September 2020 Honduras coup update
September 2020 Honduras coup update
The Comayagua community’s heart is broken with the assassination of a beloved journalist
On 27 September, at 6.20pm, six months into the pandemic curfew, in Comayagua, 35 years old independent journalist Luís ‘Luisito’ Almendares was driving some relatives on a highway, between municipalities and not far from home, when he was ambushed and hit with four bullets in the stomach, lungs, spine and colon. Everyone hoped dearly it was not going to be his last broadcast as he transmitted on facebook live a 38 seconds video then, calling for help, telling the world what had just happened. ‘Oh, God, oh my Gold, help me, take me away from here. They have just shot me, brothers and sisters, I need an ambulance. I am losing a lot of blood, brothers and sisters, look after me.’ The relatives were hurt too but physically stable. People rushed Luisito to Santa Teresa public hospital where he was operated on that night and people held a vigil outside the hospital hoping Luisito survives, and making known that they knew about the attack and were watching. Following the operation he was set up with artificial respiratory support having had his lungs damaged. Doctors said, given Luis was hit in the spine, that he may not walk again if he lives on. Luisito had an unique style of journalism, primarily using a facebook page ‘Luisito Almendares’ to share news critical of abuses of civil authorities and companies in the region and violent evictions. Luisito received threats constantly. A major and recent one came from the Comayagua Chamber of Commerce, after he published a news piece about how the president of the Chamber of Commerce was forced to resign. The Chambers of Commerce subsequently demanded that he revealed the sources of his news piece, but Luisito stood his ground in saying it was his ethical right as a journalist not to do that. On his facebook page he not only spoke up about abuses, but also made requests there for solidarity assistance for food and medicines for people affected by unemployment, isolation, and lack of healthcare due to state’s laundering of health funds. He asked for help for stigmatised groups including of sex workers. After his operation, he was transferred to the teaching hospital in the capital city Tegucigalpa. This time, a solidarity petition went out for him, asking for blood donations to save his life. However, at 5.30am in the morning following the operation and transfer, Luisito died, 90kms away from home. His body was transported back to Comayagua where his family and community had waited. His funeral was held 8pm that night at a school near his home, where he himself went to primary school as a kid, the school filled with his community, applauding his life and work, and crying in pain and anguish for the loss, all the while, remembering how Luisito was always smiling, despite the constant threats he received because of his journalism work. He belonged to RAPCOS, network of alerts and protection of journalists and social communicators. He was also judicially persecuted March last year for having accused a teacher of intentions to kill a minor.
Massacre against Patuca Olancho’s elderly environmental defenders
Aged 72, 70 and 68 respectively, environmental and human rights defender and teacher unionist and Caritas electoral observation volunteers coordinator José Antonio Teruel, his partner Francisca Aracely Zavala, also a teacher, and Francisca’s brother Marco Tulio Zavala, were having a family gathering on the night also of 27 September 2020 when gunshots intruded and took all their lives instantly. José was an especially passionate lifelong defender of forests, rivers, biodiversity, protected areas and wildlife, his decades of struggle was brought to an end by this massacre against him and his family. As in the case of journalist Luisito Almendares, it was also on that next day that their family received their bodies for burial. Police tries to write off the massacre as a case of murder by personal enemies, covering up for business and political interests that would have been responsible – something easily done when even according to Hondura’s own state authorities, 80% of homicides committed in Honduras remain in impunity.
Repression against ‘Independence’ Day demonstration: 15 arrests, brutal bashings
What Independence? Where is the money? Thousands took the streets, many making efforts to socially distance and wear masks during this pandemic, marching from Tigo Plaza to the Central Park in the capital city Tegucigalpa. The repression began just before 11am, police with pointed weapons chasing people for over two hours.
