Thursday, December 29, 2016

Honduran Security Minister implicated in US Drug Trafficking Trial

Honduran Security Minister, retired General Julian Pacheco Tinoco, was implicated as being part of a Honduran government drug trafficking ring by a DEA informant according to testimony provided by US Federal Prosecutors at the trial of Efrain Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas.

Efrain Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas are the nephews of Venezuela's first lady, Cilia Flores.  They have been charged in federal court with conspiring (i) "to import five or more kilograms of cocaine into the United States from a foreign country", and (ii) "to manufacture or distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States."

The two defendants who were arrested in Haiti had sought to suppress some of their post arrest statements to the DEA and prosecutors.  Some of that evidence was about an October, 2015 meeting between a DEA informant, now deceased, identified as CW-1, and one of the nephews to discuss bringing planes with drugs into Honduras from Venezuela.  A DEA Special Agent, Sandalio Gonzalez, testified that CW-1 was unable to record the meeting, but provided photos showing the two Venezuelan nephews meeting with CW-1 and others.  Agent Gonzalez gave recording devices to two more DEA informants in Honduras, identified as CS-1 and CS-2 and urged them to travel to Venezuela to talk with the nephews and "to record all conversations, negotiations, and discussions of drug trafficking or money laundering".  CS-1 and CS-2 met with the nephews in Caracas, Venezuela, 4 times during October 2015.  A 3rd informant, CS-3 met with them in Honduras in November 2015 to discuss flight logistics and recorded that meeting.

Informant CW-1, known as "El Sentado" because he was confined to a wheel chair, was killed in Honduras in December 2015, shortly after the nephews were arrested.   Informant CS-1, José Santos Peña,  is known as "The Mexican" because he was posing as a representative of the Sinaloa Cartel.  Their co-defendant, Roberto Jesus Soto Garcia, a Honduran, was recorded negotiating the logistics of handling plane loads of cocaine in Honduras. 

Informant CS-1 is José Santos Peña, a Mexican drug trafficker who used to work for the Sinaloa cartel.  Informant CS-2 is his son.  In 2000 Santos Peña was arrested by Mexican authorities and turned over to the DEA, where he turned informant and was working from 2003 to 2016 for the DEA.  During the trial of Campo Flores and Flores de Freitas, Santos Peña testified that he had received around $750,000 from the DEA, and a further $300,000 from other agencies.  At one point, Informant CS-1 was asked during the trial about Julian Pacheco Tinoco:

Prosecutor:  In your work as a DEA informant did you meet with with someone called Julian Pacheco Tinoco?
CS-1:  Yes sir
Prosecutor: In what country did you know Mr. Pacheco Tinoco?
CS-1: In Honduras.
Prosecutor:  Do you know if he has a position in the Honduran Government?
CS-1: Yes sir
Prosecutor: What is that position?
CS-1:  Minister of Defense of Honduras
Prosecutor:  How did you know him?
[At this point the defense lawyer Randal Jackson objected, but the judge denied the objection]
Prosecutor:  How did you know him?
CS-1:  I knew him through the son of the ex president of Honduras, Fabio Lobo.
Prosecutor:  Were you meeting with Mr. Lobo as part of your work as a DEA informant?
CS-1:  Yes sir.
Prosecutor:  What was your meeting with Mr. Pacheco about?
CS-1: It was so that he could give me help to receive shipments from Colombia to Honduras.  He was in charge of a part of the security in Honduras.
Prosecutor:  What type of shipments?
CS-1:  Cocaine.

The Prosecution presented evidence that Campo Flores had deleted a chat session and contact information on his Samsung phone with Pacheco Tinoco. Informant CS-1 also admitted on the stand to lying to the DEA, not telling them about visits to prostitutes and continuing to traffic in cocaine for himself, for which he and his son were sentenced to life imprisonment.

On November 21, 2016, the two nephews were found guilty.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Incompetent Design, Failed Implementation

Another multi-million dollar project funded by international agencies has failed in Honduras, the Trans-450 high speed bus service for Tegucigalpa.  This project, funded by Interamerican Development Bank (BID in Spanish) and the Central American Bank of Economic Integraion (BCIE in Spanish) was supposed to create high speed buses along major avenues in Tegucigalpa.  Originally it was to be completed and in service by 2015.  Today the promise is maybe 2018, if the major obstacles can be overcome.  In reality the multi-million dollar project is all but abandoned.

In 2011 the Honduran Congress passed Decreto 77-2011, a bill that said it would make Tegucigalpa a city with a world-class high speed bus system. At the time only 33  world cities had such a high speed bus service.  The project was to be financed by a BID loan approved in December 2010.  This loan only financed the first of the 3 phase development/deployment plan.  The project oversight committee, established in the enabling legislation was supposed to seek other outside funds to supplement the BID money to finish the project.

The Trans-450 was a high-speed bus project similar to the high speed buses in Mexico City.  These long, articulated buses would run in lanes only they could use along major avenues in the city, and would reportedly remove hundreds of buses from regular traffic.  The project was expected to server 117,000 riders daily.  Ricardo Alverez (National Party) was its chief proponent.

 In early April 2014 Tegucigalpa Mayor Ricardo Alvarez inaugurated the first phase of the project promising residents that by June of that year they would be able to ride the first articulated bus in Honduras.  He said that about half of the money available through BID had been spent on the project so far.  (Inversiones Multiples de Transporte (INVERMUT), the newly formed company created to operate the system, to whom the Honduran Congress granted an 18 year exclusive contract, said that the 21 buses needed to operate the system would arrive in mid April of that same year.
All of that was a lie.  Nothing happened for the next year and a half.  Why?  Supposedly they lacked the funding to continue, which in itself is weird because in 2013 the BCIE had granted a $10 million loan to the government of Honduras for phase 3 of the project.  Alvarez had noted at the inauguration of Phase 1 that only half the BID funding had been spent to date.  BCIE also mentions in their English language page on the funding that the project was also partially funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development, never mentioned in the Honduran press coverage.

Despite the failure of the buses to materialize, or service to begin on the phase 1 part of the project  inaugurated in April, 2014, the City council of Tegucigalpa none-the-less signed an 18 year exclusive concession with INVERMUT that October that among other things, guaranteed INVERMUT a certain level of income, to be made up with Public funds if the ridership was below a certain level..

The buses never started running on Phase 1 of the project because the finalization of that part of the project, the building of access bridges to the stations, the purchase of the buses, etc. couldn't be done until other technical problems were solved.

Phase 3 construction started in 2015, when phase 2 construction was also underway, but phase 1 was never actually finished, or put into service as intended.  Technical issues prevented the construction of a bus parking area, or central terminal.  No bridges had been installed for pedestrians to get to the bus stops located in the center of busy avenues.  No plan had been done for handicapped access, and hence no ramps or elevators had been contemplated.  No one had planned to plant new trees for those that were being removed in the Trans 450 right of way.  The list goes on.

Its the end of 2016, well past the promise date for the extended end of construction.  BID says all their money has been spent.  Yet the system is not yet finished.  Major parts of the technical plan remain, such as a central bus terminal, and bus parking area.  INVERMUT sstill doesn't have the buses.  In late November, 2016, the Mayor of Tegucigalpa said it would be 2018 before the project was open to the public.  The municipal committee given oversight of the project voted 6 to 5 to keep the project going.  The city of Tegucigalpa itself has put a further $3 million into the project.

BID interim representative Rafael Mayen told the Honduran press that:
"In the bank its making us sad and it hasn't pleased us, that which is happening with the Trans 450"

Mayen also took the opportunity to reject any attempt to change the project to a monorail since the space was not designed for a monorail.  He noted the buses are built at the factory, but cannot be brought to Honduras because there's literally nowhere to park them.  The project never imagined or built a parking lot for the buses for when they're not in service!

Meanwhile, Honduras will be paying interest on those $33 million the BID invested in this project beginning in 2018. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Honduras Structurally Incapable of Fighting Corruption, Impunity!

