US Human Rights Delegation in Honduras Denounces Repression and Impunity Calls for an End to US Military and Police Funding

Our press conference outside of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, July 5, 2016. See below for the full video of the press conference.

Our press conference outside of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, July 5, 2016. See below for the full video of the press conference.

Tegucigalpa, July 5, 2016

A delegation of US human rights observers and activists that has been Honduras from June 27-July 6, organized by Alliance for Global Justice and Honduras Solidarity Network, will report on their findings. The delegation includes participants associated with CODEPINK, the Marin Interfaith Task Force, SEIU Local 521, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Marquette University Center for Peacemaking, San Jose Peace and Justice Center, and Global Exchange.

Delegation visiting Tolupan community San Francisco de Locomapa, Yoro, and accompanying the Broad Movement for Justice and Dignity (MADJ by Spanish acronym).

Delegation visiting Tolupan community San Francisco de Locomapa, Yoro, and accompanying the Broad Movement for Justice and Dignity (MADJ by Spanish acronym).

Visiting the Wednesday evening protests at the international-financed tollroad in San Manuel, Cortes.

Visiting the Wednesday evening protests at the international-financed tollroad in San Manuel, Cortes.

The delegation visited a Tolupan community in San Francisco de Locomapa, a San Manuel Cortez toll road protest outside Progreso and the student occupation at the UNAH-VS campus at San Pedro Sula. Also in San Pedro Sula they met with CODEMUH, the women’s collective supporting workers in factories producing apparel for well-known US brands, factories where workers have no job protection and are frequently injured and then fired. The group traveled to Azacualpa to examine the conflict surrounding the Canadian-owned San Andres mine in La Union, Copan and spoke to the mayor of La Union. They went to La Esperanza to meet with COPINH (the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras) and the family of Berta Caceres, participated in a vigil marking the 4th month since her murder, then traveled to Rio Blanco, where communities are fighting the Agua Zarca dam. They talked to a Vitalino Alvarez, a representative from MUCA (the United Campesino Movement of the Aguan) about the struggles in the Bajo Aguan. Alvarez has survived four assassination attempts and says that he is now number one on the Honduran death squad hit list.

The group also met with US military representatives of Joint Task Force Bravo at Palmerola and representatives of the US Embassy, as well as Honduran public prosecutors in San Pedro Sula who were part of the recent Operation “Cacique” alongside the elite police unit TIGRES and the Police Investigative Unit (DPI).

In front of the house of the mayor of La Unión, Copan with community members and environmentalists from the community of Azacualpa that are fighting to protect their 200-year old cemetery under threat by the expansion of Canadian mining company, Aura Minerals. Sign reads: "Mr. Mayor. The community of Azacualpa demands: no to the closure of their cemetery."

In front of the house of the mayor of La Unión, Copan with community members and environmentalists from the community of Azacualpa that are fighting to protect their 200-year old cemetery under threat by the expansion of Canadian mining company, Aura Minerals. Sign reads: "Mr. Mayor. The community of Azacualpa demands: no to the closure of their cemetery."

Visiting Berta Caceres' mother, Doña Austra Berta Flores and family at her house in La Esperanza.

Visiting Berta Caceres' mother, Doña Austra Berta Flores and family at her house in La Esperanza.

The delegation was struck by the ongoing negative consequences of the 2009 coup, which the US government supported by continuing US military and development assistance. The coup opened the way for the granting of hundreds of concessions for mines, dams, energy-generation and other infrastructure projects that have taken land and resources from local communities. It has also led to the privatization of Honduran highways, public institutions and natural resources, actions that have been strongly condemned by large sectors of the Honduran public.

The delegation’s major concerns include:

  • ongoing human rights abuses against indigenous activists, campesinos, members of the LGBTQ community, maquiladora women, students and journalists.
  • high levels of impunity and corruption rampant in state judicial and security institutions.
  • the strong US involvement in military and police institutions known for ongoing human rights violations.
  • abusive conditions in apparel factories making goods for export to the United States.
  • the inadequate investigation into the murder of Honduran indigenous activist, Berta Cáceres, including the refusal by the authorities to release the case file to the family as required by Honduran law and the government’s refusal to comply with the demand for an independent, international investigation.
  • the criminalization of university students who are defending their right to public education.
  • the noncompliance of the Honduran government in providing protective measures (“medidas cautulares”) granted by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights defenders at risk.
  • the threatened forced displacement of the Azacualpa community, including the destruction of their 200-year-old ancestral cemetery.

