Friday, January 28, 2011
They have confirmed armed police along with the former owner of the community's land, Cesar Velázquez, surrounded the community for at least an hour. While occupying, they burnt huts and clothing, destroying whatever belongings they could find. Three peasants were detained during eviction see: Thursday January 27. Blanca Espinoza for whom the police and Velázquez are searching for, and 14 other community members are now in hiding.
After speaking with the police department in Tocoa, we have been notified that the case has now been handed over to the DIC, the federal investigation department. The was a hearing held today at 4 pm concerning the case, but results are still not know.
In addition to the eviction of the Buenos Amigos, there have reports of several other evictions happening across the country. Newspapers have reported on an eviction happening in Santa Barbara.
UPDATE: All of those detained during the eviction have been released. Thanks to everyone who called!
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Most early mornings in any rural Honduran community you see campesinos with machetes, rubber boots and water on bikes or on foot heading off to work the land and create the food that fills the stomachs of their families, their communities, their nation. This Tuesday was no different, except that as the sun rose it discovered far more people than normal, mostly women, from communities around the country walking, biking or getting on buses holding signs, sticks, machetes, umbrellas and written statements. January 25th is Day of the Honduran Woman, and the Resistance movement decided to celebrate the occasion by taking over highways across the country.
The La Voz de los de Abajo delegation travelled to the takeover at Planes with a community leader from Guadalupe Carney, one of about a hundred members of the community also headed to the takeover. Women in Resistance, a section of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), called for the actions to show that the fight against the coup regime and for the re-founding of the country is not over, to highlight the bravery and determination of women in the struggle and to protest the repeal of an important land reform decree by the congress.
Decree 18-2008 was initiated by President Manuel Zelaya in 2008 in consultation with the peasant movement to try to resolve long standing conflicts over land titles in favor of the peasant groups struggling for land. Though it had already been largely ignored by the de facto government since the military coup of June 28th, 2009, its formal repeal by the national congress added fuel to the already explosive agrarian situation in Aguán and other regions of the country.
Peasants from at least five land reclamations in the Aguán region made their way to the highway takeover at Planes. Amidst chants of “Con la mujer en la casa, la constituyente se atrasa” (“with women at home, the struggle for the constitutional assembly gets set back”), “Mujeres del Aguán, en las luchas siempre están” (“women of Aguán are always in the struggles”) and “Militares de Aguán, matando campesinos están” (“the military in Aguán is killing peasants”), hundreds of people took over the major highway crossing at Planes in the municipality of Sabá, Colón.
The delegation was immediately called on to inquire why the police had detained a young unarmed man making his way to the demonstration. While the police claimed he had run from them when they asked to see his identification, they could give no further reason for his detention and finally let him go. In the exchange that followed the police stopped a young many to take away his machete, an instrument carried by nearly everybody in rural Honduras. The officers, all heavily armed with AK-47’s and tear gas canisters, quickly moved aside, however, when a large group of campesinos from the nearby land takeover called Buenos Amigos came marching over with machetes and sticks in the air.
The occupation was one of many highway takeovers and protests around the country including Jutiapa, Puerto Cortéz, Santa Cruz de Yojoa, El Progreso, Choloma, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. It was yet another demonstration that the resistance is alive and well in Honduras. Especially in the Aguán region, where campesinos are killed, disappeared and beaten regularly by private guards of the large landowners in collaboration with police and military, it is a sign of tremendous strength that hundreds of people still had the bravery to shut down a major highway for six hours. The dream of re-founding Honduras from below is something that hundreds of killings and thousands of beatings, jailings and threats have been unable to deter.
Afterward: Repression continues
After leaving the highway takeover, the campesinos went back to the hard realities of their day-to-day struggles. Within two days of the occupation, one of its largest contingents, the campesinos from the Buenos Amigos land reclamation, were violently evicted by the police. While they vow to return within 48 hours, in the mean time pressure on the police is urgently needed to demand the release of the three people detained during the eviction- José Santos Rios, Santiago Rodriguez and Jorge Santos. The number to the police station where they are being detained in Tocoa, Colón is (504) 2444-3105. (UPDATE: All detainees have been release, thanks for those who called in to put the pressure on!)
The Honduras Accompaniment Project reports news that at 4pm today, January 27, three peasants were detained by police during an eviction of one hundred families by police and military in the campamento “Buenos Amigos” in Saba Colón. It is not clear if security forces had an eviction order or arrest warrants. Community members reported that one of the detained men had been tortured. Human rights organizations and the community are very concerned about the welfare of the three detained.
