August 2016 Honduras Coup update

August 2016 Honduras Coup update

Known cases of political persecution in August 2016

Organised farmer attempted against

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women human rights defenders arbitrarily arrested

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

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

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

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

Another environmental activists under threat

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

Young politician with activist background murdered

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

Protest militarised with snipers

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

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

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

Other news this August 2016

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

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

Honduras coup update – July 2016

Honduras coup update – July 2016

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

Anti-dam organiser murdered


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

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

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

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

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

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

Smear campaigns against those in solidarity with Copinh

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

Uni students massively smashed by state forces but stood strong together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken into – MADJ office and El Libertador office

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

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

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

June 2016 Honduras coup update

June 2016 Honduras coup update

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

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

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

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

The hitlists

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

Cases of persecution in July 2016

Lgbti leader assassinated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repression against anti tollway protests

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

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

Almost four years later: Bajo Aguan farmers declared not guilty

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

Globo staff being let go

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

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

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

Documentary video to check out


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

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

May 2016 Honduras coup update

May 2016 Honduras coup news update

Resistance activist killed on May Day

000000000_madre_tomas_garcia may 2016

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

Attacks including attempts against lives of indigenous Copinh activists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attacks against international observers accompanying copinh

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

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

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

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

Government closed down Globo TV

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

Anti-corruption journalist loses his programs

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

Honduran activist in US dragged out by security

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

Honduran activists in Europe threatened

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

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

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

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

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

Land defenders of Zacate Grande imprisoned for being poor

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

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

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

Abuses against visitors to those imprisoned

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

April 2016 Honduras coup update

April 2016 Honduras coup update

News of persecution from April 2016

Attempt against yet another uni lecturer

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

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

To recap, Bertha Caceres, the 2015 Goldman Environmental prize winner and indigenous leader, was an enormous mobilising force in the indigenous resistance against DESA company’s hydroelectricity dam. Bertha was assassinated following a chain of death threats since 2013 including by persons paid by DESA (for a chronology of the threats, see this link –

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

Some pictures of one of the protests:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snippets of other news from April 2016

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

March 2016 Honduras coup update – Bertha’s life

Berta Caceres multiplied

bertaberta with miriam

Are the the most magical moments when we sit with new or close friends with whom we feel affinity, share with one another our revolutionary dreams and talk about things to plan to bring these to reality? In 2012, Miriam Miranda, a tireless organiser of the indigenous Garífuna (black Honduran) communities, came to Utopía – an organising and workshop and lodging space of the Copinh, a Lenca indigenous organisation co-founded by Berta Caceres. Miriam and Bertha had crossed paths and even coordinated many times before in spaces of resistance, but until then had not found time for this nurturing of one another. This night in 2012, after workshop and everyone sharing dinner, in the misty foggy frosty night of La Esperanza, Intibucá, they talked into the night about their dreams and plans. Miriam remembered Bertha’s serenity and soft voice contrasted with her force, a force sustained by obsession with truth and justice.

Over the years, Miriam and Bertha shared visions, work, ancestral culture, and horizons. They made attacks on the economic, political and cultural model that exploits the great majority of Hondurans. This model sells culture to multinational capital and assassinates in impunity those who bravely oppose.

Miriam was one of many who in the earliest hours of 3/3/16 received a call, with the news that half an hour before midnight, hitmen had forced open the door of Bertha Caceres’ home, fired shots at her and at a friend and comrade from Mexico, Gustavo Castro, who was sleeping at her house. Gustavo was wounded. Bertha was assassinated. Bertha was two days from turning 45. This night, instead of resting, there were many phonecalls between so many people. Words poured out with tears and shock and disbelief and a hollow that wasn’t there some hours before. ‘They killed our Bertita.’

Miriam tells us, ‘Bertha was a symbol of proposals and constructions. Bertha has been a mother and an inspiration not just for the Lenca people, but for many peoples in the world.’ Bertha is a mother of four – three daughters – Olivia, Bertha and Laura, and a son, Salva. Her children who are in their twenties, assert that their mum, Bertha, had not died, she multiplied. They too did not believe their mum would be assassinated, despite constant death threats over the years that they have always known about, and intensified threats in the lead-up. It’s just that she is so well-known.. about the most well-known of activists in Honduras internationally and nationally, now with the Goldman Environmental Award she won just last year. If they would assassinate her, nobody is safe. Everyone knows this, yet in Honduras, the many many people are outraged beyond words, they are not only mobilising and risking it all, they are stepping it up. In each of them Bertha had multiplied. Her struggles are their struggles. They are Bertha. We are all Bertha.

Bertha’s struggles are ours…

Bertha once said, ‘whereever the struggle is, in Honduras,’ (and everywhere really), ‘there is one thing in common “the voracity of the transnational corporations and the ambition of these non-persons who govern us who give away to business the richnesses that belong to everyone”.

For a brief history of Bertha’s life, have a look at this:

Recovering indigenous territories. In the final years of her life, a large part of her efforts had been dedicated to accompanying the struggle of the Rio Blanco community against the damming of the Gualcarque river by the Agua Zarca Project of DESA in one of many dam concessions dished out by the Honduran government. This Gualcarque river is sacred and is vital to the survival of the indigenous communities who live around it. Lenca indigenous people are considered custodians of nature, land, and above all, the rivers, which in the lenca tradition, reside in the spirits of women, who are their main guardians. The Rio Blanco community began a blockade to stop company trucks from entering on 1.4.13, and by July that same year, the first political assassination was executed by the military against community leader Tomás García during a community walk-in protest against the dam. The community and Copinh leaders who come to accompany the struggle had from the beginning been heavily politically persecuted and threatened for their participation in organising and supporting this struggle. Bertha had declared many times, if anything were to happen to her, DESA is responsible and the government is too.

