November 2018 Honduras Coup Update

November 2018 Honduras coup update

Repression of protests in Choluteca: arrests, beatings, gunshot wounds, teargas bombs

In Choluteca, there continued to be protests against the JOH regime and its privatisations and abuses every Wednesday and Saturday. On 10 November, people blocked the bridge and road to Tegucigalpa with the main message being for the private-public-alliance electricity company EEH to get out. A lot of known attacks had been unleashed against organisers, protesters, agitator of Choluteca this month.

On 15 November 2018, at about 10.30pm, in the context of protests against EEH, police and soldiers guarding this building arrested 14 years old Samuel Emilio Aguilar, saying it was because he had thrown a rock at the buildings. The police bashed him and locked him up in UNDEP. Similarly, the police arrested Curlp uni student Levi, and his compas of the Stibys union. There were news that they were finally released about 9 hours later.

On 21 November 2018, on this extra day of protest, being on a Friday, against the inauguration of the mobile parliament that started in Choluteca, there was massive police repression involving many gunshots, beatings : two underage persons, one named Wilber Josue, were gunshot wounded by police and hospitalised and another teenager who was arrested. Before that, police was bashing an old man who was selling iceblocks there. Even before that, police blocked the UNETV news team from travelling to Choluteca to cover the protests, but either they made it through anyway or at least one UNETV journalist was there, as UNE TV journalist Mauricio Rivera was there transmitting live. Mauricio was walking around and through the bridge, reporting, saying, ‘look over here, there is left over food thrown about everywhere, police officers, you need to pick up after yourselves, here you can see more soldiers than anything, look, they are shooting at the press..’ it was at that point that you can see on video teargas bombs shot towards him one after another, and the air is filled with teargas clouds, and as Mauricio continued to report, you could hear he was starting to struggle with his breathing. They were attacking him to stop his coverage. Libre parliamentarian was also using his phone to transmit live on his facebook the repression, when a police agent attacked him. He said, I am a parliamentarian. They responded with, ‘you are no parliamentarian, nor are you a journalist’, and they proceeded to push him, snatch his phone, and shoot teargas bombs directed at his body.

27 November 2018 protests: two gunshot wounded including a journalist

27 November 2018 marked the one year anniversary of JOH’s fraudulent re-election and with that, of the insurrectionary resistance against this fraud and of the reactive chain of killings and gunshots by the military state at protesters blocking highways and of the subsequent taking of political prisoners, some of whom continue to be imprisoned. To continue to protest JOH, this day there were protests in Intibucá – the home of Berta and Copinh, and in Choluteca, and in Tegucigalpa. These protests were large but smaller than a year ago, not because people aren’t feeling rage and desperation, but because they are very aware that state forces do open gunfire. The day before, people who had travelled into Tegucigalpa from other parts of the country gathered at the Stibys union buildings, they found themselves surrounded by police and people had to call on human rights defenders to come and accompany the people there to prevent this early repression.

And on this anniversary date, they did open gunshots. In Tegucigalpa at 6.15pm, Geovanni Sierra of UNE TV, was reporting live from the scene of repression, that was already filled with teargas which was hurting children especially. Police joined by shopping centre private guards and soldiers were attacking protesters who were trying to flee the gas there, and protesters were surrounded by riot cop cordons and metal fences, when Geovanni started to say, ‘they are shooting, they are shooting, they are shooting! From the yellow bus, (pause), oh no! They wounded me, they wounded me, they wounded me, arrrgg, they wounded me, they wounded me, no, I can’t, old man, okay they’ve wounded me, that bus over there, I am losing blood, they wounded me in the right arm, I can’t feel my arm, they wounded me they wounded me’, ‘I will take you, I will take you (another voice)’ ‘they wounded me in the arm, I am okay, they wounded me, it’s hurting a lot’, ‘compas we will take him over here, come come, lets go, lets go.’ The gunshots that came from the yellow bus also wounded Angel Avila, a unionist of Sitraunah, the workers union of the public university UNAH, who was shot in the left arm. So the yellow bus was of INP – national prison department. The department confirmed that its police fired the gunshots that hit Geovanni and Angel. Its statement said the bus carried prison police and 8 prisoners who were being transferred. Their excuse for the attack was that they needed to ‘stop protesters from freeing the prisoners’ and that the protesters were ‘violent’, and so, as well as stopping protesters from freeing the prisoners, they had to take action to protect the prisoners and the prison police from the violence, ‘the protesters threw rocks at the INP bus, … face with such violent actions, the prison agents used what resources they had in their disposition, from which, the journalist Geovanny Sierra resulted wounded.’ The labour law in Honduras does not obligate employers to cover their employees in case of injuries at work, so Geovanni is without social security, and there will be financial difficulties in addition to generally recovering from the gunshot wounded arm. INP representative McNeil proceeded to offer to pay the costs of hospitalisation for Geovanni, without extending the same to others wounded from the same incident. Geovanni did not accept, saying his life and all the harm caused by the police weapon are priceless. It’s not that he didn’t need the money, of course, but they are offering it to try to buy out of their culpability. Geovanni has been told that he was shot with a veretta, from this information he concluded that the shots were fired with an intention to kill.

Also on this date, it was reported that the JOH regime sent soldiers to raid the home of ex captain Santos Orellana, as he is an ex soldier who had spoken up about JOH’s close relative Tony Hernández being a drug trafficker. In the raid the agents tied up their home’s domestic worker and interrogated her for information about the ex captain’s children. This raid occurred 4 days after the news being transmitted about Tony Hernández having been captured in the US in relation to drug trafficking.

On 30 November 2018, in La Lima, police kidnapped a protester, and did not release the protester under pressure of people around. There was an alert and grave concerns for this protester.

For screaming Get Out JOH

On 4 November 2018, at Dos Caminos, somebody screamed, ‘get out JOH’ to the police there. The police responded by beating this person in the face and different parts of the body, and slamming this body into the police truck floor.

Other attacks against journalists and the press – raid, state neglect, assault, smear

At around 5.20am on 10 November 2018, in Choluteca, about 30 hooded criminal investigation police surrounded the home of journalist Jairo López, raided his home, hit his spouse, pointed a gun at her in front of her daughter, and then, with a capture order, arbitrarily arrested Jairo and pushed him into a white double cabin van plated HAJ1374 and threatened him with a gun. They did not tell anybody where they were taking him. For seven hours, apart from an initial phonecall in which he told his family the numberplate and that he had been threatened with a gun (he could not say more as security agents snatched away his telephone at this point), his family and friends and fellow journalists did not know where he was and whether he stayed alive. He was locked up and then taken to court in Valle over 7 hours later. Fellow journalists and others gathered in large numbers outside the court in solidarity. By 6.20pm, he was released and granted bail, charged with damages against EEH (private public alliance electricity company of Honduras since February 2016), but with bail conditions of not giving declarations about the case and not participating in any protests and not leaving Honduras. This is not the first attack he has had from EEH, he had in his recent TV space El Informador spoken up criticising EEH for the negative impact it has on people in the south of Honduras, and subsequently lost this TV space he had. He said EEH was responsible for this. He also criticised JOH and congress president Mauricio Oliva in his work. As a recognised persecuted person he is a recipient of national protection mechanism measures, but that never prevents this type of state persecution.

On 15 November 2018, Faluma Bimetu community radio member, community organiser for over 25 years and Garífuna fisher Secundino Torres went out to fish and was caught in the currents and let his family know by phone which way the water was taking him before he disappeared. His family and community and some individuals in solidarity from different places are searching everywhere for him and doing what they can, but 15 days later they are still looking and had only found his boat and belongings. National and international authorities are largely absent in the search efforts.

On 22 November 2018, at 7.30pm, Ely Portillo, who is the director of the liberty of expression unit of Human Rights Defender Lawyers, was in front of his own home when two men hopped off their bicycle and viciously bashed him up and slammed him into the ground. One made a fist to punch him in the abdomen. Ely gathered all his strength to scream as loudly as he could to get help – some neighbours did hear him and came out to find out what is happening and as soon as they came out the attackers fled. Ely had previously been attacked by police and riot cops who shot 6 teargas bombs at his home forcing his whole family to evacuate.

On 2 November 2018, 80s death squad leader and security advisor of the previous government and ex candidate of party-in-power Billy Joya smeared the digital news website on a TV program, saying that journalists are ‘shameless radical leftists and populists’, after an article appeared on the site about Billy Joya having charged Libre parliamentarian Jorge Calix for defamation in having informed about state security’s assassination of 2 students, but that the court had declared the defamation charges inadmissible. Billy Joya had recently appeared in the same TV program, in tears, about his visa having been revoked by the US embassy in Honduras, being a recognised human rights violator. Note that the journalists of are at risk because smear campaigns are usually followed by further attacks, whether assassination or injury, or charges.

Protests against mines and dams persecuted, militarised, …

In Reitoca:

In Reitoca, there are community protests against the building of a hydroelectricity dam of Progelsa company over the Petacón river. On 12 November 2018, two environmental defenders of Reitoca, having been charged with usurpation and damages, attended hearing. On 24 November 2018, they became free of Progelsa’s charges. They are grateful for the emotional and economic supports of their community through the process.

In Guapinol, near Tocoa city:

The Guapinol community continues to protest companies attacking their water sources following the violent eviction of their protest camp on 27 October 2018. On 11 November, the community held a community assembly to voice their opposition against this concession in protected areas that are destroying the community’s water sources. As they gathered in assembly, the community was surrounded by military and police forces, and the roads going towards the site were heavily militarised with checkpoints where soldiers forced people off buses and small cars, and checked every bit of equipment and papers, intimidating people and controlling their movement. In the following days, the number of checkpoints between Guapinol and Tocoa city entrance increased, that within a 5km stretch of highway, there were 5 military checkpoints.

On 15 November 2018, weekday news program ‘Más noticias de Colón’, director on canal 22, Rigoberto Mendoza, was surprised by a call on his mobile from an investigative police agent summoning him to make a testimony about the protest against the hydroelectricity dam in Guapinol near Tocoa. Surprised and suspicious, because Rigoberto had covered the violent eviction of Guapinol on 27 October 2018, in which he and other journalists were also attacked by the police and military contingent of 1000, and because Rigoberto has also spoken up about death threats he had received because of his work, and that he had been followed when leaving after transmitting his program. Also that his son and photographer Erick Mendoza had suffered attacks to his health with the teargas in the eviction.

On 24 November 2018, people in Tocoa city organised a caravan protest, declaring Tocoa free of mining.

On 29 November 2018, police went inside the home of 63 year old campesino Jeremías Martínez Cruz, showing Jeremías a capture order and arresting him with charges of usurpation and damages against mining company Inversiones Los Pinares and the Honduran state; basically for participating in the camp against the mining company. This same file has 18 capture orders open against defenders of Guapinol. The first hearing is scheduled for 5 December 2018.

In Pajuiles, Atlántica:

Pajuiles has been in protests for over a year now. On 4 November 2018, the Pajuiles community blocked the Panamerican highway in protest against the building of a hydroelectricity dam over Mezapa river by Hidrocep company.

In San José, Lenca indigenous territory:

On 18 November 2018, a grassroots plebiscite was organised by the Convergence Against Continuism CCC, about mining and the JOH regime. More than 20% of enrolled persons attended, the results are as follows:

On agreeing or not to mining – 97.8% voted not, and 0.2% voted yes.

On whether they are living in a constitutional and democratic state – 96.9% voted no, and 0.7% voted yes.

On agreeing or not with the JOH regime and the extractivist model – 96.1% voted no, and 1.7% voted yes.

Community leader assassinated

On 11 November 2018, unidentified persons assassinated Berta Aurora Rodríguez Matamoros (aged 45) inside her own home. Berta is the president of the Las Pavas neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa. Her spouse is the president of the teaching hospital workers union, José Girón.


Threatened lgbti member killed

Jonathan Cruz of the lgbt community had received lots of threats, because of which he was going to flee to Costa Rica – his mum had already bought him a suitcase. However, before he managed to flee, he was assassinated, and was buried on 10 November 2018 at 10am. Jonathan was attacked 3 years ago, his intestines were damaged, and his community accompanied him throughout his treatment and recovery from this attack. Because of the threats and prior attack Jonathan was under ‘protection’ measures. He was not protected from his murder.

The exodus this November, precarious journeys and horrifying destinations

At 11.30pm on 31 October 2018, the Honduran people in exodus to the US had an emergency meeting to change how they were to proceed the next morning, because they were previously promised help from the Veracruz state governor Miguel Angel Yunes Linares in the form of 70 buses or 150 vans that were going to take them to Oaxaca. They were promised this, but because the Mexican federal government blocked this offer under pressure from the US government, this was withdrawn very late the night before the buses were to take everyone. The buses were going to mean that they didn’t have to walk through long stretches with too many curves, hills, and too few towns to receive them and a complete lack of medical services en-route, so they decided against this because many children were in delicate health conditions and needed to know that they are passing through places with health services and help in general. They decided instead to walk to Veracruz an area that has a high level of gang violence, because walking to Oaxaca was impossible.

The risk that they ran because of the buses having been cancelled did turn out to be a great tragedy. On 2 November 2018, during their walk, they were somewhere in Puebla and three trucks appeared and from them, ‘help’ was offered; ‘helpers’ pushed desperate women and children into the trucks KY88765 registered in Mexico, GX3391C registered in Guerrero, and a van KXC7906, they were obligated to get in and then told that the trucks had to be padlock closed so that people couldn’t see from outside who were travelling in it. Armed men were guarding the whole time. They began to obligate the women to make payments. The first time they handed over what little they had. The second time, they said they had nothing to pay, and eight hooded men appeared then, one entered, and announced that they were all sold. 65 children and 7 women. A handful managed to escape to tell others some of what happened, they escaped in a moment when the armed commando wanted to swap some of the victims between the vehicles around. The children and women are most likely being sold to sexual exploitation and child labour.

