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November 2017 Honduras Pre-Coup Repeat Update: Part 1

by Sydney With Honduras Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 at 5:23 AM

You might have heard about the world cup play off. How Australia won against Honduras in the middle of November this year as the privileged Australian soccer team bought its way out of jetlag with a private plane that got the players to Sydney many hours before the Honduran players arrived on economic flights. Whatever one makes of that, less than two weeks later, Honduras had an election, on 26 November 2017, which eventuated in another electoral fraude, a widespread grassroots insurrection and what is so far, another coup and a lot of repression. What comes below will be a part one – before the election – November news update, as what goes on 'normally' is extreme already and needs to be known. And part two will be an election/fraude/insurrection focus and the corresponding abuses and killings inflicted, it will be an update that will come shortly, covering 26 November 2017, to about mid December 2017.

November 2017 Honduras Pre-Coup Repeat Update: Part 1

You might have heard about the world cup play off. How Australia won against Honduras in the middle of November this year as the privileged Australian soccer team bought its way out of jetlag with a private plane that got the players to Sydney many hours before the Honduran players arrived on economic flights. Whatever one makes of that, less than two weeks later, Honduras had an election, on 26 November 2017, which eventuated in another electoral fraude, a widespread grassroots insurrection and what is so far, another coup and a lot of repression. What comes below will be a part one – before the election – November news update, as what goes on 'normally' is extreme already and needs to be known. And part two will be an election/fraude/insurrection focus and the corresponding abuses and killings inflicted, it will be an update that will come shortly, covering 26 November 2017, to about mid December 2017.

Bajo Aguán palm plantations war against campesinxs – TWO FARMERS ASSASSINATED including a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD, another wounded, violent evictions and arrests

In Bajo Aguán, when the preparation of shock groups are mentioned, it is a serious and systematic abuse about to happen, and this is precisely what happened on 2.11.17 in Paso Aguán finca as it became known that the government – army and police headed by Commissioner Juan Adolfo Zapata and Coronel Hugo Coca – and Dinant palm company were collaborating to create shock groups to attack campesinos recovering the Paso Aguán farm. This land struggle and reactive and extreme repression has a long history but this latest land recovery process began on 27.8.17.

So twelve days later, 14.11.17, on the Paso Aguán finca, it was 4pm when 13 years old Leodan Macías had finished school, and rode his horse that dragged a cart into the finca to collect maize in the cornfield that his family had sown. His family worried because he did not come back. They put out the word that he had disappeared. Leodan's grandpa Fabian Mencía let known that at 6pm he heard gunshots and as he went searching, saw his grandson's cart with its tyres pinched at 6pm. Those who reported this wrote, that the next morning, the sun did not come up, the darkness fell where the sun set the day before, when Leodan Macías didn't come home.' A phonecall at 8am to Fabian confirmed what the whole family had feared, that Leodan's body has been found, on lote 12. He had been killed. His horse had too, still tied to the cart. Leodan's family belonged to the Rigoreña campesina cooperative. Paso Aguán is agrarian reform land designated for farmers that was illegally taken over by Dinant palm company, since agrarian reform lands cannot legally be bought or sold. Paso Aguán is an especially bloody part of Bajo Aguán, many bodies of farmers in this land struggle have been found before Leodan's.

In another part of Bajo Aguán, in El Tumbador, a group of some 300 youths organised in Movimiento Juvenil Martíres del Tumbador had began at 4pm on 5.11.17, in less than 24 hours, at 1pm 6.11.17, a contingent of 300 police and military invaded and violently evicted the land recovery effort. They launched teargas and fired gunshots at the bodies of people present. This violent eviction and brutality against people there of all ages and genders lasted over 6 hours, during which the contingent arrested eight land defenders present: Heliberto Paredes, Nicolasa Calderon, Mauricio Urea, Argentina Berrios, Yolanda Hernández, Yolanda Hernández and Yoni Aguilar (underage) plus one more whose name was withheld.

