheques that had been signed to pay bills. To make it look less obvious that they were there to steal information, they also took two camera lenses and a microwave. El Libertador assures that they keep information in safe places outside of the office because of the dangerous climate they are in and knowing they handle people’s sensitive information.

People belonging to MADJ and El Libertador have suffered numerous attacks in the last years. Within 24 hours of the attack against the MADJ office, president JOH smeared human rights organisations in the press, accusing these of ‘twisting the truth’ and saying that ‘we hondurans have to defend ourselves against these’.

June 2016 Honduras coup update

June 2016 Honduras coup update

Ex-soldier reveals: Honduran army had orders to kill Berta Caceres, and many other social activists

As published in the Guardian, ex soldier Rodrigo Cruz revealed that there were two long hitlists with names and photos of the social and enviro activists given to two elite army units in Honduras – to the Xatruch and Fusina forces.

Rodrigo’s own history and how he came across the hitlists:

Currently exiled and in hiding, Rodrigo, aged 20, enlisted in the army in December 2014. He trained for three months, was assigned to the 7th battalion of military police, attended two specialist training camps including the infamous Tesón course where his trainers included US and Colombian military advisors; the course is known for the leaked video – one of horror, which gives a glimpse into how torture is used in military training: ‘The video…showing a soldier after he killed a dog and held the dog’s head in his hand, was obliged by other soldiers to eat the dog’s tongue and brains and part of its head – this soldier vomited and others beat him to make him continue eating the dog’. Rodrigo himself was hospitalised twice with dehydration during this training but managed to finish the training and was in October 2015 one of sixteen chosen to serve in the Xatruch force. Sometimes towards the end of last year when Rodrigo was driving in a Jeep with his commander was the first time he caught sight of the lists as they fell out of the commander’s vest. He saw them for less than half a minute, it was long enough to notice that faces of organised farmers’ leaders were on it – he recognised Juan Galindo, Johnny Rivas and Vitalino Alvarez of Bajo Aguan. Juan Galindo was assassinated already in the end of 2014 after a long chain of persecution. When Rodrigo saw this list, he held back from reacting. Rodrigo was again shown these lists one Tuesday night in December 2014 after a football match; his 24 year old now anonymous commander showed everyone the list, told them that there is an order to kill those on the hit list, that this order comes from the joint chief of staff, and that he was under pressure from the Xatruch commander to comply. He told the unit members that he was not willing to go through with the order, ‘as the targets were decent people, fighting for their communities’. He soon deserted the army and fled and exiled. About ten other unit members have also disappeared, they are feared dead. Rodrigo is in fear for his life. Before fleeing without his papers (because the army held them) while on assigned extended leave, Rodrigo was assigned to work with the Xatruch commander for ten days. During this time he recalls having been waken up in the middle of the night to transport black plastic bags with bodies inside to the Tocoa river, where his colleagues emptied out human remains over the bridge. Rodrigo also saw in this time a torture room near a military building in Bonito Oriental, where, ‘I didn’t see anyone but there was fresh blood, a hammer, nails, a chain and pliers in the room’. It’s been reported that military police have approached neighbours of Rodrigo’s family home in Honduras asking if they know where Rodrigo is.

The hitlists

Berta Cáceres, who was subsequently assassinated in March 2016 (for which four suspects have been arrested linked with the army and the dam company DESA) was on the Fusina hitlist. The Fusina unit received training from 300 US marines and FBI agents. It was revealed in El Heraldo that those implicated in killing Berta would have each received US$2,200. The Xatruch hitlist had on it including leaders of the Bajo Aguan farmers’ movements. Bajo Aguan farmer activist Vitalino Alvarez said, ‘the rumours, are, I’m now top of the list.’ Vitalino is 52 and has survived four assassination attempts since 2010.

Cases of persecution in July 2016

Lgbti leader assassinated

On 1.6.16, René Martínez, president of a San Pedro Sula lgbti community organisation, was last seen alive leaving home with an unidentified person. On 2.6.16, having been killed, his body was taken into the San Pedro Sula morgue with evident signs of strangling and torture. René coordinated an outreach centre. He sought to fight for lgbti rights through the existing systems of power, participating as a party activist of the party-in-power National party. For context, between 1994 and 2008, an average of two lgbti persons were murdered each year, and from the year of the coup, 2009, lgbti persons murdered rocketed to an average of 31 a year since.

Uni students protesting privatisation faced bullets, teargases, beatings and court cases

As uni authorities imposed privatising changes without talking with students, students organised in opposition, and for having done so, UNAH is started this semester with international headlines and images including of a student with a fractured face. On 1/6/16, students occupying the uni were repressed as per UNAH orders with teargases, pressure tank, rubber bullets and police beatings. Teargases were so intense that outside the campus, homes in the university neighbourhood were affected. Amongst those hurt this day was human rights defender Félix Cesario Padilla.

As students’ occupations continued, and student solidarity came in many forms from food and goods to leaflets to support from social networks, in the midnight hours of Monday 6/6/16, students closed the gate and some covered their faces stepping up the struggle and security. From early on 7/6/16, eviction threats and a smear campaign began against the students. It was at 10am that the campus was militarised heavily and students were suddenly completely surrounded with no gates or exits left unguarded by police. Even the neighbourhood outside was militarised. Police began a hunt to capture any student who passed through, and they arrested ten, but as community members around protested and intervened, they let these ten go, adding that they were not on a list of students that were on their to-capture-list.

As student occupations continued in the following days, students were accompanied by the solidarity of Copinh indigenous communities – since UNAH is where children of poor communities go to study. There was also solidarity between students of different faculties with supporting activities of doco watching, banner painting and meetings. Teachers also expressed solidarity with the students and called for the persecution to cease.