On Wednesday the Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras (MACCIH) provided their 38 page report on their first six months of operation in Honduras to the OAS.  They did so in a public hearing where representatives of the funding countries like Canada and the US participated, along with a representative of Honduras.  During the opening statements, the Honduran representative, Arturo Corrales,  tried to establish for the record, that :
"Honduras has a clear, holistic perspective [on impunity], the institutionality of civil society and its intermediate bodies and the support of MACCIH, this is the mssion, the project is a complete system...It is worth noting this distinction because this project existed before MACCIH arrived and I assure you it will continue after MACCIH terminates its functions."

While technically correct, on paper it looks like Honduras was doing things to clean up corruption, in practice, this was a smokescreen for more of the same.  In the months prior to the formation and installation of MACCIH in Honduras, the Honduran government, guided by Corrales, Juan Orlando Hernandez, and Ebal Diaz formed the Sistema Integral Control la Impunidad (SICI) as a palliative to quiet the weekly marches of the indignados.  This was a largely hollow proposal that in effect consisted of the Executive branch of the Honduran government holding "hearings" with civil society groups that by and large already supported the existing government.  In the weeks leading up to that announcement, Ebal Diaz, a government advisor spokesperson, made public statements that were counter factual, to the effect that "corruption was already contained" (it wasn't) and deliberately manufacturing false numbers to argue that the Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (CICIG), which is what the indignados wanted for Honduras, was ineffective (it has, to date, been quite effective in identifying and prosecuting corruption and impunity).

The other smokescreen they erected was to allege that corruption during the Zelaya administration was more important, and the Public Prosecutor's office pursued this rather than the mess the National Party governments of the last two administrations created. With the help of the DEA, they proceeded to dismantle the drug cartels in Honduras that had supported the Liberal Party in the 2013 elections. 
 This is institutionality that Corrales was proudly referring to, palliatives and smokescreens that accomplished next to nothing.

Even today there is no institutionality against corruption and impunity in Honduras, or MACCIH would not be necessary.  The Honduran government has neither the structure, nor the constitutional separation of powers, nor the laws, nor the legal system to combat corruption and impunity.  Corruption is present in virtually all levels of government, from the military to the Executive branch itself.  It has lacked this institutionality since the 1981 constitution brought an end to military rule. It was designed that way.

In fact, we know Honduras was ineffective in fighting corruption because the US State Department scored it low in the fight against corruption and impunity in ranking it for possible inclusion in the Millennium Challenge Grants every year since 2010.

If MACCIH succeeds in its mission, Honduras might have an effective system to fight both corruption and impunity going forward. But all of its suggestions will need to be in place, including changes to the Honduran constitution, for it to work.

So Corrales was at best exaggerating in saying that Honduras's institutionality already exists to fight corruption.  It didn't, and still doesn't.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Honduran Supreme Court defines CIDH ruling

The government of Honduras, specifically its Supreme Court, has chosen to willfully defy an order by the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights (CIDH in Spanish)  to reinstate the 3 Honduran justices dismissed because they did not support the 2009 coup in Honduras.

The CIDH found on 2015 that the government of Honduras willfully violated the rights of Adan Guillermo Lopez Lone, Tirza del Carmen Flores Lanza and Luis Chévez de la Rocha to due process, and ordered that they be reinstated to similar positions with full back pay.  In addition, the court ordered the government of Honduras to repay the legal expenses incurred by the Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL) and the Asociación de Jueces por la Democracia (ADJ).

On November 10, the last day the International Court gave Honduras to reinstate the justices with full back pay, the court tweeted:  "The monies ordered by the the CIDH to be paid complying with the sentence in the case of Lopez Lone and others versus Honduras has been consigned to a bank."  It also posted to its website a statement that said in part:

"The statement made to the beneficiaries we undertook to inform them of the decision of the Justice Branch that it was not possible to reincorporate them because in actuality there are no open positions which are equivalent to those that they held at the moment of their firing, nor with their salaries and benefits.  [This is] because the positions they held are now occupied according to the needs of the Executive branch by individuals who have developed a judicial career.  Adding to this is the lack of positions that fulfill the parameters stipulated in the sentence.  Taking into account all the foregoing, there's nothing else to do but look to the alternate solution, contemplated in paragraph 299 of the [CIDH] sentence, given the impossibility of re-employing them, to fix the additional indemnitization for each of them for a year after they were dismissed."

In so stating, the Honduran Supreme Court chose to avail itself of paragraph 299 of the order which says if they cannot be reinstated to similar positions, Honduras must pay each of them the equivalent of $150,000.  In doing so, CEJIL alleges the Supreme Court of Honduras lied.  They have, all this year, been appointing justices to similar ranked positions in courts within Honduras that at any time it could have reinstated these justices.  In fact, in the month of October alone CEJIL says they appointed 4 judges of similar rank and benefits to two of those dismissed unjustly, to courts in San Pedro Sula.  

The Honduran Supreme Court could have complied with the order, but chose instead to prevaricate and avail itself of a monetary solution, doing further harm to those it denied due process.  This speaks to the corruption that is this Supreme Court in Honduras.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ambassador Nealon doesn't get "democracy"

US Ambassador James Nealon seems to have forgotten that in a democracy, even a weak one like Honduras, you have to actually charge someone with a crime to detain them for long periods of time.  Today Nealon tweeted the word "Lamentable" with a link to a newspaper story announcing the release of Captain Santos Rodriguez Orellana from detention by the Honduran military.

The US Embassy named Captain Rodriguez Orellana along with six others in a press release, as persons the US was investigating for their links to corruption and narco-trafficking on October 7.  At that time the Honduran Military suspended him from his duties providing security to the Joint Command in Comayaguela and confined him to quarters.

They did not silence him however, and on Monday, October 10th he began talking with the press, calling in to the TV Program Frente a Frente and programs on Radio Globo to talk about why he was detained.  He said he went to the Embassy on Sunday, October 9 for questioning by 3 DEA agents.  At that time they asked him about his knowledge of a plot to kill the US Ambassador by bombing his house, and if he could tie President Hernandez's brother, Tony Hernandez to that plot.  Rodriguez Orellana told the Honduran press that he told the DEA he knew nothing about a plot against Ambassador Nealon, nor could he tie Tony Hernandez to such a plot.  He did allow that while he was part of the Honduran Army's security force engaged in drug interdiction in 2014 they confiscated a helicopter in Brus Laguna that tested positive for having transported cocaine, and that an informant told him the helicopter belonged to Defense Minister Samuel Reyes and Tony Hernandez.  That helicopter bore a valid Guatemalan registration with a fake US registration number decal covering it.

This is not the first time that the Honduran President's brother, Tony Hernandez, has been linked to narco-trafficking. We covered such a link in April this year.

Jenifer Lizeth Bonilla, the wife of Captain Rodriguez Orellana, told Criterio, a Honduran weekly publication, that the DEA asked her husband to connect Tony Hernandez to a helicopter captured in August, 2014 by the Honduran military.  It tested positive for drugs.  She said her husband knows nothing about it and has asked the Honduran Ombudsperson for protection.  She said:
"These problems for Captain Rodriguez Orellano come from the time he captured the helicopter, that according to sources, this helicopter was that of Samuel Reyes and Tony Hernandez"
Defense Minister Samuel Reyes challenged her to present her proof to Honduran authorities. Bonilla showed a Whatsapp conversation Rodriguez Orellana had with DEA agent Matthews in which Rodriguez Orellana said that the helicopter was one used by both Samuel Reyes and Tony Hernandez.  Rodriguez Orellana phoned in to Radio Globo and said that the day after they captured the helicopter, someone broke into his house and ransacked it.

Captain Santos Rodriguez Orellana returned to duty today after the military found it had no reason to keep him confined to quarters.  There were no formal charges brought against him.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Honduras Still Ignores ILO 169 Requirements

The Government of Honduras made some misleading and false statements in its recent submission to the International Labor Organization (ILO).  In May-June of this year, the ILO held an international conference on Labor, during which the Government of Honduras submitted a report on its compliance with ILO 169, a treaty it signed in 1995.  By Honduras's own claims, it only began to implement the treating in 2011, and the Honduran courts claim that even that statement is false.

You can view the ILO report submitted by the Government of Honduras here on the ILO website.  The Honduras specific section begins on page 152 of the report.

