Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Fires This Time

It has been difficult to even think of writing in response to the fire in Comayagua.

It is just the latest in a series of incidents in which massive numbers of detainees in Honduran prisons have died. Similar disasters happened in 2003, when police deliberately set a prison fire, and in 2004 in San Pedro Sula, a case investigated by the IAHCR for human rights violations.

More than 350 people died this time. They were being held in a facility crowded with more than 850 prisoners, more than half not yet tried. The prison where they were being held was originally intended to house only 250 prisoners, according to the Bishop of Comayagua. The huge numbers incarcerated in Honduran prisons are a direct result of draconian anti-gang laws.

Reuters quotes the Honduran fire official in charge of fighting the inferno in Comayagua, saying that they were prevented from entering the prison for a half hour:
"These people in the prisons have their protocols, and while these are going on, they don't let anybody in."

Prison officials kept the firefighters out while hundreds died in a horrible way.

People related to the incarcerated-- who, remember, were mostly not even tried, let alone convicted-- are demanding answers and accountability.

So how can we react to this?

Adrienne Pine provides two pragmatic suggestions:

(1) write to your congress member and urge him or her to sign on to a congressional letter asking that military aid to Honduras be suspended

(2) donate funds to Rights Action which will ensure they reach
the Centre for Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and their Families, a group that works with prisoners and their families in Honduras.

Then consider borrowing a contemplative practice from the Jesuit community that runs Radio Progreso, as described by Dana Frank:
All the following day the Jesuits’ opposition radio station, Radio Progreso, read out the names of the dead, and the incantation of their classic Honduran names underscored the magnitude of the blow to the Honduran people.

Univision has a list of names emerging of some of those who died. Instead of viewing the grisly footage of the dead, try reading some of those names, as Dana Frank says, full of the poetry of Honduran identity:

Delmer Matute...
Edys Ariel Cruz Martínez
Melvin Orlando Pérez García
Marlín Giovanni Rivera
Wilmer José López...
Darwin Castro Flores
Darwin José Reyes
Denis Omar Izaguirre Quintanilla
Denis Omar Zavala
Delmis Padilla Cruz...
Eleuterio Amaya del Cid
Ever Yoni Cruz...
Frank Osmani Argueta
Fredy Isaac Irías Mayen...

These victims and all the others did not deserve to die-- even the minority who had been convicted of crimes.

They deserve to be remembered.

They deserve to have someone listen to their story.

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