On the night of 17/6/16, in the midnight hours, authorities used psychological torture against occupying students, having turned off the power, and having cars drive inside and outside the campus in intimidation.

On 18/6/16, as students continued occupying several buildings, there were death threats and persecution reported from UNAH authorities and security guards – using firearms, against students of the MEU student movement.

UNAH had prepared a list of students to capture for the police back on 7/6/16. This list included a number of students that uni authorities have judicially persecuted in the previous years who were not even participating as activists in the protest this year. This is to the extent that amongst those charged this month was Dayanara Castillo, who actually had because of past years’ charges and persecution by uni authorities, fled Honduras and went to study in Costa Rica, where she is now. Another student who was not in town at the time of the protests who had previously been charged was again charged is Sergio Ulloa. Josué Velásquez and Cesario Padilla are others who were charged with the same crimes they had been charged with last year, who already have unfinished trial processes for these and have preexisting bail conditions weighing upon them. Cesario said he had not slept for 12 days stressing over what can happen in court – for him the judicial persecution began 3 years ago. Cesario graduated in journalism and was at the protests covering them as a journalist. Moíses Cáceres, a sociology student who has also previously been charged by the uni, was carrying out the role of human rights observer during this month’s protest. Another charged now is Izhar Alonzo. Three of the six charged students have been imposed bail conditions of not participating in any protests, and of signing every fortnight at the court.

As this month closes, as well as students being charged, UNAH director Castellanos is also not listening to students and dishing out an order for police to evict the students’ occupation inviting the police to unleash violence against students, as well as cancelling entire terms of study period against students of dentistry, Honduran history, sociology and social work, with threats to do the same for everyone else. And, as they always do, Castellanos began to accuse MEU of having organisers who are graduates and outside agitators.

Repression against anti tollway protests

As the Honduran state was imposing a tollway in go through El Progreso, massive protests were held in opposition on 4, 8 and 11 June – these were violently repressed with teargas, cops beating up protesters and journalists and arresting protesters who have set tyres on fire for the road block. The most severe repression was reported on 11/6/16. Protesters faced attacks by a contingent of 500 police and 100 soldiers who carried 300 teargas bombs at 6pm despite not blocking the road at this time. As the state forces unleashed their violence against people, to the benefit of the tollway company COVI – a company that received concession to collect money forcefully from people using the highway but had not contributed to building the highways themselves, they fired teargas bombs and chased people. Protesters fled to find refuge in homes and shops. Security forces arrested two and wounded dozens. Daniel Morales was one of those arrested and beaten by police. Daniel is a young maths student at UNAH-VS. Police beat Daniel in the head with a baton and threatened to torture him. Danelia Menjivar intervened and protested the attack and arrest against Daniel, for which the police hit her head with a stone, making her have to go to hospital and receive four stitches in the head. When the protest finished, Libertad Digital journalist Victor Ordoñez was with Linda Donaire at a neighbourhood shop having some snacks to relax after the police teargas attack, when suddenly more than 20 police arrived and beat and dragged Victor and Linda to the tank, with the intention of arresting both. Victor was beaten with the baton 30 times and had three wounds in the head having been hit with sharp objects – he was taken to the hospital and then he was charged. It doesn’t end here. As Radio Progreso was reporting on the arrest and attack against Victor, police attacked both Radio Progreso journalists Lesly Banegas and Gerardo Chévez. Police was especially savage with Gerardo, throwing him to the ground and kicking him while he was down, and snatching his journalist ID and mobile phone.

Days after this protest, council closed the building of the tollbooths by ADASA company saying it was being carried out without council permission. There was a smaller group of protesters on 22/6/16 but that still managed to block the highway, which faced at least 50 cops and riot cops. By the end of the month, the government was against the tollway going through El Progreso, probably not because of the initial protests, but because private businesses represented by Chamber of Commerce became against the tollway too, because it hurt business interests. Businesses carried out a day’s strike on 23/6/16, and by 25/6/16, the higher ends of government agreed not to have the tollway there.

Almost four years later: Bajo Aguan farmers declared not guilty

Twenty-four organised farmers including two women and the since assassinated farmers’ organisation lawyer Antonio Trejo, were charged back on 21/8/12 with illicit protests and damages to state property. This very dragged out court battle finally finished with the court declaring the farmers innocent of all charges, on 7/6/16. The farmers and lawyer Antonio Trejo fought to have the lands La Trinidad, La Despertar and San Isidro recognised as the farmers’ collective land. This was awarded for what felt like an instant, and then almost immediately overturned. Then, the farmers were mass arrested and charged protesting in Tegucigalpa, and their lawyer killed weeks later.

Globo staff being let go

As a consequence of the Honduran government having arbitrarily taken Globo TV and radio off air since 20/5/16, Globo stopped earning advertising contracts and found it was not able to go on paying its staff and began to dismiss staff – to date Globo dismissed 14 staff: three journalists, eight camerapersons, two operators, and a news editor. Globo announced that dismissed staff would be reemployed should the situation resolve; should Globo goes back on air.

Not surprisingly, the model cities committee of Honduras has as its president a member of a neonazi political party

This president is Barbara Kolm, and she belongs to FPO in Austria. The model cities committee has 21 members, four of which are supposedly Hondurans. Most hold ideologies that are labelled right libertarian. FPO is neofascist. Its founders have links with Nazies. The party obtained lots of votes in the last election, and had launched the ‘patriotic spring’, to strengthen alliances between xenophobic political parties. That the president of the model cities committee of Honduras is racist and fascist is also played out in that one of the prime targets and victims of proposed model cities are black hondurans – Garífuna communities.

