February 2013 Honduras Coup Summary
Hondurans walk the walk to talk the talk
Hundreds of Hondurans have begun a 12 day walk to protest against land-grabbing and the continuing militirisation of the country. The Hondurans started their long walk on 25th February in El Progreso in the north and others started from La Esperanza in the west. The walk, called Caminata for Dignity and Sovereignty, planned to arrive in Tegucigalpa for International Women´s Day on 8th March. The walkers are uniquivocal in their demands: They say NO to Model Cities, No to the Mining Law and call for the
liberation of Chavelo, a political prisoner.
Palm oil: the sleight of the government hand means more lost land
Globally, the temperature is rising and with it an increased demand for palm oil. The renewable energy goals of the US and the EU have seen production of palm oil triple from 2 million to 8 million tonnes. Unfortunately, to feed this addiction between 50 and 227 million hectares have been taken from farmers around the world. Here in Honduras, the situation worsens under the pressure of Honduran elites who, assisted by the 2009 coup, have used favourable mining laws and increased militirisation to enforce the seizure of land, especially of Afro-Indigenous communities´ ancestral lands, for palm oil, and for model cities.
In a complimentary move, government MPs have approved the creation of model cities moving Honduras beyond being a refuge for these Honduran elites who perpetuate the acquisition of pastoral land, to open up the landgrabbing to transnational companies. A seditionary move has been made by concerned Honduran residents, which launched the charge of abuse of authority against MPs who recently approved the creation of these model cities. Sadly, however, Antonio Trejo, a member of the Associación de Abogados Justicia en Acción, who placed the charge in September 2011, was killed a year later. The charge brought a ruling of unconstitutional to model cities initially, but the congress sacked the judges who made this ruling and got model cities passed again as a decree.
US gives a greater shot in the arm for their military in Honduras
The Honduran environment cannot camouflage the growing national and international military presence within Honduras. Since the 2009 coup, funding from the US has jumped 3 times in size than what it was 10 years ago. This has resulted in 5 US military bases being renovated, whilst extra funding has been directed to the Honduran police and military. Furthermore, according to the Associated press, Washington authorised $1300 million for military electronics in 2011 alone.
There are claims that drugs are easily moving through Honduras, but US History Professor Dana Frank (Professor where?)says, the US is using the War against drugs as pretext to deepen its military alliance with Honduras. In fact, the Honduran government has been widely implicated in drug trafficking in the country. US antidrug operations, with the help of Honduran police, were recently involved in the massacre of indigenous Miskitias in Ahuas.
´(the) US needs to stop arming killers of Honduras and allow those in opposition the space to define their own future, free of US intervention, Dana Frank adds.
An image conscious Coronel calls enough!
Coronel German Alfaro Escalante, who leads the Aguán military operation Xatruch III, is concerned that farmers and human rights defender are damaging the international image of Honduras by producing biased conclusions and accusations about the work of the Xatruch III Operation that militarises the Aguan region.
The Coronel, in a recent press conference, expressed his intentions to charge the farmers´ spokespersons Vitalino Álvarez, Yoni Rivas and Will Paz and published a list of organisations whose work, he claims, has been denigrating the Xatruch III operation. The coronel defended the work of Xatruch III denying that it had harrassed, tortured and murdered people in Aguán. The unhappy Operation leader likewise denied executing forced evictions and illegally detaining farmers and opposition organisers along with their families.
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Carbon trading is betraying! Copinh reiterates its rejection of REDD +
Another form of carbon trading, the REDD+ forest offsets program, is closer to becoming implemented in Hondruas after Conpah, a confederation of indigenous organisations of Honduras, signed a letter with the World Bank FCPF to formalise their participation in the REDD Readiness Preparation process. However, the REDD process has been slammed by the Indigenous organisation Copinh as a new trap for indigenous peoples. The organisation claims the process is a means for outside agencies to put forests on the speculative market at the expense of the people who look after them. Copinh, which represents 2000 indigenous Lenca communities in 4 provinces, has raised its protest against REDD and against having been misrepresented (a report falsely indicated Copinh as a participant of the process) in a letter to the FCPF coordinator Benoit Bosquet.
