Archive for the ‘violence’ Category

Unthinkable violence drives Hondurans north to United States

  • In Mexico July 22, a Central American migrant walks toward “La Bestia,” a cargo train headed for the U.S. border. (Newscom/AFP/Getty Images/Ronaldo Schemidt)

http://ncronline.org/blogs/immigration-and-church/unthinkable-violence-drives-hondurans-north-united-states

They set out — alone, terrified and at the utter mercy of gangs and criminals — on a treacherous journey for the promised land: a mass exodus of children, some as young as 4.

Most are fleeing their homes in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and it is un milagro, a miracle, if they ever arrive at the U.S. border.

The migrant trails through Mexico are torturous and fraught with dangers. Most children must not only endure the blazing desert sun, but get through La Arrocera, a lawless region where many have been beaten, robbed or raped. More than a few are murdered.

They are often shaken down by corrupt Mexican police and immigration officers who threaten to deport them unless they pay a bribe. Some are kidnapped and held in groups until relatives pay a ransom.

But if their luck holds — if they escape serious injury and have not been deported or abducted — they might catch a ride on the roof of a freight train that could bring them near the U.S. border.

But the train, known as “La Bestia,” has its own deadly perils, as it passes through areas controlled by drug cartels. Children have fallen off or been thrown off the roof if they couldn’t pay criminals who prey on the easy targets.

If they do make it to the border, they face swimming the Rio Grande. If their families have paid a coyote to get them across the border, their smuggler is likely to also be a drug trafficker. Criminals control the crossings, which are usually the same paths that drug mules use to cross the river.

If they don’t drown, they arrive strangers in a strange land. More than a few of the girls are pregnant from rape. After a 1,500-mile trek through a modern-day heart of darkness, they are greeted with hostility by U.S. Border Patrol agents. More than 60,000 children have been arrested so far this year, many of whom are warehoused in detention centers, where they often languish in a legal limbo.

And yet they keep coming.

A desperate choice

Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, has offered an explanation: “While some children may be seeking to reunite with their parents or family in the United States, the motivating factor forcing them from their homes is violence and persecution. The children we spoke with told us they feared they would die if they stayed in their home country, and although they might die during the journey, at least they would have a chance.”

The latest United Nations homicide figures show that these children are fleeing the most violent countries in the world: Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are three of the top five murder capitals of the world.

Desperate families face a desperate choice: Do they risk having their children remain in their home country, where they have witnessed unthinkable violence and criminal gangs attack or forcibly recruit them? Or do they hand their children and a year’s wages over to smugglers who claim they can get them into los Estados Unidos?

The United Nations has urged the U.S. to treat the children from these three countries as refugees displaced by armed conflict, but politics being what they are, the White House and Congress are engaged in partisan battles and remain deadlocked over both short- and long-term solutions.

President Barack Obama has deported more than 2 million immigrants, a rate greater than that of any other president in history, but Attorney General Eric Holder has defended his record, saying, “The president has been unfairly labeled the deporter-in-chief.”

The National Lawyers Guild has criticized the administration for expediting the deportations of children “fleeing persecution and violence in Central America,” and for continuing to jail “thousands of women and children in hastily erected family detention centers, despite reports of abuse.”

It’s “a wholly inadequate response” and “ignores the root causes of this forced migration,” the guild said, calling on the administration to adhere to its international human rights obligations and provide legal counsel to the children.

To stem the flow from Honduras, the country with the largest number of migrant children, the Obama administration has proposed a plan to consider giving them refugee status once they are screened in their own country.

Meanwhile, House Republicans passed two measures before the summer recess that would speed up deporting children, legislation that a Catholic bishop called “a low point for our country,” and The Wall Street Journal blasted in an editorial. The newspaper took Republicans on for instigating “a screaming match on the floor in full view of the national media” and portraying itself as a “party whose preoccupation is deporting children,” something certain “to alienate many conservatives, never mind minority voters.”

Not about economics

Many Americans wrongly assume that most of these children are economic migrants. Some children no doubt want to escape extreme poverty. About 30 percent of Hondurans, according to the World Bank, live on less than $2 a day. And so-called free trade agreements like CAFTA, which protect corporations and promote sweatshops, have made the poor in these countries even poorer.

But poverty can’t explain the current crisis. Neighboring Nicaragua — the poorest country in Central America — has very few child migrants.

A May 27 Border Patrol report states that while Guatemalan children from rural areas might be seeking economic opportunities, those from Honduras and El Salvador “come from extremely violent regions where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the U.S. preferable to remaining at home.”

Of the top 10 cities children are fleeing, seven are in Honduras, the report shows, with San Pedro Sula being No. 1.

What has been largely missing from the public debate is the elephant in the room: the full extent to which past and current U.S. policies have fostered the dire and violent conditions in these three countries, especially the U.S. training and funding of Latin American militaries.