Documentary video to check out

https://copinh.org/article/video-copinh-unrelenting-rebellion/

COPINH – UNRELENTING REBELLION —

“COPINH is an organization of communities to defend our territories, our cultural, ancestral, spiritual rights.” (member of COPINH) The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) has been fighting, resisting, and building alternatives for more than 23 years. It is an indigenous organization that fights neoliberalism, patriarchy, and racism, an organization that seeks justice, dignity, and well-being for than 200 communities in 6 states.

The documentary shows the diversity of their struggles, and their courage.

May 2016 Honduras coup update

May 2016 Honduras coup news update

Resistance activist killed on May Day

000000000_madre_tomas_garcia may 2016

Tomás Enrique García Castillo is 36, was 36. His mum holds the picture of him. Tomás lived for his ideals and belonged to the resistance. On May Day, 1.5.16, he went to the mobilisation and he never came back home. When words went out that an unidentified person was at the prosecution morgue, Tomás’s older brother went to look for him there but was turned away by staff who told him that Tomás was not there. On 5.5.16, Tomás’s mum Silvia who lived with Tomás went to the same morgue after seeing in the newspaper a picture of a body who had clothes on like her son’s, and this time they admitted to her that the body of Tomás Enrique García Castillo was there, that it has been there since 1.5.16. ‘They killed Tomás because he was someone who wanted a different country, he fought for a better world, his thinking was that of social struggle, he was a member of the security of the Resistance, but as the Libre party formed, he distanced himself, we felt he needed to lower his profile, because already in 2010 he was attacked in an attempted kidnap and he had to leave the country, but he didn’t want to leave…he believed in struggling within his reality’. Silvia said Tomás had finished studying law and was finalising paperwork to graduate. Tomás is remembered for his tender smile, tranquil outlook and solidarity, ‘he believed that power is in the streets’. Following the attempt against Tomás in 2010, his uni compas recall how he told them not to be scared, that their convictions and ideals went before anything else, that ‘it is worth it because this struggle is for the Honduran people so that there are changes, so that this hierarchy stops to exist’. Silvia who raised Tomás is a high school teacher, who shares her values of social struggle with her children and with her students. She swears to keep fighting for a different world and to never be silent about his son’s assassination.

Attacks including attempts against lives of indigenous Copinh activists

Two months on from the assassination of indigenous organisation Copinh coordinator Bertha Cáceres, attacks are continuous, especially against those of Copinh who show everyday that Bertha had not died, that instead, she multiplied.

On 6.5.16, a Colomoncagua Copinh leader, Alexander García Sorto was leaving his home to meet other Copinh members to go together to travel to Tegucigalpa for a mobilisation there when he was surprised with a gunshot that hit his left shoulder, in an attempt to kill him. Alexander began to run, and managed to escape further gunshots fired at him. Alexander’s attacker is a security guard and ex-soldier who had attacked Copinh members and had just at the end of April given Alexander a death threat and verbal abuse, in reaction to Copinh members having painted a mural to keep alive the image of Bertha Cáceres. The Colomoncagua community fight to defend the Negro and Chinacla rivers against damming, the damming being driven by Gladys Aurora López, who as well as businessperson, is also the congress vicepresident. Police captured the attacker following Alexander’s report, but then they released the attacker on bail. The attacker is wandering around freely and tells people in the community that he is going to finish assassinating Alexander. Alexander has been discharged from hospital and is in obvious danger.

On 8.5.16, as the new general coordinator of Copinh, Tomás Gómez Membreño and others travelled towards Tegucigalpa for a mobilisation on the next day, soldiers in an army vehicle followed the Copinh vehicle, drove in front of them, braked suddenly and hard, then hit the Copinh vehicle in a dangerous curve in the road with the intention of making the Copinh car skid off the road. The Copinh driver managed to maintain balance and for all inside to escape unharmed from this attempt. Weeks before this, outside of Tomás’s home, gunshots were fired. Threats against Copinh members in Río Blanco also continue, including of having their homes burned.

On 9.5.16, in the city, in the earliest of hours on the day of the protest against Bertha’s assassination and the state’s twisted investigation and calling for the dam project on Gualcarque river to be stopped forever, presidential guard and police proceeded to attack Copinh activists, attacking these with teargas bombs, beating them, and arbitrarily arresting Javier Gonzalez Gómez, Junior Muñoz Amaya, Jesús Vásquez and Walter Isaac Mena. Two of the arrestees were minors. All were released later.

On 13.5.16 , as a mobilisation of several days began, at the Chorrera Aspera community in San Francisco de Opalaca, Copinh compas including Chepe Vásquez were attacked by repressive forces contracted by DESA, with stones and gunshots. Politician Edgardo Casaña who speaks in support of Copinh’s struggle, had all his car windows broken there. At the same time, a mobilisation of almost a thousand going from Agua Sucia to Chorera Aspera headed by the elders’ council and Bertha Cáceres’s daughter Olivia, were threatened by a group of paramilitary.

Prior to this mobilisation of several days’ walk going to Chorrera Aspera and to to Gualcarque river from different places, the parish priests were attacked for having been active in helping spread the word about the walk and protest. Both Father Efraín Romero of San Francisco de Opalaca and Father Daniel Corea of San Pedro Zacapa received death threats from a hitman Olvin Mejía, someone very close to the damning dam company DESA who is linked to Bertha’s assassination and had given her multiple death threats before she was killed, and who is known to have killed others. On 12.5.16, father Daniel Corea, in addition to the death threat, he suffered an attempt against his life by unrecognised hitmen.