On 10 November 2018, in Nuevo Laredo, near the border of Mexico with US, federal police and migration police stopped a bus of migrants and ordered 19 Hondurans including 5 children aged 1-12 inside to get off. They didn’t want to get off because they were told they would be deported to Honduras. The 19 Hondurans were arrested as was the bus driver and everyone had their personal documents confiscated.

On 12 November 2018, one month from when the walk began, a month of sun, rain, repression, discrimination, perserverance later, the first group of Central Americans of this exodus reached Tijuana, Mexico, the border of US, including about 80 people of the lgbti community, who intend to be the first ones to ask for asylum from the U.S. authorities.

In California, there are collections being undertaken in solidarity to support migrants of the exodus. And back in Honduras, there has been marches in solidarity with the migrants, including in La Paz.

On 18 November 2018, a Honduran migrant named Darwin Donaldo C. Z. aged 34 was in a migration detention centre in Tapachula, Mexico, when he decided to use his own shirt to hang himself, choosing suicide over deportation back to Honduras.

On 23 November 2018, a Honduran migrant called Jeremías, of Las Aradas, died in Mexico.

On 25 November 2018, at the Mexico-US border, where almost 500 asylum seekers have reached out of over 7000 Hondurans fleeing the dictatorship, poverty and violence. What they flee are conditions that US policies have direct contributions to. Rather than changing the harmful policy, the Trump US government approved the sending of about 5200 soldiers to the US-Mexico border. From one side of the borders to the other, these soldiers fired teargas and gunshots at the 500 unarmed asylum seekers. US government tries to smear the Hondurans fleeing in desperation as some media stunt. While it is a massive group travelling together, normally, already, about 400 Hondurans leave Honduras everyday, that’s 100,000 a year.

Meanwhile, back in Honduras, nurses and doctors at the teaching hospital complain that not having adequate equipment nor medicine there means some people are killed for lack of medicines, and others killed from getting the wrong dosis, not having drip drums. This and other conditions are some of what people flee.

Repression in the education sector: school principals persecuted and uni students wounded

On 8 November 2018, Gabino Vasquez School principal was threatened with being fired, its students having participated in independence day marches and played the song Get Out JOH there.

On 24 November 2018, in La Lempira the Lucila Pérez school principal Marco Antonio Reyes was arrested under charges from La Unión mayor accusing him of damages to state property – building a mobile wall at the school without having sought permission. Prior to the arrest, he was already persecuted – the state had not paid his salary for 14 months.

On 28 November 2018, state security forces entered UNAH autonomous university and wounded students there. When they saw that the press and human rights defenders were there, they turned around and left.

Arrests and confiscations against campesina people

On 4 November 2018, Inspector Rosales and Officer Castellano arbitrarily arrested Aguan Regional Agrarian Platform Coordinator Jaime Cabrera together with his motorcycle. On his release, he was told that his motorcycle was being confiscated unless he pays US$450, money he did not have. The reason they gave for confiscating the motorcycle was that two men rode on it at the same time, but this is not illegal where they rode. In contrast, a Dinant palm giant company employee Manuel Toledo was arrested at the same time for driving motorcycle without a licence, taken to the same police station in Tocoa, but he was released with his motorcycle.

On 15 November 2018 in the afternoon, in the El Progreso region, Juana Carranza, who belongs to the campesina cooperative Reyes Rodríguez Arevalo, and to CNTC campesino confederation, was on her way to Tegucigalpa to seek treatment for epilepsy, when she was arrested again for usurpation. Juana was transferred between police stations while under custody, stressing out people who were supporting her and not being informed of her whereabouts. She was released on bail conditions the next day. She already had the same charges from 10 years ago and has had gone every week for the last 10 years to sign at Potrerillos courts as her bail condition.

More news on the murder in March 2016 of indigenous anticapitalist feminist activist Berta Cáceres

On 13 November 2018, an anonymous ex special forces Honduran soldier who fled and travelled with the exodus told the press while in Mexico that he and others knew of JOH’s orders to assassinate Berta Cáceres, and also that one of the killers is Herzog Arriaga, another special forces soldiers, who had pretended to be an activist and got very close to Berta and earned her trust to then assassinate her. The soldier said it was Herzog Arriaga and one other man who had entered her home that night, and that Herzog Arriaga fired 6 gunshots. He said that JOH already had his eyes on her when he came into power while she organised against mining projects and in support of campesino struggles, and the order came in relation to her fight to stop the Agua Zarca hydroelectricity dam project. For knowing what happened, this annonymous ex-soldier and 18 others were imprisoned for some time through orders of JOH. They had been released since and this ex soldier took the opportunity of the exodus to flee. He highlights that Herzog Arriaga is not amongst the people charged.

On 29 November 2018, the hearing in relation to the assassination of Berta Cáceres concluded, finding seven of the eight accused guilty, the sentencing hearing witll be on 10 January 2019. Found guilty were: Edilson Atilio Duarte Meza, Elvin Heriberto Rápalo Orellana, Henrry Javier Hernández, Oscar Aroldo Torres Velásquez, Mariano Díaz Chávez, who was working as a military agent in the moment of the assassination, Douglas Geovanny Bustillo, who was head of security of DESA, and Sergio Ramón Rodríguez Orellana who is head of social environmental and communications department of DESA. Emerson Duarte Meza was absolved of charges as one of the material authors of the assassination. The family of Berta made the following statement, emphasing that many people who were behind the murder had been left out, that a system of impunity continues, that the social structures are left as they were before, that true justice would require a radical transformation for which they will keep fighting.

Updates on some of the political prisoners

On 26 November 2018, 9 of the political prisoners of Las Vegas, who were arbitrarily accused of setting a council building on fire in June 2018, have been freed.


October 2018 Honduras Coup Update

October 2018 Honduras coup update

Exodus: Thousands flee Honduras to Mexico and US

It all started on 14 October. Journalist Bartolo Fuentes who went with everyone said over 300 gathered in the San Pedro Sula bus terminal, and more people keep joining in. Lots of kids. Even babies that are just a few days old. People who are frail aged, disabled. Most people travelled with only a small backpack. There are some vehicles and they carry as many people as physically possible. Many others travelled on foot. Many in worn out and inadequate footwear. Some had no shoes at all. They left their homes and homeland in desperation and in hope – it was painful for everyone to leave people, to leave place, to leave behind what little they had. The word had gone out that their journey had started and that they will be hungry and thirsty in places they shall pass through.

In everywhere they passed through, within Honduras, in Guatemala, in Mexico, local people organised and distributed what food, water, and shoes they had to share with the massive caravans of people passing through. When interviewed and asked what they are doing, some cried just thinking about the terrible conditions and life situation so many people fleeing in caravan are in. By 15 October, the caravan was counted to be thousands of people and had reached the border of Guatemala. On both the Honduras and Guatemalan sides of the border, the pathways were heavily militarised – at the Agua Caliente and El Amatillo borders of Honduras with Guatemala and El Salvador, borders were militarised with Honduran soldiers to force people fleeing the JOH regime to go back to their homes. There was militarisation on both sides, and it was hours later when finally people who perservered had made it through to the other side, without having had their ID’s registered one by one (the usual procedure) since the border did not have the staffing level for the number of people coming through.

While inside Guatemala, on 16 October, journalist Bartolo Fuentes was arrested by Guatemalan police, accused of ‘irregular entry into Guatemala’, saying he had not been registered – nobody had been – they targeted Bartolo so that there were less journalists accompanying the exodus to watch out for everyone and report. Bartolo was reporting in international, national and social media. Bartolo was escorted to Guatemala city where he was detained, his whereabouts was unknown for hours, until Guatemala’s human rights ombudsman office communicated to the Honduran human rights organisation Cofadeh.

On 17 October 2018, the exodus was reaching El Salvador, at the El Amatillo border, and people were getting registered with their ID cards. There, people who were fleeing with their little children were being told that they couldn’t go through, not with their little ones. Precisely, a lot of people were fleeing in hope that there can be a better future for their children – so they have food, homes, so they don’t get assassinated, to have jobs, to have medicines in the hospital, to have access to education. People flee gang violence, political persecution, extreme poverty under a neoliberal dictatorship. Queer peoples flee for hope of stopping to be targets for hate crimes. People have a saying, that it is better to say that ‘here they ran’, than that ‘here they died’. Everywhere that the states try to force people to turn back, they chanted, ‘we are not looking for the American Dream, we are fleeing’, ‘we request the presence of human rights advocates’, and ‘we don’t want to go back to Honduras’.

On 18 October 2018, Guatemalan police arrested eight more Hondurans at el Petén, and put these into migration ‘refuges’ – detention centres. In the moment of their detention, they were all soaking wet and feeling terribly physically and psychologically. Nobody has a ‘good time’ at the borders. People everywhere – mostly people who don’t have a lot themselves – show great kindness and reach out and try to do what they can, but the states, they send police, soldiers, under the direction of their presidents, who are in turn on their knees to the US president Trump. In Tegucigalpa, there were protests in solidarity with the migrants in exodus. They met at Hospital Escuela (school hospital), which a journalist pointed out, does not seem much like a hospital since it is not equipped, and has stopped to be a school too in the teaching of medicine.

On 19 October 2018, as the exodus approached the Mexican borders, Mexican authorities had closed off the borders in preparation to block their entrance. Masses of people proceeded to jump the barriers and were attacked by Mexican police with teargases. At the same time, there is a second caravan of people, just arriving to Guatemala City, trying to reach the first lot of people. The exodus is numbering about 10,000 Hondurans at this point. The journalist Bartolo Fuentes, after several days in detention was being deported back to Honduras on a plane this day. People in Danlí, Honduras mobilised in solidarity with their migrant siblings, and chanted that they wanted a city not plagued with violence.

On 20 October 2018, when journalist Bartolo Fuentes was freed, he said he was locked up for over four days, and that there are threats from the Guatemalan government to charge him but emphasised that it was nothing compared with the suffering of those who are in the walk of the exodus, fleeing the tragedy they live in in Honduras. He affirms to continue to struggle with everyone to change the terrible situation so that people stop to having to flee. Meanwhile, the border at Agua Caliente Ocotepeque was and continued to be closed, with police and soldiers there stopping Hondurans from leaving Honduras as they aim to migrate to North America.

On 22 October 2018, as people continue moving along towards their goal, on KM2 in Tapachula, Mexico, Melvin Josue Gomez Escobar, part of the Honduran exodus, fell from a vehicle (they are all overcrowded), and was run over by another and died. The conditions of walking, travelling, moving through borders had been really hard. People had spoken up in assemblies, etc about arrests, rapes, disappearances, separation from families… little kids who lost their parents but others who have taken them under their wings in these difficult journeys until they find their families. There is also a famous 12 year old child Mario David who was travelling without his family in the exodus – he got locked up in a refuge for underage migrants in Mexico, in Tapachula, ‘they just bashed me and I don’t know how I fell, but when I regained consciousness I saw that it was night time, and I had waken up in a prison, closed off. They just told me that they were going to give me the papers and all, to move around in Mexico. I feel sad, here one doesn’t go out or nothing, doesn’t see nothing. If they deport me I will come back again’ – you see, in Honduras Mario David’s dad earned so little, ‘my dad didn’t have money even to eat’, and he didn’t go to school to learn to read or write, for which, his dad got fined. People victims to the impossible environment are blamed and punished for not having the means. Meanwhile, across Honduras, people organised a noise protest across Honduras banging on cacerol dishes in support of the migrant sisters and brothers, and calling, as they have consistently called for, for JOH to get out.

The JOH regime says they don’t want people to go, and tries to enforce this with policing, at the same time, people who are poor and trying to stay and make a living have their little stalls selling fruits on the streets destroyed by the same police.

On 24 October 2018, migrants sent warnings onto other migrants – cross the river, they said, it will be less dangerous than entering on the highway and asking for refuge at the Chiapas authorities in Mexico – something that hundreds had done, declaring themselves at refugees, only to be told, ‘we will take you to a refuge and give you a visa, come on this bus’, they were subsequently taken to immigration prisons-concentration camps, separated from their spouses, children, parents, and told they have to wait for a permit and that it would take 3-45 days (but in reality could be much longer even). So, migrants told other migrants, ‘don’t believe in the authorities, go in group, and cross the river.’

Subsequently, on 31st October, about 200 Honduran migrants from the second exodus were arrested in Chiapas.

A poem by Honduran poet Olga Iris Mencía Barcenas:


La metáfora se extravío.

Caminan sobre espinas

Siguen desconocidas rutas

A golpes Presentidos

Otean el peligro

Pero volver atrás

Sería retornar a constantes pesadillas, perderían el sueño.

Divisan agua en los desiertos


Lloran: agua podría ser en sus labios y hasta el sudor que lleva aroma de miedo y esperanza.

Avanzan, cada paso es trecho ganado.

Lo certero allá son gendarmes guadaña en mano.

Lo certero aquí,

son gendarmes obedientes a un tirano, nada podían perder ya,

se forzaron al éxodo.

Son estas, Palabras en fuga.


Repression of protest marches

On 13 October 2018, in Choluteca city, at a protest against the rising costs of electricity fees and of food, and against privatisation of all the sectors – an ongoing protest of every Wednesday and Saturday, there was repression by police and military that resulted in over sixty people being physically hurt from the police brutality. Lots were bashed and chased, including children, older people and pregnant women, at least a couple of people ended up in emergency, and there was masses of teargas bombs shot and police were seen picking these up before others pick them up who might put these on the news or in social media or to show to human rights organisations. Human rights defenders of ACI-Participapa – Hedme Castro, Erik Fernando Hernández, José Gudiel and Nivia Vargas, and at least one journalist too, Jairo López were amongst the people hurt by police to the point of having to go to hospital. Jairo had been banned from getting media spaces because of state politicians’ orders. Investigative police did not stop at the scene of repression and proceeded to the hospital where a protester was admitted to carry out profiling against people they had hurt. Equally, police attacked small stallholders selling tamarind and melon juices and destroyed their stalls. More broadly, people see more and more soldiers doing policing and they are seen lots in hospitals, schools, and welfare offices. People have observed an massive increase in incidences of plain clothes soldiers profiling in protests and spying on human rights organisations in other spaces.