URGENT ACTION FOR SPANISH SPEAKERS
Human Rights partners’ request that Spanish speakers call the police station in Tocoa, Colon: 504- 2444-3106 or 2444-3107 and,
1. express concern for the three detained: José Santos Rios, Santiago Rodriguez and Jorge Santos
2. express concern regarding reports that one of the detained was tortured
3. ask the reason for their arrest
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Delegation Report -
Yesterday (January 25) we posted an action alert for the campesino community, Buenos Amigos in Elixir, Colon - a community of 100 families at immediate risk of a violent eviction. On January 26, the delegation returned to the community to accompany them further. At the time that we left the community no eviction had occurred but it is still expected at any time.
The community of Buenos Amigos sits on 360 hectares of land, one of several properties owned by landowner Cesar Velasquez, which had been both neglected and foreclosed on, and is now available for agrarian reform.
The community spent three years investigating land that was eligible for reform. Since recuperating the land, the community has begun the process of applying to the National Agrarian Institute (INA) for title to the land. So far, they have not received any response. In fact, the campesinos stated that director of the INA, Cesar Ham, has been particularly unresponsive.
In the two months that they have been on the land, they have faced three evictions (now, four). Blanca Espinoza is a leader in the community who has denounced the violent attempts to remove them. During one of the incidents that Blanca has publicly denounced, they were shot at by unidentified assailants hidden in nearby palm trees. On another day Cesar Velasquez came by with 10 armed men to confiscate large farm equipment in their possession. They demanded to see any official order, but because he could not produce any, they resisted his attempts to enter.
On January 22nd, three vehicles full of heavily armed men arrived to Buenos Amigos and began shooting. They followed a young man of the community and shot at him, fortunately without harming him. They suspect Cesar Velasquez, though they note that they have been confronted by both police and military, as well as by private guards from the Standard Fruit Company (Dole) and other big landowners in the region. Blanca stated that they had to remove their children from the land after this attack because many of them became sick from fear.
The day we went back (January 26), we were informed by Blanca that they had received two calls---one at 9 the night before and the other at 6 in the morning, both threatening immediate eviction. La Voz de los de Abajo attempted to call Cesar Ham, but were only able to leave messages. As of today, he has not returned our call
The residents of Buenos Amigos expressed their gratitude for the presence and support of the delegation, which was the first international delegation to visit the community. They expressed their need for basic elements such as food, money, medicine, and school supplies for their children. They have received support from other campesino communities, but continue to be in danger.
The community of Buenos Amigos remains committed to the land. Though, to them, every eviction signifies death and destruction, Blanca Espinoza said that “If we die in our fight for this land, so be it. I cannot afford fear because I have children, and my compañeros have children. We’re not going to leave this land. If they remove us, we’ll be back in 48 hours.”
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The community intends to stay despite the threat of eviction and maintain their right to the land through the Agrarian Reform. Community leader, Blanca Espinoza, stated that "If we have to die for the land, we die but we don't intend to leave. If they evict us from the land then we will back within 48 hours."
Please call the National Agrarian Institute at 011-504-239-8401 or 011-504-239-8402 and tell them to respect the community of Buenos Amigos' right to the land and demand that any kind of eviction is immediately called off.
Monday, January 24, 2011
We met with leaders from the Campesino Movement of Aguan (MCA), the campesino organization that founded the Guadalupe Carney community through land recuperations on a closed military base in 2000. The community is named after the U.S. priest James (Guadalupe) Carney, who was killed for his work accompanying the campesinos in Honduras in the 1980s.
David Calix and Adolfo Cruz talked to our group about the human rights violations against their community including the massacre of community members on November 15, 2010 that left 5 members of the MCA dead and 4 seriously wounded.
The massacre was the result of an attack by private paramilitary employed by Miguel Facussé, a big landowner in the region and one of the most powerful members of the oligarchy in Honduras. Previously Facussé had taken over land that was land reform land to be granted to the campesinos. On the morning of the massacre, the campesinos were planning a land recuperation but were all on an adjacent land parcel that is legally titled to members of the MCA. Some of them were eating breakfast, when suddenly a large number of Facussé’s private guards armed with high caliber weaponry appeared and began firing on them. Calix and Cruz emphasized to the delegation that the Honduran press and others have lied in saying that the campesinos were on the land that Facussé claims as his own and that it was them who attacked the guards. "That is a distortion and lie begin used to cover up what happened," they explained. All of the murdered campesinos were found on MCA land. One of the murdered man was found on Guadalupe Carney lands at some distance from the disputed land and had obviously been chased down and then shot.
The MCA leaders showed us photos taken at the scene right after the murders and in them it is obvious that some of the campesinos were shot in the back while running away; another was shot at close range in the back of the head. Some of the murdered men had clearly been eating when they were shot as tortillas and bowls were next to their hands. When the bodies were first found, with at least one local reporter present, the campesinos were not armed and only some machetes were present. However when the photos started appearing in the national press there were guns laying under or near the murdered campesinos and the stories all quoted Facusee’s guards as saying that the campesinos were armed and attacked the guards – although there were no injuries among the private paramilitaries, only dead and injured campesinos.
