SUPPORTING POLITICAL PRISONERS: ONE YEAR IN US-STYLE TORTURE CENTRES IN HONDURAS (español abajo)

One year ago, I made the trip for the first time to the military-run, maximum-security prison known as La Tolva, located in southeastern Honduras. I thought it would be pretty simple to drop off food and clothes for Edwin.

Arrested on January 19, Edwin was immediately sent the following day (January 20) to La Tolva by Judge Claudio Aguilar of the national jurisdiction court system on request from the Public Prosecutor’s office. Raul Alvarez, the other political prisoner from Tegucigalpa, was sent to La Tolva a few days before Edwin.

US-Style Maximum-Security Torture Centers

Very quickly after my first trip to La Tolva, I would come to realize that La Tolva is not at all a jail. As Honduran human rights organization COFADEH first called it, La Tolva is a torture centre.

It is a torture centre where the Honduran government sends people (many of whom have not been found guilty or gone to trial such is the case with Edwin and Raul) to psychologically, emotionally and physically torture them and their family members who attempt to visit and care for them while incarcerated.

The two maximum-security torture centres - La Tolva and El Pozo (known as ‘El Pozo II’) jails look like they were physically picked up from some location in the US and dropped down in Honduras. They are large, cement compounds, complete with three layers of security decked out with modern equipment and infrastructure. They were built by the Juan Orlando Hernandez regime to allegedly house the most dangerous criminals in the country.

One of the two US-style maximum-security prison in Honduras

One of the two US-style maximum-security prison in Honduras

I have too many examples of why these jails are torture centres and how prison authorities and the Honduran government go out of their way to create a hell that is hard to imagine for those that have never been in these jails or don’t have family members imprisoned there. The Honduran government and media even brag about the ‘hell’ of these jails in a sociopathic manner that perpetuates further exclusion and isolation of an already marginalized and stigmatized population in the country.

When a riot occurs there, when inmates are killed or disappeared, when family members denounce the poor conditions, the health crises, the abuses, prison authorities are often quick to lie and give a version to the Honduran media that is far from the truth.  With such little access provided to outside human rights organizations and attorneys, it is extremely difficult to tell a different and truthful version of what really occurs inside these torture centres.

What are the conditions Like in La Tolva:

  • Prisoners have access to running water for 3 hours/day

  • Prisoners receive 2 hours of sunlight per month

  • There is no telephone communication & no letters are allowed in or out of the jail.

  • No pens, books, or paper are allowed in the prison

  • 9 men share a cell and one toilet (with no walls for privacy and that are difficult to flush and keep clean considering significant water shortages)

  • Prisoners are sporadically given purified water in bags (~400 ml), sometimes only one bag/day.

  • Food portions are insufficient and are cut when prison authorities want to punish the population.

The water bottle on the left is a sample of water taken from inside La Tolva. When prison authorities do not provide sufficient purified water, prisoners must drink the dirty tap water

The water bottle on the left is a sample of water taken from inside La Tolva. When prison authorities do not provide sufficient purified water, prisoners must drink the dirty tap water

Prisoners’ Contact With the Outside World

  • Family visits are permitted one day per week after each family member hands in the following paperwork to prison authorities then waits for that paperwork to be ‘processed’ and then sent to the INP. This can take up to 1-3 months and costs approximately $100 USD. What do families have to submit to be authorized to visit?

    • 3 photos taken in studio, 3 personal references, a proof of address given in a formal document by the municipality; police background check; criminal background check; and a copy in color of photo ID.

  • Conjugal visit for 40 minutes every two weeks. Partners of inmates must apply for these visits handing in the following paperwork AFTER they apply for regular prison visit authorization:

    • a Pap smear, syphilis test, HIV test, full blood exam, a doctor’s letter saying one is in good health; a ‘health card’ certifying that one is not contagious; 3 colour photos taken in a studio; a colour copy of photo ID.

  • The detainees’ lawyers are only allowed to speak with them for 10 minutes with their clients and all conversations take place in front of two prison guards – one behind the lawyer and the other behind the inmate.

In order to hand all this paperwork in, families must travel to the front gate of the prison where only ONE designated person receives them. This one person has to walk back and forth from the administrative offices all day. This is a highly inefficient system that requires family members to stand outside in the hot sun with no shade, no bathroom, nowhere to buy water or food, nowhere to sit except on the hot pavement, for hours.

Changing Prison Culture in Honduras

In La Tolva, it is really difficult if not impossible for national and international human rights organizations to enter and verify prison conditions. This gives prison authorities even more power and ability to hide or distort the reality of what does or does not occur inside these jails.  

In normal Honduran jails and as per Honduran culture, dropping food, clothes and other basic necessities at the jails for family members has been the norm for years. With the construction of US-style prisons in Honduras, this has changed. Now, nothing can be dropped off at the gates of the prison without prison authorities telling you what (medical prescriptions prescribed by the prison doctor; water; the type and quantity of clothing down to the exact color, neck yoke line, style, etc). For so many poor Honduran families, providing these items down to the specificities required by the National Penitentiary Institute (INP) and the prison is impossible and very expensive.

Preparing the clothing and hygiene kits’ to take to La Tolva for Edwin & Raul: 3 white or green, round-neck t-shirts; sweatpants with no zippers or buttons or markings; two pairs of shorts; running shoes; two pairs of boxers; three pairs of white, ankle socks; etc.Honduran Prisila Alvarado of the Mesa de los Indignados de El Progreso holds up the kits and helps prepare and purchase them.

Preparing the clothing and hygiene kits’ to take to La Tolva for Edwin & Raul: 3 white or green, round-neck t-shirts; sweatpants with no zippers or buttons or markings; two pairs of shorts; running shoes; two pairs of boxers; three pairs of white, ankle socks; etc.Honduran Prisila Alvarado of the Mesa de los Indignados de El Progreso holds up the kits and helps prepare and purchase them.

The majority of Honduran prisoners in these torture centres are poor people. The rich and corrupt, like all of those accused in the 8 corruption cases presented by the internationally-financed anti-corruption body, the MACCIH, are either conditionally released; on house arrest; or are jailed inside VIP rooms or jail cells in the non-US-style Tamara prison, outside of Tegucigalpa.

Sending Edwin and Raul – two people of thousands of Honduras that protested the 2017 electoral fraud – to La Tolva is the harshest, most inhumane punishment imposed by the Juan Orlando Hernandez regime against members of the opposition. The complacency of the Public Prosecutor’s office and the justice system is cruel, unjust, and once again, an illustration of the unequal form in which the law is manipulatively applied in Honduras.

The First Few Days After Edwin’s Arrival to La Tolva

Shortly after arriving to La Tolva, we would find out later that both Edwin and Raul were held in solitary confinement – Raul for approximately 20 days and Edwin for 15 days. Edwin tells me that he almost went crazy the first few weeks. He was enclosed inside a small cell with no bathroom. He begged another prisoner that he saw on his one-hour outside a day (it would later be one hour every two weeks) to let him borrow the Bible. It was the only thing that kept his mind from running wild and one of the few books in the last year that he’s been able to get his hands on.

US Companies Profit from These Torture Centers & Detention of Political Prisoners

The most outrageous part of the conditions and practices of Honduran authorities is that the two maximum-security prisons – La Tolva (or El Pozo II) and El Pozo - are made, designed, and a source of profit for US prison contractors and companies.

Inside La Tolva, one quickly can see that the majority of the equipment, building materials, bullet proof windows, even the large industrial fans on the ceilings of the visiting areas, have been purchased from US companies.

The Honduran government has purchased various types of equipment for the jail that have never been used. For example, there is a large, industrial clothing washer and dryer that is never used, possibly because the prison suffers from a severe water shortages. Instead, the equipment just sits there unused while a US company received likely thousands of dollars selling it to the Honduran government. 

All windows including in the cellblocks and visitation areas are bullet proof and money has been spent on all kinds of US-style equipment, yet there is little to no medical equipment or medications inside the health clinic that allegedly has a 24-hour physician on staff 7 days a week. Yet prisoners constantly complain of the lack of urgent and regular medication attention including Edwin and Raul who went on hunger strike demanding to see a physician in the first few months of their arrival to the La Tolva.