Protests in Tegucigalpa in solidarity with the migrants in exodus were equally repressed by police and military. From 22 October 2018 to at least 26 October 2018, everyday, there were protests by students of UNAH, and they were everyday attacked by police and soldiers including with teargases. On 26 October 2018, Los Indignados also organised a mass mobilisation in town in solidarity with the migrants and were also attacked by police and military with teargases – to the extent that people in shopping centres near the protest were also affected by the massive amounts of teargases launched.

Environmentalists and environment attacked – kidnaps, arrests, homes burnt down, shot at, charges and capture orders, curfews…

On 9 October 2018, social and environmental justice organisation MADJ volunteer Ians Rivera of Tela was kidnapped by four unidentified hooded men who threatened him and took him into their van to an unknown direction on a mud road.

On 11 October 2018, young MADJ activist Freddy Molina was arrested by police, reasons for the arrest were unknown, and he was taken to an unknown direction. Freddy had been involved in the protests and blockade camp.

On 6 October 2018, when the environment camp Guapinol in Bajo Aguan against mining company Inversiones Los Pinares had gone on for over 68 days, ‘justice’ authorities emitted capture orders against 18 social and human rights leaders, who belong to COPA grassroots organisations of Aguan, San Alonzo Rodríguez foundation, and the San Isidro Parrish. They are being charged with coercion, usurpation and threats. On 25 October 2018, there were threats of evicting the camp on the 26th or 27th, with the military commands already stationed inside buildings of the mining company on site. By 26 October 2018, hundreds of agents were there ready to evict the camp and the camp had been on alert for some time then.

On 26 October 2018, Guapinol activist Irma Serrano’s home was surrounded by some twenty motorcycles and the hooded riders set her home on fire with her and her two daughters inside and proceeded to fire gunshots inside, and some hooded men kidnapped her and her two daughters under threats to assassinate her. They were kidnapped for over 20 hours before they were free.

On 27 October 2018, around 1000 police and military agents violently destroyed the Guapinol camp of people defending the land from the Pinares mining company, and attacked people – but there was little information about the repression except that it started with a door to door raid in the Guapinol community, and that journalists and camerapersons who were covering the state violence against people were forced by police and soldiers to delete their footage – the press said it was like a war scene. That night, people not willing to give up, continued their protest in a highway blockade, which was violently dispersed with gunshots and teargases of the police and military contingent. The state announced a curfew in Tocoa city to demobilise people in protest and make them vulnerable. The only people wounded named by the media were two dead soldiers and another wounded soldier.

Eviction and state of siege against campesina families

On 11 October 2018, in El Porvenir, Siguatepeque, someone called Marco Valeriano arrived with military comandos at 9am at the indigenous campesina base 11 de marzo of at least 120 families. Marcos jumped onto a tractor and started driving it, and with it, went onto destroying all the ready to harvest crops of coffee, beans, pumpkins, and also some fields of chokos, cassava and plantain. The military comandos without showing any eviction orders proceeded at the same time to carry out a violent eviction against the families that grew food there and destroyed their homes. The families had originally investigated and saw that the land had no owners, that it was council land, (the authorities now say the land belongs to Marcos Valeriano, who must have bribed officials) and had proceeded to grow food and build homes on this land that had belonged to their ancesters, to sustain one another. The families have to start all over again.

On 14 October 2018 at 6.30pm, CNTC campesino federation secretary general for La Paz region, and an indigenous leader, Sebastian Reyes, was arrested by police and antigang agents who also confiscated his motorcycle. He was charged with usurpation against the company Centrol América SA de C but was subsequently released and had the case provisionally dismissed on 15 October 2018. Days before Sebastian’s arrest, he participated in a telephone interview for a radio program of human rights organisation Cofadeh, in which he spoke up about the eviction and abuses against the campesina cooperative in Siguatepeque. According to CNTC, in La Paz alone, there are over 800 campesinos dealing with charges, about 181 of these are women.

On 29 October, the Lempira community that is organised in the MUCA campesina movement, had their campesino settlement invaded by armed agents who raided the homes and dragged the women and children out and arrested the men. The community was very frightened and nervous, their lives were in danger, there was a call out for the troops to get out and let people there live in peace.

More political prisoners still

On 3 October, a new political prisoner was arrested and added to fourteen others who have been arrested already back on 30 August 2018 and 25 September, including three women and two arrestees from 25 September who were given bail, while the nine men arrested on 30 August were taken to maximum security prison. All these were accused of setting on fire the council buildings of Las Vegas, Santa Barbara back on 18 June 2018. There are still others who have capture orders against them (there were 31 who had capture orders in total). That there had been a fire was seen on 19 June 2018, and some administrative documents were burnt and lost. During the day before on 18 June 2018 there were protests at the council demanding for the council to not give away the community’s water resources. People don’t know what had happened in regards to the fire, just that lots of people with affiliations with the Libre party, but who weren’t even at this protest, got arrested or are on a list to be, and people are being made political prisoners.

Police not pretending about the idea and practice of police protecting human rights defenders being a joke

Bernandino Perez is a human rights defender of the Lempira HRD network and a volunteer of Taragual community radio, who is at risk and has ID to show he is someone has a protection order because of the risk. On 10 October 2018, Bernandino tried to use his ID to assist an older couple held at the highway by the police – the man was not allowed to go through and the woman was needing to be at the emergency department of the hospital urgently. Bernandino tried to intervene to get her to the hospital. ‘Get out of the way’, Bernandino was told. He showed the police his protection order ID, and was surprised to be made fun of by the police in a ‘haha what’s this?’ sorts of way. In the end he did manage to get the police to let the couple through. At least 15 defenders who had these protection orders in Honduras ended up murdered in the recent years.

On 26 october 2018, a group of young human rights activists of AEDH and ASOPODEHU human rights organisations were attacked by police in the Las Cascadas mall at an entrance. Police pushed and suffed the youths, trying to dispossess them of their cameras using the pretext of suspicion of that the youths could have weapons and bombs in their backpacks to cause scandals and harm to people and to private property. Police accused the youths of defending delincuents and took photos of them. Their real crime was dreaming of and fighting for a better world and country for everyone.


September 2018 Honduras Coup Update

September 2018 Honduras Coup Update

Attacks against students – high school, primary school, university

Throughout August and September, school students at all levels had been protesting, occupying their schools, demanding subsidies for students and against the raised transport fares that went up a whooping 60% impacting on people’s possibilities for going to school and in all areas of their lives. In the end of August, two school students involved in protests were assassinated. Repression continued throughout August, some cases we know about are as follows:

Many incidents of people seeing cops taking uniformed high school students in the police vehicles and utes were reported.

On 30 August 2018, in addition to Gerson and Mario having been assassinated (see last month’s update), 6 INTAE students were taken to the CORE 7 police station, and later released to their parents when COFADEH human rights lawyers intervened.

On 5 September 2018, a whole family was participating in a protest when a cop pointed his gun at the child school student, very much aiming at him and threatening to pull the trigger. The child put his arm between his head and the gun.

On 7 September 2018, a protest of school students was evicted by cops. The cops hurt and arrested two Perla de Ulua school students in the process – Jorge Armando Zavala Martinez and Geovanny Hernandez. There were reports of journalists being pushed aside.

On 9 September 2018, 15 UNAH students had been locked up and were subsequently released with bail conditions of not leaving the country, signing regularly at the court, and not going to political meetings at the uni.

On 27 September 2018, in Ocotepeque, students occupy their school in protest. Hitmen, police, soldiers and DPI kidnappers entered en-masse by force to attack and evict, there was a callout to go and support the students’ effort.

Throughout, high school students in protest have reported persecution, harassment, details of cars with people inside watching and following them, and text messages and phone calls of death threats from the phone number (+504) 9946-1141. In these calls and messages, they say they know where the students live, who their families are, and their routines and movements. The numberplates of the cars that have been parked watching the students at the occupations of the schools are a tourist van with PDV 2862, and a Mitsubishi pickup with PDB7407 that is grey. When students look up the registry they found that PDV2862 does not exist, and the PDB7407 belongs to a trailer. There has been arbitrary arrests, attacks with teargases inside schools.

What independence?

15 September is a date where every year Central American countries officially celebrate Independence Day, and because the ‘independence’ is but a farse, masses of people participate in protests against the dictatorship instead of joining or cheering on official marching bands – and despite of payments being offered to join independence celebrations in the stadium, most refuse or accept but protest anyway. As always, there were protests around the country. This year, in at least one act, the US flag was burnt to highlight the fact that US intervention continues to keep most Central Americans poor and repressed everyday. Despite of the fear of knowing that protests are always repressed, a lot of people chose rebellion. In these dates, lots of new energies were floating around exploding of struggle and revolution. There were people dancing and drumming and some people armed with paint bombs, aimed at buildings, and then ran away from soldiers and police. Others chanted, sang, held, wrote and wore things that told JOH to get out. New seeds of struggle were being sown around, and that’s all ages. There were children on the streets protesting with their families and classmates. Some kids with an upside down sign and picture about justice, when adults approach them to tell them their sign was upside down, they explained that it was because the justice in Honduras is upside down. And since school students were already protesting all of August and September, the Education Minister made a statement saying that students and teachers were prohibited from protesting on this date, that they can only attend official marches that show ‘civic values’. Students rebelled. There are stories of children who attended the official celebrations and held up signs that said get out JOH, to then be repressed, by a zealous teacher, by security forces.. The repressive response, to squash social movements this date, as expected, was severe including over 30 arrests and so much teargas and rubber bullets. Known cases as follows:

In Tegucigalpa, the city was militarised, and in the moments when the 2009 coup deposed president Zelaya was giving speeches, many teargas bombs suddenly went off, followed by chemical water being launched from the police tank, and rubberbullets were also shot, and security agents chased the already fleeing people, wounded several and leaving hundreds affected by teargases – it was so bad that at least 15 people lost consciousness from the teargases and were taken away in red cross ambulances that are not stocked with basics – so as people protested, and are repressed and get treated they are reminded of one of many reasons why they protest. Amongst people who suffocated in the gases were little children. The city centre and surrounding areas were inundated by teargases. Some people seem to forget what had happened because days later conversations can be heard by many people around there, coughing and having chest pain, saying they did not know why. From this scene, at least 6 protesters were arrested by riot cops and taken to the lower areas of the parliament house. One youth in particular got the attention of journalists and human rights defenders, and asked for his name, ‘Meiki Bonilla Bustillo’, he yelled as he was being taken custody. When he was released, he told the press, ‘they didn’t ask me anything, they just told me that I am from MEU and that I am making trouble and grabbed me like that, but thanks to you journalists and the human rights defenders today I am still alive, otherwise I can assure you they would have killed me, because my crime is participating in protests and being young’.

Two kilometres away, in the National Stadium, people mostly of the national party celebrated the false independence, watching the military parade. A few students went into the stadium holding signs of ‘Get out JOH’ and four were arrested with their backpacks still on, two in particular were arrested for ‘disrespecting authority’ for holding a sign that said ‘get out JOH’ – they were taken away and not told what the charges were nor where they were being taken to. Then, students of the Central high school who had entered the stadium screaming ‘get out JOH!’ in protest, were attacked by teargases at the steps of gate 15 of the stadium, where a human stampede by the police followed hurting many who were already gas affected. In an odd attempt to spin the story, police spokesperson Jair Meza told the press that the teargas bombs were launched by the students, asserting that the students belonged to the MEU students organisation.

In San Pedro Sula, school and university students who were protesting the state executed assassinations against students who protested the dictatorship, were especially affected by repression on this date. They were hit with teargas bombs and rubber bullets, and a number of students were wounded, and the repression would have been worse had human rights defenders not intervened.

In Choluteca city, school students were repressed by teargases and water tanks. Mobilisations generally were also savagely attacked, one humble man with a lot of scoial conscience was especially hurt – Gonzalo Hernández. A picture was shared of him with open wound and blood all over his nose, face and eye.

In a lot of places, there were reports that around this date, between midnight and dawn hours, there were soldiers and paramilitaries walking around with their faces covered in the streets and neighbourhoods.

Community opposing mine at gunpoint – Guapinol

On 7 September, the Guapinol Camp in Defence of Water and Life had camped there for 38 days. The rivers San Pedro and Guapinol already show signs of contamination and destruction by the state-backed mining companies that is imposing their operations against the will of the communities. Tensions rose as one of the three culprit mining companies, Inversiones Los Pinares had its staff block the street going to the camp and threaten with not allowing more people come and go from the camp. In the midst of these conflicts, hitmen of Inversiones Los Pinares fired gunshots against protesters, from which the young Rigo Hernández was gravely wounded, and was left struggling for his life. A few days later, there were representations in the media that those who oppose the mine are violent.