First up is Article 15 reporting, where Honduras reports on its consultations with interested indigenous groups before starting or authorizing any mineral prospecting or exploitation in their territory.  This is what the government of Honduras wrote and submitted (page 153):

"Natural Resources:  In the maritime zone of the Mosquitia, as part of the process of realizing a project to explore for oil and gas, a process a consultation during the period September to November 2013 was adopted; there were 10 consultative meetings with the territorial councils of the Mosquitia.  This practice of previous free and informed [consent] has been implemented since 2011.  Initially it was applied to hydroelectric projects in the Lenca indigenous zone (Intibuca and La Paz).... "

If you didn't know the actual timetable or anything about recent Honduran court decisions, you might be tempted to take those statement at face value.  The government of Honduras did undertake a consultation, staging 10 meetings in the area of the Mosquitia where it planned to carry out oil and gas prospecting, during the months of September to November, 2013 as stated. 

However, ILO 169 Article 15 requires that consultation to take place before any such exploration project is authorized or started.  The Honduran Cabinet voted to approve a contract with BG group, a British oil and gas exploration company now a part of Royal Dutch Shell,  to carry out oil and gas exploration on the 9th of April of 2013, a full six months before any consultation took place.  The Honduran Congress approved the contract in May 2013, five full months before the first consultation.  Thus the entire authorization process took place before any consultation took place, violating the intent and the letter of ILO 169 Article 15, which, to reiterate, calls for prior, free, consultation with interested groups prior to the start, or authorization of any such exploration or exploitation of a mineral resource.  During the post-approval consultation, the Garifuna and Miskito communities involved soundly rejected the project.

Did Honduras carry out consultation? Yes.  Was it as Article 15 requires, prior to the start or authorization of any such mineral exploration or exploitation? No.  Honduras did not lie in its submission.  It did however, stretch the truth to make it sound like it complied with the consultation requirements when it did not.

The government of Honduras goes on to state in the next sentence:
This practice of previous free and informed [consent] has been implemented since 2011.  Initially it was applied to hydroelectric projects in the Lenca indigenous zone (Intibuca and La Paz)....

This time we have the word of a Honduran court and the Public Prosecutor's office that this is not true.

This year, the Fiscalia de Etnias, a part of the Public Prosecutor's office that is supposed to defend the rights of the indigenous peoples of Honduras, took the former vice head of SERNA, Marco Johnathan Lainez Ordoñez, and the Mayor of Intibuca, Martiniano Dominguez Meza to court over the approval process for the Agua Zarca dam.

A Honduran court ruled there was no prior consultation in the case of the Agua Zarca dam on the border between the municipalities of Intibuca and San Francisco de Ojuera.  The court said that SERNA did carry out consultation with the residents of San Francisco de Ojuera on December 8 and 9, 2010, but they live downstream from the project.  The residents of Rio Blanco, in Intibuca, where the dam was to be constructed, were never consulted, nor were they invited to the consultation session in San Francisco de Ojuera. On March 24, 2011, SERNA issued a 50 year Environmental License for the Agua Zarca dam without consulting the resident of the town most impacted by the dam.

This may have been because DESA, the company petitioning for the rights to build the project, listed its location as San Francisco de Ojuera, but the maps submitted with the project clearly show it being built on the border between the two municipalities, with most of the disruption falling to the upstream commmunity, Rio Blanco.  Only the actual power generation facility was located in San Francisco de Ojuera.  The dam, and a diversion canal that took water out of the river for power generation, were in Rio Blanco.

Ordoñez was convicted in June of this year of illegally giving the Agua Zarca project its environmental license in violation of the ILO 169 rights of the residents of Rio Blanco.  A second charge of abuse of authority has been filed by the same Fiscalia de Etnias against Lainez Ordoñez in a second Lenca dam dispute, this one on behalf of the Lenca community of Gualjiquiro in La Paz. 
The mayor was charged with abuse of authority for having given the municipal permission to construct the dam without consulting with the people in Rio Blanco.  His case is still pending. 

So the Honduran Courts demonstrate that the second statement, about beginning consultations in 2011 with the hydroelectric projects in the Lenca region is false.  As the UN Relator on the Rights of Indigenous People noted in the ILO report (page 155):
even in the cases where the indigenous people have title to their lands, they are menaced by claims from third parties who make claims over indigenous land and protect park lands for development of mineral and energy projects, model cities, and tourism.

The ILO commission which took this testimony issued a set of conclusions that noted that in the 20 years since Honduras signed the treaty, there has been no progress to formalizing rules for prior, free, and informed consultation of the indigenous peoples of Honduras when development or exploitation projects will impact their communities (page 182).  It urged the government of Honduras to develop policies, rules, and procedures to guarantee the prior, free, and informed consultation of indigenous groups in all cases where it applies.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Government Pulls Globo TV Off Cable

The Commission Nacional de Telecommunicaciones (CONATEL) issued a memo on May 20 identifying 21 broadcasters it claimed were still broadcasting despite their licenses having expired.  On that list was Globo TV owned by Alejandro Villatoro Aguilar, which since 2009 has been one of the few opposition media.  The publication of that memo served as a warning to all of them that CONATEL would begin proceedings to fine them, and if they did not begin proceedings to renew their permits, CONATEL would shut them down.  The memo ended with the clause:
"respecting at all times the constitutional guarantee to defend yourself and due process"

before listing the 21 firms which included not only Globo TV but Angeluz TV, owned by the Diocese of Copan, and another station owned by an Evangelical Church.

Due process, according to journalist David Romero, involves giving the station 10 days to either correct the fault or challenge the allegation that its deficient in some way.  Of the 21 stations mentioned in the memo, 20 of them are still on the air, not yet sanctioned.  But CONATEL choose on May 16th to sanction Globo TV and issued an order to all cable tv system operators to stop carrying their signal.

Globo TVs license expired on February 21, 2016, about the same time as its company lawyer died, so there was a delay of about a week getting a payment for the renewal to CONATEL, but that money was paid on February 29, 2016, and until the notification today, Globo TV assumed everything had been taken care of.

Friday, May 20, Romero showed a copy of the memo CONATEL sent to the cable tv operators, dated May 16th, before CONATEL issued its public memo, stating that Globo TV had not paid to renew its license and ordering all cable tv operators in Honduras to cease carrying the channel. He then showed the stamped receipts from February 29 demonstrating that Globo TV had paid the license renewal fee in the Banco Atlantida on that day.

Ebal Jair Diaz Lupian, President of CONATEL, and Secretary of the Presidential Cabinet of the Government of Honduras said "You cannot renew that which is expired."

Yet that's precisely what the CONATEL memo tells them to do according to Soraya Solabarrieta, head of the Asociación de Empresas de Telecomunicaciones (Asetel).  She argued that the CONATEL order is inconsistent, saying:
"On the one hand it orders the cable systems to take off the air the signals of those operators who are supposedly operating without permission, but on the other hand, for all of them, it gives them 10 days to submit their statements, that what they need to do is present their requests to renew their permission [to broadcast]."
Javier Daccarett signed the order to cable companies to stop carrying Globo TV.  He's the first cousin of Anna Garcia de Hernandez, the wife of the President of Honduras.

So no 10 days granted to Globo TV, no due process, no right to defend itself, and selective enforcement against only Globo TV of the 21 stations operating with allegedly expired licenses, and only hard line intransigence as a response from CONATEL.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Palmerola Airport Contract Bad for Honduras?

On March 18, 2016, President Juan Orlando Hernandez representing the Government of Honduras, and Lenir Perez, representing the bid winner, EMCO, signed a contract to build an international air terminal and supporting facilities in Soto Cano Air Base (also known as Palmerola) in Comayagua.  Such an airport is necessary since Toncontin airport in the capitol city of Tegucigalpa has a dangerous approach and short runway which cannot be lengthened.  The contract was negotiated by COALIANZA, which if past practice is any evidence, makes it suspicious.  COALIANZA has negotiated a number of contracts that are not financially good for Honduras, but great for the company receiving them.

Palmerola air base was built from nothing during the 1980s by the US military to become a staging area for air support missions for the Contra's then trying to overthrow the Sandanista government of Nicaragua.  I still remember the twice weekly flights of C5a and later C17 cargo planes landing at Ramon Villeda Morales International Airport near San Pedro Sula and offloading truckloads of military supplies and equipment onto the staging area to be ferried up to Palmerola for its construction.  Today it is a key strategic foothold of the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Latin America, and home of Joint Taskforce Bravo with an 8000 foot runway.

