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…
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Yesterday, the Court in Tela issued a not guilty ruling in favor of the Garífuna community of Barra Vieja, which is being harassed by the Indura Hilton, by means of the National Port Company and the Honduran Institute of Tourism.
The trial against the leadership of Barra Vieja took place after 64 members of the community were put on trial in June of last year. The court declared them innocent of the crime of seizure of property. The ruling in the case indicated, among other things: “It is unknown at this time how many hectares or manzanas are registered in favor of the National Port Company, or the Honduran Institute of Tourism, the National Agrarian Institute and the Tela Bay Project.” There certainly exists an overlap between the various government entities and the investors. However, it remains clear that the land in question is part of Garífuna ancestral territory.
For over four decades, the Garífuna communities in Tela Bay have suffered strong threats to their territory, accompanied by assassination of leaders, promoted by business people and politicians who have sought to create a tourism enclave, refusing to consider the environmental and social costs.
While in Tela the ancestral territory rights were recognized for the Barra Vieja community, last Thursday, September 8, in the afternoon, a contingent of police accompanied by a group of armed civilians attempted to evict a group of neighbors from the community who had recovered a piece of land that had been “sold” in an irregular manner to foreigners.
The police presented an order of eviction, issued on April 7, 2016, by judge Víctor Manuel Melendez Castro. The eviction order was sought by Mr. John J. Scott and Sandra L. Scott, who claim they are the owners of a piece of land in San Blas, located in the Municipality of Santa Fe, Colón.
The use of hired thugs by the police to burn down the dwellings and their contents is, by itself, a violation of the law, as well as violating the rights of the Garífuna people to their ancestral territory. The members of the community of Giriga (Santa Fe) emphatically rejected the eviction attempt.
In 2007, Trujillo Bay became a piñata of territory, promoted by the Canadian Randy Jorgensen, known as the King of Porn, who received unlimited help from the Municipalities of Santa Fe and Trujillo. Apparently, the Scotts are connected to Jorgensen, as is indicated in a blog about tourism published by Sandra Scott.
During the administration of post-military coup, regime leader “Pepe” Lobo, Jorgensen counted on his unconditional help to obtain environmental permits and “legalize” his projects of real estate speculation and the construction of the Banana Coast cruise ship docks.
In December 2011, the Public Prosecutor’s office issued an order against Jorgensen, accusing him of seizure of property.
It took until 2015 for him to finally appear in court in Trujillo, which then granted him a provisional acquittal. The Appeals Court of Ceiba nullified this provisional acquittal and required Jorgensen to appear again before the courts, which Jorgensen refused to comply with. The “King of Porn” has thus far avoided facing justice.
Both Trujillo Bay and Tela Bay have become focal points of dispossession in the name of tourism, and the businesspeople and investors supported by the State come and push out the Garífuna communities, which have to endure the overlapping pressures.
With the advent of petroleum production in the Moskitia region, there arises a new threat to Trujillo Bay and its inhabitants: the construction of a petroleum refinery, which endangers the fragile and rich biodiversity of the region.
Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, OFRANEH
Canadian Porn King on Trial for Tourism Projects in Honduras
- Watch 8 minute report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWqoB5GTfm8
Sambo Creek, septiembre 10 de 2016.- El día de ayer de ayer el Juzgado de Tela emitió una sentencia absolutoria a favor de la comunidad Garífuna de Barra Vieja, la que viene siendo hostigada por el Indura Hilton, a través de la Empresa Nacional Portuaria y el Instituto Hondureño de Turismo.
El juicio contra la directiva de Barra Vieja tuvo lugar después de haber sido juzgados 64 miembros de la comunidad en junio del año pasado, los que fueron absueltos del delito de usurpación. La sentencia de se juicio entre otras señaló: “se desconoce actualmente cual es la cantidad de hectáreas o manzanas registradas a favor de la Empresa Nacional Portuaria, o del Instituto Hondureño de Turismo, del Instituto Nacional Agrario y del Proyecto de Bahía de Tela”. Ciertamente existe un traslape entre las diversas entidades del Estado y los inversionistas, sin embargo queda claro que la tierra en cuestión…
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The Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, 6 months after the assassination of COPINH’s General Coordinator, hereby states that:
• The assassination of the woman who served as COPINH’s General Coordinator and who was a founding member of the organization was a crime committed against the entire Lenca people’s struggle to build autonomy and defend Mother Earth, our shared natural resources, and our rights as indigenous peoples.
