April 2019 Honduras Coup Update
Repression against the Wednesday and Saturday protests of Choluteca: selective assassination and selective teargas bomb attacks
On Saturday 6 April 2019, in the context of a regular protest against the JOH regime that night after 7pm, police made several teargas bombs attacks. The first one was by police on motorcycle led by Subcommissioner Obando, which arrived in Barrio La Libertad and threw a teargas bomb towards the face of Julia Vargas, aged almost 90, who was sitting at the door of her home. Her daughter is Hedme Castro, a human rights defender of the ACI-PARTICIPA organisation. Julia Vargas is diabetic and has hypertension and her health was severely affected by this teargas attack. The second teargas bomb was launched into the office of Metro TV, where Elizabeth de López and Melissa Hernández worked. Elizabeth is Hedme’s sister, and Melissa is also a volunteer at ACI-Participa. The third teargas bomb attack was launched at the softball field of Barrio La Libertad where families with children were playing ball. As well as an attack against these families, the teargas also went inside Hospital del Sur as this was very near the softball park, and the patients there were affected by the teargas.
On Tuesday 9 April 2019, there was a blackout in Choluteca and police headed by regional head of police Milton Obando used this occasion to carry out a witchhunt that morning against protesters that they have identified. In the El Estadio barrio, a police on a motorcycle saw 17 year old Wilfredo de Jesús Ramírez Moncada and fired a gunshot into his head, critically wounding him. He was initially taken to Hospital del Sur, then his mum and brother accompanied him in the Red Cross Ambulance as he was transferred to the HEU teaching hospital in Tegucigalpa where he arrived alive at 10pm and was taken to the Neurosurgery rooms there. There were rumours that he had died during the transfer but his brother said that ‘Wil had not thrown in the towel, he is a leader, a warrior.’ Wilfredo went into a coma and died hours after arriving to HEU, on 10 April 2019, but he is a warrior and those who knew him carry their memory of him as they continue the struggle. People were outraged by this and threw rocks and broke the windows at the Hospital del Sur emergency. The press was outraged at the broken windows, not at the police assassination of the young activist. On 11 April 2019 at the funeral of Wilfredo, police arrived to repress at the funeral with teargases – people collected the used teargas cans filling a rubbish bag, showing just how many they used. People could not believe the police killed Wilfredo and turned up at the funeral to attack everyone there and so they channelled their rage burning a cop car. Threat was always looming, people noted that there were armed men passing through in double cabin Toyotas. The prosecution carried out the autopsy for Wilfredo and apparently could not work out the causes of his death.
At the end of April, there were massive protests blocking highways at many places around the country to stop the congress from passing a bill to privatise education and health services, 29 and 30 April were major days of protests but many started days before
On the build up before the big protests: barricades, an assassination, threat and arrest, teargases, a tollway undermined for a day..
On 26 April 2019, the day started with people barricading roads in El Progreso, Yoro, and also in the capital city near the teaching university and the teachers’ pension institution INPREMA – here police and military militarised the area and impeded protest actions. At the same time, the state sometimes plays games and makes fake sensationalist news about protest actions, and on this day a forestry department vehicle was seen carrying tyres to an area where no barricades was organised.
On 26 April 2019 in the afternoon, people in the general strike at Santa Cruz de Yojoa managed to open the toll way so drivers could go through without paying.
On 26 April 2019 in the night time, there was police and military repression with teargases against the protest at the city centre of Tegucigalpa. There, as the march was finishing, Melvin Roberto Oserto Aguilera was filming the repression when he was threatened by a traffic police who said, ‘delete this video or I will “enchachar” you’, following which Melvin was arbitrarily arrested. People looked for him in all the police cells and feared for his safety. He was finally located, detained in El Belén police station. Melvin is the Libre party secretary of ‘D19’ - there are 18 provinces in Honduras and the 19th one is of Hondurans living in the U.S.. The same night there was also a barricade of around 1000 people in Santa Rosa de Copán.
On 27 April 2019, at night, heavy repression was reported in Choluteca.
On 28 April 2019, at night time in the La Esperanza neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa, someone described as a compa in the struggle, as a youth with social conscience and love for the country, Junior Javier Rivas, was assassinated with about 12 heard gunshots – his body was then soaked in gasoline and set on fire. People know he was killed by the JOH regime.
That night, community journalist Yohana Contreras, who has protection measures as a persecuted journalist, had a capture order against her. Yohana is a member of Network of Defenders of the South.