It started in Avenida La Paz where police chased and arbitrarily captured, bashed and insulted nine young people: Maruel Garía, Dariel Rivas, César Juárez, Haslin Rodríguez, Humberto Cálix, Luz García, Oscar García, Marci González and Daniel Macoy, who were loaded onto a police pickup truck and put behind bars in El Manchen police station. These nine were released about 1pm with the pressure of human rights defenders and organisations. Haslin Rodríguez, a biology student and student leader who was marching with SITTRAUNAH union challenged police orders to herd protesters into a concrete space inadequate for social distancing, and when she went with her boyfriend to buy water at a corner shop nearby she was singled out by police who not only arrested her but hit her in the face and threatened her with, ‘I am going to kill you, daughter of a bitch’. Humberto Cálix told the press after, ‘all we were doing was expressing our love for our land, demanding a better world for our children and our elders’, he recalls being bashed and arrested, and how his face mask had detached from his face while being bashed by police. Daniel Macoy on the other hand was a young sports player who was receiving money for the private classes he gives, when police took his money and arrested him.
Blood stains can be seen after on the streets. Many police batons were out held menancingly by police chasing people. Police’s water tank launched blue chemical water, the colour of the National Party. Along Avenida Cristobal Colon, in front of a private hospital, police launched teargas bombs, without a care for the effects there would be on patients and health care workers inside. The student most severely hurt was by the water tank. 26 years old Cristian Espinoza was shot by police agents with the water tank with pressurised water that impacted directly on his face, causing his eyelids to detach – Cristian was rushed to emergency reconstruction surgery. Because of the repression, Cristian who was there with a group of friends, were together going to head home, but instead, he was hurt and taken to hospital.
Cofadeh human rights organisation was busy checking different police stations in the capital city for arrested young people. They went to Metropolitan 1 where police denied arrestees were there. Cofadeh knew to wait a few minutes to see the truth, that four youths were in fact being held there arrested from the protests, but who were about to be transferred to the Fourth Police Station, so Cofadeh went there to pressure for the liberation of these youths. Amongst these four was a 14 years old kid, and journalist Alex Fabricio Paz. Alex recounted how he had gone to get something to eat when in front of the supermarket in the city centre where the protests were he saw police arresting young people, so Alex started filming, and a police suddenly grabbed him by the shirt and ordered him to delete the video from the phone. Alex refused, thinking it was going to be important evidence for the young people, then police told him they’d arrest him, and pushed him into the police patrol vehicle. Another arrested for being in the protest was Nahúm Pavón, whom police bashed with batons in the back, chest and nose – his nose was at the point of fracture, and internal bruising afterards was noted. Olvin Javier Lagos, 21 years old journalist student who was marching with his classmates, who were all trying to flee and go home when police started chasing them, but they were grabbed by police. Olvin was kicked by police twice, but he heard a police telling other police to stop kicking because there was a camera filming. He felt shaken from it all, but is still very much determined to keep fighting. The few other unnamed included people who were in the protest and others who were passing through. One was 22 years old Emerson Padilla, whowas on his bike going out to buy some charcoal to prepare the family lunch, when police attacked him with batons on his back, he said he would report the police and the police didn’t care.
Alliances of police were obvious as places such as certain churches and the restaurant of businessperson and politician INTUR president and Canal 3 TSI Ana María Villeda opened their spaces up for police to use to hide and station in, in preparation for the repression. It was also seen that police and military had new uniforms and equipment; evidence of state investment into them.
Another migrants caravan set off – a reminder that migration pressures only increase during a pandemic
On 2 September 2020 at 3pm, the tenth caravan of indignados migrants, set off their journey, from the Guadalupe bridges in Tegucigalpa.
Model cities developing during pandemic
In Roatán, Bay Islands, there is a model city developing there called ‘Prospera’. On 12 September 2020, there are reports that terror campaigns by the developers against the people there had began. Journalists had gone there to report on what is happening but public guards blocked their entry, telling the journalists that the road is private and that people are prohibited from going through.