On the night of 18.5.16 during a visit from the Bajo Aguán Radio Orquídea collective and the Norweigen commission of human rights observers joining in with the La Voz Lenca community radio collective of Copinh, as they sat around the kitchen area outside at 10.30pm talking about the intense everyday situation in Bajo Aguán, one Copinh compa was alarmed and told others to be quiet, when they realised that there were three armed persons in military clothes lurking around the Copinh building Utopía. Copinh members told everyone to go rest while some Copinh members stayed up to keep watch, but sleeping was near impossible under the terror knowing they could be attacked. Radio Orquídea was just re-opening at this time, having closed before after their transmission equipment was stolen.

Constant attacks against Copinh is evidence that the ‘justice system’ does not have under control a number of powerful people, entities and institutions that are behind having killed Bertha and other Copinh leaders. Those not accused by the system who should be include directives and owners of DESA, and financial and other institutions that had contributed to DESA. While funds for DESA’s dam project appear to be drying up, with US $40 million currently unavailable for the project, the financiers FMO, CABEI, Finnfund, etc have only ‘temporarily suspended’ the funds rather than definitively. Similarly, Voith Hydro ‘suspended’ its US$9.2 million contract and with that the supply of three turbines for DESA’s dam. While the fact that arrested suspects for the assassination include DESA employees can mean that financial institutions don’t have excuses to resume funding, DESA spokesperson Roque Galo is arguing that Doughlas Bustillo for example is a subcontracter rather than direct employee of DESA and are pushing to use this to minimize responsibility of DESA to revive the atrocious project.

DESA was created in 2008 by the Atala and Faraj families who are coup supporting business families. The Atalas own the BAC-Bamer bank and the Ficohsa financial group companies. The Farajs own Diunsa shops chain and La Colonia supermarkets. DESA president is David Castillo who is a graduate of US Westpoint USMA US military academy, and is a military intelligence specialist, and the advisor of the Honduran Armed Forces; links like this like in many other projects makes clear how the attacks by army against activists opposing the companies happen.

USAID is one entity that has financed DESA and not admitted to it or suspended funding. Through MERCADO program, it signed an aid agreement to strengthen the Agua Zarca dam project; the agreement was signed with Sergio Ramírez, one of five people charged with murdering Bertha Cáceres. Similarly, SERCAA is a Honduran state unit that as well as designing security strategies to combat organised and common crimes, is supposed to investigate threats against defenders, journalists and justice operators. It has done, needless to say, a job which has a goal of legitimatising the justice system; making it look like it is imprisoning a few of many responsible but leaving many state, institutional and company actors off the hook.

Attacks against international observers accompanying copinh

At the Copinh protests on 9.5.16 to speak up on Bertha’s murder and against the DESA dam that had her killed, as well as repression by teargas bombs, beatings and arrests, there was a xenophobic attitude against international observers present by the state forces. After this, the government began both officially and informally a smear campaign against international observers. Formally, it sent around ‘instructions to the intelligence department as well as migration department for these to identify the foreigners who have been participating in violent protests or inciting violence’ – this was declared by the minister general coordinator of government, Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro. Informally, from 10.5.16, a smear campaign began on facebook, internet, WhatsApp ad other social media – they shared information about international observer Giulia Fellin that they could have obtained from confidential information collected by the immigration department. Immigration control had stepped up to fit in with the cold war strategy, taking photos, videos and compiling photos and abruptly demanding and going through people’s documents in public places. Observers who subsequently protested and or visited their respective embassies seeking some protection were faced with intimidation by intelligence agents. Giulia for one, who has accompanied Copinh, approached her embassy only to face immigration staff who requested her passport and documents. International observers are at risk because there is a strategy of smear first, attack after, that the government uses.

Resistance journalist attempted against for pointing at more of Berta’s killers

On 2.5.16, hitpersons tried to kill resistance journalist Felix Molina after he had earlier that day published previously unknown information about the company DESA, making more links about who has been responsible for murdering Bertha Cáceres. Felix has programs on Mondays at Radio Globo and at RDS radio and is the director of Alter eco, an alternative media organisation, Felix is also the technical advisor for AMCH, Association of Community Medias of Honduras. He has noticed unknown persons following him. This day, he published a number of very revealing notes in relation to the people behind DESA and their relationships with government and army, including at 6.32pm. It was 6.45pm when he was on a taxi to go to a shopping centre in the city and there was a couple of young people who were juggling at the traffic lights who suddenly demanded Felix’s phone (which was not visible). He passed the phone straight away. The woman then pointed a gun at his face and told him ‘you won’t get past today’ and the man yelled to the woman, ‘shoot! Shoot!’. Felix turned his body and they shot four times hitting both his legs and the driver drove away when he could and the attackers ran off. Félix was losing lots of blood and begged the taxi driver to take him to hospital and not just leave him at a hotel which he was going to do. The taxi driver hesitated but did take Félix to hospital, to which he arrived at 7pm. Félix lost lots of blood, stressing out his renal system and made him vulnerable to heart attack, but the gunshots luckily impacted muscles instead of bones or important blood vessels. Félix had been attacked before, in 2009 when he was the director of the program ‘Resistencia’, he was intercepted by heavily armed persons who beat him and took his phone. ‘I want to continue practising journalism without fear, and keep living without fear.’