Repression of protests against privatisation of health and education: 29 April 2019 – assassination, gunshots, rubber bullets, teargases, infiltrators, arrests, etc
On this day there were over 73 barricades and mobilisations from early in the morning across the country against the privatisation of health and education and against attacks against teachers and healthcare workers’ working conditions as well as against the JOH dictatorship.. at the barricades all around Honduras were teachers, healthcare workers, students, street vendors and many others. There were also schools and buildings and healthcare centres occupied and closed, and workers on strike. For example, students of Instituto Departamental de Occidente in La Esperanza, Intibucá occupied the school from sunrise and were repressed by soldiers around midday. Everywhere there were battle scenes, of youths with T-shirts tied around their faces resisting teargases and collecting stones around the parks to fight back. People running with hankerchiefs full of vinegre. Gunshots were heard, reported, had hit bodies, killed (at least one person) and wounded. People were chased and stampeded. Plain clothes police and paramilitary stood amongst police and attacked protesters.
In this morning, high school student/refrigeration student of Instituto Luís Bográn, Denis Avila participated in the protests in the Carrizal neighbourhood was found assassinated that night. Similarly, another student of the Jesús Milla Selva school was also found assassinated, with gunshot, around Residencial Plaza, although reporters did not find information on whether this other student was also involved in protests or not.
In Tegucigalpa at the city fringes, late in the afternoon, a teacher from Yoro at the protest, José Humberto Duarte, had an armed civilian who stood amongst the police pull out a gun and fire a shot at him – there were two such ‘civilians’, as captured by an UNE TV cameraperson and Univisión correspondent Claudia Mendoza and other independent journalists. The police denied that the attackers were working with them, under their protection, but people investigated and found out the shooter is Jairo Flores with the alias of Timbi, a police member, together with another council police. Not only did he walk with the cops but he was seen speaking with them, and charging a radio in his leg. The gunshot hit the right side of José’s chest. A group of people carried him to Hospital Viera three blocks from there. It is a private hospital but it was the closest one, but the gates were closed. People yelled and knocked, and were plainly ignored – they saw a security guard disappear behind a closed door, they knocked and yelled, ‘open up! Someone is wounded! Son of b…, open up!’ They then took him to Hospital Escuela. José’s health was delicate, but it was confirmed that he survived and stayed alive.
From the protests in the city centre and outside the congress building, there were at least five arrests. At the city centre, uni students únior Omar Zelaya (19), Kendal Eduardo Zepeda (18) and Josué Farid Aguilar (18), were arrested by police who beat them in the arms, legs and faces while arresting them. The youths were accused by the police of beating up a police agent and inciting violence. While locked up, they ate gases again as police let a teargas bomb off ‘by accident’ while they were inside, and had to be evacuated. At 6.47pm, Cofadeh lawyers put in habeas corpus for these and three judge executors of the Supreme Court went to the El Manchen police cells to check on the physical condition of the arrestees, two of whom showed many signs of beatings all over their bodies. At 8pm, the trio were released to their parents. Outside the congress buildings, police and soldiers there arrested Ariel Ricardo Moncada, a graphic design student, and another student Javier Avila, and maybe others, these were also taken to be locked up at El Manchén police station.
The repression of the city centre protest in Tegucigalpa was particularly ferocious with teargas bombs, gunshots from snipers and plain clothes police, and rubberbullets and people being chased and military helicopter hovering above the protests. The repression had left the historical municipality building and fast food joints next door to that set on fire. The teargas was damaging to large numbers of protesters’ respiratory systems. In this context many people ran to and sought refuge in the human rights organisation office of Cofadeh – its doors was open to them but the riot police stationed a water tank very close to the office and shot gases into the Cofadeh building as well. ‘We are under siege and we aren’t going to close the doors, the doors are open to people who need the protection.’
From the repression in Tegucigalpa also, Tolupán teachers Siriaco Martínez and Tomás Sevilla were not to be found for a few hours and had many worried that they may have been disappeared. Late that night they were found to be safe and reunited from the others, having ran and hidden and taken shelter for some hours from the brutal repression.
Attacks against journalists this day included when a military truck was launched in front of protesters, police attacked national radio correspondent Marcelo Castellón, and young journalist Isis Ramírez of GoTV was covering the protests in Tegucigalpa when police wounded him hitting him with a rubber bullet – the footage of which had been put on social media by a colleague.
