Entradas etiquetadas como Edwin Espinal
Early on the morning of Oct. 23, more than 50 members of Honduras’s new military police force surrounded Edwin Espinal’s house in the capital, Tegucigalpa, using trucks and police cars to block off access to his home. The officers were clad in riot gear, with black balaclavas pulled over their faces and assault rifles at the ready. Supposedly looking for arms or other contraband, they searched and trashed Espinal’s house, breaking at least 15 doors inside and out. They found no arms. They found no drugs. Espinal went into hiding.
Espinal, a Honduran opposition activist, had been captured once before and tortured by the police in 2010, targeted for his ongoing opposition to the June 2009 military coup that deposed Manuel Zelaya, Honduras’s democratically elected president. At the request of the Organization of American States’ human rights commission, Espinal had for a time received protective security from the Honduran government. But he remained active in the opposition, and the police kept harassing him. After the raid, the chilling effect was clear.
This is daily life for Hondurans since the coup, as their government runs roughshod over the rule of law and terrorizes the opposition, all the while apparently allowing drug traffickers to insinuate themselves into the highest levels of the national congress and even the presidential administration. In the months after Zelaya’s overthrow, Porfirio Lobo, a former lawmaker from the country’s conservative National Party, assumed the presidency through an election that was boycotted by almost all the Honduran opposition and dismissed as illegitimate by major international observers. He then swiftly reappointed to top government positions military figures who had carried out the coup in the first place.
Over the objections of much of the rest of Latin America, the United States recognized the election as legitimate even before the polls had closed, appearing to push back against the Zelaya administration’s alliances with left-leaning Latin American governments that had come to power in the previous decade. Since then, Washington has continued to legitimize and support the coup-regime government, which has been a spectacular human rights disaster: The United Nations has said Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, and Reporters Without Borders has named the country one of the most dangerous for journalists. Even the Honduran government acknowledges that its police and military have ties to drug traffickers and organized crime. But U.S. funding for the forces, under the auspices of fighting crime and drug trafficking, has nonetheless increased annually since a brief, partial hiatus in 2009—reaching approximately $27 million in 2012, and at least that in 2013. (The United States also has an air base in the country, at Soto Cano, for which it paid $25 million in 2011 to upgrade the facilities, on top of $89 million for military operations in the country.)
The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of Honduras, an NGO, announced that it had received 5,000 reports of human rights violations last year in the country’s northern region alone. Last August, a Honduran government commission charged with cleaning up the security forces admitted that 70 percent of the country’s police are beyond saving. Impunity for crimes of all sorts is now the norm.
The most egregious example is perhaps Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, the man tapped as national director of Honduran police to lead the cleanup. Immediately after Bonilla was appointed in May 2012, a former police inspector released the findings of an investigation documenting that Bonilla had been a death squad leader overseeing assassinations of alleged gang members in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He continued to serve as police director even after the Associated Press reported last year that the Honduran police under Bonilla’s control were responsible for at least six new death squad “social cleansing” murders of alleged gang members.
Members of the U.S. Congress have challenged the Obama administration loud and clear about its Honduras policy. Although the United States has tepidly acknowledged Honduran abuses, it has continued to back funding for Honduras’s repressive security forces. Ninety-four lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March 2012 asking that the United States suspend police and military aid to Honduras, and the 2012 appropriations bill attached human rights conditions to a large portion of the security aid to Honduras. The State Department then withheld funds for Bonilla and those under his direct supervision. And in March of last year, William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, insisted that the United States had “no contact” with Bonilla and did not “work with” or “have any relations” with him.
In August 2013, however, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa admitted that the United States was still talking with Bonilla, who himself said he was meeting regularly with the embassy—and once even called the U.S. government his “best ally and support.” Bonilla was finally fired in December—but not before the Honduran military had received an estimated $20 million in U.S. funds in 2013, along with a loan of $60 million the year before from the Inter-American Development Bank. The new 2014 appropriations bill, passed in January, contains even stronger human rights restrictions on U.S. aid to Honduran security forces, but in the past the State Department has consistently certified that such conditions have been met, to keep the spigot of security aid open.
Meanwhile, rather than cleaning up the police, Lobo and the Honduran congress have now enlisted the military to perform police functions, including creating a new 5,000-strong military police force. In so doing, the government is promising that militarization will protect citizens from the very security problems it has countenanced and even helped create. The results have been terrifying: Roving bands of soldiers now routinely menace neighborhoods of all classes in the country’s big cities, setting up random checkpoints and harassing people. In May 2012, soldiers chased down a 15-year-old boy, Ebed Yanes, who had passed a checkpoint on his motorcycle, and shot him to death in an alley. According to the Associated Press, the soldiers responsible for the killing turned out to be U.S.-trained and vetted, their equipment was U.S.-donated and the commanding officer who subsequently ordered a coverup had been trained in the United States.
In this already menacing climate, the Honduran government has deliberately targeted the opposition, in effect criminalizing much social protest. On July 15, for example, the engineers’ battalion of the Honduran armed forces shot and killed Tomás García, an indigenous activist who was protesting a hydroelectric dam in Intibuca. Last summer, Bertha Cáceres, the leader of one of the most prominent indigenous rights groups in the country, was charged along with two other activists for organizing a blockade to protect indigenous land from being usurped for a dam project. In Honduras’s Aguán Valley, the NGO Rights Action has documented widespread human rights abuses by the U.S.-funded 15th battalion of the Honduran armed forces against campesinos defending their land rights, nearly 100 of whom have been killed by state and private actors since the coup.
The case of Héctor Iván Mejía, currently director of Honduras’s Police Academy, underscores just how out of control the situation is. Mejía has been under criminal prosecution for more than two years for allegedly repressing an opposition demonstration in September 2010, while he was chief of police in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second-largest city; his forces reportedly tear-gassed protesters and raided an opposition radio station. All the while, Mejía has remained on the job. In fact, since the case began, he was promoted twice to very top positions (though he was recently demoted).
Prospects for any change in the near future appear dim, given the new president inaugurated last month, Juan Orlando Hernández, a member of Lobo’s party. Hernández may or may not have actually won the November presidential election, which was widely tainted by fraud, vote buying and military intimidation. Moreover, he takes office with his own impressive track record of subverting the rule of law: Not only was he an enthusiastic supporter of the 2009 coup, but as president of the congress he led the illegal 2012 ouster of four members of the Supreme Court. And last year he backed the illegal naming of a new attorney general to a five-year term.
Hernández has also been the country’s most vocal supporter of the new military police, having built his presidential campaign on the promise of “a soldier on every corner.” Leading up to Hernández’s election, at least 18 activists in LIBRE, the new opposition party, were assassinated. The victims were often just ordinary people—like Maria Amparo Pineda Duarte and Julio Ramon Maradiaga. They were driving home from a training session for election observers on Nov. 23, the night before voters headed to the polls, when masked gunmen with high-caliber weapons ambushed and killed them. The next day, the State Department issued a public statement about the election: “The United States congratulates the Honduran people for their peaceful participation.”
Dana Frank is professor of history at the University of California, Santa
|Written by Adrienne Pine, Photos by Jesse Freeston|
|Tuesday, 05 November 2013 09:31|
|Pro-Corporate State Violence
On Thursday, October 24th I attended the late-night wake for 32-year-old journalist Manuel Murillo, whose body had been dumped in an alleyway the previous day with three gunshots to the face. I was with two international journalists and Honduran activist Edwin Espinal. As we walked past the truckload of military police outside the hall, one of them said “tienen huevos.”
