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Home About Us Equipo Sur Stories of Honduras US Pours Millions into Building New Honduran Navy Bases while Victims Shot by Navy Officer are Abandoned
US Pours Millions into Building New Honduran Navy Bases while Victims Shot by Navy Officer are Abandoned PDF Print E-mail
One Saturday morning, Wilmer Gerardo Sabillón and Julio César Pineda got up early to go fishing. They headed to the Yojoa Lake near their house and had not been in the water long when they were almost murdered by the Honduran Armed Forces.

"Suddenly two members of the Navy came out of the bushes and right away started verbally assaulting us, saying to us 'hey sons of b***, I'm telling you to stop.' Right away we stopped the boat, and they said 'Come here I tell you.' I asked them 'why?' and he repeated to me two times, “I'm telling you to come.”

"At that moment they shot two shots, in the air and in the water. The one who shot in the air used a 9mm gun; the one who shot in the water used a M-16 weapon.”

Then “he told me 'if you don't come here, I'll kill you.' Julio told them they didn't have the right to kill anyone... One of the police told me again 'I'm going to kill you' and suddenly loaded his weapon and shot at me, injuring me in the left arm, which exploded.  I didn't realize it but my right arm was also injured and I fell in the water.  This same bullet injured Julio's left arm.”

Julio was able to get Wilmer out of the water and they fled, with blood flowing, toward's Wilmer's house. Wilmer recalls that the officer who shot them came with them, telling them, hurry up, be thankful that I didn't kill you” and that “I had ruined his life and I should walk because what he had done to me 'was nothing' while my arm was almost hanging off my body, I thought I had lost my extremity.”

Second Lt. José Arnaldo Amaya followed Wilmer and Julio all the way to Wilmer's house, where he told Wilmer that the injury wasn't much and that he just needed to go to a clinic. In unbearable pain, Wilmer knew that wasn't true, and his family took both young men to the Red Cross, which sent them to a hospital in San Pedro Sula, which then sent them to the San Pedro Sula military hospital, where they finally had surgery.

However, surgery cannot fully repair the permanent damage caused by the Navy's bullets to Wilmer and Julio's arms. Both worked in jobs which require use of their arms, made difficult by the injuries. 27-year old Julio, a carpenter, continues to have bullet embedded in his arm and can't use his arm normally. 23-year old Wilmer, a refridgerator technician, can no longer work because of the injuries and has no way of supporting his wife and two year old son. His left arm is still in a sling and he can't move his fingers. His right arm is also injured.

According to Honduras' El Heraldo Newspaper, Naval Officer Jose Arnoldo Amaya was the officer in charge of the Yojoa Lake Naval Station when he shot Julio and Wilmer on Saturday, April 6, 2013. During Fiscal Year 2011, the last year for which State Department reports are available, 26 members of the Honduran Navy, whether part of a Navy Unit or attending a Navy Academy, were trained at the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in Ft. Benning, formerly known as the School of the Americas. Since 2006 the US government has refused to release the names of those trained at WHINSEC so we can't know if Officer Amaya was trained at Ft. Benning. The US has also provided and paid for other training for the Honduran Navy in both Honduras and the US.

The US is pouring millions into the construction of Navy Bases in Honduras.  Two US-funded Navy Bases have recently been built under the guise of fighting drug trafficking and a third is in the works.  In January 2012, a $2 million US-funded Navy Base opened in Guanaja, on the Bay Islands and there are plans to build a $1.5 million dock and special operations center. In April 2010, a US funded Navy Base was opened at Caratasca in the Mosquitia and plans were recently announced for expansion.  On September 1, 2013, EFE reported on the construction of US funded Navy Bases, including a third base in Puerto Castillo, in the already extremely militarized department of Colon.  The stated rationale for the US spending millions on Navy Bases and Navy expansion is supposed to be drug trafficking, but it can also be seen as an exercise in controlling territory and the natural resources along Honduras' coast.

Despite having their lives destroyed by a Honduran Navy Officer, Wilmer and Julio have been abandoned to struggle to survive.  They have medical bills as a result of being shot and no way to pay them. Due to the injuries, Wilmer is unable to work to support his family and like many victims of state sponsored violence in Honduras, is abandoned to live in pain and poverty.

Julio and Wilmer sought help from the Committee of the Family Members of the Detained-Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), which is now representing them. On Monday, August 5, an initial hearing in the case was held. Despite shooting directly at two unarmed people for no reason, Officer Amaya was granted alternative measures to imprisonment meaning that he is free while he awaits trial. Additionally, Wilmer and Julio have medical bills with no way to pay them and Wilmer is unable to work to support his family, but like many victims of state sponsored violence in Honduras, they have been abandoned to live in pain and poverty.

What may seem like a random shooting of two young men out fishing, is far from random. Instead it is part of the system of impunity in which the military, police, and soon to be created military police, can shoot, murder, and violate human rights of whoever crosses their path. And this state violence is funded by the US in the form of millions of dollars in military aid. Julio and Wilmer are just two of the many Hondurans who have been shot at by the Armed Forces, which now patrols much of the country. However, they are different from many of the victims in that they lived to tell their story.

Day after day, people walk into COFADEH because they have lost family members or been injured by the Honduran state security forces. The judicial system is inept and if charges are presented, cases can be delayed for years and years. Sometimes the judge doesn't show up, abnormal appeals are granted, and charges are conveniently reduced or dismissed. In the case of the August 5th initial hearing against Officer Amaya for shooting Julio and Wilmer, the electricity went out and what the secretary had typed up was lost. There were extensive notes of the defense's position but few of COFADEH's accusations against the military officer.

Systemic impunity in the justice system is a key element to militarization and control of the country's resources by the economic and military elite. As Bertha Oliva of COFADEH explains, “To carry out the strategy of terror, they have not only been killing, detaining, and torturing people, but they have approved laws that truly restrict rights, such as putting the military on the street and giving the military functions that don't correspond to them.”

"We live in a state without laws and we live in a dictatorship that pretends there is interest in respecting the laws but they legislate and accommodate the laws as they fancy, for their benefit, and then tell us they are acting legally and properly. An example is the military in the street. Militarization in Honduras is a product of a criminal state policy. The military is present almost on a national level and this presence has much to do with the decisions that they have been taking to sell the country, to turn it over to multinational mining companies or to Honduran businessmen with international associates."

 

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