Then, in another part of El Tumbador in Bajo Aguán on 17.11.17, men in soldiers clothes ambushed and shot at two campesinos – they killed Héctor Noé Cárcamo Catellanos instantly, the other campesino is a youth – name withheld – left gravely wounded and hospitalised. Both are subsistence fisherfolk. Héctor was a young dad, like many others of over 125 farmers killed in Aguán in the last years. His body was found on lote 37 on a Dinant part of the el Tumbador finca. He belonged to MCA Movimiento Campesino del Aguán, and is of the 300,000 landless campesina families that there are in Honduras. This attack is likely in response to a new land recovery process in the region that began on 27.8.17 by 800 campesinas and campesinos on 8 farms of Bajo Aguán. Since that date, there has been 14 violent evictions, militarisation, Héctor is the fifth campesino killed since.

Bajo aguan – information theft against human rights defender

On 14.11.17 at 2am, unidentified persons raided the home of human rights defender Haydeé Saravía, taking among other things her work laptop. To get in, they jumped the fence and broke some glass windows. Her work, much of which is on her laptop, includes protesting against militarisation in Bajo Aguán, and against state forces attacking farmers recovering land, against mining concessions in the region, in addition to these she is also the neighbourhood president of Buenos Aires, Tocoa, Colón. Haydeé is also one of many people granted protection measures by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights for the Honduran state to implement – it almost never implements these and is complicit in the persecution against her and others.

Student beaten arrested charged

On 6.11.17 at UNAH, students protested demanding that the expulsion and charges against 30 students during the Castellanos administration be reversed. Police came on the scene to repress launching dozens of teargas bombs, and arrested Erick Josué García (24) bashing him brutally in the face, head, back and limbs. He was taken into custody with blood all over his face. Erick is an engineering student. It was until 9.23pm on 7.11.17 that he was taken to court and given bail – something that prosecution argued against but the judge granted. Prosecution tried to argue that he should remain detained because he was recently arrested back on 8.9.17 with other students – these charges had since been dismissed however. This time, he is being charged with damages to property and attempt against police and state, although of course it was the police and state that attempted against him. Outside the court, the rain was pouring but that did not stop a group of fellow students from protesting there and accompanying Erick in solidarity. Erick feels that comradeship is the best thing he had gotten from uni.

Raid against student leader

On the night of 14.11.17, about 7.50pm, when Nancy García answered the door, a woman in jeans and t-shirt pointed a weapon at her, said they were police, ordered her to open the door, and barged in with two other armed men. They claimed that they came because someone called 911, and proceeded to stay in her house for at least 15 minutes going through her drawers and searching the rooms of her house. The attackers asked for Nancy's ID and took a photo of it. They kept interrogating her, asking her name, where she worked and where others were. Outside there was another armed hooded man who was next to a double cabin Hilux. Nancy is an UNAH student and a spokesperson for the student organisation MAU, and has charges hanging over her since the last months from participating in the student protests. Another student leader had her home raided recently – Mirtha Gutiérrez on 31.8.17.

Student leader threatened by uni security

On 7.11.17, at the CURLP campus, student leader Felipe Avila was studying in front of the library, when a fire cracker went off from a distance and Felipe began filming. When new ESPA security supervisor Dagoberto Gonzales saw Felipe filming, he approached him angrily and threatened to hurt Felipe, then said that if he kept filming, he was going to commit to him, to say that the aggression may be more than a beating. Felipe decided to leave and Dagoberto followed him, and when Dagoberto saw Felipe was still filming, Dagoberto signalled to Felipe that he was heading towards the exit, and took a photo of Felipe's face. It is known that there are three new guards including this one, especially hired to chase and watch students who participate in the student occupations. Felipe has also received an expulsion threat from the CURLP general secretary Rogelio Alvarez – if Felipe organised talks on campus.

Community radio Radio Taragual taken off air

On 21.11.17, at 6pm, Radio Taragual, a community radio that has been airing since 2014, was taken off air, and spontaneously came back on after 7pm. Its coming back on was not responsive to technical fixes. The same thing happened at the same time three months ago. When it came off people can tune into commercial radio channels still but not this community radio. It comes off when Alianza activists are programmed on and political topics are being discussed.