As far as the inmates and prison guards understand, inside La Tolva torture centre there are wood working workshops and gyms filled with various types of equipment. These areas and equipment are not used by the inmates - they just know that they exist. The kitchen has industrial style equipment that is more likely than not, purchased from a US company and imported into Honduras.

At one point, a private US company installed telephones and inmates that wanted to contact their family members had to purchase phone cards costing 100 Lempiras ($4.20) for 12 minutes. The phones were taken out on April 2018. A US company also services and runs the security cameras inside the prison but the name of the company is not public information and difficult to verify.   

Meeting Courageous Honduran Women At The Front Gate

Standing outside the front gate of La Tolva (known as ‘Customs One,’ almost like you’re entering another country and leaving all your rights behind) has become the norm for me.

Almost on a weekly basis, I wait outside of the torture centre with Honduran women from the organization, the Mesa de los Indignados de Progreso that lead the fight to free the political prisoners.

We, and all the female family members of other inmates, constantly have to fight the various military and police forces at the gate, either to accept medications prescribed by the “in-house doctor”; accept additional nutritional supplements; and simply demand that prison authorities respect the law. When one demands this, I have myself been laughed at and dismissed by the security forces who tell me: “you’re in Honduras, sweetie.”

At La Tolva torture centre, laws do not apply. Every single legal mechanism that establishes the prison norms, rules, procedures, and laws in Honduras are violated in La Tolva.

The more you mention that the prison authorities are breaking the law, the more the various security forces present inside the jail like the Military Police, the National Penitentiary Institute (INP) police, the military, and the new National Force to Control the Prisons (that are just US-trained military soldiers in balaclavas with only their eyes exposed and black and green uniforms) make it more and more difficult for you to get in to see your family members.

The military prison director also finds his way of punishing those that demand that the law be respected. In many cases, the directors (who are rotated every 6-7 months) will make you wait outside in the hot sun where there is no shade or trees, nowhere to buy water, use the bathroom, or sit down. I have spent hours after hours outside of the La Tolva standing next to mostly Honduran women that are doing the same things I am: waiting to be let in to visit, drop off medications and prescribed nutritional supplements, or await the answer to simple questions.

Waiting in a long line ups out in the hot sun in ‘Customs One’ in La Tolva in order to drop off clothes and hygiene kits for Edwin and Raul

Waiting in a long line ups out in the hot sun in ‘Customs One’ in La Tolva in order to drop off clothes and hygiene kits for Edwin and Raul

I have met countless Honduran women at the gates of La Tolva as I wait, yet again, to either get a written confirmation of something or permission from the Director to enter. All of the women tell me endless stories of abuses; sexual abuse and harassment; of times when they have attempted to demand their rights and then been punished by having their visitation rights taken away for 6 months; of fighting for their brothers, sons, and husbands and end up frustrated with no response from the Honduran government.

The Honduran women that continue going to La Tolva to visit and support their family members are truly incredible. I have come to deeply respect their courage, strength, and solidarity as we share testimonies and stories at the front gate of the torture centre.

A Failed ‘Security’ Strategy But a Successfully Profitable One

These torture centres do nothing to ensure the safety of the prison population or the safety of the general Honduran population. Honduran women are the people most affected by this new security policy implemented under the Juan Orlando Hernandez and with the positive view of the US government that promotes US economic interests in Honduras over human rights and prisoners’ rights.

These jails must be closed down. In normal Honduran jails, conditions must be improved.

As Edwin said to foreigners a few months ago:

“In Honduras, we have jails instead of schools, weapons instead of medicine, bullets instead of books. This just makes our world more unsafe. Lets build a better world. Ask your government to stop supporting dictatorships.”

 ****

APOYANDO PRESOS POLITICOS: UN AÑO EN UN CENTRO DE TORTURA, ESTILO GRINGO EN HONDURAS

*** Traducción borrador ***

 1 de febrero de 2019

Hace un año, hice el primer viaje a la prisión de máxima seguridad dirigida por militares conocida como La Tolva, ubicada en el sureste de Honduras. Pensé que sería bastante simple dejar comida y ropa para Edwin.

Arrestado el 19 de enero, Edwin fue enviado de inmediato al día siguiente, el 20 de enero a La Tolva por el juez Claudio Aguilar de la corte de jurisdicción nacional a petición del Ministerio Publico. Raúl Álvarez, el otro preso político de Tegucigalpa, fue enviado a La Tolva unos días antes que Edwin.

 Centros de Tortura de Máxima Seguridad, Estilo Gringo

Muy rápidamente después de mi primer viaje a La Tolva, me di cuenta de que La Tolva no es una cárcel. Como lo llamó por primera vez la organización hondureña de derechos humanos, COFADEH, La Tolva es un centro de tortura. Es un centro de tortura donde el gobierno hondureño envía a personas (muchas de las cuales no han sido declaradas culpables como en el caso de Edwin y Raúl) para torturar psicológica, emocional y físicamente a ellos y a los miembros de su familia que intentan visitarlos y cuidarlos mientras estén encarcelados.

Los dos centros de tortura de máxima seguridad, La Tolva y El Pozo (conocidos como "El Pozo II") parecen haber sido recogidos físicamente de algún lugar en los EE. UU. y arrojados en Honduras. Son grandes, compuestos de cemento, completos con tres supuestos anillos de seguridad adornadas con modernos equipos e infraestructura. Fueron construidos por el régimen de Juan Orlando Hernández para albergar a los supuestos criminales más peligrosos del país.

Tengo demasiados ejemplos de por qué estas cárceles son centros de tortura y cómo las autoridades penitenciarias y el gobierno hondureño se esfuerzan por crear un infierno que es difícil de imaginar para aquellos que nunca han estado en estas cárceles o no tienen familiares encarcelados allí. El gobierno y los medios de comunicación hondureños, presumen del "infierno" de estas cárceles en una forma sociopática que solo perpetúa la exclusión y el aislamiento de una población ya marginada y estigmatizada en el país.

Cuando se produce un motín allí, cuando los internos son asesinados o desaparecidos, cuando los miembros de la familia denuncian las malas condiciones, las crisis sanitarias, los abusos, las autoridades penitenciarias a menudo mienten y entregan una versión a los medios de comunicación hondureños que está lejos de la verdad. Con tan poco acceso a organizaciones y abogados de derechos humanos, es extremadamente difícil decir una versión diferente y veraz de lo que realmente ocurre dentro de estos centros de tortura.
Como Son Las Condiciones en La Tolva:

  • Los privados tienen acceso a agua (sucia) por un máximo de 3 horas cada día.

  • Los privados reciben 2 horas de sol al mes

  • No hay comunicación telefónica y no se permiten el ingreso o salida de cartas de la cárcel

  • No se permiten bolígrafos, libros o papel en la prisión

  • 9 hombres comparten una celda y un inodoro (sin paredes para su privacidad y que son difíciles de limpiar y mantener limpios considerando una grave escasez de agua)

  • Los privados reciben agua purificada esporádicamente en bolsas (~ 400 ml), a veces solo una bolsa por día

  • Las porciones de comida son insuficientes y se cortan cuando las autoridades de la prisión quieren castigar a los privados de libertad

El Contacto de Los Privados Con el Mundo Exterior

  • Las visitas familiares se permiten un día por semana después de que cada miembro de la familia soliciten un carnet y entregue los siguientes documentos a las autoridades de la prisión y luego espera a que se procesen y envíen al INP. Esto puede tomar hasta 1-3 meses y cuesta aproximadamente $ 100 USD ¿Qué tienen que presentar las familias para ser autorizados a visitar ?:

    • 3 fotos tomadas en un estudio, 3 referencias personales, una constancia de vecindad entregada por el municipio; antecedentes policiales; antecedentes criminales; y una copia en color de su cédula

  • Visita conyugal permitidas por 40 minutos cada dos semanas. Las compañeras de los reclusos deben solicitarlas y entregar la siguiente documentación DESPUÉS de solicitar un carnet para una visita regular:

    • Una citología vaginal; un examen de sífilis; un examen de VIH, hemograma completo, una "tarjeta de salud" que certifique que una no es contagiosa; un examen físico completo; 2 fotos a color tomadas en un estudio; una copia en color de su cédula

  • Los abogados de los detenidos solo pueden entrar una vez por semana por 10 minutos con sus clientes. Todas las conversaciones tienen lugar frente a dos guardias, uno detrás del abogado y el otro detrás del recluso. Los abogados no pueden entrar con papeles, copias del expediente o con bolígrafos.