At the time of the signing the contract terms were not publicly disclosed, but government statements outlined some of the terms.  First, the concession period in which EMCO would have the right to operate it was 30 years.  The contract required $23 million in funding from the Honduran government, and a further $53 million provided by the government of Spain.  EMCO will supply $87 million.

However, as the contract is now before Congress for ratification, terms are becoming public that lead one to question what Honduran authorities were thinking when they signed this contract, and raise questions about whether it can be ratified, even by this Congress controlled by the National party.

Salvador Nasralla pointed out that if the government of Honduras decides to keep Toncontin airport open, even if just for flights within Honduras, it will have to pay EMCO 20 million Lempiras (about $953,000) a month until Toncontin is closed .  Eduardo Facussé noted that the concession can be automatically renewed by EMCO for an additional 30 years, making it a 60 year concession, not the 30 mentioned in the press releases.  Facussé also pointed out that the contract obligates the Honduran government to close not just Toncontin International Airport in Tegucigalpa, but also Ramon Villeda Morales airport in San Pedro Sula, or face paying even higher monthly charges to EMCO.  A financial analysis of the income from the airport indicates that EMCO will not have to pay anything to the government of Honduras for the concession until years 27 or 28.  Facussé continued:

"I'd like to be in this type of business.  I don't know what kind of advisors the President of the Republic has who have told him that this is profitable for the country....The concessionary has all the advantages; that is to say that the owner of the contract for Palmerola, and the Government has a series of [financial] obligations."

Inversiones EMCO is a subsidiary of Grupo EMCO, a company founded in 2003 in Honduras.  It consists of a number of subsidiaries (Alutech, EMCO Mining, Inversiones EMCO, Constructora EMCO).Company owner  Lenir Perez is the son-in-law of Miguel Facussé, who before his recent death was the richest man in Honduras.  Perez is married to Ana Isabel Facussé.  Its subsidiary, EMCO mining began operations in San Pedro, Tocoa, Olancho in April of this year without the permission of the communities in which the mine resides, a clear violation of Honduran law.
 Another mining subsidiary, Minerales Victoria, with an iron mine in Nueva Esperanza, Atlantida has a history of human rights violations.  Perez's firm admits it kidnapped two international observers in 2014 and threatened their lives.

If Eduardo Facussé's statements about the clauses of the contract are correct, one wonders what President Hernandez's advisors were thinking in advising him to sign such a disadvantageous contract, but then, it was negotiated by COALIANZA, so we should have expected that.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Curious Case of General Leandro Osorio

Is the Honduran Police Cleanup Commission suspending the wrong people?  Today it announced it would suspend two of the current police Generals:  Jose Ricardo Ramirez del Cid and Ramon Sabillón Pineda,  Ramirez del Cid stands accused of having been one of the conspirators in the murder of drug czar Aristides Gonzalez.  Ramon Sabillón stands accused of covering police participation in that crime up.

The Commission announced it had reviewed, and would continue to employ Generals Felix Villanueva, Quintin Antonio Juarez, and Hector Ivan Mejia.

The Commission also announced the (forced) retirement of Generals Elder Madrid Guerra, Javer Leopoldo Flores and Jose Leandro Osorio.  These three, it said in its press release, were simply no longer needed since their positions were being eliminated in the restructuring of the National Police.

Leandro Osorio has no accusations against him.  In Osorio's case they're forcing him into retirement after 32 years of service claiming they have no place for him in the new proposed structure of the National Police.  Osorio told the press in Honduras that he has felt "professionally pursecuted" ever since he arrested the Colombian Reuben Dario Pinella in La Iguala in July of 2013 (see our previous post for more details).  General Ramon Sabillón also referred to that case in statements to the public, saying that one of the Valle Valle family told him that President Hernandez's brother, Jose Antonio Hernandez Alvarado, was the link between Alexander Ardon and his El Paraiso, Copan based transportista drug cartel, and their funding of the National Party election campaign in 2013.  Tony Hernandez's law office defended the Colombian, who was released by the judge in the case at the first hearing, and a later investigation showed that some $150,000 in bribes had been paid out to cause that release.

In January of this year, Osorio was stripped of his command of the police on the north coast of Honduras and reassigned to a diplomatic posting outside of Honduras.  Osorio told the Honduran press:
"I was notified of the change because the criminal structures didn't want me here, structures that have been strengthening that don't want me there."

On April 14 of this year, when it appeared as if all of the 32 officers commanding the National Police would be forced into retirement, Osorio told El Tiempo :
"There is no institution of the State that is vaccinated against corruption in Honduras; we all need to be cleaned up....those that are connected will stay, those that aren't will leave the National Police, that is to say those that don't have godfathers will leave."
Clearly Osorio wasn't connected as he's now out of a job.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Brother of The Man

We've written about this before, but the story has today come back to life with new details, new accusations.  Ramon Sabilllon Pineda, who as head of the National Police helped dismantle the Valle Valle Cartel in Honduras, says that at least one of the Valle Valle family members told him that there were 15 currently serving politicians whose campaigns were funded by the drug traffickers in Honduras.  Sabillón indicated both the Liberal and National Parties political campaigns were funded by the narco-cartels.  Sabillón stated that the National Party contact for drug funding was Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernandez Alvarado, a.k.a. "el hermano de El Hombre", the brother of President Juan Orlando Hernandez Alvarado.  Sabillón also ties Tony Hernandez to the ex-mayor of El Paraiso Alexander Ardon, a competitor with the Valle Valle family for control of the drug trade in western Honduras.

Sabillon provided the following transcript to Globo TV during an on-camera interview two days ago:

Drug Trafficker:  This arrest, its it because of politics?
Sabillón: What are you referring to?  The arrest warrant was carried out quickly. 
Drug Trafficker: Yes, General, I finance the Liberal Party and I'm pursued because I'm a Liberal. 
Sabillón: Finance what?  Finance political campaigns?  give t-shirts?  What do you finance?
Drug Trafficker: Yes, political campaigns, General.  But why do you not do anything with the Cartel of the National Party, or the Cartel of the Conservatives (cachurecos)? 
Sabillón: Tell me a name.
Drug Trafficker: The Mayor of El Paraiso, Copan, Chagel Ardon and the brother who works with him.
Sabillón: Whose brother?
Drug Trafficker: The brother of The Man
Sabillón: Which man?
Drug Trafficker: You already know the Man I'm talking about.

We know now, two days later, that the "Drug Trafficker" was one of the Valle Valle family, captured by Sabillon's police and later extradited to the US.  We also know now that the drug cartels are financing the political campaigns of both the Liberal and National parties in Honduras.  All of the Honduran cartel's closed down in the last two years were those that were financing the Liberal party:  the Valle Valle, Chepe Handal, and the Rivera Maradiaga cartels.

The "brother of The Man", Tony Hernandez, was elected to Congress in the same year his brother was elected President, the election of 2013.  Tony is a lawyer, and as such defended two Colombians who were caught, twice, growing opium poppies, marijuana, and with a lab for processing cocaine and heroin in La Iguala, Lempira, in 2013, during the election campaign.  The Colombians, Reuben Dario Pinilla and Freddy Roland Jiménez, were captured for the second time on July 25, 2013 in La Iguala.  They had entered Honduras illegally, and had false identification papers.  They were both captured on the property that housed a drug lab, and had four greenhouses with opium poppy seedlings growing in them.  Fields with opium poppies and marijuana plants were found on the property as well.  With the law office of Tony Hernandez representing them, the Colombians were released by the judge hearing the case at the initial hearing, before any evidence had been heard.  After they were released, the Colombians fled the country.  A later investigation which went no where, none-the-less found that several people, including the judge, had split about $150,000 in bribes. 

