Monday, August 10, 2015

!Todos Somos Indignados - We Are All Indignant!

On July 31st, Honduran indignad@s which included members of the political opposition, indigenous activists, human rights defenders, students ended their hunger strike which was begun in June to protest the massive corruption and attacks on the political and economic well-being of the Honduran people (see the Honduras Solidarity Network statement below). The massive torchlight marches of thousands of Hondurans are continuing and the people continue to demand President Juan Orlando Hernandez's resignation and prosecution of all those responsible for the corruption. The marches also continue to denounce the attacks on the students, campesinos, indigenous and working people in general and the political repression. This is a time when the movement is re-accessing their tactics and possibilities for winning change. We will be publishing more analysis and information in upcoming posts. 

On July 27th the campesino movement supported by human rights defenders, social movements and LIBRE blocked highways around the country demanding agrarian reform (see article by Charity Crouse below). 
Chabelo and his mother leaving
 the prison in Ceiba
Photo via Dunia Aracely Pérez

On July 24th campesino political prisoner, Jose Isabel "Chabelo" Morales Lopez was released from prison pending another re-trial after his conviction was overturned. He has served almost 7 years in prison. His trial (the third trial!) ia currently scheduled for September 28 and La Voz de los de Abajo joins in the call for support for his permanent freedom. Pressure from international and Honduran human rights and social justice movements was crucial in winning his freedom and will be crucial for his definitive liberty. 

Please sign the petition HEREHere
More information Here

Which Direction for Honduras
By Charity Crouse

Photo by Duñia Montoya via Bartolo Fuentes
On July 27, 2015 Hondurans Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC),  Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP), organizations comprising Via Campesino, and maquila workers from the village near Progreso blocked the highway between  Tela and San Pedro Sula for four hours to compel the Honduran National Congress to address the myriad issues confronting campesino communities. These issues include the recent revelation of corruption by former Congress leader and current president Juan Orlando Hernandez of siphoning off millions of dollars from the Instituto Hondureno de Seguridad Social (IHSS) to fund his presidential campaign. This action corresponds to those for the last eight weeks by the movement which calls itself Indignados but it also includes long-standing policies of criminalizing land reform activists and targeting communities that tend the land. Currently, more than 5,000 face charges related to the land struggle while many more fight for recognition of land titles awarded since 2008. Farmers and their families are routinely evicted, imprisoned and have even been murdered as land rights are destroyed by the imposition of mining and other resource acquisition interests. Additionally, many of those with corporate and monied oligarchical family ties collude to dispossess entire communities of families of their sovereignty and their means of survival.

In 1962, sweeping land reform measures were passed in Honduras as part of the movement of farmers (campesinos) and indigenous people that united with workers throughout Latin America. These reforms enable communities that work land that was not specifically privately owned to be legally turned over to campesinos for future development. Little land was privately owned at the time and campesino communities and organizations grew throughout Honduras. The Instituto Nacional de Agricultura (INA) was established as an administrative body to coordinate land use practices and designations.

Throughout the 1980s, campesino communities and other leftist activists experienced extensive repression by right-wing governments dominated by an oligarchy who were the primary private landowners in the country and who controlled the private industry along with international companies like Standard Fruit. The U.S. military intervention in Central America in the 1980s basically occupied Honduras and supported the local oligarchy by training and supporting the Honduran troops and death squads that often tortured, disappeared and assassinated resistance leaders and members at their behest. Many of those oligarchs thrived by concentrating wealth and land usage through the proliferation of neoliberal free trade agreements like North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While the development of industry offered job opportunities to many poor Hondurans, the agricultural and cultural base of the nation was dramatically altered as social movements that fought for human rights and economic and social justice were further repressed. Hundreds of human and environmental rights activists were assassinated. 

For those working for the rights of the land and those who sustained it, this repression was codified in law with the passage of the Law of the Modernization of Agriculture in 1993. The Law of Modernization expanded the entrenchment and entitlement of private landowners and industrialists. In addition, the role of INA in mediating land usage issues was turned over to a newly-formed Council of Land and Property, which now regulates land registries and titles. 

The impact has been debilitating for campesino communities. The proliferation of mining and hydroelectric interests that are often owned by foreign companies and officially incorporated and registered on property claimed by the oligarchy has increased to now encompass 35 percent of the public land of Honduras. That means that 35 percent of land once guaranteed to campesino communities has now been absorbed into the nexus of private landowner/corporate control. These concessions along with consolidation of agro and other business interests often operating under similar circumstances as the mines and dams, have corresponded with the increased militarization and expansion of the private security apparatus that forces campesino communities off their lands. Further militarization and security encroachments are often justified under the guise of fighting the War on Drugs, even as the government is implicated in collusion with the proliferation of the narco-traffickers, as revealed in a cable from the former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras leaked by Wikileaks. In practice, though, this security regime functions to safeguard private interests at the expense of entire communities. One more publicized and notable example is the ongoing struggle of the communities in the Aguan Valley that were violently repressed by the now-deceased Miguel Facusse.

Proceedings for campesino communities to assert their land rights are expensive, cumbersome, time-consuming and fraught with bureaucratic fraud. The arrests and prosecutions of campesinos takes time and resources away from the mostly impoverished communities.