• Despite this crime we re-affirm that we will continue our fierce struggle against the deadly projects that have been imposed without consultation since the 2009 military coup d’état. We know that our sister Berta Cáceres Flores has not died as long as neither her struggle nor her political project, embodied by this organization, have died.
• Our compañera Berta Cáceres, our sister, is the victim of a State crime, having suffered persecution by Honduran authorities, security forces and courts and criminalization of her work throughout her years of political activity, aided and abetted by corporations like DESA, and international banks like FMO, CABEI and FINNFUND, who want to plunder our shared natural resources to turn them into their own profit.
• Over the 23 years of our organization’s existence, this crime has been the biggest blow to our people and it is an attempt to end the struggle waged by COPINH, which continues to suffer from demonization and criminalization by the government and national and international corporations and financial institutions.
• Having accompanied Berta in her struggle, which is our people’s struggle, we are completely clear that justice will not come from the corrupt and inefficient institutions that have promoted the extermination of peoples in resistance and that the arrests they have made do not represent justice for this assassination but are clear example of the way that impunity is produced in this country.
• COPINH continues to demand the creation of an Independent Investigation Commission so that we can get to the bottom of this crime, a demand that has fallen on the government’s deaf ears.
• For several years COPINH has been demanding the expulsion of the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project from Lenca territory, where it has been imposed without consultation, along with the 50 other concessions for dams and wind-power megaprojects that they seek to impose upon our territory.
• The Lenca people are fighting to live in peace, which is why we demand the de-militarization of our territories, where the soldiers, police and private security forces exist to secure private investments by violating the most basic of human rights and sewing fear, terror and death.
• Faced with this assassination, the corporations and banks who finance terror and death should know that COPINH will be unwavering in its efforts to find those who participated in this act. May the perpetrators know that we will not rest in our search for Justice for our sister and that we will denounce each and every attack we suffer for carrying out our work before the international authorities.
• COPINH knows that both before and after the 2009 coup d’état the violence and atrocities come from the interference of the U.S., with its money and its interventions, as with the coup d’état itself. The imposition of the extractivist model comes as a result of the U.S. capitalist doctrine and Berta’s assassination is part of a clear strategy to eliminate by force any form of opposition to that economic model, which the U.S. is at the heart of.
• We denounce the campaigns to criminalize our organization, financed by DESA on national TV, where they roll out Gloria López, a person who does not represent Lenca women and is a farce of a dignified indigenous person and who we are sure is being used by Honduran businessmen to manipulate public opinion and create more conflict.
• COPINH is completely clear what justice in the face of this enormous loss means: finding who assassinated her, who gave the order to assassinate her, and denouncing the criminal power structure that allowed for her assassination. It means that the work of resistance, of emancipation, of rebellion by COPINH and the Lenca people remains steadfast. It means tireless struggle against this economic, political and cultural system that seeks to eliminate our communities, their ancestral resistance and alternatives to dispossession, exploitation, racism and exclusion.
• Justice is keeping the memory of Berta’s life alive, the convictions that led her to be the greatest leader of the Lenca people in the history of the Lenca people’s resistance. Justice is clearly telling the corporations, the representatives of the state and all of those who enter Lenca territory that we will not allow the development of any project, action or activity that rolls over people or that eliminates our voices. It means development by the communities and NOT by corporations that take advantage of communities, development based on proposals that stem from our needs.
Six months after this vile crime the Lenca people continue to cry over this loss for the Honduran social movement, yet we have not forgotten that her spirit accompanies us as one more ancestor who has joined us in the millenarian resistance of the Lenca people.
Six months after this assassination thousands of voices have risen to demand Justice for Berta and to take up our demands, for which COPINH profoundly thanks the communities, grassroots social movements and civil society from all regions of the continent and world. As a people in struggle we know that justice will come only through the efforts of the grassroots social movement and people of conscience.
Berta didn’t die, she multiplied!
With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota, Iselaca and Etempica we raise our voices full of life, justice, freedom, dignity and peace!
