February 2017 Honduras coup update

February 2017 Honduras coup update

Another Tolupán indigenous leader assassinated

On 17.2.17, José de los Santos Sevilla was assassinated, attacked by five unidentified persons who broke into his home in the La Ceiba neighbourhood, Orica province. José was the president of the Association of Tolupán Indigenous Communities of Montaña de la Flor. He worked as a primary teacher. He formed part of a network of judicial facilitators. Having been murdered, he joins the over 100 Tolupán people in Honduras who have been assassinated in the last two decades – an extremely high number given that the Tolupán population in Honduras is only about over 20,000. Murders against Tolupán people are linked to companies and related to the Tolupán resistances against mining and logging exploitation in their communities.

Director of Women’s organisation sued for demanding justice for Berta’s murder

Because Centre of Women’s Studies – Honduras (CEM-H) called for justice for Berta and for the impunity of DESA to end, DESA filed a lawsuit suing CEM-H director Suyapa Martínez. DESA charged her for defamation, they are asking her to be fined a million lempiras (about US$42,500).

Smear attacks against Copinh continues, including against Berta’s daughters

At the end of January 2017, in a press conference, Copinh spoke up about recent images that have gone out on social media that incites hate towards the Copinh indigenous organisation, and against Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, one of the daughters of the Berta Cáceres, well known indigenous feminist anticapitalist activist murdered in March 2016. The images accuse those attacked of hating and destroying the image of Honduras, and try to make people confuse the indigenous organisation Copinh with the political party Libre to delegitimise this indigenous organisation. Smear campaigns are also widely used prior to violent persecution to confuse public opinion – like in Berta Cáceres’ case, so those attacked in this way are literally being threatened at the same time.

University director directed bodyguards to attack journalist at work / another attack against protesting students

On 15 and 16.2.17, at the national autonomous university UNAH, there was a symposium on human rights and the judicial system of Honduras, which was attended by UN human rights reps, US Ambassador in Honduras James Nealon, the Honduran Ombudsman and uni authorities. A press conference – national and international – was organised as the first part of the symposium came to and end. Journalist Ronnie Huete took the opportunity to ask UNAH director Julieta Castellanos a question in relation to police brutality in the use of toxic gases inside the campus grounds, in reference to recent repression on campus against a students protest on 9.2.17, on which date three students were arrested and one of the arrestees, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, suffered cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment during a beating he was subject to by a Cobra police. Journalist Ronnie Huete’s question infuriated Castellanos, who called on her bodyguards to use force against him to silence him.

Ongoing: mass dismissals, privatisations..

In the period of October to December 2016, 1250 public service workers were dismissed – 250 from INA Agrarian Department, which has the job of processing land titles for farmers, and 800 from ENEE electricity company. Downsizing was to save almost US$1 million. No statements were made by the institutions on the impact the downsizing will have on social and public services, and on privatisation, or how what few jobs are left are saved for those affiliated with the party in power, or that the savings are to please World Bank, IMF, Inter American Development Bank, and Central American Bank of Economic Integration, so these would give loans, while the many suffer the consequences of privatisation. CUTH workers federation general secretary Joel Almendares asserted that in the last three years or so, over 20,000 public employees have been dismissed en-masse in Honduras and many have been suspended for four months without pay, that there are no opportunities for youths, and highlighted violations to collective contract and workers’ right to union organising.

Miners in Santa Bárbara protest

In El Mochito, miners marched, hugged, cried and prayed. They were on strike for a week, demanding increases in pay and for collective contracts, as despite orders by the Secretary of Work, and many meetings and negotiations, their pay remained starvation wages. Their situation is particularly precarious because of changes in company ownership – the company was sold by Nyrstarr to Morumbi Resources Inc (Canadian mining company) last year, which has committed to selling 100% of its zinc production to American Pacific Honduras which sold Nyrstar 98.04% of shares back in April 2014. Morumbi has taken possession but under the direction of the company Ascendant Resources Inc.

A recap on the Globo Witness report, ‘Honduras: the most dangerous place to defend the planet in’

In reference to 123 defenders of land and common resources having been assassinated in Honduras since the 2009 coup, and of many others persecuted, and of the 90% impunity, it is recapped that this dangerous condition in which to resist and oppose megaprojects from the communities, ‘These are a direct consequence of a lethal cocktail where generalised corruption is combined with interested of big national and international capital, with collusion with politicians and state officials, where there is no practically protected right to prior, free and informed consultation with the communities and there is impunity.’

Advertisements

January 2017 Honduras coup update

 

January 2017 Honduras coup update

COPINH Calls for Month of Action in March 2017

Posted: 26 Jan 2017

The Honduran indigenous organization COPINH calls for a month of action demanding justice for Berta Caceres and for the indigenous communities in struggle in Honduras. La Voz de los de Abajo and the other organizations of the Honduras Solidarity Network will be organizing actions, so stay tuned to our Facebook pages and other social media so you can join in.

