Honduras coup update - August 2014


AUGUST 2014, Honduras coup update:

Political persecution from this August 2014...

Woman resistance leader and organiser of farmers sector killed

While political assassinations go by almost unnoticed way too frequently in Honduras, amongst those in social movements of Honduras, everyone is speaking of Margarita Murillo. They are saying having killed her, people will revolt for real. On 27/8/14, at 11am, hitmen crept up on her from behind, with premeditation, and assassinated Margarita, when she was working on recovered cooperative lands Las Ventanas, in El Planón Village, where she is the president. Margarita has been a strong force and critical voice, not for days, not for weeks, or months, or years, but decades. Back in the 80's as a leader of the CNTC farmers workers' federation, she was captured, tortured and disappeared for a time by the state, but survived past that time, and always continued in resistance and was analytical, outspoken and firm in commentaries that came to shape both the resistance, being the first FNRP coordinator for both San Pedro Sula and Cortés, as well as the electoral part of the resistance – Libre Party. She was also a leader and founder of the Valle de Sula Social Forum. In San Pedro Sula, the women of Foro de Mujeres Por La Vida described her as a close friend, a compañera, who was always there, who always spoke the truth with courage, passion and coherence. 'With pain and indignation today we say goodbye to her... (but she) rebirths in the courage of her family, in the words of her friends and compañeras, in the conviction of the many to not stop...for her dreams cut short, her rubbed out smiles, her snatched away life, we women demand justice!' Margarita was also a mother. Her family were under fire already before she was killed. On 26/7/14, military kidnapped her son Samuel (23) from the family home in Marañon, just south of San Pedro; his whereabouts remain unknown. Margarita's husband Oscar was gunshot wounded in the leg during repression unleashed by military contingents against farmers in Choloma who demonstrated demanding access to land there.

Another femicide – this time in the name of witch hunt

In Santa Anita, La Esperanza, Intibucá, on 30/7/14, Mrs María Flora Claros Claros (59) was kidnapped and taken away in a lead coloured Mazda B260, she then had her hands and feet tied up, and was tortured, strangled to death, and her body, with machete cuts on her face, thrown away on the side of a highway. Her body was found there on 31/7/14. The suspect is Marvin Cruz Lara, who prior to the kidnap called her a number of times – he accused her of being a witch. It does not end there either. A relative of Marvin is giving death threats to Yolani Melisa García, also of Santa Anita, accusing her of having named Marvin Cruz as someone who accused María Flora of being a witch. Similarly, Mrs María Sofía Sedillos Claros is receiving death threats from relatives of Marvin Cruz.

Evictions and landgrabbing against Garífuna (Afro-indigenous-descendent) communities

The Barra Vieja community is at the entrance of the 'Indura Beach tourism project'; tourist companies associated with Indura & Beach Resort pushed for the community to be evicted. The Tela Court, in violation of legally stipulated indigenous rights as authorities do frequently in Honduras, does not recognise this indigenous community's ancestral property. While taking the name 'Indura', a Garífuna word for Honduras, the companies have already imposed the filling of 80 hectares of wetlands of Laguna de los Micos to build a golfcourse without taking into the account the environmental damage that will be caused.

On 6/8/14, with Tela Court orders, police attempted an eviction against 400 community members arguing that the land belongs to the National Port Company ENP. In support of the Barra Vieja community, human rights organisations and other communities rushed to the region. The people of Barra Vieja are not going anywhere; they declared they would rather die before abandoning their homes. Given that they lived there all their lives, they are questioning why they are suddenly being told that the land belongs to ENP. These families are living in constant terror that at any moment, police could burn their homes and what little they have gained materially through their own efforts over time. It was in the 80s that speculations of Tela land values began coupled with threats and assassinations against those who resisted handing over their territories. As communities face persecution and expulsion from their land, they are told the tourism projects are good for them because supposedly there will be jobs, and a 'whooping' 7% of profits will go to Garífuna communities.

