October 2018 Honduras coup update
Exodus: Thousands flee Honduras to Mexico and US
It all started on 14 October. Journalist Bartolo Fuentes who went with everyone said over 300 gathered in the San Pedro Sula bus terminal, and more people keep joining in. Lots of kids. Even babies that are just a few days old. People who are frail aged, disabled. Most people travelled with only a small backpack. There are some vehicles and they carry as many people as physically possible. Many others travelled on foot. Many in worn out and inadequate footwear. Some had no shoes at all. They left their homes and homeland in desperation and in hope – it was painful for everyone to leave people, to leave place, to leave behind what little they had. The word had gone out that their journey had started and that they will be hungry and thirsty in places they shall pass through.
In everywhere they passed through, within Honduras, in Guatemala, in Mexico, local people organised and distributed what food, water, and shoes they had to share with the massive caravans of people passing through. When interviewed and asked what they are doing, some cried just thinking about the terrible conditions and life situation so many people fleeing in caravan are in. By 15 October, the caravan was counted to be thousands of people and had reached the border of Guatemala. On both the Honduras and Guatemalan sides of the border, the pathways were heavily militarised – at the Agua Caliente and El Amatillo borders of Honduras with Guatemala and El Salvador, borders were militarised with Honduran soldiers to force people fleeing the JOH regime to go back to their homes. There was militarisation on both sides, and it was hours later when finally people who perservered had made it through to the other side, without having had their ID’s registered one by one (the usual procedure) since the border did not have the staffing level for the number of people coming through.
While inside Guatemala, on 16 October, journalist Bartolo Fuentes was arrested by Guatemalan police, accused of ‘irregular entry into Guatemala’, saying he had not been registered – nobody had been - they targeted Bartolo so that there were less journalists accompanying the exodus to watch out for everyone and report. Bartolo was reporting in international, national and social media. Bartolo was escorted to Guatemala city where he was detained, his whereabouts was unknown for hours, until Guatemala’s human rights ombudsman office communicated to the Honduran human rights organisation Cofadeh.
On 17 October 2018, the exodus was reaching El Salvador, at the El Amatillo border, and people were getting registered with their ID cards. There, people who were fleeing with their little children were being told that they couldn’t go through, not with their little ones. Precisely, a lot of people were fleeing in hope that there can be a better future for their children – so they have food, homes, so they don’t get assassinated, to have jobs, to have medicines in the hospital, to have access to education. People flee gang violence, political persecution, extreme poverty under a neoliberal dictatorship. Queer peoples flee for hope of stopping to be targets for hate crimes. People have a saying, that it is better to say that ‘here they ran’, than that ‘here they died’. Everywhere that the states try to force people to turn back, they chanted, ‘we are not looking for the American Dream, we are fleeing’, ‘we request the presence of human rights advocates’, and ‘we don’t want to go back to Honduras’.
On 18 October 2018, Guatemalan police arrested eight more Hondurans at el Petén, and put these into migration ‘refuges’ - detention centres. In the moment of their detention, they were all soaking wet and feeling terribly physically and psychologically. Nobody has a ‘good time’ at the borders. People everywhere – mostly people who don’t have a lot themselves – show great kindness and reach out and try to do what they can, but the states, they send police, soldiers, under the direction of their presidents, who are in turn on their knees to the US president Trump. In Tegucigalpa, there were protests in solidarity with the migrants in exodus. They met at Hospital Escuela (school hospital), which a journalist pointed out, does not seem much like a hospital since it is not equipped, and has stopped to be a school too in the teaching of medicine.
On 19 October 2018, as the exodus approached the Mexican borders, Mexican authorities had closed off the borders in preparation to block their entrance. Masses of people proceeded to jump the barriers and were attacked by Mexican police with teargases. At the same time, there is a second caravan of people, just arriving to Guatemala City, trying to reach the first lot of people. The exodus is numbering about 10,000 Hondurans at this point. The journalist Bartolo Fuentes, after several days in detention was being deported back to Honduras on a plane this day. People in Danlí, Honduras mobilised in solidarity with their migrant siblings, and chanted that they wanted a city not plagued with violence.
On 20 October 2018, when journalist Bartolo Fuentes was freed, he said he was locked up for over four days, and that there are threats from the Guatemalan government to charge him but emphasised that it was nothing compared with the suffering of those who are in the walk of the exodus, fleeing the tragedy they live in in Honduras. He affirms to continue to struggle with everyone to change the terrible situation so that people stop to having to flee. Meanwhile, the border at Agua Caliente Ocotepeque was and continued to be closed, with police and soldiers there stopping Hondurans from leaving Honduras as they aim to migrate to North America.
