February 2014 Honduras coup update

February 2014 Honduras coup summary update

new site for the summaries online here: http://sydneywithhonduras.wordpress.com/monthly-news-summaries/

Summary of known political assassinations

-Justiniano Vázquez, political activist and brother of the should-be-mayor, was killed on 21/2/14
-Pedro Pérez, indigenous organiser, was killed on 18/2/14

Cases of known political persecution in February 2014

At San Francisco de Opalaca: where a community, at the council level, refused to accept nor the electoral fraud, nor the continuation of a council mayor Socorro Manueles and team who had for four years been behind miners and the selling of natural resources. The community said, no more, we did not vote for you, and occupied the council building, and on 15/2/14, held a taking of possession act of the council team the indigenous community knows it voted for.

On 6/2/14, on its 13th day of occupation, the following threats were reported:
-Judicial threats in the form of charges, against Entimo Vásquez (legitimate mayor), Oneyda Elizabeth Mendoza (councillor), Albertina Manueles Pérez (indigenous journalist and Radio Progreso correspondent), Damacio Gutiérrez (UTC member), Danilo Gómez Rodriguez (UCIH-Via Campesina member), Santiago Dimas Bautista (councillor and copinh member), Carlos Lorenzo (ADROH secretary general)
-Death threats against Pascualita Vásquez (cultural coordinator of Copinh Coordinator and of elders council), Berta Cáceres Flores (general coordinator of Copinh), and against municipal leaders of Copinh in San Francisco Opalaca: Magin Manueles (Zapotillo), Santiago Dimas Bautista (Plan de Barrios), and Juan Vásquez Vásquez (Lagitas)
-Eviction threats – against the community on their own ancestral territory for which they hold community land titles under Convention 169.

On 9/2/14 in the midnight hours, Marta Vásquez and her family had their home raided and family belongings taken and burned including clothes, shoes, uniforms, diplomas, stationery. Marta is the daughter of the should-be-mayor Entimo Vásquez. Just 7 days before, Justiniano Vásquez and his family were subject to a similar act. Justiniano is brother of Entimo. This was reported on 10/2/14 by Rene Altamirano of Libre that these acts were carried out by Hugo Sanches, a cousin of the fraudulent mayor who was sworn in by TSE electoral commission – Socorro Manueles.

On 21/2/14, Justiniano Vázquez, whose family home was raided and belongings burnt, was assassinated – his body was found near a small gorge of El Jengibral near the centre of Monte Verde of Opalaca, with stab wounds, signs of having had hands tied. He is a member of Libre party. Someone called Juan Rodríguez was reported to be captured and held as a suspect – he had previously threatened both Justiniano and Entimo. Juan Rodríguez belongs to a group called Mancha Brava Nacionalista. The community points to Socorro Sanchez as the intellectual author of the assassination. Justiniano leaves behind spouse Eladia Lemuz Pérez. Four days before his murder, a commission of human rights, justice, governance and decentralisation departments of Honduras government visited and instead of trying to help resolve complaints, they 'expressed empty and inconsistent arguments to not undertake an administrative, legal and integral audit and even gave threats of suing community leaders for sedition.

Indigenous Organiser assassinated

On 16/2/14, Pedro Pérez was assassinated – shot in the head with a 9mm weapon by Fausto Chavarría, left in a comma, and died on 18/2/13, in Hospital Escuela. Pedro is a directive member of Las Minitas Lenca community indigenous council, and a member of Coordinadora Indigena del Poder Popular de Honduras. His killer Fausto has for months been sowing terror in the Minitas community where business people plan to build a hydroelectric dam that would privatise the river. Fausto also threatened another activist 3 months ago, against Luis Martinez, coordinator of Las Minitas Indigenous Council. Fausto was often around with the Tegucigalpa police Jorge Chavarría who carried heavy weapons and has complaints filed against him.

Courts standing by sugar company Azunosa of SABMiller to attack/evict farmers

Farmers organised under ADCP and CNTC that began a land recovery process in May 2012 following an agrarian department decision to expropriate Azunosa as illegal occupiers of 3644 hectares – since they are in excess of legal land ownership limits, are now exposed to imminent eviction because of a Supreme Court decision in December 2013 to revoke the expropriation order issued in May 2012. Even before this the families have suffered a lot, including 4 violent evictions, a lot of harrassment, threats, destruction of hundreds of hectares cultivated with basic grains, and 108 farmers charged.

Rio Blanco: a charge dropped, but three others remain. Rio Blanco is the site of a blockade against an unwanted company dam, the blockade began on 1/4/13. Copinh – an indigenous organisation that accompanied (but not led) this struggle has been subject to judicial persecution.