We support:

  • the Honduran students in their a call for no fee hikes, elected student representatives on the Governing Board, and an immediate dialogue with University Rector Julieta Casteñeda.
  • the indigenous communities in their fight to defend their land, water and forests, and their right to free, prior and informed consent as granted under the International Labor Organization Convention Number 169.
  • the right of campesinos to organize without fear of harassment, threats and bodily harm.
  • the cancellation of the dam concession and financing to Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA) for building the Agua Zarca dam.
  • the immediate closure of the San Andres mine in Copan, as well as the suspension of mining and energy concessions that communities have not consented to.

We are concerned that the US Congress approved $750 million under the Alliance for Prosperity for development and police/military aid in the region at a time when gross human rights abuses and impunity in Honduras were well documented and reported. We feel this money has further exacerbated the crisis.

The US 2016 budget allocates approximately $18,000,000 to the Honduran police and military, and President Obama’s funding request for fiscal year 2017 calls for an increase in security funding for Honduras.This money, which is supposed to reduce human rights violations, is actually giving the Honduran government more resources to increase repression.

We therefore call on the US government to cut all military and police funding, as stipulated in the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, HR5474, which is now before Congress. This delegation will return home to pressure Congress and the State Department to stop the flow of our tax dollars to these repressive Honduran institutions.

On July 2, the 4th anniversary of the assassination of Berta Caceres, we joined the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) outside of the Public Prosecutor's office in La Esperanza. They were demanding justice for Berta's death. 

On July 2, the 4th anniversary of the assassination of Berta Caceres, we joined the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) outside of the Public Prosecutor's office in La Esperanza. They were demanding justice for Berta's death. 

At COPINH's training centre, UTOPIA in La Esperanza. The mural in the back was painted shortly after Berta was killed. We went to various places throughout the day to take pictures and join in the International Twitter campaign organized by Berta's family and COPINH to demand justice for Berta and an International independent Commission of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to join the investigation. July 4, 2016.

At COPINH's training centre, UTOPIA in La Esperanza. The mural in the back was painted shortly after Berta was killed. We went to various places throughout the day to take pictures and join in the International Twitter campaign organized by Berta's family and COPINH to demand justice for Berta and an International independent Commission of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to join the investigation. July 4, 2016.

ESPANOL (La versión mas pequeña y leida durante la conferencia de prensa)

Comunicado de Prensa: Delegación Estadounidense de Derechos Humanos en Honduras Denuncia Represión e Impunidad y Llama al Cese del Financiamiento Militar y Policial

Tegucigalpa, 5 de Julio 2016

La delegación estadounidense de observadores y activistas que visitó Honduras del junio 27 al 6 de julio organizado por la Alianza por la Justicia Global y la Red de Solidaridad de Honduras, reportará sobre sus descubrimientos.

Esta delegación está compuesta por participantes asociados de CODEPINK, el Grupo de Trabajo Interreligioso Marin, SEIU Local 521, la Liga Internacional de las Mujeres por la Paz y la Libertad, el Centro por el Establecimientos de la Paz de la Universidad de Marquette en Wisconsin, el Centro de Paz y Justicia de San José y Global Exchange.

La delegación visitó la comunidad Tolupán en San Francisco de Locomapa en Yoro, una protesta en contra del peaje en la carreta de San Manuel, Cortés, la toma estudiantil del campus de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (UNAH) en San Pedro Sula, las organizaciones CODEMUH, COPINH, y la comunidad de Azacualpa para examinar el conflicto alrededor de la mina canadiense "San Andrés" en Copán. El grupo también habló con representantes de la Fuerza Especial Conjunta Bravo en Palmerola y con la Embajada de los Estados Unidos.

La delegación está impresionada por las consecuencias negativas del golpe del 2009, el cual fue apoyado por el gobierno de Estados Unidos al continuar su ayuda militar y para el sector de desarrollo. Observaron cómo el golpe ha llevado a la privatización de las autopistas hondureñas, instituciones públicas y recursos naturales, así como al incremento de la corrupción e impunidad en el sistema judicial e instituciones de defensa.

Estamos en asombro ante los abusos contra los derechos humanos de activistas indígenas, campesinos, mujeres que trabajan en la industria maquiladora y estudiantes.