In Reitoca, Francisco Morazán, military and police forces violently evicted the mobilisation of Lenca Indigenous Council of Reitoca. One compa was bullet wounded by the security forces in the foot and taken to emergency department. The state security forces there stood behind the interests of the Progelsa company that wants to exploit the environment there at the expense of the indigenous community. Five days prior, a contingent of police and military agents had arrived to intimidate and threaten to evict the Lenca Indigenous Council.
The security forces closed the night by continuing the have armed soldiers move around the streets of the barrios to impose terror to try to shut down the protests, but the protests refused to be shut down.
The privatisation of health and education are outcomes of the negotiation and the newly signed economic agreement between the Honduran state and IMF. The pressures from the protests got the congress session to be suspended, with the congress president saying that they are opening up a dialogue. People are not falling for the dialogue, their response is: complete abolition of the bill or the protests continue.
Repression of protests against privatisation of health and education: 30 April 2019 – more attacks, arrests and attempts
The barricades and mobilisations were very militarised with riot cops this day. In Yucarán in El Paraíso, teachers barricaded the provincial education office for hours and repression was feared. People barricaded Nacaome bridge blocking access to the Amatillo border from Tegucigalpa for some hours. These are some examples, there were many other barricades, and militarisation and repression against these, like the day before.
In Villanueva and Hato de Enmedio in Tegucigalpa where people barricaded the highway there was massive repression and persecution by state security forces using gunshots, teargas bombs late at night, with the attack being sustained over an hour.
Around the Central Park of Tegucigalpa, the area and shops were closed, and the people in protest were attacked with teaergasses. Many were arrested, more than what was reported. Known arrestees included Ervin Misael Zúniga, a young person who was taking photos of the protest (who was arrested and then released since the case had nothing to hold it), Alexander Carías Arce (16) who was arrested for being found with a handkerchief with vinegar, and three youths who were held in Belén police station for 24 hours: Oscar Leonel Bertrand García (19), Angel Armando Laínez (19) and Denis Cerrato (19).
There was another plain clothes police spotted on this day who was seen trying to kill teachers.
Terror and repression against Tegucigalpa uni protest
On 9 April 2019, students protested the high costs of electricity and the privatisation of education – particularly of INFOP in this instance. The response of state security forces that afternoon was the raining of teargas bombs against students trapping students and teaching staff in the building. They also had four helicopters hovering over the university. The Eduardo Lanza plaza was filled with gas and the uni authority suspended the 3-5pm classes in the D1 and F1 buildings as a result. There were young people wounded from this police attack.
Repression against Lenca indigenous resistance
On 29 April 2019, at La Vega del Cultatón where Lenca indigenous people who belong to the indigenous organisation Copinh have been recuperating ancestral land to cultivate, where the DESA company wanted to exploit for the bloody Agua Zarca hydroelectricty project (a number of people who have opposed the imposition of this project have been assassinated, including Berta Cáceres), the Madrid family arrived with Mrs Nery Méndez to threaten and intimdiate the food growers there. The attackers were carrying firearms including those of the 35 calibre. She also flashed her machete. The Madrid family particularly gave death threats to Rosalina Domínguez, but also against the young people Arnold Sánchez, Fredi Sánchez, Amos Sánchez, Leonidas Sánchez, Salomé Rodríguez and Mrs Cornelia González and others. Over three days there had been many threats and incidents, in which the attackers almost pulled out their machetes to stab at the compas. There were comments like, ‘at any moment they will find you alone’ and ‘hope you eat lots because you will all die very full.’ The threats were especially directed at Rosalina because they consider her the organiser of the group and had said they would kill her the same way they killed Berta.
Back on 4 April 2019, Copinh went to protest and demand the condemnation of David Castillo of the DESA company… while some others present on the DESA side protested demanding his freedom. Copinh’s banner said – Atalas Assassins.
On 2 April 2019, an indigenous Lenca pilgrimmage of 300 people walked to Tegucigalpa with the motto ‘Justice, Land, Respect, and Tortilla for Our Peoples’. They protested demanding the removal of debts against the small farmers of Intibucá, for the destruction of their forests to stop, they demanded solidarity with communities that defend their natural environment/commons, for freedom for the prisoners of Zapote Yamaranguila who had been sentenced to over 10 years of prison for defending the environment and land: Antonio Pérez Gómez, José Gómez, Leonel Rodríguez, Policarpo Rodríguez, Franklin Eduardo Pérez and Franklin Mejía Gómez and for freedom for the political prisoners from early stages of the electoral fraude, they protested the corruption in the country, and they demanded for the militarisation and repression against their people to stop. They announced that they were not going back until they got responses to their demands. On arrival to the presidential house, the access was closed off with structures and with a heavily armed and massive contingent of police and military together with shields, batons, teargas bombs, and gas masks. They were pushed to protest outside the supreme court instead.
