Entradas etiquetadas como Escuadrones de la Muerte

Death Squads Are Back in Honduras, Activists Tell Congress

Groups urging lawmakers to support an impartial investigation into the murder of environmental activist Berta Cáceres compare the current situation to the early 1980s.

 

Cáceres had mobilized native communities to speak out against the Agua Zarca Dam, a hydroelectric project backed by European and Chinese corporations, before being killed by two unknown gunmen last month.

Last week, back in Honduras at a protest outside the Honduran Public Ministry in Tegulcigalpa, Sanchez unfurled a banner demanding justice for Cáceres’s murder.

When nearby soldiers saw him, they dragged him away from the crowd and brutally beat him, stopping only after the crowd of protestors came to his defense.

Sanchez is a member of the organization Cáceres founded, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). The group’s leadership believes that Sanchez’s assault was meant to send a message against speaking out internationally, and that if the crowd had not intervened, Sanchez would likely have been imprisoned.

But Honduran activists are refusing to stay silent.

Back on Capitol Hill, two days after the beating, a panel of human rights leaders hosted by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., spoke to lawmakers about the dangers of speaking out against the U.S.-backed Honduran government.

Victor Fernandez, a prominent human rights attorney and lawyer representing the Cáceres family, insisted that her assassination was carried out by either the Honduran government or by “the paramilitary structure of companies.”

“Honduras is the victim of international theft due to its national resources,” said Fernandez, speaking through a translator. “What we have now is our natural resources — minerals, rivers, forest. Cáceres was killed because she was confronting the extractive model.”

Bertha Oliva compared the current situation to the early 1980s, when the CIA funded, armed, and trained Honduran government death squads that murdered hundreds of opposition activists.

Oliva founded the Committee for the Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH, by Spanish initials) in 1981, after government forces kidnapped her husband from their home. He was never seen again.

“When we first began in 1982, we faced death squads,” said Oliva, also speaking through a translator. “Now, it’s like going back to the past. We know there are death squads in Honduras.”

In 2009, a coup toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who had long been seen as a leftist threat to the interests of international corporations. In 2008, Zelaya blocked a series of hydroelectric dam projects, citing concerns raised by native Hondurans. Less than a year after he was deposed, the new government had already approved 40 dam contracts. When the current President Juan Orlando Hernández came to power in 2013, his slogan was “Honduras is open for business.”

The coup was accompanied by a huge rise in political violence. By 2012, state security forces had assassinated more than 300 people, and 34 members of the opposition and 13 journalists had disappeared, according to data compiled by Honduran human rights organizations. The political assassinations added to the emboldened violence from gangs and drug traffickers, making Honduras one of the most dangerous countries in the world. In 2012, Reuters reported that it had the highest murder rate of any country.

Although the murder rate has since declined, political violence in Honduras has continued. Since the end of 2012, at least 22 prominent environmental activists have been killed, according to Global Witness.

Due to the Honduran government’s abysmal human rights record, critics have called on the U.S. to stop supporting the coup regime.

Citing the flow of drugs as a rationale, the U.S. government gave at least $57 million in military aid to Honduras between 2009 and 2014, not including the tens of millions of dollars spent on U.S. military contracts in Honduras. The Pentagon has not released figures for 2015 or 2016.

The U.S. military also maintains a force of more than 600 troops in Honduras, as part of a program called “Joint Task Force Bravo.” U.S. Special Forces play a large role in training their Honduran counterparts. In February, the Wall Street Journal published a video report showing Green Berets teaching Honduran soldiers how to raid homes.

The U.S. also helps maintain at least 13 military bases in the country, three of which were built after the coup, according to David Vine, author of Base Nation.

Congress has placed restrictions on military aid to countries with poor human rights records, but the State Department rarely applies them. The “Leahy Law,” for example, requires the State Department to suspend military aid to any country that it determines “has committed a gross violation of human rights.” Congress has even singled out Honduras in State Department appropriations bills, requiring the Secretary of State to withhold aid if he finds the Honduran government did not “protect the right of political opposition parties, journalists, trade unionists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists to operate without interference.” The State Department, however, is still sending aid.