CNTC campesinos detained in La Paz July 2015
Photo Franklin Almendares
Photo Franklin Almendares
In April of 2014, the CNTC and other land reform activists proposed the Law of Integrated Agrarian Reform. The law seeks to dismantle the regressive provisions of the Law of Modernization and restore autonomy and legal security to the campesino communities of Honduras. Unfortunately, while the National Congress and its leaders were busy defrauding the Honduran people and dismantling their public systems, the bill languished in the Committee for Agricultural and Rural Development without being read. The status quo of mismanagement, bureaucratic corruption, collusion between the oligarchy and predatory foreign interests, and the divestment of Honduran wealth and resources that characterizes the current imbroglio over the IHSS has also played out in the land and agricultural policies. Not only has the health of the Honduran people been devastated by this disaster, but so too has the earth that provides the economic system that sustains the entirety of the nation.

As such, Hondurans together put their bodies on the line to stop not only the police and government, but also the whole system that divests Honduras of its health and wealth. As the momentum continues to build, let us take inspiration to act as we see communities merge into Honduras’ future direction, a direction that holds great lessons and promise for the future of the world. 

 El español sigue el ingles

July 30 2015
Statement from the Honduras Solidarity Network  of North America

Honduran people demand an end to corruption,  impunity, and militarization

As members of The Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) of North America, we declare our solidarity with the many thousands of Hondurans who have been protesting for months with vigils, marches with torches, and an ongoing hunger strike. We support their demands for the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez; the installation of an international independent commission (CICIH), to investigate the government corruption after the massive theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS) by the ruling National Party; and a thorough investigation into the more than 3000 deaths in the health system during this crisis. This is a peoples’ movement in which the political opposition, the social movements, and the majority of the society are confronting obstacles to a better future for their country. 

We recognize that this outrageous and extraordinary corruption is one more example of actions outside the law, and against all the democratic principles committed by the Honduran political and economic elite, supported by the US government, which began with the 2009 military coup, and has continued with the subsequent coup governments. The most recent corruption scandal comes after 6 years of attacks against human rights defenders, agrarian and indigenous activists, and the entire political and social opposition movement. It comes as part of an attempt to consolidate illegitimate power that includes the removal of more independent Supreme Court justices in 2012 when the current president was the head of Congress and the subsequent decision, after Hernandez came to power in 2014, by the new court to declare null and void the anti-reelection clause of the Honduran constitution.

We strongly condemn the fact that the US Government’s support for the regime in Honduras continues. In fact as corruption was devastating the public health system, creating conditions in which thousands of people died; as the Honduran people and a diverse political opposition united their voices demanding President Hernandez’s resignation, the US Ambassador announced, “Our relationship (with the Honduran government) has never been better”. We are deeply concerned that the very few statements/actions by the US government about impunity and corruption, such as the agreement brokered between Transparency International, Association for a More Just Society, and the Honduran government,  are aimed at  whitewashing the crimes of the Honduran regime with token investigations and the possible prosecution of a handful of officials in order to gain support in the US for the so called “Alliance for Prosperity” — the $1-billion dollar package proposed for the countries of the Northern Triangle under the Biden Plan in the U.S. Congress. The rise of the recent movement against corruption is a demonstration of the failure of the existing agreement.  

We reject the common agenda the United States government  shares with international corporations, the IMF and the Honduran oligarchy represented by Juan Orlando Hernandez.   That agenda is an aggressive neoliberal program to privatize education, health care, and infrastructure while putting the country’s land and resources in the hands of foreign mining companies, hydroelectric, and mega-touristic projects, and powerful agribusiness interests.  This agenda is backed up by the US economic and military power. As if to make clear its support for the regime the US recently sent another group of 300 Marines to Honduras and conducted military helicopter exercises even as the corruption scandal was being revealed. 

We stand in solidarity also with the call from the indigenous, campesino, and trade union organizations, and other social sectors for solutions to the labor, agrarian, and territorial crises that affect their vulnerable members and communities. We are outraged and concerned about the criminalization of their movements and the ongoing violence against them which is the responsibility of the Honduran State. 

We are profoundly concerned with the continuing attacks on, and obstruction of the work of human rights defenders and journalists, without whom the population is totally defenseless against impunity and corruption. 

We support the demands of the Honduran people and we demand that the US government stop supporting militarization and impunity in Honduras now: 

1. That President Obama and the US Congress immediately stop military and police training, and military aid to Honduras!

2. That the US Congress not pass or fund the Alliance for Prosperity or other taxpayer-funded schemes that further militarize governments and increase human rights violations. 

3. That the US Embassy stop lending verbal and material support to the illegitimate government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez and instead demand of his administration an end to impunity and criminalization of human rights defenders and social movement leaders.   

4. We continue to demand an investigation for all of the assassinations committed in Honduras since the military coup of 2009, and punishment for the both the intellectual and material authors of those crimes.

July 30, 2015
Honduras Solidarity Network USA/Canada
D19/FNRP-Partido, LIBRE—EE.UU-Canadá

Declaración de la Red de Solidaridad de Honduras EEUU/Canada
30 de Julio 2015

La declaración que sigue fue presentada a funcionarios en la embajada norteamericana en Tegucigalpa el dia 31 de Julio por una delegación de la HSN dirigida por Alliance for Global Justice. El proposito era de expresar bien nuestra posición en solidaridad con el pueblo de Honduras y nuestra inconformidad con la política de los EEUU en Honduras. 