Cultural teaching. Bertha facilitated workshops in Lenca communities with families in small classrooms. Using butchers’ papers to note down points, Bertha asked people to brainstorm and name foods, medicines, animals, plants, and other aspects of their indigenous Lenca culture. The paper was full of so many things, and she pointed out to the community, ‘they tell you you are poor, but look at this, you are rich. Only they will try to take these things from us and auction them off. We need to prevent this.’


Feminist. Bertha always emphasised how important it is to tackle sexism within our own social organisations as a starting point, and how difficult this work is. Some years back, Copinh held a women’s tribunal. The main activity involved encouraging and giving a space for women to speak up against someone who violated their rights, whether it be a partner, a family member, or the police. This was broadcast on community radio for everyone to know the abuse perpetrated by the named men. As a gesture of changing sexist patterns, the male Copinh leaders made a point of doing the cooking and serving to ensure all women present could fully participate in the event.


Building alternatives. Bertha was a crystal clear voice on false development models and false climate solutions, both always promoted by capitalist interests. ‘We here at Copinh have been speaking up for a long time against these business deals to capture oxygen – to capture carbon, or, the ‘sale of oxygen’, as how people refer to these (carbon trading) projects’. She showed how manipulative they are in calling the death of rivers and the kicking of indigenous peoples off their lands ‘clean energy’. Bertha together with Miriam have been strong advocates for indigenous self-determination, an ongoing uphill battle, in a context in which the state not only does not respect indigenous communities’ decisions, but is complicit in assassinating those opposing, such as Bertha, such as Tomás, such as Nelson, to impose unwanted projects.

Bertha and Miriam also together created spaces for indigenous peoples and broader social movement to organise and articulate their voices. A constituent assembly in 2011, where 1800 indigenous and black Hondurans self organised to congregate con the Carribean coast for several days, discussing and building alternatives from an anticapitalist, antiracist and antipatriarchal vision.

She has always been like a light that shined the way in the middle of the storm which the territories are in. So, no cameras, but Lights! Action! In action there was always a lot of cheek, whether it involves everyone who had walked for days to confront the authorities who want to ignore them but can’t because they have just all taken off their shoes and the smell is stronger than words, or using company wire to build a blockade against the same company. Imagination breaks down limits.


Who killed her. What would be justice?

Bertha had said many times over many years, if anything happens to her, her family, and people of Copinh involved in the Rio Blanco resistance, DESA and the Honduran state are responsible. It is most disgusting how from the beginning, in its ‘investigations’, the state in asking the sole witness and survivor of the attack Gustavo Castro of Mexico to identify the suspects, was over many hours shown only photos of protests of Copinh. They wanted so much to frame the social movement of killing their own, in order to wipe their hands clean and finish off the social movement itself in one strike. After some questioning by Bertha’s family of how it is, that with the weeks they have passed, that they have not taken time to hear what those who are demanding justice are saying, or of investigating the threats that Bertha had received, that Bertha’s family is currently receiving. So the state prosecution is saying, that they have now gone to collect evidence and made interrogations at DESA offices and confiscated their weapons. Bertha’s daughter, also named Bertha, said don’t let them fool us, they only want us to believe they are investigating properly to calm everyone down. Don’t calm down, because they will never give us the justice we demand. She explained that what she wanted was not for the person or persons who fired the bullets into her Mami to be tried and jailed. That is not the kind of justice her mother taught them to fight for. There are powerful interests and persons who paid for this assassination, planned for this assassination, who continue to target other human rights defenders and activists who they identify as obstacles to their projects. They are the ones who killed Bertha and who need to be stopped from persecuting activists and imposing their profit making ventures upon unwilling communities and rivers. Bertha says, let my mother be the last. No more assassinations of activists. No more projects of death, of hydroelectricity, of mining. Meanwhile, herself, her siblings and all the family and all of Copinh are under death threats and are being followed and anybody could be the next unless this really really is made to stop. Miriam proclaimed, ‘We don’t want no commission, no investigation. We don’t want DESA there; if the State doesn’t close it down, we are going to close it down.’

There are many parties involved. All past and present parties have varying levels of blood on their hands. From the beginning, it was Rio Blanco’s blockade and campaigning that managed to pressure two major parties to withdraw in 2013 – the Chinese state company that builds the biggest dams in the world, Sinohydro, and World Bank’s IFC arm that was going to give a loan to fuel the project. This halted the Agua Zarca (DESA and previously, also Sinohydro) dam project for a time, but building resumed in 2014 on the other side of the river to avoid potential blockades. With recent international pressure following the assassination against Bertha, two more financiers pulled out – FMO of Holland with their US$15 millions and FinnFund of Finland with their US$5 million. DESA still remains, with the support of Central American Bank of Economic Integration CABEI, and Voith Siemens.

