Thursday, January 22, 2015

Day 1 in Honduras - Police, Police, Police

 La Voz de los de Abajo is in Honduras accompanying the CNTC and the campesino communities. 

1/23 ADDENDUM:  The original post gave 1/25 as the likely vote on the military police but the vote is scheduled to take place the afternoon of 1/23. As of 2;30pm National Party did not have the necessary votes lined up and was trying to introduce a new measure calling for a public referendum on the PMOP proposal. This has been rejected so far by the other political parties. 

Tegucigalpa  -   January 21
V. Cervantes  posted 1/22/2015

Police, Police, and more Police

Arriving  at the airport in SPS  I found the airport being patrolled by the new Military Police (PMOP), plus a couple of mysterious police with “INTERPOL” stenciled on their bulletproof vests (a Honduran at the airport told me that they are really just officers from the DGIC - Criminal Investigations Directorate), and a handful of regular National Police in their office down a hallway near the car rentals and bus station. The newspapers were also focused on the police, and full of assurances by the government that everyone loves the military police (PMOP) and that the president’s proposal to change the constitution to ensure the PMOP are permanent and authorized to report directly to the president (not the usual military chain of command)  will surely pass congress. However as of today it seemed the measure was still at least 6 votes short of the 86 Juan Orlando needs to change the constitution. Opposition to the constitutional change includes the LIBRE, PAC, PINU and most of the Liberal Parties. However the Liberal Party has offered a compromise proposal of making the PMOP permanent through a constitutional change but specifying that the PMOP is part of the normal military chain of command. Juan Orlando quickly rejected that proposal. 

The PMOP were originally created under the banner of fighting crime and deployed in the city streets in areas with high crime rates. They are one of several new security forces that have been created since the 2009 coup: the Xantruch joint military-national police command in the Aguan Valley now also extended across the northern coast with a new acronym FUSINA;  the Tigres (a special National Police unit) and now the Military Police (PMOP) - the next plan is the creation of separate municipal police forces. Of course the regular National Police and the special riot police (COBRAS) are still on the streets also. 

Coming from Chicago, the rhetoric around the need for “more police” to make our lives safer sounds familiar; it’s a constant theme in every mayoral election, but just like in Chicago, having more police hasn’t helped Honduras.  In Honduras there are a dizzying array of different uniforms and weapons on the streets with all the police entities, but all the police forces seem to suffer from the same problem of corruption and  human rights violations, not a surprise in that there has not been any change for the better in Honduras and impunity continues to rule. 

Honduran human rights defenders and activists in the social movements seem to agree on the analysis that Juan Orlando is setting up conditions for a more open permanent dictatorship (there is also a proposal to change the constitution to allow presidential re-election) and that the uncontrolled extreme neoliberal programs of privatization, model cities, mono-cultivation  in agriculture, mining, ad naseum is the larger goal— (yes its true that the coup in 2009 tried to justify Zelaya’s overthrow by accusing him of trying to change the constitution to allow reelection. He wasn’t talking about re-election but JOH is). 
Thousands of public employees are being laid off 

The vote on the PMOP proposal will probably be on January 25 Juan Orlando and his National Party (PN) are threatening members of the National Congress who vote against it with losing government funds for electoral campaigns and projects in their provinces; according to local press reports congress members have also been offered money to vote with the PN. JOH proposed having a secret vote but that seems unlikely. Opposition members from the resistance political party LIBRE and the Anti-Corruption Party (PAC) are denounced in the press and by the PN as being opposed to the proposal because they are tied to organized crime. The press has published the results of an opinion poll that the government claims shows majority support for the PMOP and has threatened to take their proposal to a public referendum if the Congress doesn't pass it.  

LIBRE held a press conference yesterday denouncing these attacks and calling for the JOH government to abide by the Cartegena Agreement which guaranteed  certain rights and protection to Zelaya and the resistance political party.  A group of congressmen and women from LIBRE and PAC filed a formal complaint of defamation against Juan Orlando Hernandez with the justice department today.

Meanwhile another related topic in the press and under discussion in Honduras is what had seemed to some like a landmark case in which the victims of repression actually managed to get military personnel taken to court -
the case of Ebed Yanes, a 15 year old  Honduran student who was shot to death by Honduran military when he went through a road block without stopping. The judges ruled on Tuesday that one of the soldiers is guilty of homicide but then freed the other two soldiers who also fired at Ebed,  claiming that the prosecutors didn't charge them correctly, although the judge had other options besides dismissing charges. It was never disputed that all three soldiers opened fire. The father of Ebed stated that they had hoped that their case would be an exception and really receive justice " but we can't be the exception and we are another part of the statistics of cases of impunity that our country has"

Seems like once again a good time to look hard at the US governments stubborn defense and support for coup governments, militarization and impunity in Honduras - could it be that the US is just as anxious to push the neoliberal program  and also doesn't mind the human cost. 

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