Report from a March 16-23 Rights Action educational-solidarity delegation: Before heading off on a 6-day road trip, our group met with Berta Oliva of COFADEH (Committee of Family members of the Disappeared), who described the repression, violence, corruption and impunity. Since the 2009 coup, hundreds of civilians have been the victims of targeted assassinations.
An important new investigative report from the Associated Press’ Alberto Arce describes the apparent ongoing activities of death squads within the Honduran police. The AP report also describes a now-infamous and disturbing video that appears to show the extrajudicial, cold-blooded murders of two young men in city streets “by masked gunmen with AK-47s who pulled up in a large SUV” – consistent with the police death squad modus operandi as described in the article.
Tanya Kerssen does a good job of describing the several peasant unions in the Aguan and the divisions caused by their different histories and experiences based on varying levels of land titles and the levels of violence and repression on them. However, they do unite in opposition to the coup and against the coordinated violence of the police, military, and the paramilitary thugs of the big landowners, while also forming a pillar of strength within the FNRP.
The Resistance movement is ardently opposed to the government’s plan to build “Model Cities” along the Caribbean coast, enclaves free from Honduran laws that would be planned and run by private entities and meant to stimulate business and foreign investment. On January 24, the Honduran Congress again passed legislation enabling the Model Cities plan to move forward, with a vote of 110-13 with 5 abstentions.
Two more peasants were assassinated by paramilitary units on Feb. 2 in Honduras. This brings the murder of subsistence farmers and indigenous leaders to over 60 since the Honduran coup d’etat in 2009. Juan Peres and Williams Alvarado were members of the Peasant Movement for the Recovery of the Aguán (MOCRA), an organization that seeks to protect peasant cooperatives from the rash of land grabs being carried out in Honduras.
The doctrine of national security imposed by the United States on Latin America, which fostered the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, is making a comeback in Honduras where a new law is combining military defense of the country with police strategies for maintaining domestic order. “We are back again with old national security concepts dating from the Cold War era in Central America, and the danger is that the former anti-communist rhetoric may be used against the ‘new threats’, such as allegedly criminal youth, dissidents against the regime, social protests or for the imposition of absolute powers,” said sociologist Mirna Flores.
From January 17-20, anti-mining activists from Mesoamerica and beyond gathered in the small Mexican mountain town of Capulálpam de Méndez, Oaxaca to say ‘Yes to life! No to mining!’. Dr. Juan Almendares, a Honduran doctor with a long history of human rights and anti-mining activism, was a speaker at the event. He spoke with Upside Down World about the negative social, environmental, and health impacts the mining industry has caused for communities in Honduras.
How does a constitution die? In Honduras, it started with a coup in June 2009. Now, fast forward to January 2013: the Chief Justice of the Honduran Supreme Court is unable to seat a panel of five justices to review an appeal of the constitutionality of a law passed by the Congress. The reason? The law under review allowed Congress to remove four justices serving on the Supreme Court itself. The four people appointed to replace them, and a majority of the justices who were not dismissed, recused themselves from hearing the case because virtually everyone either was directly involved or had expressed an opinion in support of the dismissed justices.
Months before he was killed this past September, Antonio Trejo-Cabrera reportedly sought protection from Miguel Facussé, the owner of Dinant Corporation, a major Honduran snack food and agricultural company. Trejo had good reason to be afraid – he was a lawyer who represented peasant movements fighting palm oil plantations in the Honduras in the last three years – many of whom were subjected to violence and other human rights abuses.
After the Honduran Supreme Court ruled a Police Reform Bill unconstitutional because it violates police officers’ right to due process, the Congress, lead by President Porfirio Lobo, have recommented dissimissing the four dissenting Judges from the Court, in what is being called a “technical coup” against the judiciary branch. President Lobo himself took power after a coup in 2009.
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