Copinh cites the lack of transparency and representation as reasons why other organisations, such as Ofraneh, are not part of Conpah and will not participate in the REDD process. Copinh reiterates that the REDD process is fraudulent because it neglects to address issues of deforestation by large logging companies nor does it address climate issues. Rather, the organsation criticizes the process as another stepping stone towards further landgrabbing, monocrop expansion and a greater militarisation of the community.
Who keeps an eye on the security? A UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries reports security under threat due to too many security guards in Honduras
A report released by the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries claims that the high number of private security agencies facilitate human rights violations in Honduras. The investigation, represented by Patricia Arias, claims that of key concern is the insufficient regulation performed by the Security Secretary to manage both registered and illegal security agencies.
Honduras currently has 706 private security companies which employ between 60,000 to 70,000 guards. Stunningly, this doubles the amount of all police and army personel in the country. The report reminds that while 70 farmers have been killed in the last 3 years, human rights violations by private security companies continue without investigation.
This February, 6 organised farmers were killed in Aguán including the brother of the assassinated farmers lawyer Antonio Trejo, back in September 2012.
(see the next section, under persecution)
Anticorruption prosecutor Henry Salgado has been exposed for corruption in a recent report by Revistazo. The Truth Commission has Salgado has been named for violating public duties and for not having shown serious efforts to bring about justice in known cases of corruption. The report affirms in many cases Salgado dropped cases after receiving bribes.
General Prosecutor Luis Rubí has been accuse of squandering $441,113 of public funds and for falsifying documents provied to OABI, the Office Administering Confiscating Goods. An investigation, launched by the US embassy upon the request of Rubí, has highlighted that only 14 out of 285 complaints were investigated in 2011 and that the DPP failed to follow up on 186,024 complaints made to police bodies.
The Education Minister Escoto is clamping down on the right of teachers to take leave from teaching for indefinite periods after threatening to suspend the licenses of 15 teachers if they take further leave. The minister states any extra leave will be considered as an abandonment of their teaching position.
The government has expressed intentions to merge the Child and Family Department IHNFA with the Human Rights Justice Department. The merger, which has been mandated by the IMF, aims to privatise government responsibilities, reduce salary payments and eliminate union organisations.
The IHNFA has already had $107 million lempiras withheld by the government and has been forced to cut its staff from 2000 to 1200 employees. The reduced body of staff is charged with providing assistance to 3.2 million Honduran children.
A video was leaked onto social media on 22 February showing the Police Director Juan Carlos Bonilla planning to the capture of the deposed president Zelaya. The video, made in July 2009, entitled, operation to assassinate the president Mel Zelaya 2008, details a plan to capture Zelaya on his second attempt to enter Honduras.
100 ex security guards of Orion Security began their own occupation of a Boleros farm after they were dismissed by René Morales´ security company. Some of the guards, who were dismissed after striking for more pay, have also begun an occupation of the farm Guanchias No.2´.
Persecution in February 2013
Summary of political killings in February 2013
Juan Perez, organised farmer of MOCRA, was killed on 2/2/13.
Williams Alvarado, organised farmer of MUCA, was killed on 2/2/13.
José Trejo, organised farmer of MARCA and brother of Antonio Trejo (assassinated MARCA lawyer, 9/12), was killed on 16/2/13.
Santos Jacobo Cartagena, organised farmer of MUCA, was killed on 16/2/13.
Yoni Adolfo Cruz, organised farmer of MUCA, and Manuel Ezequiel Guillen Garcia, organised farmer of MOCRA, were kidnapped on 21/2/13 and found dead on 23/2/13.