Para entregar todo este papeleo, los familiares deben viajar al portón principal del centro penal donde solo UNA persona designada las recibe. Esta persona tiene que caminar de un lado a otro desde las oficinas administrativas todo el día. Este es un sistema altamente ineficiente que requiere que los miembros de la familia permanezcan afuera bajo el sol caliente sin sombra, sin baño, donde no puedan comprar agua o alimentos, donde no puedan sentarse, excepto en el pavimento caliente, durante horas.

Cambiando la Cultura Penitenciaria en Honduras

En La Tolva, es realmente difícil, si no imposible, que las organizaciones nacionales e internacionales de derechos humanos ingresen y verifiquen las condiciones de los privados de libertad. Esto le da a las autoridades penitenciarias aún más poder y capacidad para ocultar o distorsionar la realidad de lo que ocurre o no ocurre dentro de estas cárceles.

En las cárceles hondureñas normales y según la cultura hondureña, dejar comida, ropa y otras necesidades básicas en las cárceles para familiares ha sido la norma durante años. Con la construcción de centros penales de estilo estadounidense en Honduras, esto ha cambiado. Ahora, no se puede dejar nada en el portón de las cárceles de máxima seguridad sin que las autoridades penitenciarias le digan qué (recetas médicas recetadas por el médico del centro penal; agua; el tipo y la cantidad de ropa hasta el color exacto, el tipo de escote, el estilo, etc.) Para tantas familias pobres de Honduras, proporcionar estos artículos hasta las especificidades requeridas por el Instituto Nacional Penitenciario y La Tolva es imposible y muy costoso.

La mayoría de los privados de libertad hondureños en estos centros de tortura son personas pobres. Los ricos y corruptos, como todos los acusados en los 8 casos de corrupción presentados por el organismo anticorrupción financiado internacionalmente, la MACCIH son liberados con medidas substitutivas, bajo arresto domiciliario o encarcelados dentro de salas VIP o celdas en el centro penal de Tamara, fuera de Tegucigalpa.

Enviar a Edwin y Raúl, dos personas de miles de hondureños que protestaron por el fraude electoral de 2017, a La Tolva es el castigo más severo e inhumano impuesto por el régimen de Juan Orlando Hernández contra miembros de la oposición. La complacencia de la Fiscalía y el Poder Judicial es cruel, injusta y, una vez más, una ilustración de la forma desigual en que se aplica la ley de manera manipuladora en Honduras.

Los Primeros Días Después de la Llegada de Edwin a La Tolva

Poco después de llegar a La Tolva, más tarde descubriríamos que tanto Edwin como Raúl permanecieron recluidos en régimen de aislamiento: Raúl durante aproximadamente 20 días y Edwin durante 15 días. Edwin me dice que casi se volvió loco las primeras semanas. Estaba encerrado dentro de una pequeña celda sin baño. Le rogó a otro privado de libertad que vio en una hora fuera de un día (más tarde sería una hora cada dos semanas) que le prestara la Biblia. Fue lo único que evitó que su mente se volviera loca y uno de los pocos libros en el último año en que pudo tener en sus manos.

Empresas Estadounidenses Se Benefician de Estos Centros de Tortura y Detención de Presos Políticos

La parte más escandalosa de las condiciones y prácticas de las autoridades hondureñas es que las dos prisiones de máxima seguridad, La Tolva (o El Pozo II) y El Pozo, están hechas, diseñadas y son una fuente de ganancias para los contratistas y compañías de prisiones de EE. UU.

Dentro de La Tolva, uno puede ver rápidamente que la mayoría de los equipos, materiales de construcción, ventanas blindadas, incluso los grandes ventiladores industriales en los techos de las áreas de visita, fueron comprados a compañías estadounidenses.

El gobierno hondureño ha comprado varios tipos de equipos para la cárcel que nunca se han utilizado. Por ejemplo, hay una lavadora y secadora grande de ropa industrial que nunca se usa, posiblemente porque la prisión sufre una grave escasez de agua. En cambio, el equipo se queda sin usar, mientras que una compañía estadounidense recibió probablemente miles de dólares vendiéndolo al gobierno de Honduras.

Todas las ventanas, incluidos los bloques de celdas y las áreas de visitas, son blindadas y se ha gastado dinero en todo tipo de equipos de estilo estadounidense, sin embargo, hay poco o ningún equipo médico o medicamentos dentro de la clínica de salud que presuntamente tiene un médico las 24 horas en el personal 7 días a la semana. Sin embargo, los privados de libertad se quejan constantemente de la falta de atención médica urgente y regular, incluidos Edwin y Raúl, que se declararon en huelga de hambre y exigieron ver a un médico en los primeros meses de su llegada a La Tolva.

Por lo que entienden los internos y los guardias de la prisión, dentro del centro de tortura de La Tolva hay talleres de trabajo en madera y gimnasios llenos de diversos tipos de equipos. Estas áreas y equipo no son utilizados pero los internos saben que existen. La cocina tiene un equipo de estilo industrial que es más probable que no, que se compre a una empresa estadounidense y que se importe a Honduras.

El año pasado, una empresa privada de EE. UU. instaló teléfonos y los reclusos que querían comunicarse con sus familiares tuvieron que comprar tarjetas telefónicas que cuestan 100 lempiras ($ 4.20) por 12 minutos. Los teléfonos fueron retirados en abril de 2018.

Una compañía estadounidense también presta servicios y maneja las cámaras de seguridad dentro de La Tolva, pero el nombre de la compañía no es información pública y es difícil de verificar.

Se Encuentra Mujeres Hondureñas Valientes en el Portón Principal

Estar fuera del portón principal de La Tolva (conocida como ‘aduana una’ casi como si ingresara a otro país y dejara atrás todos sus derechos) se ha convertido en la norma para mí. Casi una vez por semana, espero fuera del centro de tortura con mujeres hondureñas de la organización, la Mesa de los Indignados de Progreso que lidera la lucha para la liberación de los presos políticos.

Nosotras y todas las mujeres miembros de la familia de otros reclusos, tenemos que luchar constantemente contra las diferentes fuerzas militares y policiales en el portón principal, ya sea para aceptar los medicamentos recetados por los supuestos médicos, aceptar suplementos nutricionales adicionales, y simplemente exigir que las autoridades penitenciarias respeten la ley. Cuando uno exige esto, me han reído y despedido las fuerzas de seguridad en el portón diciendome: "estás en Honduras, amor"

En el centro de tortura La Tolva, las leyes no se aplican. Todos los mecanismos legales que establecen las normas, procedimientos y leyes de los centros penales en Honduras son violados en La Tolva. Cuanto más mencione que las autoridades penitenciarias están violando la ley, más las diversas fuerzas de seguridad presentes dentro de la cárcel, como la Policía Militar de Orden Público, las policías del Instituto Penitenciario Nacional (INP), el ejército y la nueva Fuerza Nacional para el Control de los Centros Penales (que solo son soldados militares entrenados por los Estados Unidos en pasamontañas con solo sus ojos expuestos y uniformes negros y verdes) hacen que sea más y más difícil para usted ver a los miembros de su familia.

El director de la prisión militar también encuentra su forma de castigar a aquellos que exigen que se respete la ley. En muchos casos, los directores militares (que rotan cada 6-7 meses) lo harán esperar afuera bajo el sol caliente donde no hay sombra ni árboles, donde comprar agua, ir al baño o sentarse. Pasé horas y horas fuera de La Tolva junto a mujeres hondureñas que hacen las mismas cosas que yo: esperar a que me dejen visitar, dejar los medicamentos y los suplementos nutricionales prescritos, o esperar la respuesta a preguntas sencillas.