In the months leading up to the first national elections since the 2009 coup in which members of the Resistance movement will participate, state-led terror and the criminalization of social protest have intensified. Juan Orlando Hernández, the presidential candidate for current president Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo’s National Party, has made the promise of security through militarization his central campaign theme. “Voy a hacer lo que tenga que hacer para derrotar a la delincuencia y recuperar la paz,” [“I will do whatever I have to do to crush criminality and bring back peace”] Hernández’s voice intones on his omnipresent campaign spots. The new military police force is an initiative of Hernández, which has significant support among the Honduran population. This is due in part to a complete lack of trust in the Honduran national police force which is widely seen as irremediably corrupt and murderous. In this context, the military appears to many to be a more reliable force to confront rampant criminality in the most murderous country in the world.
However, Honduran soldiers have also murdered several civilians in recent years. In one case that gained international attention last year, 15-year-old student Ebed Jassiel Janes was shot dead by soldiers while riding his motorcycle to meet a girl he had befriended on Facebook. Most of victims of the military have been engaged in grassroots struggle against national and international corporations exploiting lands, water, and subsoil resources of which their communities claim ownership. On July 15th of this year, Tomás García, a leader of the National Council of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was shot and killed by soldiers who also seriously wounded García’s son in the same attack. The soldiers who killed García were protecting the Chinese-owned DESA corporation against the indigenous Lenca population who oppose DESA’a construction of a hydroelectric dam on their ancestral territory.
Honduran soldiers are also linked to murders of numerous campesino land rights activists in the Aguán. Just last Wednesday, following numerous death threats, Osbin Nahum Caballero Santamaria was allegedly killed by an operation of approximately 70 soldiers, who then abducted his body along with his still-alive wife and two small daughters by helicopter. Caballero’s mother, campesina leader Maria Digna Santamaria, denounced the murder and kidnapping on Radio Globo the following morning, holding the commander of the regional operation, former battalion 3-16 death squad member and School of the Americas graduate Col. German Alfaro Escalante, personally responsible. For his part, Colonel Alfaro—also on Radio Globo—asserted that Caballero himself had been involved in criminal activity and denied any military involvement in Caballero’s death. Instead, he repeated the commonly-employed refrain (used also by police) that criminals—not soldiers—often don army uniforms in order to carry out crimes.
Overall, in the Bajo Aguán region, more than 110 campesinos have been killed since the coup, primarily by security guards and soldiers employed by Miguel Facussé and three other large regional landowners. Facussé owns Dinant corporation, which specializes in products derived from his mono-cropped African Palm plantations, many of which are planted on ill-gotten, disputed agricultural reform lands. Like AZUNOSA, Dinant flaunts its ties with World Wildlife Fund in promotional materials while downplaying its role in the criminalization and murder of social activists.
The Honduran military and the judiciary both were primary institutional state actors in the 2009 coup against president Manuel Zelaya, whose wife Xiomara Castro is running for president against Hernández on the Resistance-affiliated LIBRE (Liberty and Refoundation) Party ticket. The two institutions have joined forces in the repression and criminalization of social movement leaders. Trumped-up charges including usurpation, coercion, and continued damages against DESA (which Tomás García was killed while opposing) have been leveled against COPINH leaders Berta Cáceres, Aureliano Molina and Tomás Gómez. The judge on the case ordered Cáceres to jail while the decision is pending; Cáceres has stated that the charges against her amount to political persecution and is currently in hiding. A similar case is pending against National Committee for Agricultural Workers (CNTC) leader Magdalena Morales, who has fought to reclaim agrarian reform lands from the British-owned sugar corporation AZUNOSA. The Honduran military has joined AZUNOSA’s private security guards in violently evicting campesinos on land disputed by AZUNOSA, and there has been no police investigation of campesinos murdered by AZUNOSA guards.
Military and judicial violence are necessary and central components of the imposition of neoliberal economic policies in post-coup Honduras. In order to legitimate and secure the economic violence effected against Honduran citizens by corporations like AZUNOSA, Dinant, and DESA, the judiciary actively criminalizes opposition to them while the military (along with other state security forces) goes after citizen-“criminals” with an iron fist.
Patterns of Political Violence
In a country where so-called “random,” “street,” “gang,” and “terrorist” violence is rampant and used to justify the criminalization of social activism and the corresponding militarization of public space, it is crucial to keep careful track of the patterns of political violence (keeping in mind that all violence in in some sense political). Following the coup, reports published by Amnesty International and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission found over 4,000 human rights abuses, including arbitrary detentions, torture and targeted assassinations that had been carried out between the June 28th coup and August of the same year by military and police forces against coup opponents. The Resistance movement, for its part, staunchly rejected in theory and practice the use of any violence that could have resulted in bodily harm to the enforcers or supporters of the coup.
Despite the incendiary labeling of social justice and human rights campaigners as “terrorists” and “insurgents” by Honduran armed forces, police, and their allies in the media, no credible evidence has emerged to substantiate claims of armed leftists using violence to destabilize the country. There have been very few instances of violence perpetrated against members of the military, police, or private security companies in recent years. In the Bajo Aguán region, where some such cases have occurred, no investigations have taken place. As such it is impossible to say who was responsible for the killings. Campesino communities, meanwhile, are under siege—terrorized by state and private security forces’ campaigns of systematic rape, harassment and targeted assassinations, and criminalized by a corrupt judiciary. A February 20, 2013 report by Annie Bird of Rights Action includes a exhaustive tally of murders in the Bajo Aguán region carried out between January 2010 and the date of the report’s publication. Bird counts a total of 89 campesinos, their supporters and neighbors killed during that period, whereas only 16 members of security forces were killed in the region during the same period.
Similarly, journalism is one of the most dangerous professions in Honduras. But according to Hector Becerra, director of the Honduran press freedom organization C-Libre, it is more dangerous for journalists whose reporting is critical of state abuses and police corruption than for those whose reporting is complicit with the same. Proving this in individual cases is complicated because of the levels of generalized violence and the context of impunity. Becerra states that of the 31 actively-employed journalists murdered since the coup, it is possible to demonstrate in 15 cases that the murders were directly related to the journalists’ exercise of freedom of expression. In each of the cases where enough evidence exists to determine that a journalist was killed in direct relation to his or her reporting, the reporting in question was critical of the coup, the Lobo administration, government corruption on the local or national level, or police ties to organized crime. On the other hand, there are no known cases of journalist murders that have been linked to reporting critical of social movements or coup opponents.
Numerous local candidates from the LIBRE political party have been killed in targeted assassinations in recent months. As Karen Spring of Rights Action notes in a recent report analyzing an exhaustively-researched list of pre-election violence, 18 LIBRE candidates and immediate family members of candidates were murdered between May 2012 and October 19, 2013, and 15 more suffered armed attacks. Spring writes:
“According to the list…LIBRE party…pre-candidates, candidates, their families and campaign leaders have suffered more killings and armed attacks than all other political parties combined. The disproportionate number of killings of LIBRE candidates seems a clear indication that many of the killings have been politically motivated.”
Many more non-candidate LIBRE activists have been killed in targeted assassinations, the most recent being photojournalist Manuel Murillo, who was working for LIBRE congressional candidate Rasel Tomé at the time of his murder. On Thursday, October 31st, LIBRE congressional candidate Beatriz Valle announced she was leaving the country after receiving numerous death threats. LIBRE leaders have told me that in an effort to maintain a positive message to attract voters, they until recently avoided politicizing what other party members have referred to as the “extermination campaign” against them.