Terrorising attack with gunshots from state and other forces against Campesinos in La Paz
In Lepaguare, San Pedro de Tutule of La Paz, the 5 de abril campesino cooperative recovering land was attacked at night on 14 April 2019 by police and plain clothes police/paramilitary who arrived firing gunshots and chasing everyone there. People had to flee, knowing they could get shot and killed, and had nowhere to flee to. Several were wounded, many from not seeing things that were in the way while running for their lives. Some people were lost. It was 1am when everyone knew where each another was .
In another part of La Paz in Terreno, Concepción de Soluteca, the campesino group Nueva Alianza 9 de Marzo was on 7 April 2019 attacked by a group of armed persons – José Erminio Ortiz (who is not a landowner there) and three others who had their faces covered, who arrived pointing guns, and poured gasoline on their homes and set these on fire. Campesinos had to flee and some continued to be lost from fleeing at the time of the report of this news.
Attack against campesinos of Bajo Aguan
On 1 April 2019, in the afternoon, an armed group of at least 20 people with weapons and bullet proof vests led by Santos Marcelo Torres attacked campesinos of the Gregorio Chávez campesinos movement who are in a land recuperation process in conflict with Dinant, a palm giant company. The attackers set on fire the make shift homes of two Gregorio Chávez campesino movement members. The authorities did capture Santos Torres but they said that to keep him locked up, campesinos had to come and give testimonies, without any regards for how this endangers their lives. Despite the risk, campesinos went to give their testimonies, but the authorities still released Santos Torres in the midnight hours that night. This was not the first time this happened, Santos and his group had been accused of attempting against the life of Ruber Ponce with gunshots on 24 February 2019, and of gunshot wounding José Luis Hernández on 13 March 2019, both incidents within the immediate region, and even police agents had been wounded, but similarly, Santos Torres and Alexis García were captured and released within hours. In the past, Santos had also attempted against the following campesino leaders and given death threats to their family members: Hipólito Rivas, José Chávez, Jaime Cabrera, Orlin Pérez, Dayrin Baquedano, Sofía Baquedano and others.
Threats against territory defenders of Zacate Grande
On 7 April 2019, police accompanied land plunger Jorge Luís Cassis as he arrived to Playa Blanca, Zacate Grande, approching a group of women and threatening them, saying, ‘I will put armed people here to look after my lands’. People filmed this and diffused the video on social media. They are in fear that these threats will be carried out. Jorge Luís Cassis had in the past charged land defenders including Abel Perez and Santos Hernández who were sentenced and imprisoned, and charged them again last year for ‘continued aggravated damages’. He also has three others charged.
On 18 April 2019, Playa Blanca territory defenders again received threats from Jorge Luís Cassis.
Enviro defenders arrested in Choluteca
On 11 April 2019, of Costa Azul, Namasigue, Choluteca, eight environmental defenders – four women – with one nine months old baby – and four men, were summoned to ‘give testimonies’ and went to the police investigative office in response to the summons, but on arrival were arbitrarily arrested and later freed on bail conditions of signing regularly at the courts. The names of the arrestees are Marlene Pastrana, Carina Aguilar, Ancelma Escobar, Sulema Mendoza, Nelson Gómez, Erasmo Pastrana, Kelvin Gómez and Félix Pastrana (of radio Namasigue). Their struggle is against a photovoltaic company that is causing damages to the environment and drying up one of the creeks in the community – drying up community sources of food and water.
On 21 April 2019, a Honduran migrant on their journey to the US along with many others, Ronny Adalil Osorio Reyes of Santa Rosita, Siguatepeque, was in a train accident and was hospitalised, people were trying to contact his family.
On 14 April 2019, the Council police of Santa Rosa de Copán confiscated baskets and buckets of fruits, veggies and flowers from old indigenous women accusing them of being ‘street vendors’, and for ‘giving the product to a refuge for women escaping from violence’. It shows what state law and justice is about.
On 2 April 2019, a report came out that only in February 2019, in Honduras, there were 61 violent deaths of young people aged under 30, out of 124 total violent deaths that month.
On 20 April 2019, in Choluteca, a young person was filming with his phone and demanding medical attention for his sister in hospital when the hospital sent soldiers and security guards to remove him from Hospital del Sur.