On 22 October 2018, as people continue moving along towards their goal, on KM2 in Tapachula, Mexico, Melvin Josue Gomez Escobar, part of the Honduran exodus, fell from a vehicle (they are all overcrowded), and was run over by another and died. The conditions of walking, travelling, moving through borders had been really hard. People had spoken up in assemblies, etc about arrests, rapes, disappearances, separation from families… little kids who lost their parents but others who have taken them under their wings in these difficult journeys until they find their families. There is also a famous 12 year old child Mario David who was travelling without his family in the exodus – he got locked up in a refuge for underage migrants in Mexico, in Tapachula, ‘they just bashed me and I don’t know how I fell, but when I regained consciousness I saw that it was night time, and I had waken up in a prison, closed off. They just told me that they were going to give me the papers and all, to move around in Mexico. I feel sad, here one doesn’t go out or nothing, doesn’t see nothing. If they deport me I will come back again’ - you see, in Honduras Mario David’s dad earned so little, ‘my dad didn’t have money even to eat’, and he didn’t go to school to learn to read or write, for which, his dad got fined. People victims to the impossible environment are blamed and punished for not having the means. Meanwhile, across Honduras, people organised a noise protest across Honduras banging on cacerol dishes in support of the migrant sisters and brothers, and calling, as they have consistently called for, for JOH to get out.
The JOH regime says they don’t want people to go, and tries to enforce this with policing, at the same time, people who are poor and trying to stay and make a living have their little stalls selling fruits on the streets destroyed by the same police.
On 24 October 2018, migrants sent warnings onto other migrants – cross the river, they said, it will be less dangerous than entering on the highway and asking for refuge at the Chiapas authorities in Mexico – something that hundreds had done, declaring themselves at refugees, only to be told, ‘we will take you to a refuge and give you a visa, come on this bus’, they were subsequently taken to immigration prisons-concentration camps, separated from their spouses, children, parents, and told they have to wait for a permit and that it would take 3-45 days (but in reality could be much longer even). So, migrants told other migrants, ‘don’t believe in the authorities, go in group, and cross the river.’
Subsequently, on 31st October, about 200 Honduran migrants from the second exodus were arrested in Chiapas.
A poem by Honduran poet Olga Iris Mencía Barcenas:
La metáfora se extravío.
Caminan sobre espinas
Siguen desconocidas rutas
A golpes Presentidos
Otean el peligro
Pero volver atrás
Sería retornar a constantes pesadillas, perderían el sueño.
Divisan agua en los desiertos
Lloran: agua podría ser en sus labios y hasta el sudor que lleva aroma de miedo y esperanza.
Avanzan, cada paso es trecho ganado.
Lo certero allá son gendarmes guadaña en mano.
Lo certero aquí,
son gendarmes obedientes a un tirano, nada podían perder ya,
se forzaron al éxodo.
Son estas, Palabras en fuga.
Repression of protest marches
On 13 October 2018, in Choluteca city, at a protest against the rising costs of electricity fees and of food, and against privatisation of all the sectors – an ongoing protest of every Wednesday and Saturday, there was repression by police and military that resulted in over sixty people being physically hurt from the police brutality. Lots were bashed and chased, including children, older people and pregnant women, at least a couple of people ended up in emergency, and there was masses of teargas bombs shot and police were seen picking these up before others pick them up who might put these on the news or in social media or to show to human rights organisations. Human rights defenders of ACI-Participapa – Hedme Castro, Erik Fernando Hernández, José Gudiel and Nivia Vargas, and at least one journalist too, Jairo López were amongst the people hurt by police to the point of having to go to hospital. Jairo had been banned from getting media spaces because of state politicians’ orders. Investigative police did not stop at the scene of repression and proceeded to the hospital where a protester was admitted to carry out profiling against people they had hurt. Equally, police attacked small stallholders selling tamarind and melon juices and destroyed their stalls. More broadly, people see more and more soldiers doing policing and they are seen lots in hospitals, schools, and welfare offices. People have observed an massive increase in incidences of plain clothes soldiers profiling in protests and spying on human rights organisations in other spaces.
Protests in Tegucigalpa in solidarity with the migrants in exodus were equally repressed by police and military. From 22 October 2018 to at least 26 October 2018, everyday, there were protests by students of UNAH, and they were everyday attacked by police and soldiers including with teargases. On 26 October 2018, Los Indignados also organised a mass mobilisation in town in solidarity with the migrants and were also attacked by police and military with teargases – to the extent that people in shopping centres near the protest were also affected by the massive amounts of teargases launched.
Environmentalists and environment attacked – kidnaps, arrests, homes burnt down, shot at, charges and capture orders, curfews...
On 9 October 2018, social and environmental justice organisation MADJ volunteer Ians Rivera of Tela was kidnapped by four unidentified hooded men who threatened him and took him into their van to an unknown direction on a mud road.
On 11 October 2018, young MADJ activist Freddy Molina was arrested by police, reasons for the arrest were unknown, and he was taken to an unknown direction. Freddy had been involved in the protests and blockade camp.