La Esperanza, Honduras, September 2nd, 2016
The political climate for the social and grassroots movements in Honduras has been, to say the least, one of transition for the past several years. Each year since the 2013 elections, in ever increasing increments, the resistance movements have struggled, in addition to actualizing their own priorities, to maintain the alliances between the various organizations and communities that had come together for the first time in a meaningful way after the 2009 coup. Much of the energy of the resistance was swept into the electoral farce which created some divisions within the resistance as electoral farces are want to do. Even so, there had been a strong coalition of resistance groups which formed into The Platform of Social and Grassroots Movements. This platform is made up of numerous organizations and movements such as COPINH, OFRANEH, MADJ, ERIC, indigenous communities from across the country, feminist groups, and LGBTQ groups as well as the various campesino movements in the Aguán and Sula Valleys, La Paz and else where. From 2012 through to about late 2014 they had converged for some very successful protests, marches and recuperations/occupations. They pulled off a successful march from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa in 2013, they put pressure on the Congress and the Supreme Court to nullify the Charter Cities proposal, and they came together with the international network to pressure for the liberation of the political prisoner Chabelo Morales, amongst other causes. Many factors led the resistance movements to begin to lose steam and by 2015 most of the groups were struggling to meet their own priorities and the Platform was not abandoned, but put on hold. It is after Berta Cáceres’ assassination that new energy to build on alliances has picked up some. All of this is to say that there has been a transition happening in Honduras in the social and grassroots movement and that has made it somewhat difficult to coordinate with organizations and communities in terms of accompaniment, but that meant persistence on the part of accompaniers to maintain connections and be available at the drop of a hat.
The Accompaniment Work
2016 was a year of transition for me as well. After HSN’s successful international campaign to free Chabelo Morales resulted in his full exoneration in 2015, I suddenly had a huge vacuum in my life in regards to what to turn my energies to next. Chabelo’s case had been the bulk of what I had been focusing on since August of 2012 with diversions into other human rights hotspots in the waiting periods ( see articles here: gregmccain.pressfolios.com). As things shifted within the social and grassroots movement in Honduras, I needed to shift and reevaluate where best to focus. In Nov 2015 I moved from Guadalupe Carney, the community that I had been living in with the family of Chabelo Morales since Aug 2012. I currently rent a house in Tocoa. I have been accompanying the Permanent Observatory of Human Rights of the Aguán (OPDHA in its Spanish acronym) as well as other communities throughout Honduras. Below is a list of the various forms of accompaniment that I carried out in 2016:
Revisited the community of Achiote, Bonito Oriental, Colon to talk with the community and employees of an iron mine that shut down without informing the community and also has contaminated the rivers and environment. Also went to the jail in Trujillo where 7 members of the community including 3 minors had been detained during a protest roadblock. Subsequently attended the preliminary and initial hearings at the courthouse in Trujillo.
- Visited the community of Sector San Pedro, Tocoa, Colon with members of OPDHA. There is a proposed mining concession that the mayor of Tocoa is trying to push on the community. Talked with the residents, provided information on violations by mining companies as well as what promises they make, but don’t keep. The community subsequently overwhelmingly voted down the proposed concession in a town hall meeting called by Mayor Adnan Funes, shouted him down until he fled in anger.
- Accompanied Cesar Flores, a journalist with local radio and TV stations in Tocoa and a correspondent with Radio Progreso in Tocoa, to the Public Prosecutor’s office and to CONADEH to file formal compalints for death threats and intimidation that he had received from Tocoa police while trying to cover a Municipal meeting concerning the municipal water privatization.
- Visited Abel Pérez and Santos Hernandez in the jail in Nacaome, Valle, two residents of Zacate Grande who were imprisoned due to a dispute with a rich landowner. The rich landowner accused them of usurpation of land and threats against him. I checked on there well being in the prison which they have been in since May 2016. I attended several court hearing in Nacaome related to their case and gave them funds (US$50) to help make their incarceration a little more bearable. I have spoken with their lawyer Denia Castillo regarding an international campaign to put pressure on the Prosecutor and judges to have a fair trial and call for their release. There is to be a hearing sometime after August 19th to determine if they can be released from jail before their trial which begins in October.
Accompanied campesinos from the Aguán to attend the wake and funeral of Berta Cáceres in La Esperanza, Intibucá. Included in the bus from the Agúan was Vitalino Alverez from MUCA and the Plataforma Agraria who is listed second on the hit list that the Honduran military has circulated and of which Berta was listed as first to be killed.