In Zacate Grande península down south where the elite of the country have holiday homes alongside fishing communities that the elites have been working to push out, there is similarly pushes to create a touristic centre that would be a model city owned and governed over existing communities, that would exploit and take advantage of that the largest solar energy park in Central America is there. Already this park had through massive excavation and its hot solar plates that destroyed local ecosystems, eliminated a number of fish species in the area and killed birds that fly into hot structures, compounded by the chemicals disposed into the rivers already by melons company businessperson Miguel Molina. The solar park in addition had increased poor families energy bills five fold. In this context, at the end of September 2020, Zacate Grande community leader of organisation Adepza, Pedro Canales, received the latest death threat; someone came to his home and told him he knew who Pedro was and how the assassination against him will be carried out. This was followed by then seeing one of his guard dogs coming home bullet wounded, the dog shortly after approaching him collapsed and died. His dog was not the first to die this way in the area, two others have been assassinated like that when near the Facusse (Honduran elite) family security guards. Pedro has been struggling in defence of beaches and territories with the communities there for many years, standing their ground against pressure by elites for communities to leave the area, along with the rich’s ambition of having the land free of persons. Two others, Abel Perez and Santos Hernández, had been put behind bars in 2017, being community organisers also. Over 3000 people form the 13 communities that live on fishing and agriculture in Zacate Grande peninsula.
General COVID-19 update for September 2020
In Honduras, total confirmed cases went up from 61,789 on 1 September to 76900 on 30 September, and during the same month, an additional 480 persons died from COVID-19 adding the total death toll to 2353 on 30 September 2020. Amongst these 480 persons who died from COVID-19 in Honduras during September is ‘Moncho’ Ramon Enrique Hernández, a revolutionary musician who is remembered not only for playing music in resistance concerts but also for troubleshooting and contributing to these to make sure they happen, whether by having a missing cable handy or by climbing up a pole to access electricity supply or the provision of a sound system, or filling in others bands being a musician who plays many instruments. He stopped things from falling apart and hugged the world with his light in problem solving. He is remembered for his own music, brilliant musicianship and impeccable ear as well.
Healthcare workers and COVID-19
On 16 September 2020, Dr Samuel Santos, fighting his COVID-19 infection, sent a message from his private hospital bed, ‘I will get up to keep fighting. Without health and education, there is no nation’ he acknowledged that not everyone has access to quality healthcare in Honduras and vowed to fight for a Honduras where all Hondurans have access to quality healthcare, when he gets better from COVID-19.
On 27 September 2020, Dr Manuel Sarmiento Soto died, the loss of his life is deeply regretted, as not only had he dedicated his life to saving lives, but he was a doctor and person who empathised with everyone he had gotten to know.
Courts decide to make more political prisoners
When prisons are high risk, people should in general not be sent to prison. A number of prisoners have died from COVID-19 in prison including political prisoner and high profile journalist David Romero. Instead of working to release more prisoners and all political prisoners, Honduran courts had on 3 September 2020 decided to add to the problem by making the ruling for student organisers for public education, Cesario Padilla, Sergio Ulloa and Moíses Cáceres of UNAH public university, to go to prison. The determination was for them to be locked up in Tamara prison for 3 years, where their lives will be at risk.
On 13 September 2020, in Comayagua, a gay person in a red dress on a street bench was seen with blood dripping all over from his arm. He was assaulted inside a bar by a homophobic attacker with a machete. When he approached authorities – judge and police, they turned him away. A health clinic attended to him but charged him 2200 lempiras (US).
Gunshots fired at Libre party lawyer
On 13 September 2020, a stormy and rainy afternoon, the lawyer of Libre Party, Benedicto Santos, was driving with open window, happily, from Reitoca towards Tegucigalpa to visit his brother, when he heard a noise and assumed it was related to the storm, until he felt his bottom burning, and realised that a bullet had been shot at him, and had it been two inches higher, they would have shot him in the spine. Since it happened outside a police station by someone waiting and expecting him to drive past, he is sure this attempt against him was by the state. He is a known critic of the state and his travel was partly to see family, and also for political meetings. Examining his car after, he could see at least two gunshots were fired, the other having hit the button for opening and closing the car window.
Police bashed and arrested black young activist
On 1 September 2020, in Sonaguera, Colon, black young Garífuna – Victor Ordonez, for recording abusive behaviour by police, was bashed and arrested by police, in his eye and over the body. Victor also has a father who is a Libre councillor. #BLM