The dropped charge is for supposed 'illegal possession of firearms in prejudice of the internal security of the Honduran State' that was made against Copinh coordinator Berta Caceres. The ongoing charges are from the company DESA together with the prosecutors, they are of 'coercion, usurpation, and continued damages', they are against Berta Caceres, Aureliano Molina and Tomás Gómez. These are appealed also.

Persecution against defender of Valle de Siria
Valle de Siria has a community that has fought against an open-pit gold mine, and that continues to suffer health and skin conditions caused by the mine.

In February, Carlos Amador Alemán has been followed by two vehicles -a white double cabin pick-up and a grey van, that parks in front of the channel and stays there 40-50 minutes, and on four occasions, they were there just minutes before Carlos entered the channel. He observed that nobody gets out of these vehicles. In December 2013, he was followed by a motorcycle driver of a black motorcycle without numberplate, he did not react but this was repeated several times. In 2011, he was unfairly sued together with 17 others for defending the right to drinking water for the people of Valle de Siria. Who is Carlos? He is a human rights defender and community journalist – he is the director of two news spaces on radio and tv – 'Linea directa con el pueblo' (Sat and Sun) and 'Contacto con la Noticia' (Mon-Fri news program at Porvenir). He is also an environmentalist, primary school teacher and the current secretary of the Valle de Siria Environmentalist Committee, and a member of Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo Extractivo Minero.

Expulsions against uni students announced at UNAH

On 20/2/14, Ayax Irías – Vice Director of orientation and students affairs of UNAH, announced to the press that processes have begun to expel students of UNAH and especially against members of Movimiento Amplio Universitario MAU and some independent students. This is an act of criminalising protest – the students held an assembly demanding an extension for the date fees have to be paid – because it was changed from 21 to 10 days arbitrarily without informing students. Students mobilised to the director's building to demand a hearing with the director Julieta Castellano.

Case of political prisoner Chabelo – organised farmers – now ruled 'guilty' for murder

Chabelo, José Isabel Morales, was held already for 5 years and two months, when on 7/2/14, he was ruled guilty in court, sentenced to 17.5 years of jail. This is despite the case having relied only on a few testimonies – from witnesses who kept changing the important details of their stories, which should make the evidence unreliable – but the Trujillo Sentencing Court doesn't think so.

Chabelo is accused of homicide against Carlos Manrique Sorto Castillo in 2008; Carlos died with gunshot wounds. Chabelo is an organised farmer of Movimiento Campesino de Aguan MCA, based in Guadalupe Carney in Trujillo. Carlos Manrique Sorto is a cousin of the influential police subcomissioner and landowner Henry Sorto – who was involved in a land conflict with MCA. Where Carlos was shot, a fire was set, and 11 died, all relatives of Henry Sorto.

Shonky 'investigation'/'evidence'

Despite being a complex and messy case with lots of participants, the crime scene was only closed off 24 hours after the act, prosecution only arrived on the scene three days after the acts, and only carried out two days of investigation. And they did not start at the crime scene, they went to the Agrarian Department office INA to get a list of committee directives of farmers cooperatives registered in the last year, and took these as names of suspects and then went to look for anything to use as supporting evidence. Their investigation involved having 300 photos of suspects and showing them to a witness who did not have the capacity to recognise anyone, given that he had a bullet through his lung that was filled with blood, that was in turn filling the brain with blood and not oxygen and making him faint. In this state, the witness 'recognised' 32 people and attributed each to a particular crime. For killing Carlos Manrique Sorto he first accused Carlos Armando Ruíz who couldn't have done it because he is from Poncaya mountain in Olancho, that is not only far away, but he hadn't left it, and had never been to these parts of Aguan. He then accused someone else who couldn't have because he was in prison for a year at the time. Then he pointed to Chabelo as the person who took the lids of the petrol tanks of some cars to set on fire. Another witness said he was a kilometre away and saw Chabelo – who he described as dark-skinned, short, and solid (when Chabelo is actually tall and gets called 'chele' by people for his whiter skin) – and said 'Chabelo' left the place with an AK47, when in 2010 he said it was a machete; each time he gave a testimony whether to an investigator or prosecutor, the story changed. Henry Sorto was another who changed his story; initially he declared that when his nephew Manrique was dying, he did not know of the participation of Chabelo. But on the second time, he said that his nephew exclaimed that 'the one who shot me was José Isabel Morales and he wants you to hear how he kills me', he also said that he talked on telephone with Chabelo. Prosecutors did no other investigation. It was on this that Chabelo was ruled guilty of causing the death of Carlos Manrique Sorto.

