Thursday, October 15, 2009

Honduras: high price of the struggle

As the hours tick down on the last chance for restoration of the Zelaya government that could provide a fig-leaf of legitimacy for the November 29 elections, the price being paid by those resisting the coup is getting more, much-needed attention.

A recent Reuters story by Frank Jack Daniel, 'Honduran abuses rampant after coup', reinforces the NY Times account mentioned in a previous post:
Suspicious deaths. Beatings. Random police shootings. Life under the de facto government of Honduras at times feels uncannily like Latin America's dark past of military rule..

Via Honduras Oye, an outstanding Al Jazeera video episode makes the point even more vividly. (The interviewer's penetrating questions to all parties are also a startling reminder of how rare real journalism is these days.)

Update: 2:15pm, 16 Oct - Human Rights Watch weighs in, urging the international community to back human rights prosecutors in the Attorney General's office, whose efforts to investigate military and police killings and abuse have been obstructed and threatened by the coup regime and the military. "If anyone questions the damage that the de facto government has done to Honduras’ democratic institutions it’s clearly illustrated by these cases ... by obstructing the investigations, the public security forces are thumbing their noses at the rule of law." HRW also urged support for overturning Micheletti's illegal decree and opposed amnesty for human rights violations as part of any agreement. End update.

Update 2: 4:00pm, 16 Oct - Excellent: "The United Nations human rights chief is sending a team to Honduras on Sunday for a three-week official visit to examine violations of rights in the wake of the coup d’état in the Central American country in June." Not so excellent is that the report is expected to be delivered by March?!. End update 2.

The death toll since Zelaya's return is high. Below are just some of the victims, those for whom I have information [links provided for those not mentioned in previous posts]. In the same period there have been more than a few young men taken away in nighttime sweeps of neighborhoods whose whereabouts are unknown or whose bodies have not been identified.

Update 4: 2:00pm, 15 Jan 2010 - Additions:

Edwin Renán Fajardo Argueta, 22, a member of Artists in Resistance, was found strangled to death in his apartment in Tegucigalpa on Dec. 23. He had received death threats before his murder.

Carlos Turcios, vice-president of the Choloma chapter of the Resistance Front, was kidnapped [Sp.] near his home on the afternoon of Dec. 16. He was found dead the next day in Baracoa, Cortes, with hands and head cut off. There is a report that the body was not Turcios', so he may be considered disappeared. End Update 4.

Update 3: 3:40pm, 14 Dec - Additions:

Walter Tróchez, a human rights advocate, member of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual community, and active member of the Resistance Front was assassinated December 14 with two shots just outside of Larach & Co. in the center of Tegucigalpa. On December 4 Tróchez had been kidnapped outside the "El Obelisco" Park in Comayaguela by four hooded men who drove a gray pickup without plates (presumed to be DNIC). They hooded and beat him, and demanded information about resistance activities; Tróchez managed to escape and filed a formal complaint. More from Adrienne Pine.

Santos Corrales García was found dead [Sp.] on Thursday, December 10, near Talanga (50 km east of Tegucigalpa). His body was headless. On December 5 Corrales had been taken away with four others from the Nueva Capital neighborhood of Tegucigalpa by five men dressed in uniforms of the national criminal investigation directorate (DNIC). He was tortured and interrogated about the location of a businesswoman who provided supplies to the resistance during demonstrations. The two men and two women who were taken with Corrales were transported, tied hand and foot, dumped at highway exits far from home and told not to return to their neighborhoods.

Isaac Coello, 24; Roger Reyes, 22; Kenneth Rosa, 23; Gabriel Parrales; and Marco Vinicio Matute, 39. The five men, active in the resistance from the Victor F. Ardon and Honduras neighborhoods of Tegucigalpa, were massacred [Sp.] on December 7 by men in military and police uniforms. A young woman working with them was also shot, but not fatally; she survived by pretending to be dead.