Apoyamos:

  • A los estudiantes en su llamado en contra del plan de arbitrios, una universidad libre de armas, retiro de requerimientos fiscales y acusaciones contra estudiantes y demandando representación estudiantil en el Consejo Universitario, y un diálogo inmediato con la Rectora de la Universidad Julieta Castellaños.
  • A las comunidades indígenas en su lucha por defender la tierra, el agua y los bosques, y su derecho a una consulta libre, abierta e informada como les concede el Convenio 169 de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo.
  • El derecho a los campesinos a organizarse sin miedo a amenazas, acoso y daños a su integridad.
  • La cancelación de la concesión y financiamiento a Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA) por construir la represa Agua Zarca, la creación de una Comisión Independiente que investigue el caso de la lidereza Bertha Cáceres y se de acceso a su familia a la investigación.
  • El cierre inmediato de la mina San Andrés en Copán, así como la suspensión de la minería y concesiones energéticas en comunidades que no han dado su consentimiento.

Nos preocupa gravemente el nivel de involucramiento de los Estados Unidos con las fuerzas militares y policiales. El dinero y entrenamiento estadounidense que se supone debe detener las violaciones a derechos humanos está al contrario brindándole al gobierno de Honduras más recursos para incrementar la represión.

También nos preocupa la aprobación de 750 millones de dólares bajo el Plan de la Alianza para la Prosperidad dirigida al desarrollo y ayuda militar y policial en la región en un momento cuando graves abusos a los derechos e impunidad en Honduras son ampliamente reportados y documentados. Sentimos que este dinero ha exacerbado la crisis aún más.

Con el horrible nivel de violencia e impunidad en Honduras hoy, el gobierno de los Estados Unidos debería cortar toda ayuda militar y policial, como lo propone la Legislación de Derechos Humanos Berta Cáceres en Honduras, HR5474. Esta delegación regresará a su país a presionar al Congreso y al Departamento de Estado para un cese al flujo de dólares de nuestros impuestos a estas instituciones represivas.

New Report - Mining in a State of Impunity: Coerced Negotiations and Forced Displacement by Aura Minerals in Western Honduras

(Ottawa/Tegucigalpa) A new report outlines the continuing struggle of the Honduran community of Azacualpa to defend the integrity of the town, including a 200-year old cemetery, against the expansion of a Canadian-owned open-pit gold mine.

Mining In a State of Impunity: Coerced Negotiations and Forced Displacement by Aura Minerals in Western Honduras published by MiningWatch Canada and the Honduras Solidarity Network, documents how the Canadian mining companies that have operated the San Andrés mine in western Honduras have continually violated the land rights and communally-held land tenure of affected communities for the last 18 years.

Neither Honduran authorities nor Toronto-based Aura Minerals, now the concession holder and operator of the mine, even acknowledge that the community has such rights. The report notes that “municipal authorities and the mining company make no mention of Azacualpa’s land rights and the details of the original mining concession granted in 1983.”

Aura Minerals is now “negotiating” with Azacualpa to expand the mining operation. The report states, “It’s difficult if not impossible to call this process a “negotiation” as the community is clearly being coerced.” The report’s author, Karen Spring, Honduras Coordinator for the Honduras Solidarity Network, explained, “Community leaders have publicly denounced the presence of Honduran military and police in the so-called ‘negotiations’.”

Spring adds, “This is a clear sign of intimidation in a country with rampant levels of corruption and a high impunity rate. Nineteen residents involved in defending the community cemetery still face trumped up charges and threats of further legal repercussions if they continue to protest the mine’s expansion.”

The report makes a series of recommendations, including calling for a comprehensive legal analysis regarding land tenure and land transfer before “negotiations” move forward or the San Andrés mine expands further, and calling for all six affected communities be fully consulted on whether they agree with the expansion of the mine and the displacement of their cemetery. The report also emphasizes that it is critical to develop and document a better understanding of the history of communities forcibly displaced by the San Andrés mine as the basis for any future discussion.

Contact:

Allegations of World Bank-Funded Dinant Corporation's Drug Trafficking Ties Surface Again

The Honduran public prosecutor's office reported in a June 23th communique that "three houses, two lots of land and 10 vehicles" were confiscated during the Inter-Institutional "Venado" [Deer] Security Operation in the Aguan Valley, Colon in northern Honduras. The assets belonged to José Angel Bonilla Banegas, a former contractor with Dinant Corporation, a Honduran snack food and agricultural company. The Honduran media is reporting that Bonilla Banegas is a Dinant employee.

According to Honduran officials, Bonilla Banegas "is the owner of the Bonilla Transport Company and according to the investigations, as a result of their illicit activities had acquired 10 vehicles (trucks, trailer cabs and pick up) used to facilitate the passage of narcotics from Colon to the Guatemalan border and money from the Guatemalan border to Colon." The Honduran authorities determined that Bonilla Transport "formed part of the structures on a smaller scale with which large criminal groups like "Los Cachiros" in Colon and the "Valle Valle" in Copan, counted on." In 2013 and 2014, the US Treasury requested the extradition of members of Los Cachiros and the Valle Valle cartels operating in northern Honduras.