“Berta lives on, COPINH is strong” – COPINH calls for month of actions

On March 2nd, 2016 they assassinated our sister Berta Cáceres. They thought they would get rid not just of her as a leader recognized throughout Latin America and around the world, but also would end a struggle, a political project, that they would destroy the organization of which she was both founder and daughter, COPINH (the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras).

One year since she spread her wings, since the crime that tried to steal her clarity and leadership from us, the peoples of the world who recognize her legacy are here, walking in her footsteps, confronting the patriarchal, capitalist, colonial and racist system that is imposed upon our peoples. We have been and will continue confronting the deadly projects of transnational corporations and imperialism in every corner of the planet.

In March we won’t just painfully remember that horrendous crime, above all we will celebrate life: the life of Berta, who was born on March 4th and the life of COPINH, which was founded 24 years ago on March 27th.

For all of these reasons, we invite you to use every day of March to multiply:

* Actions of protest, resistance and struggle against the deadly policies of transnational corporations…

* Actions to defend the bodies and lives of women in the face of the patriarchal and colonial system…

* Actions against the criminalization of grassroots movements, against militarization and commodification of the lands and all dimensions of life…

* Actions to denounce the Honduran State in front of its embassies in every country of the world…

* Actions of solidarity with COPINH and with the organizations of the grassroots Honduran social movement…

* Actions to spread the thinking and example of Berta’s life…

* Moments of reflection and spirituality…

We call for these types of actions to be developed and spread through every corner of Abya Yala and the world. As movements, organizations and people, let’s accompany COPINH, embody it, multiply its march.

In all of these potential proposed actions, and all others that your creativity gives rise to, let the world shake with the cry of: “Berta lives on, COPINH is strong!”

In the face of militarization and criminalization, more struggle and organization!

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Iselaca, Mota and Etempica, we raise our voices full of life, justice, liberty, dignity and peace.

BERTA LIVES ON, COPINH IS STRONG

#justixciaparaberta #SoyCOPINH

#bertavivecopinhsigue

Global Witness report and attacks against those who are part of it

Global Witness, a wellknown human rights NGO, published a report that reiterated that Honduras is the most dangerous place on earth to defend environment, land and human rights, where one is the most likely to be assassinated for fighting to protect the planet. The report said 123 defenders of land and environment have been assassinated since the coup in 2009 in Honduras, and others have been threatened, persecuted, imprisoned, and that 90% of these cases is in impunity. It clearly pointed at the business sector as being behind these murders, and that this sector has the support of corruption, impunity, and state departments including courts, military, police, and other departments. Honduras already has 714 extractive projects and about 30 to 35% of the territory has been concessioned out for commercial exploitation. It’s not that this overview or statistics are news to anyone who has been following the atrocities in Honduras, but that Global Witness reported these, that is news, because Global Witness is influential in the ‘international community’.

So, the reaction to Global Witness circulating this report, included that Environmental and Natural Resources minister José Galdámez threatened Global Witness Director Billy Kyte, saying if Kyte does not present himself to the Honduran state to make statement about the facts he published in his report, that Galdámez’s office will proceed to request prosecutors to order Kyte’s arrest. Secretary General of government coordination Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro denied that the numbers of assassinated environmentalists named in the report were true. Parliamentarian and ex congress president and president of National party – Gladys Aurora Lopez, announced she will place charges against the representatives of Global Witness for the revealed data. There are hate campaigns by anonymous groups in social media against the UN human rights rapporteur Michel Forst who called on people to read the Global Witness report. Those whose lives are in danger in relation to this report include not only those of Global Witness who worked on and signed off on the report, but also those who gave testimonies for the report from grassroots organisations and communities: Milpah, Copinh, MADJ, Locomapa community, Barra Vieja garifuna community, and the same goes for others who spoke as witnesses and sources of information in the report.

A bill that killing and hurting people is what police, soldiers etc are hired for so they don’t get punished

State security officials kill and hurt many people around the world, and in Honduras the numbers are especially grave – but even in Honduras, once in a while, under pressure from campaigns for justice, the state plays the charades of pretending to prosecute police and army officials for assassinations. The JOH president feels this is a problem, so he proposed a bill to reform the criminal law, article 25, so that police, military, and state security servants or other competent authority won’t be investigated, judged or punished when they ‘in the course of carrying other their duties and in the use of their weapons or other means of defence, cause injury or death to a person’. They want to make official that cops and soldiers have a licence to kill. It does not only mean stopping to pretend, it facilitates for many more murders and injuries to be executed by cops and soldiers.