Add to that the insatiable U.S. demand for illegal drugs and a U.S.-led drug war that has miserably failed, judging from the thriving drug cartels, the ready availability of drugs, the increase in migrants and the exploding homicide rates.

The most salient piece absent from debate on the Honduran refugee crisis is the Obama administration’s failure to act in 2009 after the Honduran military overthrew the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya.

The coup was led by Gen. Romeo Orlando Vásquez Velásquez, who twice received training at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). The institution in Fort Benning, Ga., has trained so many coup leaders it was nicknamed the “School of Coups.” Two other Honduran SOA-trained gen-erals — Juan Melgar Castro and Policarpo Paz García — overthrew earlier governments.

In 2009, not only did then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resist international pressure to reinstate Zelaya, but the administration allowed the training of Honduran officers to continue at the Fort Benning school despite its claims that it had cut military ties to the nation and despite federal law requiring that U.S. military aid and training be suspended when a country undergoes a military coup.

The blowback was almost immediate, as the U.S. disregard for the rule of law wasn’t lost on the coup leaders.

Right after deposing the president, according to a 2014 Human Rights Watch report, “the de facto government suspended key civil liberties, including freedom of the press and assembly. In the ensuing days, security forces responded to generally peaceful demonstrations with excessive force and shut down opposition media outlets, which caused several deaths, scores of injuries, and thousands of arbitrary detentions.”

In 2011, the Honduran Congress enacted a “decree allowing military personnel to carry out public security duties,” the report said. In 2013, it passed another law creating “a military police force with powers to seize control of violent neighborhoods and carry out arrests, among other duties, despite a history of abuse by the military against civilians.”

The bloodshed has gone unabated, with government and private security forces killing people alongside the drug cartels and gangs. A common perception is that gangs and drug cartels cause most of the violence, but human rights advocates say that these elements can’t flourish without the complicity of the police and the military.

The country’s murder rate spiked after the coup, going from 61.3 murders per 100,000 in 2008 to a whopping 90.4 in 2012, according to the latest U.N. figures, making Honduras the murder capital of the world. El Salvador ranks fourth with 41.2 and Guatemala fifth with 39.9.

The Human Rights Watch report concludes that the country “suffers from rampant crime and impunity for human rights abuses. … Perpetrators of killings and other violent crimes are rarely brought to justice.”

Yet, despite the repression and corruption, the U.S. has poured tens of millions of dollars into the country since the coup. And SOA/WHINSEC is still training Honduran officers, although it’s impossible to assess the impact of the ongoing training. That’s because the school has refused to release the names of its graduates ever since it was found in 2003 to have admitted human rights abusers like Salvadoran Col. Francisco del Cid — who had been cited by the 1993 U.N. Truth Commission for commanding a unit that dragged people from their homes and shot them at point blank range.

Children as collateral damage

The Obama administration’s inaction and disregard for the rule of law made Honduran children collateral damage from U.S. policies.

It also reinforced a bitter lesson Hondurans learned in the 1980s, when the Reagan administration pressured its leaders into joining the U.S. war against Nicaragua — a war condemned by the International Court of Justice for “unlawful use of force.”

Washington had assembled a Contra army, comprised largely of Somoza’s former National Guard and led by officers the dictator had sent through the School of the Americas, then based in Panama.

These graduates included Ricardo “Chino” Lau, the counterintelligence chief implicated in the murder of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero; José Benito Bravo Centeno, a Contra commando trainer who murdered POWs; and Armando López, whom another Contra called a bloodthirsty serial killer.

The U.S. pressured Honduran President Roberto Suazo to make Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martínez, a 1978 SOA graduate, the head of the Honduran armed forces, a favor he returned by aiding and abetting the Contra operation.

Alvarez created Battalion 3-16, a CIA- and SOA-trained Honduran military unit that The Baltimore Sun exposed as a death squad, with former members admitting the people they interrogated were stripped, then shocked by electrical wires clipped to their genitals, often with rubber masks wrapped tightly around their faces to cut off their air supply. Women were routinely raped.

And yet Alvarez was awarded the Legion of Merit by the Reagan administration for encouraging “democratic processes.”

Hondurans not only saw the U.S. honoring a death squad creator, but illegally selling missiles to Iran to finance the Contra war after Congress cut off funding.

The Reagan administration’s point man in the Iran-Contra scandal was ex-Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, who also tried to recruit Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega, a five-time graduate of SOA, to destroy a Nicaraguan airport and an oil refinery.

What’s more, secret manuals were produced during the Reagan administration for the Honduran military, the Contras and the SOA, whose manual advocated torture and assassination and were passed out by U.S. mobile training teams.