As well as having been locked up for 5 years without sentence when the legal limit is 2 years, he was constantly denied dued process. Chabelo lost an eye, had his tongue broken, lost his teeth, while undertaking cleaning duties at the Porvenir prison. While in prison, his dad and a daughter of his died, and he was not allowed to go to the burials. It has been really hard on the family, hoping and waiting over the five years, and Chabelo never being given a real opportunity to demonstrate his innocence. As the hearing took place, he received threats of harms to his family if he were freed.

There has been support and solidarity from many corners of Honduras and of the world. There is an appeal for the Supreme Court to respond to. And while Chabelo's brother said, 'this system does not allow for the defence of farmers and working class people who struggle for land', Chabelo was the one to reassure his brother, 'don't worry brother, we are going to get out of this, the struggle has not finished', when the guilty verdict was dropped on them.

In Bajo Aguan more than 100 farmers have lost their lives in the last 4 years through the land struggle.

Other news from February 2014

The Climate Change Law : biofuels and REDD projects.

The month before, a market-based Climate Change Law was passed by the Honduran congress alongside lots of other legislations. It was market-based in that:

Article 33 propels the use of direct vegetable oil, comissions the Forest Conservation Department ICF and Council of protected areas CONAP to create strategies towards increasing production of vegetable oil – so this article is about promoting the biofuels industry to have more on market vegetable-based energy than coal-based and ultimately relies on african palm expansion in Aguan and everywhere. Already today, there are 4 hectares of African palm for every hectare of wetlands in Honduras, such palm expansion will put wetlands further at risk and increase Honduras' vulnerability to climate change, not to mention the human rights violations it has already caused.

Article 12c promotes the 'national strategy of adaptation and mitigation in climate change' – which sounds good, but then it outlines only market based mechanisms such as CDM (clean development mechanisms) and REDD+ projects and similar forms of environmental compensations for conserving natural resources in Honduras. They are all false solutions that allow industrialised countries to keep polluting, while changing hands (from communities to companies) of control of tropical forests. Policy is that consent and consultation needs to be prior, informed and free – but this is always policy and rarely practiced by Honduran authorities. There are already lots of damaging CDM projects in place in Honduras promoting palm, hydroelectricity (lots of dam concessions were given out in the last 4 years) and other industries over communities' lives, livelihood, self-determination and destroying the environment. As for REDD+ Honduras is at a preparation not implementation stage so the impact is still to hit if it is not stopped. There are lots of horror stories where it is implemented, eg Sengwer of Kenya, in the Cherengany mountains, is at a point of being evicted with support of World Bank funding REDD preparation strategy – just now, in end January 2014, over 1000 Sengwer homes were burnt down by Forestal Service officers and military police units in the name of preserving forests. The same World Bank financed and promoted a Property Law in Honduras that waters down community land titles to give way to such projects. The Kenyan REDD+ evictions are likely to be replicated in Honduras given the state of impunity that exists – and is likely to start in these places: Montaña de la Flor, La Moskitia, Lenca forests, etc.

Honduras itself, amongst the most vulnerable to climate change, has just started petrol exploration on Moskitia, that is likely to destroy the Mesoamerican reef system. Other concessions still to be announced.

Korean company POSCO had begun feasibility studies and planning to build the first model city in Choluteca, Honduras

Around the table brewing this neocolonial plan over two hours one day in February, was: the new defacto president of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez, the mayors and parliamentarians of the provinces Choluteca and Valle, conservative model cities ideologist Mark Klugman, and the guests – South Korean Ambassador Kim Rai-Hyug, and members of Koica (South Korean Development Agency) and South Korean investors including the company POSCO that has signed in 2011 a memorandum of understanding with the Lobo regime towards the building of model cities in Honduras.

What are model cities again and how it came up in Honduras

There are cities where companies can do what they want, in impunity – so they are deregulated and states are complicit and companies do already everywhere in the world have more say in our parliaments about what laws are passed than the people ever do. Model cities are going the extra step and actually saying, actually, forget pretences, let the companies have and run part of the country officially. It involves carving out boundaries and letting them create for those parts of the country, its own tax and tax collection system, judicial system and law set, budget and planning.

When passed initially, model cities were called Regiones Especiales para el Desarrollo (special development regions), today they are called Zonas de Empleo y Desarrollo Económico (employment and economic development zones). The name change came about when RED was declared unconstitutional by the 4 of 5 judges of the Constitutional Court of Honduras in October 2012, and then soon after, these 4 judges were dismissed, and then in June 2013, ZEDE was passed. Changes beyond name and cosmetics in ZEDE is unlikely (little information is publicly available for examination), it seems to be the same model cities resucitated. ZEDE is questioned including by the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which on 4/2/14 examined the Honduran report and situation and expressed concern, and especially about the state's intention on submitting Garífuna (afrodescendent) territories to foreign investment, and also about the Honduran state's appalling track record in disrespecting indigenous communities' right to consent/consultation that is prior, informed and free. Leaders of social organisations such as indigenous organisation Copinh have, as they had in the past, placed charges of that ZEDEs, like REDs, are unconstitutional, given that they violate sovereignty, and slices Honduras and dishes it out on sale to a wide range of investors and companies.

