By The Dawn News / January 26, 2018
Tomorrow January 27, Juan Orlando Hernández -JOH- plans to illegitimately assume the presidency in the midst of country-wide protests rejecting the electoral fraud that brought him his second term, assassinations of unarmed civilians by the Armed Forces of Honduras during said protests, corruption scandals and a report linking the new Police Chief of Honduras to narco trafficker Wilter Blanco.
This past week the highway blockades, marches, mobilizations and actions of all different kinds have continued across Honduras, as part of the National Strike called for by different social and political organizations, the Alliance of Opposition Against the Dictatorship, and social movements in the country.
It is expected that tomorrow, January 27, will be an intense day not only because of the number of people expected to take the streets in the capital Tegucigalpa and in all the regions of the country, but because many expect that the repression, which has already been inhumane and consistently in violation of fundamental human rights, is expected to be even greater. The location for the inauguration has not been confirmed yet but the National Stadium where the ceremony is typically held is already under heavy militarization.
Pact of Impunity on Corruption
On Wednesday, a “Pact of Impunity” was denounced by members of the Mission of Accompaniment Against Corruption and Impunity of the Organization of American States. They denounced a reform passed by the Honduran Congress which will serve to prevent the prosecution of the corruption charges not just against a half dozen but 60 elected representatives, including the president of the Honduran Congress Mauricio Oliva and other managers, amongst those who are under investigation for the direct theft (through some 30 NGOs through which they channeled state funds) of at least $55 million dollars from 2011-2015. It is necessary to highlight that the reform was promoted by the national party and it protects many officials of said party.
Another constant factor throughout the weeks since the elections has been repression. The estimates of deaths of unarmed civilians during protests ranges from 30-40, over 1,000 have been detained and hundreds injured. After a renewed wave of violence against protesters this past week, international organizations School of the America’s Watch and Witness For Peace released declarations condemning the brutal repression carried out by the security forces of the Honduran state and the complete impunity that they enjoy, and they also make a call for solidarity with the people of Honduras. Below, are the statements.
Once Washington recognized the president elect, the international community bent its knees…The power of the United States made itself felt with all of its force. All it took was for it to speak or the rest to break their silence. The protests against the fraud didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if there was or wasn’t fraud in the elections on November 26th. Nor did it matter the country in which the crisis had occurred. What mattered for the so-called ‘international community’ was their submission to the word dictated by Washington. Once again the power of empire and the non-existence of countries like Honduras was made clear. What occurred in the present and the future of this country is the least important. If their peoples are broken by internal conflicts, if a dictatorship is installed, this does not matter. What matters are geopolitical and financial interests.
– Jesuit priest Ismael Moreno, known as Padre Melo
This morning marks the start of a week-long National Strike in Honduras in protest of the January 27th swearing in of Juan Orlando Hernandez for a second presidential term despite fraudulent elections. In the weeks leading up to this National Strike, there has been a marked increase in targeted repression of protest leaders, human rights defenders, and journalists. SOA Watch condemns the ongoing brutal counterinsurgency tactics carried out by the US-trained and financed state security forces aimed at creating terror in an attempt to break the legitimate opposition of the Honduran people to the imposition of a US-backed dictator.
Take action: Join a protest, organize an event, visit your congressperson, or speak out on social media in solidarity with the people of Honduras and against continued US financing of the murderous Honduran regime.
Over 30 people have been murdered, many of whom were killed by the Military Police or other state security forces who fired live bullets at protesters, and hundreds of others have been injured or tortured. According to human rights organization COFADEH (Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras), over one thousand people have been detained and many are facing criminal charges aimed at silencing dissent. Others have been victims of torture or have had to flee for their lives. Security forces have entered neighborhoods, setting off teargas inside homes with children present, and seizing adults for arbitrary arrests. Jesuit priest Father Melo has received death threats and he and other social movement leaders have been the subject of vicious defamation campaigns. Lawyers Victor and Martin Fernandez, leaders of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice, have been targeted after speaking out about the January 1 death squad-style execution of Wilmer Paredes, an anti-fraud protest leader in the Atlántida region who had also been tortured and beaten by state security forces. On Tuesday, 50 state agents surrounded the home of Francisco Godinez, coordinator of the campesino organization CNTC, to try to arrest him. Journalists covering the protests have been attacked and had their equipment destroyed. The list of horrific repression goes on and on.
