December 2019 Honduras Coup Update
Assassination of Tolupan and Pech defenders
Around 22 December 2019, the family of indigenous Tolupán leader Efraín Martínez Martínez reported that he was missing and they were looking for him. On 29 December 2019, a week later, his body, dead, was found. Efraín is originally from La Flor mountain of the Francisco Morazán province, and was living and died in the north of Honduras.
Also on 29 December 2019, another indigenous leader, of the Pech people, was reported missing – 34 years old Felipe Escobar García. Five days later, on 3 January 2020, Felipe was found dead in El Carbón village, San Esteban, in the north of Olancho. Both Efraín and Felipes were leaders of their indigenous communities and were involved in defending their territories.
Attempts against the lives of garifuna defenders in Masca
On 12 December 2019, in the Masca Garífuna community, gunshots sieged the home of Paula Alvarez and attempted against Paula’s life, leaving Paula gunshot wounded.
On 28 December 2019 in the night time, also in Masca, 70 years of Ignacia Piota Martínez, a Garífuna leader, was attacked by a mestizo man who fired 7 gunshots at 70 years old Ignacia. Ignacia was taken immediately to hospital and transferred to another hospital where her condition stabilised. Ignacia was the older sister of the recently assassinated Garífuna leader Mirna Suazo Martínez, killed on 7 September 2019. Ignacia’s sister Mirna was the community committee president as well as a management committee member of Ofraneh Honduran black fraternal organisation. Another Garífuna man, Oscar Francisco Guerrero Centeno, was assassinated in Masca on 10 October 2019. There are images of Garífuna women marching, holding a banner, saying, stop the assassinations against Garífunas. Ofraneh had spoken up repeatedly about how Masca had become an epicentre of violence in attempt to terrorise the community and push them out from their ancestral land so that outsiders can take over and exploit the lands for commercial gains. The land title and other state departments are complicit, by providing the outsider plunderers with land title documents and placing their names on these and through the army collaborating with these powerful groups. The Garífuna communities in struggle – who are black and matriarchal - face these in addition to insitutionalised and media socialised racism and sexism.
Human rights lawyer attempted against
On 30 November 2019, in a public park in Choluteca at night, lawyer and human rights defender Ely Portillo was spending time with his family, when a guy pulled out a weapon pointed it at Ely and Ely fought with the attacker. Since Ely had been granted protection measures as someone the authorities recognised as being at risk, he tried to call on this help, ‘I called and they answered, however they promised to send escorts, and to date (3 December 2019), they have not arrived.’ From the attack, Ely has a cut on his forehead that is healing. Ely is part of the legal team of Aci Participa NGO, which will be visiting human rights organisations and also state departments including the police, in the work for there to be security for human rights defenders. He experienced first hand, that there is not.
Persecution against Bastion del Sur, Barrios Bravos
On 17 December 2019, Bastión del Sur (Barrios Bravos – Angry Hoods) raised an alert about repression suffered in a number of neighbourhoods, and stated that there are organisations working hard to document the repression as well as lawyers on the cases. Especially worrying are that there are medias and members of the government political party that have publicly smeared Bastión del Sur (Barrios Bravos) calling the people involved terrorists. Those organised continue in struggle despite the risks, with the idea that, ‘if the present is of struggle, the future is ours.’
On 19 December 2019, the home of Aleyda Huete was raided by repressive state entities. Aleyda is the founder of Bastion del Sur (Barrios bravos). It was said that if anything should happen to her, her family, or other militants of Bastion del Sur (Barrios bravos), that JOH, Edgardo Loucel, Miguel Farach and Elba Reyes are responsible. She is being persecuted for struggling constantly against the narco dictatorship and its neoliberal measures.
Grassroots organisations of Aguan office robbed, organisers of the region are at risk
On 20 December 2019, the Grassroots organisations of Aguan office, COPA, was raided – its back door was destroyed, and the office was robbed. Information was stolen regarding COPA’s activities – the robbers stole the desktop computer, containing information about defenders associated with COPA in the region, including in relation to the Guapinol struggle against mining and to declare Tocoa a municipality free from mining companies. This theft places at increased risk the lives of the defenders associated with COPA. This robbery had also occurred following a media smear campaign against those who struggle defending human rights and the environment around Tocoa, Colón.
La Paz against loggers, loggers threaten leader
On 18 December, people of La Paz began occupying a highway to Marcala to close the path for logging company trucks in defence of the Opatoro forests from logging. On 30 December 2019, the CNTC rural organisation’s regional general secretary for La Paz, Sebastian Reyes, who has campaigned in defence of land and water and against logging, spoke up about receiving multiple death threats from logging companies in La Paz. Sebastian reports being followed and watched and persecuted, and had faced charges also; his home has been under siege by contracted hitmen who are there taking photos. If anything happens to Sebastian or his family, Juan Fernando Pereira, a logging contractor, is responsible.