Who is selling the idea and how

Executive Secretary of Council of Ministers Ebal Diaz said it is about turning Honduras into a pole of national development in Latin America and creating a globally competitive space, to attract investment, selling it as jobs and economic growth, and even daring to say it will not rely on cheap labour, rather, security for companies – as if cheap labour weren't part of that package. The government said it will create markets for medium, small and even micro companies, help towards fulfiling goals of Plan de Nacion, to making Honduras an investors' paradise. Within the congress model cities are willingly supported even by Libre (supposed electoral arm of resistance) parliamentarian Bladimir Bonilla. There is a commission that will be a team of people overlooking the model cities process – it is mostly secret at the moment except that it includes the daughter of the now deceased ultraconservative Ronald Regan.

History of POSCO, the company that plans to build the model city

POSCO claims it will take 'all the environmental precautions'. Daewoo companies – a subsidiary of POSCO – was in Madagascar when the people overthrew the Marc Ravalomanana regime around 2009 – before the overthrow, POSCO obtained from the Ravalomanana regime 1.3 million hectares for free for supposed agricultural use. Accusations of human rights violations are also in its record including as it was about to carry out a metal project in Odisha, India, 8 special rapporteurs of UN sought the project's suspension due to human rights concerns.

New team to investigate mass assassinations and human rights violations against farmers in Bajo Aguán – a response to pressure from human rights organisations? Or is it really a cover-up plan to whitewash?

A specialised unit's creation was announced by general prosecutor Oscar Chinchilla to be made up of 4 teams that will include elite police officers, investigation analysts and personal assistants from the prosecutors department to investigate the assassinations and other abuses in Bajo Aguán. Recently Human Rights Watch denounced that Honduran authorities' inaction there aggravate impunity, highlighting that nobody had been condemned in any case of the homocides, and only one case had made it to court, but was provisionally dismissed pending further evidence, but never restarted. This also came at a time when in October last year, when several prosecutors protested their salary conditions, they got transferred instead of having their demands met – amongst these was Edy Tabora, who was then sent to Bajo Aguán by himself – a highly dangerous job given the level of investment of big landowners getting their way using hitmen, security services and complicity with the authorities. He was sent without any technical or logistical support – not even a computer. He was pressured to accept it, and went, but ended up leaving the prosecutors, with inadequate support to carry out the work meaningfully. In contrast the announced new unit not only is well staffed and supplied, but Oscar Chinchillla promised that if 24 months is not enough, if whatever is assigned is not enough, extensions and increases in funding are available. To date, around 150 organised farmers had lost their lives due to attacks by security guards and paramilitary bodies at service to landowners of area – investigation and justice is overdue but it is uncertain what to expect from this unit.

Billy Joya will train a new team of 90 council police in Roatán. The Liberal Mayor just initiated this new force of 90 council police, to build police station, buy vehicles, weapons, certification, training, GPS system, buy boats, etc and is contracting as advisor/trainer Billy Joya – an ex member of the 3-16 death squad batallón accused of mass human rights violations. He would teach techniques of repression, counterinsurgency and torture methods. His claim is that he will convert the island into a 'crime free zone' within 12 months, and will implement the monitoring of exits and entries, camera technology and police response in attending to calls.

If you live or pass near a jail in Honduras, talking on telephone or catching internet around there is about to end. As a measure supposeabily to control crime coordination from inside prisons for which authorities say 40% of kidnapping and hitmenship involve such communications, the areas around 24 prisons around Honduras are about to lose telephone signals – something that will affect more than 500,000 people, and 13,000 inmates. This violates human rights on many levels and the impact for the affected will include econonimc, social and safety considerations.

A commissioner guest to the congress, who is not a parliamentarian sits on parliamentarians' seats, presses the voting button on this chair and a chair next to that one twice, and when caught, resigned... His name is José Antonio Pineda. His position is as the commissioner of Coalianza – a government commission that promotes public private alliances. He was invited as what was being approved are public private investment projects – to share some words, but not to vote. However he voted, and the security guards, and others who saw him, did not stop him or remove him. All this is captured on video. Now he is sued for usurping parliamentarian functions.

Lots killed and either wrapped up or cut up in 2013. According to a report of UNAH Violence Observatory, in 2013, 181 of many more killed were either wrapped up – 133, in bedsheets or plastic bags, and – 48, were cut up. Most bodies found these ways were in Cortés or Francisco Morazán – the provinces where the biggest cities of Honduras are. t