El Pueblo hondureño exige un alto a la corrupción, a la impunidad, y a la militarización

30 de Julio, 2015

Reconocemos que esta intolerable y como miembros de la Red de Solidaridad norteamericana con Honduras (HSN por sus siglas en inglés), nosotros declaramos nuestra solidaridad con los muchos miles de hondureños que han estado protestando por varios meses con vigilias, marchas con antorchas, y con una huelga de hambre indefinida. Apoyamos las exigencias de la renuncia del Presidente Juan Orlando Hernández por parte del pueblo; y la creación de una Comisión Internacional Independiente que investigue la corrupción gubernamental después del masivo y descarado robo de cientos de millones de dólares de los fondos del Instituto Hondureño de Seguridad Social (IHSS) que fueron usados para financiar la campaña presidencial del Partido Nacional actualmente en el poder; y también una profunda investigación de los casos de más de 3000 personas beneficiarias de este sistema de salud que murieron durante esta crisis. Este es un movimiento del pueblo en el cual los grupos de la oposición política, los movimientos populares y la mayoría de la sociedad hondureña está enfrentando muchos obstáculos para lograr un futuro mejor para su país.
carada corrupción es un ejemplo más de las acciones fuera de la ley, y contra los principios democráticos encabezados por la élite política y económica de Honduras, apoyada por el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos que se inició con el golpe militar del 2009, y ha continuado con los subsecuentes gobiernos golpistas. El escándalo más reciente de corrupción se da después de 6 años de ataques permanentes contra los defensores de los derechos humanos, contra los indígenas y trabajadores del campo, y contra todo el movimiento politico y social de oposición. Todo esto surge como parte del intento de consolidarse como un poder ilegítimo quebrantando la actual Constitución para lograr la reelección.  Este proceso se inició con el despido injustificado de varios magistrados independientes de la Corte Suprema de Justicia en el 2012 cuando el actual presidente era el líder del Congreso Nacional, y la subsecuente decisión, después que Hernández por medio de un fraude electoral se convirtiera en el presidente de Honduras en el 2014. La actual corte suprema de justicia  actuando fuera de la ley, invalidó y declaró nula la cláusula de la anti-reelección de la constitución hondureña.

Con mucha firmeza condenamos el hecho de que el apoyo al régimen de Honduras por parte del gobierno de los Estados Unidos continúa. Es más, mientras la corrupción devastaba el sistema público de salud, lo que creó las condiciones por las que muchos miles de personas murieron; mientras el pueblo hondureño y una diversidad política de oposición unían sus voces exigiendo la renuncia del Presidente Juan Orlando Hernández, el embajador de Estados Unidos anunció: “Nuestra relación con el gobierno de Honduras nunca ha estado mejor”

Estamos profundamente preocupados por las declaraciones/acciones por parte del gobierno de los Estados Unidos acerca de la impunidad y la corrupción, como el caso de la ruptura del tratado entre Transparencia Internacional, la Asociación por una Sociedad más justa, y el gobierno de Honduras, están dirigidos a encubrir los crímenes del régimen hondureño con investigaciones de fachada y el posible juzgamiento de unos pocos oficiales para ganar apoyo en los Estados Unidos para el programa denominado “Alianza para la Prosperidad” - El paquete de un billón de dólares propuesto para apoyar los Países del Triángulo Norte como parte del Plan presentado por el  vicepresidente Biden ante el Congreso de los Estados Unidos. El incremento del movimiento de protesta contra la corrupción es una muestra de que la existencia del presente acuerdo ha fallado.

Repudiamos la agenda común que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos comparte con corporaciones internacionales como el Fondo Monetario Internacional y la oligarquía hondureña representada por Juan Orlando Hernández. Esa agenda obedece a un programa neoliberal agresivo que busca privatizar la educación, la salud y la infraestructura mientras ponen la tierra del país y los recursos naturales en manos de compañías mineras extranjeras, así como los proyectos hidroeléctricos y los proyectos Mega-Turísticos y los poderosos intereses de la agro industria. Esta agenda es respaldada por la economía estadounidense y el poder militar. Para demostrar su apoyo al régimen de Juan Orlando, el gobierno de los Estados Unidos recientemente envió 300 Marines más a Honduras y han realizado maniobras militares usando helicópteros incluso, a pesar de que el escándalo de la corrupción ya había sido revelado.

Estamos en solidaridad también con el llamado de la población indígena, los campesinos, las organizaciones obreras y sindicales, y con otros sectores sociales que buscan soluciones sindicales, agrarias, y a la crisis territorial que afecta a los miembros y comunidades más vulnerables. Estamos muy indignados y preocupados acerca de la criminalización contra sus organizaciones y la continua violencia contra ellos con la responsabilidad directa del Estado Hondureño.

Estamos profundamente preocupados por los contínuos ataques a y la obstrucción del trabajo que realizan los defensores de derechos humanos y los periodistas, sin el trabajo de estos organismos la población estaría totalmente desprotegida contra la impunidad y la corrupción.