Photo caption: The Venado Operation in the Aguan, El Tiempo

Photo caption: The Venado Operation in the Aguan, El Tiempo

On the day of the arrests, Dinant Corporation released a public statement stating that Bonilla Banegas "is not, and has never been, an employee of the company nor any affiliated companies ... While it is true, Bonilla Transport has provided outsourced freight services to Dinant between 2012 and 2013."

The Honduran media reports that authorities traced Bonilla Banegas' involvement in trafficking drugs via the capture of Jose Cristobal Pineda Gonzalez, who was arrested by authorities in La Ceibita, Santa Barbara in March 2015. Pineda Gonzalez was driving a large truck owned by Bonilla Transport with false compartments containing 1,438 kilos of drugs. Some press reports report that cocaine was seized while others report it was marijuana. The drugs were being taken to Guatemala.

The operation that led to the seizures was carried out by the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime (FESCCO), the Technical Agency of Criminal Investigation (ATIC) and the "Xatruch" Military Operation. The former two Honduran agencies have themselves been accused of major irregularities including launching biased investigations and human rights abuses against political opponents of the Juan Orlando Hernandez government. Commanders of the Xatruch Military operation have been trained by the U.S. and ATIC agents are vetted and trained by the US and Canada as well. 

Dinant Corporation is well-known for its involvement in land conflicts related to its African palm plantations that have been connected to various human rights violations including assassinations, disappearances, torture, threats, etc. against campesino leaders and movements in the Lower Aguan region. The International Financial Corporation (IFC), the private-lending arm of the World Bank, is currently carrying out an internal auditing process of their $30 million loan to Dinant as a result of accusations of the company's involvement in the abuses. The IFC has admitted itself that it failed in implementing its own social and environmental policies when the loan to Dinant was approved.

For years, indigenous and campesino movements have publicly denounced and suspected drug trafficking ties with Dinant Corporation and its vast seas of African palm plantations - perfect for hiding drug laboratories, landing narcoplanes, and drug transfers - that are heavily guarded by private security guards reported to team up with Honduran military and police. Even the U.S. Embassy has reported suspicious drug-related activity linked to Dinant.

Miguel Facusse, FoRmer Executive President of Dinant corporation. Photo from Upsidedownworld.com

Miguel Facusse, FoRmer Executive President of Dinant corporation. Photo from Upsidedownworld.com

In a March 19th, 2004 cable published by Wikileaks, US Ambassador to Honduras Larry Palmer outlines an incident in which a drug plane carrying 1,000 kilos of cocaine originating from Colombia, landed on the Farallones property of Dinant Corporation's Executive President, Miguel Facussé (now deceased). The cable reports that "Facusse's property is heavily guarded and the prospect that individuals were able to access the property and, without authorization, use the airstrip is questionable. In addition, Facusse's report obviously contradicts other information received from the law enforcement source ..." Facusse was also reported to be on-site when the drug plane landed on his property. Farallones is surrounding by seas of African palm plantations with 'Private Property' signs nailed to trees and fences and under heavy guard by armed security personnel.

Its difficult to see drug trafficking busts in Honduras as 'successful' operations.  Many Hondurans and international observers see drug war efforts as cherry-picking - nailing some drug traffickers and cartels while leaving others fully operative, if not empowered by the elimination of the competition. The War on Drugs and militarization has grave consequences for Honduran communities, particularly as it is used as a pretext to target and criminalize indigenous populations and communities that defend their natural resources and territories.

Evangélicos Financiados por los Estados Unidos y Golpistas Detrás de la Nueva Comisión para Depurar la Policía Hondureña

ENGLISH VERSION BELOW

Otro escándalo exponiendo la corrupción policial y participación de comisionados de la policía hondureña en asesinatos y crimen organizado salió en la prensa otra vez en marzo del 2016. Poco después, el 7 de abril, el Congreso hondureño aprobó un decreto que legisla la depuración de la policía hondureño, declarando la limpieza como una “prioridad nacional.” El decreto pidió la creación de la Comisión Especial para Depurar la Policía Nacional de Honduras.

No es la primera vez que un escándalo provoca la aprobación de una legislación para depurar las fuerzas de seguridad hondureñas corruptas. En Enero de 2014, se creó la Comisión de Reforma de Fuerzas de la Seguridad Pública y hoy se admite ampliamente que fue un fracaso enorme, incluso por aquellos que aplaudieron su esfuerzo. Algunos no se sorprenden al ver que esta nunca logró aquello para lo cual fue creada.