The Armenia community was founded by Garífuna community at the end of the 19th century, from these lands they were forcefully displaced from the delta, to the left margin of the Papaloteca River, under pressures of Standard Fruit Company (SFC) that burnt property registrations of La Ceiba to gain possession of the land and turn it into a banana port, that then became a municipality, with the complicity of state officials. In 2000 when the concession to SFC now DOLE ended, the land was returned to Jutiapa municipality instead of to the Armenian community. This community was in a process of reclaiming the land through occupation (despite the risk also faced because the land had lately been under the control of organised crime networks), when on 8/8/14, in the midnight hours, Juticalpa police evicted the community, arrested 11 Garífunas and set their homes on fire.

Attacks against Lenca Indigenous communities – threat, warning shot, hydroelectricity dam imposition, capture by army..

In San Francisco Lempira, on 3/8/14, over 300 people assembled together with indigenous organisation Copinh and local catholic church authorities confronting Mayor Elmer Noel Molina for negotiating in their name and on the San Juan river on which their lives depend, since 2010, a hydroelectricity dam project Tanguay. Always, without consulting with people, in four municipalities where people will be affected. Mayor Elmer initially denied accusations, before admitting that he already signed an agreement including to give possession of the plaza to army and police, on which to build prisons and police stations, in addition to the concession with ELSA Hidroeléctricos Energías Limpias company and finance contracts with FICOHSA, Bancahfe and BCIE banks. The dam project is at the third stage of the feasibility study, having received permissions for these studies and for the land lease from both the environmental authority SERNA and the mayor. The threat came as, outside the assembly, Mayor Elmer Noel Molina reacted angrily to the confrontation and community protest, saying that it was because they were inside a church and in front of Father Dióminis that he did not shoot (Copinh indigenous activist) Aureliano Molina Villanueva. The following night, armed men fired warning shots around the family home of Aureliano's. This adds to other death threats against Copinh compas, radio members and relatives of these indigenous activists. Mayor Elmer Noel Molina had also privately threatened to burn down Copinh's community radio station La Voz Lenca, for its work in speaking up.

On 17/8/14, Florencio Aguilar Robles, Lenca indigenous activist involved in defending territory, member of indigenous organisation CinPH, was captured by 1st Batallón de Ingenieros armed forces that were armed with high calibre weapens of Israeli brand Galil, coupled with special police forces also armed with war weapons. No further information about if he was released after. He is the fourth to be captured from his community, after two other compañeras and a compañero, from this community in land conflict with David Medrano Herrera – a close relative of National Party parliamentarian Rodolfo Irías Navas, who had sent heavily armed men to burn corns and beans plantations there.

Still locked up. Courts still taking it slow. Political prisoner and farmer – Chabelo.

It's been six years behind bars, that Chabelo blatantly did not commit murder but for which he was recently sentenced, he is now 37. He said he learnt a lot in prison, like how in Honduras the biggest crime truly is having money to buy legislation, to buy judges, to buy prosecutors. He has since been accused of killing Carlos Manrique Osorto, a relative of police subcommissioner and land usurper Henry Osorto, in an incident in 2008 when Osorto's house was burnt down and with that, 11 of his relatives died. One farmer died too in the confrontation. An unreliable (due to cognitive/conscious state from dying, and having also been certain that two others were there including one who had never been in the region in their lifetime) witness claimed he saw Chabelo on the crime scene. Chabelo was selling ice cream that day, and was playing a bit of soccer in the afternoon, when the spouse of Arnulfo Guevara, a fellow organised farmer, approached Chabelo crying, saying Arnulfo suffered a gunshot wound, to please help. Chabelo got on his bicycle and went. Arriving there a Radio Católica journalist took a photo of him and he appeared in La Tribuna, as he went to get and carry away Arnulfo. It was because of this photo that they charged him and accused him of everything. The pool of suspects were drawn from making a list of who lives in the Guadalupe Carney community only.

