The Honduras Solidarity Network in North America: Declaration on Recent Digital Attacks Against HSN

November 21, 2016

A new blog and Facebook page appeared recently calling itself “Defensores de Honduras” (Defenders of Honduras), which, on November 14th, published distortions and misinformation in an attempt to discredit our network and our coordinator in Honduras, Karen Spring. 

This attack was part of an article published on the blog and FB page about the assassinations of two members of the campesino organization MUCA, including its president Jose Angel Flores, that accuses human rights defenders Berta Oliva and COFADEH and others of protecting drug traffickers in northern Honduras. The article also prominently displays our organization’s logo and a picture of Karen Spring, while denigrating our solidarity work, asserting that the HSN is “totally politicized and aligned with the extremist ideas…”. (1)

The viewpoint and work of the HSN, a network of diverse organizations from the US and Canada, is no secret. The HSNetwork was organized immediately after the 2009 coup in solidarity with the Honduran people’s movement and organizations that opposed the ousting of the legitimately elected president and in defense of human rights. We have organized accompaniment and educational delegations and speaking tours; denounced violence and repression in Honduras including all the assassinations of campesinos and campesinas in the Aguan Valley. We have called for complete investigations of all the assassinations.  We oppose the US State Department’s September 2016 certification of human rights progress in Honduras and lobby the US congress to end US financing of state violence in Honduras, including supporting the recently proposed Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act in the House of Representatives.  We believe that it is this work that is making our organization a target of attacks. (2)

We deplore these attacks and condemn the fact that they are a provocation that increases the risk to persons already at risk for their work in defense of human rights. We consider the attacks from “Defenders of Honduras” to be the latest in an orchestrated campaign of psychological warfare to confuse and destroy the social and political movements opposed to authoritarianism and militarization and to isolate them from international support. We recognize this scenario. It is the same script written by the US State Department and US intelligence agencies and used in the 1954 overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz,  in the Central American conflicts of the 1980’s and in Colombia to the present day. It is a scenario to justify and incite violence and conflict and to create “false positives” and call them extremists. This is about government-backed impunity and an effort to destroy the social fabric of the movements in the Aguan. The very use of the term “extremist ideas” reveals that this is not really about the crimes of narcos  in the Aguan.

Since the 2013 elections and even more since President Hernandez took office, a plethora of social media accounts with similar phrasing and messages and false accusations have appeared attacking Honduran journalists, social movement leaders, and human rights defenders, both national and international. The accusations echo statements made by President Hernández and his administration’s officials, which claim that in defending human, civil and territorial rights, these people are defaming the country, organizing violence, or more recently that they are linked to organized crime. Meanwhile, international solidarity and human rights activists are accused of being “aligned with the extremist ideas” of those Honduran defenders and activists. In fact, it is the Hernández administration and Honduran security forces who organize violence against the social movements and anyone who dares to publicize or advocate for their cause.

The HSN is not neutral, but we are truthful. The truth is that we stand with the Honduran people and with their organized social movements. We defend human and civil rights within the framework of recognized international standards, and we work to end our governments’ support for the violent authoritarianism and neoliberalism that is destroying Honduras.  

(1) https://defensoresdehonduras.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/quien-protege-a-los-sicarios-del-bajo-aguan/

(2) Hondurassolidarity.org

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La Red de Solidaridad con Honduras de Norteamérica:  

Declaración ante los ataques digitales recientes en contra de la HSN

21 de noviembre, 2016

Un blog y página de Facebook recién aparecieron bajo el título “Defensores de Honduras,” lo cual ha publicado distorsiones y desinformación con la intención de desacreditar a nuestra red y nuestra coordinadora en Honduras, Karen Spring. 

Este ataque fue parte de un artículo publicado en el blog y la página de Facebook sobre los asesinatos de dos miembros de la organización campesina MUCA, incluyendo a su presidente José Ángel Flores, en lo cual acusan a la defensora de derechos humanos Berta Oliva y al COFADEH y otras personas de proteger a narcotraficantes en el norte de Honduras. El artículo también incluye en una posición prominente el logotipo de nuestra organización y una imagen de Karen Spring, a la vez menospreciando nuestro trabajo de solidaridad y diciendo que la Red de Solidaridad con Honduras (HSN por siglas en inglés) está “totalmente politizada y alineada con las mismas ideas extremistas…”. (1)

