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.)