He conocido a innumerables mujeres hondureñas en las puertas de La Tolva mientras espero, una vez más, para obtener una confirmación por escrito de algo o un permiso del Director para ingresar. Casi todas las mujeres me cuentan historias interminables de abusos; abuso sexual y acoso; en ocasiones en que han intentado exigir sus derechos y luego han sido sancionadas con la privación de sus derechos de visita durante 6 meses; de luchar por sus hermanos, hijos y esposos y terminar frustradas sin respuesta del gobierno hondureño.

Las mujeres hondureñas que siguen yendo a La Tolva para visitar y apoyar a sus familiares son realmente increíbles. He venido a respetar profundamente su valor, fortaleza y solidaridad al compartir testimonios e historias en el portón principal del centro de tortura.

Una Estrategia de "Seguridad" Fallida pero Exitosamente Rentable

Estos centros de tortura no hacen nada para garantizar la seguridad de la población carcelaria o la seguridad de la población general hondureña. Las mujeres hondureñas son las personas más afectadas por esta nueva política de seguridad implementada en virtud de Juan Orlando Hernández y con la vista positiva del gobierno de los Estados Unidos que promueve los intereses económicos de los Estados Unidos en Honduras encima de los derechos humanos y los derechos de los privados de libertad.

Estas cárceles deben estar cerradas. En las cárceles hondureñas normales, las condiciones deben ser mejoradas.

Como dijo Edwin a algunos extranjeros hace unos meses:

“En Honduras, tenemos cárceles en lugar de escuelas, armas en lugar de medicina, balas en lugar de libros. Esto solo hace que nuestro mundo sea más inseguro. Vamos a construir un mundo mejor. Pida a su gobierno que deje de apoyar las dictaduras."

ONE YEAR LATER: THE DAY EDWIN WAS ARRESTED - UN AÑO DESPUÉS: EL DÍA EDWIN FUE CAPTURADO

One year ago today, Edwin and I spent our last almost full day together.

We spent the day together following up on two human rights cases. The case of Kimberly Fonseca, the 19-year old woman shot by the Military Police in Tegucigalpa, and the case of Zet Jonathan Araujo who was disappeared and tortured in Las Rodas neighbourhood and whose body was found a day or two later. Both are victims of repression in the context of the electoral crisis.

We were both concerned about Edwin’s safety since Monday of that week, when a defamation campaign circulated accusing him of leading the vandalism of the Marriott hotel. Everyone in Honduras knows that many of the defamation campaigns that circulated around the crisis (and before), were designed and circulated by state intelligence, military and the police.

On January 19, 2018, the post-electoral crisis was still in full swing. The feeling in Tegucigalpa was tense as people prepared for the one-week strike that had been called by the opposition in lead up to the January 27 inauguration of Juan Orlando Hernandez’s second (and illegal) term.

Edwin and I knew that the chances of the country being shut down for the week were high, so we went grocery shopping to stock up on food for the week. Arriving home, Edwin said good-bye, telling me he wanted to go quickly to the centre of Tegucigalpa to get his hair cut.

That evening, between 8:00 and 8:30 pm, I got a call telling me that Edwin had been arrested. Seconds later, I drove quickly over to the major boulevard to the spot where I was told that police had picked him up.

Arriving there, police patrol lights flickered in the night sky and several police patrol cars were parked on the side of the road. It scared me … the boulevard had been completely shut down and I immediately thought that Edwin had been killed. The number of police seemed oddly excessive, especially considering that they were only arresting Edwin, a long-time human rights defender and activist.

Independent journalist, Sandra Cuffe and I went immediately from the site of Edwin’s arrest to the DPI headquarters in La Kennedy neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa. When we got to the DPI, Edwin was being led around the parking lot by DPI agents. He was paraded in front of the Honduran media who painted him as a terrorist and a dangerous criminal - a tactic that has become the norm in Honduras to create a “show” (as Hondurans call it) to justify their excessive budgets for the repressive state security forces, the militarization of Honduran streets, and the so-called war against gangs and organized crime.

Photo credit: Criterio.hn https://criterio.hn/2018/01/20/joh-vas-afuera-delincuente-edwin-robelo-espinal/

Photo credit: Criterio.hn https://criterio.hn/2018/01/20/joh-vas-afuera-delincuente-edwin-robelo-espinal/

As a result of showing up there and later reporting on Edwin’s arrest (and other political prisoners, protests, assassinations in the context of the post-electoral crisis, caravans, etc), Sandra would later be denied entry by migration authorities and deported from Honduras.

When I finally was able to see Edwin, he was in high spirits despite being in hand and leg cuffs, knowing that he would spend at least the night in jail. Spending hours in jail or the night was not something that was unusual to him – Edwin has been arrested over a dozen times since 2009 on different charges, all stemming from his participation in protests.

Little did we both know that evening, Edwin would be quickly ‘processed’ by the Honduran judicial system and the Public Prosecutor’s office that would within a day, send him to a maximum security prison where he still remains. Little did I know, I would spend the year fighting to get him out alongside the incredible Honduran social movement.

****

Tomorrow, one year since Edwin’s arrest, various sectors of Honduran society including three political parties (Liberal, LIBRE, and the new party formed by former Presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla), the Convergence against Re-election, the new coalition Citizen Action Against the Dictatorship, student groups, and several grassroots community organizations, will kick off a week of actions around the country. One of their primary demands is the release of political prisoners.

Photo: “Freedom for political prisoners. Censorship is what dictators do. Protest! January 20 at 10 am in front of Radio Globo (Tegucigalpa). Come wearing a black shirt!”

Photo: “Freedom for political prisoners. Censorship is what dictators do. Protest! January 20 at 10 am in front of Radio Globo (Tegucigalpa). Come wearing a black shirt!”

One year later, the political, social and economic crisis continues in Honduras and every single day since January 19, 2018, my life has been crisis after crisis. All of my crises have been about the Honduran government’s attempts to kick me out of the country; Edwin and Raul’s (the other political prisoner imprisoned with Edwin) health; the legal case; picking up broken pieces of personal and family issues; and figuring out how to keep going, how to find the energy, and of course, figuring out how to make the Canadian and US governments take responsibility for the crisis they are part of and helped create, since forever ago, in Honduras.

Thank you to all the amazing family, friends, compañeros and compañeras that have helped me through the year. 2019 will be the year of kicking more ass and hopefully, the year that all political prisoners and people criminalized for protesting in Honduras will be released.

*****

UN AÑO DESPUÉS: EL DÍA EDWIN FUE CAPTURADO

Hoy hace un año, Edwin y yo pasamos nuestro último día casi completo juntos.

Pasamos el día dando seguimiento a dos casos de derechos humanos. El caso de Kimberly Fonseca, una joven de 19 años asesinada por la Policía Militar en Tegucigalpa, y el caso de Zet Jonathan Araujo, desaparecido y torturado en la colonia Las Rodas y cuyo cuerpo fue encontrado uno o dos días después.

Ambos estábamos preocupados por la seguridad de Edwin desde el lunes de esa semana, cuando circuló un afiche de difamación que lo acusaba de liderar el vandalismo en el hotel Marriot. Todos en Honduras saben que muchas de las campañas de difamación que circularon alrededor de la crisis (y antes), fueron diseñamos y circulaban por los servicios de inteligencia del estado, el ejército y la policía.

El 19 de enero de 2018, la crisis post-electoral todavía estaba en pleno apogeo. El ambiente en Tegucigalpa fue tenso, ya que la gente se prepararon para la huelga de una semana que había sido convocada por la oposición antes de la inauguración del segundo mandato ilegal de Juan Orlando Hernández, el 27 de enero.

Edwin y yo sabíamos que las posibilidades de que se cerrara el país durante la semana eran altas, por lo que fuimos al supermercado para abastecernos de alimentos para la semana. Al llegar a casa, Edwin se despidió y me dijo que quería ir rápidamente al centro de Tegucigalpa para cortarse el pelo.