Attacks on Rio Blanco and updates re Berta

Two and a half years after the assassination of Berta Cáceres – founder of Copinh and indigenous, feminist, anti-capitalist activist, who campaigned in solidarity with the Río Blanco community against the hydroelectricity dam that the DESA company is still continuing to impose, the court case continued and was going into hearing this September 17 2018. Days before, one of Berta’s daughters, Bertha Zuniga Caceres, told the press that there are no conditions for justice to be brought within the Honduran judicial system. On the day of the hearing, hundreds of people, of different indigenous groups of Honduras – Garífunas, Tolupanes, Pech, Lenca, Maya Chortí, supported by others, camped outside the court from the night before, holding indigenous ceremonies for Berta and protesting the lack of justice in this case, they were surrounded by heavy militarisation, that had the sole purpose of quelling protests. At midday, a DESA shock group headed by Héctor Mejía – brother of one of Berta Caceres’ murderers, and DESA staff Olvin Mejía, arrived to the camp yelling insults at people of the camp, to the Garífuna people, ‘you lived as slaves, you will go as slaves’, and at Copinh people, saying that those charged were innocent and saying how good DESA is, and threatening human rights defender Irma Lemus, saying, ‘you…now there are many days left that I will see you there’. As it was amidst heavy militarisation, police was right there, watching, laughing, filming, egging on the shock group you would say. Shortly after this, the hearing was suspended and people regrouped in safer spaces.

Then, on 26 September, in the Río Blanco community in the Vega del Achotal area where the Lenca community is growing food, DESA company employees of the Madrid family carried out an armed attack using machetes against community working the land there. The Madrid family is the one that stole Rio Blanco ancestral land and illegally sold this to DESA. DESA continues to operate and generate terror in the context of the ongoing courtcase about Berta’s murder.

More attacks against other communities resisting hydroelectricity dams this September

On 7 September 2018 in Reítoca, at the river where there are people organised and camped out to protect the river against the hydroelectricity company Progelsa, two campers were arrested and released after, having been beaten up and hurt too.

On 12 September 2018, communities in Chinda, Santa Barbara are on alert for repression having been organising since the beginning of 2017 when they held an open meeting in which 80% of residents – who are Lenca indigenous – had opposed the hydroelectricity dam El Tornillito. El Tornillito is the second biggest hydroelectricity dam project after El Cajon and is an enormous threat to the ecosystem, local vegetation, and fishing, sand harvesting, and basic grains growing livelihoods of the community. The river the dam is being built on is 240 kms long (with the joining of the Jicatuyo and Otoro rivers) and is to produce 150 megas of energy. It had also been learnt that a ministerial agreement 1402-2018 had been emmitted by environmental minister José Galdámez and published in the national gazette, that now classes all information about environmental licences issued as secret information.

As indigenous Lenca resistance organised in MILPAH organisation continues in Chinacla, La Paz against the hydroelectricity dam of Inversiones Aurora of nationalist parliamentarian and vice president of congress, Gladys Aurora López, one MILPAH defender is under a lot of attack. His name is Ermin López, he is 37, Lenca, and he is also an unpaid council commissioner in Chinacla, a community with ancestral community titles where 21 Lenca indigenous communities live. Ermin has ongoing threats against him and learned of a plan to kill him around the time of the fraud, for having accompanied the struggles against the JOH dictatorship. He received the information from PINU councillor Oscar Aguilar, who heard that money had been offered to end Ermin’s life. As Ermin does his best to carry out his work as a volunteer councillor (balancing this with his paid construction work) and is constantly speaking up about cases involving logging (against Manuel Garcia), about a teacher Juan Ramón Molina who physically punished children at school, against the concession of the El Pacayal hill area and against all mining, hydroelectricity and logging, about politicians’ and other corruption in general – this has made him targets of many politicians and businesspeople and of the teacher. There was a night in August 2018 when he was having dinner at home and he heard noises at the door so he went out and was surprised by attackers who jumped on top of him, one armed with machete. They kicked him in the hand and near the eye and he found a way escape their hold and pushed both of them into a hole that had been dug for a compost toilet, and as he asked his mum to call the police, the two attackers made a verbal threat and fled into the dark of the night.

Raid and persecution against organised farmers of Aguan

On 6 September 2018 from 2am, 50 soldiers raided the home and farm plots of farmers cooperative La Despertar president Marcial López. La Despertar is fraudulently claimed by large landowner René Morales. La Despertar won its land title in court with lawyer Antonio Trejo back in 2012 following which Antonio Trejo was murdered and the court decision was reversed.

Within the Aguán region, a declaration was issued on 28 September that there are concerns that the following activists have their lives in danger: Aguan leaders Jaime Cabrera and Yoni Rivas, Regional Bajo Aguan Agrarian Platform coordinator Hipolito Rivas, José Chavez of the Gregorio Chavez cooperative, and Leonel George of COPA (grassroot organisations of Aguan), human rights defender Annie Bird and journalist Nina Lakhani. Also all the farmer families of the Panama community are living under terror and tension with armed groups having entered and stationed in Paso Aguan farm in the site of land recovery.

Journalists threatened and repressed

On 11 September 2018, journalist Gilda Silvestruchi, director of ‘En la plaza’ program and correspondent in Honduras for Telesur, spoke up about threats she is receiving from Ramón Enrique Jeréz Solórzano using several facebook profiles. Ramón’s mum is court judge Maria Teresa Jeréz Solarzano, he also has an uncle Máximo Jeréz Solarzano who is ex Conatel telecommunications commissioner. The threats had been going on for months. Gilda said that if anything happens to her or her children, she blames not only Ramon Enrique Jerez Solozarno but the dictatorship president JOH too as ultimately the threats are because she criticises the state in her journalism work.

On 15 September 2018, as UNE-TV journalists covered police and military repression at the independence?-day-protests in the Central Park in Tegucigalpa, they were also attacked and repressed. Cameraperson Albert Palacios was attacked by agents for having recorded images of police brutality against a youth ‘I was where Mendels used to be and I was recording when they were hurting a kid and suddenly they pulled me by the neck and started by bash me and damage my camera with stones that protesters had thrown at the cops.’ Cameraperson Mauricio Ordoñez was hit by a supposed rubber bullet that broke his mobile phone screen with which he was recording the repression. Journalists Cesar Silva, Ivis Alvarado and Rony Martinez together with camerapersons were transmitting the arrest of the youth Meiken Bustillo where they were pushed by riot cop shields. A teargas bomb was launched at the feet of the journalists when they were asking for the name of the arrestee. Everyone got sick from the teargas too.

On the other side of ‘journalism’, there are from this date more complaints by HCH journalists of attacks by protesters, of ‘verbal abuse’ with chants of ‘HCH get out, you sold outs!’ and throwing stones etc at their cameras – remembering that HCH reports on the side of police and the state.

Smear campaigns

An alert issued of smear campaigns this month, emphasising that smear campaigns are always followed by killings – there was a smear campaign against Berta Caceres before she was assassinated.

In Colón, the military intelligence created a fake ‘independent campesino organisation’ to attack English journalist Nina Lakhani, who is in the region investigating violent deaths in the Aguan valley as well as covering the hearing against the killers of Berta Cáceres, in Tegucigalpa. The fake organisation accused the journalist of supplying campesinos with weapons to exterminate the Xatruch military force, to destroy the investments of Standard Fruit Company and the palm company of the Facusses in the region, as well as to paralise the petrol exploitation of the British Gas group that has a multimillionaire contract over the Atlantic Coast of Honduras.

Also in Colón, the emporium of companies of Facussé-Nasser, of company Los Pinares, of the council of Adán Fúnes are said to be responsible for the smear campaigns against the communities of the San Pedro and Guapinol areas, where there are communities protesting against mega projects of death.

In Atlántida, the brothers Victor and Martín Fernández of San Juan Pueblo, are currently subject to smear campaign by Pérez, Hawit, Atalas and MINOSA families who are pushing to destroy an ancestral cemetery to mine for gold to export to Canada. The brothers are environmentalists and lawyers and community leaders of MADJ. Victor is currently representing Berta and Copinh in the lawsuit.

In Copán, the leadership of MADJ, ACI Participa, ASONOG, are all under smear campaigns financed by MINOSA gold mining company that has Canadian capital.

In Yoro, the journalist team of Radio Progreso headed by Jesuit priest Ismael Moreno, suffer smear campaign for their work of accompanying communities that resist mining projects.

In Santa Barbara, the MAS environment movement also suffers smear campaign for accompanying communities of Gualala, which oppose the exploitation of a mineral that will destroy 80% of the sand land village. – the province authorities had authorised 86 mining concessions and 28 to exploit rivers, converting the province into an environmental and social bomb. Between Santa Barbara and Choluteca, the American Pacific company alone, sold by US businessmen to Canadian miners, has 45 metallic concessions granted there with Honduran state backing.

All mentioned and more, suffer campaigns with pirated images of themselves, distorted memes, and fake profiles in social media, and official declarations of the dictatorship’s spokespersons, and of private associations, comments from journalists that get payments from Cohep business council, and from the mining association, etc. The smear campaigns some try to smear organisations to halt the influence organisations have to mobilise people, others to create doubt about the authenticity of the human rights defense work, and some to induce fear, kill collective moral and physically assassinate the leaders – this happened to Berta.

Police checkpoint stop at gunpoint

On 25 September there was a police checkpoint operation at the CA5 highway – one cop of this operation forced all passing motorcyclists to stop and get off their motorcycles at gunpoint, threatening to shoot and kill anyone in any moment.

Seven years later, nine years later. Court proceedings

Seven years ago on 24 March 2011, 18 teachers were arrested, imprisoned and released on bail, with charges of sedition, having initially been arrested for ‘illicit protests’, they have gone to sign at the court every fortnight in the last seven years as their bail conditions. The hearing was finally complete – one of the evidence used against them was that they ‘had hate against the police’. On 28 September 2018, the 18 teachers were finally free of the charges.

Nine years ago on 12 August 2009, police captured and tortured 27 protesters and journalists in a protest against the coup, the 27 were taken to a candestine prison, and afterwards they charged 5 policemen and women for this crime – José Ventura Ramos, Carlos Isaías Polanco, Suyapa Marina Elvir, Juana María Alvarado, Esther Esperanza Ramos (the only one still in the police force now). On 12 December 2013, the court dropped the charges. Human rights organisation Cofadeh appealed this decision, and on 26 September 2018, this case is reopened with the first preliminary hearing on 24 October 2018. Note that these do not have bail conditions of signing regularly at the court, they just have to accept management by their own lawyers.

Another politician getting away with killing

On Saturday 8th September, Mario Pineda, IDEOCOAS minister, was driving his no doubt fancy car near Premier mall, when his car went into the footpath, running over an 11 year old child – he took the child to the fire station who said they couldn’t do anything so he took the child to the military hospital where the child died. He paid the costs of the funeral but was never arrested or charged – his brother is Supreme Court judge Miguel Pineda. At the wake of the child, 4 lawyers of the politician arrived to offer the family money and pressure them to not sue Mario or take any actions.

August 2018 Honduras Coup Update

August 2018 Honduras coup update

In August 2018, it was the students in primary school, high school and university who carried on the struggle against the increase in transport costs, since they and their families are hit hard by these. Students protested demanding the return of student transport allowances and the lowering of transport fees in general. There had been at least 12 days of road blocks throughout this month by the students and as many ruthlessly brutal evictions, and at the end of August, two high school students were removed by state investigative agents from one of their homes and their bodies found on the streets near their school afterwards. At the same time, there have been lots of attacks by the state against journalists who tell news of struggle and repression and corruption, while more HCH journalists who tell news that speak of police as the good guys and protesters as inconvenient and irrational complained of being abused by protesters in different contexts of struggle and confrontation. Campesinos, environmentalist and community struggles also continue as does the repression against these.

Killings, and multiple violent evictions against students – school and university aged – in protest

On 1 August 2018, a massive repression was executed by police against students protesting at UNAH. At least three uni students were wounded, as was a human rights defender of International Ecumenical Human Rights Watch Francisco López, they were apparently wounded by ‘rubber bullets’. Students were outraged and half destroyed a bus breaking its windows with stones.

On 8 August 2018, outside UNAH near the Suyapa Boulevard where uni students were protesting, a red ford tourist van drove past firing three gunshots at students there. UNE TV was filming and on their footage, the gunshots could be heard. Six days prior, in the midst of student protests, right-wing-journalist Renato Alvarez of the Frente a Frente program of Televicentro had on his program called on state intelligence authorities to identify students and prepare charges for them, saying that the students were causing chaos.

On 16 August 2018, after the police and military repression against high school students already the day before, police again repressed and violently evicted students in three cities of Honduras. In San Pedro Sula, students of several public schools gathered for a roadblock at the toll booths and were evicted with teargas bombs. From this teargas bombs attack one of the youths told the press he was suffocating and had to go to hospital. In El Progreso, Yoro, 200 students of Perla del Ulua school occupying the highway on the Quebrada Seca Bridge were attacked by a plain clothes person who fired gunshots at these. The attacker was reportedly arrested by police after. In Tegucigalpa, students of ITH and Jesús Milla Selva schools who occupied the Boulevard Fuerzas Armadas highway were evicted by police. As the day developed and the evicted school students went on to join the protests of the uni students, the joint protest at the vehicles gate of UNAH was subsequently violently evicted.

On 22 August 2018, two students of the Central Vicente Cáceres school were protesting the raise of bus fees when police arrested and bashed both of them and took them to the Los Dolores police station at the city centre of Tegucigalpa.

On 23 August 2018, in the Kennedy neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa, police launched teargas bombs by the hundreds against primary and high school students. There were also reports of gunshots having been fired at the youths and children. Some videos of the repression by teargas bombs against the children:

On 30 August 2018, in Tegucigalpa, a major mobilisation was organised by Convergence Against Continuism (broadly against the dictatorship, called for freedom for political prisoners and also voiced the students’ demands about transport costs.) In the Kennedy neighbourhood, hours after the mobilisation had finished, the bodies of two students were found on the street near their high school (ITH) in an area known as ‘la montañita’ – the two students are Mario Enrique Suárez Gómez (19) and Gerson Daniel Meza Medina (18). Their bodies showed signs of execution, and as words went out about their assassination, images also poured out in social media of evidence that they were kidnapped from one of their homes by two government investigative agents of ATIC department – they kidnapped the pair, took them handcuffed, suffed them into a black vehicle without numberplates. Mario and Gerson wore the same clothes in which they disappeared and were handcuffed still when they were being killed. Their friends said Mario and Gerson were active in organising the student protests. ITH students protested at least 12 times blocking roads and getting evicted violently each time. After the images about ATIC came out, the government made statements saying that there have been ‘criminals’ going around ‘pretending’ to be ATIC. Mario and Gerson are not the first either, to be arrested, disappeared, and then their bodies dumped for all to see.