Violent gun-firing eviction against over sixty farmers families

The ‘9 de Julio’ farmers group consisting of over 60 farmers families have grown crops and made homes on and occupied land in San Pedro Tutule in La Paz since seven years ago. Back on May 11 in the year just gone, they were attacked in an eviction. On 28.11.16, the La Paz court ordered for an eviction for 6.1.17 against the farmers – the terrorising eviction did not take place this day and instead of rescheduled for 13.1.17 and was carried out on this date despite the fact that there is an appeal of the eviction order in process at the Supreme Court which meant they were legally obliged to hold off the eviction until a decision is made on the appeal. At 6am on 13.1.17, 12 police patrols, 3 military police commands and prosecutors representatives arrived, ignored the families’ asserting that the appeal was in place, and began attacking the farmer families. At least four farmers were wounded in the brutal assault – this included: Simpnula Indigenous Council president and Milpah member Victor Vásquez was bullet wounded in the right knee when he was filming the eviction, and David Vásquez of Tutle has perforations in the left hand. Even the UNHCR expressed concern over this forced violent eviction.

Farmers terrorised by paramilitaries in La Confianza, Bajo Aguán

On 19.1.17, it was spoken up that Bajo Aguan farmers in La Confianza were being terrorised by the paramilitary group that is linked to the assassinations of the farmers leaders José Angel Flores and Silmer Dionicio George which were carried out on 18.10.16. Capture orders exist against accused paramilitaries but as these are not carried out, they continue to operate in the region, sowing terror in La Confianza.

Another murdered journalist

On 17.1.17, in the afternoon, in the Suyapa neighbourhood in San Pedro Sula, journalist Igor Padilla of HCH TV channel was at a toyshop shooting a commerical when he received a phone call telling him to leave where he was, and as he did what he was told, unidentified people from two vans sprayed him with over 20 bullets, taking his life. It is likely that this assassination is associated with either his work as a journalist, or his participation in party politics and the recent merging of political parties, or both; on 12.1.17, an alert was sent out by C-Libre (Committee for the freedom of expression), of that a facebook identity ‘Jowe Agular’ sent threats against HCH journalists, and made a post directed to HCH owner Eduardo Maldonado, saying, ‘Don Eduardo, I give you a month to fire this mara of Ms Elsa Oseguera, or else I will kill Suliz or Ernesto’ – this post was full of spelling mistakes and was posted on 4.1.16. Also, a press statement was made by Corazón Azul Movement political party’s Eva Fernández saying on 17.1.17 at midday in an interview with Radio Globo that she hoped that Igor’s joining of the alliance won’t mean that her or her followers would be targetted. Igor is the 63rd journalist killed in the last 15 years in Honduras. 95% remain in impunity. Over 50 of these cases were after the 2009 coup, of which 24 were concentrated in 2014 and 2015. More broadly, 39 journalist and media workers were assassinated in 2016 in 7 Latin American and Carribean countries (Honduras included), compared to 19 in Syria and 20 in Iraq. What the cases have in common is the silence on the cases and self censorship in the press, and that those who contracted the murders is the politically corrupt in the provinces and states associated with economic powers, and to big foreign mining companies and drug cartel, human trafficking, and that the assassinations remain in complete impunity.

Campaign for working conditions of Melon workers in Honduras continue

This January an international mission made up of international organisations including IUF – International Union of Food Workers, visited Honduras to amplify an international solidarity campaign with melon workers fighting for their rights. Hundreds of workers work for subsidiaries of Fyffes (Irish) transnational melons company – 80% of these are women, most are on temp contracts, and half of the women are single mothers. They fight for their rights to organise in unions, to not work such long days that all they do is work, to be paid the minimal wage, to be paid overtime, for holiday pay, for the accumulation of long service leave, for their entitlements to workers’ health services for which employers have an obligation to pay contributions but often don’t. They also fight for better conditions of hygiene and security, against women being fired for being pregnant, and against blacklisting. They have fought for these for some time now, and last year saw dozens of workers fired for participation in union organising just as workers were pushing to negotiate a collective contract, and many others feared not being re-contracted for the new season for the same – the campaign efforts managed to ensure that most of workers were re-contracted, but 35 were left out of this, and work conditions have not improved. Workers got the Choluteca regional Industrial Relations Office to order the companies to pay a millionaire amount to the workers, having confirmed the violations, but when Fyffes subsidiaries appealed, their influence had the central IR office overturn the regional office’s decision, saying that temporary workers can’t form or benefit from unions. Directives of unions STAS and Festagro have received threats and one compañera had to leave the region for a time because her life was in danger. Workers however continue to organise.