The dirt on the blood-stained businesses

  • DESA’s concession involves DESA paying to the Honduran state only US $1445.80 a year for the first fifteen years, increasing to US$2,891.60 a year from the 16th year; a ridiculous amount given the profit it proclaims to make – it charged Copinh for its losses incurred from several weeks of blockading more than US$3 million, meaning it expects an annual profit of over US$20 million, with 0.007% of the profit being paid to the state. DESA is owned by the Atala family – of José Eduardo Atala, and by PEMSA, Mesoamerica Power and Energy. Of PEMSA, no public information is available. Bertha herself sought to see the DESA file a week before she was murdered, without any luck. Some sources say DESA is owned including by Freddy Nazar, one of the most powerful men of Honduras. The Atala family is reported to be amongst the most powerful families in Honduras itself. The Atalas own Ficohsa bank, La Colonia supermarkets, the Motagua Sporting Club, amongst other companies. Its no coincidence that getting finance from the World Bank, and getting concessions they want, are a piece of cake for them. DESAś management committee president David Castillo Mejía was in the Maduro administration the Minister of Governance. DESA’s secretary Roberto Pacheco Reyes is an official of the Honduran military ‘intelligence’. DESA is known for having a large private army of ‘security guards’. They were seen in a blue Ford 150 in Siguatepeque in the turn off for La Esperanza, in the morning, where Bertha was to be assassinated that night. If there are any doubts they considered Bertha Caceres a major enemy to be eliminated, they went out two public email announcements 10 days before Bertha was killed, the messages’ titles were ‘the violent acts’, and ‘falsehoods of Berta Caceres – Copinh’.
  • FMO – Netherlands Development Finance Company, which had invested US$15 millions in Agua Zarca, conceded a loan to Banco Ficohsa of US$60 for ‘clean energy’ projects. FMO also has involvement in Barro Blanco Panamá, where a hydroelectricity project is similarly being imposed on an indigenous community that had rejected the proposal. FMO had previously publicly expressed annoyance about the dam having been suspended because of protests. The protests pressure ended up hitting FMO directly and it from 16/3/16 suspended all its activities in Honduras.
  • Finnfund – Finnish fund for industrial cooperation, initially wrote a public letter ‘condemning’ the assassination of Bertha Cáceres but stated that project was, however, to continue. The response to its complete lack of real regard was such that Finnfund subsequently decided to suspend investment.
  • Central American Bank of Economic Integration CABEI. CABEI, like FMO, is also involved in financing Barro Blanco Panamá, and had expressed being irritated about the dam suspension of Agua Zarca caused by the protests. CABEI, however, refused to even receive the petition of Copinh and from Bertha’s family. CABEI refused to suspend its financing of Agua Zarca of US$24.4 million.
  • Voith Siemens. A German giant contracted by DESA to provide turbines for Agua Zarca project.
  • Others. San Francisco Ojuera council, Santa Bárbara has been involved from 2015. Also involved are CASTOR company, Constructora Cerros de Comayagua, Ficohsa bank, and the natural resources department, SERNA.
  • USAID – Mercado. DESA and USAID signed an agreement of support for the producers of Santa Barbara and Intibuca through a project called MERCADO. It is a welfare project giving food, toys, piñatas and sweets for children and people, to buy people’s support for the DESA project in a context of extreme poverty

The struggle for Bertha Cáceres is closing Agua Zarca forever by forcing out all its players – companies, states, finance, and contractors and making these take responsibility for the crimes against Bertha Cáceres and the Rio Blanco and Copinh communities, which are consequences of their then ongoing collaboration with the project, their choices to ignore implicated human and environmental rights violations. By extension, the closing down of all concessions and extraction – mines, dams, forestry – projects in Lenca and other Honduran territories. The international mission for Bertha Caceres, and her family, also are working to get suspended the 30 million euros of the Euro Justicia finance program of the EU which was to give aid to the Honduran prosecutors department, security secretary and judicial power. The family also campaigns to have suspended the US congress’s US $157.7 million ‘Plan for Prosperity for the Central American Northern Triangle – which Bertha had asserted as a false solution in addressing the mass migration. They are asking that all aid to Honduran state and business security and justice institutions be cancelled or prevented.

There’s no excuse to say ‘it could be anyone’ when lots of business and state representatives heavily invested with the projects they are part of going ahead saw Bertha Cáceres as an obstacle, gave her death threats – ‘stop being an obstacle, or else..’ Threats and attacks that came from state forces, politicians, DESA company representatives were documented in the February update and many other updates against Bertha, including in the Río Blanco community on 20/2/16, a public death threat from the mayor, Raúl Pineda. In the three-month period perior to Bertha’s murder, human rights accompaniers documented 11 threats and attempts by national and local government officials, police, soldiers, Agua Zarca dam project employees and unidentified men, against Bertha and others in struggle.

Berta’s family, the Copinh community and the Rio Blanco community have lived in constant terror since. Copinh buildings watched by unknown persons in intimidation. Rio Blanco community members persecuted and attacked whereever they have gone. Rio Blanco community attacked by gunshots of Agua Zarca security guards when they went to the Gualcarque river. The family being followed by cars and having photos taken of them. When complaints are made of these, the government has not showed concern. The family’s requests for meetings with the president JOH and the general prosecutor are ignored. Nobody is, however, afraid, because they are furious.

A short video about Berta Cáceres on Democracy Now

Solidarity between indigenous groups

Days after the assassination, indigenous communities from all over Honduras set off to express their love for Bertha, their rage for her murderers, and their commitment in their indigenous struggles and in solidarity between indigenous groups. Some Garífunas made it there early – many other groups were furious in police and military’s attempt to stop them in their paths as they travelled in busloads from long distances to protest in the militarised capital city. Buses were stopped in La Barca, El Durazno, Pito Solo. Buses of Río Blanco were confiscated and their bus drivers threatened with losing their licences if they drove people to Tegucigalpa, the passengers threatened with getting beaten by police– but this community was of course, absolutely determined to go, they walked a long way to the highway. Peoples Pech, Tolupan, Lenca and Chortis were forced off vehicles, had their bags checked, their Ids confiscated, that is, until they heard this went out to the medias and they gave these back. Tolupanes were given death threats in relation to their land struggle. From La Ceiba, buses were sent back to La Ceiba from La Barca, hours away. MADJ members were detained at midnight at the Durazno post going into Tegucigalpa. For all their attempts in stopping buses, many managed the journey somehow, a journey important to many.


pueblos indigenas

Solidarity in Honduras and internationally

Bertha’s murder and her multiplication is heavily felt and expressed in Honduras and around the world.