Esa noche, entre las 8:00 y las 8:30 pm, recibí una llamada que me decía que Edwin había sido arrestado. Segundos más tarde, conduje rápidamente hacia el bulevar principal hasta el lugar donde me dijeron que la policía lo había recogido. Al llegar allí, las luces de las patrullas policiales parpadearon en el cielo nocturno y varios patrullas estaban estacionados a un lado de la carretera.

Me asustó ... el bulevar había sido completamente cerrado e inmediatamente pensé que habían matado a Edwin. La cantidad de policías parecía extrañamente excesiva, especialmente teniendo en cuenta que solo estaban arrestando a Edwin, un defensor de los derechos humanos y activista desde hace mucho tiempo.

La periodista independiente, Sandra Cuffe y yo salimos inmediatamente del sitio de su captura a la sede del Departamento de la DPI en el barrio La Kennedy en Tegucigalpa. Cuando llegamos al DPI, los agentes guían a Edwin alrededor del estacionamiento. Lo desfilaron frente a los medios hondureños que lo pintaron como un terrorista y un criminal peligroso - una táctica que se ha convertido en la norma en Honduras para crear un "show" (como lo llaman los hondureños) para justificar sus presupuestos excesivos para las fuerzas de seguridad represivas, la militarización de las calles hondureñas y la llamada guerra contra las pandillas y el crimen organizado.

Como resultado de aparecer allí y luego informar sobre la captura de Edwin (y otros presos políticos, protestas, asesinatos en el contexto de la crisis postelectoral, la caravana, etc.), a Sandra se le negaría la entrada al país las autoridades migratorias y la deportaría de Honduras.

Cuando por fin pude ver a Edwin, el estaba muy animado a pesar de que estaba enchachado las manos y los pies y sabía que pasaría al menos una noche en la cárcel. Algo que no le resultara extraño: Edwin ha sido capturado más de una docena de veces desde 2009 por diferentes acusaciones, todos relacionados con su participación en protestas.

Poco sabíamos los dos esa noche, Edwin sería rápidamente "procesado" por el sistema judicial hondureño y el Ministerio Publico que, dentro de un día, lo enviaría a una cárcel de máxima seguridad donde aún esta encarcelado. Poco sabía yo que me pasaría un año luchando para liberarlo junto con el increíble movimiento social hondureño.

***

Mañana, un año después del arresto de Edwin, varios sectores de la sociedad hondureña, incluidos tres partidos políticos (Liberal, LIBRE y el nuevo partido formado por el ex candidato presidencial Salvador Nasralla), la Convergencia Contra el Continuismo, la nueva coalición Acción Ciudadana Contra la Dictadura, grupos de estudiantes y varias organizaciones comunitarias de base iniciarán una semana de acciones en todo el país. Una de sus principales demandas es la liberación de los presos políticos.

Un año después, la crisis política, social y económica continúa en Honduras y todos los días, desde el 19 de enero de 2018, mi vida ha sido crisis tras crisis. Todas mis crisis han sido por los intentos del gobierno hondureño de echarme del país; respondiendo a los problemas de salud de Edwin y Raúl (el otro preso político encarcelado con Edwin); monitoreando el caso legal; recogiendo piezas rotas de problemas personales y familiares; y averiguando cómo seguir adelante, cómo encontrar la energía y, por supuesto, descubrir cómo hacer que los gobiernos de Canadá y Estados Unidos se responsabilicen de la crisis de la que forman parte y ayudaron a crear, desde siempre, en Honduras.

Gracias a toda mi familia, amigos, compañeros y compañeras que me han ayudado durante todo el año. 2019 será el año de lucha imparable y ojalá, el año en que todos los presos políticos y los criminalizados en Honduras serán liberados.

Terrorizing the Anti-Fraud Resistance: Human Rights Abuses Committed by US and Canadian-Funded State Security Forces in Honduras

PART ONE: COFADEH Report, Disappearances, Arrests & Criminalization

Protests and road blockades continue around the country. The Opposition Alliance has called for actions throughout the month of January, specifically January 6th (today) in the area of San Pedro Sula. Thousands of Hondurans came out to greet Salvador Nasralla in the streets of several cities and towns in northwestern Honduras yesterday including in El Progreso, Agua Blanca Sur (just outside of El Progreso to the south), Quebrada Seca, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, Villanueva, and other small towns and cities in the region. Nasralla attended several of these mobilizations and stopped to visit some of the families of the people that have been assassinated in the protests by state security forces.

Many of these towns and cities organized very effective protests and road blocks in November and December and faced or are still facing the harshest forms of repression. Various points of protest on the major highways in the region reported various types of repression over the last two months: live bullets fired against anti-fraud protesters in the streets; raids targeted at specific houses or whole neighborhoods; state security forces entering neighborhoods in the middle of the night with lists of people to arrest or find; disappearances; assassinations committed by paramilitary groups and death squads believed to be connected to the state; trumped up charges and criminalization; among other tactics used to incite terror in the population.

Yesterday, the Convergence Against Re-election held a press conference in the office of the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH). Family members of anti-fraud protesters that have been assassinated or injured participated in the conference, together with union leader Carlos H. Reyes, the General Coordinator of COFADEH, Bertha Oliva, and Father Ismael Moreno (Padre Melo). The communique (in Spanish) from the press conference can be found on the HSN’s Facebook page. One particularly important part of the communique clarifies a misreported understanding of the violence occurring throughout the country and highlights the significant imbalance of power between unarmed protesters and state security forces:

“[t]he imposition and implementation of the electoral fraud to complete the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernandez in violation of the rule of law and the Honduran Constitution, places us again, before another coup d’état. This has provoked the indignation and protest of an unprotected and defenseless population whose weapons are chants, rocks, sticks, burned tires, and trees dragged across roads, against strong repression by the State armed with tanks, tear gas, live bullets, manipulation of the media and that fulfill the orders of a regime strengthened with the recognition of foreign governments that with their decision, favor the grave violation of human rights.”

According to COFADEH, 30 people have been assassinated between November 30 and December 28, 2017, 14 of which have occurred in the northwestern region of Honduras. There are other numbers of assassinations that have been reported other than what COFADEH has published as of December 28th. Some are reporting assassinations as high as 37 or 40 people. The discrepancy between other reports and numbers published by COFADEH have to do with different methodologies of designating assassinations as politically or election crisis-related; incidents that have occurred since COFADEH published their data; the difficulties of confirming and investigating cases; and the fear associated with public denunciation of abuses by family members and friends of the victims.

List prepared by COFADEH. 

List prepared by COFADEH. 

COFADEH map 28 de dic.jpg
COFADEH breakdown of abuses.jpg

According to COFADEH, 21 of the 30 assassinations were committed by the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP). Its important, especially for US and Canadian citizens denouncing the role of North American governments that fund and train Honduran state security forces, to note that although the involvement of the Military Police has been extremely violent and somewhat distinct from other state security forces, the National Police and the Honduran military have also committed various abuses including assassinations and torture. During the alleged work stoppage by the National Police, there are reports that police were involved in torture (including waterboarding), shooting live bullets, and at least one assassination in Agua Blanca Sur, just south of El Progreso. These reports are not unique to just one area of the country either. Giving the impression that the Military Police are the only force committing abuses is limiting the extent of the involvement of various branches of the government including the Ministry of Defense (which commands the Military and the Military Police) and the Ministry of Security (which commands the Police) in the systematic violation of the rights of protesters and the general population. There have been hundreds of detentions and charges laid against protesters, bystanders, and citizens that have been arbitrarily arrested but that have no involvement in protests at all. This demonstrates how various branches of the State are contributing to the violence and fear being used against the entire Honduran population since, and before of course, the November 26 elections.

Independent journalist, Sandra Cuffe made an interesting point about the on-going repression against the Honduran population since the electoral crisis and fraud. Cuffe tweeted on December 26, “Today marks exactly one month since the Nov. 26 elections in Honduras. In the past 30 days, more than 30 people have been killed in the context of the ongoing political crisis. In comparison, in the 30 days following the 2009 coup, there were 5 documented political killings.”