So what did he write? That Minister Pacheco Tinoco has family inside DESA. That DESA president Roberto David Castillo Mejía who is an intelligence and counter intelligence soldier graduate of West Point in 2004, was appointed in 2008 in state electricity company ENEE as technical advisor and then as Coordinator of Management Control, was found out for receiving double salary as ENEE staff and army staff, his company sold overpriced equipment to army, and he is a direct nephew of Ceiba National Party MP Rodolfo Irías Navas. That DESA’s founding shareholders in 2009 are Roberto Antonio Abate Ponce, Vanny Isidro Abate Ponce. That the DESA Administration Council formed in 2010 was composed of Jorge Fabián Corea Lobo (president), Félix Rolando Alvarenga Castillo (secretary), Francisco Ayes Callejas (special executor). That in November 2011, DESA’s capital went from a tiny US$1250 to between US$2.5 million to $7.1 million. That at that point, large investers entered with monstrous amounts of capital – PEMSA represented by Gerardo Carrasco Escobar, and Inversiones Las Jacarandas SA de CV represented by José Eduardo Atala Zablah. The DESA assembly was then constituted with José Eduardo Atala Zablah (president) and Roberto Pacheco Reyes (secretary). DESA Administration Council was constituted with Roberto David Castillo Mejía (president), Jacobo Nicolás Atala Zablah (vice-president), Jorge Corea Lobo (first vocal), Roberto Pacheco Reyes (secretary), Tanya Romero Baca (backup vocal), and Pedro Atala Zablah (back up vocal), and Karla López Matamoros (society commmissioner). That legal representatives of DESA have included Carolina Liseth Castillo, David Gerardo Agurcia Mercadal. That concessions granted by SERNA, the environmental and natural resources department, in favour of DESA, were the 1661-2009 resolution dated 14.12.09, and the 283-2010 resolution dated 22.1.10. And that those captured for murdering Berta Cáceres, although are retired soldiers, have links with current soldiers, that this becomes an issue of paramilitarism.

Government closed down Globo TV

On 22.5.16, the Honduran JOH government, through its telecommunications commissioner Conatel, made an order for cable companies to close down Globo TV. Globo TV has exposed countless corruption scandals. This is in addition to already having sentenced the director of Globo, David Romero, to 10 years of prison for his work, having been declared guilty of defamation against Sonia Galvez Ferrari, the spouse of General Attorney Rigoberto Cuellar. They also said they will be taking 21 other TV frequencies off air, allegedly because they failed to renew their licences.

Anti-corruption journalist loses his programs

On 30.5.16, journalist Ricardo Patiño Munguía who spoke up about council corruption scandals involving bribery and council workers not having been paid for months, received a call from Father Santos Enrique Reyes, the head of Rebaño Compañerismo Cristiano church which owns Angel TV Channel 27, telling him that sorry, his weeknights TV program Todo en Noticias Edición Estelar has been cancelled. The pretext Santos gave was of pressures coming from church elders and fire station captain, but Ricardo knows it is because Enrique is scared of losing the contract of US$1500 the TV station has with the council, as a broadcaster of a council program. It is also no coincidence that at the same time Ricardo got dismissed without being paid out from his weekends position at Tele Progreso where he directs two music programs for lack of funds.

Honduran activist in US dragged out by security

On 6.5.16, in New York in US, a Honduran woman whose name is not revealed was removed by security protesting, at an event that promoted the election of presidential precandidate Hillary Clinton for the Democrats party. The woman kept screaming including as she was being removed ‘you killed Berta! You killed Berta!’ for having made the coup possible. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2qogtFHAz

Honduran activists in Europe threatened

This month in Denmark, outraged by Honduran JOH and his spouse having spent US$300,000 on a private jetplane to fly from Tegucigalpa to Europe to attend the world fashion summit ‘Copenhague Fashion 2016’, two young Hondurans camped outside the fashion show yelling, ‘criminal! Criminal! You are a criminal!’ ‘you killed Berta Cáceres! you have your hands full of the blood of Berta. You spent 3 hundred thousand dollars on a plane to come here. You are an assassin!’. They held placards, with the words ‘where are the millions of IHSS?’, ‘The deaths of IHSS?’ and ‘for 17 minutes, this is the luxurious Jet that carried the president Hernández of Tegucigalpa to Europe’. The youths who travelled two hours to demonstrate, asked to remain anonymous, they had begun to receive threats from the Honduran government. It is awfully blatant, Copenhague Fashion 2016’s disregard for human rights, as it ‘announces its final program..from fashion icon Miroslava Duma to none other than the President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández’.

Gunshots and prison sentences pointed at farmers, farmers, their homes and their crops uprooted

On 11.5.16 in the morning, in Tutule, La Paz, twelve police patrols and eighty soldiers arrived with bulldozers violently evicted the 50 families of the 9 de julio farmers cooperative community. The contingent fired live gunshots wounding Johnny Alfredo Mejía Torres and Edwin Murillo, who were hospitalised, and they chased everyone else who including women and children were forced to run and try to hide in the mountains from the troops. Once having cleared people away, the contingent proceeded with their bulldozers to destroy houses and crops on the 84 acres of land that the families have lived and worked on for seven years. Coffee, fruit trees, beans and family plots were destroyed. This attack was carried out in favour of local politician Carlos Arriaga, who says the land is his. The same time that this happened, five patrol vehicles arrived at the home of Wilman Chávez, the secretary of La Paz for CNTC rural workers’ federation. They came to arrest him, and have laid charges.

On 16.5.16, twenty-five organised farmers arrested and accused back on 21.8.12 have been summoned to hearing on 6-10.6.16, accused of damages and illicit protest, at a time when their lawyer Antonio Trejo had won in court with the farmers their lands of Trinidad, Despertar and San Isidro, only for the decision to be overturned the following day and for a mass arrest to take place against the lawyer and twenty four organised farmers. The case against Trejo himself had been dismissed, since they can’t try someone who has been assassinated; he was murdered a month after the arrests. The lands were dispossessed from the farmers twelve and twenty months after Trejo’s assassination. Today they face court, being on the accused side of so-called justice.