Apoyamos las exigencias del pueblo hondureño, y demandamos que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos suspenda la ayuda militar y la impunidad ahora! Exigimos que:

1. Que el Presidente Obama y el Congreso de los Estados Unidos suspendan inmediatamente los entrenamientos militares y policía, así como la ayuda militar a Honduras!

2. Que el Congreso de los Estados Unidos no apruebe el Fondo de la Alianza para la prosperidad u otros planes o proyectos financiados con nuestros impuestos, y que sólo sirven para militarizar más a los gobiernos y el aumento de las violaciones a los derechos humanos.

3. Que la Embajada de los Estados Unidos no siga brindando apoyo verbal y material al gobierno ilegítimo de Juan Orlando Hernández y que en cambio se le exija que ponga término a la impunidad y la criminalización contra los defensores de los derechos humanos y de los líderes del movimiento social.

4. Continuamos exigiendo una investigación exhaustiva de todos los asesinatos cometidos en Honduras desde el golpe de estado del 2009, y exigimos castigo para los autores materiales e intelectuales de estos crímenes.

30 de Julio
Honduras Solidarity Network USA/Canada 
Red de Solidaridad con Honduras, EEUU/Canada

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Honduras Delegation May 2015

May 25th Protest Against Corruption, Tegucigalpa
From May 22- June 2 a delegation from La Voz de los de Abajo, a member of the Honduras Solidarity Network,  traveled in Honduras, participating in events for the International Week Against Forced Disappearances with the Honduran human rights organization COFADEH and visiting other organizations in the resistance movement, human rights defenders, campesino communities under attack and the campesino political prisoner, Chabelo Morales Lopez. We were there as the protest movement against corruption and impunity was just beginning to heat up—— that movement now has grown to massive protests with many thousands of people in the streets in nearly every city in the country on a daily basis for the past three weeks.

Honduras May 2015 International Week Against Forced Disappearances Past and Present — Impunity Remains
Part of the content of this blog post  is from the Delegation Report and Statement to be published soon.
Photos of the "disappeared" at Cofadeh's 
office in Tegucigalpa
COFADEH (Committee of the Families of Disappeared Detainees) was founded in 1982 by families of people who were forcibly disappeared by military and paramilitary forces linked to the Honduran and Salvadoran military, the US supported “Contras” (a counter revolutionary paramilitary fighting against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua), and U.S. covert operations in the region. Honduras was used as a US military base against the Sandinistas and against the insurgency of the FMLN in El Salvador but was not officially at war itself. Nonetheless by the end of the conflict there were more than 200 persons documented to have been disappeared in Honduras.  Among those disappeared are Tomas Nativi - the husband of COFADEH’s coordinator, Bertha Oliva, disappeared in 1982. 

Our delegation was accompanied by COFADEH members in traveling the Ruta (Path of Historic Memory) which began in the city of Tegucigalpa in COFADEH’s office, passes their original office site near a police and Honduran Bureau of Investigation (DNIC) office. One of the COFADEH compañeras described answering the door bell at the original office in the mid-1980’s and finding a DNIC officer who immediately pointed a gun at her head and told her to deliver a message that COFADEH must stop investigating the case of one of the disappeared. She was only 14 at the time and had joined COFADEH after her brother’s disappearance.  

Delegation member at El Reventon

The Ruta de Memoria Historica then leaves the city and goes to the site of a clandestine cemetery (El Reventon) used by the Honduran military to dispose of the bodies of the disappeared. The site was discovered by COFADEH after a witness finally overcame his fear later in the 1990’s and disclosed the location. The Ruta includes two former clandestine detention and military sites (the Casa de Terror/Terror House and the Cuartel de los Contras/ Contra Barracks)  and at the end of the Ruta is the COFADEH Center against Forgetting (El Hogar en Contra el Olvido), a beautiful mountainside center for meditation, retreats and conferences with a garden of trees honoring the disappeared of the 1980s. 

El Hogar en Contra el Olvido - COFADEH
House of Terror
Blood spatters found
The most difficult part of the journey on the Ruta was visiting the “Casa de Terror” (Terror House) located not far from the cemetery on a property that was owned by a military officer and is now abandoned. This location has been visited by survivors of kidnapping and torture who confirmed that they were held there. Blood splatters that were identified by chemical testing are outlined in black marker. On the property there are two odd concrete structures— concrete boxes with concrete lids that have only a very small opening, resembling some kind of detention box. 

Delegation member at "Terror House"
One group of survivors were young high school and university students, kidnapped by masked men thought to be part of the Honduran death squad military Battalion 316. The survivors tell the story of being held for 8 days, tortured with beatings and electricity, starved and terrorized. It is believed that they were eventually released rather than being murdered only because the father of two of the students was a highly placed official in the Honduran government - he was beaten by the death squad members when the students were kidnapped from his home, but the youth were finally released.It is unknown how many people were detained at the site,  tortured and then murdered.  The presence of the disappeared is not only felt from the victims of the 1980’s who have yet to find justice for their loved ones -- new disappearances continue. 