Since there are so many cases of injuries, assassinations, disappearances, persecution, detentions, and criminalization processes, here is part one of a broader summary of some of the major human rights concerns and cases:

Disappearances and Death Squads

There are reports of at least three disappearances of individuals that were last seen being taken away and detained by Military Police. The case of Manuel de Jesus Bautista Salvador (22 years old) is better documented than the other two cases involving disappearances which occurred in the Lopez Arellano neighborhood in the northern city of Choloma allegedly on December 6th. The HSN or Honduran human rights organizations will put out more information about these other two cases from the Lopez Arellano in the coming weeks.

There have been other reports of disappearances where individuals were detained by Military Police or National Police and not seen again until their dead bodies were found. There are two separate cases in the San Pedro Sula region where young men were picked up by unmarked cars and their bodies both turned up the day following their disappearances with signs of  torture. One young man was strangled with his shoe laces. The other man’s body was found with his head shaved, tips of his fingers cut off (likely to avoid identification via fingerprinting) and all of his teeth had been pulled out. These are clear examples of death squad killings intended to generate fear and target individuals involved in any sort of resistance or protests against the government. In at least two cases of disappearances, when family members have gone to the police and state institutions in search of their loved one, the police have told them that the person they are searching for will be released in 6 months to one year and do not give any information as to their whereabouts, reasons for detention, status, location, etc. 

Manuel de Jesus Bautista has been missing over a month after he was arbitrarily arrested by Military Police on December 3. According to the legal complaint filed by Bautista’s family: “he left the house and headed towards the local store to buy food to cook. Since then he hasn’t turned up anywhere. According to what I’ve been told by the neighbors, my brother along with a friend came across the Military Police who immediately started to beat them up. They let my brother’s friend go but my brother, to this day, hasn’t turned up.”

Manuel de Jesus Bautista, disappeared on December 3 in Naco, Cortes. Photo by: Unknown. 

Manuel de Jesus Bautista, disappeared on December 3 in Naco, Cortes. Photo by: Unknown. 

His family and local human rights defenders have searched everywhere for him and a lawyer presented a Habeas Corpus on December 24. The search for Bautista continues. As one human rights defender wrote about the search: “I was looking almost all day yesterday for the young man from Naco, disappeared by the Military Police since December 3. He was 22 years old and for 3 continuous years worked with the Lear Corporation in Naco. He had his entire life ahead of him. We lost him. The more we strived to find him, we couldn’t, not in the police stations, military battalions, hospitals, not even amongst the cadavers in both morgues. There is no trace of him. The only thing we found was a unrecognizable, decapitated cadaver impossible to identify because of how badly the person was tortured.”

Arrests & Criminalization

There have been several arrests carried out during mobilizations, in neighborhoods around the country where protests have been based, and in communities days after well-attended actions were carried out to denounce the electoral fraud. A spokesperson for the Inter-Institutional Task Force known as FUSINA told the Honduran media that 501 people were detained nationwide just on Saturday, December 2 during the state of exception, and 96 people were charged as a result. On the same day, the Honduran national police reported that of all people detained in northern Honduras, 33 people were sent to the new maximum-security prison “El Pozo” and 24 to a jail in El Progreso, Yoro.

These statistics and numbers were from earlier in December and fewer detentions have been reported since, but they give an idea of arrests and criminalization processes that are underway as a result of the anti-fraud protests and the State’s backlash against protesters.

The types of detentions overviewed above are allegedly a result of the violation of the state of exception (being on the street after 6 pm after the permitted hours outlined by the state) and also, are arrests made of people in the vicinity of anti-fraud protests. These types of arrests continue to occur, but the Honduran state is also arbitrarily arresting and charging people in communities where the resistance and protests are the strongest and/or where police stations were burned or destroyed, usually following the murder of an anti-fraud protester or bystander. 

US-trained, funded, and vetted TIGRES elite police force at a road blockade in Tegucigalpa. Photo by: Honduras Solidarity Network

US-trained, funded, and vetted TIGRES elite police force at a road blockade in Tegucigalpa. Photo by: Honduras Solidarity Network

One of the most worrisome cases of targeted persecution and criminalization is an on-going legal case against 11 people from the community of Pimienta in the northern department of Cortes. On December 26, 14 people from Pimienta were arrested in a joint military-police operation that began at approximately 3 am in the morning. 3 people were later released. Residents of Pimienta told the Honduras Solidarity Network that the raids and arrests were carried out by the Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Group (TIGRES) – an elite police unit that is trained, funded, and vetted by the US government. When asking individual TIGRES officers who they report to, at least four in different occasions have told the HSN that their Commander(s) is in direct contact with the US Embassy. In the raid in Pimienta, the TIGRES were accompanied by the Directorate for Police Investigations (DPI) which is also trained by the US government.

According to a family member of one person arrested: “They began surrounding the house at 3 am, we were sleeping when they arrived but we started to hear noise. They began to bang on the door and they yelled ‘we have a search warrant’ – they were the TIGRES and the DPI. We were really scared and he [one of the men arrested] opened the door and they told him “we have a search warrant” and he responded, “ok, you can look, we have nothing to hide in this house” and then they pulled him out of the house, handcuffed him, and put him into the patrol car. I was getting dressed when they arrived and they told me after pulling him out of the house, that they were searching the house and that I could be present. I responded, “of course I’m going to be here, this is my house and we have nothing to hide. You can search wherever you want.” They started to search, they left a big mess in the house, they were looking for something, they even looked under the beds, the pillows, they wanted to find weapons or drugs, but they didn’t find anything. So when they finished messing up the entire house … my kids were so scared, they are under 6 years old. They treated us like we are big criminals, pointing at us with their weapons and when they finished searching everything, they asked me to come and sign something. They told me that they didn’t find anything – drugs, weapons, absolutely nothing, the house was clean. And so I said, ‘so if there are no weapons or drugs, why are you arresting him?’ They told me ‘Because we have to investigate.’ And so they took him where they had all the other people they detained. And now they are saying that they arrested them all together. That is a lie! They came and took him out of the house. And now they are accusing him and many in the group of things they did not do.”

Other people reported significant damage to their houses like broken-down doors, and violent searches and arrests carried out in the early hours of the morning in front of small children. Some residents said that they were never shown any search warrants. Others reports that some of the people arrested had nothing to do with the protests and have no idea why they are being targeted.

Initially 14 people were arrested in Pimienta on December 26th during the early morning raids. After a legal hearing, 3 people were released and the 11 remaining accused were sent to the new maximum-security prison known as “El Pozo.” Their heads were shaved for some unknown reason and family members were denied entry to see the prisoners.

Some of the 11 people arrested in Pimienta, Cortes as retaliation against the local population. The men are waiting outside the courthouse in San Pedro Sula for their initial legal hearing. Their heads were shaved and they were sent to a new maximum-security prison modeled off US-style prisons. Picture by: Unknown. 

Some of the 11 people arrested in Pimienta, Cortes as retaliation against the local population. The men are waiting outside the courthouse in San Pedro Sula for their initial legal hearing. Their heads were shaved and they were sent to a new maximum-security prison modeled off US-style prisons. Picture by: Unknown. 

On December 29, the initial hearing was held in San Pedro Sula. All are being accused of property damage, arson, and two of the 11 people, illicit association. In the initial hearing, the judge ordered the accused to be jailed while waiting to the next hearing that has not been scheduled. Since the December 29th hearing, 10 people are being held in the same maximum-security prison, forced to sleep on the floor, and facing threats that they will be disappeared.

Residents in Pimienta and human rights defenders accompanying the case believe that the community is being targeted because of incidents that occurred during protests and road blocks on December 20th near the community. Pictures circulated on social media of individuals, known to be police officers, sitting on the ground, without their clothes on and with their hands tied behind their backs. Guns, cell phones and police uniforms are scattered on the ground around them and people, likely protesters, many with their faces covered are standing around them.