In pre-election Honduras, the numbers make clear that overtly political violence is predominantly uni-directional, carried out by State security forces and death squads on behalf of powerful individuals and corporations, and against those who stand in their way, or appear to do so. And as the November 24th elections approach, that violence is intensifying.
The Case of Edwin Espinal
At 7 a.m. on Wednesday, October 23rd (the day before I attended Manuel Murillo’s wake) I received a call from a human rights activist. She told me that Edwin Espinal’s house in the Flor del Campo neighborhood of Tegucigalpa had been broken into and was being ransacked by military police. Five minutes later, I was racing across town in a car with her, Edwin, one of his family members, and Canadian journalist Jesse Freeston.
I first met Edwin on July 1st, 2010, in the offices of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). He arrived after having been tortured by police officers from his neighborhood, his eyes swollen from the pepper gas they had sprayed directly into them 12 hours earlier after dragging him out of his parked car with no explanation. He had been refused medical attention and tortured with tasers (on his back, stomach, and ears) throughout the night, which he spent in a prison cell. I knew of Edwin at the time from his public statements following the death of his partner, Wendy Ávila, from tear gas inhalation nearly a year earlier. Since our first meeting Edwin has been continuously harassed by his neighborhood police who, he states, oppose his Resistance and community organizing activities. The same police have violently assaulted and arbitrarily detained him on multiple occasions.
Following local police officers’ repeated use of arbitrary detentions and torture against Edwin, the World Organization Against Torture and the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights both requested that the Honduran government provide him precautionary measures. But the Honduran state response has been far from satisfactory. In a judgment declaring the officers involved in Edwin’s torture innocent, judge Marta Marlene Murillo Castro claimed his torture represented a “legitimate use of force” and accepted the police claim that spraying pepper gas in Edwin’s eyes had been an accident (Judge Murillo is the same judge who determined that the military had acted legally in violently raiding two radio station and one television stations on the day of the 2009 coup against Zelaya confiscating and/or destroying nearly all their equipment in the process).
Two of the Flor del Campo police officers who repeatedly harassed and tortured Edwin, José Luís Alemán Pérez and Walter Isaías Burgos Vargas, have since been implicated in different crimes. Alemán is currently serving a jail sentence for illegal arms possession and extortion. Burgos was named by the Police Reform Commission (formed in 2012) for his involvement in corruption. However, the commission—formed largely in response to the police murder of the son of powerful National University Rector Julieta Castellanos—has failed to tie Burgos’s “corruption” to (or hold him accountable for) Edwin’s torture.
After receiving numerous death threats, Edwin and his family fled their Flor del Campo home on October 9th and went into hiding. Human rights workers involved with the case and Edwin’s neighbors suspect that the threats, which were delivered by local gang members, originated from National Party activists in the community. When National Party candidate Hernández rolled out his military police with great fanfare days later on October 14th, Flor de Campo (infamous for its violence and gang activity) was the new state security force’s first and primary target. Driving into Flor del Campo on the morning of October 23rd, we took detours around several roadblocks that had been set up throughout the neighborhood. Dozens of heavily-armed balaclava-wearing military police stood around each one.
The largest concentration of military police we saw was outside Edwin’s house. In addition to the troops storming his house (which sustained significant structural damage in the raid), between 50 and 60 heavily armed troops were assigned to different strategic tasks. Some blocked off vehicle and pedestrian traffic to Edwin’s dead-end street; others sat facing out on either side of the converted pickup beds of several military vehicles, guns ready; others directed traffic on the street perpendicular to Edwin’s alley; others guarded each of the neighbors’ homes and businesses and walked back and forth patrolling the block; and still others took video and pictures of everyone who came to the scene, in particular those of us who arrived with Edwin. The military police were accompanied by a contingent of embedded television, radio and print journalists. At one point a group of journalists and military police officers worked themselves into hearty laughter imitating Juan Orlando Hernández’s campaign refrain, “Voy a hacer lo que tenga que hacer para derrotar a la delincuencia y recuperar la paz.”
Military Police directing local traffic away from the area where the raid of activist Edwin Espinal’s Flor del Campo home was taking place.
Military Police arriving to Edwin Espinal’s house in one of several pickup trucks. In the background is aluminum fencing surrounding the newly-privatized Flor del Campo community soccer field, and another military police truck with three dog cages. Two other military police vehicles also came loaded with dogs.
Members of the the military police used video and still cameras to record neighbors, friends, and human rights workers who arrived at the scene.
Militarized Neoliberal Sport
On the far side of the street where we stood, blocked by military police from entering the alleyway to Edwin’s house, sits an enormous gated construction site slated to become a private soccer field. This soccer field—the “campo” in Flor del Campo—was until recently the only open, public green space for neighborhood residents. But earlier this year, CONAPID, a Honduran public-private government commission, was brought on to redesign the field as part of its privatization. CONAPID receives funds from the Inter-American Development Bank and the controversial Honduran “tasa de seguridad”—a tax on businesses created after the coup to pay for public security initiatives. Many neighborhood residents argue that the privatization of the field is illegal. Since the field is collectively maintained, paid for and administered by the community, Honduran law requires that the community be consulted in the event of a transfer of administration or ownership. No such consultation ever took place; instead, neighbors say, two Flor del Campo residents who had no authority to do so signed away the development rights to the field. One of the signatories is a National Party member who assumed de facto leadership of a defunct community council after its elected president was murdered for what neighbors claim are political reasons.
The president of CONAPID is Reinaldo Sánchez, currently a Congressional candidate with Juan Orlando Hernández’s National Party, the party behind the military police. Part of CONAPID’s public relations strategy (in keeping with its tasa de seguridad funding) is that the organization’s work is central to crime and violence prevention in Honduras. A March 2010 article celebrating the inauguration of a privatized soccer field (replacing another public one) states (my translation):
Reinaldo Sánchez, head of CONAPID, said he felt proud to collaborate in something that will keep young people away from vices.
Sánchez reiterated this sentiment in a press release the following year:
[Sánchez] noted that society as a whole should take an active role in the processes of change developed by the Government, in order to create an atmosphere of peace among the citizenry. “These works create progress, development and opportunities for children and youths, since they enable us to distance them from taking on bad habits,” he stated.
Community members in Flor del Campo take a markedly different view of CONAPID’s involvement, and of the privatization of their communal land. Neighborhood residents, including Edwin, began organizing to oppose the venture and to maintain the public space that has defined their neighborhood as soon as they heard about the irregular transfer, even as the field was being dug up in preparation for the installation of artificial turf. Today, the site is only visible through small gaps in the approximately 8-foot high aluminum fence erected around the entire field. Once community members began to engage in actions that included the attempted removal of the fence and spray painting it with slogans protesting the venture, the military was brought in to protect the field. Slogans visible on the morning of the raid included:
● “We the poor also have a right to public spaces”
● “La Flor Sin Campo” (“Flower Without a Field” a play on the neighborhood’s name Flor del Campo)
● “+Profit, -Sports, =Crime”
● “Primero los Pobres?” (The slogan of the National Party mayor of Tegucigalpa and strong CONAPID ally, Ricardo Álvarez, “The Poor Come First,” framed sarcastically as a question)
Graffiti opposing the privatization of the Flor de Campo community soccer field, sprayed on the aluminum fencing surrounding the field. The field has been guarded by members of the Honduran military since the graffiti appeared. More recently, the newly-formed military police have been patrolling the area.