- Contacted MADJ and arranged to visit the UNAH-VS campus where there was a
student strike and blockade of the entrance and several of the student leaders have received death threats and suspicious cars have parked and surveyed the strike. Accompanied the students in a street demonstration that blocked a major traffic artery in San Pedro Sula.
Accompanied Orbelinda Flores of MUCA to the courthouse in Tocoa who was briefly detained for having outstanding warrants stemming back to 2010 for land usurpation. These were old warrants that had been settled years ago, but still were in the system, plus one was for a land recurperation that Orbelinda had never participated in.
Visited the police station in Tocoa after Jose Flores, the President of MUCA was arrested for what turned out to be trumped up weapons and drug possession charges. Accompanied him to the court house the same day for the preliminary hearing in which it was determined that there was no evidence against him regarding the charges.
- Accompanied Wilmer Ramos Rivera, Coordinator of MADJ in the department of Atlántida and a journalist with Radio Dignidad in San Juan Pueblo, Atlántida along with members of MADJ to the Public Prosecutor’s office in Tela, Atlantida so that he could file a denouncement against his kidnapping of aseveral hours and death threats that he received while on the air during his news broadcast. He reports on mining and hydroelectric projects in Atlántida
- Accompanied the widows of the El Tumbador massacre, which took place in 2010 near Guadalupe Carney, to the offices of UMVIBA (the special investigative team from the Minsiterio Publico who are supposed to be investigating the violent crimes in the Aguán stemming from the land conflicts). UMVIBA has claimed that it is due to the lack of cooperation from the victims of the massacre that their investigation has been halted. This was claimed after initially stating that it was the noncooperation of Dinant that was stalling their work. The widows of the 5 men killed were too afraid to go to UMVIBA fearing reprisals from DINANT and State authorities. The lawyers with COFADEH convinced that it was in the best interest of everybody that they go. They only agreeded to go and give testimony if accompanied by human rights observers. I was invited by OPDHA to accompany the women.
The house that I rent in Tocoa has become a safe house for people fleeing death threats and/or sexual and domestic violence in Tocoa/Trujillo. Between January through July, 5 different women who had received death threats stayed at the house on different occasions. 2 of them stayed before being linked to Honduran women’s organizations that helped them seek exile outside of Colon or the country, and 3 were fleeing a domestic violence situation. I accompanied all of them to the Public Prosecutor’s office to file denouncements in order for them to have required paperwork to either seek asylum or further pursue legal recourse or atleast to have documentation if/when the violence escalated.
- The house has also been utilized by members of campesino movements and OPDHA as well as the Fundación San Alonzo Rodriquez for when they need to travel to Tocoa for meeting or events that go for several days and it is too far for them to travel back and forth. Also, if they live out in a remote rural area and need to travel from Tocoa to SPS or Tegucigalpa early in the morning such as 1 or 2 am, they stay at the house which is convenient to the 3 bus companies in Tocoa.
- Accompanied members of the community of La Panama, Trujillo to UMVIBA to show them photos of a human remains that had been discovered near their community in the Rio Aguán bordering the Paso Aguán plantation where 2 clandestine graves had been discovered and where it is still suspected others missing from the community are buried. UMVIBA went to the site of where the skull and bones were found and said they would investigate.
I coordinated with Teri Mattson and Maria Robinson from Task Force on the Americas as well as with Kim Porter on raising funds for Chabelo Morales for start-up capital for a concrete block manufacturing business to help him reintegrate back to society after nearly 7 years of incarceration. This included soliciting for funds, collecting the funds through international channels, helping to find a block making machine, dispersing funds so as to ensure proper cash flow of needed equipment and supplies.
- Helped build the Honduras Solidarity Network’s Facebook page, overseeing it as it increased its reach to over 1000 people. Posted regularly, alerts and news items.
- Created and maintain the Human Rights Observation/ Honduras Facebook page that has bilingual information on the situation in Honduras that reaches over 500 people.
- Translated news articles, press releases and communiques pertaining to human rights issues in Honduras.
- Assisted in getting legal documents and a notarized statements in Honduras to the legal team working on an asylum case which is currently pending in Miami.
(Disregard the ad below if you see one, I don’t authorize nor endorse nor get a penny from those advertising on my page.)
Por Chorompo Gutierrez
A former Honduran soldier says murdered environmentalist Berta Cáceres appeared on a hit list distributed to U.S.-trained special forces in Honduras months before she was assassinated.