No one was ever disciplined for producing or using the materials, another clear message to the militaries of Honduras and other Central American countries that anything goes.

Today, Honduran government death squads are using tactics similar to those used by the death squads of the 1980s: arriving in the middle of the night, masked and in dark unmarked vehicles, to assassinate their victims. A warehouse security camera caught a death squad in action in 2013, executing two students in the back of the head as they lay face-down in the street.

In December 2013, the chief of Honduras’ National Police, Gen. Juan Carlos Bonilla, an SOA graduate known as “el Tigre,” was fired after he was linked to a death squad.

“A death squad government may not be the Obama administration’s first choice for Honduras,” Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote in The Guardian, “but they prefer it to another left government that people might elect if they were able to organize in a free election.”

Even a 2013 U.S. State Department report admitted that there continues to be “widespread impunity” and “unlawful and arbitrary killings by security forces, organized criminal elements, and others.” It also noted that seven journalists were killed and violent deaths of women increased by 246 percent in recent years.

This spring, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández sponsored a controversial military program called “Guardians of the Fatherland” to indoctrinate children as young as 5.

It was criticized as a path to militarization by José Guadalupe Ruelas, director of the children’s shelter Casa Alianza. In May, Honduran military police arrested, beat and dragged him face-down by his feet, according to Amnesty International and the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras.

Ruelas had also issued a report detailing “an emerging pattern of organized people with access to expensive vehicles, weapons and equipment, who kidnap, torture and kill poor children and youths, in almost total impunity.”

The bottom line is that the immigration crisis will never be solved as long as the U.S. funds repressive governments and trains their militaries under the pretext of the drug war, said Arturo Viscarra, an immigration lawyer who fled his Salvadoran homeland as a child and serves as the advocacy coordinator for the human rights organization SOA Watch.

“The U.S. has enormous power over Central America and an obligation to fix what it’s broken,” he said.

“When warning George Bush about invading Iraq, Colin Powell cited the Pottery Barn rule that if you break it, you own it.” The same applies to Honduras, Viscarra said — and Guatemala and El Salvador.

[Linda Cooper and James Hodge are the authors of Disturbing the Peace: The Story of Father Roy Bourgeois and the Movement to Close the School of Americas.]

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Dina Meza reports that at 12:30 AM last night José Guadalupe Ruelas, Director de Casa Alianza was arrested and beaten by the Military Police. (Original Spanish version is below the English report)

Casa Alianza presented in recent weeks a report called “MONTHLY REPORT ON THE STATUS OF THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN HONDURAS ” which states that “In March (2014), 93 children and young people under 23 years of age were victims of violent death and / or arbitrary execution. 84 had been recorded in February (2014). These reports clearly show that either JOH’s “iron hand” approach to fighting homicides isn’t effective or is directly contributing to the increase.

He was driving his car in front of the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa when a motorcycle crashed into him. Military Police showed up and began hitting him in his ribs knocking him to the ground. They then dragged him and kicked him in the face. And took him to the Police station in Colonia Kennedy.

Dina states, In a phone conversation to # 22 28 56 86, with a Transit cop named Martinez, to inquire into the detention of Guadalupe , Martinez stated to me ” he is not arrested , is held , do not confuse things , but he is taking breathalyzer tests and we’ll see what happens”.

Ruelas stated to Dina that they have given him 4 breathalyzers but since he hadn’t been drinking the tests are negative.

Felix Molina reports, “Ruelas was finally taken by police to a hospital in Tegucigalpa were he presented contusions on the back, sides, chest and face and he might have a broken nose. The Police have accused him of running over two members of the security staff of Minister Arturo Corrales. They could impose charges later this morning. Ruelas accuses JOH.”

LIBERTAD PARA CHABELO MORALES!! Henry Osorto, comandante de la Policía Nacional en el departamento de Olancho. La Familia Osorto comenzó una guerra contra los campesinos de Guadalupe Carney, que terminó en la muerte de su FAMILIARES ASÍ COMO EL CAMPESINO ARNULFO GUEVARA. LA SANGRE ES EN LAS MANOS DE LOS OSORTOS. JOSE ISABEL “CHABELO”

Henry Osorto

Henry Osorto

MORALES FUE CONDENADO POR ASESINATOS DE QUE NO HAY EVIDENCIA.

Melvin Osorto hermano de Henry Osorto, Comandante del Policia Nacional de Olancho. Esta familia empiezó una guerra contra los y las campesinos y campesinas de Guadalupe Carney. Esta guerra resultó en la muerte del miembros de la familia Osorto y en various campesinos que incluido Arnulfo Guevarra. Esta sangre es en los manos de los Osortos. Es sus influencia que resultó en la injusticia contra Chabelo Morales. No hay evidencia de culpabilidad solo las palabras del esto Comandante de Policia Nacional y “testigos” fueron pagado por Osorto.Melvin Osorto

Why is there so much violence in our country?

