English translation by Beth Geglia. El original en español ya está aquí:
Honduras, March 26, 2015
The Committee for Freedom of Expression (C-Libre). Four students were assassinated on March 24th in Honduras during a wave of student protests that began 12 days ago. This multiple-assassination “is an attempt to eliminate the student struggle,” different human rights organizations denounced in press releases.
The National Network of Human Rights Defenders in Honduras expressed concern and consternation to the national and international community, “for the events that have occurred in recent hours in the country against the student movement in which four middle school students had their lives taken: Soad Nicolle Ham Bustillo (13), Elvin Antonio López (19), and Darwin Josué Martínez (21). They were student activists and participants in recent protests that have demanded that the Honduran government improve conditions in schools.”
Casa Alianza also denounced the vile crime against the four high school students and the absence of open and democratic dialogue on part of the government. Casa Alianza’s statement states that “In response to the assassination of four middle-high school students in Comayaguela, and government repression against student protests, Casa Alianza Honduras wishes to make known to the national and international community, to international organizations and Honduran civil society: On the night of March 24, three students were assassinated (two men and one woman), students of the night classes at Jesús Aguilar Paz Institute of Comayaguela who had just left the school grounds after class.”
On the morning of Wednesday, March 25th, the cadaver of a 13-year-old girl was found wrapped in a sheet. She was a student of the first course of Common Cycle (Ciclo Común) at the Vicente Cáceres Central Institute of Comayaguela. The girl was last seen on the morning of Tuesday, March 24th leaving her house to go to school. “The assassination of these four students took place in the context of an organized movement for the rights of students. Therefore, these crimes cannot easily be attributed only to common crime.”
Similarly, the Association for Participatory Citizenship (ACI-PARTICIPA) expressed their consternation and solidarity with the families of students Elvin Antonio López (19), a business student at the Jesús Aguilar Paz Institute and Darwin Josué Martínez (21), two of the victims who died in the act while the other was sent to the University Training Hospital (HEU) where he died on Wednesday after individuals fired at him from a moving vehicle without saying anything.
“We stand in solidarity with the family of Soad Nicolle Ham Bustillo, 13 years old, who studied at the Vicente Cáceres Central Institute. The minor had been the victim of kidnapping for multiple hours and her cadaver was found this morning wrapped in a sheet in the La Granja neighborhood of Comayaguela.” Globo Radio and TV showed photos of the minor Ham Bustillo participating, a few days before her death, in a student protest.
More Assassinated Students
“We also denounce that, a few weeks ago, two students were gunned down near the Villa Cristina neighborhood of Comayaguela by unknown individuals who rode by in a vehicle,” says the statement from ACI-PARTICIPA. Additionally, it states that “these assassinations happened in the context of a student crisis, where youth have protested insecurity and the attempts of the Minister of Education, Marlon Escoto, to push back class times for students and to increase class hours, as well as against the counter-pedagogical conditions within the schools, the lack of furniture, lack of student financial assistance, and the lack of teaching materials.
Gases, Lies, and Death
This series of statements came out while members of the student movement were attacked in the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). The youth were violently repressed. Some were beaten, some were detained, and tear gas was thrown at them in disproportionate quantities. There was also report of an attack against the team of human rights defenders from the Center for Research and Promotion of Human Rights in Honduras (Ciprodeh) in the same school by police and UNAH security guards who harassed them and took their pictures. At the same time, a student from Jesús Aguilar Paz denounced scholarship offers, and threats of expulsion and death from the authorities of the Department Education Office as mechanisms to convince him to abandon the student movement.
A Genuine Struggle Stigmatized by the Ruling Government Party
The congressional representative of the ruling National Party, Lena Gutiérrez, characterized this movement as street protests with a political agenda. Similarly, the Minister of Education, Marlon Escoto, attributed the protests to interference from the Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), and directly named congressional representative Bartolo Fuentes and to Gilberto Ríos.
A leader of the LIBRE Party, Gilberto Ríos, clarified that he has never been at the protests, as Escoto suggested. He stated that near his home, in the Kennedy neighborhood, students were being repressed and the only thing that he did was to take a picture and upload it onto his Facebook account to denounce the occurrence. Ríos compared the assassination of students to recent events in Ayotzinapa.
The government, through its informational propaganda, has contributed to the stigmatization of the protests, which are characterized in some media outlets as vandalism. However, what the children are doing is exercising their right to protest. On March 26, different civil society organizations will hold simultaneous press conferences to denounce this terror strategy.
C-Libre condemns these acts and considers them to be part of a policy of repression and terror enacted to eliminate the student movement and spaces of free expression that belong to Honduran youth. We also call on educational authorities not to justify their mistakes, their intolerance, incompetence, and authoritarianism by seeking to place blame on other political and social sectors.