Feliciana Eligia Suazo, community leader in San Juan Tela, died as she left the court, on 5/2/13. She was denied accompaniment requested on health grounds several times.
José Andres Andrade Soto, lawyer of Tocoa Colón, was killed on 21/2/13.
Killings, evictions, detentions and charges against organised farmers
On 2/2/13, Juan Perez (41), member of MOCRA, was killed on his way home with at least 5 gunshots in the face, by large landholders' armed groups, in front of the El Tigre
community. His body was left in the middle of the highway. Juan is a farmer who worked the land in the hours before sunrise to feed his family. He has 9 children.
On 2/2/13, Williams Alvarado (23) was murdered in the Taojica community. Williams belonged to the Flor del Aguan cooperative, Aurora settlement of MUCA.
On 8/2/13, the president of the farmers’ movement MUCA's Directive Committee, Juan Ramón Chinchilla was going home from a meeting, when he was intercepted, surrounded, detained and charged by a heavily armed Xatruch III military and police contingent of at least 30, at the central park of Tocoa. He was initially taken to the Tocoa police station, where he was told of the charge and arrest warrant for land usurpation and sedition that was applied for by the Dinant company of palm oil giant Facussé. He was transferred at 10.30pm to Trujillo 60 kms away and put before a judges hearing for over 2 hours, after which he was freed at 1am on 9/2/13 with bail conditions while his hearing continues.
On 16/2/13, José Trejo (55) was assassinated with gunshots by several men on a motorcycle, at Barrio Manga Seca of Tocoa. José a member of the San Isidro farmers cooperative of MARCA farmers movement, and is the brother of MARCA lawyer Antonio Trejo who was murdered in September. Jose had reported to the press many times the assassination of his brother, without imagining that 6 months later the assassins would kill him too. José, or Joche as his sister Gloria called him, was with Gloria just days ago in Tegucigalpa following up on Antonio's death on which the authorities had made no progress. Now Gloria also has to put pressure for justice for Joche's death.
On 16/2/13, heavily armed men in a vehicle assassinated Santos Jacobo Cartagena (42) with several gunshots to different parts of his body, while he was waiting for a bus to Tocoa, at the La Confianza turnoff. Santos was member of MUCA San Esteban cooperative.
On 18/2/13, Xatruch III head Colonel German Alfaro Escalante held a press conference, stating his plans to judicially persecute Aguan farmers organisations spokespersons Yoni Rivas, Vitalino Álvarez and Wilfredo Paz, who constantly speak up against the assassinations of Bajo Aguan farmers.
On 21/2/13, Yoni Adolfo Cruz of Lempira cooperative, MUCA, and Manuel Ezequiel Guillen Garcia of MOCRA, were kidnapped by unknown men as they finished their work on the farm for the day at the La Lempira settlement. They were found dead on 23/2/13 in the morning, in a putrefied state with signs of torture, with burns, hands tied up, and having been executed with firearms on the edges of the Concepcion finca.
On 22/2/13, an eviction order was issued against 1,500 families of MOCSAM who also belong to the farmers development organisation ADCP and the farm workers union CNTC, by the El Progreso courts. The land conflict is with the sugar company AZUNOS. The land was expropriated from the company by the state agrarian department in May 2012, and farmers have been recovering this land. On 25/2/13, at least 40 heavily armed guards of CAHSA sugar company approached with the intention of evicting.
On 27/2/13, Xatruch III operation, led by Colonel Germán Alfaro, and police together with security guards executed a violent eviction, firing live gunshots and teargas against farmers of the Gregorio Chávez refoundation movement at the finca Paso Aguan, in the Panamá community in Trujillo. They left 6 people with respiratory problems including a newborn girl, Iván Castillo (2) and Fabricio Castillo (3). During the eviction, the military threatened Glenda Chávez, the daughter of Gregorio Chávez. Gregorio was kidnapped 2/7/12 and found assassinated on 6/7/12, in a mass grave in Paso Aguan that was under the control of Facusse’s private guards.