On 6 October 2018, when the environment camp Guapinol in Bajo Aguan against mining company Inversiones Los Pinares had gone on for over 68 days, ‘justice’ authorities emitted capture orders against 18 social and human rights leaders, who belong to COPA grassroots organisations of Aguan, San Alonzo Rodríguez foundation, and the San Isidro Parrish. They are being charged with coercion, usurpation and threats. On 25 October 2018, there were threats of evicting the camp on the 26th or 27th, with the military commands already stationed inside buildings of the mining company on site. By 26 October 2018, hundreds of agents were there ready to evict the camp and the camp had been on alert for some time then.
On 26 October 2018, Guapinol activist Irma Serrano’s home was surrounded by some twenty motorcycles and the hooded riders set her home on fire with her and her two daughters inside and proceeded to fire gunshots inside, and some hooded men kidnapped her and her two daughters under threats to assassinate her. They were kidnapped for over 20 hours before they were free.
On 27 October 2018, around 1000 police and military agents violently destroyed the Guapinol camp of people defending the land from the Pinares mining company, and attacked people – but there was little information about the repression except that it started with a door to door raid in the Guapinol community, and that journalists and camerapersons who were covering the state violence against people were forced by police and soldiers to delete their footage – the press said it was like a war scene. That night, people not willing to give up, continued their protest in a highway blockade, which was violently dispersed with gunshots and teargases of the police and military contingent. The state announced a curfew in Tocoa city to demobilise people in protest and make them vulnerable. The only people wounded named by the media were two dead soldiers and another wounded soldier.
Eviction and state of siege against campesina families
On 11 October 2018, in El Porvenir, Siguatepeque, someone called Marco Valeriano arrived with military comandos at 9am at the indigenous campesina base 11 de marzo of at least 120 families. Marcos jumped onto a tractor and started driving it, and with it, went onto destroying all the ready to harvest crops of coffee, beans, pumpkins, and also some fields of chokos, cassava and plantain. The military comandos without showing any eviction orders proceeded at the same time to carry out a violent eviction against the families that grew food there and destroyed their homes. The families had originally investigated and saw that the land had no owners, that it was council land, (the authorities now say the land belongs to Marcos Valeriano, who must have bribed officials) and had proceeded to grow food and build homes on this land that had belonged to their ancesters, to sustain one another. The families have to start all over again.
On 14 October 2018 at 6.30pm, CNTC campesino federation secretary general for La Paz region, and an indigenous leader, Sebastian Reyes, was arrested by police and antigang agents who also confiscated his motorcycle. He was charged with usurpation against the company Centrol América SA de C but was subsequently released and had the case provisionally dismissed on 15 October 2018. Days before Sebastian’s arrest, he participated in a telephone interview for a radio program of human rights organisation Cofadeh, in which he spoke up about the eviction and abuses against the campesina cooperative in Siguatepeque. According to CNTC, in La Paz alone, there are over 800 campesinos dealing with charges, about 181 of these are women.
On 29 October, the Lempira community that is organised in the MUCA campesina movement, had their campesino settlement invaded by armed agents who raided the homes and dragged the women and children out and arrested the men. The community was very frightened and nervous, their lives were in danger, there was a call out for the troops to get out and let people there live in peace.
More political prisoners still
On 3 October, a new political prisoner was arrested and added to fourteen others who have been arrested already back on 30 August 2018 and 25 September, including three women and two arrestees from 25 September who were given bail, while the nine men arrested on 30 August were taken to maximum security prison. All these were accused of setting on fire the council buildings of Las Vegas, Santa Barbara back on 18 June 2018. There are still others who have capture orders against them (there were 31 who had capture orders in total). That there had been a fire was seen on 19 June 2018, and some administrative documents were burnt and lost. During the day before on 18 June 2018 there were protests at the council demanding for the council to not give away the community’s water resources. People don’t know what had happened in regards to the fire, just that lots of people with affiliations with the Libre party, but who weren’t even at this protest, got arrested or are on a list to be, and people are being made political prisoners.
Police not pretending about the idea and practice of police protecting human rights defenders being a joke
Bernandino Perez is a human rights defender of the Lempira HRD network and a volunteer of Taragual community radio, who is at risk and has ID to show he is someone has a protection order because of the risk. On 10 October 2018, Bernandino tried to use his ID to assist an older couple held at the highway by the police – the man was not allowed to go through and the woman was needing to be at the emergency department of the hospital urgently. Bernandino tried to intervene to get her to the hospital. ‘Get out of the way’, Bernandino was told. He showed the police his protection order ID, and was surprised to be made fun of by the police in a ‘haha what’s this?’ sorts of way. In the end he did manage to get the police to let the couple through. At least 15 defenders who had these protection orders in Honduras ended up murdered in the recent years.
On 26 october 2018, a group of young human rights activists of AEDH and ASOPODEHU human rights organisations were attacked by police in the Las Cascadas mall at an entrance. Police pushed and suffed the youths, trying to dispossess them of their cameras using the pretext of suspicion of that the youths could have weapons and bombs in their backpacks to cause scandals and harm to people and to private property. Police accused the youths of defending delincuents and took photos of them. Their real crime was dreaming of and fighting for a better world and country for everyone.