September 2019 Honduras Coup Update
Attacks against those who defend public health and education and called for JOH to get out
On 1 September 2019, in San Juan Pueblo, Luís Alonson Marqués, a youth who pushes a cart and sells icecreams, and who participated in the last protests of the health and education sectors, was kidnapped at 1pm this day. Luís has a life partner with whom he had procreated a son. No further news is known following the kidnap.
On 5, 6, and 7 September 2019, high school students of ICVC (Instituto Central Vicente Cáceres) were occupying a major road demanding JOH’s exit, a truck was also parked across the road barricading it. The students were heavily repressed by the military police with teargas bombs.
15 September is a date when the ‘independence’ of Honduras is celebrated, with marching bands of high schools, so it is a major date of protest, involving largely students, with the message of ‘what independence?’. As the state expected rebellion, it published a Ministerial Agreement (no. 0754-SE-2019) less than a month before on 16 August 2019 establishing sanctions for those who on this date carry signs, clothing, banners, accessories and other manifestations that exhibit political content differing from the theme of the official national parade.’ Threats were repeated on 11 September 2019 to punish any teachers and students who repeat the line ‘Get out JOH’ or sing songs of the same message. Teachers were threatened with having their pay deducted if they protest, despite that this year 15 September is on a Sunday and as such is not a workday for teachers.
On that 15 September 2019, the threats did not prevent protests, and there were students protesting and calling for JOH to get out at the San Pedro Sula Stadium where the official parade was, and in many other places including in Tegucigalpa and Choluteca. All protests were repressed by police. In Tegucigalpa, several were wounded by the police and military repression, including three journalists who were there covering the protests; photojournalist and human rights defender Cesar Fuentes was hit in the forehead by a teargas bomb launched by state security agents. There was overall a lot of teargas filling the air of Tegucigalpa and some young people ran to the Cofadeh human rights office to seek help and refuge. Meanwhile, in Choluteca, teacher and human rights defender Mabel Carolina López was participating in the protests, holding a sign that said ‘get out JOH’ - with the alphabets in many colours and the sign full of cute drawings and details like in children’s books. Mabel held that sign at the main entrance of the school, in front of a police cordon and a police tank, and behind a group of teachers. Then, another line of police and soldiers moved directly towards Mabel, and they shot her from behind, hitting her in the right leg. Mabel was taken to hospital where she was treated by a surgeon who confirmed that no fragments of bullets were left in her body, and who kept her under observation in hospital with antibiotics and painkillers to prevent any infections. In addition to attacking Mabel, the police and soldiers also attacked the teachers Ingrid Prince and Ingrid Sierra. The teachers protested despite threats of economic sanctions from the JOH regime. As for Mabel, it was not the first time she has been tortured by the state, back on 12 August 2009, she was tortured with 24 others, for protesting the coup.
In Chinacla, La Paz, a group of high school students of Instituto General Francisco Morazán barricaded and occupied the school protesting the return of Esli Ramírez Romero as their school principal. This school principal had been authoritarian and made changes without consulting students like changing the class hours from 8am-1pm to 7am-12noon when some students cannot arrive at 7am – instead of realising that imposing the change was wrong, she locked the school gates after 7am and anyone who arrived late were punished with having to clean the school buildings instead of receiving classes. She also forced haircuts on the young people, threatened to not graduate students, swapped the high school and primary school buildings and simply never listened to students and parents. So students protest, enough is enough.
Attacks against environmentalists who defend the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers
On 1 September 2019, seven arrested environmentalists of Guapinol whose campaigns are in confrontation with the Inversiones Los Pinares company of the couple Lenir Pérez and Ana Facussé (the daughter of the now dead infamous murderer and millionaire of the palm industry, Miguel Facussé), were refused bail and sent to Tamara prison. The arrestees’ names are: Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, José Abelino Cedillo, Kelvin Alejandro Romero, Arnold Javier Alemán, Ever Alexander Cedillo, Orbin Nahún Hernández and Daniel Márquez.