El gobierno de Honduras lo hace de nuevo. Días después que se aprobara el decreto 2016, se formó una Comisión Especial para Depurar la Policía Nacional de Honduras. Entonces pensé que valdría la pena echar un vistazo a las asociaciones y antecedentes de los tres Comisarios nombrados a la Comisión - Omar Rivera, Alberto Solórzano y Vilma Morales.

Izquierda a derecha: Ministro de Seguridad Julian Pacheco, Presidente de Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, Omar Rivera de ASJ, Vilma Morales y Pastor Alberto Solórzano. Fuente: El Heraldo

Izquierda a derecha: Ministro de Seguridad Julian Pacheco, Presidente de Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, Omar Rivera de ASJ, Vilma Morales y Pastor Alberto Solórzano. Fuente: El Heraldo

Omar Rivera, Coordinador, Asociación para una Sociedad Más Justa (ASJ)

Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa (ASJ) es una organización hondureña y estadounidense que recibe apoyo significativo de USAID de los EEUU para ejecutar programas como Centros de Alcance en el barrio de Nueva Suyapa en Tegucigalpa; los Centros de Asistencia Legal Anticorrupción (ALAC); y una subvención bajo el programa de educación “Impulsando la Participación Ciudadana, Transparencia y Oportunidades Sociales (IMPACTOS)”, entre otros. ASJ recibe el apoyo de la Iglesia Reformada Cristiana Evangélica en América del Norte.

ASJ coordina una iniciativa conocida como la Alianza para La Paz y La Justica (APJ), un amplio grupo de “organizaciones de la sociedad civil” que tiende a dominar los espacios donde la “sociedad civil” es consultada acerca de temas nacionales de importancia como seguridad, impunidad y corrupción. Entre los aliados de la APJ están el Grupo de la Sociedad Civil, Transformemos Honduras, MOPAWI y la Confraternidad Evangélica, entre otros. APJ es financiado por el Instituto Democrático Nacional (una organización del Partido Democrático de los EEUU que financia casi exclusivamente las mismas organizaciones aliadas con APJ) y el Departamento de Estado, desde la Oficina de Conflicto y Operaciones de Estabilización, creada para “mejorar la eficacia y la coherencia del gobierno de los EEUU en situaciones de conflicto.”

Es casi imposible investigar uno de los programas de ASJ sin conectarse a la financiación de los EEUU y programas que promueven la política estadounidense en Honduras y soluciones cosméticas a grandes problemas estructurales como la corrupción e impunidad. Muchas personas en el movimiento social hondureño ven a la ASJ y la Embajada de los EEUU como dos caras de la misma moneda.

Pastor Alberto Solórzano, Presidente, Confraternidad Evangélica, junta directiva, Alianza por la Paz y la Justicia (APJ)

Como se mencionó anteriormente, la Confraternidad Evangélica es uno de los miembros de la iniciativa APJ, coordinada por ASJ. La organización afirma que representa el 90% de todas las organizaciones evangélicas en Honduras. Un conocido pastor de la iglesia Vida Abundante y representante de la Confraternidad Evangélica, Evelio Reyes recientemente condujo rezos públicos en la Casa Presidencial con el presidente hondureño Juan Orlando Hernández, la primera dama Ana de Hernández y asistentes de muchas Iglesias y organizaciones evangélicas. Evelio Reyes, un pariente cercano al Ministro de Defensa, Samuel Reyes y amigo del Presidente Hernández, fue objeto de una demanda en 2013 presentado por el respetado activista hondureño de la comunidad LGBTI, Erick Martínez. El pastor profirió insultos degradantes y discriminatorios contra la comunidad LGBTI a su congregación diciéndoles que “no votaran por homosexuales o lesbianas que corrompen el modelo de Dios”.

En defensa de Reyes, la Confraternidad Evangélica escribió una carta pública, firmada por el Pastor Alberto Solórzano, uno de los miembros de la Comisión de Depuración Policial , expresando su desacuerdo con la investigación contra el Pastor Reyes y justifica las declaraciones homofóbicas como “movidos por el interés de presentar el plan de salvación de Dios para la humanidad con el objetivo de buscar la preservación de la sociedad.” Estos ataques verbales y odio contra la comunidad LGBTI son alarmantes teniendo en cuenta la violencia y los asesinatos reportados por organizaciones hondureñas. En los últimos siete años, 215 personas LGBTI han sido asesinadas en Honduras, 37 en los cuales ocurrieron en el años 2015 solamente.