Since the military coup in 2009 the practice of forced disappearances, detentions and torture has returned to Honduras.  On Tuesday, May 26th our delegation participated in a press conference with Bertha Oliva, coordinator of COFADEH and Jaquelin Jimenez, the sister of Donatilo Jimenez who was disappeared from his workplace, during his work shift,  on April 8 and has not been found either alive or dead. Donatilo was a long-time member of the union of employees of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (SITRAUNH) and past president of his local union in La Ceiba. Before his disappearance he told his family of labor conflicts with the university administration regarding security for workers at  the campus where he worked; the presence of organized crime on the university property and  collusion of university security guards with the criminal gangs. Donatilo was also still active in the union and was participating in a slate of workers running for positions in the regional SITRAUNH. The slate had to withdraw after his disappearance. 

Press Conference May 26th
photo by Defensores En Linea
Members of SITRAUNH from Tegucigalpa and the northern La Ceiba region attended the press conference in COFADEH’s office. They talked of the many conflicts with the university administration both regionally and at the national level, especially since the coup. The rector, Julieta Castellanos, is very close to President Juan Orlando Hernandez who recently arranged for a decision to change the government university rules so she could serve another term as rector. 

The family does not know what exactly happened to Donatilo the day he disappeared. At first local university officials claimed that he had left work in his car, although no one identified him,  which was found abandoned; later officials said that he was killed and that they have someone arrested, but with no details and without Donatilo's body.  Donatilo’s sister explained that after Donatilo’s disappearance, the university administration did not issue any statement, show any concern, investigate what happened or call for any investigation into his disappearance. When COFADEH accompanied the family to the site of his disappearance they were first denied access to search for him, then they were told they could enter but with a warning that it was unsafe which caused the team to decide not to search the extensive grounds of the campus. Donatilo's family insist that they want a real investigation that uncovers the intellectual and well as material authors of any crime. The university authorities have not only been uncooperative but the highest level administration of the National Autonomous University has had a lawsuit for “slander and damages” filed against Donatilo’s sister and his wife for their public statements about Donatilo’s concerns before he disappeared.  

Gladys Lanza at C-Libre event
The use of defamation charges is the latest weapon used by the government and oligarchy against human rights defenders, victims of abuses, and journalists. On Wednesday, May 27th, we attended an event held by the organization C-Libre, an advocate for protection of journalists and the freedom of expression, in which they presented their report on attacks against journalists for the year 2014 and also gave awards to human rights defender Gladys Lanza and journalist Gilberto Gálvez. Gladys Lanza is a member of the human rights organization VIsitación Padilla which focuses on women’s rights. She is currently facing time in jail after a prominent head of an NGO  filed a defamation lawsuit against her after her organization took on the case of a woman former employee who accused him of sexual harassment and violation of her rights. Besides Gladys Lanza and the Jimenez family, at least two journalists also are facing these charges and the indigenous and environmental activist, Bertha Caceres of the Lenca indigenous organization COPINH has been threatened with similar legal action after she denounced the murder of a member of COPINH this spring. 

COFADEH documents and maintains the historic memory of the disappeared both past and present and is a constant voice in representing the voices who demand, “they were alive when they were taken, we want them back alive”. 
They have a website  Cofadeh and the electronic press site, Defensores En Linea

More reports from the delegation coming soon
Unless otherwise noted, all photos by V. Cervantes

Victoria Cervantes
for La Voz de los de Abajo
June 11, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Student Protests Continue - Campesinos Planning Mobilizations

Campesino Press Conference: Protests Planned For Agrarian Reform and Decriminalization of the Campesino Movement

Conferencia de Prensa Campesina de Defensores En Linea y Honduras Tierra Libre: el original en español

Campesino press conference April 9th Tegucigalpa
foto: defensores en linea
The campesino movement today demands approval of the Law for Integral Agrarian reform with Gender Equity, a proposal that was introduced in the National Congress by the campesinos a year ago. 

The demand of the campesinos was made publicly at a press conference held in the offices of Vía Campesina in Tegucigalpa, where they announced that they would be holding big mobilizations nationally for the approval of the law. 

The campesinos noted that with the approval of the Law for Integral Agrarian Reform with Gender Equity the agrarian problem in Honduras would be resolved. 

On April 9, 2014 the campesino movement introduced a proposal for a law called “Agrarian Reform with Gender Equity, for Food Sovereignty and Rural Development” in the National Congress. The law had been previously circulated publicly to all the congressional political parties which promised to back it and to support the campesino movement related to this discussion and approval of the proposed law. 

The campesino movement lamented that the proposal was tabled with no measures taken for its discussion among all the political sectors represented in the National Congress. 

“It’s a disgrace that this proposed Law was tabled simply because there is no priority given to resolved the agrarian problem that the Honduran campesinos have at the national level,” stated campesino leader Agustín Ramos.

The criminalization of the campesino struggle grows greater every day. Around 5 thousand campesinos are in legal processes, of those 815 are women and 11 are in prison because of their struggle for the land. 

The problem for the campesino sector has increased so that the campesinos and campesinas announced that in upcoming days they would organize protests as a way of applying pressure so that the Law for an Integral Agrarian Reform with Gender Equity would be approved. 

“There will be mobilizations at the national level and we are conscious that we will be repressed but that won’t stop our demands that the Agrarian Reform Law be passed”, declared Magdalena Morales, representative of the National Center of Rural Workers (CNTC). 