Chabelo's years in prison had been tough. He had to deal with hunger, death threats by other prisoners, poisoning attempts, and was not given leave to participate in the funerals of his dad nor of his daughter. He also lost his right eye in prison, when he was doing farm work using farm machinery, that got tangled up with the wire of the cage of the football field, and a wire perforated his lips, cut his tongue, broke two teeth and hurt him severely including causing the lost of vision in his right eye.

History: The Guadalupe Carney settlement in the 80s was used as a US military base to train counter-revolutionaries of El Salvador and Nicaragua – early one morning in 2000, 50 trucks of people organised and converged, entering the former base and tore down its fences and began its reclaim of this land through occupation. Following a long struggle where over the years lots of leaders and members were killed and wounded by private security guards and paramilitaries contracted by Osorto and by palm giant Facussé, the farmers' land title in Guadalupe Carney was eventually recognised there by the Agrarian Department.

Also in Bajo Aguan: more threat, intimidation, brutal eviction, and crops burnt

The Paso Aguán community of Movimiento Gregorio Chavéz had been under brutal repression and attacks numerous times in the last months, 450 farmers had just re-occupied unarmed following the last eviction on 15/8/14, when over 240 police and Xatruch III Operation soldiers also arrived, brutally evicting the families with teargases, batons, and live gunshots. They arrested four farmers, two of elderly age: Juan Ramón Salinas, Elver Jose Salinas, Alejandro López and José Argueta. FUSINA head coronel German Alfaro shamelessly tried to accuse and link these arrested at the eviction to a supposed attempt against a police patrol. The families, who have parents involved in land reform processes in the 70s, have lived there for 45 years and does not accept being evicted. Xatruche head Coronel Martínez mentioned that he called a meeting on 1/7/14 to which 9 leaders of the Gregorio Chávez movement came as well as agrarian department director Lara, and said the meeting was going to be used to issue capture orders after against the participating leaders. Not to mention that in this meeting, Lara ordered farmers to not act in solidarity with other farmers' groups.

On 19/8/14, at 11am, a contingent of 8 soldiers and 3 security guards arrived on a grey double cabin Toyota, barging in on the home of Gregorio Chávez farmers movement leader Santos Torres, pointing firearms at him and his spouse saying things like 'with one shot we will finish you' (un solo tiro te vamos a pegar). A similar thing happened recently to human rights defender Glenda Chávez's home of the Aguan Human Rights Observatory – who was told by her mother because she wasn't home. From the same vehicle shots were fired at farmers on 15/8/14 when farmers re-occupied and anti-farmers evicted farmers.

Also within Aguán, in Trujillo, next to the Rigores village is the La Consentida citrus farm. On 27/8/14, at 8am, a contingent of 6 vehicles of military and police and an ambulance headed by Xatruch head Coronel Martínez, arrived evicting 36 families of farmers cooperative 'Nueva Esperanza' who entered to recover and grow on the lands four months ago. The farmers left but called on Aguan Human Rights Observatory (OPDHA) defenders accompanied by Human Rights Commissioner delegate Frañon who went there at 10.10am to talk with Martínez. Martínez who refused to speak with OPDHA, verbally attacking OPDHA coordinator Martha Arnold saying she was responsible for what happened there and that OPDHA is illegal, but spoke with Frañon.
Whatever was said, and ignoring prior agreements with INA (agrarian department) and OPDHA, at 10.30am, tractors sent by the authorities proceeded to destroy 21 hectares of corn crops, one fifth of which was at the flowering stage. This land is in conflict with CoFrutCo fruit company in Sonaguera, who when approached by OPDHA and INA was unavailable for comments.

Killings against journalists continue:

In Olanchito, on 14/8/14, an unknown person sprayed with bullets and assassinated journalist Nery Soto when he was coming home that night. Nery would have opened the garage to put his motorcycle inside but couldn't as there was a blackout or the electricity was cut. There was a march by including journalists from Ceiba, Tocoa and Sonaguera in Olanchito demanding the truth to be found about what happened to Nery.