La perspectiva y el trabajo de la HSN, una red de organizaciones diversas de los Estados Unidos y Canadá, no es ningún secreto. La red HSN fue organizada inmediatamente después del golpe de estado del 2009 en solidaridad con el movimiento popular hondureño y las organizaciones que se opusieron al derroque del presidente legítimo y electo y quienes defendieron los derechos humanos. Hemos organizado delegaciones y giras de acompañamiento y educación; hemos denunciado la violencia y la represión en Honduras incluyendo todos los asesinatos de las campesinas y los campesinos del valle del Aguán. Hemos hecho llamados a investigaciones completas de todos los asesinatos. Nos oponemos a la certificación de progreso en materia de derechos humanos emitida por el Departamento de Estado de los EE.UU. en septiembre del 2016 y hacemos cabildeo en el congreso de los Estados Unidos para cortar el financiamiento a la violencia estatal en Honduras, trabajo que abarca nuestro apoyo a la recién propuesta Ley Berta Cáceres por los Derechos Humanos en Honduras en la Cámara de Representantes. Creemos que este es el trabajo que ha convertido nuestra organización en blanco de ataques. (2)

Reprobamos estos ataques y denunciamos que son una provocación que aumenta el riesgo a personas ya bajo riesgo por sus labores en defensa de los derechos humanos. Consideramos que los ataques de “Defensores de Honduras” son la táctica más recién de una campaña orquestada de guerra sicológica para confundir y destruir los movimientos sociales y políticos que se oponen al autoritarismo y la militarización y aislarlos del apoyo internacional. Reconocemos este escenario. Es el mismo escenario utilizado por el Departamento del Estado de los EE.UU y sus agencias de inteligencia para derrocar el gobierno del Presidente Guatemalteco Jacobo Arbenz en 1954, en los conflictos de Centroamérica en la década de los 1980, y en Colombia hasta el día de hoy. Es un escenario utilizado para justificar y provocar violencia y conflicto y para crear “positivos falsos” y llamarlos extremistas. Esto se trata de la impunidad respaldada por el gobierno y de esfuerzos de destruir el tejido social de los movimientos en el Aguán. El uso mismo del término “ideas extremistas” revela que esto realmente no se trata de los crímenes de los narcos en el Aguán.

Desde las elecciones del 2013 y aún más desde que el Presidente Hernandez ascendió a la presidencia, un montón de cuentas en las redes sociales con frases, mensajes y acusaciones falsas muy parecidas han aparecido para atacar a periodistas, líderes y lideresas de los movimientos sociales y defensoras y defensores de derechos humanos, tanto de Honduras como del exterior. Las acusaciones son un eco de las declaraciones hechas por el Presidente Hernández y los oficiales de su administración, las cuales afirman que al defender los derechos humanos, civiles y territoriales esta gente está difamando al país, organizando la violencia, o, más recién, que está vinculada con el crimen organizado. Mientras tanto, se les acusa a las y los activistas internacionales de derechos humanos y solidaridad de ser “alineada con las mismas ideas extremistas” de estos defensores y defensoras y activistas hondureñas. De hecho, es la administración del Presidente Hernández y las fuerzas de seguridad quienes organizan la violencia en contra de los movimientos sociales y cualquier persona que se atreve a amplificar o hacer incidencia por su causa.

La HSN no es neutral, pero sí nos apegamos a la verdad. La verdad es que estamos con el pueblo hondureño y sus movimientos sociales organizados. Defendemos los derecho humanos y civiles dentro del marco de las normas internacionalmente reconocidas y trabajamos para acabar con el apoyo de nuestro gobierno a la combinación de autoritarismo y neoliberalismo violento que está destruyendo a Honduras.  

(1) https://defensoresdehonduras.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/quien-protege-a-los-sicarios-del-bajo-aguan/

(2) Hondurassolidarity.org

Garifuna woman Medeline David charged by CARIVIDA Resort Released

Yesterday after a hearing in the Trujillo court house, the judge released Medeline David Fernandez but with restrictions- she is required to regularly sign before a judge to ensure she doesn't leave the area or go to far; and she's not allowed to leave the country or go near the land reclamation efforts in her community. 

The recent criminalization of Medeline is so telling of the strength of the Honduran judicial system when it wants to criminalize and punish the poor that threat powerful economic interests. OFRANEH is pointing out that it took 3 years for the judges in Trujillo to restrict Canadian developer Randy jorgensen's freedom despite having capture orders against him for various years. Randy (who actually is stealing and in illegal possession of Garifuna land) was never apprehended. Medeline is being accused of the same thing that Randy is (but she's a poor Garifuna woman defending her community's lands) and it took the state 8 days to violently capture her under the request of Canadians. She was held over night whereas Randy has never seen the inside of a jail cell. 