Since members of the community began organizing against the privatization of their field, several of them have received direct and credible death threats from the same few neighborhood residents who signed away the community’s rights and who stand to profit from the field under its new management. On the weekend after Edwin fled his home in Flor del Campo, a public report-back of the activities of community members opposing the CONAPID venture had been planned. It was canceled because the neighborhood activists feared for their lives.
Impunity and Elections
The terrorizing of activists like Edwin Espinal falls within the context of criminalization of social movement leaders like Berta Cáceres and Magdalena Morales. It is also part of a recent pattern of apparently politically-motivated military police-led home invasions. In the past two weeks, military police “allanamientos” (technically, forcible home raids) have been carried out against union leader Marco Antonio Rodríguez, Vice-President of the National Child Welfare Agency Workers’ Union and an international journalist who chose not to publicize their case. According to Rodríguez, when he asked the military police ransacking his home to show him their warrant, their response directly reflected the impunity they enjoy. “What search warrant?” they answered, “We can do whatever we want here.”
In Edwin’s case, there was in fact a search warrant, administered on site by public prosecutor Ricardo Adolfo Núñez (cited in the same document as having requested a search warrant), who wore a ski mask and a bulletproof vest. In the days following the raid, Edwin attempted to locate Núñez, a public figure who works for the Public Ministry and has been assigned to the Military Police. He was told that there was no phone number or office at which Núñez could be located. The signature on the search warrant was that of “juez ejecutor” (judge executor) Santos Alberto Reyes Castillo, a sergeant working directly for the military police. According to COFADEH journalist Dina Meza (herself a victim of ongoing harassment and death threats directly related to her work), who arrived at the scene later in the morning, Reyes Castillo was also present at the raid.
COFADEH journalist Dina Meza leaving the scene of the military police raid of activist Edwin Espinal’s home.
When a journalist from the Honduran newspaper El Tiempo later questioned the legality of allowing a judge executor within the military police to authorize the same military police to raid a citizen’s home, the president of the Honduran Supreme Court stated it was perfectly legal (though this interpretation was disputed by the Attorney General). On the eve of Honduran elections, what is in effect a parallel security force with its own internal legal structure has been created. And it appears to be entirely unaccountable to Honduran citizens.
Outside Edwin Espinal’s home (Espinal is in the foreground), public prosecutor Ricardo Adolfo Núñez, wearing a blue plaid shirt, balaclava and bulletproof vest, confers with members of the military police in charge of the raid. One carries on his back a large mallet used in the operation.
The search warrant itself highlighted Edwin’s alleged LIBRE activism, and authorized the raid in order to confiscate “Objects related to Illegal Drug Trafficking, Prohibited Weapons, and Cash from Crimes of Theft and Extortion.” While we waited down the street from his house, the military police broke down Edwin’s doors (external and internal) and illegally remained inside the house for two hours before the evidence-gathering inspection team went inside with three large drug-sniffing dogs, giving them ample time to contaminate the scene. Edwin photographed the search warrant of his house and gave a brief statement to the press denouncing the political nature of the raid.
Edwin Espinal giving a declaration to the press, in which he stated that the destruction of his home by military police was part of an ongoing campaign of harassment and political persecution meant to terrorize his family and political activists.
The following day, Manuel Murillo’s body was identified. Murillo, like Edwin, had been granted precautionary measures after suffering arbitrary detention, torture, and death threats against himself and his family at the hands of police. I joined Edwin and the same group of colleagues who had accompanied him to his house the previous day to Murillo’s service in a community hall in the Kennedy neighborhood, right next to a police station. We arrived late, close to 11 p.m. A LIBRE flag hung from Murillo’s coffin, and a couple prominent party members stood around in the aisle, their expressions unreadable to me. Family members walked around offering us coffee and cake. I only glanced momentarily at the young man’s face, which was crudely sewn together with black thread in an attempt to mask the disfigurement caused by his murderers.
Part of the nature of living in a context of state repression and impunity coupled with the highest homicide rate in the world is that it is difficult to assert political motives for state violence in any given case with certainty. Is there proof that Murillo’s murder was carried out by the police who tortured and threatened him with death three years ago, or by the new military police force comprised of former members of the national police and military, who now enjoy even greater power and impunity than before? Not at the moment. Is there proof that that the military police’s raid of Edwin’s home was an act of individual and collective intimidation tied to his resistance activities, and most recently to his fight to retain a public green space where neighborhood children could play? His multiple experiences of arbitrary detention and torture at the hands of police who enjoy full impunity for the harm they have caused him, and the inclusion of his alleged LIBRE affiliation in the search warrant indicate the possibility of a political motive, but do not qualify as definitive proof. The military police saying “tienen huevos” as we passed them on the way to pay our respects to Manuel Murillo and his family seemed to us to be a clear message. But can we prove that? Absolutely not.
For community organizers, democracy activists, LIBRE candidates, and potential LIBRE voters, the pre-election context in Honduras is one of extreme everyday violence amplified by a campaign of state terror carried out in the service of neoliberal policies and politicians. The criminalization and persecution of individuals and groups who oppose Honduran state policies—while difficult to prove in any individual case thanks to the near total impunity that exists for human rights violators—is nonetheless in the aggregate a clear example of what sociologist Emile Durkheim called a social fact. As 20 senators recently pointed out in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, this persecution is being carried out by police and military (and now military police) forces that receive funding and training from the United States. These are the conditions under which Honduran elections will take place later this month, and only the most cynical of observers could call those conditions “free and fair.”
Many thanks to Karen Spring for her extensive research help on this article.
Adrienne Pine is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University, and author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras. She is currently on leave to teach at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, and blogs at http://quotha.net.
New Military Police and State Forces Persecute FNRP and LIBRE activists Weeks Before the General Elections
November 3, 2013, By Karen Spring (email@example.com)
In the early hours on the morning of October 23, the newly created Honduran Military Police broke down the doors of the residence of Edwin Robelo Espinal, a long-time National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) activist. Heavily armed Military Police accompanied by a military judge and public prosecutor, with their faces entirely covered by balaclavas, carried out a thorough search of Edwin’s house looking for “weapons and a rocket-propelled launcher” (1)
(Upon arriving at Edwin Espinal’s house, Military Police blocked the entrance to the shared driveway. Initially, they refused to provide the name of the person in charge and the search warrant. October 23, 2013. Photo by: Karen Spring)
(On the left is Espinal’s house where a Resistance flag has been hung since June 2009. Military Police stand outside, as officers inside the house break down over 15 bathroom, bedroom and entrance/exit doors. Every drawer and corner of the house was opened, pulled out and searched. There was significant damage to the house for which the Espinal family is unlikely to be reimbursed for. October 23, 2013. Photo by: Karen Spring)
The search warrant, authorized by a military judge, read: “Robelo [as he is known by his community] belongs to the LIBRE party and is one of the leaders of that area.” Along with GPS coordinates of the location of his house, the warrant also noted that: “outside, [the house] has a LIBRE flag.”(2)
Since the 2009 military coup, Edwin has been an active member of the Honduran resistance, the FNRP. Since the formation of its political arm – the Liberty and Refoundation Party –, Edwin has been supporting LIBRE organizing efforts along with his community group, “Collective en Resistencia Wendy E. Avila” in the neighbourhood Flor del Campo in Tegucigalpa.
(Edwin Robelo Espinal speaks to journalists suspected of being embedded in the operations of the Military Police as they raided his house. October 23, 2013. Photo by: Karen Spring)
The Killing of Edwin’s Partner Wendy Avila
Edwin’s partner, Wendy Avila was killed in September 2009, when military and police violently evicted the Honduran resistance who had gathered around the Brazilian embassy to welcome overthrown President Zelaya, back to the country. Edwin was also disappeared for 5 hours and tortured by police officers in Flor del Campo in June 2010 (3).