Ante su nominación para la Comisión para Depurar la Policía, varios cuestionan la participación del Pastor Solórzano. Según el ex-fiscal general Edmundo Orellana, “ningún ministro religioso puede asumir funciones públicas,” alegando que el nombramiento del Pastor era ilegal. Las críticas de Orellana fueron ignoradas.

Vale la pena mencionar que los dos suplentes de la Comisión para Depurar la Policía son Carlos Hernández, Presidente de la ASJ y Jorge Machado, miembro de la Confraternidad Evangélica.

Vilma Morales, ex-Presidenta de la Corte Suprema de Justica; miembro, Comisión Interventora del Instituto Hondureño de Seguridad Social (IHSS); miembro, Comisión Interventora del Instituto Nacional de Previsión del Magisterio (INPREMA)

Vilma Morales es conocido por su participación en “Comisiones de Intervención” en al menos dos instituciones públicas de Honduras desde el año 2009. Ella también es conocida como gran defensora del golpe de estado militar del 2009, negando en las semanas siguientes que un golpe ocurrió en Honduras. Morales represento el régimen de facto de Roberto Micheletti en las negociaciones después del golpe e insistió en que el derrocado presidente Manuel Zelaya se enfrentaría cargos criminales a su regreso a Honduras.

En Honduras, las “Comisiones Interventoras” son entendidas de ser “Comisiones de Privatización”. En muchas ocasiones, como fue el caso con INPREMA, IHSS, y la empresa telefónica HONDUTEL, todas las instituciones públicas fueron “intervenidas” o brevemente entregadas a una Comisión para una revisión estructural, que más tarde, propone reformas estructurales que ponen a las instituciones camino a la privatización. Vilma Morales participó en dos de las instituciones mencionadas y ayudó a blanquear la corrupción vinculada a funcionarios de alto nivel del gobierno en ambas ocasiones, garantizando la impunidad, mientras que la Comisión Interventora anunció grandes reformas neoliberales en ambas instituciones. Morales será conocido en la historia hondureña como una ‘perrita faldera’ del Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI), que marcó el comienzo de los ajustes estructurales en ambas instituciones.

En 2009, el gobierno de facto de Roberto Micheletti saqueó más de $40 milliones del fondo de pensiones de los maestros, una de las bases más fuertes del movimiento social después del golpe: el Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP). La crisis financiera llevó a la Comisión Interventora, que Morales encabezó y más tarde recomendó serias reformas neoliberales a la institución. Con la intervención a su fondo de pensiones, los maestros perdieron el control de la administración de sus préstamos, sus beneficios sociales y junto con la aprobación de una nueva ley de educación, Morales y la Comisión Interventora marcaron el comienzo de algunos de los cambios más grandes en la educación pública en Honduras. El movimiento magisterial, uno de los más fuertes movimientos sociales en el país, cayó aparte debido a los grandes cambios estructurales a INPREMA, que dio pie a la privatización lenta y gradual de la educación pública.

Años después en 2014, Vilma Morales fue nombrada jefa de la Comisión Interventora del IHSS después de que el periodista hondureño David Romero destapara un escándalo de corrupción de $350 millones de dólares en el IHSS. El escándalo involucró la creación de una serie de empresas fantasmas que lavaron dinero desde el IHSS que manejó beneficios sociales y médicos para los empleados públicos. El dinero robado estaba vinculado a funcionarios de alto nivel en el actual partido en el poder y múltiples cheques fueron depositadas en las cuentas del Partido Nacional de Honduras. En el proceso, se produjo una crisis financiera en el IHSS. El IHSS se agotó de medicamentos, equipos, asistencia, y recursos humanos y alrededor de 3.000 personas perdieron la vida como resultado. Como la crisis explotó y miles de hondureños salieron a la calle exigiendo justicia, Morales fue nombrada a la Comisión Interventora establecida para revisar las finanzas y reestructurar el IHSS. Una de las recomendaciones de la Comisión fue la aprobación de la Ley Marco del Sistema de Protección Social que después, fue aprobado en el Congreso y recibió un fuerte respaldo de Morales. Sindicatos hondureños y empleados públicos criticaron la nueva ley y se movilizaron para detenerlo con poco éxito.

En diciembre de 2014, el gobierno hondureño firmó un acuerdo de $189 millones de dólares con el FMI. En el resumen del acuerdo Stand-By, el FMI aplaude los cambios estructurales realizados en IMPREMA y menciona la importancia de modelar la reestructuración del IHSS con las lecciones aprendidas en IMPREMA. Ambas reestructuraciones institucionales se produjeron después de una “crisis” de corrupción, el nombramiento y el trabajo de una Comisión Interventora y una nueva ley que propone ajustes económicos neoliberales radicales.