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State persecution against communities defending their territory and environment

On 17 August 2018, four members of the Puerto Sierra Community of Playa Blanca Village around Zacate Grande had been charged by landowner Jorge Luís Casis Leiva, accused of damages. They have capture orders against them, their names are María Veneranda Cruz, Oneida Cárdenas Flores, Yésica Cruz and Jacinto Hernández Cruz. They join the long list of people in the area who have lived for generations on the beaches there and are persecuted for defending themselves from being pushed out of the area, in a struggle that started 18 years ago. Already, over 70 people have faced charges, there has been violent evictions, persecution, forced displacement, two political prisoners – Abel Pérez and Santos Hernández who have been sentenced to 5 years and a month prison terms. They are appealing the sentence. This repession is in addition to attacks against the community radio and community journalists.

On 28 August 2018, in the Florida sector in Atlántida where around 300 people gathered in assembly and road block to stop the entry of mining project machinery onto a site, two police patrols arrived, and people feared what this intimidation can mean because of history of police brutality.

Meanwhile also on 28 August 2018 in Tocoa, Colón, the city of palm plantations and farmers movement region Bajo Aguán, people have set up camp since 1 August defending the area against mining, a camp called Campamento Guapinol Por la Dignidad, in defence of water and of life, of the rivers around, including of Guapinol river and San Pedro river. The businessman Carlos Alfonso Escaleras Mejía is pushing to impose the destruction of the area for his mining venture of company Los Pinares, using mega machines and dynamites to blow up the mountain and life. A lot of damage has been done already and things will only get worse – there are pictures around showing how tap water comes out in the Guapinol community and it literally looks like a bucket of rockmelon smoothie, but it is pure contamination of industries, you would not drink it. The environmental impact will be far reaching if the company is given the space to keep going, 900,000 people of the municipality will be affected, not to speak of the rivers, wildlife, and plant life. Threats and intimidation have started against people – armed groups have arrived to threaten people at the camp – the armed groups directed a message to one comrade of Ceibita Tocoa saying they have information and lists that blames the organisations COPA (Coordinator of Grassroots Organisations of Aguan) and Fundación San Alonso Rodríguez for getting people fired up and resist – so it was a threat to say these organisations will be targetted for persecution.

On 30 August 2018, Santa Barbara region’s Copinh (indigenous organisation) coordinator Faustino Enamorado Guillén and about ten others had been captured by police this morning who raided people’s homes, workplaces, etc, having a list of people they suspect of setting the council and police building on fire in protest.

Attacks against campesinos and campesinas

On 9 August 2018, a campesino woman suffered a miscarriage, in the context of living and struggling in the 9 de julio campesina cooperative, which has suffered heavy state repression including 27 violent evictions.

On 13 August, human rights defender Irma Lemus of the Aguan Permanent Human Rights Watch has already suffered a lot of persecution and smear campaigns. The latest attacks against her had been calls from private numbers, in which someone tells her that there is ‘already a price for her head’, to please watch out and take all the necessary security measures to save her own life. Should anything happen to her, she knows that the Honduran state is behind this. Her life and Rigoberto Durán’s have been attempted against back on 29.11.15 and the medical files with evidence about this had somehow been disappeared from the San Isidro of Colón hospital. Similarly, they place complaints twice at the prosecutors’ department and not only had there been no response but their files there had also been extracted. Family members of hers have also suffered aggressions.

On 17 August 2018, in Atlántida, in the Lis Lis Salado community, at around 11pm, a compañera and regional leader of CNTC (campesinos federation) was asleep in her home when her home was set on fire, luckily she woke up in time and was able to escape through the window and be safe, in this attempt against her life and the burning of her home. The Lis Lis Salado community has an ongoing onflict with the Standard Fruit Company, along with a seven years old land title case sitting in government drawers. The community is also situated on a beautiful beach area near the border with Colón, so is also target to landgrabbing for tourism megaprojects.

On 31 August 2018, when soldiers violently evicted farmers from the San Isidro cooperative in Bajo Aguán, Colón, community journalist and campesino leader Vitalino Alvarez was filming the abuse when the soldiers got angry at him, beat him brutally and broke his camera and dispossessed his work equipment from him. They hit him in the face and other parts of the body. Vitalino was taken to a hospital centre for medical attention. Vitalino reports for local TV channel Canal 5 of Bajo Aguán and is a member and spokesperson of the campesino movement MUCA.

Attacks against Journalists

On 1 August 2018 where students’ protests were going on at UNAH, police was heavily repressing students, and cameraperson Emilio Flores and other journalists were there filming, and at around 4pm police attacked Emilio and others – Emilio tried to escape but in the process he was chased by several police who told him to hand over his camera equipment and to take off his mask which protected him from the teargases, when he refused to give in his camera the police began to hit him in the back with a baton. When police was reaching for his mask to remove it, he took advantage of that focus to break free and run away.

Minutes later, at the same protest, student journalist Kency Gissel Grandez Duron (21) was there covering the protest for Conexihon, when dozens of police attacked her. Police grabbed her and snatched and stole her mobile phone with which she was transmitting live and in that moment you could hear her saying ‘the police is attacking me, no, ayy, they are attacking me,’ and you could also hear on the live broadcast a police ordering her to take off her mask ‘take off the mask, take off this shit, take in some gas’. The police called her a daughter of a bitch and hit her in the head, kicked her, launched teargas bombs towards her and others. Kency also managed to find a hole to escape and run away to not be arrested. Police could be heard arguing and yelling at one another for having let her escape.

On 16 August 2018, in San Pedro Sula, journalist Ely Vallejo of Canal 36 Cholusat Sur Plus was covering the high school students’ protest about the increase in public transport fees, when a police woman beat them up. The police also proceeded to smash their transmission equipment. In this video he points to his red, burning and painful shoulder and face, having captured this just as they were on their way to a clinic Ely has previously been subject to police brutality and death threats and has had to flee the country to safeguard their life, in relation to their journalism work.

On 17 August 2018, journalist Jairo López informed people on his TV program ‘el informador’ about a mobilisation the day before in San Lorenzo, Valle, against the privatisation of the state port company and state electricity company, when at 4.50pm, his program was suddenly paused and blanked out, and he told by one of the channel’s executives, ‘see, you just go around flying… try to put a channel on youtube or something’. Just like that, Jairo lost his TV space, for critising Empresa Energía Honduras – a public private alliance of energy provision that began in February 2016. The same exectutive had told him before that the channel had received calls from CONATEL telecommunications comission, accusing Jairo of doing ‘hate apologism’ in his news space.

On 21 August 2018, journalist Sandra Maribel Sánchez was transmitting a program live at the Tegucigalpa Radio Progreso cabin, when within minutes after going into the topic of the privatisation of health services in conversation with the doctors association president Suyapa Figueroa, Sandra received a death threat telephone call in which she was warned that she had better stop talking about the privatisation of health services, unless she wants to end up where other ‘loud mouths’ have ended up. The call showed up as a private number and she only answered because she was expecting an overseas call.

On 22 August 2018, observers were disappointed to hear UNE TV reporting that ‘the police authorities managed to arrest four students’ because UNE TV had been the only mainstream media that has not been pro-police, pro-government. It is heard that it is getting a lot of pressure and is its strong alternative voice seems to be breaking.

On 29 August 2018, journalist Dasaev Aguilar and the cameraperson, both of Irani news chain in Honduras, Hispan TV, were filming in support, on the road outside National Defence Department building. As they were filming, a solder approached him and said it was prohibited to film because it is a private place. Dasaev replied asserting that it was a public institution and space and that he had to right to keep filming. The soldier threatened him saying, ‘it means shit all to me that you are a journalist’. This was the third incident of threat or attack from the state he had suffered this year in the course of his work as a journalist.

On the other side, pro-police pro-government anti-resistence journalists of HCH continued complaining about attacks and aggression from people who are affected, stigmatised, and appalled by their reporting. On 20 August 2018, Brenda Moncada of HCH was covering the students protests and complained that a student had thrown a stone that hit her. On 30 August 2018, Angel Sevilla of HCH was likewise reporting on the street vendors’ confrontation with the council police from the police perspective when he was chased by street vendors. He went to hide and was helped by a colleague Alex Cáceres who made a similar complaint to Brenda and Angel just the month before.

Another attack against street vendors

Elsewhere, in Siguatepeque, Comayagua on 29 August 2018, council police attacked street vendors who sold food as their livelihood. When they tried to find another spot to sell, police saw them and proceeded to evict and capture the people.

Displacement by the state

On 19 August 2018, fourteen families marked their two months anniversary of setting up make shift homes on the city street facing a government department that manages land titles, having been evicted by the state from their homes where they have lived for 58 years – where they even had land titles but these were snatched from them. On this day they also held a wake for a young woman who died amidst all that had happened.


Honduras coup update July 2018

Honduras coup update July 2018

General Strike against high petrol and toll prices

July 2018 had been a month of barricades of highways using buses, trucks and cars with support from students as people worked to paralyse the economy, taking direct action to force the regime to submit to lower excessive petrol and toll prices. The protests started smaller earlier in the month, and even while small there were words on 11 July 2018 that 3 taxi drivers and 2 bus drivers were assassinated between 8pm and 9pm in Reparto Abajo in Tegucigalpa, it is believed that government death squads may have been behind these. People built towards a widespread mobilisation to block all major highways around the country from 19 July 2018 – theatre events and book launches cancelled in anticipation, classes were cancelled, and long distance buses did not sell tickets for these dates.

On 19 July 2018, as people’s organised direct action were effective in putting major pressure on the regime and the streets were empty except for highway blockades with buses and taxis parked in strategic points and tyres burning there, the regime’s police and military responded with repression and violent evictions. They hit cars blockading in front of Camosa with teargas bombs. The university UNAH was attacked with teargases and the military attacks worsened as the day developed – at 2pm dozens of riot cops shot teargas and chemical water tank at people and journalists gathered there. Public forces evicted CA-5 and people talked of reoccupying. Military police of patrol 7031 threatened a taxi driver on strike in the city centre of Tegucigalpa, telling him that he will be found by others, bagged up. Military police there were taking photos of drivers on strike there. That night, at 10pm, there were noise protests with people banging on pots and pans from inside their homes at 10pm. Riot cops were out evicting protests with teargases at Las Brizas and Casamata neighbourhood.

On 20 July 2018, police threatened to pull out (more life-threatening) weapons against protesters, and in Choluteca city there was a violent eviction against protesters. In desperation, a spokesperson of the business council called the protest ‘illegal’, saying that the protest is attacking the national economy.

On 23 July 2018, in the north where protesters blocked of the Danto bridge in an effort to throw some punches at the dictatorship, security forces attacked protesters and arrested fifteen people, their names are: 1. Franklin Noel Carcamo, 2. Aldo Uriel Fonseca Velázquez, 3. Darwin Josué Ordóñez Barahona, 4. Mario Roberto Milla, 5. Misael Alfredo Lagos Castillo, 6. Joel Arturo Lainez Mejia, 7. Héctor Leonel Díaz Castellanos, 8. Juan Ramón Sánchez, 9. Fredy Adalid Hernández, 10. Oscar Javier López Mejía, 11. Wilson Ariel Álvarez, 12. Reiniery Samuel García, 13. Leo Daniel Madrid Medina, 14.Daniel Pérez and 15. Jose David López Lagos. Repression was also reported in Santa Rosa de Copán on the CA-4 highway, and in Siguatepeque where police arrested a driver. In Tegucigalpa the military attacked people in the San Miguel neighbourhood where a journalist Engel Padilla was also attacked (more in the journalists section of the news). There were violent evictions also in 3 other neighbourhoods in Tegucigalpa, in Loarque, Carrizal and Belén. 15 were arrested and taken to El Manchén police station in Tegucigalpa. Lots of people filmed incidents of police and military brutality and uploaded these on social media. The day finished with transport workers declaring that they would give the JOH regime 48 hours of strike suspension before resuming their strike.

The 48 hours suspension did not mean there was no repression or protests in that time – on 24 July, while on the bus, owner of bus company Cotul, Germán Coto, was assassinated by two hitmen who were passengers on that bus – Germán Coto was very active in the preceding days of transport strikes and protests. Similarly, on 25 July in Choloma, public transport fare collector Antonio Martínez was wounded and assassinated. This 25 July 2018, there were protests at the UNAH, stopping traffic in the La Hacienda boulevaard, and security forces drenched these in teargases.

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Protests kept on at the UNAH on 26 July 2018, riot cops shot rubber bullets at students protesting there about petrol prices. Army and police also searched everyone who left the UNAH campus, and arrests were reported.

On 27 July 2018, in Villanueva, again, brutal and inhumane repression was reported, the repression toll was, four were wounded and eight arrested.