Most recently and likely directly related to the current persecution against him, Edwin is involved in organizing his community against efforts by National Party activists in the Flor del Campo ‘Patronato’ (community leadership) to privatize the community soccer field. In 2010, after he was tortured by Honduran poice, Edwin was given protective measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (4).
(One morning, the Flor del Campo community woke up to find the community soccer field had been blocked off. The ‘Wendy E. Avila Collective in Resistance’, in Flor del Campo, began organizing against the privatization of the community space by gathering signatures and investigating the fate of the soccer field. October 23, 2013. Photo by: Karen Spring)
Not An Isolated Incident: Raids, Death Threats, Killings and Disappearances
According to a recent Rights Action report, political candidates, their families and campaign leaders of the LIBRE party have suffered a disproportionate number of attacks and killings since May 2012 than all other political parties combined (5).
- Complete Report: http://www.rightsaction.org/action-content/killings-and-attempted-killings-honduras-may-2012-present-linked-electoral-process
Not included in the attacks and killings listed in the report are the countless cases of political persecution, death threats and kidnappings of FNRP and LIBRE leaders that continue to occur on almost a weekly basis. Investigations are rarely conducted and impunity continues to reign in Honduras.
The raid on Espinal’s house has not been the only Military Police operation directed against FNRP and LIBRE activists nor is it an isolated example of political violence in the context of the elections.
In the first week the Military Police were on the street (October 14-21, 2013), the residence of Dassaev Aguilar, an ex-correspondent for Telesur was raided for an unknown reason by Military Police (6).
On October 10 at 5:00 am, the Military Police broke in and raided the house of Marco Antonio Rodriguez, the Vice President of the National Child Welfare Worker’s Trade Union (SITRAPANI by its Spanish acronym). With a gun pointed at Antonio Rodriguez and his youngest son, the Military Police forced them out of the house, made them lie chest down on the street and handcuffed them while they searched the house. When Antonio Rodriguez asked to see the search warrant, the officers responded: “what search warrant, here we can do whatever we want.” (7)
(Military Police. Some are dressed in uniform and some in civilian clothes wearing bulletproof vests, all with their faces completely covered. “Justice without a face” as Honduran journalist, Felix Molina says. Photo by: Karen Spring)
Another Killing of a Former Journalist and LIBRE Activist
In another incident of suspected state involvement, the body of Manuel Murillo Varela, a journalist, a former cameraman for Globo TV and LIBRE activist was found in Tegucigalpa on October 24 (8).
Murillo Varela had suffered years of political persecution for his involvement with the FNRP and the LIBRE party. In 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued protection measures for Murillo Varela after he and his colleague were disappeared and tortured for over 24 hours by police dressed as civilians on February 2, 2010.
Murillo Varela is also well known for his coverage of overthrown President Zelaya’s militarized house in the early hours of June 28, 2009 as Hondurans woke up to find that President Zelaya had been overthrown and taken out of the country (9). Since 2010 over 30 journalists have been killed and very few cases have been investigated and brought to trial (10).
(In the early morning of June 28, 2009, Manuel Murillo was one of the first journalists on site to document the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya. Photographer unknown.)
Death Threats Against a LIBRE Congressional Candidate
On October 30, Beatriz Valle, a LIBRE Congressional candidate in the department of Francisco Morazan and ex-Vice Foreign Minister under Manuel Zelaya’s government, announced that she had received death threats. It is unknown where the death threats originate from but Valle decided, in consultation with human rights organizations, to leave the country (11).
Repression And Persecution Of Lenca Indigenous Communities And COPINH Leaders
Since April 1, 2013, the Lenca communities of Rio Blanco supported by the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) have maintained a roadblock preventing the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project. The Rio Blanco region continues to be heavily militarized and security forces are utilizing various tactics to attempt to divide and discourage the communities in resistance including pressing charges against community members, threats, persecution and negotiating projects with groups of community members in an attempt to bribe and to weaken the resistance. Berta Caceres, a COPINH indigenous leader was sent to jail on September 20th, 2013 while two other COPINH leaders, Tomas Garcias and Aureliano Molina are required to sign before a judge on a regular basis. The three COPINH leaders are unable to visit the Rio Blanco area – one of many attempts to weaken the resistance and unity of the Lenca struggle.
Further Criminalization of the Campesino Movements in the Aguan Valley
According to Honduran human rights organization, COFADEH (Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras), a group of 6 individuals in Samaria in La Moskitia region were disappeared by approximately 80 military traveling in helicopters and boats on October 30. Josbin Nahúm Caballero and his family including his wife, Rosa Florinda Alvarenga Lara and their two children, Nesly Rosibel Caballero Alvarenga (2 years-old) along with Javier Castillo (25 years-old) and Justo Castillo (27 year-old) and were disappeared after the military raided Nahúm Caballero’s house and shooting him during the operation.
Nahúm Cabellero’s mother, Maria Digna Santamaría lives in the campesino community ‘La Confianza’ and is a member of the United Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MUCA). Digna Santamaria spoke to COFADEH and to the press regarding her son’s disappearance and suspected assassination. She denounced that the Commander of the Xatruch Military Operation in the department of Colon, Germán Alfaro Escalante, had directly threatened her son accusing him of being an assassin in an interview on a local radio in Colon, Honduras (12). Commander Alfaro also mentioned in the interview that the campesino community ‘La Confianza’ was hiding an assassin named ‘Caballero’, as part of his repeated effort to criminalize campesino movements and justify the continued militarization of the Valley that has contributed to the killings of over 100 campesinos in the Aguan Valley since 2010(13).
(Operation Xatruch II. Aguan Valley. October 2011. Photo by: Karen Spring)
The human rights situation in Honduras is grave. The creation of new security forces like the Military Police that in less than two weeks of being on the street, have been accused of targeting political opponents of the current Pepe Lobo government.
These raids, like other violations by Honduran police and military, raise serious concern regarding the context of the November 24th General Elections. Suffering a disproportionately higher number of killings and attacks than all other political parties combined, LIBRE political candidates participating in the campaigning process are very vulnerable to political violence.
However, persecution, attacks, disappearances and killings of community-based Resistance activists such as Manuel Murillo Varela, Marco Antonio Rodriguez, Edwin Robelo Espinal and other cases discussed above, are a less visible form of political violence that often escapes the watchful eyes of the ‘international community’.
The mood in Honduras is undoubtedly intense as the elections approach in less than 3 weeks.
(Karen Spring has worked with Rights Action since 2009. She is currently living in Honduras. Spring.firstname.lastname@example.org)
 Quoted directly from the search warrant signed by Executing judge, Santos Alberto Reyes Castillo and Adjunct Secretary, Lesbia Verenice Vallejo Sanchez. The Executing judge was appointed by Claudio Daniel Aguilar Elvir and the fiscal present at the raid was Ricardo Adolfo Nuñez.
 Same as above.