According to witnesses, people involved in blocking the main road close to Pimienta in protest of the electoral fraud, confiscated and carried out citizen arrests of individuals who were sitting in an unmarked vehicle taking pictures of the protesters. The arrest and charges laid against the 11 people from Pimienta are believed to be related to the arrests of the individuals – later discovered to be police after their vehicle was searched – as retaliation and an attempt to “set an example” for similar incidents throughout the country. The police station in Pimienta, like in at least 6 other areas in Honduras, was burned, according to community residents, in protest of the number of assassinations committed by state security forces against anti-fraud protesters.

There are several other cases of criminalization of people arbitrarily detained by state security forces and accused of arbitrary crimes. Two men in El Progreso – Gustavo Adolfo Caceres Amaya and Johnny Andres Salgado Fuentes were arrested on December 21st in different parts of the city of El Progreso and neither were very active in the anti-fraud protests. On December 25th, three more people were arrested in El Progreso and are being accused of incidents related to the burning of a police station during anti-fraud protests. In addition, two more young men were arrested in El Progreso on December 29th, accused of being responsible for the death of a police officer Maikin Enoc Ramirez who suffered a head injury during an anti-fraud protest in December. 

The arbitrary arrests and criminalization of individuals from towns and cities around the country are believed to be a strategy to incite fear and discourage people from protesting. There have been several reports including in neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa and Sambo Creek on the north coast, that state security forces enter the communities with lists, sometimes in the early hours of the morning, with lists of people that they are seeking to arrest and target. 

*****

PART TWO of Human Rights Summary Coming Soon And Will Provide Case Examples of Assassinations, Injuries, and Defamation Campaigns Against Anti-Fraud Protesters and Community Leaders. 

Day 37 - 2017 Election Crisis & Fraud UPDATE

- January 5, 2018 -

Political activities slowed down in Honduras as one would expect, over Christmas and New Years. Just a quick recap of some key activities that occurred in late December since the last update, and also what to expect as we move into 2018. I will post a human rights update separately since there are so many cases and issues to overview.

US & Canada's Support for Fraudulent Elections & JOH

On December 22, the US State Department recognized the election results and Juan Orlando Hernandez's (JOH) fraudulent victory. From the statement, the US makes references to the importance of a "robust national dialogue" which would act as a "significant long-term effort to heal the political divide in the country and enact much-needed electoral reforms." In almost utter disbelief given the well-established national understanding of the complete absence of the rule of law and due process, the State Department statement recommends political parties to "use the avenues provided by Honduran law" to file challenges before the Electoral Tribunal (TSE). The US also "reiterate[s] the call for all Hondurans to refrain from violence." This last line is written in a way that suggests the violence is coming from both sides and equating the power held and violence used by state security forces and anti-fraud protesters. The statement completely disregards the role of the U.S. government and Honduran state in the assassinations, injuries, terror, and abuses committed by state security forces.

Embassy of the USA, don't have a double standard. The electoral fraud is in the TSE. Picture taken during a mobilization in front of US Embassy, December 2017

Embassy of the USA, don't have a double standard. The electoral fraud is in the TSE. Picture taken during a mobilization in front of US Embassy, December 2017

In the Honduran press around the time the State Department recognized the fraudulent election results, US Chargé d'Affaires Heide Fulton in Tegucigalpa made a few interesting statements. La Tribuna reported that Fulton told the Honduran press that Honduran law does not allow new elections. This statement was met with a strong reaction in Honduras including from Father Ismael Moreno (Padre Melo) from Radio Progreso and ERIC who tweeted, "Ms. Fulton says that 'repeat the elections isn't in the law ...' Is relection in the law? Is killing protesters in the law? Ms. Fulton, with respect I'm telling you: don't be a hypocrite, say the authentic reasons that your government endorses the illegality of JOH."

Immediately following the US announcement in support of JOH's victory, the Canadian government followed suit via a tweet from the Foreign Policy Canada account:  "Canada acknowledges confirmation of Juan Orlando Hernandez as President of Honduras. We urge the Government to protect human rights and ensure that those responsible for violations are held accountable. Political dialogue is urgently needed for peace and stability for all Hondurans." Its worth mentioning that the Embassy of Canada in Tegucigalpa closed on November 30th "due to security reasons," one night before the Honduran government declared a state of exception. Shortly after the US recognized JOH, other countries followed including (not in any particular order): Costa Rica, Belize, China, Brazil, Russia, Peru, Japan, among others.

Opposition Alliance

On December 22, Salvador Nasralla held a press conference in the absence of Mel Zelaya, to announce that his participation in the Alliance had ended given that the Alliance was an electoral project and thus ended following the elections or needed to be renewed. After denouncing the US recognition of the JOH government, Nasralla expressed hope in the OAS pushing for new elections. In late December, Nasralla made several statements that generated confusion and doubt in the unity of the Alliance. Nasralla began calling for an inclusive national dialogue and mentioned forming a "National Democratic Anti-Corruption Front" that included all sectors of society including "good" military and the "honest" business sector. As outlined below, Nasralla seemed to have slightly changed his discourse now in 2018 and is now more in line with the Alliance's public position (see more below).

Organization of American States' Election Mission Final Report

On December 27, the OAS's Electoral Observation Mission published their final report about the Honduran elections. A lot of what is in the final report reiterates what the Mission reported in their preliminary report published on December 6th that highlights many of the irregularities in the electoral process that cause the Mission to have serious doubts about the process and thus the results. In response to the final report, Mel Zelaya tweeted that the OAS's final report makes no mention of new elections anywhere in its report despite General Secretary Luis Almagro's public statements and tweets mentioning new elections as a possible way out of the electoral crisis. In late December, Almagro also posted the December 21st letter led by Congressional representative Norma Torres' office calling for new elections as well as WOLA's statement in favor of new Presidential elections. In late December and early January,  Zelaya remained very critical of the OAS's (mostly via Almagro's statements in his capacity as the OAS General Secretary) weak position on calling for new elections. Zelaya has stated several times that the OAS position is a trap and that he is still waiting to hear back from the OAS about being reinstated after being overthrown in 2009, something which the OAS said they supported and then failed to follow through on, in the months after the 2009 coup.

On the issue of human rights, in late December, the OAS formally asked the Honduran government to allow a special delegation to visit Honduras to investigate the human rights situation, the government's response to rights violations, to speak with the family members, and to visit people that have been detained. The Honduran government rejected the request and published a two-page letter in response.

Social Movements & the Convergence Against Re-election

On December 28, the Convergence Against Re-election held the "National Gathering of Organizers Against Re-election." There were several organizations and groups that are part of the Honduran social movement that attended, particularly small neighborhood collectives from Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula area. The Convergence will meet again in January to continue the important discussions that began at the gathering. A key topic of discussion was about actions (gatherings, forums, protests, etc) to be planned in various sectors (departments, regions, cities, neighbourhoods, etc) of the country in late December and early January in preparation for nation-wide actions expected throughout January but particularly on Jan 27th when Juan Orlando Hernandez will be inaugurated for his second term.

Moving Forward Into 2018

To kick off the New Year on January 2, the Opposition Alliance held a press conference in Tegucigalpa and published a communique that picks up activities and calls for protests during the month of January. Together, Manuel Zelaya, Salvador Nasralla, representatives from the smaller PINU party that forms part of the Alliance, continued emphasizing the illegitimacy of the Juan Orlando Hernandez government and the election results. Nasralla clarified that the Alliance has not dissolved and that it is "more solid than ever." Nasralla's appearance along with Zelaya dismissed some of the previous concerns about Nasralla's position and what seemed like an effort to distance himself from the Alliance.

As mentioned above, discussions of a national dialogue keep coming up, particularly in the Honduran media, known all to well for their promotion and close ties to the JOH government. On January 3, El Heraldo published an article about JOH's third meeting of a "national pre-dialogue" with representatives from the banana and African Palm industry and other sectors. There seems to be a significant push by the US Embassy, the JOH government, and "civil society organizations" like Association for a More Justice Society (Asociacion por Una Sociedad Mas Justa, ASJ) to move forward with some sort of national dialogue which is seen as a solution to the electoral crisis. Its worth mentioning that the "civil society" representatives like representatives from ASJ are heavily criticized by Honduran organizations as they receive a huge proportion of their annual budget from the US government agencies including USAID and the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Agency (INL).

