Wednesday, January 28, 2015

San Pedro Sula - Resistance March January 27, 2015

San Pedro Sula, January 27, 2015
V. Cervantes

In San Pedro Sula, I accompanied the  FNRP march  as it took over the main boulevard leading from SPS to Choluma at around 4pm  and walked very slowly for more than an hour and half to the toll booth station; this caused a back-up of traffic for many miles back into SPS. Arriving at the tool booths the protest blocked off all but one lane and the cars that had been behind the march began to pass through the booth. Urged by the protester to “Don’t pay the toll!” the cars and trucks began zooming through without paying. The resistance then unblocked the other lanes and hundreds of vehicles began going through without paying. It wasn’t until after 6pm that the protest ended and the still heavy traffic began paying tolls again. 
Padre Fausto Milla

The march itself was not massive,  but very spirited and organized. There were representatives from trade unions, student organizations, teachers' unions, FNRP, Libre (including the LIBRE congressman from SPS, Edgardo Castro), social justice groups and activists such as Father Fausto Milla, left groups and representatives of a campesino group that was recently evicted from their land in Choluma, Cortes. There was an impressive amount of support from the public for the march. The cars that were stuck behind the march for 2 hours were mainly supportive; the drivers were honking in rhythm with chants and giving the thumbs up signs out the windows. The issue of the increase in tolls is a big issue for the people in the Sula Valley and that was evident in the shouts of encouragement given by bystanders and motorists.

Edgardo Castro, Libre Congressman
There was a substantial National Police presence but they did not threaten the march even when it blocked off the highway. There was only one negative incident in which a driver came down the shoulder of the road and pulled out a pistol threatening the protest but protest organizers and the police responded and he surrendered his pistol. It later appeared that the police released him when the protest ended. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Honduras - From Campesinos to Congress -

From the mountains of Comayagua -
January 23  -- V. Cervantes

We arrived at the Camino al Futuro (Path to the Future) campesino community after crossing a shallow river and coming to the end of a dirt road near the community of San Antonio de la Cuesta. We were in two pick-up trucks carrying members of the national leadership of the CNTC (National Center for Rural Workers). I was there as an international observer and advocate for campesino rights from La Voz de los de Abajo.  The community is small around 20 adults and not all of them are back in the community yet after a violent attack from masked men burnt them out on December 27th. Camino al Futuro has been working for 7 years on the land and filed a request 7 years ago with the Honduran forestry commission for title to open land in a forest region that is suitable for cultivation of corn, beans and other food crops. Their title has never been granted and recently a local large landowner has tried to intimidate the campesinos into leaving although the land-owner has no legal right to the land.
On December 27th, masked men dressed all in black and armed with assorted weapons including rifles arrived at the community without any eviction order or legal documents and after 8pm when it was dark (Honduran law requires any police actions of evictions to be carried out only in daylight from 6am to 6 pm).

A few days before on Christmas day a young man from the community was attacked by men with machetes. On the 27th this paramilitary force arrived and began shooting into the air and yelling -- the community members fled into the hills above and neighboring areas while the men burnt out their homes, belongings, stored food supplies and knocked down houses, punched holes in the roofing and walls and stole any belongings that weren't destroyed. The community remained hiding all night and the next day in the hills (including with small children and babies) without blankets, coats, food or shelter.
Since there was no eviction order the CNTC denounces this act as a criminal act. For their part the campesinos of Camino al Futuro are determined to rebuild and stay in the struggle.


January 25th  after a congressional defeat JOH begins a country-wide campaign was  launched in support of the military police for a national plebiscite and Radio Progreso is banned from participating as part of the press corp in the National Congress starting at the beginning of the new session January 24. (See note at end of article)

From Honduras
Tegucigalpa - January 24
V. Cervantes

UPDATE on the Military Police debate in the National Congress: Juan Orlando Hernandez got one of his first big legislative and political defeats when the congress voted 67 to 61 against his proposal to write the Military Police into the Constitution and put them directly under his command. The opposition  alliance held together with only a handful of individual desertions - so that LIBRE, PAC and the Liberal Party were able to embarrass the National Party which had claimed days ago that they had at least 80 votes and would easily get the 86 votes needed to win.  Juan Orlando’s National Party with the help of most of the media waged a campaign against Libre in particular accusing the political opposition of being tied to organized crime and creating a “Non-Governmental” organizations called Hondureños por la Paz y Justicia that put paid ad’s everywhere with pictures of President Zelaya, Xiomara Castro and others saying, “They are against your security”. This caused such a scandal that the National Party had to distance themselves from the “NGO” and some members of congress are calling for an investigation. 

This vote also is a set back for JOH’s other proposal to change the constitution by allowing re-election which is prohibited constitutionally — that proposal has not been brought to the congress for a vote yet.  

On the more sober side, JOH is unlikely to have gone to vote without having a plan B and he began working that plan the day before the final vote when the Nationalist Party introduced a measure to take the same proposal for  the military police to a national plebiscite although the exact wording of the resolution hasn’t been decided. Also, in the debate on the National Party proposal the opposition to the formation in the first place of the Military Police as a measure for increasing militarization was weakened as the Liberal Party joined the National Party in singing the praises of the PMOP and only disagreed on the command structure. January 25th JOH announced that a country-wide campaign was being launched in support of the military police for  the plebiscite. 

It remains to be seen how LIBRE and the smaller opposition groups (Liberals, PAC, PINU)  will negotiate or reject the referendum and to what extent the opposition alliance will continue. Meanwhile there are also resistance members  discussing that there are a number of other issues related to the rights of the opposition (reform of the Electoral Tribunal for example) and important issues for the social movements (Agrarian Reform, privatization, lay-offs of public sector workers, model cities etc.) that need urgent attention from the Congress and LIBRE. 

The success of LIBRE and the opposition in the PMOP vote is being celebrated by the people in resistencia and should raise the morale of the movement and bring it out to participate in the January 27th mobilizations called by the FNRP. 

News Announcement from Radio Progreso 
via Greg Mc Cain
Radio Progreso announced that it's correspondent Eleana Borjas was told by authorities of the National Congress that starting tomorrow when the 2nd Legislature convenes Radio Progreso will no longer be allowed to cover the proceedings inside the Congress even though they have the authorization to do so.

DENUNCIA. Radio Progreso denuncia a las autoridades del Congreso Nacional que han decido y han comunicado hoy a nuestra corresponsal Eleana Borjas, que a partir de la segunda legislatura que se inaugura mañana, no permitirán más la cobertura de Radio Progreso a pesar que contamos con la autorización para hacerlo.

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. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Protests in the Sula Valley

Información con "links" en español sigue el ingles

Protests in Progreso and San Pedro Sula
A lively protest movement in Progreso, San Pedro Sula and nearby towns is organizing against the increase in toll fees and government waste and corruption related to toll booth and road "upgrades".  Tolls have been increased 100% in the Sula Valley while the government has also created public-private partnerships to build new toll roads on the major highway connecting the capital city of Tegucigalpa in the Southwest to other cities. Private companies both domestic and foreign are making money from this privatization while costs keep rising for motorists, small agricultural producers trying to get their products to market, taxi drivers, and the public in general. Protests began in late December but in January have gotten bigger and frequent. A retired teacher was arrested at a protest on January 2nd, there were more protests and most recently, on January 13th, hundreds of people walked from Progreso to the San Pedro Sula toll booth in a protest march. 
The FNRP, LIBRE, ERIC-SJ, organizations of poor residents (pobladores), teachers, campesinos and more are participating in the protests which are part of the Honduran people's rejection of the current government's intense neoliberal economic offensive. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Violent Eviction of the Campesino Group “Camino al Futuro” - National Center for Rural Workers (CNTC)

 el español original sigue el ingles.

December 31, 2014 1:01pm, Alert! Illegal Violent Eviction of the Campesino Group “Camino al Futuro” - National Center for Rural Workers (CNTC) 

More than 17 families from the Campesino Enterprise Camino al Futuro (Path towards the Future) in the sector of Las Maderas, San Jeronimo, Comayagua are the object of a brutal eviction that began in the early morning. 

In  the early morning yesterday (December 30) and today (December 31) families belonging to this campesino group fled to the mountains in this area in order to protect their physical well-being, as they were being chased by persons dressed in military clothing wearing ski masks and firing live ammunition. 

The families are left with nowhere to live because their houses and their crops of corn, rice and beans are being set on fire, according to the declaration by the president of the campesino group Ninfa Rosa Medina.

There are around 240 manzanas of land claimed by the Maradiaga Family which  according to Medina did not have titles to the property just six months ago, “they have gotten them (titles) illegally since the National Agrarian Institute (INA) already declared these lands to be forest land” stated Medina.

The campesino group has been in procession of the land for 6 years and at this time are in negotiations with the government of Honduras to obtain the titles to the land from the Institute of Forest Conservation (ICF) and the INA. 

“We condemn this illegal act of theft and we call on the organizations of defenders of Human Rights to be present in the zone to protect the lives of these campesino families, we condemn the brutality to which our compañeros are being subjected and we ask the authorities in the area to be vigilant about the physical well-being of the the compañeros” stated the general Secretary of the CNTC, Franklin Almendares 

Please share this information

Central Nacional de los Trabajadores del Campo-CNTC


Mas de 17 familias de la Empresa Campesina Camino al Futuro ubicados en
el sector de Las Maderas, San Jeronimo, Comayagua, Estan siendo objeto
desde la madrugada de este día de un brutal desalojo.

Esta empresa campesina es afiliada a la Central Nacional de Trabajadores
del Campo ( CNTC).

En horas de la madrugada desde el día de ayer 30 y hoy  31 de diciembre
las familias pertenecientes a este grupo campesino huyen guardando su
integridad física en las montañas de este sector, ya que son perseguidos
por personas vestidas con vestimenta militar y pasamontañas quienes les
disparan a bala viva.

Estas familias están quedando sin un lugar donde vivir porque sus casas
y los cultivos de Maíz, arroz y frijoles están siendo quemados,  según
la denuncia emitida por la presidenta de la empresa campesina Ninfa Rosa

Son alrededor de 240 manzanas de tierra q exigen ser liberadas por parte
de la Familia Maradiaga, quienes según Medina no tenían títulos de
propiedad hasta hace unos 6 meses atras, "los han conseguido de manera
ilegal, ya que el Instituto Nacional Agrario (INA) declaro estas tierras
areas forestales" aseguro Medina.

El grupo campesino tiene 6 años en posesión de estas tierras, y
actualmente se encuentran en negociación con el estado de Honduras para
obtener la titularidad de las mismas con el Instituto de Conservación
Forestal (ICF) y el INA.

"Condenamos este acto ilegal de despojo y hacemos un llamado a los
organismos defensores de Derechos Humanos a hacerse presentes a la zona
y proteger las vidas de estas familias campesinas, condenamos la
brutalidad de que son objeto nuestros compañeros y pedimos a las
autoridades de la zona vigilar la integridad fisica de los compañeros"
dijo el Secretario General de la CNTC Franklin Almendarez.

Favor compartir esta denuncia
Central Nacional de los Trabajadores del Campo - CNTC

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