 

The violence in Honduras has old roots, but the newest ones have grown rapidly in the last 30 years. The accumulation of wealth, resources, land and power in few hands has generated levels of violence that now seem uncontrollable.

 

Ismael Moreno

 

No matter how much people may want to hide it, the Honduras we’re currently living in has escaped the hands of all sectors, including politicians, business people and even the US government. Everyone is experiencing the chaos, although not everyone admits or assumes responsibility for it. And everyone is trying to get the country back in check, but they’re doing so individually, which is yet another reason behind the current Honduran crisis.

Everybody’s affected by the violence, which in fact is governing the whole of society, controlling it, leading it, blackmailing it and threatening it. But the violence isn’t self-generated; it’s triggered, directed and sustained by people, and each sector blames the rest. By stopping to examine the violence, we can find answers to what has happened in Honduras and what could come, and can identify those responsible and their victims.

Three characteristics
of the last three decades

Honduras is a very violent society and nobody escapes it or the fear it produces. “Nobody knows when they leave the house whether they’re going to return” is a comment heard in all settings. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, stated during a Latin American forum at the end of April that, in proportion to its population, Honduras has the most alarming violation of the freedom of expression in the world and is the country in which the most journalists have been killed in the least amount of time. San Pedro Sula is known as our industrial capital, but is now known the world over as the city that beat Ciudad Juárez to the title of the city with the most violent deaths. Honduras’ violence feeds off transnational criminal organizations. But what is there here that makes this external factor flourish so much in our country, that structures everything around violence?

In a search for answers, I’d like to explore three closely linked characteristics that have formed over the last three decades and help explain the violence. These decades represent the period of elected governments that started in 1982 and alternated peacefully and uninterruptedly until June 2009, when the process was abruptly broken by the coup promoted and provoked by the same people who had alternated in power up until that point.

First characteristic:
The concentration of wealth

The first characteristic of these three decades is the accelerated accumulation and concentration of resources and wealth in the hands of just a few families to a degree never before seen in Honduran history. It’s perhaps only comparable to the concentration of land and resources in the hands of the transnational banana companies that dominated national llife during almost all of the 20th century.

Social and economic analysts of the final decades of the last century used to argue that before the rise of these families, the lack of an agricultural and industrial modernization process in Honduras was due largely to the absence of a national bourgeoisie or oligarchy with the capacity to promote its own capitalist project, leaving the whole effort in the hands of the banana companies and their capital through the enclave model.

Today, a decade into the 21st century, that reading needs updating, as Honduras now has an oligarchy that controls all the strings of commercial, speculative, agroindustrial, energy, communications, tourism and transport capital, under the tutelage of multinational capital and with the backing of the state institutions. The decisions with real weight are made by these families, which include no more than a dozen surnames. They control, concentrate, exploit and convert into capital most of our natural and mining resources, at the same time crushing small and medium enterprise.

The same names
from breakfast to lunch…

The concentration of the country’s wealth in their hands puts these families at a great distance from the rest of society. They are families of really rich people, oligarchs in every sense of the word, surrounded by an extensive array of people who serve them: front men, administrators, employees, politicians and officials, middle men, suppliers and a vast range of professionals. Nothing worth money in Honduras, nothing that can be commercialized, is outside this power circle.

If you’re in the kitchen and decide to fry up some eggs and ham, the eggs, oil, stove, gas or whatever energy you use, the refrigerator where you keep the eggs and the coffee and sugar you’ll have with your breakfast are all sold by people with five surnames: Facussé, Canahuati Larach, Kafie, Ferrari and Kafatti. While having breakfast, you listen to the radio news, which is brought to you by a station owned by Farrari and Villeda-Toledo or Andonie Fernández. And if you prefer a TV debate program, you’ll watch it on one of the Ferrari and Villeda-Toledo channels. If a newspaper is more your cup of tea, then you’ll buy one owned by Canahuati, Rosenthal or Flores Facussé.

If you decide to go out for your lunch break and you call a friend to invite him or her along, you’ll be doing so with a cell phone from a company owned by the same families you acquainted yourself with during breakfast. And if you decide to eat at a fast food place, whichever franchise you choose will be in the hands of one of those same surnames. If you stop at a supermarket on the way home to pick up some soap and toilet paper, as well as soft drinks and snacks for the kids, all are associated with the same surnames from your breakfast and lunch. Remembering that that you need gas, you have the choice of filling up at any station under the control of the Terra group of Fredy Nasser, who is part of the Facussé family.

