Update from Honduras

“I want to see justice for the assassination of my son. I don’t want there to be any more blood of Hondurans in the streets. But how will the murders stop if there is no justice? Without justice, they aren’t afraid to keep murdering young people....”

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These were the words of the mother of Isy Obed Murillo, a 19-year old who was murdered by the Honduran armed forces when they shot live bullets into a massive mobilization of hundreds of thousands demanding the return of Honduran President Mel Zelaya following the 2009 SOA-graduate led military coup. Since the coup, Honduras has transformed from a country that was making progress under President Zelaya to the world’s most violent country.  Social movement leaders, journalists who speak the truth, members of the LGBTQ community, and those who demand justice are the targets of murder, repression, and death threats.  The military patrols the streets of the two largest cities and operates numerous checkpoints throughout the country. The police are widely recognized to have ties to death squads and the military patrols the streets of the two largest cities and operates numerous checkpoints throughout the country. Even so the US continues pouring millions into the post-coup regime, especially in military “aid.”  In this climate of violence and repression, neoliberal policies have been forced upon the Honduran people – whole swaths of land are planned to be the site of “model cities” run by corporations, rivers that Indigenous people depend on have been concessioned to corporations, the rights of teachers have been decimated, and the oligarchy and international corporations are grabbing land and resources all over. Standing up against any of this means risking your life and that of your family.  Impunity reigns as 98% of murders reportedly go unpunished and the justice system is a joke.  As Isy Obed’s mother said, without justice, the murders – whether by the police, military, or third parties – don’t stop.

 

It is in this context that I am serving as an SOA Watch activante in Honduras, accompanying social movements, those who have lost family members, and those who stand up for human rights.  SOA Watch’s primary partner in Honduras is COFADEH, the Committee of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras, a human rights organization that stands up for justice – along with many others – in the face of intense repression and sophisticated surveillance.  We have spent time standing outside the courthouse with the family of Ebed Yanes, a 15-year old who was murdered when a 2011 WHINSEC/SOA grad presumably gave the order to shoot and whose murder by the military was covered up by four SOA grads who are high ranking military officials.  We have spent time with the Indigenous community of Rio Blanco, where an SOA-graduate commanded military unit is occupying Indigenous territory to protect the interests of multi-national capital.  And we have had our hearts broken in the Bajo Aguan, where over 100 campesinos (small farmers) have been murdered since the coup, the majority by a virtual army of private security guards, the military, police, or hired hitmen as powerful landowners seek to grab more and more land and campesino cooperatives find themselves evicted and repressed.

 

For many in Honduras, their hope for rescuing Honduras is the new political party, LIBRE, coordinated by ousted President Zelaya and formed out of the resistance movement to the coup.  LIBRE leads in the polls and enjoys widespread support.  However, the powers at be are not willing to give up easily what they have taken away from the Honduran people. Leaders in LIBRE have been assassinated and threatened. LIBRE activist Silvia Aguiriano de Sarmiento, her sister, and bodyguard were murdered as they were driving back from a LIBRE meeting by armed men reported to be carrying AK-47s. Anibal Barrow, a journalist who expressed his support for LIBRE and interviewed LIBRE candidates on his TV program, was forcibly disappeared from his car and his whereabouts unknown for 16 days.  His body was finally found buried near a lake in decomposing pieces. One must ask, how can there be free and fair elections when opposition leaders are murdered and journalists who interview LIBRE candidates turn up in pieces?

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