Journalist's contract cancelled

The news program 'Alcanzando Retos' has been running Monday to Friday, 5-6pm on Canal 13, since the start of a one year contract on 7.8.17 in which journalist Gabriela Bonilla contracts this space. She began to broadcast here because where she last had a space, the administrator of that media told her that she had to leave because she is being watched by someone that she knows it would put her life at risk to name (for the political contents of her news program). It is in this context that Gabriela had been warned several times to 'lower the gas' on political topics, especially when criticising the government in power. On 27.10.17, she organised a preelection survey on her program and as she went to enter the channel buildings to announce the survey predictions that the presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla would win the upcoming elections, she was not allowed in. On 28.10.17, she was called and advised that her program was cancelled for management reasons and that her last show was to be on 30.10.17. She protested that that was a violation of their one year contract. On 1.11.17, she asserted her way into the Canal 13 building to carry out her program for which she had a guest. A private security guard tried to stop her, saying, 'I'm sorry miss, I have been given orders from high up that your program is not at Hondured any more because of which you can't enter the channel.' She was surprised but proceeded to enter, the guard followed her and she was met by the webmaster who told her she couldn't produce her program anymore. It was in that moment that her guest arrived and she decided to do the program via facebook live.

Threat of lawsuit against journalist

Pro JOH mayor Carlos Miranda of Comayagua (who have been the mayor there for now 6 consecutive terms) threatened to sue journalist Reynaldo Irías of Marte TV and correspondent also of Canal 11 for publishing on his facebook status about a corruption scandal of the JOH administration exposed in a government audit about using government funds to carry out social projects to buy votes. As he threatened to sue he said, 'you are an idiot because you publish what the other idiot tells you, I am going to place charges against you'

More plans to kill leaders

Sometimes leaders find out they are targeted for assassination. The newest cases are Rafael Alegría of Vía Campesina Honduras, and Gilda Silvestrucci, a Telesur correspondent. They have been officially informed that they are on the lists and that there are elaborate plans to end their lives. In Rafael Alegría's case, he has been persecuted for many years. Rafael Alegría was on 25.7.09 captured with 45 others in a protest against the coup at the Honduran border and detained for 6 hours, for 'violating the curfew'. He has IACHR ordered protection measures that none was ever implemented. On 11.8.09 at midnight the Via Campesina office was attacked with gunshots when there were people temporarily sleeping in there, during a curfew that went from 10pm to 5am. On the following days an unknown armed person tried to enter the offices when there was a campesina leaders meeting going on. On 8.2.11, Rafael was told confidentially in Miami city US that a kidnapping and torture against him and against the FNRP resistance leader Juan Barahona was being planned. On 26.1.16, the Vía Campesina office was again at midnight hours receiving gunshots at least 11 gunshots, this time at the main entrance of the office. Rafael and Gilda are both Libre MP candidates.

Honduran immigration department block entry of international journalists, musicians, and an observer

On 16.11.17, as 4 members of the Venezuelan protest music band 'Los Guaraguao' arrived in Honduras, the four band members were retained by immigration for 18 hours, with the intention of sending them straight back to Venezuela, on the argument that their coming to Honduras was 'an interference of the upcoming elections'. Their pleas for food and water were ignored by the authorities in this time – they were finally allowed to enter Honduras because of the legal action (Habeas Corpus) taken by the Jesuit organisation ERIC-SJ.

On 20.11.17, the Immigration department retained Al Jazeera International correspondent Mariana Sánchez and her photographer for almost 6 hours.

Likewise, Telesur International journalist Adriana Sivori was retained at the airport by immigration for almost 3 hours, only to be given a visa restriction of 10 days stay in Honduras. Perhaps they were actively making sure international journalists were not around when the post election repression begins.

Similarly, the day before the election on 25.11.17, an US based human rights observer Irene Rodríguez was retained in the airport for 11 hours, and when released it was only on the condition that she left as the elections finished (how would you define that? Has it ever finished?). Irene was part of a delegation of observers organised by La Voz de los de Abajo, and has been part of the international voluntary solidarity effort for several elections in Honduras. JOH have been referring to 'foreign agitators' who interfere with the Honduran electoral process, particularly trying to close their borders to Venezuelans. The excuse she was given for having been detained was that someone else with the same name had entered.

Pre-election smear campaign

On 25.11.17, just some hours before the election, some false info came up on social media against human rights defenders. There is a graphic that frames Carlos H Reyes an MP candidate, campesino leader Rafael Alegría, father Ismael Moreno and a young uni student as provocators of chaos. They are all involved in the campaign against the re-election of JOH.

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