In the January 2nd press conference, Nasralla rejected any calls by the JOH government for a dialogue, stating various times that JOH is a thief and lacks national credibility and legitimacy. Nasralla reiterated that any dialogue must be mediated by international mediators that all parties agree to. Luis Zelaya of the Liberal Party, also rejects JOH's call for a dialogue and insists on international mediation as well.

In the same press conference, Mel Zelaya once again denounced the role of the US government in supporting the JOH government and other dictators throughout history. Nasralla also denounced that JOH is arming paramilitary groups in the northern region of Honduras with weapons and ammunition that are being used to kill anti-fraud protesters and Alliance supporters. He cited the assassination of Wilmer Paredes killed on January 1st in the municipality of Esparta in northern department of Atlántida. (More about this case in the human rights summary)

Wilmer Paredes. Assassinated on January 1, 2018. Picture by Criterio.hn

Wilmer Paredes. Assassinated on January 1, 2018. Picture by Criterio.hn

Finally, the Alliance called for and later published in a communique, a series of calls for actions in the month of January. On January 6th, the Alliance is calling for a protest in San Pedro Sula and will be accompanied by Nasralla. The week (Jan 20 to 27) leading up to the day of the inauguration, the Alliance is calling for "total mobilization." The communique also instructs congressional representatives that were elected in November, to not participate in JOH's inauguration, and rejects any type of "direct dialogue" with JOH or any government institutions. Finally, the Alliance convokes a meeting in northern Honduras today (January 5th) of the National Coordinator of the LIBRE Party, and current and elected congressional representatives to discuss resistance strategies for the coming month.

Day 22 - 2017 Election Crisis & Fraud UPDATE

- Wednesday, December 20 -

The human rights situation in northern Honduras is so dire that its hard to describe with words. Northwestern cities including Choloma, San Pedro Sula, Villanueva, El Progreso, and the small communities between or around those areas are literally living in a war zone. There are countless videos circulating that show the terror tactics being used by state security forces particularly the Military Police against anti-fraud protesters and the general population. The state is getting increasingly violent around the country but particularly in that area because the resistance is, arguably, one of the strongest. San Pedro Sula area is also the economic center of Honduras. Its the main location of U.S. and Canada-owned sweatshops of all types (automotive, textile, call centers, etc). A lot of the road blocks in that area are also located on the Panamerican highway that leads to the shipping port in Puerto Cortes. Puerto Cortes is the largest shipping port in Central America, and the majority of goods being imported or exported from U.S. and Canadian markets into or out of Honduras, pass through that port.

On December 15th, COFADEH published a list of 22 people that have been assassinated during the electoral crisis since November 30th. This number has increased in the last few days although its hard to say exactly by how much. Based on what the HSN has been able to gather, five more people have been added to the death toll. There are also at least five unconfirmed cases where protesters or bystanders were reported as seriously injured over the last few days and their health status is unknown. Of the 22 cases reported by COFADEH, half have occurred in the northwestern area I describe in the previous paragraph. There have been a total of eight assassinations in the northwestern city of Choloma including 14-year old Katherin Nicole Carranza Enamorado who was killed yesterday.

Katherin Nicole Carranza Enamorado (14- years old) killed in Choloma yesterday.

Katherin Nicole Carranza Enamorado (14- years old) killed in Choloma yesterday.

Every day, Hondurans living in or around El Progreso, San Pedro, Choloma, and Puerto Cortes maintain 24 hour road blocks and protests. The determination of people while facing such extreme repression is indeed inspiring but also very worrisome because of the terror, violence and repression they face as a result. It is clear that people want JOH out of power so badly that they are willing to stand in front of weapons and go to the streets despite the uncertainty that they might not return home.

This afternoon, the Opposition Alliance called for a gathering in Tegucigalpa outside of the headquarters of the Honduran Armed Forces (Estado Mayor Conjunto). Speaking to the crowd, Alliance Coordinator Manuel Zelaya strongly criticized the historical role of the U.S. Embassy in Honduras: "The gringos supported the 2009 military coup and now they are supporting electoral fraud." Standing in the back of a pick up truck carrying a sound system, Zelaya made clear that he is not convinced of the OAS's proposal for a new election. "Calling for elections is an OAS [Organization of American States] trap - we don't need another election, the President elect is Salvador Nasralla" he told the cheering crowd.

Honduras carry crosses at the event today in front of the headquarters of the Honduran Armed Forces in Tegucigalpa today. Each cross represents people that have been killed by state security forces during the 2017 electoral crisis and fraud. Picture by Edgardo Soriano.

Honduras carry crosses at the event today in front of the headquarters of the Honduran Armed Forces in Tegucigalpa today. Each cross represents people that have been killed by state security forces during the 2017 electoral crisis and fraud. Picture by Edgardo Soriano.

In contrast to Zelaya's position, Nasralla, who just returned from Washington D.C. today, seems to support the idea of new elections. Honduran political analysts believe that the OAS's position is an (another) attempt to split the Opposition Alliance by dividing Nasralla and Zelaya's position on the issue of calling for a new election. With good reason considering the OAS's soft position after the 2009 coup, Zelaya does not trust the OAS's proposal.

Some countries, many of which are U.S. allies, have come out and recognized Juan Orlando Hernandez's (JOH) victory. Colombia was the first followed by Guatemala, South Korea, Israel, and Mexico. Its unclear what Spain's position is although JOH seems to think (as per a tweet) that Spain recognized his fraudulent victory. The U.S. has not officially recognized JOH's victory but is suspected to make some sort of declaration on Friday which is five days since the Electoral Tribunal's announcement was made and the time frame in which challenges to the results can be presented. The US's statement demonstrates nothing but all out support for the fraudulent JOH government. Holding up the Honduran legal system as a legitimate form of "challenging the results" completely glosses over the fact that JOH controls the judicary which is the same judiciary that allowed JOH to illegally run for reelection in the first place. It is also the same judiciary that has caused and enabled a 90% impunity rate in Honduras for the past 8.5 years. There is no rule of law in Honduras for any legal issues to be made or challenged. The US is well aware of this. US support for JOH, explicit and implicit, comes of no surprise to the Honduran population protesting in the streets. There is a lot of clarity from anti-fraud protesters about which side the US is on.

As for Honduran social movements, Radio Progreso published an elaborate proposal calling for a new election. The Civic Council for Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) put out a statement rejecting the announcement by the TSE that JOH won the elections. COPINH calls for JOH to leave his position as President immediately, and failing that, new elections supervised by the "international community" that respect the positions and needs of popular social movements. The Platform of Popular and Social Movement of Honduras (PMSPH) call for pressure to foreign governments to speak out against the "electoral coup"; demand that the OAS, European Union, United Nations and the U.S. respect the will of the people who elected Nasralla as their President. Finally, both the PMSPH and COPINH denounce and call for justice of the human rights violations and assassinations committed against the Honduran population and anti-fraud protesters, and call for on-going protests against the fraud.

The Alliance has called for continued protests. In a public letter released yesterday, the Alliance called for protests at specific meeting places in Tegucigalpa over the next few days. Today, as mentioned above, the Alliance called for a protest in front of the Headquarters of the Armed Forces. Student movements from the public university (UNAH) have called a protest at the northern exit of Tegucigalpa early in the morning. In the afternoon, the Alliance is calling on people to meet at three different points in Tegucigalpa and will march towards the U.S. Embassy to "condemn the support to fraud and financing to the repressive institutions that violate human rights." On Friday, the Alliance is asking people to take to the streets again at 6 am. Even though these calls are being made to protest at distinct times and places, its worth mentioning that many people, particularly on the north coast, maintain 24-hour road blocks or protests or spontaneously, especially at night as is the case in Tegucigalpa, meet in the streets to protest.

Protesters in northern Honduras take the shield away from the police and decorate them with "Fuera JOH"

Protesters in northern Honduras take the shield away from the police and decorate them with "Fuera JOH"