In addition to his legal office, Tony Hernandez is a National Party member, a Congress person for the Department of Lempira, elected in 2013.  He serves as the head of the Congressional Commission on Development and Social Protections.  Along with his sister Hilda Hernandez , he owns the Hotel Posada de Don Juan in Gracias, Lempira.  Hilda Hernandez is the Minister of Communications for her other brother, the President, Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Alexander Ardon  and his brother Alfredo are the leaders of the "AA Brothers Cartel", as Honduran Intelligence named it.  They were rivals of the Valle Valle cartel, and controlled the drug trade in much of the Departments of Copan and Ocotepeque for the Sinaloa Cartel.  Alfredo was well connected in the National Party.  He helped run the party's campaign in 2013 in Western Honduras, and after the election was re-appointed to the commission that allocates funding to road building ("Fondo Vial") before disappearing in 2014.  His brother Alexander also disappeared in 2014, just before the raids on the Valle Valle family.  In 2015 there were rumors that the AA brothers had negotiated with the DEA to turn themselves in, but the rumors turned out to be false.

The allegation that Tony Hernandez is the National Party's connection to drug money for financing campaigns is not new.  Its been discussed in some of the Honduran press since the Colombian's captured in-flagrante were released without a real hearing.  Sabillón is the first high government official to give voice to the claim, for which he is now suspended from the police.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Enacting Impunity

Oscar Alvarez Guerrero, current head of the National Party but previously the Security Minister for Porfirio Lobo Sosa and enactor of the "mano dura" approach to gangs may not mean to, but is enacting impunity.

For the last month Honduras has been coping with leak after leak about corruption within the National Police, culminating in the El Heraldo and New York Times stories naming the police who organized and murdered two high government officials, drug czar Julian Aristides Gonzalez and consultant to the polivce investigating drug trafficking, Alfredo Landaverde.

Among those who have been publicly named is Oscar Alvarez.  The Public Prosecutor's office has been, and continues to be slow to act on this information, preferring to "investigate the veracity of the leaked documents" instead of taking action to talk to those implicated.  But today, the Public Prosecutor's office had cited Oscar Alvarez to appear to make a statement and answer questions.

Alvarez sent his lawyer, Jaime Banegas, to tell the Public Prosecutor that "because he was a high government official, they should take his testimony at his home, at the day and hour he chooses." Alvarez told the press:
"I can't be cited because I don't have anything to do with the case."

The message is clear.  "I'm too important, and too busy running the National Party and being a Congress person to be interviewed by a bunch of lawyers investigating murder;" emphasis on "important".  That's not only arrogant, but basically tells everyone that impunity is alive and well with the political elite in Honduras. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Violating the Constitution with Impunity

Violating the Honduran constitution is just another day's work for the Juan Orlando Hernandez administration.  Yesterday the President named a 3 person panel that has the authority to carry out the re-organization of the National Police with the goal of firing those who are corrupt.  Among those named was Pastor Alberto Solorzano, head of the major Evangelical Churches Federation in Honduras, and chief pastor in the Centro Cristiano Internacional (CCI), an evangelical church headquartered in Maryland, or maybe Florida depending on which website you visit, in addition to various regional centers scattered across central and south America.

President Hernandez himself announced the commission yesterday; naming Omar Rivera, Vilma Morales, and Alberto Solorzano to the commission.   Rivera is one to two people Hernandez turns to when he needs any semblance of public involvement.  Morales is an ex-Supreme Court justice currently serving as head of the bank oversight commission.  She was intimately involved in the coup government.  Pastor Solorzano is president of the Confraternidad Evangelica, the group to which you must belong to be a legal evangelical church in Honduras, and is the head pastor of the CCI evangelical Church branch in Tegucigalpa.

Here's the problem with naming an active pastor to this position.  Its a violation of article 77 of the Honduran constitution, which reads in part:
The ministers of the different religions may not hold public office ("cargos públicos")....

Further, immediately after the announcement, Edmundo Orellana pointed out that there was a problem with the naming of Solorzano in that it violated the constitution.  Today the government responded to Orellana, saying through its mouthpiece, Reinaldo Sanchez, that "we should be optimistic its not even been 24 hours since these citizens were sworn in..."  Sanchez went on to argue that the church has always played a role in resolving political crises in Honduras, and "in his case [Solorzano's], we need to recognize his active participation and struggle on distinct themes".  Sanchez went on to say:
"We cannot put aside the participation of people like Solorzano, as president of the Confraternidad Evangelica he will provide an important accompaniment to the Commission"

Sanchez continued, by calling all those who see Solorzano's participation as invalid to instead by positive about his appointment since he raises his daily prayers that his work that they are doing to clean up the police, is done in the best manor, and all Hondurans should be united in this task.

Notice how Sanchez deflected the comment by totally failing to deal with the fact that Solorzano is an active minister in a church by citing his role as President of the Confraternidad Evangelica as if that was the only job Solorzano has.

Hernandez did the same thing when he spoke to defend appointing Solorzano.  Hernandez said:
"The image I've accumulated through many years of  the Confraternidad Evangelica and Pastor Alberto Solorzano is of determined people contributing with their actions, to build a different Honduras."

Hernandez deliberately avoided mentioning the constitutional objections to Solorzano's appointment, and even went on to suggest the Catholic Church in Honduras would be appointing its own representative to the commission.

The appointment of Alberto Solorzano to the public commission to clean up the National Police is a violation of the Honduran constitution.  The Hernandez government doesn't care about the constitution, and as of now, it has a Supreme Court that will authorize anything that it does.   And the US government wholeheartedly supports him.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Naming The One Not Named

Rene Maradiaga Panchamé is the name I think you're looking for, the one omitted from the press reports from Honduras about a Honduran National Police commander who carried out the hit on the Honduran Drug Czar.

Yesterday the Honduran paper, El Heraldo, released a story and photos of an investigative report internal to the National Police in Honduras that names "El Señor Director de Servicios Especiales de Investigacion, Commissionado General " as the organizer of the assassination plot that killed then Honduran Drug Czar General Julián Arístides González Irias on the 8th of December, 2009.  Then security Minister Oscar Alvarez claims to have never seen this investigative report.  The then head of the National Police, Jose Luis Muñoz Licona, made a similar claim.  The last date stamped on the report itself is 2010 when it was received by the Inspector General of the National Police.

That blanked out name appears to belong to René Maradiaga Panchamé, who was listed in multiple contemporary press reports as the Director of Special Investigations of the Police (here, here, for example) in late 2009.

This is not entirely a surprise.

René Maradiaga Panchamé was a former member of Battalion 316, the notorious intelligence group that disppeared more than 300 Hondurans in the 1980s.  Battalion 316 was founded in 1979 by General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself trained at the School of the Americas and in Argentina.

The Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a report in 2002 called "Los Hechos hablan por si mismos:  informe preliminar sobre los desaparacidos en Honduras 1980-1993".  In it, on page 474, a declassified Honduran military document from the Commander of the Armed Forces, announces the appointment of the command structure for Battalion 316 for 1987.  Maradiaga Panchame was appointed to the battalion with the title "Jefe de Equipo Movil No. I".

This was the time of Iran-Contra scandal during the Regan presidency, when the CIA was funneling arms to the Contras to fight the Sandanistas and using cocaine and other illegal trade to fund the operations.  Maradiaga Panchame was joined at this time, by Napoleon Nazar Herrera, who was named "Jefe, Secretaria de Apoyo y Servicio" of the unit, whose name appears in the same list naming Maradiaga Panchame a member.  Here he would have become familiar with, and maybe involved in the drug trade between Nicaragua and Honduras which originated from the CIA program to finance and arm the Contras in Honduras.

In December, 2009, after the coup, he was appointed by coup leader Roberto Micheletti Bain, along with many of his Battalion 316 co-workers to command positions within the National Police. 

In October of 2012, Panchame Maradiaga, and Salomon Escoto Salinas were two of the more than 99 high ranking police commanders who were put on leave, paid but with no assignment.  They failed one or more of the confidence tests being used to weed out corrupt officers.  Others, like Luis Muñoz Licona and Ricardo Ramon del Cid were suspended.  These last two were in charge of the police when Alfredo Landaverde was murdered in Tegucigalpa in December 2011, and recent news accounts in Honduras suggest they organized his murder.  They were also in charge when the University Rector, Julietta Castellanos's son and another university student were murdered by the National Police.  The same two commanders were suspended because they protected the perpetrators of the murder and allowed them to escape from custody.