In her own town, La Esperanza, people flooded the town to see her body for the last time:

Her organisation, Copinh, called out for solidarity: ‘We know that the best way to respond to this war attack against the people is mobilisation and the construction of alternatives to this system of plunder, from our cosmovisions, ways of life and existence, through the practice of territorial controls and the protection of the nature and of sharing and collective ownership. .. We make a call out, equally, for all the solidarity and offers of support to go to emails of and – statements, letters of solidarity, and actions of solidarity with the Lenca people, copinh, and for info about coordinating the supports they can receive.’

Many protests have taken place and many others continue to:


Barra de club in Germany dedicates banner to Berta Caceres. followers of St Pauli Football club in the second division of Bundesliga, in Hamburg. Beyond borders. The banners said in Spanish – capitalism kills! Berta Cáceres, present. The struggle continues!


An action in London and the symbolic rubbish dam on the Honduran embassy:

‘For Bertha we aren’t going to only cry over her. We are going to keep building links of solidarity and of articulation, converting pain into force and hope with the face to the future.’ ‘we are going to intensify in the struggle to defend territories, life, so peoples are heard and consulted. This is the best homage that we can pay to our Bertha,’ said Miriam, ‘in the name of Bertha Cáceres we have to strengthen the collective and communitarian struggle, reinforce this collective hope, because we believe strongly in to another Honduras and another world is possible.’

Bertha Zuñiga Cáceres, the daughter of Bertha Cáceres, said, ‘Berta will return and she will be millions ‘

CANCION PARA BERTA (Son for Berta)! By two of her close friends who are artists:

Let’s wake up! We’re out of time,” she said when she accepted the 2015 Goldman Prize for her role in the community-based struggle to defend the Gualcarque River. “Mother Earth – militarized, enclosed, poisoned, where basic rights are systematically violated – demands that we act.”

Gustavo Castro Soto, sole witness of Bertha’s murder, who was also attempted against: kept for a month as a political prisoner, in fear for his life and of being framed for his friend’s murder

Bertha Cáceres died in Gustavo Castro’s arms. Gustavo himself was shot twice by the same hitmen but survived. Gustavo was invited by Copinh to speak in a forum that then cancelled because of the murder, a forum called ‘Alternative Energy from the Indigenous Vision.’ Gustavo is Bertha’s friend and comrade. He is of the organisations Other Worlds Chiapas and Friends of the Earth Mexico.

Gustavo was treated as a prisoner and not as a victim. ‘They refused to give me a copy of my testimonies. They threatened me that if I go to Tegucigalpa for my safety, they will send orders of preventative arrest. Or if I leave without its permission that there would be no security accompanying me, that it be on our own accord.’

‘And its that my testimonies are an obstacle for them to accuse whoever they want to throw into prison. I didn’t hear cars arrive or drive off when the assassination took place; the crime scene was modified and altered; the evidences of blood and others left blanks that afterwards can be altered; they went to interrogate most of the people of Copinh and not the suspects who are behind trying to assassinate Berta. It was until today that I had official medical attention for the wounds and while a family in solidarity and another doctor did it to be in solidarity. All the midnight hours of yesterday and until well into the night I could change my blood stenched clothes but they held my bag without returning it to me. .. in the afternoon they offered me something to eat, I did not try foods until today, answering questions, doing test and however many things that occur to them. It seems that they forget that I am a victim and during 48 hours I did not close my eyes, I did not rest, I attended to whatever questioning. But the most beautiful, is that there were always Copinh people outside, in the hall in any moment, accompanying my security, quiet, attentive, marvellous. The human warmth and solidarity is tremendously felt. One feels safer with them than with a thousand police. ‘

Words from Gustavo about Bertha:

I saw Bertha die in my arms but I also saw her heart sown in every struggle that Copinh has carried out, in so many people who have gotten to know her. There is no rain that compares to so many tears shed to her parting, but there is not so much strength that is comparable to the lenca struggle that is faced on the day-to-day, with hand-in-hand, fighting, defending the territory against the huge transnationals. They maintained an unbreakable struggle against over 40 hydroelectric projects; against dozens of mining projects, and a struggle to recover territories in over 50 points of their ancestral region and so beautiful as is the Honduran territory. Copinh marches, walks, protests, recovers and extends its hand in solidarity with the movements. This also was Berta.

Gustavo was emotionally tortured through segregation. ‘It pains me enormously to be shut away in the same city by myself, while thousands congregate a few blocks away to say goodbye to our dear friend Berta. But I want to say I am here with you, crying seas the loss of Bertica but also thanking life for having gotten to know her and having been inspired by her so much.’

Gustavo showed how the Honduran authorities just wanted to accuse Copinh members of murdering their own comrade, ‘once again in the midnight hours, we managed to get to a hotel room and at last to rest a few hours because today we would be leaving for Tegucigalpa. But they came so that I would look at photos and videos to identify the assassin whom I came face to face with, but I was saddened by that all the videos and photos were of marches of Copinh; they wanted me to point to whom of Copinh was the assassin. They did not show me however, the faces of the owners of the companies or their hitmen. In place of two hours, this went for four hours and more questions of the same.’