In this context, to pressure this company and also the market and associated state bodies, a Make Fruits Fair international campaign was launched. At the same time, Fyffes, a company that has a representative answer in public forums that Fyffes is unconcerned with improving workers rights, is a directive member of ETI – Ethical Trading Initiative – which has not kicked Fyffes out, because ETI is funded mostly by companies and the British government, so it exists to provide marketing for products for its member companies, rather than to advocate for workers. And things look to get worse, Fyffes, an Irish company, had signed a contract in December to sell the company to Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo at over 750 million euros – Sumitomo is in 66 countries and has 65,000 workers under these, and the capitalisation of Sumitomo goes up to over US$15,000 million.. http://bulatlat.com/main/2015/04/12/thousands-of-banana-growers-decry-wage-cuts-under-new-piece-rate-system/.

Soldiers killed seventeen year old

‘Incidents’ like this often happen: on 2.1.17, 17 year old Edgardo José Moreno Rodríguez was killed by military police in Olancho. It is a reminder that very dollar given in military aid translates to human rights violations against poor women and men of Honduras.

December 2016 Honduras coup update

December 2016 Honduras coup update

Attacks against uni students of National University of Agriculture in Catacamas

Uni students of UNA Catacamas has been occupying the campus for a month in resistance against the uni administration when on 16.12.16 the students were attacked by people paid to hurt the students – they entered and slashed out horrendously and left some students wounded by stabs with machetes and knives. These contractors also damaged uni buildings and vehicles that students had been looking after and occupying. Police watched on and did nothing to intervene to try to stop the attacks. Strangely enough there were even reports of police having been attacked by these contractors. There had also been heavy confrontations between student activists and uni staff, as well as a situation in which over 200 people which include staff and students under manipulation of the authorities, had forcefully entered the campus with the intention of removing documents from the director’s and administrative office, presumably to protect these from being exposed to corruption.

Then on 21.12.16, student leader Isaias Rodríguez Duarte, for having named on his facebook page the uni security staff Andrés Gallardo as someone guilty of damaging a fence of the uni during confrontation between students and the uni authority, was surprised by a public threat made against him (Isaias) by Andrés’s sister Jandi Gallardo who threatened him there implicitly saying that she ‘will put a price on his head’.

Also, back on 7.12.16, student leader Josué Wilton Cruz Salvador had been referred to in a fake note as having committed crimes of ‘illicit association’ on the facebook page of food technology faculty staff Tony Herrera. Josué has been verbally offered scholarship, job, masters fees lifted, etc, in exchange for not opposing the authorities and not being a student leader. Despite of everything Josué continues firm in his struggle in the student movement and occupation.

Cultural centre raided

Paradiso is a cultural centre in which people gather and hear poetry readings of Honduran poets, listen to Honduran musicians, and where there is an exchange of poems, books, zines, cultural projects, and the sharing of political and artistic visions for the new society being built. On the night of 22.12.16, Paradiso was raided by soldiers in the middle of a poetry performance night of young Honduran poets. The excuse the soldiers gave for the operation was that they suspected there was drug dealing in there.

Another discrediting attack against human rights organisation Cofadeh

Following a chain of attacks including a website that published articles accusing Cofadeh of covering up the ‘truth’ of who murdered farmers’ leader Juan Angel Flores recently, insinuating that the murder had to do with drug trades and not land conflict, a letter was then circulated on 13.12.16 that faked being a letter from Cofadeh. The Cofadeh logo, slogan and narrative was used. The fake letter had as its signatory Bertha Oliva – fakely so, she did not write the letter, and the letter was used to make believe that Bertha Oliva had proposed as a solution to the UNAG crisis with the students’ occupation, for the political organisation Los Necios OPLN to be used as the mediator to get students to hand over the buildings. The letter also cited that Oliva and UNAG director Escoto have been in dialogue – something that had not taken place. The intention of the letter is to make believe the argument that Cofadeh has affiliations with political parties and act according to the interests of these rather than from a human rights perspective, to discredit its work, to weaken its credibility, and attack it.

As farmers and indigenous groups continue to fight for justice, there continues to be no justice carried out by authorities, which instead, attempt to distract and confuse onlookers

In Bajo Aguan, as farmers held a forum commemorating human rights day on 10.12.16, they invited human rights organisations, grassroots organisations and authorities from the Aguan region to attend, and in the forum demanded royal commissions on the assassination of farmers in Aguan and for those responsible for the murders to be brought to justice. That day about 2pm, a group of fifteen youths from the community entered land near them that is under dispute with palm company Dinant to reclaim it. Both Aguan Permanent Human Rights Watch and Coronel Coca Cantarero of Xatruch military operation entered too and saw that the youths did not carry any weapons, further to which when the coronel asked them to leave to which they did not put up any resistance. In this context, Dinant spokesperson Roger Pineda proceeded to tell the press that ‘armed men’ had invaded the Paso Aguán farm and shot against ‘unarmed Dinant security guards’, there is no doubt that these lies are told to confuse and distract so past and future violence against farmers in land struggle can be easily dismissed by many as something too muddy to make judgements about, despite mountains of evidence that over a hundred farmers in the land struggle have since the coup been disappeared, assassinated and have appeared on military black lists, their lives taken and threatened by palm company in partnership with state security forces.