On 26.5.16, about 6.30am at the Panamá community of Bajo Aguan on the outskirts of Trujillo, Jinson Aldin Alfaro Almendares (23) of Gregorio Chávez farmers organisation was working on the land when hooded green-uniformed security guards of the neighbouring oranges company Cofruco arrived and immediately began to shoot at Jinson. Jinson was shot in the back and hospitalised in Tocoa. The attack was reported but nobody has been arrested for this attack. Cofruco is right next to Dinant palm oil company also, another highly predatory company responsible for deaths and disappearances in the area. The day before at 11am, hooded and heavily armed men surrounded the home twenty metres away, of the Agrarian Platform coordinator Jaime Cabrera. Both Jaime Cabrera and Santos Torres, both living in Panamá community, spoke up about being followed and having death threats against them.

Land defenders of Zacate Grande imprisoned for being poor

On 19.5.16, Zacate Grande villagers Abel Pérez and Santos Hernández attended court at a hearing for revising their bail conditions, in the process, the judge Iris Amanda Hernández ordered their imprisonment for breaching bail. The pair together with another, Tomás Cruz, were charged on the Easter week in April 2015 for doing something they did every year – clean up around the beaches and parking lots around Easter time and collect parking fees from visitors. They carried out this work for fulfilling basic needs of their families. But landowner Jorge Luís Cassis Leiva had the police take them into custody and release them on bail, and bail conditions were imposed from August 2015, with charges of usurpation, threats and damages against Leiva. The bail conditions were ludicrous given their economic conditions; they had to travel from Playa Blanca to Isla del Tigre every week to sign at the Amapala court – the trip costs US$15 per person, and they are on wages of US$5 a day, meaning three days of work every week just to fulfil requirement of going to sign at the court every week. The judge went through and saw that they had not meticulously complied with this, ignored their reasons, and enforced their imprisonment during the prolonged and delayed hearing process on the charges. Abel, Santos and Tomás are subsistence fishers and farmers. They are also defenders of Zacate Grande, organisers of the organisation Adepza, fighting to recover land. In addition, Abel belongs to the community radio collective La Voz de Zacate Grande, and in July last year, formed part of a hunger strike demanding a CICIH – international commission against corruption and impunity in Honduras. Underlying all the land conflicts of Zacate Grande is that you have communities who have lived there for generations but they have not been given land titles because they lived on state land. However, Cassis, and his like: Facussé, Gutiérrez, Nasser, JOH, Malespín, have come and given bribes and obtained murky titles, and given some of the poor families token jobs and money to turn these against other poor families who defend land. Cassis wants to evict over half of the Playa Blanca community and not allow people of Puerto Sierra go to the beach or to San Lorenzo and Tegucigalpa. Him and other elite families are expanding with sights on selling lands to investors for building ZEDES, model cities.

Top down education policy overturned due to protests from high school students and families, but not without having students assassinated in the process

The education department tried to impose a policy requiring high school students who wish to graduate to give evidence of having given 100 hours to tutor two illiterate persons whom they had found somehow. While obviously not against literacy programs, students and families protested the dictatorial nature of the policy which does not take into account people’s circumstances and there were massive protests that made authorities uncomfortable and unable to push their agenda. They did as they always do, attack big protests with gases and capture some students like on 6.5.16 when students occupied a road. Authorities also accused teachers union Copemh and its leader Jaime Rodíguez of organising the students protests which were spontaneous and not driven by Copemh at all. Education minister also punished some school principals for not controlling protests of students with discharge hearings and temporary closure of three high schools. Despite winning this battle in the end, during the protests period of March to May 2016, at least six high school students have been assassinated, it is likely that this is linked to their participation in the protests and student organising. These students are: Raúl Rafael Bonilla (16) and Elier Santos Vásquez Sánchez (17) of Saúl Zelaya Jiménez school who were killed in Comayaguela on 16.3.16 and 26.4.16 respectively. Jorge Orlando Andino (18) and Amilcar Flores (19) of the Instituto Superación San Francisco were both assassinated on 30.4.16. Eduardo Medina González (16) and Anthony Banegas Fúnez (16) of Héctor Pineda Ugarte school were both assassinated on 5.5.16.

Abuses against visitors to those imprisoned

There are over twenty people imprisoned in the facilities of the First Battalion of Infantry, those imprisoned there tend to be high profile cases of persons who will be extradited, the journalist José Luís Galdamez, the few major officials charged with fraud in the IHSS scandal, etc. The prisoners get intensively searched twice a week. Their visitors that include women go through a degrading and excessive search process against them too and once inside are locked with a padlock inside from 9am to 4pm. They go through several military checkpoints, a hooded soldier asks them to take off all their clothes including underwear and do sit-ups naked to ‘prove they haven’t hidden weapons in their bodies’ – something easily detected with metal detectors they had to walk through already. The body search involves touch checks of breasts, hair, and all clothing. It is extremely degrading to be made to go through all that to be able to see someone.

April 2016 Honduras coup update

April 2016 Honduras coup update

News of persecution from April 2016

Attempt against yet another uni lecturer

History repeated on 29/4/16 as UNAH lecturer, Fausto Umanzor, who is one of the lecturers who defend the rights of their comrades and students, found his car that was parked at the campus carpark of UNAH-CURLP had its tyres screws loosened intentionally to cause an accident for him and whoever with and near him. This is the fourth case of attempt using this method at this carpark in two years. The first case was against Héctor Martínez, who had since been assassinated. All cases occurred under the watch of ESPA security company which is contracted by UNAH director Julieta Castellanos. The contract specifies on page 7, clause 7, part 11, that ESPA is ‘to coordinate with the authorities of the University City and its regional centres some special operations in specific cases when they are required by UNAH.’ In Hector’s case, there was a sworn testimony of ESPA staff that indicated clearly that the attempt was perpetrated by ESPA members under the protection of the director Alina Molina, who herself has protection further up. Julieta never investigated Hector’s case to prevent subsequent cases.