On 5/3/16, Gustavo Castro had been told that the interrogation process had finished. The Mexican ambassador and consul took him to the airport, but as he approached the migration checkpoint, Honduran police went to grab him – the Mexican ambassador intervened. Honduran authorities stopped him from leaving saying he had to give more testimonies and gave him an order to remain in Honduras for a further 30 days, and at the same time, punished his lawyer Ivania Galeano for having requested a copy of his file by suspending her licence for 15 days. The Honduran government kept coming to interrogate Gustavo at the Mexican embassy where he stayed because he life was in danger everyday that he remained in Honduras.

He was attempted against with two gunshots, but the authorities offered him no medical or psychological assistance. He was rarely allowed any rest. He was denied photocopies of his numerous testimonies. He was made to give testimonies, wait, and give testimonies. His belongings were kept from him. He appealed the 30 days prohibition from leaving honduras, this was rejected on 9/3/16. The La Esperanza judge Victorina Flores seemed intended on charging Gustavo with the murder since he is an obstacle to their plans to finding Copinh members guilty. Even UN human rights defender rapporteur Michel Frost’s urging the Honduran authorities to allow Gustavo to return immediately to Mexico and guarantee his safety was ignored.

Finally, on 31/3/16, due to pressure of social organisations everywhere, Gustavo was allowed to go home, although, with the disclaimer that they might summon him back ‘as new evidence comes up’, despite provisions for him to give further evidence from Mexico.

Copinh organisers arrested, interrogated for Bertha’s murder, released

As Honduran authorties wanted to frame Copinh organisers, they arrested Copinh organiser Aureliano Molina and imprisoned him for two days as a suspect of ‘crime of passion’, despite his having been two hours away from the town on the night of the murder. Two other Copinh leaders Tomás Gómez and Sotero Echeverria were interrogated for days, during which time their requests to be accompanied by their lawyers were rejected. On 15/3/16, Sotero was threatened with arrest.

Then they assassinated another Copinh leader, and persecuted activists in different parts of Honduras all in one day: 15 March 2016

Assassination of Nelson García

nelson garcia copinh march 2016

On 15/3/16, in the morning, the 150 families Río Chiquito community at Río Lindo, Cortés was violently evicted by the invasion of a contingent of 100 cops, 200 military police, 10 soldiers and several investigative agents. In the eviction the agents chased to capture Copinh members. The families lived there since almost 2 years ago, as the territory was given to the women, but the council mayor of last administration disputed this. This day, with the eviction, the wooden houses they built with love was smashed by tractors and machinery. The same machinery was attempting against their gardens and crops, destroying their crops of cassava, sugar cane, plantain, and little corn fields. They destroyed the community’s home made oven and killed their hens.

Nelson García was part of these families who previously recovered this land. He spent all morning helping families of his community move their belongings, and at midday was heading to his mother-in-law’s to have lunch, when just 10 minutes away from the site of eviction, Nelson was assassinated by two hitmen with gunshots. Nelson was in his 30s and is father to five children.

On 31/3/16, prosecutors issued a statement saying that based on investigations by ATIC and DPI they managed to determine with reliable evidence the participation of Didier Enrique Ramírez Acosta ‘El Eléctrico’, member of MS gang, in assassinating copinh leader Nelson García. This says nothing, however, about who planned and paid for this murder, of course.

The sentencing of David Romero

On 15/3/16, David Romero, director of Radio and TV Globo, who had driven the process of uncovering the massive IHSS scandal of the National Party stealing from the workers’ health institution through ghost companies, compromising the health of many, was on this day sentenced to 10 years prison for the ‘crimes of defamation against Sonia Gálvez de Cuellar’, his response was, ‘we are not going to get tired out as long as we have the power of the word, we are going to keep speaking up. We will spell out those corrupt with their full names. We will appeal.. I have not committed any crime.’

David Romero Radio Globo Honduras

Farmers activist and his family raided and captured

In the midnight hours on 15/3/16, without a court order, police and military barged into and raided the home of Aguan Farmers United Movement MUCA president José Angel Flores. They arrested and took to Tocoa police station José and two other male relatives of his under the presumption of weapons possession. All three were later released. They are holders of Inter American Commission of Human Rights protection measures for the risk they run related to their farmers’ activism.

Hitmen attacked and wounded Via Campesina accountant

On 15/3/16, three hitmen broke into the office of La Via Campesina, and firegun wounded accountaint Cristián Alegría, who is also the nephew of well known leader Rafael Alegría. Police said he was shot in having resisted ‘robbery’. Hitmen paid to attack activists are trained to make their attacks look like robberies.

Farmer and human rights defender arrested

On 15/3/16, at 5am in Bajo Aguan, police raided her house and captured Orbelina Flores, her son Arly Gredys Flores and her daughter-in-law Deysi Noemi Madrid and her grandson aged 3 who needed special care. They were released later but, when she went to visit relatives, Orbelina was again arrested and sent to the prosecutors, who tell her its about ‘questions of land’. There is to date no more information from the authorities, and it is not known if she has been released since or continued in custody.

Other persecution in March 2016

Persecution against the farmers of Bajo Aguan

On 16/3/16, Martha Ligia Arnold, president of the Bajo Aguan Permanent Human Rights Observatory OPDHBA, who had been granted IACHR protection measures because of being persecuted, received a letter from the Local Coordinator of the Bajo Aguan Violent Deaths Unit (UMVIBA: a specialist unit of the prosecutors department), Javier Guzmán. The letter advised Martha of the authorities’ decision to not pass onto Martha any information which she requests as a OPDBA representative about any progress in the cases of investigation that UMVIBA manages, because the authorities consider Martha to have connection with a group of delinquents that operates in the province. The letter said that OPDBA leaks too much information, and that the “delinquents” mentioned are involved in crimes that UMVIBA investigates, saying that for those reasons they feel there is a conflict to continue sharing information as before, that now they will only pass on some written statistics, but no more than that. In categorising her and OPDBA in this way, the state is stigmatising defenders organised in the OPDBA. Martha has, already, in the past, faced persecution, threats to her and her children and smear campaigns by the state.