In Danlí, El Paraíso, on 23/8/14, hitmen sprayed with bullets Dagoberto Diaz, owner of Canal 20 and of the cable company that operates in the municipality.

Charges and jail threats against journalists

Radio Globo/Globo TV had been amongst the most listened to opposition media critical of the 2009 military coup since it began. On 21/8/14, the spouse of General Prosecutor Rigoberto Cuellar, Sonia Gálvez, placed charges against 4 Radio Globo journalists accusing these of injuries and defamation – the journalists are David Romero, Ivis Alvarado, César Silva and Rony Martínez, they run a critical program 'Intepretando la Noticia'. The maximum penalty of the charges is 15 years jail sentence and closure of Globo radio and TV. The journalists have been speaking up about the corruption involved in the case of a cartel operating disguised as a law firm with the name of Cuellar-Gálvez-López, that is involved in scandals of financial plunder of government institutions. The day before this accusation was placed, Romero spoke up about being followed and watched by a motorcyclist and having been threatened by Sonia Gálvez, who is said to have commented to prosecutors' personal advisor Claudia Diaz that she wanted David Romero behind bars.

Trujillo Radio program Independent News taken off air.

Its presenter Miguel Dubón is also a Radio Globo correspondent. It started when through Committee for Freedom of Expression, he complained on 18/8/14 that since he regularly criticised local government on his program, that the mayor had manipulated to regularly cut off electricity at the same hour as his broadcast. On 20/8/14 his program was cut – the manager of the Trujillo radio station Estéreo de Castilla told him, after 12 years of broadcast, that because of pressures from the council and mayor and from a representative of National Telecommunications Commission that he had to cut the program, saying that a councillor said to him, 'I want to ask you a favour, you will fire that son of a bitch from the station. If you get rid of him, the mayor will make sure you are paid 7000 lempiras. If you don't, then they will close down the station.'

'Justice' system and uni authority gang up against arrested student

Student Ronmel Darío Moran who was beaten and arrested on 24/7/14 and had bail conditions imposed on 31/7/14, continues to face a court case against him and carry bail conditions including of not attending protests. He is accused of illicit protest. Police accused him of throwing stone and hitting police with the stone, although the police who declared that Darío threw the stone was positioned at another uni gate far from Darío, and the lawyer argued that using stones does not turn protests into illicit ones, that more forceful weapons are needed to qualify a protest as illicit. The university director Julieta Castellanos said if the court rules to have him expelled that they have her support.

Security guard loses job at uni over whistleblowing, and shows uni as complicit in the attempt against lecturer/unionist

In the case where lecturer and unionist Hector Martínez spoke up about an attempt against him with the complicity of UNAH authorities on 8/7/14 through the unscrewing of the backtyre at the uni carpark, on 28/7/14, campus security guard José Antonio Bustillo Gonzales made a statement in support of Hector Martínez and providing evidence for what happened. He said that he was working that day and all guards were instructed that it was important to watch the movements of lecturer Martínez and note who he talks to, and report to their supervisor in charge. He said he subsequently saw a 20 year old approach the car and talk with his boss Betancourt, and that after he saw the car lose control, the boss Betancourt ordered security staff not to approach Martínez nor to note anything in the incidences book because those were 'instructions of the engineer Alina'. José said that as Martinez left he stopped at the exit gate to say to security that he will complain against them and when Martínez left, José said to his workmates that he was not responsible for anything about the car and that if Martínez complains, that he would tell the truth too. He said Betancourt then told everyone not to worry, because they have Alina's protection as head of the campus CURLP. José insisted that it was wrong and was told the next day that he did not have a job there anymore but to keep quiet if he wanted to be re-employed there later.