For close to a year, the coup regime has had a unit of soldiers placed in the center of the Guadalupe Carney community across from the community school. Community members denounce this as blatant intimidation without any justification. The soldiers, several armed with AK47s told the delegation that they were jut there to protect the community from delinquents. We asked them where they were when the community members were murdered, one soldier said, “we were over here and they were over there”.
The delegation briefly greeted the community assembly in which a large number of people were discussing the coup government's move to further attack the campesinos’ land rights by annulling Decree 18-2008. The presidential decree 18-2008 was signed by President Zelaya and approved by the Congress in 2008 and aimed to resolve numerous land conflicts in favor of the poor peasants. Across Honduras the campesino organizations and communities are planning mobilizations this week to protest this new attack on the campesinos.
The La Voz delegation to Honduras will be accompanying the regional protest in Planes, Colon tomorrow and reporting on it in this blog.
"We are a threat to the system and a service to our people" - First Garífuna Hospital perserveres despite adversity since coup
As hospital founder and director Dr. Luther Castillo explained, "The first popular Garífuna hospital of Honduras is a community initiative in defense of the health of our peoples. It's located in the community of Ciriboya, Colón... a zone where there was never adequate health services. Since 2007 we have done almost half a million free health consultations because health is a fundamental human right."
Co-founders Wendy Pérez and Félix Ramirez explained to the group the adversities the hospital has faced since the coup d'etat, including two military invasions and a cut off of assistance from the state. As part of their ongoing struggle to ensure the continued provision of these completely free services, which thousands of people have come to rely on, the hospital will soon be launching a campaign to get donors to sponsor the dedicated doctors and nurses who serve people at the Ciriboya hospital without any salary.
The coup government along with the private health care industry and professional doctors' associations have seen the hospital as a threat. "By instilling the value in our people that health care is a human right, we are a threat to the capitalist system and at the same time a service to our people. We attend to their needs while we demand that the state fulfill the human right to health care," says Dr. Castillo.
La Voz de los de Abajo, which has visited the hospital twice before, will continue to accompany the Garífuna hospital in its effort to fight for the human right to health care for all people. For more background information, see the article from our last delegation: "Garífuna hospital and land reclamation are seeds for a vision of a new Honduras and new world."
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Lopez, who has been threatened many times, was maliciously accused of making threats against other people in an attempt to silence him and the radio station. The situation became so dangerous that the radio station closed out of concerns for the security of its equipment and staff. But Lopez and the other activists announced at our meeting that the radio station will begin broadcasting again on Monday, January 24th.
Before he was kidnapped by the army and flown out of the country by the army, President Mel Zelaya had signed several agreements with the Garífuna communities to begin resolving some of their land claims. Though there had been an ongoing struggle to see the accords come to fruition, the coup dramatically worsened the situation. Recognizing that the coup was carried out by the same oligarchs that the community had been struggling against for generations, the Garífuna communities were amongst the first to pour into the streets to join and give energy to the resistance movement. Radio stations like Faluma Bimetu, which is now one of four Garífuna radio stations supported by OFRANEH along the north coast, played a fundamental role in spreading news of what was really taking place in the midst of a media blackout throughout the country.
The programming, which includes news, commentary, music and more, was so important to the surrounding communities that they quickly and energetically launched a successful campaign to get it back on the air when it was burned down last January. But the re-launching of the radio with even more coverage than before has further angered the powerful interests that wish to silence the Garífuna resistance and take over their lands. Taking advantage of the post-coup political climate, narco-traffickers have gained tremendous influence in the local municipality and bought off several community members to create a parallel community council to rubber stamp land concessions and undermine the existing community council that has coordinated resistance for generations. Tension has grown in the build-up to the February elections of the legitimate community council, which the oligarchs and narco-traffickers desperately want to block. To this end, they blamed a recent shooting at the house associated with narco-traffickers on Alfredo López and threatened to burn down the radio station.
Though the charges have been dismissed as lacking any evidence whatsoever by the Honduran courts, the atmosphere remains extremely tense. The radio station team has carried out a survey of the community to assure they are willing to defend the radio station in the build-up to the elections with all the risks that this implies. Because of the overwhelmingly positive response, they intend to open the station in the near future, possibly as soon as Monday the 23rd.