It is in this context that hundreds of thousands of Hondurans are taking to the streets all across the country today in direct action to refuse to recognize the imposition of Juan Orlando Hernandez. If not for the US support and recognition of Hernandez, it is doubtful that his regime would be able to survive the massive popular outcry. Both through support of the regime and training and financing of the security forces, the US is directly responsible for the bloodbath taking place in Honduras.
Join Hondurans in taking action this week to call for an end to US financing of the illegitimate regime in Honduras!
TAKE ACTION! Join a protest, organize an event, visit your congressperson, or speak out on social media in solidarity with the people of Honduras and against continued US financing of the murderous Honduran regime.
- Speak out on social media!
- Call the US Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senators and Representative. (You can find your Representative here and Senators here).
Sample script: I am calling to ask you to do everything you can to cut US financing of the brutal Honduran regime, which is murdering pro-democracy protesters and targeting journalists and human rights leaders. Over 30 people have been murdered, many of whom were killed when the Military Police fired live bullets at protesters, and hundreds of others have been injured or tortured, including with electric shocks. According to Honduran human rights organizations, over one thousand people have been detained and many are facing criminal charges aimed at silencing dissent. Others have been victims of torture or had to flee for their lives. Security forces have entered neighborhoods, setting off teargas inside homes with children present, and seizing adults for arbitrary arrests. Prominent human rights and social movement leaders have been targeted with threats and defamation. Even the OAS recognized electoral fraud in the recent elections, but the US State Department is supporting Juan Orlando Hernandez’s violent attempt to hold onto power for a constitutionally-prohibited second term. I ask you to speak out against the brutal state repression of pro-democracy protesters in Honduras and do everything you can to suspend US aid to the Honduran regime.
(If your Representative has not yet sponsored HR 1299, the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which would suspend US security aid, please ask him/her to do so. You can see a find a list of representatives who have sponsored here.)
- Join a protest, or organize an event in your community!
Honduran security forces target and kill protesters while U.S. sits back
On January 22nd, Witness for Peace issued its statement on the attack against Martín Fernández and the Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia (MADJ, or the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice) on the night of January 20th. Since then, the level of violence has escalated further still, both in terms of the widespread and systematic human rights violations committed during in the post-election period, as well as in targeted attacks against MADJ.
On Monday night, the same day we published our statement, two people were killed in the part of the country where MADJ does their work. Ramón Fillalos was the local coordinator for MADJ in the town of Arizona and a key part of the community protest at the encampment in Jilamito. Geovany Díaz Carcamo, who was killed on the street in Pajuiles last night, was a regular at the encampment there. We have written before about the community in Pajuiles, where we have had the great honor of accompanying the community in their opposition to an imposed hydroelectric project for more than a year. The murder of leaders from both Pajuiles and Jilamito, the two most prominent communities organized by MADJ on the north coast, within a few hours represents “a clear message,” as a Pajuiles community member told the WfP Honduras team on Tuesday.
Ramón and Geovany’s deaths are tragic on their own, as are the 36 others they join on this macabre list of martyrs to the cause of Honduran democracy. They were also particularly cruel in their own, almost opposite ways. Ramón, who was about 60 years old and has been an activist in the region for decades, was shot in the arm, which should not have been fatal. But the lack of medical attention he received meant he bled to death. Geovany was leaving a protest when security forces identified to WfP by community members as belonging to the DPI (Dirección Policial Investigación, the rough Honduran equivalent of the FBI), a US-backed security force, dragged him from his home back out to the highway and shot him 40 times in front of his screaming mother. It’s not even enough to say Geovany was executed by the police – it more resembled a mob hit, specifically public, meant to be seen. This is the very face of impunity.