Lgbti human rights defender and resistance activist under threat

On 30/8/14, about 1.15pm, Erick Martínez was driving with his mother and sister near the presidential house, when a motorcycle without numberplates drove the wrong way towards him in his lane. He slowed down and manuvered to avoid crashing this motorcycle that never moved or slowed down, but after passing him, a motorcycle then caught up to him at full speed, drove by his window and said, 'I know you and I know who you are. I didn't fire the shots at you because your señoras (mum and sis) are here, but where I see you, I will kill you', as he touched under his shirt with the threatening gesture of pulling out a weapon, before speeding off away. So who is Erick? A leader of Movimiento de Diversidad en Resistencia MDR, and human rights defender.

International human rights delegation accused by head of military operation FUSINA

For visiting Honduras over 10 days in August and having visited Bajo Aguán over 3 days where they witnessed the sound of gunshots and documented human rights violations by Honduran army and by Dinant security forces, for taking testimonies from human rights organisations and undertaking interviews, a group of 11 (mostly from US and Canada, some being part of Honduras Solidarity Network) were accused by FUSINA head German Alfaro of 'encouraging farmers to launch attacks', of 'causing dispension in the region', who also said that they were suspicious for having gone to a 'practically restricted area of the country'. These were similar accusations to those made against Annie Bird of Rights Action in December 2013 and July 2014, as part of a strategic plan to silence the documentation of human rights violations by human rights defenders.

NEWS SHORTS August 2014

There's serious insecurity in Honduras: national homocide rates sit at 85.5 for every 100,000 people, that's an average of 20 a day – over half of them occur within the provinces of Cortés (where San Pedro Sula is), Francisco Morazán (home of Tegucigalpa), and Atlántida (home of Tela and Ceiba..), and San Pedro Sula the most dangerous city in the world with at least 3 homocides a day, at 169.3 cases of homocide for every 100,000 people during a year.

When insecurity is spoken of in Honduras, assaults, robbery and distortions come to mind as things that often happen, from which people are killed occasionally, yet many Hondurans can tell you the biggest crime is that of politicians, hand-in-hand with big business, who keep the vast majority in desperate conditions causing the commonness of assault

Robbing people through state institutions:

ENEE, the state electricity company, has long been plundered through the unilateral signing of state-bankrupting expensive contracts for thermal energy companies to supply, with such millionaire contracts having been handed out to companies that contributed to electoral campaigns. With crisis of ENEE being over $750 million in debt, ENEE head Hawit announced that blackouts are being planned nationally to deal with recent over-use and under-production. In reality the blackouts are because of the debt crisis from these exuberant contracts, paid for by poor consumers through reduced access to electricity and electricity being cut when payments are late. By contrast, big businesses continue to enjoy electricity without paying bills and many have protection from blackouts.

IHSS, a state health and welfare system founded in 1959, was supposed to serve all Hondurans, but actually only looks after a minority, 600,000-900,000, excluding the vast majority (8 million Hondurans). The hospitals lack medicines, funds, proper systems, because of corruption and plundering, for which fingers are pointed at IHSS head Mario Zelaya, IHSS intervention commission officials Vilma Morales and German Leytzelar who are silent about this corruption but very vocal in complaining to the press about patients and nurses and health staff who go on strikes and organise stop-work meetings protesting the hospitals' condition and the corruption. Fingers are also pointed to the IHSS workers union SITRAIHSS general secretary Pacheco and Honduran Medical Association CMH president Elmer Mayes who acknowledged their failure to speak up about the plunder which they knew about earlier publicly. The story is the same, officials and authorities signed multiple exorbitant contracts from 2010-2019 – towards paying lots towards modernisation - digitalisation, organising systems, biomedical equipment purchasing, when the institution is in debt and does not fulfil its basic obligations of supplying medicines, sanitation, and paying staff on time.

