March 2019 Honduras Coup Update
Journalists – one assassinated, others threatened, another captured
On 11 March 2019, UNETV journalist Cesar Silva (UNETV is a channel that has been a major target of state repression because of its critical voice) who was charged by a Venezuelan journalist entered into conciliation but the accusing party represented by lawyer Leonel Núñez showed no interest in trying to conciliate. Hearing was set for 19 March 2019.
On 17 March 2019, at about midday Sunday, journalist Gabriel Hernández, aged 54, was heading home from the university where he studies law, to the La Ceiba neighbourhood in Nacaome, Valle, when an unidentified person fired several gunshots at him just metres from his home. People tried to take him in a car to hospital but he died in the car. Gabriel was the director and presentor of the program ‘El Pueblo Habla´ that is on the local Valle TV channel. He is known to be critical of the council mayor Victor Flores and of Valle parliamentarians in the congress as well. He had sought protection measures back in 2018 because of threats and intimidation but the state denied this entitlement to him. A very close colleague of Gabriel Hernández, Leonel García who directed the program “Dígalo como Quiera”, also recently reported threats and police harassment.
On 23 March 2019, journalist Marvin Portillo of the Tocoa region who has a program on Canal 38 called Caiga Quien Caiga reported that he has been receiving threats from engineer Ramon Rivas.
On 25 March 2019, there were looming threats by the state to capture journalist David Romero who had been sentenced to 10 years of prison back in 2018 for charges of defamation. Inter American Commission of Human Rights asked for the capture to be suspended. Committee for Liberty of Expression Honduras demanded the application of protection measures.
Three days later, on 28 March 2019, intelligence and special response troops Tigres surrounded the Radio Globo building, broke the gates and forcefully entered. David Romero was in this moment transmitting a news program with his colleague Gustavo Blanco. The security forces ambushed and dragged out all the journalists, damaged cubicle doors, accompanied by a judge executor as Tigres squad members proceeded to violently capture David Romero. The Radio Globo buildings were closed for 4 days by DPI investigative police and police. Outside, people protested showing solidarity with David Romero and other journalists and the media channel, they were repressed with teargasses. A cameraperson of Teleprogreso fainted from the gases while giving coverage, other journalists helped him.
Territory defenders had soldiers try to demolish their home, while others were attacked with police and hitmen gunshots
On 13 March 2019, in Siguatepeque, attackers Nelson Ritinhaus, Emilio Hernández Amaya, Coronel Luís Orellana and Inocente Cruz arrived onto the La Alianza community lands threatening community members and tried to demolish the home of a community member. Nelson Ritinhaus called himself the land owner and had started harassing the community months ago – but this time was the worst yet. Emilio Hernández Amaya also gave a death threat to Melvin Hernández and other community leaders, saying they would resolve the problem anyway they can, if it meant doing bad things. They came again on 16 March to harass the community on which date they said they would come again on 19 March 2019. The Alianza community has been in a land recuperation process for over 18 years – the titles have not been resolved by the authorities. The community is organised with the Copinh indigenous organisation.
After hitmen René Cordova and Melkin Cordova assassinated indigneous Tolupan land defenders Salomón and Samael Matute back on 25 February 2019, they have been walking freely and on this date of 17 March 2019, they arrived on Tolupan territory firing gunshots. Now the victims’ compas and relatives are newly terrorised and threatened.
On 29 March 2019, territory defenders of Azacualpa, Copán were blocking the machinery of the Minosa company from entering when police repressed these with teargases to evict them and destroy their community, when the police saw that people kept protesting, they began to repress using live gunshots against people
Campesinos arrested and refused bail
On 13 March 2019, in Porvenir, Siguatepeque, campesino members of cooperative Empresa Sociativa 11 de Marzo – José Santos Vázquez and Juan Mejía, were captured by police and accused of usurpation and ploughing forestry lands and they were subsequently refused bail and had to spend at least 6 days in prison until the first hearing date on 19 March 2019. The campesina cooperative president Vicente Castro went to show solidarity with the compas, and having done so, he was then arrested as well and accused of the same crime and imprisoned.
Repression against Guapinol continued
It is unclear whether some arrestees back in February were released or kept on despite their cases being dismissed or re-arrested, as there are some overlaps in the names of Guapinols defenders who had prison time during March 2019 and those named in February – some lists name the exact same people. The updates are as follows: hearings continued into the first days of March while about 11 compas continued in Tamara prison.
One list of defenders with charges from Inversiones Pinares on 3 March 2019 were as follows: 1. Jose Daniel Marquez Marquez, 2. Kelvin Alejandro Romero Martinez, 3. Obdulio Cruz Portillo, 4. Jeremías Martinez, 5. Jose Abelino Cedillo Cantarero, 6, Ramon Diaz Martinez, 7. Marco Tulio Ramos, 8. Antonio Martinez Ramos (a compa who died over a year ago), 9. Trinidad Dominguez Ramos, 10 Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, 11. Reinaldo Dominguez Ramos, 12 Juan Antonio Lopez
On 4 March in the midnight hours Fusina security forces entered Tamara prison where the arrestees were held carrying out a search intimidating and threatening them. There were news on 5 March 2019 in the wee hours of the morning that the cases were being dismissed for most of these but not everyone. At the same time there were images of soldiers going into Inversiones Los Pinares mining company offices ready to receive instructions on what attacks and threats to do against the Guapinol community. Some news sources said that the arrestees were still not free on this date, until 4pm that day. A bus carried these home in the midnight hours on 6 March 2019 at 3 am, having been away from their homes for 12 days through the arrest and trials. At this hour, they were very warmly received by their community.
It is also unclear if there are others charged whose cases are not dismissed who are vulnerable.
What is clear is that the repression continued. On 18 March 2019, Guapinol Tocoa was under military threat. This community that needs its river for their daily activities is militarised, persecuted and there are permanent abuse and persecution, especially against young people who cross the river to transport workers.
On 6 March 2019, another incident of police abuses against people in protest was reported.
Black feminist environmentalist summoned to appear in court
On 2 March 2019, Miriam Miranda, feminist environmentalist Garífuna leader of the organisation Ofraneh received a summon to appear in court on 7 March 2019, roughly three years after the assassination of her friend and compa Berta Caceres – indigenous feminist anticapitalist environment defender and leader.
On 8 March 2019 at UNAH, students held a protest dressed like handmaids from The Handmaid’s Tale.