 “One More Day of Repression in Honduras/Edwin Espinal At Risk” Rights Action. March 18, 2011. http://www.rightsaction.org/articles/Edwin_Espinal_and_Honduras_repression_031811.html. and “En peligro la cuidanía hondureña: Jueza sobresee juicio contra politicas torturadoras”. Defensores En Linea. COFADEH. June 29, 2011. http://defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1460%3Aen-peligro-la-ciudadania-hondurena-jueza-sobresee-juicio-contra-policias-torturadores&Itemid=171
 “CIDH solicita al Estado de Honduras garantizar la vida de Edwin Espinal” Defensores en Linea. COFADEH. July 27, 2013. http://defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=892%3Acidh-solicita-al-estado-de-honduras-garantizar-la-vida-de-edwin-espinal&Itemid=150
 Spring, Karen. “Context of the Honduran Electoral Process 2012-2013: Incomplete List of Killings and Armed Attacks Related to Political Campaigning in Honduras, May 2012-October 19, 2013” Rights Action. http://rightsaction.org/sites/default/files//Honduras-Violence-Political-Campaign.pdf
 Emanuelsson, Dick. “Honduras sangra: Ejecutan a Camarógrafo beneficiario de medidas cautelares otorgadas por la CIDH.” October 25, 2013. http://www.kaosenlared.net/america-latina/item/72052-siguen-derramando-la-sangre-de-los-periodistas-y-camarógrafos-en-honduras.html?tmpl=component&print=1
 “Policia Militar: Cual orden de allanamiento aca nosotros podemos hacer lo que queramos” Defensores en Linea. COFADEH. October 28, 2013. http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2821:policia-militar-cual-orden-de-allanamiento-aca-nosotros-podemos-hacer-lo-que-queramos&catid=54:den&Itemid=171
 “Another journalist murdered a month before general elections” Reporters without Borders. October 25, 2013. http://en.rsf.org/honduras-another-journalist-murdered-a-25-10-2013,45384.html
 See (8) or “Asesinan a un periodista a un mes antes de las elecciones: cuando acabara la violencia?” Reporters without borders. October 25, 2013. http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2815:asesinan-a-un-periodista-a-un-mes-de-las-elecciones-icuando-acabara-la-violencia&catid=42:seg-y-jus&Itemid=159
 “Honduras: Special force to solve murders of journalists, lawyers” Rene Novoa, Infosurhoy. http://infosurhoy.com/en_GB/articles/saii/features/main/2013/11/01/feature-01
 “Candidata de LIBRE denuncia amenazas a su vida” El Heraldo. October 31, 2013. http://m.elheraldo.hn/Secciones-Principales/Sucesos/Candidata-de-Libre-denuncia-amenazas-a-su-vida
 “Militares raptan a familia completa en la Moskitia” Defensores en linea. COFADEH. November 3, 2013. http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2826:militares-raptan-a-familia-completa-en-la-mosquitia-&catid=54:den&Itemid=171
 Bird, Annie. “Human Rights violations attributed to Military Forces in the Bajo Aguan Valley in Honduras”. Rights Action. February 20, 2013. http://rightsaction.org/sites/default/files/Rpt_130220_Aguan_Final.pdf; and Bird, Annie. “103rd and 104th Campesinos killed in the ‘Murder Capital of the World’, As Presidential Elections Loom in November 2013: Aguan Campesino Movement leader and son killed, wife injured” Rights Action. June 4, 2013. http://rightsaction.org/action-content/103rd-104th-campesinos-killed-‘murder-capital-world’-presidential-elections-loom
Es un acto normal que un sargento de la Policía Militar del Orden Público (PMOP) sea juez ejecutor de los allanamientos que realice ese cuerpo armado, según el presidente dela Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ), Jorge Rivera Avilés, aunque el fiscal del Estado, Óscar Chinchilla, advirtió que eso es ilegal.
El ciudadano Edwin Espinal denunció que hace unos días pidió apoyo policial porque está recibiendo amenazas a muerte, y la ayuda que recibió fue un allanamiento de la Policía Militar que llegó a decirle que tienen informes de que él se dedica a actividades subversivas.
Aseguró que pidió la orden de allanamiento a los militares y para su sorpresa, un “sargento razo” de el mismo cuerpo armado estaba nombrado como juez ejecutor, o al menos eso decía un documento que le mostraron.
Se le consultó a Rivera Avilés si eso es legal y correcto y expresó que “si un ciudadano hondureño está capacitado en ese sentido, no tiene objeción que un sargento de la Policía pueda ser juez ejecutor”.
Eso “lo autoriza el juez de la competencia jurisdiccional o sea el Poder Judicial de Honduras”, dijo, tras rechazar que eso signifique que el sargento sea juez y parte solo por ser compañero de los que ejecutan el allanamiento.
No obstante, el fiscal Oscar Fernando Chinchilla, advirtió que si la denuncia es cierta, es un procedimiento incorrecto y “vamos a indagar ese tema”.
Manifestó que no conoce la denuncia del señor Edwin Espinal pero “voy a comunicarme con ellos (la Policía Militar) para conocer esta denuncia”.
“Los jueces ejecutores deben ser designados en base a un proceso que ya lo regula la misma normativa penal y lo debe hacer el juez de letras que conoce el asunto”, según Chinchilla.
Se le consultó si este juez ejecutor necesariamente debe ser una persona independiente del cuerpo que ejecuta el allanamiento y dijo que “definitivamente que sí, pero déjenme investigar el caso”.
La Policía Militar está trabajando en operativos en zonas denominadas calientes como las colonias Canaan y Flor del Campo en la capital, pero también ejecutan acciones selectivas como allanamientos u operaciones de reacción rápida en Tegucigalpa y San Pedro Sula.
The following are pictures and a translation of the search warrant issued permitting FNRP activist Edwin Robelo Espinal’s house to be violently ransacked in an operation involving 50-60 heavily armed military police officers wearing ski masks, around 6 dogs, at least one high-ranking officer of the national police, and 3 or 4 embedded reporters. This is a clear-cut case of criminalization of social activism, as is evident from the fact that the primary evidence cited against him is LIBRE membership. This is ironic given that Edwin Espinal is an FNRP—not LIBRE—activist, and the flag in front of his house is actually an FNRP flag, but goes to demonstrate again the extent to which resistance leaders (like Berta Cáceres and Magdalena Morales) are being targeted in the run-up to the elections, and how LIBRE has been criminalized by Juan Orlando Hernández and his National Party to the extent that MP violence can be legally legitimated merely by the claim that the target is a LIBRE leader (even when they are not).
Edwin has been a constant victim of police harassment, torture and death threats and his partner Wendy Avila was killed by police following the 2009 coup; in recent months he has led a struggle against the illegal sale and privatization of the neighborhood soccer field and had to flee the neighborhood following death threats. His targeting is one more example of how the theater of the National Party’s new military police is being used to increase the pre-election climate of terror.
CRIMINAL COURT WITH NATIONAL JURISDICTION, on the twenty-second day of the month of October of two thousand thirteen.
The lawyer and judge CLAUDIO DANIEL AGUILAR ELVIR, responding to the personal request of the public prosecutor, lawyer RICARDO ADOLFO NÚÑEZ, in his capacity of agent of the courts of the Attorney General’s office, that he authorize the procedure of a House Search to carry out the procedure of Search, Inspection and Confiscation of Objects related to Illegal Drug Trafficking, Prohibited Weapons, and Cash from Crimes of Theft and Extortion, requesting the procedure and signaling the date and time for the Approval of the Presiding Judges.
FOURTH HOUSE: It is of cement-block construction, two floors finished with stone, it is painted with green and yellow trim, in the second floor it has details of seahorses painted in green in the front of the house it has a flag of the libre party [it is at] the coordinates [?]4 04’17.79″ N latitude, 87 13’27.85″ W longitude, in this house lives ROBELO, it must be noted that he belongs to the libre party and is one of the leaders in this area, according to [our] information this person possesses weapons and grenade launchers in his house.
