Thursday, September 9, 2010

Oscar Estrada: "La vida no vale nada" (Life is worth nothing)

Honduran film-maker Oscar Estrada weighs in on Vos el Soberano about the rush to attribute the multiple homicide in a factory in San Pedro Sula to "gang rivalry" that has received such unquestioning coverage in the English-language media. It would be wonderful if some of the reporters who find the story-line they are reporting so compelling would present even a bit of the context he provides:
At whom does the horror point?

When in 2007 I began work on the documentary "El Porvenir", seeking to understand and portray the most complex massacre that up until that moment had occurred in the country, in which 69 people lost their life in the penal center of La Ceiba at the hands of the prison guards in alliance with the common prisoners, one thing motivated me: I knew very well and wanted to present it that way in the film, that if as a population we allowed this frightening crime (and another four massacres that occurred in the same period) to be lost in oblivion, the horror would end by catching up with us.

In those dark years of the mano dura, public opinion that the media of communication manipulated at will succeeded in demonizing gang-member youth in such a way that, without subterfuge, many people publicly said that the massacre was good, since according to them it annihilated delinquents that otherwise would cause more damage to society.

The war against the gains was won physically eliminating almost all the gang members of the time, hence the fame of personages like Oscar Alvarez, to the point that today the gangs barely appear in the media spectrum that seeks constantly to create internal enemies to justify state repression.

But the robberies, extortion, rapes, assassinations, dismemberment of corpses, massacres and the rest of the crimes committed-- supposedly-- by the gangs continue happening. Every day in Honduras there are reported between 10 and 14 violent deaths, many of them by firearms and the numbers continue rising placing Honduras in the list of the most violent countries of the continent, only behind Mexico and Colombia.

Then came the Coup d'Etat and those persons who devised (or allowed to pass) the massacres, returned to appear stronger and unpunished. The government of the mano dura returned, now with the face of Christian humanism, to impose by force the reconciliation and unity of the gravedigger.

Who at that time was Minister of Security today continues being it and his practice, now less in the media because anti-insurgency can be carried off only in a secret fashion, continues as well to be repressive.

Who at that time was the president of Congress, today is that of the republic and, like Ricardo Maduro on the 4th of April 2003 left the country on the day of the massacre, so as not to be witness to the pain and indignation that left the dead wholesale.

In this country life is worth nothing. Literally speaking. With fifty dollars you can pay an assassin so that he will eliminate a person, with fifty dollars more you can eliminate the assassin and the traces of the crime. At 100 dollars per death, 1900 lempiras at the present exchange rate, the impunity of barbarism has been embedded in the depths of this Honduras that today falls on us.

Yesterday, while some of us marched following the call of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular for a national civic strike, demanding among other things a raise in the minimum wage, respect for the labor laws, a halt to repression and violations of human rights, in San Pedro Sula, in a barrio that carries as its name Cabañas (ex-president of the 19th century, bulwark of Morazanism and of the ethics of power), in a small shoe factory, Marxist symbol of the worker, 19 young workers were assassinated, some of them apparently members of the resistance.

Beyond the symbolism of the massacre, it has to be clear that an act of terrorism of this nature is not done improvisationally. Calculated were the place where the crime was to be carried out, their routes of arrival and escape; calculated also the hour and the day. The assassins know very well how to create terror, for this they have been shaped in in this they are professionals.

While the bodies of the youths were carried away by the forensic doctor, Wong Arévalo, unconditional spokesman of the Coup and apologist for the violations of human rights squawked about the inactivity of the police and the intelligence corps. Not so much for the massacre (which he also did to a lesser extent), so much as for the windows of his building that the demonstration broke in its wake. "This group is only comparable with organized crime", shouted Wong Arévalo and his claim echoes the declarations of the prosecution that announced it would prosecute the members of the Frente de Resistencia for "illicit association".

There is a clear effort in the media of communication to link both events: the attack with stones on the golpista channels and the massacre in Cabañas. In this effort they mix maliciously to make believe that the resistance, while it is not directly responsible for this massacre, are equally detestable and dangerous and, the same as the gangs 10 years ago, any action of the system against us is justified.

It is interesting, in contrast to the other massacres, that in this terrorist act golpismo claims the inaction and "inefficiency" of its super Minister of Security Oscar Alvarez and demand immediate actions in respect to it.

It is very improbable that justice will be done. The most likely is that they will arrest some scapegoat to calm the demands of public opinion and will try to justify the massacre with the already trite "settling of accounts".

I was right. We as a society allowed impunity to embed itself like a malign cancer and today the horror points at us.

8 of September, 2010

Mano dura is literally "strong hand", the signature policy of Oscar Alvarez in his first incarnation as Security Minister of Honduras during the term of President Ricardo Maduro. Similar policies were widely implemented throughout Central America. In Honduras, they involved criminalizing gang membership, encouraging collaboration in policing by the armed forces, and formation of extrajudicial death squads targeting youths without apparent concern about whether those killed were guilty of any crime, or even actually were gang members. The majority of these killings went unsolved, and indeed, uninvestigated. Involvement of the security forces was widely suspected.

Anti-gang legislation was based on establishing "illicit association" as a crime. So the citation of "illicit association" as a supposed crime by the members of the resistance who marched in conjunction with the general strike is laden with disturbing overtones.

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