Attacks against communities and environment

On 3 July 2018, environmental defenders of Valle de Siria spoke up about threats they have been receiving from Herman Ritchel. Herman Ritchel is a man who applied to set up (he is setting it up and then selling it off to Ormat company based in Nevada, US) a geothermal project in this community and he is sending threats to leaders of the Environmental Committee of Valle de Siría (CAVS) who have been organising and speaking up against the project, of the environmental damages it will cause. The threatened leaders are CAVS secretary and community journalist Carlos Amador, CAVS president Roger Escober, CAVS treasurer Rodolfo Arteaga and also Olga Velásquez. The project being imposed is called 12 Tribus and sadly, it is known as the second project of death that Valle de Siria is confronted with, having recently suffered and been traumatised from the immense health and environmental consequences of the Entremares open pit mining project, and the persecution that came with opposing that project. Carlos is receiving threats in the forms of Whatsapp messages and calls, and the others have known that they are being watched and followed. Rodolfo grows food where Hermán Ritchel intends on building 12 Tribus. Like with the Entremares project, prior to the threats, there were attempts to bribe them, and when these had failed, the threats had begun.

But what are geothermal projects and what is so bad about them? As well as studying these in general and getting environmental impact studies, CAVS activists travelled to Usulután El Salvador where such a project had been installed since 20 years ago. Environmental impact studies point to that the company will be drilling holes in the ground between 3 to 5 kilometres deep. The drilling is facilitated by the use of chlorohydric acid, peroxide, caustic soda and other chemicals mixed together, to be able to install the tubing inside the ground. This process contaminates the waterwells and ground water used by people, farm, animals, wildlife and flora – the same as fracking, only, instead of fracking for gases, the company is fracking for heat. There would also be chimneys from which vapour escapes day and night, and noise pollution too. In the areas marked for drilling, they get rid of all natural life around it – trees, forests, water, rocks, sand, etc, so that nothing can fall onto the tubing. They would drill chains of up to 30 holes, and an exaggerated amount of water is extracted within seconds and minutes. In their visit to Usulutan, when within the 1 km radius, people can smell a pungent eggy smell that gives you headaches. People saw that crops don’t grow anymore in the area, and that people lost their property rights, and there are acid rains, and people spoke of others who died of kidney problems and of people who developed kidney and lung cancers. And people spoke of the noise so loud their ears hurt when the drilling began, and of earthquakes that affected homes of people. The Valle de Siri community already had the Playa river contaminated by Entremares open pit mining, and the water is so drastically reduced that there is only water in the river during rainy times. If Tribus 12 goes ahead, there is likely going to be no water left at all or it would be much less and extremely contaminated.

On 16 July 2018, Santos Suazo was leaving a shop when he was stabbed to death by a hitman, in El Retiro community in Arizona, Atlántida. Santos Suazo belonged to the camp in defence of the Jilamito river, a community that has camped out for 14 months with the support of MADJ environmentalist organisation, against the building of a hydroelectricity dam that would destroy the Jilamito river. Santos was very dedicated and committed to the caring for and protecting of common and natural resources.

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On 18 July 2018, people from different organisations and different regions of Honduras were gathered in Tegucigalpa, marching and speaking up about the attacks their communities have received as they organised against the imposition of mining projects.

On 19 July 2018, in violation against Afro-descendent communities’ right to self determination, the imposed building of a thermal electricity project began, against the will of the Sambo and Corozal communities.

In Amapala, in the south of Honduras where communities have had to defend themselves for years from pressures, threats and charges, the communities had to more recently defend themselves from the taking over of their homes by model cities. On 24 July 2018, members of the Islitas community spoke up about unknown military persons having come to dispossess them of any land in the community’s possession that contains access ways to the beach. The community consists of at least 98 homes and over 100 families, who have lived there for many decades and survive as subsistence farmers. Losing access to the beach will mean the loss of their livelihood.

Attacks against subsistence farmers

During July 2018, subsistence farmers – 23 families – of Quimistan, Santa Bárbara, spoke up about landowners’ violent evictions against their farmers cooperative Nuevos Horizontes. They have suffered four evictions already and police and soldiers have set their homes on fire. An organiser surnamed Guerra had lost his son to assassination and 3 comrades have suffered gunshot wounds in an ambush. Santos Aguilar Perdomo received a gunshot in his face and also has charges against him, so suffers deep psychological and emotional traumas. The cooperative has existed for over 18 years but the state has not legalised their lands. They have millions of lempiras worth of food crops that they stand to lose as there is no protection to their crops, nor for their lives or homes.

Attacks against journalists

On 2 July 2018 in Olanchito city, journalist Javier Rodríguez was arrested by police. Police also broke his video camera by force.

On 7 July 2018, in Cortés, journalist Meilin Coto of TN5 and Hoy Mismo San Pedro Sula city was singled out amongst other journalists and suffed around by a hooded police.

On 23 July 2018, cameraperson Engel Padilla of Canal 11 was filming military repression against protesters in the San Miguel neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa when 20 riot police, surrounded him and attacked and grabbed him by force as he continued to hold onto and film with his large camera. They arrested him and damaged his work equipment. Other journalists and camerapeople went o the police station to put pressure on in solidarity until he was released.

The same date, HCH journalists complained of protesters throwing stones and drink cans at them and calling them sell-outs for siding with the JOH regime. The context though was they covered the news protected by police and talked up the police like they were serving ‘people’ by being ready to evict the protests, saying that teargas bombs were ready in the tone of ‘don’t worry about the protests anymore’, at the same time saying that police are aiming to evict peacefully if people will only agree to leave instead of be dispersed by being shot at, chased and attacked.

On 28 July 2018, journalist Cesar Silva was invited to attend the meeting of Inter American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) at the Hotel Marriott, the entrance of which was cordoned by military police. The military police had orders to not allow Cesar Silva to enter. In this meeting, families of victims of assassination, political imprisonment and victims of persecution in relation to the recent post electoral repression were there to speak with the Freedom of Expression Special Rapporteur of IACHR Edison Lanza. Cesar was invited there to speak of the persecution he had faced as a journalist. When Cesar was stuck outside, Edison Lanza himself went out to the entrance to appeal to the military police to let Cesar in appealing to the fact that keeping him out was authoritarian. This is the same Hotel Marriott that political prisoners Edwin Espinal and Raúl Alvarado were accused of setting on fire.

On 30 July 2018, in a capital city hotel where the health department was hosting an event, journalist Jorge Estrada of UNE TV was refused entrance by the guards of honour of the first lady Ana García de Hernández – who was attending the meeting. The guard was recorded to say, ‘I am not doing this to you because I want to, they have given me an order and I have to comply with it.’ In response, Jorge protested pointing to that another journalist was just let in, so then he should be let in too – but Jorge was not let in as the order was not to block all journalists from entering, but specifically, to block those of UNE TV. It made no difference that even the health department public relations staff tried to intervene and ask the guards to allow any journalists to enter.

Attacks by borders

On 10 July 2018, Honduran father Eduardo Almendarez who was deported by US authorities, asked to have his 11 years old son back. The father and son were separated by immigration authorities, the 11 year old son held in Texas apart from his father since a month before. This is one of many cases like this.

Palm oil farmers

Back on the first week of June 2018, an employee of Dinant palm oil company, Manuel de Jesús Arita Hernández (66) was tying palm fruit on the top of his truck in the course of his work, when the load came falling and collapsed over him fracturing his spine and causing his blood in the brain to coagulate immediately. The emergency operation costed around US$60,000. The employer Dinant refused to pay for it saying it was not Dinant’s responsibility, so it was only the solidarity of friends, families, neighbours, all chipping in fast, that saved his life. Meanwhile the same Dinant goes around putting the word out internationally that Dinant is contributing to peoples wellbeing through packages of compensation and benefits and a supposed health program that workers enjoy.

On 29 July 2018, farmers and families belonging to the San Isidro cooperative on the right side of the Aguan river spoke up about how Dinant guards have threatened them, and how state agents have come summoning people and their land documents originals, and how their area has been militarised, since early on 28 July 2018 when they resumed their struggle to recuperate and defend the land there. Their history with the land is that it belongs to the farmers. It was won in court in 2012 by lawyer José Antonio Trejo, who was assassinated 3 months after winning in court, and months after his assassination, the cooperative San Isidro, Trinidad and Despertar were one by one dispossessed. There had been arbitrary arrests, physical and psychological torture against young and old alike, and women as well as men, bullet wounded, forced out by military.

Politicians attacked too

On 13 July 2018, the Libre councillors of Las Vegas municipality in Santa Barbara were attacked and threatened by other members of the council for refusing to sign points of the minutes – The Libre councillors are threatened and at risk of harm, charges and stigmatisation.

Other news

There was one police assassinated, and the media blew up the case, while no magnitude was given to the thousands of civilians who have been assassinated, ambushed, exiled, persecuted, etc.

On 23 July 2018, 19 of 38 people implicated in the corruption case known as the Pandora case were arrested and held preventively for a couple of days in the Tamara prison until their hearing, accused of money laundering, fraud, falsification of public documents – amongst these was the 2017 election’s presidential candidate of the Liberal party Elvin Ernesto Santos. Amongst others are parliamentarians and ex government officials.

June 2018 Honduras Coup Update

June 2018 Honduras Coup Update

Political prisoners’ situation update

Of the 22 political prisoners from the recent-electoral-fraud-triggered-semi-insurrectional-period, 17 have been released on bail having been imprisoned for more than four months each – one was released on 25 April 2018, the other 16 were released within the first three weeks of May. Five who continue to be locked up – three of them in maximum security prisons – are Edwin Robelo Espinal, Raúl Alvarez, Gustavo Adolfo Caceres Ayala, José Gabriel Godínez Avelar and Edy Gonzalo Valle. Those who have been released are so thanks to campaigning within Honduras and abroad, but there are grave concerns that the plan is to keep these five locked up. Those released are not free and safe as such, since being released, there has been constant reports of harassment which they and their families have been targets of by the police – of raids and police vehicles circling against their homes, of being watched, and direct threats from police, telling them, that they won’t send them to prison anymore – they will DISAPPEAR them. The campaigns, protests and pressure demanding freedom for political prisoners and an end to the political persecution against them and their families are ongoing – they are not resting and some of those released joined in, including the only woman political prisoner of this group, who said they must be tireless and keep fighting, for justice for all the political prisoners, and for a more just world.

Attacks against organisers, those at protests, blockades..

On 3 June 2018, in Reitoca, a Lenca indigenous group that organises and protests against the hydroelectricity project Rio Petacón of the company Progelsa – largely owned by businessman Jack Arévalo, was protesting and watching over the river, when some men suddenly appeared armed with machetes and pistols to attack, intimidate and threaten those protesting. It was found out that this shock group attack was organised and contracted by the mayor Marlon Osorto. Congress had given Progelsa a 50 years concession to Progelsa, and to the building company SERMACO, which is owned by the head of the liberal party legislative chamber, Elvin Ernesto Santos. The concession is not meant to be given without consulting those who will be affected, especially if those affected are indigenous, but of course they were not consulted, the government chose to consult people who weren’t going to be affected instead, who would be more agreeable. The government also did tell this community something early on, but it was very vague, something about a company coming to invest in the community and a dam and watering system. People heard the word hydroelectricity dam for the first time, not knowing what it was. Ex mayor (Liberal party) Manuel Meza explicitly tricked the community to grant permission for Progelsa – and of course he would do that, he has since been found guilty by courts for assassinations, homicide, illicit association and sentenced to more than a lifetime in prison for being a politician who had no limits in his quest for wealth. But in time, people caught on and would not permit the exploitation of their only water source, the river. They organised to set up camp and watch and stop the building process on 14 January 2018 wearing cloth that covered their faces to try to keep safe and avoid being targeted, but on 30 January as people arrived on the camp, a police-military contingent fired gunshots at people as well as teargas bombs – Mirian Sorto was shot on her left leg, and only now she has finally recovered from the wound and surgery.

Construction already being underway for the dam meant that people can already see the pollution caused by the dam and are deeply affected already. Fruit orchards in the area are ruined with fruit trees falling over. The Canta Callo hill is destroyed. The Rio Grande river in Reitoca is contaminated and the fishes in it are dead – with fish being a major food source for people who live there. At the beginning of 2017 the river turned all black, it looked like an oil spill had occurred. People recorded videos of the black water and dead fish. Waterways started drying up because of the diversion of the dam structure. They had meetings with the council and with Progelsa and brought them to the river to show them all this. The right thing to do would be to withdraw and regenerate the area but they have done nothing but attack people and try to continue implementing.

To push their profit agenda Progelsa started with attempts to bribe people. Indigenous council president Alejandro Herrera Euceda was approached several times and pressured to sign documents and was even approached by a government official in this way, telling him if only they agree to the completion of the dam that environmentalists can have a millionaire fund of reforestation that they have complete control over. Alejandro Herrera knows his life is at risk, having rejected the offer. Others’ are too. Human rights defender Renán Zelaya received threats on whatsapp from Miguel Angel Osorto Aguero, a very trusted employee of the municipality authority. Other members of the indigenous council have been threatened, with attempts of bribes and then death threats, but people there keep fighting to keep the river alive, in Reitoca where it was once peaceful and picturesque.

On 6 June 2018 in the midnight hours, Marvin Norales got arrested and locked up at the Satuye police station in La Ceiba. Marvin is a directive member of Ofraneh – fraternal black Hondurans’ organisation – an organisation that defends ancestral territories of the Garífuna people, Marvin is accused of usurpation of land in Puerto Castillo.

Also on 6 June 2018, a digital press release came out saying that the Amapala municipality Environmental Unit’s director Miguel Gonzales had affirmed that there is an eviction that will be executed against 700 people who live on 3 of the 13 islands on the peninsula – an area being concessioned for model cities. There was no precise information so people don’t know if they live in one of these islands or not. The region’s territory defence organisation Adepza is investigating to find out where these evictions are being planned so that people can mobilise to defend these territories. Subsequently, on 28 June 2018, Gerardo Aguilar, the director of the area’s community radio La Voz de Zacate Grande, spoke up about persecution and harassment lately against the journalists of the community radio. On the one hand, there are people sending messages of threat against those who run the radio, and on the other, Miguel Facussé’s guards keep searching the journalists when they arrive from the communities to work at the radio or are on the island doing personal errands. And if not harassed by the guards, then they are harassed by the soldiers, who target and question young people, stopping and searching and questioning these. These abuses happen all the time, as the territories are militarised. The targeting of young people is because the government knows that the youth are the ones fighting in resistance, so soldiers have orders to attack the youth.