On 2 September 2019, judge Lisseth Vallecillo ordered for the seven defenders to be transferred to Olanchito prison. On 6 September 2019, just hours after the seven’s lawyer had put in an appeal against the decision to deny them bail, and just as the seven were about to be transferred, they were told a Coronel had just called ordering for them to be taken to La Tolva maximum security prison instead where they had kept recent and current political prisoners, in atrocious conditions. Before their transfer, other prisoners gave them shirts, but as they were being taken, the guards removed their shirts and confiscated other personal hygiene items, belongings and money
On 9 September 2019, from 8am hundreds of community members of the Guapinol and surrounding communities barricaded the access road of the Pinares mining project in the Cayo Campo community, demanding the release of the seven defenders of Guapinol and San Pedro rivers, as well as for the cancellation of the mining project. There was a lot of police and people feared the possible violent eviction. And on 18 September 2019, over 200 national, regional and international organisations signed a letter condemning the state for imprisoning the seven political prisoners of Guapinol.
Repression against La Tigra environmental and community defenders who say no to the imposition of a massive luxury housing project
On 2 September 2019, communities barricading the road to the La Tigra National Park Site and defending the forest and water were repressed with teargases.
On 7 September 2019, communities used rocks, pieces of wood, and anything else they could find to blockade the roads to the La Tigra National Park at El Hatillo. They know rich people want to live there because it’s one of the last places in the city where the water is not running out yet. The rich want to privatise the water for themselves at the expense of many others. Meanwhile, the Honduran government was issuing emergency drought alerts.
On 9 September 2019, with rocks and tyres on fire and lots of people, barricades of all entrances to La Tigra reserve and national park, at Chimbo, Hatillo and the exit to Olancho started at 4am and continued into the night, despite repeated repression and militarisation by police full of riot gear to evict the communities. The resistance only got stronger and more determined to stay and struggle with each attack. One of the banners said, ‘if you drink water, have conscience.’ Police attacked with massive amounts of teargases – hundreds of teargas cannisters were seen at El Chimbo alone – and toxic water tanks, launching of stones, and even with gunshots after the other forms of attack at the El Hatillo and exit for Olancho sites. The police gunshots were captured on video by La Tribuna TV, while police spokesperson Jair Meza denied it, saying, no, we didn’t use guns. The denial was particularly curious given protesters, including a woman and at least one uni student in the protests who were in the protest, were gunshot wounded this day. The student of UNAH was gravely wounded and hospitalised in HEU. Another student was accompanied by Cofadeh human rights organisation, having fainted after taking beatings in the face by the police – this student could not record what happened to them that afternoon. Others were hurt from teargases and stones of the police. Others still were arrested, like 34 year old Raúl Humberto Varela Ortiz was was taken to the Comayaguela 4th police station, having been arrested at the exit to Olancho in the repression, when he and others passing through were arrested – he was on his way to sell loads of beans. Cofadeh pressured for and achieved his release
After the protests that day, the mayor and project developers announced the suspension of the project. The communities knew better and said, no, they are demanding the complete cancellation of the project, not just its suspension, and that areas already logged had to be reforested. And, ‘we need more water, not less.’ - the communities have been putting to the government for three decades now that they need more water supply dams for the city, and for creeks to be reforested. Instead of addressing the issue of the lack of water, the government is prohibiting ‘excessive uses of water’ of residents (not of industries) – against people who never have access to enough water for bathing, cooking, washing, housecleaning and drinking. Meanwhile, the government uses massive amounts of water in its watertanks to evict communities that protest the whole situation. The communities reiterate their demands, to respect land possession of villagers, to abolish the existing laws and agreements that give ways to logging, privatising waters and handing over the power over the management of the territories, and instead ensure territories and water solutions are community controlled.