Luis Gradis Espinal, a teacher from the department of Valle, was found dead on Wednesday, November 25 in Las Casitas neighborhood in western Tegucigalpa. He was tied and had been executed. His family reported him disappeared when he didn't return after having left for the capital on Sunday, Nov. 22. During the weeks before the election (and after) there were dozens of police search and captures for resistance participants. End Update 3.

Eucebio Fernández Suárez, director of the Mateo School in Macuelizo, Santa Barbara, union leader, constant participant in resistance actions, and candidate for vice-mayor, was shot Oct. 19 at 7:10am at the Macuelizo exit of the Virrey highway. [Added 3:00pm, 19 Oct. Name corrected 9:15pm, 20 Oct.]

Jairo Ludin Sánchez, president of the union of workers at the National Institute for Professional Formation, died Oct. 17 in hospital. He had been in critical condition since being shot in the head by a policeman while taking part in a demonstration on the afternoon of Sept. 23 in his neighborhood near Morazan Boulevard in Tegucigalpa. Details. [Added 2:00 am, 18 Oct. More details 3:15pm, 19 Oct.]

Olga Osiris Uclés, 35, died Oct. 4 from effects of the tear gas police used against demonstrators at Radio Globo on September 30. She lived in the La Joya neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, and leaves four children.

Mario Fidel Contreras, a teacher and vice-principal at Instituto Abelardo R. Fortín, was shot twice in the head on Oct. 2 by a man on a motorcycle near his home in the San Angel neighborhood of Tegucigalpa.

Antonio Leiva, a Lenca campesino and resistance leader, who had disappeared some days before, and had been detained previously by security forces, was found dead on Oct. 3 with signs of torture in Canculuncus, a village in Santa Barbara.

Marco Antonio Canales Villatoro, 40, was shot on Sept. 26 by two men on a motorcycle as he was leaving an evangelical church in Tegucigalpa. He was a PINU candidate for suplente (alternate legislator) for Francisco Morazan department, and the nephew of the owner of Radio Globo, Alejandro Villatoro.

Wendy Elizabeth Avila, 24, law student. A resistance activist non-stop since the coup, she died on Sept. 26 from the effects of tear gas used against people in the street in front of the Brazilian embassy on Sept. 22.

Elvis Euciado, a teenager, was riding his bike toward a neighborhood soccer field on Sept. 23 when he yelled 'golpistas' at a police patrol 200 feet away. The patrol stopped; one policeman got out and shot him dead on the spot. [The policeman's since been charged with murder, the sole exception to impunity among these cases.]

Francisco Alvarado, 65, was shot with an M-16 while going out for food on the evening of Sept. 22 (more than 24 hours into a continuous curfew) in the Flor del Campo neighborhood of Tegucigalpa.

Oscar Adán Palacios was shot to death by the military in the Victor F. Ardon neighborhood of Tegucigalpa on the afternoon of Sept. 22 (just short of 24 hours into the curfew).

Felix Murillo was found dead with signs of torture after apparently being hit by a vehicle in Talanga, Francisco Morazan department (near Tegucigalpa) on Sept. 20, the day before Zelaya reappeared in the capital. His body entered the morgue at the Escuela hospital as an unknown. He was a resistance activist and witness in the case of the death of Roger Vallejo, a fellow-teacher shot to death while taking part in a demonstration on July 30.

Whatever happens by the end of today, the next phase has begun: fighting for a national assembly to write a new constitution. These and all the martyrs of the resistance to the coup since June 28 will be present in the struggle. ¡Presente!

[Image: Elvis Euciado, from newspaper Tiempo]

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At 5:11 PM, October 15, 2009, Blogger Darlene said...

I am so sorry to read of the loss of life. It is so sad.

Journalism is becoming a lost art. Entertainment seems to be the norm. It's infuriating.

At 5:47 PM, October 15, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

That Al Jazeera video is exceptionally good, close to award-winning good. It certainly is telling, and embarrassing, that it took Al Jazeera to make it. The whole thing is straight up reporting, even though it focuses on the point of view of the poor rather than excluding that point of view.

At 11:59 PM, October 15, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The golpistas have extended the sham dialogue until noon tomorrow.

As a commenter at Radio Globo said, Basta ya de misas negras.