She also called on President Juan Orlando Hernández to put his influence to work so that the Law would be approved in the National Congress in that with it the agrarian problem in Honduras would be resolved, in that the campesinos in Honduras don’t have land to work. 

Morales reminded President Hernández that in the rural areas there are more that 2 million women campesinas living in extreme poverty.

The campesino movement also denounced the fact that violent evictions continue in which their crops and homes have been destroyed with impunity causing thousands of lempira’s worth of losses for poor families of the Honduran campesino sector. 

Finally the campesinos called for the President of the Republic, Juan Orlando Hernández, the President of the National Congress, Mauricio Oliva and the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Jorge Rivera Avilez to meet with them to open a broad and inclusive dialogue regarding the agrarian problem in the country and the crises in basic grains that will occur  this season if urgent measures are not taken to resolve it.

Student Protests: Support for the Students Grows while Violence Against Students Increases

Tegucigalpa March 26 protest
foto from desdeaquiabajo
Student protests begun by high school/middle school students and joined by university students against the budget cuts and privatization of public education have been marked by repression including the death squad style murders of student activists - one a 14 year old girl. The violence has been widely denounced including by the Honduras Solidarity Network (See statement here). The students now have been joined by broader sectors of the resistance movement and outraged Hondurans. For an update and more photos go to the Desde Aquí Abajo blog .

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Campesinos Protest Against Criminalization

El original declaración en español sigue el ingles
Declaration and photos from Vía Campesina Honduras
"Immediate liberty for the arrested campesinas & campesinos
More than 5 thousand in all of Honduras

Declaration on the wave of criminalization against the campesinos and campesinas of La Paz, Honduras

March 23, 2015,  Vía Campesina Honduras

Campesinos and campesinas, members of the National Center of Rural Workers (CNTC) accompanied by Vía Campesina carried out a march on Monday through the main streets in the province of La Paz as pressure to demand that the government end the violence against the campesinos. 

The countryside has stopped being an important sector for governments since the neoliberal system defines its plan for development based on the industry of agro-exportation, the financial system, mining, tourism, sweat-shops maquiladores and other things and agriculture is left abandoned. 

The agrarian and alimentation crisis is a true human tragedy, the situation in the countryside worsens day after day due to the lack of a true legal framework (to protect it). 

In order to resolve the agrarian problem and guarentee support to the small farming sector of the country, last April 9 the Law for an Integral Agrarian Reform with Gender Equity for Food Sovereignty and Rural Development, was introduced (to the Congress); it has remained tabled by the legislature. 

The campesino movement continues to be repressed on the land, our fields are destroyed, we are beaten, they burn our houses; from 2014 to the present 15 campesino groups in different municipalities, belonging to the CNTC have suffered violent evictions and another 34 evictions have been announced to take place soon. 

As of this moment around 5 thousand campesinos and campesinas at the national level have legal charges against them and more than 700 are women. Just in La Paz of 48 campesino groups 46 of the groups are in legal processes; we have more than 500 people with probationary measures, 161 are women and there are 10 comrades in prison condemned to more than 6 years. They are: 
1. Omar MejíaGálea (10 de Enero 2014) Grupo Buena Vista, la brea Comayagua
2. Benancio  Palomo Chavarría (10 de enero 2014) Grupo Buena Vista, la brea Comayagua
3. Gerson Edgardo Hernández (10 de Enero 2014) Grupo Buena Vista, la brea Comayagua
4. Héctor David GáleasLópez (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
5. Nery Antonio Gonzales (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
6.Ángel Arnaldo Martínez Marquez (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
7. Manuel Nicolas Dominguez (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
8. José David Aguilar Gáleas (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
9. Jacinto Bardales 11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
10. Osmar Lara, Grupo Campesino Unidos para un Futuro Mejor, Marcala, La Paz

Rafael Alegria and Franklin Almendarez
During the protest by the campesino movement the General Secretary of the CNTC, Franklin Almendarez denounced the political persecution aimed at the local group leaders and campesino leaders in La Paz, "our compañeros are followed in public places and public transportation by the police authorities and people dressed as civilians, we also want to sound the alert to the fact of the confabulation of the National Police with the big landowners to facilitate armed civilians executing evictions and persecuting the campesino groups" he stated. 

"In the same way, we vigorously denounce that government institutions such as the Institute for Forest Conservation (ICF) and the National Agrarian Institute (INA) deny us the right to Agrarian Reform, dismisses as "without cause" the filings for titles to the land made by our compañeros, denying them access to natural resources and violating Accord 169 signed and ratified by the Government of Honduras with the International Labor Organization (OIT). The peoples affected must have the right to decide their own priorities regarding the process of development to the extent that this affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well being and the lands that they occupy or use in some way, and (the right) to control to the degree possible their own economic, social and cultural development. (Accord 169, Article 7(1). "

For his part, the General Coordinator of Vía Campesina Honduras, Rafael Alegría stated that, "this march has been organized in La Paz to demand that the government end the criminalization of the campesino movement, we want this day to make history and its voice reach the government to say that we need them to give us land so that the campesinos have a parcel of land to work, that the Law for an Integral Agrarian reform with Gender Equity for Food Sovereignty and Rural Development that is tabled in the congress be passed immediately; the immediate liberation of the campesinos in legal proceedings and of the 11 compañeros imprisoned in Tamara and Marcala; and an immediate end to the violent evictions and the destruction of crops", he concluded. 