In the meantime, OFRANEH has filed a legal complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about the situation and are urgently asking for support to make the gravity of the situation known and demand that the commission take immediate measures to ensure the safety of Alfredo López and the other members of the Faluma Bimetu radio station and the Triunfo de la Cruz community. The contact phone number is 202-458-6002.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
After escaping from his captors, still physically and psychologically exhausted from the experience endured over the last 48 hours, the peasant leader of the Unified Peasant Movement of the Aguan (MUCA)and the National Popular Resistance Front (FRNP), Juan Ramón Chinchilla, agreed to an interview from an undisclosed location in Honduras .
Can you describe your kidnapping?
On the afternoon of Saturday, January 8th I went to visit friends at a shopping center. I left on my motorcycle heading for the community of La Concepción and noticed that I was being followed. Just before La Concepción, there was a car across the road and at that moment I realized that there were people in the palms, pointing guns at me.
Then what happened?
I stopped and let the motorcycle fall to the ground. Several hooded men grabbed me, fired on the motorcycle and put me into a vehicle, covering my face so that I could not see where we were going. There were a lot of them. Almost all of them wore uniforms of the military, police and the private guards of Miguel Facussé. They drove approximately 40 minutes towards Trujillo . We came to an isolated place. They put me into a storage room and began to question me.
What did they want to know?
If we have arms. Where did the information come from that is on the internet and how many peasants are organized? They had a lot of photographs of me and other people. They were well organized. The operation had been carefully prepared.
When were you beaten?
On the afternoon of Sunday the 9th. They got me up and showed me a table with torture instruments on it. They began talking among themselves. They said, “What are we going to do first? Are we going to pull out a fingernail or burn him? Then they began to strike me in the face. They burnt my hair. They told me they were going to pour gasoline on my head and burn me. They beat me on the back with a club. There were several foreigners. Some spoke English and another spoke a language that I was not able to understand.
How were you able to escape?
On Sunday night they took me out of the storage room and we began walking in the darkness. I heard them say that for the moment the order was not to kill me. That encouraged me. We climbed a hill and I was not tied up. Taking advantage of the darkness, I started running and ran into the woods nearby. The men pursued me firing but I escaped. I ran and walked for a long time until I could find someone to help me and then I was able to communicate with my compañeros.
Why do you believe you were kidnapped?
We are in a struggle with the landowners. We know that our enemies are Miguel Facussé, René Morales and Reinaldo Canales, and that the government is on their side – not the side of the people. The department has been militarized twice and we know that they are going to do all they can to finish off our struggle. They had photos and a lot of information about our organizations and members. They want to intimidate us.
Your kidnapping generated a strong current of solidarity and denunciation at the national and international level. Do you feel that this contributed in any way to restrain the murderous hand of your captors?
They were concerned about the national and international pressure. They were monitoring the news on the internet and radio. That is why they decided to move me to another location on Sunday. I believe that all of this pressure helped so that something worse did not happen. I am infinitely grateful to all of the people and organizations – national and international – that mobilized; and also the media that denounced my kidnapping. The struggle will continue. They will not stop me; on the contrary, we have to continue with more strength. We must stay united because it is the only way to move our country forward. We do not accept the coup and we never will accept it, even though they kill us. I will never leave the struggle; better to die than to betray it.
Interview with Juan Ramón Chinchilla, MUCA
By Giorgio Trucchi - Rel-UITA*http://www.rel-uita.org/agricultura/palma_africana/con_juan_ramon_chinchilla.htm
translated by the Friendship Office
Monday, January 10, 2011
Monday afternoon (January 10, 2011) Juan Chinchilla, a member of the Executive Committee of the FNRP was located having survived a kidnapping and torture for 2 days.
On Saturday, January 8, Chinchilla, a journalist and a representative of Youth In Resistance and the Unified Campesino Movement of Aguan (MUCA) was kidnapped as he rode his motorcycle to his home in the campesino settlement of La Concepcion in the municipality of Tocoa in the Aguan region in northern Honduras. Moments before being kidnapped he made a phone call to denounce the presence of motorcycle and car following him. Gunshots were heard, but when people arrived at the scene they only found his motorcycle with bullet holes.
Immediately human rights organizations, resistance organization, and solidarity groups internationally and nationally responded with urgent actions calling the local police, Honduran government, U.S. Embassy, U.S. State Department and other entities demanding that Chinchilla be “reappeared” alive and well. In Aguan the campesino organizations began a physical search of the rural area where the golpista landowners Miguel Facusse, René Morales and Reinaldo Canales are contesting campesinos’ rights to land. These landowners are responsible along with the de facto regime of Porfirio Lobo for the militarization of the region, the violent attacks on the campesinos and the disappearances and murders of numerous peasant activists.
Chinchilla reappeared and is safe in an undisclosed location. He has burns and bruises from torture.
Information from Los Necios; Red Morazanica; Resistencia, Rights Action