Threats and attacks against those who seek justice for Bertha Caceres, for the closing of DESA dam project

To recap, Bertha Caceres, the 2015 Goldman Environmental prize winner and indigenous leader, was an enormous mobilising force in the indigenous resistance against DESA company’s hydroelectricity dam. Bertha was assassinated following a chain of death threats since 2013 including by persons paid by DESA (for a chronology of the threats, see this link – http://hondurasresists.blogspot.com.au/2016/05/antecedents-of-assassination-summary-of_26.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+HondurasResists+%28Honduras+Resists%29).

People mobilise and chant, Bertha did not die, Bertha multiplied. Melissa wrote a beautiful piece ‘Signs that Berta is alive, flower of Azalea’, about how Bertha multiplied..

http://hondurasresists.blogspot.com.au/2016/05/signs-that-berta-is-alive-flower-of.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+HondurasResists+%28Honduras+Resists%29

Some pictures of one of the protests: http://www.rel-uita.org/galerias/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=709Itemid=1

Those who are multiplications of Bertha had in April suffered a series of attacks for their resistance.

On 4 April 2016, around 150 indigenous farming women of Bertha’s organisation, Copinh, who travelled from mountains and villages where they fought for rivers, mountains, and body and land spirits, began camping out at the front of the prosecutors’ building in the capital city and making themselves heard by splashing red paint on the building’s walls and chanting ‘you have your hands full of blood of our compañera!’ From the beginning, prosecutors’ department guards and police were aggressive towards Copinh youths over the banners the youths hung on the building.

On the second day at 11.20am, Copinh members were hanging a banner that had the image of Berta Caceres when two soldiers and a police saw and proceeded to drag Copinh activist Gaspar Sanchez inside the Prosecutors Office where they for three minutes bashed, punched and kicked Gaspar all over the body. Outside the office Copinh members protested with rage pressuring effectively for Gaspar’s release. During that time and scramble, another Copinh member Selvin Milla suffered a cut to his foot. Within minutes of all this, 120 riot cops and soldiers arrived at the offices with a police tank, to intimidate everyone. Two weeks before this, Gaspar had spoken in a press conference speaking out against Bertha’s murder.

MADJ – Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia, has also been very vocal about Bertha’s murder, for which its coordinator Martín Fernandez and other members including Luis Miguel Ramos received a chain of threats and acts of intimidation. On 29.3.16 and 7.4.16, a group of soldiers who hid their identities invaded the family farm property ‘Torogoces’ of Martín Fernández which is used for training, meeting and recreation for activists. On 29.3.16 there was a training planning taking place and 50 soldieres invaded the land and didn’t leave when they were asked to, instead, stayed for two hours, filmed inside the farm and forced those present into interrogative interviews on camera with them. Soldiers also flew in a helicopter close to the ground to intimidate. On 7.4.16 soldiers tried to search the MADJ coordinator’s family car and intimidated others present. At the same time, MADJ coordinator Martín and member Luís Miguel Ramos run a radio program on MADJ community radio Radio Dignidad speaking up on social issues called Tertulia de la Tarde. Topics had included the secrecy on the investigation of the assassination of Berta Caceres, and about corruption inside the government. Both Martín and Luís had, while on air, received threatening phone calls and text messages (including from 9535 8384 and 9694 1758), saying they are ‘talking too much shit’.

Over three days in mid April, over 1200 people from 130 organisations and 22 countries joined Honduran activists in a gathering to remember Bertha, demand justice, workshop ideas and strategies of solidarity and struggle against a predatory dominant model they are fighting to be free from. This gathering started in Tegucigalpa on 13.4.16, on the morning of which, comrades from Bajo Aguan (where farmers live in permanent and bloody conflict with palm oil giants) were travelling together to join the gathering, when police arrested José Santos Chávez on the pretext that he has a capture order from 2014 for usurpation and damages to property charges. José was transferred twice, ushered to a court hearing, then released on bail conditions of signing at court every Monday. José is the brother of Gregorio Chávez, a farmer activist who was assassinated. José’s nice is currently the coordinator of the Bajo Aguan Human Rights Observatory.

This gathering for Bertha ended on 15.4.16 with a spiritual ceremony and visit to the Gualcarque river – the river the Rio Blanco community accompanied by Bertha Caceres fought to resist its damming by DESA and its international financial and institutional backers. The gathering travelled in seven large buses, some minibuses and small cars. The police didn’t let them drive up to the dam area, so they mobilised on feet to the river, for their final ceremonial activities, swim, and to leave demonstrated that DESA must leave. As the many finished and at 5pm were walking back towards the vehicles, twenty armed men the police had known about, and who were paid by DESA, ambushed gathering participants and attacked and chased these with machetes and firearms, and throwing rocks. From this horror, more than ten were left wounded. Honduran activists from communities of resistance across Honduras including Copinh – Vitalino Alvarez, Consuelo Soto, Sotero Chavarría, Asunción Martinez, Marleny Reyes Castillo and Raúl Guevara were left with injuries and wounds. Sotero is from Copinh, he was threatened with his full name, and was hit with a rock. Telesur cameraperson Ezequiel Sánchez was beaten and threatened with that ‘we are going to cut you into pieces if you keep recording’. Of a free media organisation Subversiones, Mexicans Heriberto Paredes Coronado and Aldo Santiago López were also threatened with machetes. Spanish accompanier Luís de Terán had a leg fractured from having been beaten up. In the process, these men sent by DESA threatened everyone they could, but particularly pointed to Tomás Gomez Membreño of Copinh, saying, ‘lets attack him, he is the one who is left’, adding to the many death threats he already received. Survivors of this aggression identified including hitmen who had at different times given death threats to Bertha Caceres and other Copinh members.