Vilma Morales, Omar Rivera y Pastor Alberto Solórzano son individuos vinculados a fuertes intereses evangélicos, golpistas, y a los de la Embajada de los EEUU. Su participación en la Comisión Especial para Depurar la Policía arroja una luz sobre a la posición de los EEUU en las decisiones que la Comisión tendrá que hacer dado los fuertes lazos de Rivera y Pastor Solórzano al financiamiento de la Embajada de los EEUU. Al examinar las asociacionesde Rivera y Solórzano también se plantean preguntas importantes sobre el firme apoyo de los EEUU y el financiamiento para las Iglesias y organizaciones evangélicas en Honduras. El papel de Vilma Morales en la Comisión puede ser reflejo de algún tipo de reestructuración económica, aunque hasta la fecha, la Comisión no ha tocado el tema.

U.S. Funded Evangelicals and Coup Supporters Behind the New Commission to Purge the Honduran Police

Another scandal exposing police corruption and involvement of Honduran police commanders in assassinations and organized crime hit the press again in March 2016. Shortly after, on April 7, the Honduran Congress approved a decree legislating the purging of the National Police, declaring a clean up of the police a “national priority.” The decree called for the creation of a Special Reform Commission for the Purging and Transformation of the Police.

It is not the first time a scandal incited the approval of legislation to cleanup corrupt security forces. In January 2014, the Commission for Public Security Reform was also created, and today is widely admitted to have been a huge failure, even by those that applauded its effort. Some are not surprised that it never achieved what it was created to do.    

So the Honduran government is at it again. Days after the 2016 decree was approved, a three-member Special Reform Commission for the Purging and Transformation of the Police was formed. I thought it was worth taking a look at the organizational associations and backgrounds of the three appointed Commissioners – Omar Rivera, Alberto Solórzano, and Vilma Morales. 

From left to right: Ministry of Security, Julian Pacheco, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, ASJ's Omar Rivera, Vilma Morales, and Pastor Alberto Solórzano. Photo credit: el heraldo 

From left to right: Ministry of Security, Julian Pacheco, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, ASJ's Omar Rivera, Vilma Morales, and Pastor Alberto Solórzano. Photo credit: el heraldo 

Omar Rivera, Advocacy Director, Association for a More Just Society (ASJ); Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ)

Association for a More Just Society (ASJ) is a Honduran and U.S. faith-based organization that receives significant U.S. support from USAID to run Centros de Alcance that focus on "anti-gang and violence prevention" programs promoting extensively to address youth migration to the U.S; the Legal Advisory and Anti-Corruption Centers (ALAC); and a grant for an education program given under the Impulsing Citizen Participation, Transparency and Social Opportunities (Impactos), amongst others. ASJ receives support from the evangelical Christian Reformed Church in North America.

ASJ coordinates an initiative known as the Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ), a broad group of “civil society organizations” that tends to dominate any spaces where “civil society” is consulted about important national issues including security, impunity, and corruption. Allies of APJ include the Civil Society Group, Transformemos Honduras, MOPAWI, and the Cofraternidad Evangelica de Honduras, amongst others. APJ is funded by the National Democratic Institute (who funds almost exclusively the same organizations allied with APJ) and the US Department of State, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, created to “improve the effectiveness and coherence of the U.S. government in conflict situations.”

Its almost impossible to research one of ASJ’s programs without connecting it to U.S. funding and programs that promote U.S. policy and cosmetic solutions to major structural problems like corruption and impunity. Many in the Honduran social movement see ASJ and the U.S. Embassy as one in the same.

Pastor Alberto Solórzano. President, Confraternidad Evangelical (CE), board member, Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ)

As mentioned previously, the Confraternidad Evangelica is one of the members of the ASJ-coordinated initiative APJ. It claims to represent 90% of all evangelical organizations in Honduras. A well-known pastor of the “Abundant Life” church and representative of the Confraternidad Evangelica, Evelio Reyes recently led public prayers in the Presidential Palace with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, the First Lady Ana de Hernandez, and attendees of many evangelical churches and organizations. Evelio Reyes, a close relative of the Minister of Defense, Samuel Reyes, and friend of President Hernandez, was the subject of a 2013 law suit filed by well-respected LBGTI Honduran activist, Erick Martinez. The pastor made discriminatory and degrading insults against the LBGTI community to his congregation telling them not to “vote for homosexuals or lesbians who corrupt the model of God.”