In the Garífuna indigenous black communities of Triunfo and Punta Piedra, they continue to struggle to have their collective titles of their ancestral lands recognised and guaranteed – this and for the state to cover legal costs, compensate the communities for the violations by providing a community development fund, and for the murder of their community members to be brought to justice was ordered to the Honduran state one year ago by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights. The state had pretended to accept responsibility at that point, but not surprisingly, one year on, has not implemented its promises to guarantee these lands or bring justice in the cases.

Violations against Garifuna rights including to their territories continue. Similarly, a year ago on 28.12.15, a group of Garífunas were attacked by soldiers at Barra de Iriona in Colón, the youths Joel Palacios Lino (24) and Elvis Armando García (19) were killed by the soldier, with complete impunity one year on.

November 2016 Honduras coup update

November 2016 Honduras coup update

51 uni students charged, 8 uni students expelled, … lecturers dismissed.. tension escalates, bulldozer used against students wounding 3, danger to lives felt

At the National University of Agriculture, UNA, in Olancho, on Saturday 19.11.16, many students began occupation of the university demanding participation in making decisions that affect them, and protesting actions of the Marlon Escoto authority (who they ask to step down) in failing many students and condoning sexual abuse by some lecturers against students, other problems within the veterinary medicine faculty, delays in students graduations, the arbitrary and politically motivated expulsion of eight students in and unfair mass dismissal of 17 lecturers in the days prior. The university vice-director Carlos Manuel Ulloa is whom students seek to replace Marlon Escoto as director – Carlos was suspended as the vice-director in August. The students seek a restructure of courses and to prevent a crisis in the university foreseeing that this would hurt the poorest students most. From the beginning of the occupation, police had threatened to violently evict students, and more students got expelled once they come to be recognised as one of the students fighting for changes; Marlon Escoto ordered the expulsion of 79 students and threatened to cancel the third academic term.

The repression and terror campaign against students and confrontations between students and police only escalated as the occupation continued. On 22.11.16 conservative daily newspaper La Tribuna published a video on its website showing an incident where uni authorities used a gigantic bulldozer to attack students. You can see on the video that students were trying to maintain a line and not back down as a bulldozer advanced towards them and towards a fence. The bulldozer did not stop when it had come up against the wall, the driver with the bulldozer wounded three students <http://www.latribuna.hn/2016/11/22/video-muestra-crisis-educativa-la-una/&gt;. It is also reported that hitmen are threatening the lives of students involved in the occupation.

On 23.11.16, the prosecutor Keyri Johana Montalván Acosta issued capture orders against 51 students (file 137-2016) – there are over 800 students who are part of this occupation. She is charging these 51 students with the crime of occupying a public space of a state property, in prejudice against the state of Honduras and the state electricity company ENEE. With the capture order, are conditions of detention and secrecy. The 51 students are: 1. Gerardo Alcides Alvarez García, 2. Ana Cristina Amaya, 3. Elvis L. Aparicio Morales, 4. Melvin Javier Arita E., 5. Nancy Vanessa A. Bejarano, 6. Roy Orlando Arita Mejía, 7. Daron Josue Artola M, 8. Tomasa del Carmen Ayala D, 9. Oscar Orlando A Funez, 10. Marco Antonio Barahona Santos, 11. Roger Francisco Benítez Pineda, 12. Laura Denisse Berrios, 13. Ingrid Celeste Bustillo M., 14. José Abraham C. Mendoza, 15. Erlin Arel C. Padilla, 16. Angel Noe Carranza Pineda, 17. Edwin Joel Cerrato Zelaya, 18. Edin Oney del Cid Gomez, 19. Jose Alberto Discua Cruz, 20. Mario Antonio Duron Castellano, 21. Keny Mauricio Funez, 22. Lillian Esther García, 23. Greysi Areli Cerón Sanchez, 24. Maria Iveth Andino, 25. Dalma Yanel Inestroza Martínez, 26. Nancy M. Isaula Rivera, 27. Edgar Joel L Moreira, 28. Erlin Josue Lemus del Cid, 29. Luís Miguel Martínez Matute, 30. Darwin Enoc Mejía Montoya, 31. Deidin Armando Mendoza, 32. Elias Antonio Nuñez Mendoza, 33. Nolvin Roel Osorto Espinoza, 34. Julissa Kensy Palma Flores, 35. Edas Humberto Paz Sanchez, 36. Mario Fernando Pinel Gradiz, 37. Kevin Samir Ponce Raudales, 38. Erwin Omar Ramos Diaz, 39. Josselin Paola Ramos Dubón, 40. Alex Noe Reyes Doblado, 41. Edil Fernando, 42. Diana Gabriela Reyes Zúniga, 43. Ana Karina Rivera Najera, 44. Josselin Mariela Rivera Paz, 45. Luís Alonzo Rivera Zepeda, 46. Roger Edgardo R. Molina, 47. Lenin Alonzo R. Betancourth, 48. Allan Jasser R. Chavez, 49. Edras Rodimiro R. Mejía, 50. Sergio Alexander Romero Soler, 51. Elvia Elizabeth Rubio Arita.

