Militarization and State Repression Continue in Honduras Unabated Print
On June 9, three-time SOA graduate and retired Army General Armijo Ucles Oscar Filander arrived, pistol in hand and accompanied by bodyguards, at the home of Antonio Córdova, a member of an Indigenous Tolupan community that has refused to give up its land and natural resources.  He destroyed their banana and coffee plants, the family's belongings, and terrorized 3 children and a teenager, telling them that he would be back the next day to destroy their house, because it belongs to him.  Retired General Ucles' actions are just the latest in repression against the Tolupan community of San Francisco de Locomapa.  On August 25, 2013, three Tolupan leaders there were murdered for protesting against illegal logging and mining in their territory.  Following this, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission ordered the Honduran state to implement protective measures for 38 Tolupan leaders who were facing threats, including Antonio.  Yet, knowing full well that there is impunity in Honduras for the powerful, SOA graduate General Ucles showed up outside Antonio's home with a gun. In fact, since 1980, when he was trained at the SOA in Military Command and Officials, the Tolupans report that General Ucles has been threatening them and taken over Tolupan land for personal enrichment.  Today,  the retired general is acting brazenly, terrorizing the family to make them leave their land so he can take over more Tolupan land, which is rich in forests to log and minerals to mine. 

Indeed, military and state repression and intimidation to make poor Hondurans give up their land for the wealthy and multi-national corporations to profit from is occurring all over the country.  When people resist having their land and resources stolen from them, the repression and military strategies used against them increase.  On May 21, hundreds of Xatruch III soldiers under the command of SOA graduate Col. Rene Jovel Martinez violently evicted small farmer families from their land in the Bajo Aguan, destroying their belongings and injuring people, including a pregnant woman who later had a miscarriage.  The Lenca people of Rio Blanco – who have been blocking the construction of an illegal hydroelectric dam in their territory for over a year – have faced a systemic and brutal campaign of repression including the murder of community leader Tomas Garcia by an SOA-graduate commanded military unit.  In the latest event, on Sunday, May 25, two Rio Blanco residents were tortured by the police at a private home belonging to a dam sympathizer.  One of the victims details how the police beat him and then forced his head into a basin of water and held his head underwater until he thought he was going to drown. Then the police put rubber hoods on them so they couldn't breathe.  Why, you might ask, did the police have rubber hoods for suffocating people on hand?  Are rubber hoods for torturing people a typical part of police equipment in Honduras?  Or just in communities that are standing up for their rights?  The two victims, Lindolfo and Salvador, were eventually driven 4 hours to a police station where they were held overnight and a lawyer trying to reach them was denied the ability to do so.  The next day they were released, no charges, but the message was clear. 

These types of brutalities by the military and police against those who are standing up in the face of an extreme right wing agenda of privatizing all of Honduras' natural resources and public services are all too common in Honduras today.  Under the discourse of fighting drug trafficking and organized crime, President Juan Orlando Hernandez – whose election was marred by fraud and irregularities -- has further militarized the country in the five months he has been in office so far. 

<One of Hernandez's new programs is called Guardians of the Fatherland, which is a military program for 25,000 children and young people – including as young as kindergarden – which Hernandez calls “civic and religious formation.”  For a country in an economic crisis with few jobs where one of the sources of employment for poor Hondurans is the military, military police, or the huge security guard industry – influenced heavily by retired or former military, this is starting recruitment very early.  A number of children's organizations have sharply criticized the program, as well as the worsening situation of kids in Honduras.  Numerous children's organizations have spoken out against the program, urging the Honduran government to instead use the funds for under-funded state institutions that serve children's needs.  The director of Honduras' Covenant House, Jose Guadalupe Ruelas, criticized the program as inciting children to use weapons and immersing them in a culture of war.  Ruelas also spoke out against the government's policies towards children when his organization released a study finding that from January to April, 259 children were murdered.  Two days after those comments, he was detained and beaten by the Military Police and then subjected to a defamation campaign in the media.  The Coordinator for the Human Rights of Children and Adolescents of the National Human Rights Commissioners Office was fired just hours after he presented an extensive report on the Guardians of the Fatherland program to his boss that concluded children would be better served by a program not administered by the Armed Forces.  That is Honduras today in a nutshell: speak out and you will be fired, beaten, detained, or murdered. 

Another one of Hernandez's hallmark programs is the Military Police.  Created while he was President of the National Congress just a month before the Presidential elections, the Military Police are said to be focused on combatting organized crime and extortion.  But they frequently target social and political movements opposed to the current regime.  On May 7, a thousand new Military Police were put on the streets, 500 of them in the capital city.  The next week, the Military Police were brought in to counter a protest at the National Congress by the Libre opposition party Congresspeople and their supporters, who were protesting not being allowed to speak in Congress.  The Military Police and COBRAS attacked the Libre congressmen and women with tear gas and batons inside the Congressional Chamber in addition to firing tear gas on protesters outside the Congress.  Several people were injured, including Congresspeople who were taken to the hospital suffering from tear gas inhalation, injuries from being hit, and even a fractured arm. 

Another new unit is the TIGRES, which means tigers in english, a special forces military-police hybrid that the US has been very involved with.  On June 19, US Ambassador Lisa Kubiske attended the graduation ceremony for the first 181 Tigers to be released into Honduras, following their training by the US Special Forces Group 7 and Colombia's Jungle School.  During April, May and June of 2014, 11 US instructors together with Colombia's jungle school are reported to have trained the TIGRES in survival techniques, mountain operations, rural and urban operations, clearing away buildings, patrolling rural areas, shooting, basic combat medicine, underwater operations, and intelligence.  Fighting drug trafficking and organized crime was said to be the stated goal, but at the inauguration of the training program Hernandez mentioned that there were three situations the TIGRES would be specialized in responding to, but refused to explain what they were, only saying that with regards to “what we are going to ask the TIGRES to execute for us, I only know that they will serve us a lot, as much in urban as in rural operations.”  Interestingly, in rural areas one of the biggest conflicts breaking out is over mining, dams, and other natural resources privatization and exploitation projects.

As militarization continues, as well as militarization of the country's police force, it is touted in Honduras as an improvement because the police are so corrupt and known for their connection to death squads, that the military is said to be a better alternative. However, the effects can already be seen. On June 18, three soldiers from Honduras' 10th Battalion, together with a member of the police, attacked and murdered 62-year old José Husbaldo Guzmán Argueta while he was carrying out efforts for a potable water project in the municipality of Colomancagua.  The soldiers and police attacked and beat Mr. Guzmán Argueta, and when they had the 62-year old on the ground, soldier Nectaly Carranza fired 2 shots from his M-16 directly into his body, murdering him instantly.