In Reyes defense, the Confraternidad Evangelica wrote a public letter, signed by Pastor Alberto Solórzano, one of the members of the Police Purging Commission, expressing their disagreement with the investigation against Pastor Reyes and justifying the homophobic statements as “moved by the interest to present a salvation plan for humanity in order to seek the preservation of the society.” These verbal attacks and hate speech against the LGBTI community are alarming considering the violence and assassinations reported by Honduran organizations. In the last seven years, 215 LBGTI people have been murdered in Honduras, 37 of which occurred in 2015 alone.

Upon nomination to the Police Purging Commission, individuals questioned the participation of Pastor Solórzano. According to a former Attorney General, Edmundo Orellana, “no religious minister can assume public functions,” claiming that the Pastor’s nomination was illegal. Orellana’s criticisms were ignored.

It is worth mentioning that the two alternates for the Police Purging Commission are Carlos Hernandez, the President of ASJ, and Jorge Machado, a Board member of the Confraternidad Evangelica.

Vilma Morales, former President of the Supreme Court; member, Intervention Commission of the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS); and member, Intervention Commission of National Welfare Institute for the Teaching Profession (IMPREMA).

Vilma Morales is best known for her participation in “intervention commissions” in at least two public Honduran institutions since 2009. She is also known as a major supporter of the 2009 military coup, denying in the weeks following that a coup taken place in Honduras. Morales represented the de-facto regime of Roberto Micheletti in negotiations after the coup, and insisted that the overthrown President Manuel Zelaya would face criminal charges upon returning to Honduras.

In Honduras, “intervention Commissions” have become understood as “privatization commissions”. In many occasions, as was the case with the IMPREMA, IHSS, and the telecommunications company, Hondutel, all public institutions were “intervened” or briefly handed over to a Commission for a structural review, that would later, propose structural reforms that set the institutions on the path to privatization. Vilma Morales was involved in two of the institutions mentioned and helped whitewash the corruption linked to high level officials in the Honduran government in both occasions, guaranteeing impunity, while ushering in major neoliberal reforms in both institutions. Morales will be known in Honduran history as a lapdog for the International Monetary Fund that ushered in the structural adjustments to the institutions.

In 2009, the de-facto government of Roberto Micheletti ransacked more than $40 million of pension funds from the Honduran teachers, one of the strongest bases of the post-coup social movement, the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP). The resulting financial crisis led to the intervention commission, which Morales headed, and later, recommended serious neoliberal reforms to the institution. With the intervention of their pension fund, teachers lost control of managing small loans, social benefits, and together with the approval of a new education law, Morales and the intervention commission assisted in ushering in some of the largest changes in public education in Honduras. The teachers’ movement, one of the strongest social movements in Honduras, fell apart as a result of the major structural changes to IMPREMA, which paved the way to a slow, incremental path to privatization of public education.

Years later in 2014, Vilma Morales was appointed as head of the IHSS Intervention Commission after Honduran journalist David Romero broke a $350 million dollar corruption scandal in the Honduran Social Security Institute.  The scandal involved the creation of a series of ghost companies that laundered money from the IHSS that managed social and medical benefits for public employees. The stolen money was linked to high-level officials in the current political party in power and multiple checks were deposited in the accounts of the National Party of Honduras. In the process, a financial crisis in the IHSS ensued. The IHSS was depleted of medicines, equipment, care and human resources and an estimated 3,000 people lost their lives as a result. As the crisis exploded and thousands of Honduras took to the street demanding justice, Morales was appointed to join the Intervention Commission set to review finances and restructure the IHSS. One of the Commission’s recommendations was the approval of the Law for Social Protection that was later passed in Congress and received heavy endorsement by Morales herself. Honduran unions and public workers heavily criticized the new law and mobilized to stop it with little success.

In December 2014, the Honduran government signed a $189 million dollars agreement with the IMF. In the stand-by agreement summary, the IMF applauds the structural changes made in IMPREMA, and the importance of modeling the restructuring of the IHSS off of the lessons learned in IMPREMA. Both institutional restructuring occurred after a “crisis” of corruption, the appointment and work of an Intervention Commission, and a new law that proposed radical neoliberal economic adjustments.

Vilma Morales, Omar Rivera, and Pastor Alberto Solórzano are individuals tied to strong interests in Honduras – U.S. embassy, evangelical and golpista interests. Their participation on the Special Reform Commission for the Purging and Transformation of the Police may provide a guiding light as to the U.S. position on decisions that the Commission will have to make given Rivera and Pastor Solórzano’s strong ties to U.S. funding. Examining Rivera and Solórzano’s associations also raises important questions about the strong U.S. support and funding for evangelical churches and organizations in Honduras. Vilma Morales’ role in the Commission may be reflective of some sort of economic restructuring, although to date, the Commission has not touched on the matter.