On 12 September 2019, environmental minister Jose Antonio Galdames was punished for having announced and given instructions for the cancellation of the Bosques de Santa María elites’ housing project involving 1886 luxury apartments, 29 shopping centres, a mountain hotel, a church, a private school, a lake for recreational aquatic activities, a horse riding club and highways, – he was fired from his position, ‘you won’t be a minister anymore,’ he was told, ‘you will instead head the office that will coordinate the green climate fund,’ a project that involves milking millions from the UN for greenwashing projects. It’s not that he was a good minister and did a good thing, but he didn’t have a choice – he granted the environmental licence for the environmentally destructive project back in 2016, and with the current protests, he felt the pressure and knew he would be charged. He couldn’t please everyone though, with the president of the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce Guy de Pierrefeu, and ex presidential candidate and current Liberal Party MP Elvin Santos who owns building company Santos y Compañia, and others pushing for the Bosques de Santa María project. For the project to go ahead would severely intensify the water and drought crisis that is already very much there. Government aerial photos show that the Laureles dam is only 32% filled and the La Concepcion 18% and both were expected to run out shortly should the lack of rain continue, and continued logging threatens to further intensify this crisis.
On 17 September 2019, there were barricades again from 4am in the three entrances of La Tigra National Park, and a grassroots assembly of the communities was held at El Hatillo football field at 10am that day. At first, it seemed that because the Mayor was present giving a speech that the police refrained from using teargases while the speeches lasted. Instead, police was arresting people and fired some gunshots, to not affect the air that the mayor breathes. That morning, in Cofradía, police’s live bullets grazed Victor Zuniga in the right shoulder – others from the protest gave him first aid, and it was confirmed hours later that Victor’s life was no longer in danger. No details are known of the arrestees from that morning. Police also launched stones. In the afternoon, Jhostin Padilla, aged 21, was in the protests when police gunshot wounded him in the pelvis and he was operated on. Jhostin’s grandma Maria, aged 62, was in shock, sitting at the footpath of the hospital entrance waiting for the operation to be over, to know if Jhostin was going to be okay. Police also chased people, and at 2pm that day arrested Adan Ramos, José Ramírez and Renán Ortega, who were told they would be held for six hours for investigation and then released, unless the police were to press charges. The repression was intense, but like on 9 September 2019, the communities did not disperse despite the arrests and gunshots.
On 23 September 2019, the government published a law in the Gazette, declaring environmental licence permissions as ‘reserved information’, to facilitate more hiding of information about deforestation, etc.
Garífuna leader assassinated
On 9 September 2019, in Masca, Omoa, Cortés, Mirna Teresa Suazo was in her restaurant when two hitmen on a motorcycle swung by and fired gunshots at and killed Mirna. Mirna was a Garífuna leader and community council president of Masca. She fought hard particularly for the care and cleanliness of the beach there. There had been a number of unusual assassinations against members of Garífuna communities in the last weeks then – many of which are related to land ownership and management while others are to do with organised crime. In this case, Masca is next to Cuyamel, an area where model cities are being pushed for and there are pressures to hand over territory possession. The Masca community had also managed to prevent hydroelectricity dams from being built there several times.
Eviction, charges, disappearance and assassination against indigenous Tolupan defenders
On 9 September 2019, in Yoro, indigenous Tolupán defenders were at a camp they set up to defend forest and territory from logging companies when they were evicted by the logging companies’ heavy machinery and also attacked by a group of people with machetes and sticks.
On 12 September 2019, whilst Tolupán indigenous defenders had placed over 30 charges against INMARE logging company and never see any actions by the courts, the INMARE owner Wilder Domínguez who wants to put the indigenous defenders in prison to be able to log and deforest ‘in peace’ got the court to summon the defenders to a hearing within 24 hours of the charges being placed. 9 indigenous defenders were charged, their lawyer obtained bail for these.