To illustrate the state of Honduran hospitals, Costa Rican authorities recently rescued a Costa Rican patient, Daniel Rodriguez Izquierdo (72) from the Honduran Hospital Mario Catarino Rivas, after 26 days there with a delicate medical condition. His son took photos showing the conditions, and the lack of syringes and medicine, and the lack to such an extent that because nurses had little time and resources, they showed him how to care for his dad and passed him the responsibility. He saw funeral companies fight over sales; the disconnection of machines, putting urine in the drip – boosts to the funeral industry. And if that would solve the problem, Honduras militarised the hospital to 'provide security' in response to the published photos. A humanitarian plane took Daniel to a Costa Rican hospital, but for Hondurans who can't afford private hospitals, there is no rescue.

In both cases, as well as officials/politicians' corruption, there had been cuts to expenditure on social services stemming from orders imposed from international finance organisations such as IMF, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank towards austerity measures, free trade and privatisation.

With the Honduran government in deep debt, it now looks to forcing money from artists

The proposal is, for any group performing any form of arts in a public place to have to pay a fee to the government – eg, $750 to hold a concert, and businesses (venues) risk a $1250 fine if they don't ask performers at their venue to pay the government. This can apply to poetry reading, to street theatre, to the magician who performs on the town square, who never quite collects close to $750. This represents a massive attack against counter-culture, containing and stifling these and people's enjoyment of arts. Artists in Honduras have declared that they don't recognise these rules and fees against their creative work, and that they will continue singing, dancing, making poetry, screaming, so that art continues to belong to everyone. Remember a part of this debt is to the electoral campaigns that brought in the current fraud government

World Bank audits shows FICOHSA (Citibank Honduras) also finances blood-stained Dinant.

There is evidence that palm giant Miguel Facussé's Dinant was implicated in the El Tumbador massacre against five farmers in 2010, and that Dinant guards used Paso Aguan farm as a clandestine cemetery having buried and hidden there murdered farmers Gregorio Chávez and José Antonio Lopez Lara. Dinant is accused of many other murders. There had previously been reports about World Bank being implicated in loans. About involvement of various banks and companies in carbon trading deals with Dinant, of being whitewashed as an approved Clean Development Mechanism project. Now it has just been uncovered by World Bank CFI CAO Ombudsman's audit that Ficohsa bank (Citibank Honduras) also facilitated a $70 million loan too to Dinant – and that CFI has capital investments in FICOHSA in 2011, blames are on the lack of social and environmental evaluation that gets carried out when contracts are being signed.

Most likely will be an empty law, the law for human rights defenders, journalists and justice operators

As this law is being discussed, human rights organisation CPTRT said if it is through the participation of all human rights defenders and an autonomous organisation arises from the law, independent from the state security and defence system, that the law could be supported, but this participation is unlikely given Honduras' record and actual intentions in introducing this law.

Honduran government never cedes to Garífuna rights, now seeks to reduce them

From every indigenous people, the complaints are constant, of damaging projects imposed upon an indigenous people without free, prior, and informed consent of this people, in violation of the 169 convention of indigenous peoples of ILO. In the case of Garífuna people, the regime now seeks before the Inter-American Human Rights Court to erase the indigenous descendence part of their beings, to erase their having historically mixed with indigenous peoples of Honduras, to ignore their self-identification, and the fact that they had conserved more their traditional cultures, language and territory. This is to be able to say, that they are not indigenous, and that therefore projects can be imposed on their territories.

Snapshot of actions and solidarity in Honduras

In the Florida region where there has been a long struggle by Nueva Esperanza and surrounding communities that cumulated in death threats against just about everyone in the communities and those accompanying them, the 16 communities of Florida assembled, coming together to declare the area an area free of mining.

Chabelo, the political prisoner, had a birthday party, outside, at the Porvenir prison complex. 2 buses and about six pick-ups of people arrived to celebrate with him. He has been locked up for 6 years, an organised farmer, wrongly sentenced (recently) for murder he did not do against a family responsible for murder and other crimes against farmers. He sold ice cream the day of the 'crime'. On his birthday, he happily scooped out and gave out ice cream to lots of people. They keep trying to kill his spirit but they can't, Chabelo is a calm, strong soul, and his links with the community remain strong.

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