On 8 June 2018, in Tocoa, there was on this date an occupation of the council building, protesting and demanding that the municipality of Tocoa be declared a municipality that is free of mining and other types of projects of death. The crowd wanted to go inside to deliver their demands to the Mayor Adan Funez. Adan sent the state human rights representative of Conadeh Juan Fraño to tell the crowd that the mayor will only receive up to 6 representatives in his office. When people sent ten representatives they were turned away – Adan left and listened to nobody. So people added to the demand a demand for Adan to step down from being a mayor. Adan went on to denigrate those who protested in the press. In Honduras when this happens, it is a threat of attacks to come.

On 12 June 2018, at Amarateca in Tegucigalpa, a protest of heavy vehicle drivers against the high petrol costs and tollway charges that started the morning before had drivers of heavy vehicles park their vehicles beside the highway as they rallied. Over 30 police agents abruptly began bashing up people there accusing these of ‘blocking the way’. Police arrested 13 people and one was hurt so bad he was rushed to emergency, and when they were bashing him people thought the police was going to kill him, and anyone who tried to intervene were getting beatings. Once the 13 were arrested, they were identified, registered, and then released.

On 13 June 2018, in San Francisco, Locomapa, Yoro, indigenous leader Ramón Matute was machete stabbed in the front and back and robbed of his belongings by the Tribal Directive Council vicepresident – Ramón belongs to MADJ environment and human rights movement, and is a defender especially of the forest and indigenous Tolupán territory, which was the reason he was attacked. Yoro authorities are supposed to protect Ramón and other environmental defenders as ordered by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, but instead, it authorises illegally concessions to the forest, and Yoro police had said and done nothing about this attack. This is in the context of worsening tensions and confrontations between forest defenders and forest loggers from the weekend before.

On 28 June 2018, a group of young people gathered at the Plaza Cuba in Tegucigalpa on this anniversary date marking 9 years of military coup, and protested the fraud that kept the dictatorship going. After putting on the national anthem, the people went to block a road, and that was when a police contingent arrived and started launching pepper gas at the young people, bashing them with batons, hitting them with stones. Some men in an Honduran energy company EEH car ran over a protester, trapping his body under the car. One man from inside the car kicked the glass window from inside the car and this splattered broken glass cut into the hands of 2 young people in the protest. More than 20 police were chasing protesters. .

Another community with an ongoing struggle against a hydroelectricity dam and suffering ongoing attacks from the dam company and its proponents is the San José community in La Paz, against La Aurora 1, in the protected area of El Jilguero Reserve. People opposing are threatened and definitely have not been consulted, and communities are divided. Despite that there are no assassinations as yet, people know that this is something that can happen, because of very tense conflicts that are in the community. There are some people of MILPAH organisation who have protection measures, but they are not actually safe, because the recommendation is that they obtain security escort, but the state claims there aren’t resources to provide these (but there are always resources for repression). The Aurora 1 dam has the National party behind it because it is owned by the party’s president and parliamentarian Gladys Aurora Lopez.

Attacks against journalists

On 2 June 2018, journalist Nincy Perdomo was trying to cover a mobilisation of the Alianza against the dictatorship outside the Presidential house building in Tegucigalpa, and was filming the riot squad water thank, when this very water tank attacked and shot at and impacted on Nincy’s body with direct and full pressure.

On 3 June 2018, a number of community journalists around the city of Choluteca tried to cover the developing news and were blocked by the police in charge of the prison from accessing the scene: there were at least 111 people arrested and locked up, many of whom had from the police brutality intense abdominal pains and were denied medical attention.

On 8 June 2018, community journalist Fabio Hernán Vallecillo who lives in Juticalpa, Olancho, was covering a scene of police abuse under ‘operation dragon’ in which they raided a nightclub and arrested a group of young people who were there without identification papers. ‘Sure, I was disgusted, I am human and when I see abuse.., so I told them these operations are pure shows going around grabbing youths who aren’t carrying ID cards and the real delinquent that you officers know where they live are happier than ever’. For having said that, police straight away handcuffed him, threw him into the police patrol and Fabio was locked up for 24 hours before being released.

On 10 June 2018, there was an online article that went out fraudulently, made to look like a Reporteros de Investigación article by using their logo. This fake article had the message of that militarisation of schools helped reduce drug dealers´ access to the schools. This happened after Reporteros de Investigación published articles covering the militarisation in schools and how soldiers have been sexually assaulting female students – so of course they are critical of the militarisation which they clearly see as social control and abuse against students. Such fake articles undermine the work and reputation of the organisation.

On 29 June 2018, journalists Lucía Alvarado of HRN and Manolo Escoto of TSI were in court covering the hearing of Juan Carlos Madariaga – a public official accused of money laundering over US$3 million in the IHSS scandal (IHSS is a health service for workers), when Juan’s siblings Jośe Luís and sister asked them to stop recording and the journalists responded saying it was a public hearing and they had the right to film. When a guilty verdict was given, the family slashed out at the journalists threatening them and were physically attacking them – they did this in the view of public and private security guards who did nothing to intervene.

On the night of 30 June 2018, in Olanchito in Yoro, TNS news and Hoy Mismo correspondent Javier Edgardo Rodríguez was covering arrests at the police station. Javier approached and filmed arrestees when he saw they have been hurt and were yelling out that they were beaten by police for no reason. As he filmed, he saw that one of the arrestees was his brother so he started interviewing his brother on camera, asking why he was being arrested. His brother told him that it was because they refused to be searched, so a search was forcefully carried out and they were arrested. The police immediately ordered Javier to turn off his camera and leave – when he refused, they pulled him away from the arrestees by force. As they took arrestees into lock-up, Javier continued filming. A police car was leaving and stopped and Subinspector Jorge Luis Salgado stormed out from it and pressed Javier against the wall, broke his camera, and yelled at him saying it meant nothing to the police that Javier were a journalist. Four other police came and dragged Javier into a police cell abruptly. He was illegally arrested from 8pm that night until 1am, his release was obtained through pressure by his colleagues – they sought justice saying that the arrest was wrong, but police responded saying they are the authority and will always have the power. The security minister had on 1 July 2018 announced in a public statement that this arrest was because the journalist disrespected the authority.

Trans Immigrant died having endured abuses at an US Immigration Detention

Honduran transperson Roxana Hernández tried for the third and last time to cross the border into the US, when she turned herself into the immigration authorities. These authorities kept her in places known as ‘freezers’ for some time, and then transferred her to the Cibola detention Centre in New Mexico where she died having suffered abuses. On 6 June 2018 activists in Mexico and US protested against the authorities involvement in murdering and covering up this murder. Authorities claimed that she died because of complications from HIV, pneumonia, and heart attack. They told the Honduran family they could pay US$8-10,000 if they want the body delivered to Honduras, that the economic option is to have her cremated and the ashes delivered. If the family had the resources to pay for the body, Roxana probably would not have undertaken this risky journey so many are pushed to make. If her body is cremated then there can be no autopsy to expose what had killed Roxana. People were demanding the Honduran state to pay this cost, so there could be justice for Roxana. Roxana is not the first trans person to die in the immigration detention centres of US, there is a Mexican who died in one having had physical and sexual abuses in the detention centre and refused access to HIV treatment for 3 months. Victoria Arellano died chained to a bed.

Meaningless ‘Fair Trade’ labelling

Fyffes melon and pineapples plantations company based in Honduras and Costa Rica received ‘fair trade’ certification despite repeat complaints of labour abuses and violation and attacks against unionism. In May 2017 Fyffes was suspended from being a member of ETI – Ethical Trade Initiative – but this is ignored by Fair Trade USA that certified a subsidiary of Fyffes in April 2018 – Suragroh – as a socially and environmentally sustainable company, which guarantees safe and healthy work, transparency, and sustainable production and respect for biodiversity. Very absurd, given Fyffes refuses to recognise unions and creates two fake unions, and when there are repeat episodes in which workers suffer from poisoning from fumigation.

Honduras coup update – May 2018




Honduras coup update – May 2018

This May had repression including of May Day protests around Honduras, and lots of attacks against defenders of land, environment and territory including one murder, a number of political prisoners released on bail but a few remain locked up, attacks against journalists, and the congress moves towards making compulsory both military service and bible reading in schools..

Repression at protests

The May Day protest repression of 2018 was said to be one of the worst in Honduras for decades. Around the country, as well as fighting for workers’ rights, workers were calling for freedom for the political prisoners and for two disappeared comrades (following arrest) – Rolando Vindel and Gustavo Morales – to reappear, and for justice for compas who have been assassinated, and for JOH to get out, still, and already. Not long into the marches, people were attacked by security forces with teargases – teargases so heavy people could not breathe. The people there included children, older people and pregnant women. Similarly, security forces chased and bashed people – people including women, children, older people, people with disabilities. People showing solidarity with others targeted in the repression became targets themselves: 26 years old Esdras Meza tried to help a woman who was choking on teargases when he got ambushed by 6 security forces agents who grabbed him without saying a word to arrest him. He tried to break free saying he was just trying to help a woman but it was other human rights defenders’ presence and another organised worker who physically pulled him away quickly that managed to de-arrest him. And young journalist Jorge Merlo tried to film police brutality when hooded uniformed agents proceeded to hit his camera. A foreign journalist who is a correspondent in Honduras for New York Times, The Guardian and MinnPost was also capturing records of police brutality when he was attacked by police, he was heard saying, ‘I am press, you are going to beat me…don’t beat me, I am the press.’ Many street vendors – mostly of food, had the food they were selling and equipment they were using confiscated by security agents. The attack in Tegucigalpa lasted for ninety whole minutes. Three protesters got arrested and locked up from Tegucigalpa, their names are Pedro Angel Trochez, Cristian Alberto and Gerson Anual Irías. The council building was set on fire – only perhaps it was not the rage of people who set it on fire, since the people who burnt the buildings did it as police and military watched and the agents barely moved to intervene – there were lots of police and soldiers around since the city was heavily militarised – so it was allowed to happen to later pick up other people and accuse them of this ‘crime’. In Tegucigalpa, the protest was evicted before they reached the central park where they read the workers’ proclamation every year. In Choluteca, Choloma and San Pedro Sula, protests were also heavily attacked by security forces with teargases and beatings.

On 4 May 2018, the monthly rally – first Friday of each month since decades ago – of Cofadeh human rights organisation, was held. Relatives of disappeared political activists stood with their lost loved ones. Military police came too – they came to intimidate people photographing them to profile and scare them.

On 18 May 2018, in Choluteca city, a protest against electricity fee increases started for barely twenty minutes when the military police began to attack people – including children and older people – with water tanks and teargases. There was a confrontation lasting over 2 hours. In the process, uniformed agents gave death threats against defenders and journalists including against journalist Johana Arecely Contreras of Mega Red Nacional – they also threatened her with putting drugs in her house to frame her and lock her up – this is on top of 4 other threats she has received this year already. From this protest, five were arrested and held until their initial hearing the next day.

On 29 May 2018, activist Hugo Lopez was to appear in Ocotepeque courts – at risk of being imprisoned by the dictatorship.

Attacks against the earth, environment defenders, indigenous people and organisers

On 3 May 2018, the Pajuiles community that has a camp blockading the construction of a hydroelectricity dam of Hidrocep that would damage the mountain ranges and contaminate the Mezapa river, woke up this morning to militarisation – a contingent of 200 police in 3 convoys and 7 patrols were there at the camp armed with shields, bullet proof vests, teargases. The agents brutally attacked people who have laid down on the road to block machinery. Businessperson Hawit representing the Hidrocep company was also there to watch the security contingent attack people and he was there filming people’s faces using his phone, as were some of his body guards. When community member Gustavo Norberto Lopez Melgar filmed police violence and violent eviction, however, he was arrested. Only the day before, eleven persons (including one woman) of the organisation MADJ in this Pajuiles struggle appeared before a judge, being charged with coercion against Hidrocep.

On this same day, from La Paz, the Las Huertas Lenca indigenous community, Tutule, the Lenca and campesino leader Carlos López Calix was charged this day by prosecutors with land usurpation – this is after him and another comrade Samuel Edgardo Lopez Martinez having been locked up for four months from 18 July 2017 last year when judge Hugo Danilo Torres Perez decided on denying them bail. The pair were given bail again on 11 November 2017 with bail conditions that isolated these and impacted on their subsistence. On 18 February 2018 they were no longer two people facing the same thing together – Samuel’s life was abruptly ended, after having been followed by a police patrol and then found dead. Given these circumstances and the impending hearing, alone, Carlos and his community are in fear of what can happen. In La Paz, at least 700 people of 49 campesino bases have charges against them. Carlos’ farmers group, that he has not been able to participate in due to bail conditions, are having it hard – some comrades are gone, and their base has been evicted at least 26 times. Yet they do what they can, support one another, and get by with crops of chokos, oranges, cassavas, coffee, fruits and veggies.

At another farmers group also in Tutule, La Paz, there had been capture orders against 8 farmers, 2 of whom had been captured – Luis Alfonso Tejeda Orellana and Arturo Salinas… and Yecenia Padilla Orellana had voluntarily submitted herself to the court – the three were in court then on 10 May 2018 before judge Hugo Daniel Torres, who formally charged these with usurpation against Rosario Dominga Reynoso. The farmers are affiliated with the farmers federation CNTC. In La Paz there are over 40 land recuperations going on of hundreds of families, many are harassed, threatened, persecuted and charged.

