Monday, April 4, 2011

"The demonstrations of the past week are truly frightening": A response

Via Quotha, a translation of a COFADEH summary of police actions during the recent escalation of repression against those supporting the striking teachers and the called-for general strike. In their statement, COFADEH puts the case starkly:
The attention of the world community to the crisis generated by the coup and coup ideology is still very insufficient, but it is key to brewing institutional solutions that create the minimal social and political consensus to transform the country.

Shamefully, as has been widely reported, the US State Department, through its Human Rights Labor Attaché in Tegucigalpa, came down solidly on the side of the oppressed military, threatened by the violence of protesters, writing
we cannot condone the violence currently being used by demonstrators ... While we have consistently urged the police to use restraint, some demonstrators have engaged in a level of violence not seen in many years. ...The demonstrations of the past week are truly frightening and a cause for concern. We ask that those in contact with teachers groups encourage them to stop the violence...

and concluding that "the majority of reported injuries are on the side of the security officials". Thus the US slides from tacit permission for militarization of the response to civil disobedience, to active approval of police and military actions.

Knowingly or not, the US State Department is echoing the arguments offered by Oscar Alvarez and Defense Minister Marlon Pascua against beleaguered Ana Pineda, whose appointment to a new ministry the Lobo Sosa government touts as a sign of commitment to the protection of human rights, even though it was widely opposed, endorsed in an atmosphere of political cynicism, and has been entirely ineffective.

We extract from COFADEH's statement only the reports from affected communities in the area around San Pedro Sula, communities we know well. We think they counter the US attaché's impression that, in the current unrest, it is the military and police who are the real victims. Dozens of people engaged in protest, in communities across this small region, illegally detained, beaten, shot at, and tear gassed.

When the police tear gas a town in reaction to a road blockade, that violates international expectations about restraint, and is an unproportional use of force. When they shoot tear gas canisters at individuals exercising their rights of free speech, they violate international expectations, not to mention display their misunderstanding of the effective use of the weapons that the international community, regrettably, provides them. Don't just take our word for it; ask Ana Pineda. She knows this, and is trying to communicate it to the Lobo Sosa government.

In San Pedro Sula, capital of the province of Cortes, the daughter of an ex-congresswoman from the Party of Democratic Unification (UD), Silvia Ayala, was wounded during the violent eviction of students from the University Center of the Valley of Sula, where dozens of students and professors were also detained.

A young student, Josue Rodriguez (20) was hit on the side of his head by his right ear by a metal tear gas canister fired by the policy into the interior of the university facility.

The installations of the Regional University Center were surrounded by lines of police and soldiers impeding the exit of students and professors while they were being attacked by tear gas bombs fired directly at their bodies, fainting and vomiting were caused by the inhalation of the gases.

In the municipalities of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Potrerillos, La Lima and Choloma, in the province of Cortes, there were 43 persons detained for participating in the Civic Strike; they were not freed from the police station until yesterday, Wednesday, during the night; in some cases they had marks from the beatings they received and gave testimony of insults and discriminatory remarks made to them.

At the highway turn-off to La Flores, Santa Cruz, in Cortes, the (Police) Commissioner Rubi, nephew of the current Attorney General, unleashed a violent repression against the protest and ordered the detention of 17 people who were transferred to the First Police Station of San Pedro Sula. Among the detained were : Lidia Arita, Nedi Santos Castillo, Antonio Maradiaga and Glenda Cabrera. There were 6 people wounded by bullets, including Daisy Sabillon and Manuel Miranda, who were taken by private transport to the Mario Catarino Rivas Hospital in San Pedro Sula.

In addition, the riot police punctured the tires of more than 30 vehicles using their firearms, and knives and then chased the owners with tear gas and gunfire while they sought refuge in the forested area of the locale.

In Potrerillo, a town in the province of Cortes, in the area of the Colonia El Triunfo 5 people were detained: with head wounds (Alejandro Duarte Garcia), blows to the legs (Luciano Barrera Monroy) and lesions on the thighs (Haydee Marquez del Cid; Junior Mejia Murillo and Gloria Marina Perdomo Rodriguez).

Lawyers, Evaristo Euceda and Iris Bude, who were carrying out human rights defense work in the police station of Villanueva were verbally and physically assaulted by the police sub-inspector of the locale.

In the community of Tacamiche, a peasant settlement that belongs to the municipality of La Lima, Cortes, the repressive forces entered the settlement to fire toxic gases into the interiors of homes as revenge for the protest blockade of the highway to the town of San Manuel and Villaneva, Cortes. The director of the community school, Professor Esmeralda Flores along with teachers, Favricio Sevilla and Pedro Valladares, were taken to the First Police Station of San Pedro Sula.

We agree that this is a "truly frightening" situation. But we think it is more frightening for the Honduran people who are being punished for disagreeing with the policies of the Lobo Sosa administration, now with the open approval of the US State Department.

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