On 20/3/16, Vitalino Alvarez, spokesperson of the Bajo Aguan Agrarian Platform, had to flee Honduras because of persecution and constant threats against his life and those of his children. He has IACHR protection measures.

On 12/3/16, at 1,30pm Jaime Cabrera, coordinator of the Bajo Aguan Agrarian Platform was leaving a meeting and driving home to Trujillo on a motorbike, when he was followed by a red car with double cabin and polarised windows and no numberplates. Days before, there were two motorbikes circling around his home, intimidating and watching. He has IACHR protection measures.

Youths of Guadalupe Carney, members of Movimiento Campesino de Aguan MCA had entered this March to recover lands near its community that belong to MCA. They have asked people to be alert to likely repression and assassinations..

Death threats against activist and community radio DJ

On 20/3/16, energetic activist Wilmer Ramos of Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia and community radio DJ for Radio Dignidad received new death threats in this terrifying context. Police has made zero progress on investigating threats against Wilmer. MADJ holds Honduran police and state responsible for whatever may happen to Wilmer.

Death threats against MILPA Lenca organisers

On 17/3/16, well known national party representative Segundo Castillo came to the house of MILPA (Movimiento Indígena Lenca por La Paz) activist Juan Vásquez, at a time when Juan was out working. Segundo retreated to threatening Juan’s brother, Juan’s spouse, and Juan’s children, for having opposed the Simpinula hydroelectricity dam project and other council plans. Segundo argued with Juan’s spouse, claiming that the national party has given floors and roofs that the council had given and that they were not grateful for what the state had given to the poor… Juan came home in this moment and Juan confronted Segundo for having come to Juan’s home drunk. Segundo got angry and left to his car and said that he was going to get a pistol to kill Juan. One of Juan’s relatives said, “the death threat to my brother Juan Vásquez , to my sister in law and to me, is because we don’t want the territorial manipulation by the state, but the Santa María mayor, Gabino Argueta, I don’t know what he had done to get World Bank funds to carry out the electricity projects in our community. They offered a project for us but now they want that we hand over our lands for review in exchange for putting electricity in our houses; but we are against this; but now the mayor comes and he says to us: I will take from you all help you get from council and projects.’

In Santa Elena, La Paz, 20 Lenca leaders had been assassinated just in 2015 by including party strongmen, by hitmen sent by mayors and land owners and the national party management committee, imposing the damming of rivers.

Comayagua eviction

In Valle de Humuya, Villa de San Antonio, Comayagua, on 9/3/16, the farmers group that had been fighting for their right to this land permanently for the last 8 years were violently evicted by police and military police, in the presence of human rights representatives, after having received threats of this eviction earlier in the week. The contingent destroyed their crops, homes and fences forcing them to flee to avoid being illegally arrested, leaving them in complete misery and left to luck. These displaced farmers with nowhere to go are organised with CNTC, the rural workers’ national federation.

UNAH eviction

On 2/3/16, sent by UNAH and by court, police and soldiers violently evicted families who have lived near the UNAH Valle de Sula campus since half a century ago.

Student watched and followed

On 28/2/16, UNAH sociology student Moisés Caceres, who had suffered a long chain of repression by UNAH authorities and in court for his activism, complained of being followed and watched. It was to such a degree that an unknown man came to look for him in his neighbourhood and somebody answered him, saying, ‘they already killed this one off’.

Protection measures

Protection measures don’t impede assassination of social activists in Honduras. On 16/2/16, IACHR (Inter American Commission of Human Rights) reported that even with protection measures, at least 14 people granted with such measures had been assassinated by the end of the year.. Bertha Cáceres also had these measures. She had requested the police the patrol the area, and to assign a fund for her to choose someone she trusted as a security guard, instead of accepting a police. They had asked for technology for human rights organisations to use. The state had not responded to that, they could only say that they offered her a police and she refused, and that she didn’t tell them she changed address – who would?

Social leader arrested

On 22/3/16, in Ocotepeque, a long-time social activist Oscar Obdulio Mejía was arrested by police. They handcuffed him and read him his rights in the Lucerna police cells, without telling him why he was arrested. Known as Oscarito, he is a survivor in the 80s of persecution, having always been an activist, and whose commitment and conviction in defence of life had sustained his social and political labour.

Lgbti activist arrested

On 20/3/16, in the midnight hours, ‘Vicky’ Arely Victoria Gómez Cruz, defender of lgbti rights, was arrested when she was working in defence of a woman who was arbitrarily arrested by police. The police ordered Vicky’s arrest ‘for going around demanding things that couldn’t be given’ . Police and other prisoners laughed at Vicky, at her gender. They said to Vicky that Vicky were nobody, nor certified lawyer, when she introduced herself as a human rights defender. She was not released until 12 midday. This is amidst many acts of harassment, threats, persecution, for their labour as a defender and for reasons of hate for her sexuality. Vicky is a trans woman, human rights defender and activist in different organisations nationally and internationally. In 2013 she was attacked by several men at Tegucigalpa city centre, where they snatched from her even her high heels. She was forced to flee Honduras, having come back she is again a victim of physical and verbal attacks.