Under the spending laws passed last year, Congress can withhold 50 percent of the military aid budgeted to go through the State Department.

Following Cáceres’s murder, 62 members of Congress also signed a letter calling on the administration to “immediately stop all assistance to Honduran security forces … given the implication of the Honduran military and police in extrajudicial killings, illegal detentions, torture, and other violations of human rights.” More than 200 activist organizations signed a similar letter, requesting Secretary of State John Kerry suspend military aid until an independent investigation into Cáceres’s murder is completed.

Panelists at the briefing last Thursday argued that the Honduran government should receive the condemnation, not the assistance, of foreign governments.

Fernandez, Cáceres’s lawyer, said, “This government produces so much corruption, it can’t just have subtle backing from world governments.”

When asked by The Intercept whether U.S. aid is contributing to human rights violations in Honduras, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner responded by condemning Cáceres’s murder. “We strongly condemn the murder of civil society activist Berta Cáceres,” Toner said, “and extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, and the people of Honduras, who have lost a dedicated defender of the environment and of human rights.” The Pentagon declined to comment, deferring to the State Department’s response. 

Top photo: A youth takes part in a protest seeking justice after the murder of indigenous activist leader Berta Cáceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 17, 2016.

Origen: Death Squads Are Back in Honduras, Activists Tell Congress

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Denuncian surgimiento de escuadrones de la muerte en Honduras

Sobre el tema, el expresidente Manuel Zelaya aseguró que “no quepa la menor duda que los escuadrones de la muerte en cualquier momento pueden tomar acciones represivas de asesinar dirigentes o líderes políticos”.

 

Redacción Central / EL LIBERTADOR

 

Tegucigalpa. Bandas paramilitares han sido confirmadas para perseguir y ejecutar a dirigentes populares hondureños y miembros del partido Libertad y Refundación (Libre), denunció hoy el expresidente Manuel Zelaya

http://www.web.ellibertador.hn/index.php/noticias/nacionales/920-denuncian-surgimiento-de-escuadrones-de-la-muerte-en-honduras

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Mel Zelaya insiste que hay escuadrones de la muerte que pueden asesinar dirigentes políticos

Tegucigalpa – El expresidente hondureño y ahora jefe de bancada del Partido Libertad y Refundación (Libre), Manuel Zelaya Rosales, insistió que en el país existen escuadrones de la muerte capaces de asesinar hasta dirigentes de ese izquierdista instituto político.

El líder de Libre calificó como “peligrosos los escenarios políticos” alrededor del tema de la reelección presidencial.

En relación al tema de eventuales atentados, dijo que “no le quepa la menor duda que los escuadrones de la muerte en cualquier momento pueden tomar acciones represivas de asesinar dirigentes o líderes políticos”.

Justificó que lo anterior puede ocurrir “porque desde luego hay personas que están siendo perseguidas y tenemos evidencias de asesinatos”.

Igualmente citó el caso del crimen contra Margarita Murillo, ocurrido recientemente en San Pedro Sula; “ella era una lideresa de base”, apuntó.

En relación al tema de la extradición, reclamó que “yo fui el primero que fue expulsado y mi familia ya fue investigada toda desde hace 10 años”.

Origen: Mel Zelaya insiste que hay escuadrones de la muerte que pueden asesinar dirigentes políticos

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Agent Reveals How Honduran Death Squads Operate

Published 19 September 2014
A fromer Honduras National Police agent has revealed gruesome details on numerous cases.

According to Radio Globo Director, David Romero, documents containing a testimony of a former agent of the national police force, shines a light on how death squads operate in Honduras.

The agent, who worked with the police’s  Analysis Unit for several years, says in a sworn statement that he was present at a number of executions that implicate top level commanders of the national security forces.

He gave details of six cases of persecution, kidnapping and death. One of the victims was a 65-year-old person from Copán, in western Honduras.