Se agudiza persecución política contra miembros de LIBRE: Juez ordena allanamiento de Edwin Espinal en busca de armas y drogas
Policía Militar, fiscales, inspectores oculares, un militar como Juez Ejecutor, decenas de policías militares con perros antidrogas allanaron la casa de Edwin Espinal miembro de la resistencia hondureño y del partido Libertad y Refundaciòn, para buscar armas y drogas, según una orden del Juez Claudio Daniel Aguilar Elvir, este 23 de octubre siguiendo un patrón de persecución política contra este partido.
Espinal ha sido objeto de reiterados actos de hostigamiento desde el golpe de Estado de 2009 desde lanzamiento de gases lacrimógenos en sus ojos, capturas ilegales, torturas, seguimientos y vigilancia reiterada, que fue la causa principal para que la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, CIDH, emitiera medidas cautelares en julio de 2010 solicitando del Estado de Honduras la protección a la vida del afectado y las investigaciones pertinentes para terminar con estos hechos que han puesto en grave peligro la integridad de Espinal.
El joven perdió a su esposa Wendy Avila en septiembre de 2009 producto de los efectos de los gases lacrimógenos que fueron lanzados contra miles de manifestantes en esa época en las afueras de la Embajada de Brasil donde llegó clandestinamente el presidente Manuel Zelaya Rosales después de varios intentos por retornar a Honduras posterior al golpe de Estado contra su gobierno por la oligarquía, las Fuerzas Armadas y los Estados Unidos, el 28 de junio de 2009.
Es un patrón de persecución política señala Coordinadora de COFADEH
Bertha Oliva, Coordinadora General del COFADEH señaló que como representantes legales de Edwin Espinal solicitarán al Ministerio Público que ponga a la vista la denuncia por la cual se inició este allanamiento que a todas luces se trata de una persecución política contra los miembros del partido LIBRE.
Relatò que las semanas anteriores esta organización ha recibido otras denuncias de miembros de la resistencia y de este partido donde se relatan acciones de la Policía Militar como es el caso de Marco Antonio Rodríguez, vicepresidente del Sindicato de Trabajadores del Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, SITRAPANI, cuya casa fue allanada ilegalmente el pasado 11 de octubre. Los policías militares entraron a eso de las cinco de la mañana sin una orden judicial colocaron boca abajo a toda la familia y le dijeron que buscaban armas, después se fueron tranquilamente aduciendo que no habían encontrado nada, la denuncia ya la tiene el Ministerio Público, pero a la fecha no hay deducción de responsabilidades por esta acción en contra de los derechos humanos.
Un día después de esta acción a Pedro Elvir, también miembro del SITRAPANI, hombres armados le dieron seguimiento por el anillo periférico y le atravesaron un vehículo amenazándolo a muerte, este hecho también forma parte de los archivos engavetados en el Ministerio Público.
Oliva señaló que este hecho también va a ser denunciado ante la Unidad de Delitos Electorales del Ministerio Público porque en la orden de allanamiento se resalta que es un dirigente del partido LIBRE e identifican su casa por tener la bandera de este instituto político.
“He consultado con abogados y analistas políticos que gozan de nuestro respeto y me han manifestado que este tipo de actos solamente se produjeron en la época de Tiburcio Carías Andino”, dijo la defensora de derechos humanos.
Agregó que no se explica cómo han convertido a Edwin Espinal en victimario porque el caso lo lleva un Juez Nacional que esta figura solo se utiliza para el crimen organizado y el narcotráfico.
“En las últimas denuncias que tiene el COFADEH hay un patrón de supuestas extorsiones previo a que la Policía Militar realice acciones contra los miembros de LIBRE, por eso estamos colocando esta denuncia ante las instancias internacionales pertinentes, pues la persecución política es tan evidente”, destacó.
Un Juez Nacional coloreado para perseguir a la resistencia
Claudio Daniel Aguilar Elvir fue nombrado el Juez con competencia nacional para conocer el expediente número 02-2013 que emitió una resolución el 22 de octubre resolviendo la solicitud presentada por Ricardo Adolfo Núñez, Agente de Tribunales del Ministerio Público, autorizando el allanamiento “ y decomiso de objetos relacionados con el tráfico ilícito de drogas, Armas de Prohibida Portación, y dinero en efectivo provenientes de delitos de robo y extorsión”, dice parte de la resolución del Juez en mención.
Aguilar Elvir relata como antecedentes que la Fuerza de Tarea Conjunta Libertad procedieron a la ubicación de las viviendas.
Una comisión del COFADEH y del Programa de Acompañamiento a Honduras, PROAH, se hicieron presentes al lugar para documentar la ilegalidad, constatando que se hizo presente el fiscal Juan Carlos Díaz, del Ministerio Pùblico0, el Juez Ejecutor Santos Alberto Reyes, quien es miembro de las Fuerzas Armadas a través de la Policía Militar, cuerpo recién creado por el Congreso Nacional y que depende directamente de los militares.
Los integrantes de la comisión de ambas organizaciones pudieron verificar que habían destrozos en la casa entre ellos puertas en mal estado que fueron abiertas a la fuerza y los cuartos estaban revueltos.
La casa fue registrada palmo a palmo, revolviendo todo y tomando fotografías, acto realizado por la técnico de inspecciones oculares de la Dirección Nacional de Investigación Criminal, DNIC, Isis Antúnez, siendo seguida por el Juez Ejecutor y el Fiscal Juan Carlos Díaz.
Después de la revisión fueron llevados perros que detectan armas y drogas y fueron conducidos por toda la casa y aunque no encontraron nada, pues pretendían hallar un lanzagranadas y drogas según señala el acta de allanamiento, no lograron su objetivo, pero no quisieron dar una constancia de no haber encontrado nada, solicitado por uno de los familiares de Edwin Espinal.
El desplazamiento de un fuerte contingente de la Policía Militar, PM, en los alrededores y enfrente de la casa fue motivo de asombro de los vecinos del sector a quienes defensoresenlinea.com les consultó si tenían conocimiento de otros allanamientos tal como señalaron los encargados del Ministerio Público, la DNIC y la Policía Militar, pero comentaron que no habían otros lugares allanados.
Policías de distintos medios de comunicación nacionales e internacionales se hicieron presentes a la zona para verificar esta nueva acción que deja clarísima la responsabilidad del Estado de Honduras en la persecución contra la disidencia política a apenas un mes y un día para las elecciones generales donde la resistencia hondureña a través del Partido LIBRE le apuestan a tomar el poder del país y arrebatárselo a la oligarquía que a través de sus dos vetustos partidos Liberal y Nacional se han repartido la riqueza nacional por más de100 años que han gobernado Honduras.
Persecución contra Edwin espinal ha sido reiterada
Según los antecedentes que maneja el COFADEH en el caso de Edwin Espinal se ha venido llevando a cabo acciones de hostigamiento y persecución desde el propio golpe de Estado de 2009 , estos son algunos de los hechos:
El 07 de octubre de 2009, el Sr. Edwin Róbelo Espinal fue atacado con balas de goma mientras participaba en una manifestación frente a la Embajada de Estados Unidos en Tegucigalpa.
El 14 de noviembre de 2009, el Sr. Edwin Róbelo Espinal fue detenido por agentes de la policía durante el desarrollo de la Caravana de la Resistencia en la Colonia San Miguel de Tegucigalpa. En esa ocasión ocho agentes lo tomaron de la camisa, lo esposaron y a empellones lo subieron a la patrulla, lo condujeron junto con otro manifestante a la Cuarta Estación Policial y los acusaron de manchar las paredes con consignas de la Resistencia, a pesar de que el joven con el que fue detenido no sabía leer ni escribir. Permaneció detenido por espacio de seis horas y durante ese tiempo lo amenazaban con acusarlo de sedición.