 OFRANEH and the communities of Trujillo Bay outside of the courtroom in Trujillo awaiting the results of Medeline David Fernandez's hearing. Picture by OFRANEH

OFRANEH and the communities of Trujillo Bay outside of the courtroom in Trujillo awaiting the results of Medeline David Fernandez's hearing. Picture by OFRANEH

The Garifuna communities in Trujillo Bay including Guadalupe, Santa Fe, Cristales and Castilla continue recuperating land that has been taken from them by the Honduran government and Canadian/American tourism and energy developers. There will be a strong need for solidarity with these communities as the government and private companies unveil their plans to privatize the port, build an oil refinery, various tourist resorts, and an airport within or part of a model city. To date, all these projects are proposed inside the six ancestral titles that belong to the Garifuna in the Trujillo Bay Area. 

Finally, thanks to everyone that made calls and sent emails to express their concern about Medeline and others with charges.

URGENT ACTION: Canadian Resort Developers Charge Garifuna Woman

This afternoon at approximately 4 pm, Honduran police surrounded a land recuperation effort in the Garifuna community of Guadalupe, municipality of Santa Fe, Colon. The police detained Medeline David, a Garifuna woman between 25 and 28 years old, who has been very active in recuperating Garifuna land that has been stolen by Americans and Canadians, to build large-scale tourism projects including gated communities, resorts, a cruise ship dock. She was also beaten up in the process of being detained.

Medeline is being accused of usurpation by a Canadian company, Carivida owned by Patrick Daniel Forseth, who illegally purchased the land. Not only is the land inside a communally-owned title from the early 1900s but its also a piece of land in the most recently granted (and significantly reduced) Guadalupe land title from 1998.

The land recuperation processes in Trujillo Bay in six Garifuna communities are being led by Garifuna youth, many of which have been DEPORTED from the United States. They arrive back to their communities and find their land being stolen by Canadians and Americans illegally purchasing Garifuna land for their vacation homes. The main "developer" in the region in Canadian Porn King Randy Jorgensen and there are various other Canadian and American developers like CARIVIDA who are flooding to the area to convert it into a Honduran cancun. This has led to repression, criminalization, and the robbery of land from the Garifuna communities in the area.

Please write the Canadian Embassy about Medeline's case and express your concern that Canadian businesses are stealing Garifuna land and criminalizing those that defend it.

Wendy Avila: Killed by Tear Gas & Policies Made in the USA

 Wendy's grave stone: "October 24, 1984 to September 26, 2009. Let your spilled blood be the light that illuminates the path to people's liberation. As long as you live in the minds and hearts of our people, you will never be dead."

Wendy's grave stone: "October 24, 1984 to September 26, 2009. Let your spilled blood be the light that illuminates the path to people's liberation. As long as you live in the minds and hearts of our people, you will never be dead."

Seven years ago today, Wendy Elizabeth Avila died in a hospital in Tegucigalpa from respiratory problems. Suffering from severe asthma, Wendy's lungs were unable to withstand the excessive amounts of tear gas that Honduran security forces fired at the Honduran resistance on September 23rd, a few days after overthrown President Manuel Zelaya turned up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. Thousands of people including Wendy gathered to welcome Zelaya back into the country.

Wendy was killed in the context of multiple efforts at "negotiations" between Zelaya and the coup regime of Roberto Micheletti, that by intended design, failed miserable. Prevented from returning to Honduras after the June 28, 2009 coup, Zelaya attempted to return to the country via the Nicaraguan-Honduran border in July 2009. The U.S., led by Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, called this move "reckless" on Zelaya's part. Clinton made no mention of the reckless and intentional strategies of the coup regime that imposed days of military curfews and were responsible for multiple cases of illegal detentions, torture, and extrajudicial killings as Hondurans fled to the Nicaraguan border to meet their overthrown President. Wendy included.

What was being discussed and managed on an international diplomatic level after the coup was like night-and-day from what was happening on the ground in Honduras. Clinton's office promoted the false and unfair "negotiation" process that did not reflect in any way the national reality for the Hondurans in the streets. Hundreds of deaths immediately after the coup, including Wendy's, are reminders of just how bloody US policy in Honduras really is.

IMF Policies & the Privatization of the National Energy Company Hits Honduran Households

A hot topic of discussion and protest at the moment is the new policies related to the distribution of electrical energy in Honduras. All over the country, people are infuriated by the power outages, higher energy prices and the extra tariffs being added to electrical bills.