Activist killed by lack of healthcare

On 25/3/16, the secretary general of the Farm Workers National Federation CNTC, Magdalena Morales, died of cancer, after not having been treated with dignity and not having received necessarily medicines for chemotherapy. At the same time that she faced cancer, as an activist, she was persecuted by authorities accused of land usurpation – her crime was supporting with food and basic needs materials hundreds of farming families organised in ADCP farmers group who occupied land that Azunosa of SABMiller, a British South African company, illegally occupied. She said, ‘for these multinationals, solidarity is a crime.’ She was arrested in July 2013 and had a hearing in August. She was very selfless and did not complain about her health. She had to run a lot because of the persecution. She had to distance herself from her children so they were not persecuted while she continued activism.

News briefs from March 2016

  • Newly passed ‘Law of Secrets’ allows politicians and business people to cover up about the abuse of natural and public resources in Honduras. It facilitates for topics, minutes, contracts, documents, information, data and objects to be classified using the excuse that sharing the information can put at risk security, national defence, and the achievement of national objectives.
  • In relation to the IHSS scandal where the National Party stole massive sums of money from health institution for their electoral campaign, National party president Gladis López said it had already deposited IOU notes worth 4 million lempiras (less than half a million US dollars) in case they are found guilty to pay out. Recap: US$350 millions were stolen by the National party passing through ghost companies, state officials and politicians
  • Another poisoned river causing serious illnesses in people who use this water supply. This time it is Santa Rosa de Copán city, where almost 100,000 live on the water supply from the Higuito and Lara Rivers which is contaminated with cianite (heavy metals), left by different mining companies including Minosa. Biodiversity has also been hugely affected. Complaints about this date back to 2002.
  • President JOH abruptly decided to close the DEI – Executive Department of Revenue, in a run of privatisations. DEI is a taxation department created in 1994. Now, 1500 staff have been dismissed when they turned up to work and found the building militarised – having been warned before this only by the council cleaners, after the December announcement of a new and modern tax system with new staff that will be more efficient. The privatisations have the pattern of massive dismissals, destruction of union organisations and making public private investments, and are part of a plan pushed by IMF.
  • Testimonies from anonymous deserters reveal that there is a ‘School of Education for Delinquents’ run by foreign educators, with knowledge, and institutional and financial backing from the Honduran government, in which 1000s of Honduran youths are trained to be converted into infiltrators, agents of social penetration, and assassins with ability to make political crimes look like common ones. A number of recent crimes fit in this criteria, with political crimes dressed as crimes of robbery, gangs, and ‘passion’.

February 2016 Honduras coup update

February 2016 Honduras coup update

2nd or 3rd of March does not fall into February. But on this date, well, one of these dates, because we don’t know if it happened before or after midnight, but, indigenous organisation Copinh coordinator and co-founder Bertha Caceres, who won the Goldman Environmentalist Prize in 2015, was while sleeping in her home, murdered by hitmen who broke in. She is about the most wellknown grassroots activist in Honduras internationally, and had worked hard including on the campaign of Rio Blanco, to not allow Agua Zarca project, of the DESA and previously SINOHYDRO companies backed by international finances, to dam the sacred indigenous Gualcarque River. She is known for standing up with indigenous communities against dams and mines and for self determination, empowerment of women, and for speaking very clearly against ‘green energy’ industries that contaminate and violate communities and environmental rights, against false models of ‘development’, against false solutions when addressing causes of migration. More about her and what happened in the March 2016 update, coming up very soon. Take note that a number of threats and attacks have been documented against her and the organisation Copinh in February alone.

Five indigenous activists of Tolupan community assassinated

Nameless in order to protect survivors in a situation where nobody’s safety is even likely, five people of the Tolupán tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa were assassinated on 21/2/16; four of these died immediately, the fifth was gravely wounded, taken to San Pedro Sula to hospital, but where they then died. They were killed at caserio Cabeza de Vaca Número 2. From Locomapa, with this new massacre, there are now 17 Tolupanes of Locomapa who have been murdered in this context of the state being in complicity with clandestine mining and logging companies. Victims of assassinations are of the community which defends the territory and the environment. Prior to this massacre, the last assassination was in April 2015 against Luís de Reyes Marcía, and the massacre before this one was against four tolupanes on 25/8/13.

Indigneous community and Copinh threatened during protest

On 20/2/16, Lenca people accompanied by Copinh organisers protested against the hydroelectric dam project Agua Zarca, this protest was repressed by staff of DESA and of San Francisco de Ojuera Council and army, police, guards and hitmen. Berta Cáceres, Copinh and the Rio Blanco community also received death threats: from Mayor Raúl Pineda and deputy mayor, what’s more, over 100 of these including Bertha were detained and later released. About this day, Copinh sent a statement saying, ‘we demand respect for our right to mobilise and to protest, the right to walk to Gualcarque river to defend life and the Lenca territory. We accuse the engineer Sergio Rodríguez of DESA as well as Mayor Raúl Pineda and the nationalists for threatening the physical and emotional wellbeing of our compas.’ The protest against Agua Zarca isn’t new, the community had with Copinh mounted a blockade since 1/4/2013, but the construction has now moved to the other side of the Gualcarque river to make it more difficult for protesters to stop it.

Eviction against 50 indigenous families

On 25/2/16, police, investigative agents, and army, armed with an illegal and arbitrary court order from judge Mario Pineda, raided, and violently evicted 50 Lenca families of the Jarcia community in Guise, Intibucá. Attacks were indiscriminate and were against including pregnant women, children and older folks. The order was made in favour of businessman Lenin Pérez, who was directly involved along with the contingent in destroying the evicted homes of these families with bulldozers.

Other threats Berta Caceres received in February

On 16/2/16, armed men followed Berta Caceres and other Copinh members who were leaving Río Blanco. They were followed in a car from Pan de Encima until Zacapa.