​The march arrived to the court building in La Paz where campesinos Blanca Rodríguez Manueles, Rómulo Gáleas and Antonio Gonzales had court hearings for allegedly stealing land, they were accompanied by the Coordinator of Vía Campesina, Rafael Alegría and the General Secretary of the CNTC, Franklin Almendarez; they achieved the campesinos being freed pending the continuation of the investigation. 

Afterwards the march went to the prison in La Paz where family members accompanied by congressmen from the LIBRE Party Rafael Alegría and Wilfredo Paz and Franklin Almendarez,  visited the 5 young campesinos who are incarcerated there. 


La Vía Campesina Honduras 23 de Marzo del 2015. Campesinas y campesinos miembros de la Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC) con el acompañamiento de La Vía Campesina, realizaron este lunes una caminata en las principales calles del departamento de La Paz, como medida de presión para exigir al gobierno el cese de la violencia en contra de los labriegos.
El campo dejo de ser un sector importante para los gobiernos, pues el sistema neoliberal definió un plan de desarrollo encaminado a fortalecer la industria de agroexportación, el sistema financiero, la minería, el turismo, la maquila, entre otros y la agricultura quedo en el absoluto abandono.

La crisis agraria y alimentaria es una verdadera tragedia humana, la situación en el campo se ha venido agravando día a día, producto de la falta de un verdadero marco jurídico.
Para solventar la problemática agraria y garantizar el apoyo al sector campesino del país, se introdujo el pasado 9 de Abril la Ley de Reforma Agraria Integral con Equidad de Género para la Soberanía Alimentaria y el Desarrollo Rural, misma que se mantiene engavetada en el legislativo.

El movimiento campesino, continua siendo reprimido por la tierra, nos deshacen nuestras milpas, nos golpean, nos queman nuestras casas, entre el año 2014 a la fecha 15 grupos campesinos pertenecientes a diferentes municipios de La Paz miembros de la Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC),han sufrido desalojos violentos y para los próximos días se anuncian 34  desalojos mas .

Hasta el momento se encuentran con procesos legales alrededor de 5 mil campesinos y campesinas, de ellos más de 700 son mujeresa nivel nacional, solo aquí en el departamento de La Paz, de 48 grupos campesinos, 46 de ellos tienen  procesos legales,  tenemos más de 500 personas con medidas sustitutivas, 161 son mujeres y 10 compañeros guardan prisión, condenados a  mas de 6 años de cárcel, los compañeros son:
1. Omar MejíaGálea (10 de Enero 2014) Grupo Buena Vista, la Brea Comayagua
2. Benancio  Palomo Chavarría (10 de enero 2014) Grupo Buena Vista, la brea Comayagua
3. Gerson Edgardo Hernández (10 de Enero 2014) Grupo Buena Vista, la brea Comayagua
4. Héctor David GáleasLópez (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
5. Nery Antonio Gonzales (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
6.Ángel Arnaldo Martínez Marquez (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
7. Manuel Nicolas Dominguez (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
8. José David Aguilar Gáleas (11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
9. Jacinto Bardales 11 de Octubre 2013) Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera, Quilaperque, La Paz
10. Osmar Lara, Grupo Campesino Unidos para un Futuro Mejor, Marcala, La Paz

Durante la manifestación del movimiento campesino el Secretario General de la CNTC Franklin Almendarez denunció la persecución política de que son objeto los líderes de base y dirigentes campesinos en el departamento de La Paz, “nuestros compañeros son perseguidos en lugares públicos y en los medios de transporte, por las autoridades de la policía y personas que andan de civil, también alertamos la confabulación de la policía nacional con los terratenientes para avalar que personas civiles armadas ejecuten desalojos y persecución a los grupos campesinos” expreso.

“De igual manera lamentamos enérgicamente que instituciones del estado como el Instituto de Conservación Forestal (ICF) y el Instituto Nacional Agrario (INA) nos nieguen el derecho a la Reforma Agraria, declarando sin lugar los expedientes de titulación de tierras de los compañeros, negándoles el acceso a los recursos naturales y violentando lo acordado en el Convenio 169, firmado y ratificado por el Estado de Honduras con la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT).

Los pueblos interesados deberán tener el derecho de decidir sus propias prioridades en lo que atañe al proceso de desarrollo, en la medida en que éste afecte a sus vidas, creencias, instituciones y bienestar espiritual y a las tierras que ocupan o utilizan de alguna manera, y de controlar, en la medida de lo posible, su propio desarrollo económico, social y cultural. Convenio 169, Artículo 7(1).

Por su parte el Coordinador General de La Vía Campesina Honduras Rafael Alegría dijo que, “esta caminata se ha organizado en La Paz para reclamar al gobierno un cese a la criminalización del movimiento campesino, queremos que este día se haga historia y llegue  la voz al Estado de que necesitamos que nos den tierras  para que el campesinado tenga una parcela para trabajar, que se apruebe de inmediato la Ley de Reforma Agraria Integral con Equidad de Género para la Soberanía Alimentaria y el Desarrollo Rural, que se mantiene engavetada en el Congreso Nacional, la liberación inmediata de las y los campesinos con procesos legales y los 11 compañeros que guardan prisión en los centros penales de Tamara y Márcala y un alto a los desalojos violentos y la destrucción de los cultivos”, concluyó.