The prosecutor also ordered for the occupation to be immediately evicted and sought the nomination of a judge executor.

Police, navy and court target and attack Garífuna community members at request of Canadian company that stole Garífuna land

On Garífuna land of the Guadalupe community, after three years of being left vacant and idle, fifty Garífuna youths recently decided that it was time to take back land that belongs to their community from the Carivida company that forced their community off the land since. The fifty youths started a land recovery occupation, organising rosters of cooking, cleaning, clearing and security. They were set on their dreams of building their homes and livelihoods there, ‘how is it possible that our people had to abandon their lands and die of hunger? As the young people we have the duty of doing something, for the life of our community and to stop the illegal sale of our lands’. For weeks coming, the police patrols in the area had been increasing. On 10.11.16, when Medelín Davíd Hernandez (28) who has a capture order issued against her since 3.11.16 for her participation in the occupation, was gathered there with five of her comrades chatting away, four full police and navy patrols arrived and entered the land without saying a thing, and began to chase the five youths and handcuffed all of Medelín’s comrades. Medelín resisted arrest to try to buy time for people from the community to come help them out. When she tried to call Ofraneh Garífuna organisation’s coordinator Miriam Miranda, a woman police stopped her grabbing her by the left arm and twisting it with force towards a handcuff position, from which Medelín struggled. The woman police called out to two male navy agents, who came and grabbed both Medelín’s arms but Medelín was determined and managed to break free from their hold and she threw herself onto the ground. It was then that Medelín’s 6 year old son began to cry and scream for the agents to let her go. The agents forced all the six youths into the state security patrols. They had Medelín held down on the vehicle floor, and beat her in the ribs and twisted her arms and insulted her. Medelín persisted in speaking up and telling them not to treat her as if she were a delinquent when she was defending Garífunas’ right to recover their ancestral land. The patrols took the youths to the Trujillo lock-up-cells. However, at Trujillo, the other youths were released while only Medelín was kept, and for many hours, ‘they locked me up in a cell that was very wet and dirty, and they refused to give me a foam mattress to sleep on. But I didn’t care. I knew that they weren’t going to break me, and that sooner or later I was out of there,’ Medelín was brought before a judge after the many hours of cell time and she was released but with bail conditions imposed of not going near the land recovery site and of not leaving the country, ‘They accuse me of usurping a land that is ours. This is completely inconceivable. It’s disgusting, since they are practically dragging me out of my home.’ At court, Ofraneh’s lawyer obtained Medelín’s release. She was not the only one who had a capture order against her, there are three other community members including Celso Guillén who is an ex-president of the community council. Celso said he is taking security measures, not only against the impending capture, but also to safeguard his life, because he knows in this situation that their lives are in danger. Medelín only went from strength to strength, she said the police persecution only served to strengthen her convictions, because despite of everything, she never felt alone, she felt the unconditional support and accompaniment of her community, family, and of the organisation Ofraneh. ‘We need to be united, because the plan of this government is to become owners of our lands, our beaches and mountains, and selling these to the highest bidder. But they won’t achieve this. We are going to continue recovering lands and territories.’

These police abuses against Medelín and others originated as requests that came from Canadian businessperson Randy Jorgensen, who owns Carivida. Carivida stakes claims on some Guadalupe community land. Randy Jorgensen is also known as porn king, being the founder of Adults Only Videos – the biggest porn chain in Canada. The story of the conflict with Carivida started in 2000, when the community was beginning a project of community tourism on 3.3 hectares of land to address their economic situation and began to prepare the land and build the cabins for this, but they had problems with the building materials that meant the project’s inauguration was delayed for some years. In this time they looked for a caretaker while they sought more adequate building materials, but the caretaker went on to fraudulently, in complicity with the local judge and council, obtain the community land’s papers and sold it illegally to Carivida’s general head and legal representative. This is one part of a broader story of dispossession against Garífuna communities on the north coast of Honduras. Garífuna community lands, and there are 100 km square of these, are territories that are by law supposed to be protected from sale to foreign investment. However between 2007 and 2009, despite the communities’ resistance, and in disregard of the laws, Randy Jorgensen’s private and Honduran state mafia kicked the community out of Río Negro where his company Grande Trujillo Autoridad S de RL built the Banana Coast wharf for cruise ships, and his other company Life Vision Developments forced out communities off Cristales, Santa Fé, San Antonio and Guadalupe, for vacation homes and mega tourism projects – Life Vision Developments became the biggest real estate agent in Trujillo with over 600 hectares of seaside land. Both Grande Trujillo Autoridad and Life Vision Developments are financially backed by a Canadian investment group called Fast Track Capital. It was the end of 2009 that the Trujillo council declared that the project was useful and necessary and passed a resolution to compensate people who had to moved. However the families were not compensated and they were paid crumbs and left on the basis of threats.