We know that by 2012 Maradiaga Panchamé was publicly reported as leader of Los Magnificos, a drug operation bringing drugs through Honduras from Nicaragua while still a member of the National Police.  We believe that today Los Magnificos would be operating as part of the Zetas cartel.  His drug trafficking contact was "Chepe" Luna (Jose Natividad Luna Pereira), a well known trafficker who worked the southern Honduran drug routes across Choluteca, with whom Maradiaga Panchamé was good friends. Luna ran Los Perrones, a transportista drug gang in El Salvador.
In 2013 the Tribunal Superior de Cuentas found that Maradiaga Panchamé had wealth that he could not account for.  It made a similar finding for his fellow Police Commander and former Battalion 316 member Napoleon Nazar Herrera.

2014 is an interesting year.   In January, Maradiaga Panchamé was one of many of the high ranking police commanders who resigned unexpectedly, and before they had completed the normal 35 years of service.  In May it appeared as if he had been arrested and released, but he told the Honduran press that he'd just been in Police headquarters doing business as part of the Police Hospital program.  On June 25, 2014 Chepe Luna was assassinated in Comayaguela.

So this is the name you're not allowed to know in Honduras, René Maradiaga Panchamé, because it might endanger the non-existent investigation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

FBI Confirms Cáceres Murder Scene Modified

The FBI, the Honduran Public Prosecutor's office, and the Agencia Técnica de Investigación Criminal (ATIC) all agree that the crime scene where Berta Cáceres was murdered has been altered to eliminate physical evidence, but you won't find that in any Honduran print media.  The sole report of this remarkable finding is Noti Bomba, a digital newspaper which promises to deliver uncensored news from Honduras.

Among their findings:  Cáceres's body was moved from where she was shot, in her bedroom, to the bathroom, and the body staged; bloody footprints were erased; blood was scattered about the house, on walls, tables, and other places, but failed to appear in the photographs gathered by the Intibuca police who "investigated" the crime scene first.  The shoe prints also fail to appear. 

Luminol, the chemical that detects traces of hemoglobin and glows in its presence, showed that blood evidence had been cleaned up in several places where there used to exist bloody shoe prints, and the luminol revealed recognizable patterns for the soles of those shoes.

The evidence, as reported, confirms the public letter of the sole witness to the crime, Gustavo Castro, who wrote that the crime scene had been altered.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sole Witness To Cáceres Murder Condems Honduran Government Investigation.

The Mexican indigenous rights activist, Gustavo Castro Soto, who was with Berta Cáceres when she was murdered is being held against his will by the Honduran government.  He is the sole eye-witness to her murder and was shot and wounded himself by Cáceres's attackers.

Late Monday afternoon, the following letter allegedly from him began to appear in Honduran social media and was picked up and reported even by the pro-government press in Honduras.  Among its many allegations are that the crime scene has been modified, and that even though he's been subjected to hours of looking at photos, no one has shown him photos of the hit men known to be associated with either of the dam companies, that the sole line of questioning was which member of COPINH did it.  The complete letter is provided below in a hurried translated below:

Dear friends, family, comrades in the struggle,

From the lands that saw the birth and death of our dear friend Berta Cáceres, beloved, supportive, and friend and exceptional woman, I'd like to thank you for all the support that little by little, in the moments that I can receive messages, I see the story of all that is out there moving.  Its not easy, the alarm here, but neither is it easy when one has to make thousands of declarations to the government.

Here the waters are turbulent.  The assassins that murdered Berta and who tried to murder me continue in impunity while the government tries to undermine the memory of Berta, the honor and the magnificent struggle that COPINH has made for so many years in the defense of the lives, the territories and human rights.

I saw Berta die in my arms, but also how her heart planted in every struggle that COPINH has realized in the many people that we knew.

There is no rain that resembles all the tears shed for her death, but there is no force that resembles the Lenca struggle that they face every day, hand in hand, in territorial disputes with the large transnationals.  They maintain an unbreakable struggle with more than 40 hydroelectric projects, dozens of mines, and a struggle to recover their lands in more than 50 locations in their ancestral region.  COPINH marches, walks, protests, recuperates, and extends its hand in solidarity with these movements.

That also was Berta.

The murder of Berta could signify for many companies and interests, the opportunity to advance on their territories.  But COPINH is stronger than ever and will need the support of all to join in the struggle with solidarity and with the memory of Berta in our hands.

The murderers already know that I did not die, and I'm sure they're wanting to finish their work.  Even though the Mexican consulate came immediately to my help and has not left me, in spite of the patrols and police, this does not mean that my life is out of danger, and that's something the Honduran government doesn't want to see.  They tried through today to retain me to control the information of my testimony.  They've denied me copies of my testimony.  They threatened that if I leave Tegucigalpa for my security, they've issued orders for my preventative arrest.  If I leave without their consent there will be no security and will be on our responsibility.  I declare that I committed no crime, and their legal questioning could be answered from my country.

It pains me enormously to be locked up alone in this city while thousands gather on the streets to say goodbye to our beloved Berta.  But I want to tell you that I am with you there, crying a sea of tears for lost Berta, but also thanking her for the life I know that has inspired me so much.  But I know that I have to leave and the government continues to prepare its sophistry to present to the public opinion that the murder of Berta was due to internal conflicts, when there's already complaints filed against those that have threatened to murder her, people associated with the hydroelectric company protected by the government.  They only want to investigate COPINH, to fragment it, and put an end to one of the principal and most emblematic struggles in the last 20 years in Honduras.

And my testimony is an obstacle for them to put who they want in prison.  I didn't hear cars arrive, nor leave, during the murder;  the crime scene has been modified and altered; the blood evidence and others left blank lines that later can be altered.  They've ordered a majority of COPINH to testify and not any of the suspects from earlier times that threatened to murder Berta.

Until today I was under official medical attention for my wounds with a supporting family and a supporting doctor.  It was all day yesterday and well into the night before I could change my bloody clothes; but the government continues to hold my luggage without giving it back to me.  I remained hungry and it was not until the afternoon that they offered me something to eat;  I did not taste food until today, replying to questions, taking tests and the many things that were happening.  It appears that they forgot that I'm a victim and for 48 hours I was not allowed to close my eyes, no rest, attending to their things.  The sweetest thing was having COPINH outside, in the room at whatever moment, accompanying my security, silent, attentive, marvellous.  One senses the human warmth and tremendous support.  One feels more secure with them than with a thousand police.

After leaving the Public Prosecutor's office last night to go to the court to give protected witness testimony, dressed in a black robe to my fingernails, and a black hood, I came back to more tests and questions;  Finally they gave me a chance to change and brought me my suitcase, but later took it away again.  The Counsel found me a hotel as hundreds on hundreds were arriving in the city to say goodbye to Berta.  Finally at dawn we arrived at a room in a hotel and I finally could rest for a few hours because I was supposed to leave Tegucigalpa in a few hours.  But they came to the hotel with photos and videos for me to identify the murderers that I saw face to face, but unfortunately all of the photos and videos were of marches of COPINH, and they wanted me to indicate which of them did it.
But they never showed me the faces of the owners of the companies, or their paid assassins  In place of two hours, it was four hours of questions and photos.

They came when we were about to get into the armored car that the Counsel had to go to Tegucigalpa when the high officials of the Prosecutor's murder office, and the Agencia Tecnica de Investigaciones Criminales arrived and asked me to stay to help them reconstruct the crime.  I consulted and found it convenient to stay with the condition that they let me go to the wake for Berta, with the people.  They agreed.  During the two hours of the reconstruction I drank coffee because I wanted to help reconstruct the murder.

I thought this would be the last that the government asked of me, because when I wasn't, they were tempted to place me in preventative custody because I am the only eye witness. But confusion reigned not only in our crushed hearts because we had to bury Berta before her time, but also reigned in the same Public Prosecutor, and in his offices the same reigned.  Well, I agreed to help them in this difficult test of reconstructing the events.  For Berta, for COPINH, so that some day justice would be done and those who promulgate death and destruction would be expelled from the land.

Thanks to so many people for their support, for the waiting of this valued people.  Thanks, really thanks, I was moved to tears and more, that my friends and so many people, had been so concerned that they condemned this situation.