Indigenous Tolupán leader of the Locomapa community, Milgen Idan Soto Avila, aged 29, was last seen on 23 September, as he said goodbye to his family and was on his way back to the Tolupán Camp of Dignity to Defend Tolupán Forest and Territory. Milgen was one of the 9 defenders charged by INMARE and a council of sold-out indigenous leaders. His friends, family and compas have been worried that he may have been killed since his disappearance, particularly since Milgen had spoken up about death threats against him for being in the social struggle and defending forest and territory, from leaders of the sold-out council. On 27 September 2019, people knew a body was buried clandestinely and were worried it was Milgen, but continued to search for him, hoping to find him alive. On 28 September 2019, people found his belongings, and 20 hours after, had confirmed that the body buried in the site where INMARE company was logging until 23 September 2019 was the body of Milgen Idán Soto Avila. At the time of his assassination, Milgen had spent 23 days at the camp (the camp itself had been going for 700 days), where he facilitated workshops and discussion for others from the tribe – he was coming back from a short visit to his family. There had been around 20 assassinations against Tolupán members of the Locomapa community who fought against logging within the last years – some of these relatives of Milgen’s – eg Salomón Matute and Juan Matute killed in February 2019, and Milgen always spoke up against these assassinations and the impunity. Milgen also took on the work of providing security for Ramón Matute, the coordinator of their tribe with the MADJ organisation, and had been part of the education and assembly processes for a long time. Despite living in a very impoverished and forgotten area, being of this Tolupán tribe, in his short life, Milgen had learned to play the guitar and spoke a little English and was able to have conversations with English speaking visitors who have come to visit the tribe.
Just one day after confirming that Milgen was assassinated, in the El Portillo community in Las Vegas, Victoría, Yoro, at about 6pm on 29 September 2019, hooded and persons armed with guns fired shots at and killed Tolupán leader of the Las Vegas de Tepemechin tribe, Adolfo Redondo, who is also a Tolupán territory defender. Adolfo is from a region that has no electricity nor internet.
Rio Blanco – yet another attempt against the life of an indigenous leader there
On 28 September 2019, in the Rio Blanco community, Rosalina Domínguez and others were working at La Vega del Culatón – ancestral Lenca land where they grow food, but where the DESA hydroelectricity company wishes to possess, when Donato Madrid arrived to harass and threaten everyone working there. The Madrid family has a history of attacking the community farming this land, and also for involvement in the assassination of Berta Caceres. Rosalina approached Donato and told him he had to leave and to stop harassing people who were working there. Donato’s response was grabbing the collar of Rosalina’s shirt and then trying to hit her with the machete at her neck – he was clearly trying to kill her. Rosalina managed to defend herself and community members managed to remove him from the land they were working on. The Madrid family walks around in complete impunity in relation to Berta’s murder too. Rosalina is okay but her life is at risk. Solidarity needed from everywhere. Do speak up about the attacks against the compas of Rio Blanco.
A repeat arrest, ten years later
Emerson Martínez is 32. In Siguatepeque city n 20 September2019, Emerson went to the police station to report that his ID documents had been stolen from him, and instead of attending to this, the police arrested Emerson telling him that he had a capture order from the beginning of the military coup, back in 2009, with charges of terrorism, illicit association and fabrication of war materials against the Micheletti regime. Emerson had no idea that all these years there was a capture order there. He was under police custody and was taken to Tegucigalpa – which is normally a two hours drive, but the police took him on a detour via different police stations and loading him in different police pick-up trucks including one that went on a delivery round to distribute food to different police on duty, and this journey stretched out to being 7 hours long – made even longer by the fact that police bullied and made fun of him the whole time and called him names, joking that they should be careful because he could throw a bomb at them. In Tegucigalpa, he was imprisoned in the Comayaguela court cells, where when he was 22, he was captured, imprisoned and tortured, and Cofadeh human rights organisation pressured for and achieved his release as he was gravely beaten up back then. Being held overnight in the same space forced him to relive all this. The next day Cofadeh obtained bail for him in court, with the next hearing date being 24 September 2019. During these few days, Emerson was very worried about what would happen to his family if he goes to prison. He stayed in Tegucigalpa in this time instead of going back to Siguatepeque and then back to Tegucigalpa for court, probably because he could not afford this transport expense. What’s more, the police that had custody of him told him he was headed for La Tolva maximum security prison. On 24 September, the court ruled in his favor and dismissed the case.