In 2010, the Garífuna community placed charges against Randy Jorgensen for usurping their lands, and applied for courts to completely nullify the illegal sales contracts of the community lands to Jorgensen. The charges were official from the end of 2011, but four years went by before the first preliminary hearing was even scheduled. On 13.11.15, judge Victor Manuel Meléndez provisionally dismissed the case. The Cristales y Río Negro community’s legal representative as well as the prosecutor appealed this, and in March 2016 the La Ceiba court of appeal ordered for the case dismissal to be revoked. It was until 20.10.16 that hearing process formally began and Jorgensen had bail conditions of signing at the court every 15 days and of not leaving Honduras while the hearing process continues. On the other hand, the Banana Coast cruise ship wharf is itself not doing well in this big business with dramatically less cruise ships deciding to continue to schedule trips to Trujillo every year. Pressures continue though, in Guadalupe and other communities, ‘they continue trying to convince the whole world that this is development, but for whom? They come from other countries, they consider us second class citizens, they marginalise us and make themselves owners of our lands to create their tourism projects. This is development only for the rich, and more poverty for our people.’

Human rights defenders arrested

On 5.11.16, about 8.30pm, words went out that for having refused to pay the unjust highway toll at the Zambrano tollway 35kms from Tegucigalpa, Sandra Marybel Sánchez and Karla Lara were arrested and taken to the military police detention centre. Sandra Marybel Sánchez is a wellknown journalist with a critical voice and human rights defender, and Karla Lara is a wellknown singer songwriter of the resistance with an incredible voice and a human rights defender. Earlier that day, five others were retained by police after they participated in a mobilisation that called for security for transport drivers.

Smear campaigns against human rights organisations including Cofadeh and Honduras Solidarity Network

In November, a number of attacks were made in the form of smear campaigns against human rights organisations, with Cofadeh and Honduras Solidarity Network especially under attack. The attacks were made through press statements from regime president Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) and on a blog called Defensores de Honduras.

JOH on 10.11.16 said in an interview with journalist Renato Alvarez that human rights organisations ‘receive funding from criminal groups’ and only carry out work in the interests of these groups; JOH horrendously said that those that human rights organisations say are the human rights violators are the actual victims whose rights need protecting! Then on 18.11.16, JOH made further complaints to the press about human rights organisations, saying that they influence international judgements about the country’s human rights situation. He also said that the human rights organisation’s coordination is associated with the operation of organised crime in Colon (Bajo Aguan).

JOH’s accusation about Cofadeh and paramilitaries in Aguan gives us some clues as to who might be behind the dubious website Defensores de Honduras (defenders of Honduras) – which has very few tabs and only two articles published, and claims to belong to a group of farmers struggling for human rights. The very few articles feature an article called ‘who protects the hitmen of Bajo Aguan’ – in Spanish and in English, in which it basically claims that the human rights organisations Cofadeh and Honduras Solidarity Network protect one guy the articles say to be an ex farmers leader responsible for the assassinations in the area, who apparently also has links to drug trafficking, and that the organisations only exist in addition to push their ‘extremist political views’. One article is about this supposed hitman who is responsible for the many murders of Bajo Aguan. Another is called ‘Terrorist Cells Amongst Ourselves – Defenders of Honduras’ – the website has tabs such as the ‘farmers’ struggle’ – yet the only articles that exist are about a supposed situation of ‘in-killing’. The facebook page is less blatant to try to appear to be a human rights page – it said it is there as farmers demanding justice for the deaths in Bajo Aguan, and actually called for justice for environmentalist Berta Cáceres and others killed in between sharing those articles of theirs to place confusion in readers’ minds. Similarly, the article accused Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) of ‘sharing the same extremist ideas of Bertha Oliva (of Cofadeh) and Rafael Alegría (of La Vía Campesina and politician of Libre party). The articled featured a photo of Bertha Oliva as the coordinator of Cofadeh and of Karen Spring as the coordinator of HSN. Not only are these smear campaigns disorientating for people trying to understand what is going on, they also often pre-empt attempts to assassinate the people being smeared.