Officials involved in the case were former police chief Juan Carlos “Tigre” Bonilla, Zavala Vásquez and Turcios Andrade.

Another case involved the kidnapping of a woman in the company of a young boy in Barrio Cabañas, San Pedro Sula, in the north of Honduras. She was intercepted by three vehicles under the command of former police chief Héctor Iván Mejía. Those directly involved included the head of the Special Anti-Kidnapping Group (GEAS) Turcios Andrade, Zavala, and 16 other members. The woman was taken to a security house in the exclusive Trejo neighborhood, interrogated for 48 hours, hanged and disappeared.

To date, family members continue to demand that those responsible for security and justice reveal the whereabouts of the woman`s lifeless body. Her name has never been revealed.

In another case, a group of policemen kidnapped a young girl in the Choloma area to pressure her mother to tell them where to find a person known as “Amílcar El Renco”.

The girl was transferred to the same security house. There she was raped by several members of the Analysis Unit. The mother called to tell them where to find “El Renco,” who was tortured and killed several days later.

The former police agent revealed that those who gave the order were commissioners  Heberto Arias Aguilar, López Flores and Turcios Andrade and stated that they were supported by the National Office of Criminal Investigation (DNIC) and the Analysis Unit.

In yet another case, three members of the “Agua de Mayo” gang were killed after being taken to a security house in San Pedro Sula, where they were tortured and killed. They were then decapitated and their bodies appeared in different parts of the city. A different head was placed on each body to make it more difficult to identify the person killed. The ex agent revealed that the commanders involved in this incident were  Arias Aguilar, Mejía, López Flores, Turcios Andrade and Zavala with the support of GEAS and DNIC.

Fuente: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Agent-Reveals-How-Honduran-Death-Squads-Operate-20140919-0006.html

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Manuel Zelaya: “No son maras, no son pandillas, son escuadrones de la muerte los que están mandando a matar y a hacer limpieza social en Honduras”

Personaje Calificado:

Fuente: http://www.elobservador.hn/content/manuel-zelaya-no-son-maras-no-son-pandillas-son-escuadrones-de-la-muerte-los-que-est%C3%A1n

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Teens’ thievery turns tragic for Honduran cop

 
The Associated Press ADVANCE FOR SATURDAY, DEC. 28 AND THEREAFTER – EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT – FILE – This Aug. 7, 2013 file photo obtained by the Associated Press, shows Edwin Mejia sitting against a wall with his hands tied behind his back while in police custody in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Mejia and another minor were detained by police after they allegedly shot and killed a traffic policeman. With the highest murder rate in the world, Honduras is a dangerous country. Its capital is a city where people watch murders on YouTube, wake up to photos of the dead in the newspapers and drive by their dumped bodies on the outskirts of town. It is a country where the disparaging concept of the “banana republic” was born, when U.S. fruit companies used the Honduran military to control labor, but it is not a nation that recovered from a legacy that favored the interests of the few over those of the many. (AP Photo, File)
By ALBERTO ARCE / Associated Press / December 28, 2013

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Edwin Mejia didn’t want to go out and steal that morning.

The $75 he and his buddy had made the day before from the stolen motorcycle felt like a fortune compared to the $5 a day he earned selling his mother’s tortillas. The 15-year-old lay in bed inside the wooden one-room house he shared with his 10 brothers and sisters and told his partner, Eduardo Aguilera, that he wasn’t in the mood.

‘‘Hey, man, we have to go!’’ insisted Eduardo, also 15.

From yesterday’s take, their first job, Edwin could buy a cellphone. If they did the same today, maybe Edwin could buy himself some sneakers. White Nikes were a favorite with the 18th Street gang members.

Edwin relented.

A few miles away, in downtown Tegucigalpa, Santos Arita was starting his 12-hour shift as a traffic cop. At 42, he’d spent most of his career working in small towns in the north. His new job in the capital made him nervous. He’d already been assaulted once by three gunmen on a bus. He was afraid, but nobody asked him if he felt like going to work that day.

With the highest murder rate in the world, Honduras is a dangerous country. