Friday, May 26, 2017

Ahuas victims still demanding justice

The Ahuas victims are still demanding justice
U.S. State Department Report reveals DEA lies about the massacre of Misquito indigenous peoples

By Giorgio Trucchi | LINyM
(Translation by Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, La Voz de los de Abajo)

Original en español:

The families of the massacre victims demand that the case be reopened and that the impunity that has surrounded the assassination of their loved ones come to an end.
Photo/Foto: G. Trucchi | Rel-UITA

In the early morning of May 11th, 2012, a small boat with 16 people on board was quietly floating on the waters of the Patuca river, in the Mosquitia area of Northeastern Honduras. It was a long and tiring journey of over seven hours to get to the community of Paptalaya, in the Ahuas municipality within the state of Gracias a Dios.

It was 2am and almost all of the passengers were asleep. They woke up to the noise of at least four U.S. military helicopters flying over the area. A rain of bullets from high-calliber weapons ambushed the small boat and its occupants.

The joint operation of DEA FAST (Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team) agents, and Honduran National Police's Tactical Response Team left a body count of four dead: Emerson Martínez Henríquez (21 years old), Hasked Brooks Wood (14 years old), Juana Jackson Ambrosio (28 years old) and Candelaria Pratt Nelson (48 years old).

There were also at least 5 people seriously wounded. According to their family members, Juana and Candelaria were both several months pregnant [1].

Military Escalation

The operation took place in the context of growing militarization of the area. In recent years, under the pretext of a direct confrontation with narco-traffickers, the U.S. government has again invested millions of dollars in the installation and equipping of new military bases, as is the case of the naval bases on Isla Guanaja and Caratasca, in the state of Gracias a Dios, which have been added on to the list with its long-standing Soto Cano (Palmerola) base.

In addition, the U.S. embassy in Honduras, the Honduran government, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the DEA, and the U.S. Southern Command have designed a plane to temporarily deploy U.S. helicopters in Honduran territory to support the anti-narcotic missions. 

Thus, Honduras has become the country hosting the most U.S. military bases in the entire region. A military escalation that has had its biggest boost following the 2009 coup d'etat that overthrew then-President Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

DEA and Honduran State wash their hands

After the massacre, the then-spokesperson for the DEA in Washington, Dawn Dearden, admitted that FAST agents were working on board the helicopters in support of the Honduran police. She claimed that it wasn't them who fired. The U.S. ambassador to Honduras at the time, Lisa Kubiske, backed up those statemens and assured the national media that the units who led the anti-drug operation acted properly and in self-defense, supposedly in response to gunshots that came from the small boat.

The families of the people killed said that it was a random attacked, followed by senseless persecution against them and the people from the communities.

Both the victims' families as well as the Ahuas mayor, Lucio Baquedano, adamantly stated that the Honduran and U.S. agents fired indiscriminately, believing that the boat was transporting drugs unloading from a small plane that had landed a few hours prior. 

In addition, the terror that overtook the small community of Paptalaya didn't end with the attack on the small boat, but instead continued for several hours, while hundreds of Honduran and U.S. troops deployed into the area looking for supposed narco-traffickers and their product. The residents were detained, thrown to the floor, tied up and beaten without cause. 

To date, nobody has been held accountable for this night of terror. Five years after these events, two of those accused, Noel Andrés Hernández and Iván Neptaly González Herrera, had their charges dismissed while a case was opened against DEA Alexander Ramón Robelo Salgado for the crime of homicide and abuse of authority against Emerson Martínez Henríquez.

The families were right

Five years after the massacre that sent Honduran Mosquitia into grieving, a report from the U.S. State and Justice Departments reveals that the DEA lied to Congress, to officials from the Justice Department and to the general public. In addition, it mis-planned the operation, didn't completely investigate the incidents and provided inexact information to officials from the Justice Department and Congress. 

In its report, the Justice Department's Inspector General does find evidence to back up the DEA's story.
“Even as information became available to D.E.A. that conflicted with its initial reporting, including that the passenger boat may have been a water taxi carrying passengers on an overnight trip, D.E.A. officials remained steadfast,” points out today's New York Times, citing the report.

At no time, the report continues, were they able to corroborate the story that the individuals who were attacked by Honduran agents were narco-traffickers trying to transport drugs.

"The report demonstrates that the family members of the victims were right about the violation of their human rights. It shows that the statements, both by the DEA and the Honduran state, were false. Now they will have to answer for their lies and for having manipulated the facts and even stigmatized the population of the Mosquitia indigenous communities," said Miriam Miranda, coordinator of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), who has taken on the legal representation of the victims' families. 

"Once again they show that the supposed policy of fighting drug trafficking generates human rights violations amongst the peoples of local communities," Miranda told LINyM.

Families demand justice

“My sister was massacred. Her body was floating in the river's waters and had four bullet wounds. She was only 28 years old and was five months pregnant. I am a single mother with four children and I had to take on her two children. A very, tremendously difficult situation. I am alone and I don't know how to keep going," said Marlen Zelaya Jackson, sister of Juana Jackson Ambrosio yesterday during the Second National Gathering of Indigenous and Black Women of Honduras (Segundo Encuentro Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas y Negras de Honduras).

“We haven't had any response from the authorities. These people are to blame, even the report from the U.S. says so. We have always been right and now they have to pay for what they did. We demand justice," Zelaya Jackson concluded.

[1] This text includes portions from the broad report published by Opera Mundi (aquí en español)
Source: LINyM


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