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October 2020 Honduras Coup Update

by Sydney With Honduras Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 at 6:04 AM

This October in Honduras, an environmental defender from the heavily persecuted community in resistance against mining, was assassinated. Colonisation processes under the name of Model Cities made further inroads against several communities in Honduras. Several campesino and indigenous communities in land occupations had been attacked, evicted, repressed, faced violence and arrests. Journalists and human rights defender experienced death threats and persecution. COVID-19 continued to claim lives including of health care workers in Honduras - along with two other doctors, a pair of twins - a frontline COVID-19 doctor and a microbiologist aged only 35, died of COVID-19 within days of one another. Read on for this and other news.

October 2020 Honduras coup update

October 2020 Honduras coup update

Guapinol – siege then murder

On the afternoon of 8 October 2020 around 2.40pm, two police patrol vehicles and two military police patrol vehicles packed full of about 50 police agents entered the Guapinol community-in-resistance. Already, eight community members have been locked up as political prisoners for many months. There are five others in the community who had charges against them, so the fear was that the police were there en-masse to raid the community and pick up these five and lock them up as well.

What was not foreseen was that a Guapinol community member who had been amongst 32 charged on the Guapinol file would be assassinated in less than a week. Whether this is linked to the above siege is not known. Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo was at his home in the Guapinol community, on 14 October 2020, when he was brutally assassinated. The Guapinol community defends the rivers and land against mining company Inversiones Los Pinares that has state complicity in imposing mining exploitation, which the community has consistently opposed.

Communities on alert of new colonisation processes in the name of Model cities

Pressure began in September 2020 against the Crawfish Rock community in Roatán, Bay Islands, where the North American company Roatan Prospera would have the concession over about 112 kms of territory and would rule over the community, which was never consulted about this fate. This Black community faces divide-and-rule antics, and are threatened with eviction and looming repression.

The policy stage set for ‘Model Cities’ since 2011, when the Law of Statute of the Special Regions of Development was approved. It was subsequently declared unconstitutional and abolished by the then Supreme Court, only the regime then sacked the judges who formed this court, and the Supreme Court voted again and revoked the unconstitutional ruling. Congress then also approved Model Cities in 2013. The colonising concept involves handing over territory to foreign or national elites and giving them rights to govern over the area and the people who have lived there, imposing the company’s police, education, health, tax, and ‘justice’ systems. Ironically, the would-be first model city in Roatan is to be named ‘Morazán city’, Morazán is the name of a liberal Honduran president whose reforms had led to his execution by conservative forces.

On 3 October 2020, in Tegucigalpa, people organised a mobilisation against Model Cities. Areas at risk of being displaced and colonised into model cities include places in Choloma, Cortés, in Zacate Grande, in Lempira, and in Bay Islands. Governments and companies worldwide use similar shock doctrine tactics, taking advantage of the pandemic as a distraction to push through unacceptable projects and policies.

Land recuperation communities of peasants and Indigenous peasants attacked by police with evictions and arrests

On 15 October 2020, in Siguatepeque, a few Lenca indigenous women of the Achotal community were working on land in their community and were recovering when police arrived and arrested them, charging them with usurpation, illegal logging and turning soil. They were granted bail, but on the condition of not working on the land, despite that being their legitimate right. They also have to sign at the court on a weekly basis. Again, on 26 October 2020, at 5am, police came to this community and violently broke into homes of other Lenca indigenous compas – three women, three men, from the same community, and arrested them. They are Doris Pérez, María Lidia Díaz, Juana Fúnez, Abraham Hernández, Adalberto Mazariego, and José del Carmen Sánchez, and are members of indigenous grassroots organisation Copinh. The six were arrested for defending and recuperating territories in the community, and now await a hearing. By law police are not supposed to carry out raids between 6pm and 6am, nor when they don’t have court orders to raid. They did both.