El 25 de febrero de 2010, policías plenamente identificados le tomaron fotografías a él y a las placas de su carro cuando participaba una manifestación de la Resistencia Contra el Golpe de Estado.
Durante la primera semana de abril de 2010 la policía amenazó a los motociclistas de la resistencia denominados los Patriotas, grupo del que el Sr. Edwin Róbelo Espinal es parte, que si salían en motocicletas les iban a reprimir y, le tomaron fotografías a las placas de las motocicletas que se encontraban estacionadas en el parqueo del STIBYS. Las marchas continuaron realizándose y los Patriotas continuaron las marchas apoyando con sus motocicletas.
El 10 de abril de 2010, después de una marcha, el Sr. Edwin Róbelo Espinal prestó su motocicleta y los cascos a uno de sus amigos, el Sr. Gerson Ebenor Vilchez y a la novia de este, cuyo nombre se mantiene en confidencialidad. Posteriormente, entre la segunda y cuarta calle de la Ciudad de Comayagüela un vehículo desconocido impactó contra la motocicleta que conducía el Sr. Gerson Ebenor Vilchez quien por la gravedad de las heridas murió 40 minutos después.
El 09 de octubre de 2013, alrededor de las nueve de la mañana se presentó en la residencia de Edwin, un taxista vecino y que trabaja para la zona, al que solo se le identifica como el Burro, llevando un teléfono celular, con alguien al otro lado de la línea que solicitaba en forma autoritaria, amenazante y abusiva el número telefónico de Róbelo.
El teléfono le fue entregado a la madre de Edwin, su sobrino y su hermana tomaron la llamada, el interlocutor se identificó como el “Cholo, de las mara los Homis de la Diez y Ocho, de La Pradera”, les insistió que quería hablar con Róbelo, que él vendía drogas, “que la había cagado en el barrio” y por eso tenía serios problemas con él.
Como la familia no accedía a proporcionar el número telefónico, les amenazó con pasconear la casa y lanzarles una granada, luego les advirtió “si no quieren que les pase lo mismo que a Yito obedezcan”.
Les proporcionó el número de teléfono 8829- 7008, de igual forma les advirtió que si llamaban a la policía les iba a costar caro. Volvió insistir por el número telefónico y la familia sumamente intimidada le proporcionó el número. Al devolver el teléfono al taxista se justificó diciendo que no tenía nada que ver, que otro taxista le había pasado el teléfono para que lo llevara a la casa.
Edwin recibió casi de inmediato una llamada del Teléfono 8829- 7008, pero no respondió la llamada. Como familia tomaron la decisión de abandonar la residencia y desplazarse, solicitado apoyo al pelotón militar que resguarda el campo de Fútbol que ha sido tomado por los militares y cercado con láminas. Estos solicitaron autorización al oficial a cargo que fue identificado como Coronel Hernández. Dos horas más tarde el Coronel Hernández llegó con dos vehículos para escoltar la salida de la familia de comunidad de La Flor del Campo.
Como las llamadas continuaban recibiéndose en el teléfono de Edwin Espinal, le pasó el aparato telefónico al Coronel Hernández que tomó la llamada haciéndose pasar por Edwin; le dijeron que debía entregar veinticinco mil Lempiras (25,000.00), cuando se les preguntó dónde se encontraban para entregarlos, aseguraron estar en el campo, pero no acordaron entrega.
Cuando salían de la comunidad escoltados por los militares una patrulla policial los requirió, hablaron con el oficial militar y luego registraron las pertenencias de la familia. El coronel aseguró que notificaría a la inteligencia militar los hechos y se comunicaría con Edwin.
Galería de imágenes
Un escuadrón de la Policía Militar (PM) allanó la mañana de ayer varias viviendas en la colonia Flor del Campo de Comayagüela, entre ellas la del dirigente de barrios del Partido Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE), Edwin Rovelo Espinal (38), porque supuestamente en estas casas habían armas y drogas, según el vocero de esa institución armada, Santos Nolasco Guifarro.
Los allanamientos se realizaron desde las primeras horas de la mañana de ayer, hasta donde llegó Rovelo Espinal a reclamar el por qué habían ingresado a su casa, la cual dejó abandonada desde hace dos semanas, porque supuestamente lo amenazaron presuntos pandilleros de la 18, y denunció el acto como persecución política.
El dirigente político, quien durante una protesta como producto del golpe de Estado, ocurrido el 28 de junio de 2009 contra el entonces presidente José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, perdió a su compañera, Wendy Avila, debido al gas lacrimógeno que les lanzó la Policía y el Ejército, denunció su caso a organismos de derechos humanos, nacionales e internacionales.
Con tono molesto, ante la impotencia de no poder defender sus bienes de la Policía Militar — creada para combatir la criminalidad– Rovelo Espinal se declaró un perseguido político por pertenecer al partido LIBRE y aseguró que él es una persona honrada, trabajadora y nunca se ha prestado para cometer actos ilícitos ligados al tráfico de drogas y armas.
El entrevistado recordó que desde hace mucho tiempo él y otros vecinos de la Flor del Campo pagan extorsión a un grupo de delincuentes que por razones de seguridad no quiso identificar, ya que en estos casos el que denuncia o habla demasiado lo matan.
Denunció que la Policía Militar le destruyó todo sus enseres y electrodomésticos de valor que dejó abandonados después que personas extrañas le dijeron que si no se iba de la casa lo matarían a él y a su familia.
Rovelo Espinal expresó con extrañeza que tuvo acceso a un documento en el cual se nombró como juez ejecutor del allanamiento de su vivienda a un sargento de las Fuerza Armadas y en el escrito están detalladas las características, ubicación y descripción de su casa y además manifiesta el documento que “se tiene información que en la casa de Rovelo, un dirigente del partido LIBRE, hay un lanza granadas y drogas”.
“La Policía Militar únicamente sirve para agarrar bolos; desde que ellos llegaron acá hace dos semanas no han capturado a nadie, estos son cuerpos represivos para perseguir a los dirigentes de LIBRE”, manifestó el muchacho.
El afectado indicó que después que recibió las amenazas de muerte si no dejaba su casa, él denunció el caso a las autoridades pero como éstos no hicieron nada por protegerlo, decidió huir del lugar y el día que abandonó su hogar en la calle fue sacado del vehículo junto a otros de sus familiares y los registró la PM, aduciendo que buscaban armas y drogas.
NO HALLAMOS NADA
Por su parte, el vocero de la Policía Militar, mayor Santos Nolasco Guifarro, manifestó que durante el operativo de la mañana de ayer se allanaron 11 casas en la Flor del Campo, incluyendo la de Rovelo Espinal, ya que recibieron denuncias que en estas viviendas habían ocultas armas y drogas.
“Nosotros perseguimos el delito no a personas en particular; no encontramos nada en las casas y todos los allanamientos los hicimos en base a ley, con jueces ejecutores y fiscales”, dijo Nolasco, al ser consultado sobre la denuncia del dirigente de LIBRE.
Estadísticas de Medicina Forense indican que la colonia Flor del Campo; La Cantera; La Pradera; La Rosa; Luis Andrés Zúniga; Las Torres y alrededores, entre otras, cada semana se cometían diversos crímenes y masacres, pero desde el lunes 14 de octubre que llegó la Policía Militar a la zona, no hay reportes de muertos.