…and from supper to bed

Back home, you take a pill for a headache brought on by the hard day’s work. You bought it at the pharmacy chain owned by the Faraj-Atala family—who also own the Ficohsa bank—and by the same surnames that made their appearance at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Feeling better, you sit down in front of the television, which you purchased—using a Ficohsa bank credit card—at DIUNSA, Honduras’ largest import store, owned by the Faraj-Atalas, who jointly hold shares with the Facussés, Canahuattis and Ferraris. If you watch a national soccer match, the rights to whichever game you chose are owned by the Canahuatis, Ferraris, Rosenthals, Atalas and Abufeles. Even if you decide to watch the Real Madrid-Barcelona game, you’ll be watching a Ferrari and Villeda-Toledo channel, as they are the only ones with the rights for international games.

You finally go to bed to get some rest. Your bed is from a distributor controlled by the Faraj-Atalas. Perhaps before dozing off, you remember hearing on the news that there will be rallies of candidates from the two main political parties on the weekend. Well, the same surnames you breakfasted with are the leaders of both parties.

Your whole life is controlled by a group of families with no more than 12 surnames. They’re the same ones that have been taking a few cents out of their pockets over the year to donate to the Telethon, a charity initiative controlled by the Ferraris and the Villeda-Toledos.

This scandal generates violence

Such concentration of resources, wealth and decisions in so few hands spells disaster for small and medium enterprise as a result of extremely reduced opportunities to compete in commerce, industry and production in general, the loss of purchasing power due to increased unemployment, abandonment of the countryside, migration and inhuman growth of the urban centers, among other social and economic indicators. Moving from this host of shortages to crime and violence is only a matter of time and opportunity, because the violence has already been set up by the hoarders of resources and wealth. Their concentration of that wealth, those resources and that power is what triggers the instability and violence in the country. It’s scandalous and the scandal is growing because it has developed in just 30 years with a State that has passed laws to facilitate everything for them and give them carte blanche in the name of national development and the common good. And it has often been developed with the blessing of the top Church leaders.

Second characteristic:
Accumulation of conflicts

A second defining characteristic of the last three decades of formal and representative democracy are the conflicts that are not only unresolved but also accumulate. While the wealth has concentrated in few hands, the unresolved conflicts have expanded. There are conflicts over land, others related to deficient education and health care, around tax collection, over insecurity and violence… It’s like an enormous pressure cooker. If we had to order these explosive conflicts by priority, the land issue would occupy first place.

In the Aguán Valley, dozens of peasants have been murdered in recent years over agrarian conflicts. Recently, different peasant groups occupied lands in various areas of the country. They were later violently attacked and evicted by joint police and army operations. The argument for the evictions is the same: the peasants are invading private property and the State must firmly defend the owners’ rights. As one politician put it, in a comment like many others that filled the press in reaction to the occupations, “The peasants are being incited by politicians interested in destabilizing the government. This problem has to be confronted with the energy that must characterize a serious government and an equally serious republic.”

The man who made this statement is Juan Ramón Martínez, who was the minister of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) at the beginning of the nineties in the National Party government of Rafael Leonardo Callejas. That government saw the passing of the Agricultural Modernization Law, a juridical instrument that legalized the sale to private individuals of lands that had been the object of agrarian reform. It was a time in which we witnessed the land market phenomenon, with the organized peasants in the reformed sector being induced by diverse means to sell their lands at cut-rate prices so they could be extensively planted with African palm, particularly in the Aguán Valley region. As head of INA, Juan Ramón Martínez directed that land privatization and concentration process, using an instrument that was approved over and above the Constitution of the Republic.

Concentrating land
generates violence

The agrarian reform lands passed into the hands of Miguel Facussé, Rosenthal and a handful of other agro-industrialists who, with state protection, diversified their capital into all areas until they became a very powerful economic, agro-industrial, mining, commercial, financial and political oligarchy. Twenty years after implementing that juridically violent land grab mechanism, its main promoter is now calling on the government to use institutional violence against the peasants, who were the main victims of a process that only succeeded in accumulating the agrarian conflict around the nation. Using the law to argue for land concentration is not only unethical, it’s also like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

A big private business leader told one media organization that “the peasant invaders are threatening private property, which is the life of Hondurans.” It’s true that private property is life, but only when ensured for the whole of society. When land is concentrated in just a few families at the cost of the hunger and precariousness of thousands of families, then private property threatens life rather than being the source of it.

Private property concentrated in just a few hands generates violence. As Rafael Alegría, a veteran peasant leader and current political leader of the National Grassroots Resistance Front, told envío: “For 20 straight years we have put up
with the policy of concentrating land, of commercializing land. Now people are talking about the alienation of land, which means that national land, which belongs to the State, communal land, which belongs to the municipality, and fiscal land, which has been donated by or bought from the State, is virtually in private hands. And those private lands can no longer be touched.”