Meanwhile, in Bajo Aguán

MUCA farmers movement calls out for human rights accompaniment because they are sure assassinations will continue, and they call for justice. They pointed out that the agreement with the government in 2010 now shows itself to be full of empty promises – agricultural machinery, housing, health, education and human rights – none of these have been guaranteed in practice. Families are struggling earning US $4 a day, with which they can’t even cover the land rent they are supposed to pay. There was supposed to be disarmament of Dinant staff as previously announced but death threats with weapons by Dinant security have only intensified. Eg, in the Panamá community, Agrarian Platform coordinator Jaime Cabrera and his family receive constant threats. Their home is constantly surrounded and watched by soldiers.

In the name of coming inside a home to fumigate, public health staff enters and snatches laptop with info of activists

On 14.11.16, as the spouse of Gilberto Ríos – FNRP resistance International Relations coordinator and communications commission member, and coordinator of Libre Party – answered the door, a man dressed as a public health official said they were going inside to fumigate. As the spouse went to find and check with Gilberto, this man made this way inside, snatched the laptop computer and fled. The laptop carries many files of photos of social leaders, journalists, minutes of political minutes, communiques, documents and registers or documents of communications with all the countries of the world because of Gilberto’s work within the FNRP. This information theft has made precarious everyone who has had contact with FNRP through Gilberto. There is a witness to this laptop theft at risk. The investigative police has not touched the case four days on from it.

Update – Copinh

Months since the assassination of Copinh coordinator and Goldman prize winner Berta Caceres, charades continue with the Honduran government at times trying to deceive people in believing that they are working to bring about justice – ex vice-minister of natural resources Darío Cardona Valle has been captured and imprisoned while his hearing continues – he was initially given bail on 11.10.16 but this was revoked; he is charged with abuse of authority for having authorised an increase in the capacity of the Agua Zarca Dam project (which Berta campaigned against) without having first consulted the Lenca indigenous community.

Further attacks on indigenous peoples‘ right to consultation

It is contradictory that this November, the Honduran state at an Inter American Commission of Human Rights hearing on ‘Situation of Indigenous peoples and right to consultation in Honduras’ recognised that it had violated indigenous rights to consultation, and points to that there are officials being judicially punished for having given environmental licences for extractive projects without consulting indigenou peoples, yet at the same time be introducing a new law that removes the very same legal responsibility to consult indigenous peoples. A new bill has been introduced, taking from a model from Perú where it had caused many social conflicts – the new bill proposes to reform the law so that the state has the final decision on consulting indigenous peoples or not in an given project, so indigenous people could in law simply have access to information sessions but not consultation. The pressure for this reform came primarily from UNDP UN-REDD program – a program of ‘forestation’ that has driven out many indigenous communities around the world. Not consulting has been the norm in practice, changing the law would simply allow the norm to continue without any legal avenues to appeal to.

Transport company owners and workers flee

Because of widespread desperation, the security situation of drivers of buses and taxis has become worse with drivers assassinated, being subject regularly to extortions, burning of vehicles, etc. Many from this sector are fleeing. While wealthy transport company owners have to option of abandoning their lot and obtaining political asylum in other countries more comfortably, the many poor drivers flee without papers and seek new livelihoods precariously. Instead of taking responsibility for addressing this condition, JOH distracts people saying it is all about drug traffickers.

Students obligated and manipulated to promote JOH’s reelection

On 3.11.16, students in Comayagua received a whatsapp communication telling them they had to go to the Comayagua central park that day at 1.30pm without being told what it was for. When they were there they were told by Marte TV that they would be filmed into a video demanding for scholarships to continue, saying the slogan ‘we want this to continue’. They were told this participation would count towards their community work hours. They felt disgusted when they found out later that they had been used to make a re-election campaign video for the current JOH regime.

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

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

Two leaders of farmers’ land occupation movement shot dead

josefloresmuca

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

Assassinated: son of organiser in Bajo Aguán

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

Grave attacks against Copinh continue

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

Two copinh leaders attempted against on the same date

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

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

Gunshots by DESA hitmen

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

Indigenous mobilisation repressed

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

A piece about this:

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

Attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa Cardoza, October 2016.

Copinh: witness and human rights defender deported

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

Eviction threat against Garífuna community

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

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

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

Now they propose a model city in Sweden

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

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

Honduras features the first episode of Worlds toughest prisons

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

September 2016 Honduras coup update

September 2016 Honduras coup update

Known cases of political persecution in September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indigenous Tolupán defenders forced to go into hiding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Environmentalist subject to smear campaign, activists get death threats

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

Persecution against journalist for covering students’ struggle

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

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

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

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

Smear campaign against Honduran and international human rights activists and journalists

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

Rockmelon company and subcontractors abuse workers

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

Shell has just acquired BG and is about to drill

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

August 2016 Honduras Coup update

August 2016 Honduras Coup update

Known cases of political persecution in August 2016

Organised farmer attempted against

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women human rights defenders arbitrarily arrested

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

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

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

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

Another environmental activists under threat

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

Young politician with activist background murdered

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

Protest militarised with snipers

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

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

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

Other news this August 2016

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

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