At 10:10 AM, October 16, 2009, Anonymous ovid said...

Darlene is absolutely right. But there was never a golden age of US journalism. The emphasis on infotainment didn't exist, but the lying has always been just as bad. Maybe even worse.

Charles, as I'm sure you know, desfortunadamente, la misas negras nunca terminan cuando la gente todavia tiene esperanza. (That's all the spanish I can muster.) That's the lesson of El Salvador in the 80s that Cheney speaks about approvingly as "the Salvadorean option." Whether it's officially part of the army's counterinsurgency manual, the murderous lesson of Central America in the Reagan years was that if you keep killing enough people long enough and horribly enough, you will eventually destroy an insurrectionary movement because people will tire of the constant misas negras. From Cheney's point of view, it worked.

That's a strategy of pure evil, one that the domestic fascists in the US once expressed by lynchings and blowing up african-american churches in the South, but one they have had to export for the past few decades since it has become riskier to do such things at home. I doubt it's written into the COIN manual of Petraeus and McChrystal, which like everything Petraeus has ever touched has a huge PR/BS component, but it must be in the classified appendix: Never let up with the brutality until you break the heart of the resistance.

It sounds to me like the Honduran elite and the military are as ideologically crazed as they were when I spent some time in the region (though not Honduras) twenty years ago. That's depressing, because it means they will blame Zelaya and the people's movement for everything, no matter how horribly murderous the military becomes.

There seems to be no limit to people's ability to deceive themselves. The self-esteem of the elite will probably be undiminished by violence against the poor for a long time, and that's key. If a big part of the elite is eventually willing to see the truth and quits supporting the repression, it can make all the difference.

Here's an anecdote about how elite opinion gets detached from the real world, and the significance of that. (One shouldn't feel too superior as an American, because we're even more deluded.) I remember an upper-crust woman in Bogota once told me about an incident in which a bunch of teenage kids loosely affiliated with the Colombian group M-19 hijacked a truck and distributed the milk on it to the poor free of charge in the Kennedy section of Bogota. The story was told me with no further details, and told to emphasize how misguided those kids were because the milk had belonged to a poor milkman, not the company that sold it to him, so he had been ruined. In that version of the incident, the moral was that a small business was destroyed by irresponsible hoodlum kids. Shame on them.

Later I ran across what was surely that same incident in an Amnesty International report for that year. It seems that a little more had happened than the Bogota elite was mentioning in their parlor talk. Namely, after capturing the kids who stold the milk and distributed it to the poor, the military had shot all those foolish teenagers playing Robin Hood in the back of the head.

Those are very different stories, with very different morals to each. Each may have been true, but what was omitted in the elite version said far more than what Amnesty International didn't mention. I don't know whether the woman I knew was aware what the army had done to those kids. Either way, that wasn't a fact she could look at. Apparently she was able not to look at it, but I don't know how hard she had to try.
I suspect that if necessary she probably would have moved heaven and earth to avoid having to look at all the facts.

At 11:07 AM, October 16, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

I told that story in the last comment for a reason. It goes to the heart of the lesson the US military and conservatives learned from Vietnam: People don't want to know ugly truths, and if they have to face too many of them, they'll want a war to end.

That's why coverage of our foreign wars in the US is sanitized now. The military is afraid of ugly truths. They don't think any military force in the world can defeat them, but they are sure that the American public can.

So if we want to oppose war effectively, we don't need to shoot someone or blow something up. Violent tactics probably aren't even effective most of the time, and even if they are, so what? All of a sudden you're a killer too.

What people need to do is bear witness like in the old Quaker tradition, though with a bit more savvy about modern communication. Of course the acts of one person don't amount to much, but collective efforts can build, and eventually a tipping point may arrive. That's what happened with regad to Vietnam, and it's what the US military doesn't want to happen again. Same for Honduras. If Honduran elite opinion starts to splinter, the military's brutality will prove hard to sustain. Not that it will be easy, and there still may be more of those heartbreaking misas negras.

Good job Nell. Keep up the good work.


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