Gustavo Castro Soto.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Whitewashing The Murder Of Berta Cáceres

The process has begun in Honduras to whitewash any possible investigation into who killed indigenous activist Berta Cáceres.  Minister of Security Julian Pachecho Tinoco confirms there's strong international pressure to solve her murder, but the police in Honduras have issued no statements beyond the first day, when they told the press they were holding 2 witnesses and a "suspect".

The Honduran Police have floated trial balloons in the press and social media blaming Cáceres, because even though she supposedly had government protection, she was staying at a house in Intibuca that they claimed not to know was hers, blaming her for not telling them.  They've also floated the rumor that it was someone known to her, perhaps an ex-lover who killed her since there was no sign of forced entry into the house.  What they haven't done is investigate any of the people who likely murdered her.

That's not just our conclusion, but also that  (translated here) of the Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia (MADJ) in Honduras.   None of the theories the National Police have proposed for her murder have followed up on the threats to her life and liberty disclosed by her to the police in Honduras on numerous occasions.

Among the suspects that MADJ says the police should be investigating are the local management of Desarrollos Energéticos, and particularly its managing engineer for the project Segio Rodríguez who has threatened the COPINH protest marchers, including Cáceres, with death.  MADJ also identifies the mayor of San Francisco de Ojuera, the town whose extent includes the region disputed.  Mayor Raul Pineda ignored the rights of the Lenca people to their land.

Then there's the National Police, and the Military Police, who violently break up peaceful protests in the region, sometimes shooting and killing protesters.  They have previously planted evidence in Cáceres's car during traffic stops and arrested her on charges that could lead to a 20 year prison sentence.  Luckily for Cáceres, that case failed to thrive in court.

Desarrollos Energéticos, SA. is the union of two previous energy companies in Honduras, Inversiones Las Jacarandas, represented by José Eduardo Atala Zeblah, which provided two thirds ($1.6 million) of the initial capital of the company, and Potencia y Energia de Mesoamerica (PEMSA), which supplied the other third ($832,500).  PEMSA was represented in the merger by Gerardo Carrasco Escobar.  However, as Rights Action noted in their report on the Agua Zarca dam conflict, little is known about Desarrollos Energeticos, Las Jacarandas, or PEMSA because Honduras has public access to corporation ownership records, which facilitates the obscuring of company ownership.  This same kind of corporate ownership secrecy often leads to corruption by what the financial industry calls Politically Exposed Persons (PEPS), those in high government positions amenable to embezzlement and massive bribery.

However, Rights Action also notes that Jose Eduardo Atala Zeblah and his brothers Jacobo Atala Zeblah and Pedro Atala Zeblah are on DESA's board of directors.  Jacobo is also Director of Honduran operations for the Banco de Centroamerica (BAC).  Jose Eduardo Atala served as Vice President of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America in Washington, DC, in 2011.  He also served as the Honduran representative to the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI) which undoubtedly served him well since it loaned DESA $24.4 million for the Agua Zarca dam project in 2012.

All we know about PEMSA is that its a Honduran holding company in the energy sector, and that it did not go away after forming part of DESA.  In 2014 and 2015, PEMSA engaged in other energy projects in Honduras, including the solar energy project at Agua Fria, near Nacaome, where its listed as the local partner of the Norwegian companies that supplied the technology and funded the project.

The Atala Zeblah brothers are cousins to Camilo Alejandro Atala Fraj, arguably now the richest man in Honduras.  Camilo Atala owns the Banco Ficohsa, a financial empire that stretches across 9 Latin American Countries.  Camilo Atala strongly backed the 2009 coup in Honduras  He was the head of the Consejo Empresarial de America Latina (CEAL) when it contracted with Lanny Davis's lobbying firm to lobby Hillary Clinton, then head of the State Department, and the US Congress, to accept the coup.  Ironically in 2015 while CEAL was awarding the Banco Ficohsa their Bank of the Year award, it was being named in Panama as one of 13 banks that allegedly laundered the proceeeds of Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli during his term in office.  In Honduras, the Banco Ficohsa threatened to sue any Honduran media that wrote about the allegations of money laundering calling them unfounded rumors despite the numerous articles in the Panamanian press that were their sources of information.  They even went so far as to claim that "We are not under investigation by any foreign entities", desmonstrably false at the time since they were being investigated by the Panamanian Corruption Prosecutor.  So far the Banco Ficohsa has avoided prosecution in Honduras, perhaps because four of the members of the Honduran Bank Oversight Committee (CNBS in Spanish) are former Banco Ficohsa executives and directors.

Recently, a new dam project in the same region, on the Rio Cangel, was awarded to a US firm, Rio Energy LLC, owned by Peter L. Ochs of Capital III, along with Canadian firm Hydrosys Consultants.  Hydrosys has sole responsibility for the planning and construction according to their own project description.  The partnership, called Blue Energy, allegedly told the Honduran government the dam was in the department of Santa Barbara, and therefore not on the Lenca land of the Rio Blanco community, but when they walked to the edges of their community in 2014, they found the dam being constructed in their territory, without consultation or their permission, a violation of ILO 169.  Nor are these two dam projects the only ones in the Lenca area.  Blue Energy is also currently doing a study for a project called the Zompopero dam, and Capital III plans on financing a total of 4 dams in Honduras, all of them in Lenca territory.

Because the Rio Blanco Lenca community is now fighting two dams the Honduran government has imposed on it without getting their consent, Berta Cåceres found herself mired in yet another set of protests and subsequently received death threats.  On January 27 of this year, a bus load of Rio Blanco protestors was stopped on their way to protest the Rio Cangel project by Honduran police in the community of Agua Caliente and the bus was searched for the presence of Berta Cáceres, who fortunately was not aboard the bus but rather back in Rio Blanco.  She got word that the police in Agua Caliente were going to kidnap her, beat her, sexually violate her, and more.  Last April Cáceres had said that "men close to Blue Energy" or "close to politicians" and "death squads promoted from government policies" were behind the death threats she was receiving.
men close to Blue Energy

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
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men close to Blue Energy

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article.
men close to Blue Energy,” a transnational Canadian company looking to build a dam in the Rio Blanco area in western Honduras, or people “close to politicians” and “death squads promoted from government policies” were behind the death threats leveled against her

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article.
men close to Blue Energy,” a transnational Canadian company looking to build a dam in the Rio Blanco area in western Honduras, or people “close to politicians” and “death squads promoted from government policies” were behind the death threats leveled against her

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article.
 On February 26, around 5 pm, Caceres received a phone call that told her a car was circling around her house in La Esperanza.  Cáceres was in San Pedro Sula at the time, and told police there that the two subjects named in expedientes 1001-2015-00107 and 1001-2015-00008 in Intibuca for carrying unregistered weapons and homicide who were threatening to kill her.  Both had been released by the court in Intibuca at the behest of the Honduran Public Prosecutor's office.

Berta Cáceres was murdered on March 3 at 1 am in the morning by two armed individuals in a white truck.  So far the Honduran police haven't made any effort to identify or interview any of those she told them were threatening to kill her, instead pursuing theories that blame her for her own death.  This is how murders are whitewashed in Honduras, by blaming the victims.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Indigenous Rights Activist Berta Cáceres murdered

Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres was murdered in her home in La Esperanza, Intibuca, this morning.  Preliminary accounts suggest someone broke into the house about 1 am this morning and killed her.  Caceres, who is also known for her environmental rights work, was most recently working on protecting the rights of the Lenca people being displaced without due process by the Chinese construction company, SinoHydro, building the Agua Zarca dam in her home department of Intibuca for the Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos, SA (DESA).

"They follow me; they threaten me with death, with kidnapping.  They threaten my family.  This is what we face" Caceres said.

She was one of the co-founders of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), the primary Indigenous rights group in Honduras.  In 2015 she won the Goldman Environmental Prize given to people for " for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk."  Her biography on the Goldman prize website says of her:  "Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam."

The dam project was owned by Desarrollos Energéticos, a Honduran company, and being constructed by SinoHydro, the state-owned Chinese construction company, and the German company Voith Hydro.  Funding came from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the Development Finance Company of the Netherlands, and the Central American Mezzanine Infrastructure Fund of EMP Global, a total of $24.4 million.

In 2006 she began her work representing the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, who were being forcibly displaced as part of the dam construction in violation of their ILO 169 rights.  Honduras is a signatory of ILO 169 but has largely ignored its obligations under the treaty.  Rio Blanco should have been consulted, and its permission requested, to authorize the dam project under ILO 169, but that never happened.