Just outside of Tegucigalpa, at La Tigre, on 8 May 2018, the hitmen fired gunshots at Cecilio Figueroa, assassinating him. Days before, Cecilio himself and other relatives have placed complaints as there was already an attempt of assassination then, but the authorities did nothing to prevent this subsequent assassination. Cecilio was a social leader who had received threats as he organised defending this protected area of La Tigre, and spoke up about the warnings that his community would be evicted. La Tigre, is the only source of water and lungs (forest) left of Tegucigalpa and surrounding areas. It is an area looked after by ancestral people of these lands. There, they grow fruits, veggies, and flowers, that are sold in markets in the city. The threats began when they heard and responded to notifications from the Forests Department that they would be evicted. The eviction is driven by the government towards the building of a model city or other such ‘development’.

On 9 May 2018, Pedro Canales, a leader of the ADEPZA organisation for many years that have worked defending beaches and territory in and around Zacate Grande, suffered a second attempt against him and others through the mechanical manipulation of his car. A hole had been forced on the radiator of his car. Just weeks before on 16 or 17 April, someone had inserted into his car’s petrol tank honey and sugar. Both actions can cause the motor to overheat and explode if not addressed in time. This occurred at the same time as a scare campaign by the guards and families affiliated with the infamous powerful and murderous Facussé family to re-occupy the Los Hornos community – this family has expressed that it will push out people who are there to push in its people.

On 14 May 2018, in Tocoa, in the Guapinol community, police arrived at a protest against open pit mining – community members have already lost access to water in their homes as a consequence of this mining.

On 15 May 2018, the community of Valle de Siria now has a number of community members and leaders who have received death threats for opposing a geothermic project 12 Tribus SA de CV of ORMAT. Valle de Siria is infamous for the consequences of sicknesses, disability and death the community suffered from open pit mining of Entremares. People have learnt that promises of ‘development’ means development only for the companies.

In the north of Honduras, the San Francisco Tolupan indigenous tribe, has currently a camp since February 2018 blockading loggers of INMARE of Wilder Domínguez, from logging the pine forest there on indigenous territory. They have stopped company trucks that intend on plundering over 16,000 cubic metres of wood without the tribe’s permission. On 29 May 2018, the camp community received a court summon to attend court on 31 May 2018 in Yoro, threatened with charges of disobedience – which carries as penalty prison term of 1-3 years for each person found guilty. The Honduran state is of course and as always in the wrong for granting the concession without consulting indigenous people. The indigenous environmental defenders have from 2013 IACHR protection measures after 3 of their leaders were assassinated by hitmen in another highway blockade against logging and mining, in the same place. The community is in danger, but they are responding by organising more and having more presence in the camp. Currently, four indigenous leaders have received death threats: José María Pineda, Angela Murillo, Celso Cabrera and Ramón Matute. On 25 May 2018 Ramón Matute had to change his mobile number because in his name, some people have been calling his family members threatening them.

On 22 May 2018, in Gracias a Dios, where in 2012, the DEA and Honduran authorities together opened fire on a boat killing four indigenous people, now on this date in the Warunta community, a similar thing re-occurred. Military police were patrolling the waterway, when they signalled for a passing boat to stop, and fired warning shots when it didn’t. The warning shots were heard by other groups of soldiers around the place and they all suddenly arrived on the scene then and surrounded the streets around the lagoon so people from the boat couldn’t escape. The military police again approached the boat and made stop signals, when the boat didn’t stop, again, the soldiers fired ‘warning shots’ again and these hit and killed two indigenous people and wounded another. It was reported that in this context of rage at the military police killing and wounding people, a soldier was stabbed at and wounded. The infuriated and aggrieved community also set the Puerto Lempira council building and state building on fire and destroyed businesses.

On 23 May 2018, at the Tierra del Padre site where the lenca indigenous community there have ancestral land title that is officially recognised from 1736, but where a landowner called Mario Facussé Handal is claiming ownership and manipulating the indigenous council with infiltration and threats, indigenous member and organiser Angel Lanza Galvez received a threat, he was told, ‘you are going to see, with this pistol, I will give it to you all, because whatever happens, they will evict you and I am going to stay here.’ Since the beginning of this resistance against the territory being taken over, 11 villagers have been charged, as the ‘justice’ is always on the side of the powerful.

On 27 May 2018, at 4.40pm, the families of the Young Martyrs of Tumbador Movement recuperated the El Tumbador land in the Guadalupe Carney community in Trujillo, Colón, but when they woke up the next morning they found themselves surrounded by Dinant (palm giant company) security guards and a heavily armed Honduran army – this contingent in the next two hours or more chased and evicted the families there. Dinant security guards particularly actively insulted and threatened the women there. There is a very long history of struggle, repression and broken promises by the state in relation to this farm

Updates on the situation of political prisoners

Of the 23 political prisoners from the period of multitudes of paralysing barricades across the country with the message ‘Get Out JOH’ everywhere, there has been a number of political prisoners released this month through pressure from the campaigns on the streets. Also lots of reports about how bad the conditions in the prisons are or were..

The first to be released on bail this month was Jhony Salgado (38), on 3 May 2018, having been locked up for 4 months and 4 days in El Progreso prison, during which time, a long time, he, and others, had to imagine being there for years, knowing there are people locked up for 15 years without a sentence. He remembers how police raided his house and took him and packed him onto the paddy wagon, ignoring his questions of what he was being arrested for. He was taken to a soccer field and this time, when he asked why they were doing this to him, they answered saying he was a ‘terrorist’. He was then transferred to investigative police, locked up, a report of fiction was typed up and he was told, sign or be bashed. Jhony is relieved to finally be outside, but is scared that they (police) could grab him and kill him at any moment, he has been threatened. Despite all this, ‘I feel like a new person. I feel grateful with all the people that are supporting me and now it’s my turn to put in a bit to help people who are locked up and give strength to them and their family too.’

On 5 May 2018, young political prisoners Maynor Ariel Reyes Mejía was released from El Pozo maximum security prison on bail. While in prison, they were constantly refused visitors – they would change to get ready, and their families would come every Sunday, only to be turned away, except once, on 31 December 2017, but they were charged over $100 each for a visitor ID card. The conditions there were freezing, their heads were shaved, they were psychologically abused, and were once thrown into punishment cells for 26 days, and in there they could not tell day from night, and were not allowed to shower. To get through this time, he thought of his mum.

On 9 May 2018, political prisoner Edwin Espinal, with an extreme record of political persecution against him, and having suffered the pains of losing his partner Wendy in 2009 to a fatal attack by teargases, as well as losing his brother to assassination, mistaken for himself, and a series of attacks including arrests, raid, kidnapping, he is currently locked up in La Tolva. While some others are getting released, when his bail conditions review hearing was held in court, his lawyers knew that the application for bail was going to be denied because Judge Claudio Aguilar was the judge: the same judge who has it against him and ordered a raid against his home back in 2013. The human rights organisation offered evidence, bond, asked for home arrest, transfer, anything but what he is under now, but it was all refused by judge Claudio Aguilar.

On 10 May 2018, from El Pozo maximum security prison, political prisoners Daniel Eduardo Santos Ordoñez, José Orlando Santos Ordoñez, and Edwin Nahúm Amaya Sánchez were released on bail. They were captured in a group of 11 including one woman on 26 December 2017, accused of looting, hurting police and burning down a police station in Pimienta.

On 13 May 2018, there are still 10 political prisoners, still not granted bail, between prisons in La Tolva, El Progreso, and El Pozo. They are: Edwin Robelo Espinal, Raúl Eduardo Álvarez Ordóñez, Gustavo Adolfo Cáceres Ayala, Dany Javier Banegas Reyes, Olvin Nahúm Villanueva Avilés, Omar Enrique Velásquez Yánez, Néstor Armando Almendarez Rodríguez, Marvin Antonio Godoy Arias, José Gabriel Godínez Avelar and Edy Gonzalo Valle.

On 22 May 2018, an international human rights delegation of seven from Canada arrived at the airport in Tegucigalpa to campaign for the freedom of political prisoner Edwin Espinal and all the other political prisoners. They were held back and retained for 4 hours by immigration as they entered – 5 of them were interrogated one by one for four hours. The most interrogated one was Karen Spring, human rights defender who has worked in Honduras since 2009, and Edwin’s partner, Karen was returning to Honduras after a trip to Canada. Others were interrogated about their interest in and concern for the human rights issues since the electoral fraud and violence – Janet Spring: Edwin’s mother-in-law, Jesse Freeston: filmmaker, Meg Jordan: Elmvale pastor, and William Reeves: emergency doctor. Ben Powless (photographer) and Grahame Russell (director of Rights Action) waited outside for the others while liaising with national and international human rights organisations. They came to campaign, and to push to see Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez at La Tolva, as they have been allowed almost no visits in the time since imprisonment. They managed a visit. His mother in law Janet said Edwin was vary pale, that his health was deteriorating, he has lost weight, is dehydrated, that the food he is given is bad, and that his spirit is broken by the cruel and degrading treatment in prison.

It was noted that on 22 May 2018, 17 of the 23 political prisoners have been released on bail. So five were still locked up, Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez amongst these.

Grahame Russell said that Edwin and Raúl ‘send many greetings and thanks to all of the resistance in Honduras and all the human rights activists and the Honduran press that has accompanied the Canadian delegation today. They know that we are in the country and also at the international level speaking up about the arbitrary and abusive detention.’

La Tolva maximum security prison – where Edwin and Raúl are held – has atrocious conditions. Food is inadequate and unsafe – chicken is served half cooked still bloody for example. Drinking water is yellow and there are dirty remnants floating at the bottom. Both food and water are very limited so its not like inmates can choose. There is nothing for inmates to do to pass time, no materials for handycrafts, etc. Visits are sporadic and limited and visitors – especially women, are sometimes made to strip off clothing for a full search, some have been obligated to show that they are not carrying anything inside their bodies in their intimate parts. Inmates are only allowed 3 hours of sunshine. After visits, prisoners are searched in case they carried anything in their bodies.

Other attacks against journalists

UNE TV is one of few mainstream medias left in Honduras covering news on the side of the people, so its journalists are especially targeted for repression.

On 4 May 2018, there was repression against a protest demanding the liberation of political prisoners. When a military police held two social activists, UNE TV journalist Víctor Rodríguez filmed and asked the activists what had happened, and was told by the military police that filming was prohibited. Víctor responded that it was his job and freedom to film and take photos – to that the military police Aldo Rodríguez got annoyed and started to take photos of UNE TV journalists there and everyone in turn focussed their cameras on this military police. Officer Aldo Rodríguez got violent, hit Víctor in the chest, knocked his back onto a wall, and grabbed his right arm and bent it back, while another military police went to hit Victor’s camera. Victor’s compas were quick in filming and applying pressure, so Víctor was not arrested, but all journalists filmed by the military police are all at risk of persecution.

On 20 May 2018, one of few critical journalists left in the south of Honduras in Choluteca, Jairo López, director of tv program El Informador, was driving with his police escort – he has one because he is politically persecuted and is on a Protection Mechanism program – when he was stopped by police at a checkpoint in Pavana, in which while other cars were just asked to lower their windows, he was made to stop for a complete search.

On 21 May 2018, at the UNE TV studio, journalist Ronny Martínez was transmitting live on TV when he received messages from his workmates that his car signal lights were on and a window was left open. As soon as there was a news break, he went outside to the carpark to check. He saw that the back window on the other side of the car was broken, that his wallet as well as some papers in a suitcase were taken from the backseat, but other things were left behind. It was also noticed that the security camera in the carpark normally pointing to his car was raised to face higher to not capture what happened at the car. This is the second time in two months people had broken into his car and taken things that are likely to contain sensitive information related to his journalism or parliamentarian work (being a Libre parliamentarian), the first time was in his birthtown, Danlí, El Paraíso. He has been recognised as a politically persecuted person by IACHR since 2010.

On 22 May 2018, the alarm was raised that smear campaigns have been orchestrated again against several human rights defenders and journalists.

Against human rights organisation Ciprodeh’s director, Wilfredo Méndez, there was a viral video on whatsapp that framed him as someone who profits from human rights work saying that Ciprodeh receives millions of lempiras every year and from that Wilfredo spends on travels around the world. A message said, ‘in Honduras we don’t need scammers, much less fellow countrymen who don’t recognise the work of the military in our neighbourhoods where before we could not feel safe… the defenders are a complete failure, if WILFREDO MENDEZ really worked, there wouldn’t be so many deaths’.

Against Lennys Fajardo, journalist of COQUIMBO group – digital media, and member of PEN International Honduras, they cloned her facebook profile page and had her fake facebook profile show her to belong to the National Party of Honduras. Since the beginning of May, Lennys has had five people use fake facebook profiles to frame and attack her.

Against Gilda Silvestrucci, correspondent of Telesur and Radio Globo director of the program ‘En la Plaza’ has for months been subject to threats, insults and harassment on social media, by someone who goes by the facebook name of ‘Ramón Jérez’. On 1 May she was told there ‘you are going to wake up sprayed by gunshots’ and many other messages about her being a woman, about her private life and about her children. There’s someone else too who harasses and threatens her using phone calls.

Obligatory military service

Military service is currently not obligatory in Honduras but the congress is wanting to introduce mandatory military service. Human rights defender Juan Almendarez asserted that governments try to introduce this when they feel weak when they are facing war – but that the war in front of Honduras is one against its own people.

Bibles in the schools

They don’t stop at making military service obligatory, they don’t stop at anything. The congress is pushing in Honduras to make bible reading an obligatory part of schooling, saying it is to reduce violence and corruption, its proponents of course are corrupt, and not for a lack of compulsory bible reading.