In Choluteca, on 22 October 2020, police arrived at the campesina cooperative Horizontes del Ayotal in Marcovia, and brutally evicted – without an eviction order – the families involved in land recuperation, tearing up their flag, beating up a child, threatening a woman, and destroying the families’ belongings, and in the process arrested 6 campesinos including one woman and five men. Later that morning, community members put the Honduran flag back up at the entrance of the fields, letting the world know almost immediately that they are continuing their land recuperation struggle. At the same time, another land defender, Dulce Muñoz, is in hiding because of judicial persecution. This land recuperation community is in conflict with Lizeth and Ana Maria Mendoza – the land is state land and had been leased since 1942, but the Mendoza family had not paid the agreed sums to the state. State land means agrarian reform land for landless peasants. There are in total 19 community members who to date face charges for defending this land and territory. This recuperation process began over a year ago.

On 24 October 2020, in the El Progreso region, at 4pm, land defender Orlando Henrrique Canales of the campesina cooperative Rodríguez Arevalo was going home with his family when he was suddenly arrested by police who didn’t show him any capture orders. There was also no legal basis to charging or arresting him – the land is undergoing a negotiation and legalisation process and a payment plan was being drafted. On 27 October 2020 at 4am, news was shared that Orlando was freed, thanks to everyone’s pressure.

On 29 October 2020, at 10.30am, in Quilaperque, La Paz, Lenca Indigenous campesinos father and son José Guadalupe Galeas aged 55 and José Celestino Galeas aged 30 were on the footpath selling firewood that they had collected, when a police patrol vehicle suddenly stopped near them and the police jumped out. From sheer terror, the father and son and at least one other there tried to flee the scene. Police reacted firing gunshots into the air and proceeded to capture and bash the pair and one other – the other, unnamed, was released soon after. People saw from further away that it was police from the San Sebastian police station that captured them. José Guadalupe Galeas and José Celestino Galeas belong to the campesino group 10 de Junio – they have been selling firewood for 7 years to support their land recuperation efforts. Their group are recuperating 25 hectares of land, to grow coffee, beans, and vegetables, for their families to use. In the La Paz region, over 5000 indigenous and campesino persons have been charged for defending land and there are about 50 organised campesina bases that continue to expect that in any moment they can be attacked, violently evicted, persecuted and even killed.

Journalists persecuted

On 2 October 2020, in Nacaome, Valle, journalist Leonel Garcia, aged 60, noticed he was being followed by a 4-wheel drive Nissan Frontier with polarised windows and confirmed he was being followed as he slowed down, sped up, changed directions, and the car kept following him. He finally stopped at a police checkpoint and told the police the car behind was following him, at which point the car did stop following him. However, the next day, as he travelled to Nacaome for his journalism work, Leonel saw the same car following him and he went to the Goascoran supermarket and stayed there for 25 minutes. During that time the car left. He called the police about it, who were no real help – he is on a protection order but receives no real protection, and if anything there is concern that protection measures only increase risk for them as the police are always requesting he tells them his movements in advance, and one would not be surprised if the police are in on it. This was the fourth time he was followed by this particular car, having also been followed by it in March and July, although back then this car had no numberplates. Leonel said that if anything happens to him, Refry Flores and the mayor of Nacaome, Refry’s boss, are behind it.

Leonel reports on the eviction threats and pressures from judicial authorities against 17 fisher families of Zacate Grande, and also uses radio and social media to share this. He also speaks up against the exploitation of rivers and lands imposed against people who oppose, against the lack of drinking water, the plunder of public and healthcare resources, as well as asking ‘where is the money?’ in reference to the plunder by the regime of the resources intended for addressing the pandemic, equally scrutinising council employees being well paid when council has no available resources for residents to use. Leonel did this work with his colleague Gabriel Hernández, who back on 17 March 2019 was murdered on his way home from uni. Leonel remembers that this news hit him very hard that day, just before he was to go on air, Leonel punched the table, and went on leave days after for two months with his family, all also heavily hit by depression and anxiety from the threatening situation in addition to the pain of losing Gabriel. A messenger told him that they “killed your compañero, and you are next.” Those who ordered Gabriel’s murder and those who murdered him have so far completely gotten away with the crime. Days before the killing, both Gabriel and Leonel were offered bribes for silence and they refused, which was the antecedent. Leonel continues with determination to speak the truth and never sell out, without underestimating the danger that this entails. When he was on air, he constantly received calls from public officials making threats against himself and his family. Leonel was also pushed off his media space from 23 August 2020, after they turned down his volume when he spoke words of criticism against the government and council officials and mayor. When he questioned how this had happened, the National Party affiliated channel owner instead told him the price was going up, and also that ‘there’s a parliamentarian who is paying me 10,000 lempiras to take you off air.’