At this stage, we almost risk thinking of the abject brutality of the last two months as normal. It’s depressingly easy to get used to the sight of Military Police patrols, and the news about murders and disappearances. But the extent to which this is pervasive stays shocking. Not only are anti-fraud demonstrators facing police repression in the streets with teargas, beatings, and shootings, they are being pursued even into their homes. Simply the presence of several police and military forces with weapons posted up on a bridge or by the road is enough to intimidate people from wanting to peacefully protest. In places where the public has refused to submit to this intimidation, Honduran security forces are sending a message that there will be brutal, often lethal punishment for choosing to protest.
To date, the strongest statement made by the US Embassy on the extensive state violence since the November elections was made on January 17th, during their official statement congratulating Karla Cueva for being named Minister of Human Rights. Although the Embassy finally acknowledged the desperate need for quick and thorough investigation into the litany of crimes committed by Honduran security forces these last couple months, it was still couched in the language of false moral equivalences. Plainly, calling on the Honduran government to refrain from killing its own people in the same breath as reprimanding protesters for not remaining “peaceful” is an immoral distortion of the reality on the ground here.
It is also worth thinking of the context of that statement. The Human Rights Ministry, which Cueva has been tapped by Juan Orlando’s government to head, was created recently as a cabinet-level position in the Honduran government. As we have written many times before, 50% of aid from the US to Honduras is conditioned on Honduras taking “effective steps” toward improving its human rights record, regardless of whether any actual, measurable human rights improvement has been made. The State Department certified that Honduras had met those aims in December, literally at the same time that peaceful protesters were being gunned down in the streets by the Military Police. But the creation of a cabinet-level human rights ministry can and will be used as an “effective step.”
Moreover, the double standard of impunity that we have written about before has only intensified. While the 38 murders and thousands of arbitrary detentions, to say nothing of the forced disappearances and torture, have been met with not even a cursory, public relations investigation, activists and protesters have been arrested, jailed, and their hearings begun within days of their alleged crimes. US Embassy statements that do no more than call on the Honduran justice system to pursue cases ring hollow – the Embassy’s partners in the DPI, Honduran National Police, and Public Ministry have demonstrated repeatedly their lack of interest in justice, and their commitment to impunity, not least for themselves. What is necessary for the immediate cases, and we have to believe the Embassy knows this, is for the Honduran government to allow impartial, international investigators. Juan Orlando Hernández’s government has already denied the OAS this access – where is the Embassy on that?
The United States has recognized the results of an election that international observers in the OAS and European Union refused to certify. It has certified Honduras’s “effective steps” toward improving its human rights records in the midst of a wave of violence that likely amounts to crimes against humanity. It has responded to this inhumanity and increasingly intense questions about its role by proudly posting YouTube videos of Joint Task Force Bravo giving the Honduran military drone training. It has insisted on this narrative of partnership with the Honduran government even when it has become undeniable that the “partners” in question have built from the coup a brutal dictatorship. Its relative silence, its false equivalence, and its euphemistic public declarations (a coordinated campaign of gross human rights violations is instead “wounds in society that appeared during the process”) have legitimized the fraud, and have legitimized the brutality. As U.S. citizens, we have to demand more. We have to demand legitimate respect for democracy, and legitimate respect for human rights. We have to do that even when there’s not an electoral crisis, but we especially have to do it now.
The need for international solidarity is greater than ever, as the crimes the state of Honduras is committing with implicit and explicit US backing are rising to the level of crimes against humanity, if they’re not there already. The chaos and general atmosphere of state violence is being used as a smokescreen for targeted threats against and assassinations of movement leaders. If we are not in solidarity with Honduras now, we have no right to say we ever were.