Persecution against community activists
On 5/2/13, Feliciana Eligia Suazo (69), a well known community leader, dearly referred to as Doña Mena, suddenly died as she left the Tela court buildings, where she was questioned and accused of land usurption by people outside her community. She has authorisation from her community board Durugubuti (San Juan Tela) to use a field adjoined to a restaurant/hotel that belong to her, that is apparently being claimed as property of a foreigner who charged Feliciana. Judge Maria Elena Guzman Mejia opposed Feliciana's request to be accompanied by members of her community and her legal representative. Oscar Garcia, coordinator of Comite de Defensa de Tierras of the San Juan community, had told the judge that Feliciana was in a poor state of health and cannot attend the hearing alone. Again as Mrs Suaza left the hearing hall, Oscar repeated to the judge about Mrs Suazos grave health state, to which the official Hernan Murillo said, ‘I don’t care’. Durugubuti has IACHR cautionary measures due to a history of abuse against the community. The Tela Court kept secret the name of the supposed landowner, calling him 'usurped'. The community land and displacement became more at risk over time, with pressures from the tourism sector in the 80s, the 2009 coup, and now neo-colonial model cities.
On 13/2/13, police arrived firing shots to try to evict with inadequate equipment, against the Tela Atlántida communities of Nueva Esperanza where the community, fighting to stop mining companies there, installed a chain to watch the passing of vehicles. At times business cars without numberplates have entered there. On 18/2/13, at 3am, the police again threatened the community firing shots and proceeding to arrange posts and remove the access chain. The communities belong to the social and community justice movement Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia. The main business people harassing the community are Lenir Peréz (son-in-law of Miguel Facussé), owner of Alutech company. MADJ issues alerts of likely bloodshed against the community.
On 21/2/13, lawyer José Andrés andrade Soto (62) was assassinated in Tocoa, Colon, shot by two individuals who waited for him as he left the National Registry of Persons RNP.
On 26/2/13, National Sub-Secretary General of the Students in Resistance Front FAER Jorge Fernando Jimenez (known as JJ) was violently forced onto a taxi, inside which there were three youths (1 female) who began to empty his wallet After driving him a few streets they threw him out near the office of Central de Cooperativas Cafetaleras de Honduras, the workers of which came to his aid. JJ coordinates the presidential campaign. JJ is also a voluntary human rights defender. He has been detained by police more than 18 times during the coup. JJ has protective measures granted that have never been implemented.
Profiling of cyber activists by military
On 27/2/13, it was reported that General Germán Alfaro of Xatruch III began listing profiles of Honduras based cyber activists against the Honduran regime, in a closed doors meeting. Those profiled are likely to be persecuted by this group, called 'state intelligence', formed by soldiers, police, paramilitaries, and ex death squad members.
Highlights of Actions, and more resources
February 25, 2013 was the start of 12 days of mobilisation, Caminata Nacional Por la Dignidad y la Soberania Paso a Paso (National Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty – Step by Step), from El Progreso in the north and La Esperanza in the west, walking towards Tegucigalpa, to arrive by 8 March – international women’s day. The long walk is armed with joy – drums, dance, ancestral forces of Indigenous and black peoples. Their demands include the abolition of the mining law and the model cities law and the immediate release of political prisoner and farmer Chavelo Morales. There is not a step back... only forwards... step by step we are going to recover what is ours.
There is an online campaign (also demanded on the streets of Honduras in social movements), to demand the freedom of political prisoner and farmer Chavel. See his video here and find a link under the video for the petition.
Bajo Aguan, Grito por la tierra is now subtitled in several languages
English: Lower Aguan river valley, the clamor for land
French: Clameur pour la terre dans le Bas-Aguán
Italian: Bajo Aguán: Grido per la terra
Portugues: Baixo Aguán, grito pela Terra
Spanish: Bajo Aguán: Grito por la Tierra