In these 30 years, the buying up of land by agro-industrial companies has gone hand in hand with abandonment of the countryside and of the peasantry. A while ago now, economists from the Foreign Debt Social Forum showed us that for every 100 lempiras in the national budget, 70 remain in the capital city and only 5 are invested in the countryside. Such inequality in the resource distribution explains why 87 out of every 100 young people who emigrate to the United States leave from rural areas.

The third characteristic:
The political class controls the State

The third characteristic that defines the last 30 years and helps explain why there is so much violence in Honduras is
the subordination of the whole state institutionality to the political party system. All elections to public posts depend on
the National Congress and its decisions respond to calculations, negotiations and agreements among the top political leaders, subordinated to the discretionary power those same politicians have given to the Congress president.

His functions and attributions turn him into a monarch. Most of the bills debated in congressional plenary sessions first require the president’s approval. The negotiations he holds at his discretion are with the leaders of the political parties, controlled by the same surnames that control all the strings of economic life or by politicians loyal to that powerful oligarchy.

The independent surveys conducted in recent years put the political parties among the institutions most discredited with society. They are the paradigm of corruption, verticality, anti-democracy, impunity, blackmail and cynicism. Yet it is precisely that discredited party system that makes the state decisions. If the oligarchy needs a legal concept to make sure the fiscal policy never affects them, it just takes a few agreements and some money between the leaders of the political parties and the Congress president for the business class’ wish to become law. It only takes a few businesspeople interested in mining, forest and water exploitation so they can become even richer for the political party leaders and Congress president to hammer out an agreement for that wish to become law as well. And it only takes a few businesspeople interested in giving more power to the army and police to protect their businesses for the political leaders and the president of Congress to approving legislative reforms to make that happen. The same happens with the decisions taken in the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Supreme Court or any other state institution.

An institutionality that
generates violence

The filling of top public administration posts isn’t based only on professional competence. Appointments are also made as favors and on no few occasions to protect people with a long record of actions that are at odds with transparency, honesty and ethics. Such politicians generate violence and impunity. The State’s institutionality serves as a refuge for people who occupy themselves committing crimes, establishing alliances with transnational criminal organizations, and turning whole institutions into machineries dedicated to crime and criminality, as in the case of the National Police.

A consensus against this oligarchy

What can be done? Honduras needs a new national consensus. It needs to define a new course that breaks with the axis around which this concentration of resources and wealth is structured and that causes violence in society. We need a consensus against the oligarchy and its model, which is responsible for generating exclusion and impoverishment.

Public policies have to be agreed to consensually. One such policy should be a return to an agrarian reform that guarantees private land ownership based on productivity, social justice, security and food sovereignty and breaks with the system of latifundia and minifundia (vast estates and tiny landholdings), defining a the minimums for private land ownership.

Public policies that break with the current process of concentrating natural resources and wealth must be consensually agreed. The natural resources must be under the State’s direct responsibility and be administered based on national sovereignty and the welfare of the communities. All projects involving forests, water and minerals must be based on a harmonious relationship between the State, the communities and the private sectors, giving the State the last word.

Consensus also has to be sought around new fiscal policies that guarantee the disappearance of tax havens. This is
what Honduras has become for a few businesspeople and for the multinationals that invest and use the country’s resources tax free. We need a fiscal policy based on revenue, income and property in which those who earn more pay more and those who have less income are protected by the State. Until there is a new fiscal policy, there will be no way to break with the machinery that produces inequalities.

Furthermore, there is a need to build consensuses on public policies that promote, protect and provide incentives to small- and medium-scale enterprise, social enterprises and all productive, industrial and grassroots initiatives that generate employment, particularly for urban youth. Consensus is required around education, health, housing, energy, communication and the cleaning up and restructuring of the institution of justice in order to tackle impunity and defend human rights.

How can we re-forge politics?

There are small signs of the budding emergence of proposals aimed at breaking with the current system of political parties. But this bipartite system has always shown its capacity to capitalize on all political crises that we have experienced over these three decades and steer them toward its own ends, and there are signs it’s seeking to do so in the current situation.

The men who have sustained the top-down nature of the caudillo-producing patriarchal culture are the same ones who in the National Congress approved 40% participation by women in elected posts for the 2013 elections and 50% in the 2017 elections. That’s known as a coopting capacity, a maneuver the political parties are experts at performing.

Will the LIDER party achieve it?

A recently emerged new proposal is LIDER, a party that has just been legalized and is registered to participate in the elections. The party has five internal tendencies, ranging from the Left and unions to groups that split from the Liberal Party and continued supporting deposed President Mel Zelaya. LIDER also has a double consensus: all tendencies agree to Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, as the party’s presidential candidate and Manuel Zelaya Rosales as its single leader and means of support.