Marcala La Paz: repression against youths and human rights defenders
On 13 December 2019, two young people, Jaime Cálix and Rigoberto Vásquez, were arrested and spent the whole day and night in court, with charges of attempted robbery and damages against the coordinator of municipal women’s office of the city, Rosemery Alvarez. The human rights network of the region, Redhil Paz, mobilised immediately to outside the court to pressure for the youths to be freed. As the trial went into the night time and people saw that the judge had left but the proceedings continued, and that the proceedings seemed biased against the young pair, they were rightly concerned about what would happen to Jaime and Rigoberto, and proceeded to occupy the court. That was about 9pm – court began 9am that day. Military police terrorised and threatened the human rights defenders there, firing their weapons. Outside the court you could see some people filming, some people yelling, and police was grabbing and threatening Lenca indigenous and human rights defenders Donatila Girón and Margarita Pineda, accusing these of agitating and driving the protest, and belittled Donatila saying that her defenders’ vest meant nothing to them, saying it was ‘pure rubbish’. and locked up both of these as well as Jaime and Rigoberto in the court that night, as others continued to protest outside demanding for the lives of Donatila, Margarita, Jaime and Rigoberto to be respected, knowing that lives under custody are lives in danger. Donatila is the aunt of one of the boys, as well as the president of Caucus Mundial organisation. Jaime and Rigoberto were held at least until, if not beyond, 16 December 2019, when hearings resumed.
A celebration for campesina cooperative 9 de julio in La Paz
On 14 December, 9 de julio, a cooperative under struggle, celebrated and partied having organised and set up running an electricity system in their community. They have gone through a lot and this was one of their dreams. Between 2010 and 2014, they had faced so much persecution, many threats, many charges, 17 violent evictions, many gunshot wounds, and had pregnant women who had been hurt in brutal repression to the degree of bringing on the abortion of their unborn babies. Despite of all this the cooperative continued recuperating land and completed another of its dreams. ‘We have fought 9 years and now thanks God we celebrate today, it is a part of the struggle and resistance compañeros and compañeras.’
Justice for Berta
Berta Cáceres, indigenous environmental anticapitalist feminist organiser, was murdered in 2016. Copinh, an organisation she co-founded and led up until she died, demanded that those who contracted for Berta’s murder to also be charged and brought to justice, and that there be an independent mission to properly investigate the case. Why are the Atala family and others free when there is the evidence of their being behind her murder?
Amongst those others not yet found guilty of Berta’s murder was DESA dam company president Roberto David Castillo, an ex military intelligence agent as well as ex ENEE state electricity company official, who is charged but no verdict had been given. It was found out in a 2009 public audit that he had corruptly continued to receive a salary from the army beyond his position there, as well as that he owned a company that was selling overpriced army products. In relation to Berta´s murder, months before the murder, Berta told Global Witness that Roberto Castillo had called her to try to bribe her to stop organising against the Agua Zarca dam project.
None of the Atala family had been charged despite ample evidence of them being behind the murder, because DESA and the Atala family have both extensive high up political connections. DESA secretary Roberto Pacheco Reyes is an ex minister of governance and justice. The DESA vicepresident Jacobo Nicolás Atala Zablah is the current president of the BAC Honduras bank and is an Atala, one of the richest business families in Honduras. Jacobo’s cousin is multimillionaire Camilo Atala, an ex government minister and owner of Ficohsa Bank, and one of the main investors of the polemic Indura Beach and Golf Resort. Jacobo’s brother, José Eduardo Atala Zablah, is on the DESA management committee and is the president of the Honduran-American Chamber of Commerce and ex head for honduras of the CABEI Central American Bank of Economic Integration. CABEI is one of the main investors of the DESA project of Agua Zarca. Another Atala, Daniel Atala Midence, is the financial director of DESA. There are others still.
JOH and TH continue trail blazing their drug trafficking histories
On 9 December 2019, one of the lawyers of the Valle Valle family/cartel and of the killed prisoner Magdaleno Meza, lawyer José Luís Pinto, aged 38, was in a restaurant when gunmen opened fired, killing him with several gunshots in La Entrada, Copán. The Valle Valle brothers themselves, Luís Alfonso and Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle, of the cartel, have been in prison in Miami maximum security prison in the US since 2014, having subsequently declared themselves guilty to trafficking cocaine to US in January 2016, and sentenced by Miami federal court to 23 years of prison.
Then, on 13 December 2019, the director of El Pozo high security prison who was a witness in the Magdaleno Meza assassination in October and was suspended from his position ‘for investigation purposes’, Ildefonso Armas, was driving a pickup truck when he was ambushed by seven attackers on the CA5 Sur highway. Ildefonso was forced off the truck and shot to death with several gunshots, the attackers then fled towards an unknown direction. Ildefonso’s prison superiors Rosa Gudiel and German McNeil did not give any reasons for why he was suspended. CODEH president Hugo Maldonado revealed that Ildefonso Armas was seeking political asylum prior to being killed, because he was worried about a possible attempt against him for having witnessed a gang member kill Magdaleno Meza in prison in Santa Barbara. Meza elaborated materials about drug trafficking where TH and JOH names appear, along with quantities of money that were received for trafficking drugs towards US, as one of the cartel operators of the brothers Valle Valles. These documents were used in court in New York in which TH was ruled guilty. There are indications that Meza had collaborated with DEA in US to reveal secrets about TH and JOH. Meza’s other legal representative Carlos Chajtur also is in fear of a possible attempt against his life.
Update on political prisoner Rommel Baldemar
On 19 December 2019, in La Granja neighbourhood court, a preliminary hearing on Rommel Baldemar’s case was held. Rommel is a political prisoner of the platform in struggle in defence of health and public education in Honduras. He is currently under custody in psychiatric hospital. People were outside the court demanding his freedom.
Women prisoners abused and tortured
On boxing day 2019, images went around of women prisoners having been tortured by soldiers in the prison of El Progreso in Honduras. They have been flogged with iron bars in different parts of bodies. There are images of their beaten bodies.