Leonel is well loved for his work, people tell him to keep speaking up, saying he is their voice. His work is supported by individuals and friends, who give him what little they can. He lives simply and eats amongst the villagers. Despite fears of police plotting together with those who had threatened him, Leonel never thinks of shutting up about what conditions the people and he himself live under.

Similarly, community journalist Nelson Humberto Santos, has been speaking up about the terrible condition the roads are in, how the rubbish collection staff have not been paid, and about the council not paying the water supply company, and thereby impacting on the residents’ drinking water supply. For speaking up on these issues, a council employee, whose name he withheld, has been giving him death threats through facebook messages, which happened on 14 October 2020.

Human rights defender suffering persecution

On 5 October 2020, it was reported that human rights defender of Aci-Participa, Hedme Castro Vargas had been very similarly persecuted. Hedme already had, in the previous weeks, noticed she was being watched and followed while doing errands and activities in the city as well as around her home. Recently she noticed a car follow her from her neighbourhood that did not move on when she changed her movements – on this occasion she drove back home, frightened. Days later, her gated neighbourhood security guard told her that a stranger had come out of a car and asked if she lived there, and that the guard had replied yes, but that he didn’t know in which dwelling. She also received a call of threat and insult on her home phone from an unknown number. These recent threats are in addition to attacks over the last 4 years including from police.

COVID-19 cases and deaths update including deaths of health care workers

In Honduras, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 went up by 20,504 in the month of October 2020. The number of confirmed deaths of COVID-19 infected persons went up by 319 in the month of October 2020 to 2672 on 31 October 2020.

Of these 319 COVID-19 deaths during October 2020, at least 4 were healthcare workers.

One of these was Dr Job Gerardo Villanueva, who had worked for several weeks in the COVID-19 ward in Tela, before getting sick and being transferred as a patient to the ICU of the IHSS hospital in San Pedro Sula, where he lost his battle against COVID-19 and passed away on 1 October 2020.

Having lived some 35 years, a pair of twins who worked as a doctor and a microbiologist died days apart from one another – Dr Hector Eduardo Dubon worked on the frontline and died of COVID-19 on 13 October 2020. His twin brother the microbiologist, Hector Edgardo Dubon, died of COVID-19 days later, on 21 October 2020.

The next day, an announcement came out that Dr Luís Enamorado had died from COVID-19 – this news was shared with great pain by Dr Ligia Ramos, spokesperson for the Medical Association of Honduras, who asked people to not go out to bars, discos, shopping centres and electoral campaigns, because three doctors die every week due to the high COVID-19 threat to frontline healthcare workers.

Turmoil of those Hondurans who left in the September migrants’ caravan

On 2 October 2020, a migrant from the caravan towards the US known as Kike tragically fell off a lorry on which he was travelling with fellow migrants. His travel companions were left in great pain, shock and dismay.

On 4 October 2020, 704 Hondurans – 472 adults and 232 children – from the migrant caravan tried to cross the border into Guatemala, and were deported from Guatemala in the process.

Police pretended to investigate disappearance of black persons

On 21 October 2020, 3 months and 3 days since the disappearance of the Black Garífuna leaders of Triunfo de la Cruz, about 10 investigative police and 8 special forces agents and some firefighters under the command of inspector Wilfredo Flores carried out a search in one neighbourhood, a search that should have been carried out within the first 48 hours. They completely ignored accounts of witnesses and any information anonymously shared of what had happened, they also ignored that the Triunfo community suffers threats and harassment in relation to the territorial struggle. The community maintains that the cops know where the disappeared Garífunas are, “they just don’t want to tell!”

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