LIDER is looking to capitalize on the resistance force that came together following the coup d’état. Will this young leftist party break with the logic, practices, verticality and corruption inherent in Honduras’ political party system? Will it attract new generations committed to ethics in politics? Or will it be co-opted, as all previously launched proposals for reforms and change have been?

Ismael Moreno, sj, is the envío correspondent in Honduras.

2 more assassinations took place this week in the Bajo Aguan, Honduras. The targeting of the children of campesino leaders has been a frequent tactic. The teenage sons of known campesino leaders were both shot, one survived. Another campesino was killed in front of his family. More info below.

English Translation of declaration yesterday by the Permanent Observatory for Human Rights in the Aguan

Alert for Human Rights Organizations and for the Social and Popular Movements, and the national and international community:

On Saturday, February 8, 2014 between the communities of San Esteban, Ocotes Altos and Los Leones, in the municipality of Trujillo in the Department of Colon between 7-9pm masked/covered persons in a private vehicle with no license plates and with firearms entered the community to assassinate Walter Geovanny Sevilla Rosales, aged 18 years, firing 2 shots that took his life immediately and at the same time 2 mortal shots at Wilmer Joel Sevilla Rosales, age 17 years who after hiding for a short time was found still alive and taking by a patrol vehicle from Operation Xantruch to the public hospital in Trujillo. Following this the aggressors went to the house of campesino Victor Antunez , age 50 to kill him with various shots in front of his children, his wife and to the consternation of his neighbors who in moments came to his aid to try and save his life, nonetheless the gravity of his wounds caused his death almost immediately. We denounce the fact that Walter Sevilla and his cousin Wimar Sevilla are sons of well known leaders of the campesino Associative Enterprise of San Esteban, who are in danger as for some time they have been receiving death threats from unknown persons.

We denounce that since 2010 the communities of San Esteban, Ocotes Altos and Los Leones have been the scene of the permanent structural violence that controls/dominates the zone and which has killed more than 6 campesinos that as of the present the motives for the deaths have not been clarified.

We denounce that in the month of January of 2014 the Permanent Observatory for Human Rights in the Aguan received a complaint from family members of a 17 year old living in the same areas mentioned above who was detained and transferred by Operation Xatruch to the police in Trujillo without showing any arrest warrant and who after being interrogated was released. In the same month of January we received two more complaints from other families of youth of the same age who accused Operation Xatruch of having captured and tortured them during a strong interrogation in the same zone between Los Leones, Ocotes Altos and San Esteban.

For these reasons WE DEMAND that the Honduran government, through its investigative and Justice entities in the region give a serious and responsible answer about these actions that continue to cause the campesino families to mourn and which are increasing the levels of structural violence, submitting the citizenry to the social decomposition that is seen day after day in the Department of Colon.
Sunday February 9, 2014

March 7, 2014
Report from SOAW Observer in Honduras Brigitte Gynther with additional information added by La Voz de los de Abajo. Original Spanish communique from COPINH linked above.
Yesterday (March 5, 2014)  7 people tried to kill Maria Santos, seriously attacking her, her 12-year old son Paulo, and her husband Roque, with a machete.  Maria is a vocal leader in the struggle in Rio Blanco and member of the Indigenous Council.  Maria has received numerous death threats because of her vocal opposition to the Agua Zarca Dam.  Yesterday, around midday, she was on her way home from making food at the school when 7 people who were hiding in wait came out, surrounded her and attacked her with machetes, rocks, and sticks.  Her husband had been calling her as she walked home because of the constant threats she received, and when he heard she was surrounded, he and her son ran out.  Her husband pled with them not to kill her and when her son ran to try to help his mom, the people attacked her 12-year old son as well, cutting off his right ear and part of his face.  His cranium is fractured.  They also attacked her husband who was also seriously injured.  All three are in the hospital.  Maria is a strong member of COPINH Rio Blanco resistance, despite receiving death threats including threats from the people who attacked her yesterday.
The indigenous community in Rio Blanco has been fighting for  2 years against the construction of a dam that privatizes and destroys the  Gualcarque River  and will flood lands that are part of the indigenous patrimony in the region. The DESA Company (Honduran) , first in partnership with Chinese state owned company SINOHYDRO which has now withdrawn from the project, has used private paramilitary guards, paid assassins, Honduran military and National Police to attack, murder and intimidate the community. In August of 2013 another community activist Tomas Garcia was shot and killed by soldiers. Indigenous leaders and members of the Lenca organization COPINH have faced criminal charges for their involvement in the struggle for environmental and indigenous rights.

“More Terror” in Honduras, as Another Unionist Murdered

February 10, 2010

‘More Terror’ in Honduras, as Another Unionist Murdered

February 8
8:31 am
By Kari Lydersen

The body of 29-year-old Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda, still dressed in her nurse’s scrubs and killed by a bullet, turned up in the Loarque neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on February 4. Zepeda had young children and was a leader of the SITRAIHSS labor union (Workers Union for the Honduran Social Security Institute). She had been abducted that afternoon while leaving a union meeting.