On 25/2/16 during the eviction against Lenca families in Guinse Intibucá, one state investigative agent there harrassed Berta and told her that they would not help her ‘if something were to happen to her’. One of this group of investigative agents was involved in the assassination of Bernardo Pérez and was in December 2015 detained for illegal possession of weapons, but was released after having been openly supported with money and influence by the DESA head of security Jorge Avila. There are clear links of collaboration between DESA and the state in threatening the Lenca people, in attacking people who oppose the Agua Zarca dam project.

On 26/2/16, at 5pm, Berta was in San Pedro Sula and she received a phone call informing her that a car was circling around her home.

Journalist assassinated

On 6/2/16 Marlon David Martínez Caballero (27) was assassinated together with four others in the midnight hours in the Ríos Piedras neighbourhood in San Pedro Sula. Marlon was until two years ago the director and journalist of TopMusic radio station where he worked for four years, in Tegucigalpa; Topmusic belongs to the Invosa group, which also owns Radio Cadena Voces (RCV). RCV director Carlos Lópe said Marlon was something who had critical thinking and covered issues including delinquency in San Pedro Sula. Invosa group journalists have suffered severe persecution including assassination, threats, gunshots against RCV building, glass on RCV car broken.

Copinh indigenous journalists detained by guards of the first dame

On 4/2/16, at 1.15pm, as the first dame Ana García was holding a manipulative public act in Valero Meza school in Intíbuca, the young Copinh journalists Rolando Gutiérrez and Selvin Milla were aggressively, arbitrarily and unjustly detained by the first dame’s guards and soldiers. Rolando and Selvin are part of the community radios Guarajambala and La Voz Lenca, and also belong to the community defence team of Copinh, and were at the event to cover it critically. They were pointed at by the Intibucá mayor Javier Martínez, and immediately the guards and soldiers went to capture them, drag and push them to behind the classrooms and threatened them with imprisonment for ‘being oppositional and for being against the government’. The guards took off Selvin his personal documents and the filming equipment of both and deleted the contents of these. Other Copinh compas of that locality intervened to stop the physical attacks, but the two were taken in a police patrol to the police station, and not freed until 6pm that afternoon.

First dame’s guards’ second attack against journalists in February

On 11/2/16, this time it was at a launch of an investigation unit of violent deaths of women and femicides in Honduras that the guards of the first dame Ana García attacked journalists. Rony Espinoza of Radio TV Globo was trying to enter the event and was told that there was an order to not allow in journalists of Radio and TV Globo. Oxfam International also had its entry into the event temporarily restricted. C-Libre journalist and human rights defender Tomy Morales intervened for Rony to be able to go in to cover, but not without her being subject to verbal attack by the staff of Ana García. Having entered, Rony tried to interview Ana García when she was being interrogated by journalist Rosángela Soto of Hoy Mismo, but was stopped by the presidential guard of García. When Rony asked them to let him interview her, they pushed him, wrestled him and grabbed his shirt in front of everyone. Femicide is an issue close to Rony’s heart; Rony’s daughter Merelym was a young woman who was killed violently, whose case remains in impunity.

Organiser judicially persecuted for using social media

Elvin Molina’s neighbours told him that hooded men walk around with photos of Elvin in their hands, and took photos of his spouse, family, and even the dog. On 20/1/16, four hooded armed men came off a car and went to arrest Elvin, and when Elvin asked what he was being arresting him for, they replied that they were simply taking him for investigation. For someone who ‘wasn’t being arrested’, it is ironic that he was then released on 22/1/16 and given bail. Elvin was accused of a ‘financial crime’… it is not that he money laundered, but that he criticised banks on social media, giving ‘false information’ about powerful banks Ficohsa and Occidente, for their money laundering and their links to corruption. Throughout February Elvin dealt with adjournments not knowing how long this were to hang over him for. Finally, there was a hearing held in March, and in this hearing, the judge asked the police why they captured him when thousands have spoken up on this topic in the social media, the investigative police Pierson Aragón Regalado answered that, ‘he is not a common citizen, since he is the leader of the Employees of Alimentos Continental and was also part of the ‘Indignados’ which is the group of people who are against the president, apart from which he is a member of the political organisation Casa del Pueblo which is an organisation that supports the Libre party, and because of the fact that he is a leader, his publications generate more impact!’. At that point, the judge dismissed the case as the accusation was a violation of Elvin’s freedom of expression. Elvin worked hard organising as one of 11,000 ex employees of Grupo Continental who lost their jobs and did not get paid their entitlements.

Dismissal threat against unionist

RNP union president Edy Moncada was notified that he would be dismissed; this has not been carried out yet, and it is hoped that it doesn’t. This is in the context of other unionists having been dismissed and public sector organisations having meetings.

News Briefs from February 2016

Update on IHSS scandal. Lena Gutierrez’s family is accused of crimes against health of the Honduran people, and of fraude against the state and irregular sale of medicine, having sold aspirin that don’t dissolve in people’s bodies, causing harm to patients. Her lawyers are now pressuring for the Supreme court to resolve her legal situation. They are pushing for prosecution to carry out the preliminary hearing.

Teodoro Bonilla, the vicepresident of the judiciary council, has a suspension from his duties as ordered by court. He is also under house arrest and is prohibited from leaving for country and from communicating with two people named Delmy Elizabeth López and Liz María Ernestina Núñez. But no, this is not for abusing his power and complying with an order from JOH the president to send journalist David Romero to prison – another judge spoke up about this as he was pressured by Bonilla to hurry Romero’s case and put him in prison, instead, the crime is for abusing authority by trying to favour a family member to avoid justice for a charge relating to organised crime.