“Military Forces Sow Terror and Fear in Honduras”
Americas Program Special Report
Special Report to Americas Program:
Military Forces Sow Terror and Fear in Honduras
Dick Emanuelsson | August 13, 2009
Translated from: Las Fuerzas Militares siembran terror y horror en Honduras
Translated by: Laura Carlsen
Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)
The armed forces and police attacked tens of thousands of Hondurans in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, the industrial center of the country, resulting in two days of terror and fear in Honduras. Hundreds of people have been arrested, beaten, and many are wounded, according to reports from different human rights organizations.
The nation’s two principal cities have been militarized. The peaceful marches that for 46 days have maintained an order not to respond to provocations have been attacked by army units, the Cobra Command, and the national police. There are many accounts that the armed forces, police, and mayor’s office of Tegucigalpa have sent infiltrators into the marches. They have provoked the security forces, which have in turn attacked the demonstrators, who defend themselves with whatever they have in their hands.
Labor leaders Juan Barahona of the Unified Federation of Honduran Workers (FUTH) and the Popular Block, and Israel Salinas of the Unified Confederation of Honduran Workers (CUTH) reject accusations by the coup-controlled press and the spokesman of the national police that the de facto authorities do not attack the marchers as long as they don’t affect public or private property.
“It’s Like Hitting a Chained Burro”
“The burning of the bus and of Popeye’s (on Tuesday) was the work of police infiltrators. It’s hard to prevent this in a mobilization of 30,000 people,” Salinas, also a leader of the Front Against the Coup, told AFP.
“This comes from infiltrators. We have carried out peaceful actions since the first day, 46 days ago,” added another leader of the Front, the liberal Rasel Tome.
“We’re not going to provoke violence; we’re not going to confront the police. This is a peaceful demonstration—if there’s a confrontation, it would be like beating up a chained burro,” Barahona said.
“This struggle is peaceful, organized, and is not getting desperate. The coup leaders are getting desperate—they haven’t been able to govern a single day in tranquility and we will defeat them,” the leader added.
On Wednesday the marches continued and so did the provocations, which resulted in more attacks by security forces.
“We hadn’t even gotten to the Congress. The infiltrators are hurting us. The people didn’t even know what happened. We can’t explain what happened—there’s a lot of provocation by people who are not part of the resistance,” Barahona commented to Radio Globo.
Detention Center Set Up Behind Congress
The demonstrators were savagely beaten and many people were later tortured. A taxi driver reported to Radio Globo that he saw the army take 30 people out of the back part of the National Congress. Eyewitness accounts and testimonies from some of those released said the prisoners were stretched out face down, barefoot, and shirtless.
They were placed on a bus that took them to the First Infantry Battalion on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. Many faces were bloodied. The taxi driver said first he counted them then followed the bus to find out where the arrested demonstrators were being taken.
Human rights groups have gone to corroborate the testimonies in terms of the existence of such a center.
Congressman from the Democratic Unity Party Shot
“The Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) told the national and international public that during the police repression of demonstrators in downtown Tegucigalpa that day, Congressman Marvin Ponce was wounded by a bullet and is receiving medical attention at the Hospital Escuela. Along with Ponce, Dr. Napoleon Vallejo was also shot,” COFADEN reported. Vallejo is a medical doctor who joined the popular resistance.
The Francisco Morazan Pedagogical University was taken over by military forces and the people inside were tortured, according to testimonies broadcast over Radio Globo.
In San Pedro Sula, thousands of demonstrators were also attacked.
Headquarters of Via Campesina Shot at During Curfew Hours
The organization Via Campesina released a dramatic communiqué this morning saying that last night at 11:23 p.m., after the curfew began at 10:00 p.m., unknown persons aboard a cream-colored Toyota Turismo with the license plate PCA1981 opened fire at the Via Campesina office in Honduras, run by Rafael Alegria.
“The occurrence was a clear attack on our grassroots organizations and their social leaders that are at the forefront of the resistance against the coup d’etat. Recall that some 15 days ago there was a bomb capable of killing 15 people that went off in the headquarters of the Soft Drinks Industry Workers’ Union (STIBYS). Today another criminal act has taken place at the Via Campesina office. The two organizations mentioned are part of the National Front of Resistance against the Coup.”
Alegria commented that “The rights of the people are being seriously violated. This is a regrettable situation—since the beginning of the resistance there have been many wounded, assassinated, captured, disappeared, and many other violations of the human rights of Hondurans.”
Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola Union Headquarters Surrounded by Military Forces
The STIBYS union, which is one of the strongest and most combative in the country, is at this moment totally militarized. The union’s headquarters used to house Hondurans who have come to the capital from other parts of the country to participate in demonstrations against the coup. Up to now, it served as a meeting place for leaders of the Front against the Coup.
The president of the STIBYS union is the legendary labor leader Carlos H. Reyes. Two weeks ago he was brutally beaten by the Cobra Command when they broke up a roadblock north of Tegucigalpa. In the act, he had part of his ear pulled off and his arm was broken in two places. He is currently confined to bed rest with his arm in a cast.
“We Are Going to the International Criminal Court”
The president of the Human Rights Committee of Honduras (CODEH), Andres Pavon, issued an indignant public press release. The release reads, “Today we will not call for actions to enumerate the latest statistics of the onslaught. The Supreme Court not only justified the coup, now it tolerates barbarity. It is intentionally delaying a pronouncement on the injunctions filed against the illegal and illegitimate curfews. We are going to the International Criminal Court, where we will fight it out. As the people die, the culprits enjoy complete impunity and continue with their strategies of death, attack the strength of the human conscience—this is the degree of their perversity. We know who is responsible for this crime against democracy and the rule of law, we already know who they are. Can they enslave a people in front of the eyes of the world? What does the world want us to do?”
In reference to the most powerful families in the country, he continued, “The Kafis, the Canahuatis, the Facusses, the Naars, the Vasquez Velasquez—they have control of a country, an army, the police, and they are planning the death of popular leaders, of human rights leaders, and along with the Attorney General’s Office they are preparing arrest orders to put in prison the ones they don’t assassinate. There they have hired hit men to provoke a prison riot and murder whoever is taken to the detention centers.”
“Today we will not report statistics. It’s time that those who don’t know by now realize who the killers are.”
Translated for the Americas Program by Laura Carlsen.
Dick Emanuelsson has been a reporter in Latin America since 1980 and has lived in Tegucigalpa since 2005. He writes for several international news agencies and is an analyst for the Americas Program at http://www.americaspolicy.org.
To reprint this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the CIP Americas Program or the Center for International Policy.