It was most blatant that those representing DESA had no quelms in admitting that they killed Bertha, and turned it into a threat. They were heard to yell to everyone, ‘we have killed the fly, and now only the commoners remain’.

Police was not only in complicity by not letting the vehicles through, but were present because DESA had asked for police protection during this days of protest. DESA sent a public statement on 12.4.16, saying that people will be protesting at the site, and that given that ‘the past protests in front of the dam building site had finished in violent acts destroying machinery and things inside the project and cultivating chaos between our neighbouring residents’, DESA called on ‘the support of the national police’. They did this as they planned this ambush in coordination with the police.

Two weeks after all of this, Berta’s family and family of struggle found out like the rest of us, reading the news that four people, who are contracted by DESA and member and ex-member of the Honduran army, had been arrested for having planned and carried out the assassination of Berta. The state never engaged with those who demanded justice most closely, being people very close to Bertha, to ask them what they know, what they want. The state tried very hard to claim it was a crime of passion, or that it was internal conflict and other activists on the same side of struggle killed her. It was only when they realised there is no way her murder could be but DESA and their powerful accomplices that now they have arrested four people from these circles. Given this context, while her family agrees that those arrested would have been involved, they are sure there are many others, and that those who gave the orders are amongst those getting away with it. The family wants for Inter American Court of Human Rights – which has expressed willingness to do this should it be invited to do so by the Honduran state, to lead an independent investigation process for the case, but needless to say, the Honduran state ignores this request. So far, the family and movement’s number one demand has also been side stepped – the permanent cancellation of the concession and all finances to DESA, and the taking of responsibility by those who have concessioned and financed (CABEI, FMO, Finnfund, Voith-Hydro Siemens, World Bank – there had been suspensions of funding, but not definitive cancellations) the murders of activists against the Agua Zarca dam project – Berta Caceres, Tomás García, William Jacobo Rodríguez, Maycol Rodríguez (15) and Baudilio Sánchez.

Taking responsibility would mean acknowledging the role the institutions have played in the murder of Bertha Caceres and attacks against many other indigenous, human and environmental rights defenders everywhere. Not only to acknowledge though, but to really question the roles of such institutions in maintaining power differences everywhere, in reinforcing the system, while supporting the continued hostility against whoever dares to dream of a better world and better ways of relating with one another. Taking responsibility would mean to not act like the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, who have shamelessly referred to the assassination of Bertha and ‘incidents like that’, as necessary in what institutions like the World Bank are trying to do. He simplified it to that ‘everybody needs energy’ and so some institution must be heroic enough to venture into the controversial to fund including energy projects where there are communities opposed to them, and where the company kills community leaders to push the project ahead. Jim Yong Kim made these comments at a theological seminar in New York City in April 2016. Jim Yong Kim sounds like he may be not too bright, but when it comes down to it, he defends the World Bank position, because of his financial and career investment in it.

Its not about what kind of energy is good or bad, rather, who controls the process.

Hydroelectricity dams are generally bad because they are owned and controlled by private interests for private industrial interests, not community controlled for community energy use. As such, even solar panels can be damaging to communities. In Los Prados, Namasique, Choluteca in the south of Honduras, Norwegian company Escatec Solar demolished and logged various hectares of land turning land into solar parks – causing constant deforestation, decreased water sources and loss of territories dedicated to growing basic grains affecting villagers.

Repression against indigenous market stall holders in Bertha’s province, Intibucá

From 28.4.16, indigenous stall holders of the indigenous Intibucá Central Market are on alert of a possible eviction against them. The court made the resolution illegally, ignoring the community open meeting’s decision to have the market continue.

Police beat and arrest human rights defenders in context of militarisation in Lempira

Lempira is heavily militarised, as a result of which many suffer abuses from police and soldiers but most do not speak out about these abuses. On 5/4/16, police beat up human rights defenders of community radio Radio Taragual, Eleuterio Pérez and Bernardino Pérez, who were checking out and taking footage of a scene of police arresting two men who had an argument with a neighbour. Police took Bernardino’s phone and deleted photos and recordings he had of police aggression. Bernardino was beaten in the abdomen.

Death threats against ex-police-commissioner for having spoken about corruption

Ex police commissioner Maria Luisa Borjas who has made some public complaints in the last years about abuses within the police force and is an active member of Libre political party, has been receiving death threats .

Snippets of other news from April 2016

  • Regime president J.O.H. expressed his desire to close the National Police, but to use as a pretext to replace the police force with Military police, as a step to changing military police’s status to being constitutional.
  • Honduran Cardenal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez, who is of the infamous Opus Dei, is in the black list of 12 cardenals who have complaints of sex abuse against them. Others are Leonardo Sandri – Argentina, George Pell – Australia, Marc Quellet – Canada, Timothy Dolan – New York, Sean O’Malley – Boston, Donald Wuerl – Washington US, Peter Turkson – Ghana, Tarsicio Berto and Angelo Scola – Italy, Norberto Rivera Carrera – Mexico, Dominik Duka – Czech Republic. They are all considered candidates to be the next pope – current pope Benedicto 16th has complaints against him in management of sex abuse scandals in churches.