The current Honduran government militarized the dam project region in an attempt to break the Lenca blockade of the dam site, shot and killed peaceful protesters, and even went so far as to arrest Berta Cáceres on trumped up weapons charges, threatening her with imprisonment.  The charges were later dismissed.

Her body was flown to the capital, Tegucigalpa, by the Honduran Air Force where it was transferred to the morgue of the Forensic Medicine unit of the Police.  Outside the morgue, Lenca people have been building a "mural" with flowers and colored sawdust (like the murals done for Holy Week), this one depicting the Rio Gualcarque region she had defended from the hydroelectric project.

Cáceres is survived by her four children, and her mother.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

MACCIH Begins Amid Corruption Allegations.

The OAS's Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción en Honduras (MACCIH) will begin work in Honduras today with a working breakfast, and a meeting with President Hernandez.  It will do so without the required legal framework being in place in Honduras.

The OAS and the Government of Honduras had a showy signing of the MACCIH agreement in January in Washington DC.  Everyone acknowledged at the time that as a treaty, it still needed to be approved by the Honduran Congress to go into effect.  Yet the Office of the President of Honduras waited until last week to submit it to the Honduran Congress for approval, and Mauricio Oliva, the President of Congress, has just postponed the vote for a second time, to sometime next week, amid allegations that his party is offering a 12 million lempiras (about $5400 ) bribes to Congress members of opposition parties to vote for ratification of the agreement.

Outside of the National Party, none of the other political parties in Honduras have taken a stand on the approval of the agreement.  Many Hondurans, especially those that have been marching as the Indignados, are sceptical of the OAS mission.  They see it as a stalling attempt by their government to make it appear to the outside world that its working to correct corruption and impunity without actually doing anything.  Much of the MACCIH charter involves studies and recommendations, which then must be acted upon by already corrupt parts of the Honduran government, to correct their own corruption.

How ironic that the MACCIH mission will be beginning its work in Honduras today without the required Congressional ratification and amid allegations that the ruling party is offering bribes to vote for ratification of the treaty.  Not an auspicious start.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The New Supreme Court

In the end, the intransigence and bribes paid by the National Party succeeded in getting their slate of candidates for the Honduran Supreme Court elected, but it took six votes, and the rebellion of 3 Partido Anti-Corrupción women who ignored the party line.  On the fifth vote, February 10, congress elected 3 more magistrates to join the 8 already elected, and on February 11, the sixth vote, they elected the remaining 4 candidates.  The court, as it stands, will consist of 10 men and 5 women, 8 National Party members and 7 Liberal Party members, with the National Party holding the Chief Justice position.

Thee PAC Congress Members voted with the National Party on the Sixth round of voting:  Marlene Alvarenga, Kritza Perez, Ana Josefina Fortin.

Friday morning, Feb. 12, the Chief Justice, Rolando Argueta, issued a memo appointing each of them to one of the four branches of the court for the next seven years, as follows:

Rolando Argueta - Chief Justice

Sala Constitucional:
Lidia Alvarez, Jorge Zelaya,  Edwin Ortez, Reyna Hércules, Jorge Serrano

Sala Penal:
José Rogdríguez, Rafel Bustillo, Alma Guzman

Sala Civil:
Reynaldo Hernández, Wilfredo Méndez, Rina Alvarado

Sala Laboral:
Edgardo Cáceres, Miguel Pineda, Maria Castro

Update Feb. 14:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

National Party intransigence blocks 4th vote on Honduran Supreme Court

The National Party has lost 4 votes to elect its slate of proposed candidates for the Honduran Supreme Court, and yet, proposes to do a fifth vote today on the same slate of candidates.  At least for the moment, the two party system in Honduras is finally breaking down, and neither the Liberal, nor the National Party's are adapting to the existence of an opposition.

The National Party will try for a fifth time today to force the Honduran Congress to elect its slate of 7 candidates to the Supreme Court.  It negotiated this slate with its rival Liberal Party, but there's ample evidence in the vote tallies that Liberal Party members are defecting and not voting for the entire slate, especially if you believe that the bribed candidates from our previous post voted for the official slate of candidates. 

Last night in the fourth round of voting,  5 candidates hit 85 votes, one shy of the number of votes needed to elect the candidate to the court.   Two received 84 votes.  One received 83 votes.  So its clear that its not just the Libre, PAC, and PINU members holding up the election of justices, as the Congressional leadership wants us to believe. At least two of the people counting the votes last night:  Eduardo Coto and Jenny Murillo, have been named as having received bribes.

PAC has offered to negotiate a solution, but the National Party leadership continues to try and impose its will, with the help of the Liberal Party. At stake is which party, Liberal or National, controls the Supreme Court.  All of the current nominees are members of either the National or Liberal Parties.  None are members of PAC or Libre or PINU.  PAC is making the argument that justices should be selected not based on party affiliation, but rather on which would be best for the country.  So far the National Party doesn't agree.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Suborning the Honduran Congress

With the next round of voting to be held Tuesday, Radio Globo's David Romero Ellner has brought to light evidence of an elaborate con that funnels funds from the government to a trade association, and there to Congress members from opposition parties allegedly to vote for National Party Projects, including for their slate of candidates for the Supreme Court.

Reporter David Romero Ellner of Radio Globo is no stranger to conflict.  He was almost the first to publicize the IHSS scandal and to report its links back to the National Party and the Juan Orlando Hernandez election campaign.  He's currently awaiting sentencing having been found guilty of slandering a prominent National Party member in a trial conducted by the Supreme Court.

The con begins with a lawyer, supposedly named José Napoleón Panchamé.  He can't be found.  He supposedly contracted with the Associacion Nacional de Productores e Industriales de Barrios y Colonias de Honduras to fund projects Panchamé tells them to.  Romero has a copy of the contract they signed.  Romero alleges the funds come from the Tasa de Seguridad, the Oficina de Obras Sociales, and the 3 percent ISV tax.  The funding was actually used to pay Congress members from mostly opposition parties to support National Party projects.  In December alone, the Association issued 20 million lempiras ($952,000) in checks to Congress members.  However, there is also a check for 700,00 lempiras ($33,333) to Panchamé.

The news first broke last Wednesday (February 2) when Romero told Radio Globo listeners that Congressman Agusto Cruz Asensio of the Partido Demócrata Christiano (DC) and Dennis Sanchez of the Partido Libertad y Refundación (Libre) received checks drawn on the Banco DAVIVIENDA from the account of the Asociacion Nacional de Productores, a group Romero identifies as a front organization that channels funds from the National Party.  Cruz Asensio's check was for 99,800 lempiras ($4752) while Sanchez received 224,550 lempiras ($10,692).  Each received two sequentially numbered checks from the Association.

Cruz Asensio claims the checks are for services he gave to the Association, but will not explain what those services were.  Dennis Sanchez said the funds were a contribution to a fund for a water project for the community of Guacamaya, Santa Barbara, near Gualala, where he was born.

Nor are these the only two Congress members Romero implicates.  Today he named a further suite of Congress members, all originally members of Libre:  Héctor Padilla, Eduardo Coto, and Audelia Rodriguez.  Padilla received two checks on December 22 of 2015 which Romero alleges were for him to vote to amend the Honduran constitution to include the military police as a constitutionally defined part of the Honduran Armed Forces.  Padilla left Libre after that vote to join the Democrata Cristiana party.  Audelia Rodriguez received two checks, also on December 22, 2015 from the same source totaling $11,405.  She left Libre in May, 2015 because "being poor she wasn't welcomed."  Rodriguez and Padilla are both now independents, while Coto is a Democrata Cristiana.

Romero says that between 16 December, 2015 and 23 January 2016, that bank account issued at least 23 checks, including one to every member of Libre that has left the party:  Eduardo Coto, Jenny Murillo, Omar Rodriguez, Mariano Alvarado, Tatiana Canales, and Audelia Rodgriguez.  At least one unnamed member of PAC also received a check.

Suborning the votes of Congress is of course an illegal, if not long standing, practice in Honduras.  The OAS's MACCIH will have a long way to go to even begin to disentangle the corruption that is the current government of Honduras.