The administration of the newly inaugurated President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo has called Zepeda’s murder and other recent attacks common crime. But the Honduran resistance movement – mobilized since the June 2009 coup against then-president Manuel Zelaya – see it as a clear message.

Trade unionists, especially public sector workers like Zepeda, are among the strongest and largest factions making up the resistance coalition. Opposition to powerful unions was apparently among the motivations for the coup in the first place, and all the country’s major union federations are part of the resistance front.
Unions are an impediment to neoliberal pushes to increase privatization, and foreign companies fear clashes with unions or unionizing efforts in Honduras’ maquila (factory) sector.

Since Lobo’s inauguration on January 27, there have been 10 to 15 assassinations of resistance members and leaders, according to Victoria Cervantes, a Chicago activist who recently returned from meeting with unionists and other groups in Honduras with the group La Voz de los de Abajo.

Since the coup, a number of people have been killed and thousands arrested and detained. Most of the previous deaths involved police and soldiers opening fire on crowds or attacking people in the midst of protests. Such open state violence has ebbed in recent weeks.
But the targeted kidnapping, torture and assassination of a handful of activists like Zepeda is more chilling and evokes hallmarks of the ruthless right-wing death squads of the 1980s in Central America and more recently in Colombia, according to human rights groups.
(Jeremy Kryt has been reporting from Honduras on such human rights abuses for In These Times.)

“Before you might have had 300 army trucks storming through Tegucigalpa,” said Cervantes. “That could be terrifying, but what’s probably more terrifying is the idea that if you are identified as part of the resistance movement, you or your daughter could be snatched up and tortured. This is more terror at a lower political cost.”

Trade unionists and gay and lesbian groups, who have become increasingly visible and organized as part of the resistance, have been the main focus of recent attacks and intimidation. Campesino communities, especially those involved in contested land takeovers, have also suffered recent increases in violence and repression from police and landowners.
“Campesinos have always suffered some level of violence, but this is different,” said Cervantes.

There have reportedly been beheadings and a man’s tongue was cut out. Cervantes said Honduran officials known for paramilitary activity in the 1980s have also resurfaced as part of the coup and/or in Lobo’s conservative party.

“It’s the same actors as the ‘80s, and they’re desperate to terrify the resistance out of existence,” said Cervantes. “Again, it’s multinational companies tied in with the oligarchy. History keeps repeating itself.”

San Pedro Sula’s violence mirrors Honduras’ pain

Associated Press By ALBERTO ARCE April 9, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/san-pedro-sulas-violence-mirrors-honduras-pain-154855635.html

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (AP) — This is a city besieged by crime in all its forms: gang violence, drug cartel killings and rampant extortion compounded by a fear of authorities.

Honduras is now among the most dangerous places on Earth. No other country matches its rate of 86 slayings per 100,000 inhabitants a year, according to a 2011 United Nations Report. That is roughly 20 times the U.S. homicide rate.

And it’s worse in San Pedro Sula, often cited as Honduras’ most violent city, with a murder rate almost double the national average.

In this Wild West city, gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, operate with impunity. MS-13 was born in the 1980s among Central American-born inmates in the prisons of California and spread to Central America when members were deported back home by the U.S. They found fertile ground in Honduras and other countries with underfunded police forces and corrupt officials.

Hondurans say gangs have imposed an almost unchallenged reign of extortion, murder and drug trafficking on this city and others.

Mayor Juana Carlos Zuniga recognizes that San Pedro Sula is threatened by violence that authorities cannot control. And the city’s location near Honduras’ Atlantic coast and border with Guatemala have put it on key international drug trafficking routes.

“As a local government we don’t have the necessary instruments to fight the well-defined and identified violence derived from drug trafficking that overwhelms us,” Zuniga told The Associated Press.

One night recently, the Catalino Rivas public hospital in San Pedro Sula could have been operating in a country at war.

There were not enough stretchers for the 19 wounded who arrived that night, and the people who brought them in had to shift the patients about. Pools of blood on the floor went unmopped.

Natalia Galdamez, the doctor on duty, received three patients with gunshot wounds. They said a gunman suddenly appeared and shot them without saying a word.

“It’s tough to believe. This was a paid hit. We hear the same story all the time,” Galdamez said.

Drug trafficking isn’t the only source of San Pedro Sula’s violence.

At a nearby taxi stand, a driver with 21 years of experience explained how each of the company’s 35 cars has to pay $30 a month to a gang. He said the drivers have to pay the same amount in taxes to the government, but each year, not each month.

“Who do you think has more power, the state or the criminals?” said the driver, who didn’t want his name used for fear of reprisals.