Los manifestantes llegaron hasta los Juzgados de La Paz, donde se realizaría la audiencia de imputado a Blanca Rodríguez Manueles, Rómulo Gáleas y Antonio Gonzales, por supuesta usurpación de tierra, acompañados por el Coordinador de La Vía Campesina Rafael Alegría y el Secretario General de la CNTC Franklin Almendarez,  logrando que se continúe con la investigación pero con los campesinos en libertad. 

Posteriormente la movilización se dirigió hacia el presidio de La Paz, donde familiares visitaron a los cinco jóvenes campesinos que guardan prisión, acompañados por los diputados del Partido Libertad y Refundación Rafael Alegría y Wilfredo Paz, al igual que Franklin Almendarez.   

Monday, March 23, 2015

Evictions and Violence for National Campesino Day in Hondura

CNTC's Franklin Almendares explains
campesino position to landowners
claiming the campesino land
March 3rd was Honduras’ “National Campesino Day” and the government celebrated with more attacks and repression against the organized campesinos.  In Santa Maria, La Paz, the CNTC ((National Center for Rural Workers)  campesino group, “Juan Almendares Bonilla” was violently evicted from the land they have lived on and cultivated for 6 years. The homes and crops belonging to the 30 families were destroyed in the eviction and 15 members of the community were detained including 3 women and 2 minors. The women and children were released the same day but have to report regularly to the police station - as of March 23  Nine other members, Máximo Carrios, Luis Beltrán Aguilar, José Antonio Vásquez,  Edi Benjamín Vásquez, Oscar Martínez, Esteban López, Héctor Emilio López Chicas, and Arnold Cruz López Rodríguez remained in jail (as of March 23 all were released). Then on March 9th the police detained Samuel Vazquez, a member of the group and also a member of the CNTC regional secretariat for La Paz; he was released on bail later the same day. 

Campesinos meet with CNTC
 leaders and INA (both photos)
In late January as part of La Voz de los de Abajo accompaniment with the CNTC communities, I attended a mediation session with another campesino group and the same locally powerful landowners disputing ownership of the land of "Juan Almendares" at the regional Agrarian Institute office in Comayagua (see photos). At that session there were agreements to remeasure the lands and to attempt to settle disagreements without evictions or violence. However that campesino group reported that they had been violently evicted before and regularly harassed by unknown armed men.  I spoke to the mother of a young campesino from the group who was murdered by gunman near their home. At this time the INA, which has played a very mixed role in the agrarian conflict in the past, is undergoing massive budget cuts and  tasks are being turned over to the government agency called Private Property Council and the function of issuing land titles is being given to a combined public/private enterprise (Coalianza) in which the current President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, and other members of the elite are partners. At this time the INA is not providing services to the campesinos of “Juan Almendares” and the few services they provided to the campesino movement nationally are being withdrawn.

The CNTC (Central Nacional de los Trabajadores del Campo) celebrated their 30th anniversary on January 21st of this year, but they had to cancel festivities because of the number of evictions and detentions and attacks against their members. At this time besides the nine campesinos from “Juan Almendares” the following CNTC members are held in jail/prison: Omar Mejía Gálea, Benancio  Palomo Chavarría, Edgardo Hernández, detained January 10, 2014 and members of the group “Buena Vista”, la Brea, Comayagua;  Héctor David Gáleas López,  Nery Antonio Gonzales, Ángel Arnaldo Martínez Márquez, Manuel Nicolás Domínguez,  José David Aguilar Gáleas,  Jacinto Bardales detained one October 11, 2013 and members of the group “Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera”, Quilaperque, La Paz; Osmar Lara miembro of the group “Campesino Unidos para un Futuro Mejor”, Márcala,  La Paz y José Isabel Morales (Chabelo) from the Campesino Movement of Aguan at Guadalupe Carney, Trujillo, Colon who has been imprisoned since 2008. There is also repression against CNTC communities in Progreso, Yoro; Cortes; Santa Barbara and Francisco Morazan. There are 2,601 members with some kind of charges against them related to their movement participation (700 are women) and there are 79 current eviction orders issued that affect 2 thousand families. In 2014 alone, 7 CNTC members were murdered because of their participation in the agrarian struggle. 
Evicted community in Progreso, Yoro

2012 eviction  of CNTC community, La Paz

The CNTC is being targeted around the country because it is a national organization with groups in 14 of the 18 provinces and it  has refused to give up the struggle for a just agrarian reform or to give up land recuperations. Despite the fact that they have legal status (personalidad juridica) and represent more than 400 affiliated campesino communities, the Hernandez government is working to criminalize them and the campesino movement in general more than ever. Recently Franklin Almendares, the General Secretary of the CNTC,  was at a meeting on agrarian matters  convened by government ministers and including campesino organizations and he was told that they would not deal with "groups that don't respect private property" - i.e. the CNTC.  They will, however, deal with and command groups that don't respect human life or the property of the campesinos and campesinas. 

V. Cervantes- March 22: updated with new info March 24

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