Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Moment in Honduras: Celebrations and Threats

A Moment in Honduras: Celebrations and Threats
Report from Honduras
August 17, 2019
V. Cervantes

San Juan Pueblo August 13
As the bus entered the small town of San Juan Pueblo (SJP) on August 15th we passed a police station where an unusual crowd (more than 20) of police were hanging around.  Later, walking with a friend who lives in SJP near the highway that runs from Progreso to La Ceiba,  we saw a military style truck full of police headed in the direction of the police station.  Only a couple of days earlier on August 13th, police had opened fire on protesters blocking the highway with burning tires - the emblematic sign of protest in Honduras. Four men were injured, one very seriously with a chest wound- a few days later it was being reported among the population that one man had died. This was the second very recent violent attack against protesters in SJP, one of the centers of resistance and protest in the province of Atlantida in northern Honduras.

Campesinas from the CNTC June 10th Movement
after receiving titles to their cooperative land
One of the wounded men is part of the families of the campesino group "10 de Junio" a women's land recuperation affiliated to the campesino organization the "National Center for Rural Workers (CNTC). I was there because La Voz de los de Abajo was invited to participate in a celebration of the women winning legal title to their land after 18 YEARS of fighting for their rights to the land. La Voz has accompanied the women for more than 16 years. Many of the women had been single mothers when they recuperated the land that was originally owned by the National University of Honduras but had been left abandoned and fallow for years before the recuperation. Over the years the women had been violently evicted, insulted publicly, their crops destroyed, and their lives threatened  now they had finally won legal ownership of the land and were determined to celebrate.

Secretary General of the CNTC with 
The women organized a celebration and even though the officials from government agency the National Agrarian Institute (INA)  (responsible for distributing the titles) rewrote the celebration agenda to put themselves and the government more into the spotlight, everyone who gathered on August 16th recognized the enormous achievement of the women.  Narcisa, one of the campesinas showed me her corn field and explained that she had done an experiment, planting part of the field with corn and a bean plant that is thought to fertilize soil and another part with only the corn. The field planted with the bean and corn was much more productive and she talked about how much she loves agriculture and what having a legal title to the land after so many years means for the women. Many of the women were joined by their grandchildren and children in receiving the titles and for photos.  There was music, lots of food and the most important speeches of the day came from the campesinas themselves who recounted the difficult 18 years, the importance of their being organized, and dennounced the criminalization and violence against the campesino movement for so many years.

On the same day, August 16th there was more to celebrate as a second political prisoner, Raul Alvarez was released from pre-trial detention in the maximum security military run prison, La Tolva. Raul and Edwin Espinal were imprisoned after participating in a militant protest in January 2018 against the installation of the fraudulent and violent dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernandez. After 18 months of imprisonment they were released and will be preparing for their trials outside prison.
Free! Political Prisoners Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez
with Karen and Janet Spring - August 16, 2019

The night of August 15th my friend from the CNTC June 10th Movement and I walked around her neighborhood  where there have been many protest  road blocks and where the police have blanketed the area with tear gas and beaten and shot at protesters. It was a pretty quiet night and people were outside relaxing, but the stress of the weeks of repression and protest were showing. At around 9 pm we heard and saw fireworks being shot into the sky a ways from the neighborhood by the time we got home we could hear the sound of tear gas bombs being launched. A neighbor asked my friend if she had any vinegar in case the police tear gassed the neighborhood again and began to tear up and  become frantic. She had witnessed the police beating a man right outside her house the night of the shootings and I realized she was showing signs of traumatic stress. That night the sounds of possible conflicts died out early and the town seemed quiet, but after the campesinas' celebration, the night of the 16th, there were more protests and repression, but I was already on the road to Tegucigalpa.

Edwin and Raul still face trial (scheduled to begin in about a month). There are still 2 more political prisoners in pre-trial detention, Gustavo Caceres and Rommel Herrera.  and there are more than a hundred people facing trials for protest activity. There are also more activists at risk from  from the nearly daily protests and repressions. and from the anti-mining and defense of the territories struggles around the country such as Reitoca, Guapinol, Rio Blanco, and Vallecito,  with the government and National Party supporters threatening organizations such as MADJ, COPINH and OFRANEH. On August 17th a delegation of the Assembly of Women in Struggle was threatened in Rio Blanco and the road blocked by pro-government hired thugs. On August 18th MADJ was the subject of a threatening tweet calling on the government to arrest their leaders and  activists (a list of their names was included) because of the many protests in San Juan Pueblo.

Honduran resistance organizations and leaders are calling for unity against the dictatorship and for a plan to unite the social movements into a force that can make deeper change in the country once JOH is gone.
More to come...

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