Journalist almost kidnapped at gunpoint
On 26 September 2019, journalist Sandra Maribel Sánchez was on foot arriving to her home when someone who had the build of a soldier got off a motorcycle without a numberplate and pulled out a 9mm gun, pointed it at her and told her to get into a car there – it was sheer luck that another car was driving by very slowly, and the attacker thought it must have been someone who knew Sandra, and he left without her. Sandra Maribel is persecuted – by threats and charges, for speaking up as a journalist against corruption and abuses and plunder facilitated by the government She runs a radio program called 2 more than 1 on Radio Progreso.
Arrest in Zacate Grande, against a very persecuted family of the territorial struggle
On 22 September 2019 at 3.30pm, Maria Hernández, aged 52, was near her home in Playa Blanca, Zacate Grande, when investigative police intercepted her and arrested her on charges of usurpation, and held her in the Amapala court cell overnight without having at this stage told her why she was arrested. Maria was given bail the next day with bail conditions of traveling to sign at the San Lorenzo court every fortnight (a very costly obligation), to not leave Honduras, and to not communicate with the landowner Jorge Luís Cassis, who pressed the charges against her. Hearing will start on 9 October 2019. Maria was very touched by the solidarity of all the compas who had travelled to accompany her and pressure for her release. Maria’s partner is Santos Hernández, who had been imprisoned by similar charges from Jorge Luís Cassis from back in 2015, and who is also currently dealing with usurpation charges from Heriberto Cruz. Maria was worried about what could happen to her 8 year old son who was with her at the time of her arrest and was with her partner/his dad when she was under custody. Cassis’s employee has also physically attacked Santos, back in February, to the point of him being hospitalised with wounds in the head and legs.
Progelsa dam company continues to charge villagers of Reitoca while also trying to poison the whole village
The Reitoca Lenca indigenous community is struggling against the imposition of a hydroelectricity dam project by the Progelsa company. On 24 September 2019, members of the Reitoca Lenca Indigenous Council, Wilmer and Orlando, had their preliminary hearing, having charges from the company. There was a demo outside the courts in solidarity. And on 29 September 2019, villagers who struggle against the dam project sensed a strange smell in the water in the river, and decided to walk around to see if they can see what had happened, and found a bottle of herbicide by the shore of the river. The Reitoca villagers were shocked that someone of Progelsa had tried to poison them by contaminating their drinking water in this way – some 150 people of 35 families drink the water from this river - Petacón, that they found to have been sprayed with herbicides.
Daughter of human rights followed in the Aguan
On 28 September 2019, the daughter of Aguan human rights defender, Irma Lemus, was going from the Trujillo bus terminal to the city centre when a stranger who was tall, white skinned, long haired followed her, abruptly asking her questions. The daughter was scared and tried to stay a while at a corner shop hoping he would leave. She then went towards the city centre and saw that he kept watching her and walking behind her, following her pace as she went quicker, slower, or stopped. Luckily, she ran into an uncle who helped her. Irma is worried for the safety of her family, especially of her daughters.
New land recuperation process of MUCA campesinos
MUCA campesino movement fought for and signed an agreement with the government for land reform in 2010 but the government had not fulfilled its promises and MUCA has no option but to undertake direct action as a result. So on 23 September, at 5.30am MUCA began land recuperation of land that has been confiscated from the Rivera Maradiaga family in Zamora, Tocoa Colon, property that is currently under the title of the Office of Confiscated Goods OABI and is being watched by military.
Girl fled from Congo only to be killed in Honduras
On 29 September 2019, a 5 year year old girl who fled with her family as a refugee from Congo and was in Honduras at the border to Nicaragua, was assassinated with machete by attackers who tried to assault her parents.
Police terrorised subsistence fisherfolk
In Mosquitia, indigenous people were fishing in the sea when about 6 police with rifles walked into the sea in their uniforms towards the fisher folk – the women and men started recording this, saying, ‘look how they are threatening people with their guns, people who are just trying to work.’