An announcement was recently made by the new private company, Energy Company Honduras (EEH by its Spanish acronym) that 250,000 pre-paid electrical meters will be installed in houses where users have not been diligent paying their bills or in areas where electricity is siphoned off from small transmission lines. In other words, meters are expected to be installed in poor neighborhoods where families struggling to pay electric bills simply cannot pay for the rising cost of electricity.

 A picture of an ENEE bill that is circulating on social media. The bill includes an extra charge of 2000 Lps (~$90 USD) that is being said is a "payment guarantee"

A picture of an ENEE bill that is circulating on social media. The bill includes an extra charge of 2000 Lps (~$90 USD) that is being said is a "payment guarantee"

EEH is a Colombian-Honduran company that took over energy distribution from the now-privatized National Electrical Energy Company (ENEE) and began operations last month. One Honduran entity part of EEH is the Union of the ENEE workers (STENEE) led by ex-STENEE President, Miguel Aguilar.

EEH won the internationally bidding process late last year that was adjudicated by the Promotion for Public-Private Alliances (COALIANZA), an institution that was created in 2010 as part of the neoliberal policies ushered in by the post-coup regime of Porfirio Lobo. COALIANZA has since been involved in auctioning off infrastructure projects and national institutions including the ENEE, the shipping ports, and major Honduran highways amongst others, to private companies. But it hasn’t worked alone. What Honduran households are really experiencing with the increases in tariffs and the installation of energy meters, are the impacts of the privatization of the ENEE led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

EEH is facing serious pressure from all over the country as a result of their own policies but also because Honduran households are now staring a privatized energy system and its consequences square in the face: rising energy prices, no state subsidies; and for-profit policy decisions by private companies.

The IMF begins talks with governments long before agreements are signed. An obsession of the IMF and other International Financial Institutions (IFIs) for a long time has been the privatization of ENEE. According to a report written by a consultant contracted by the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) in November 2014, “The Government of Honduras reached an agreement with the IMF in the month of October and one of the principle IMF requirements is that it executes an adjustment plan that guarantees that the [energy] sector is profitable and financially sustainable at the time, as a measure of reducing the fiscal deficit.” The report goes on to highlight financial and technical reviews and evaluations of ENEE carried out by US firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers and DES Consulting, most of which were paid for by the IFIs themselves. 

The report also mentions that the ENEE “has been strongly deteriorating since 2010” but it didn’t go into much detail as of why. When the topic was discussed in the media, losses on the transmission lines or high number of ENEE employees and the burden of their salaries are cited as reasons why the economic situation of the company was so dire. Although these reasons may be partially true, they certainty cannot explain all of ENEE’s problems.

After the 2009 military coup, an interesting list of unpaid ENEE bills between 1999 and 2009 circulated in the social networks. I wonder if ENEE executives (the majority of which are appointed by the political party in power) went knocking on the doors of the following companies with debt to ENEE?:  Shell, Honduras – Owing 79, 961,111 Lps; Lovable de Honduras (Owned by wealthy Canahuati family) – Owing 96 million lempiras; and Quimicas Dinant (owned by wealthy Facusse family) - owing 126 million, amongst other transnationals and companies owned by the 10-12 families of the wealthy Honduran elite.

Its also worth mentioning that many family members of the National party were given key ENEE management positions after the 2009 coup: Rina Maria Oliva Brizio, daughter of the current President of Congress, Mauricio Oliva given a salary of $56,942 lempiras ($2,486)/month and Margi Graciana Hernandez Padilla, President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s niece maintained a salary of 77,695 Lps ($3,393)/month amongst others. Also, no effort is made to address the hefty and overpriced contracts granted by the Honduran National Congress to thermal companies owned by the wealthiest families of Honduras such as Canahuati, Kafie, and Nasser. 

Instead of addressing the mismanagement of ENEE and the expensive contracts for thermal energy generation, the willing post-coup Honduran regime gave into pressure from the IMF and other IFIs and privatized the state company by passing an important law in January 2013. Now ENEE has been split into three parts: energy generation, transmission and distribution, and as a consequence, in 2014 and 2015 hundreds of public ENEE employees were laid off.

So far, a private company has only taken over distribution (defined as management of electricity from the substations to households). In terms of energy generation, a large number of solar, wind, and dams are being constructed and generated electricity will be sold to ENEE. I would expect as more dams are built by private companies, electricity prices will increase. This is terrible news for Honduran families that unfortunately, have yet to see the full impact of the privatization of their energy company.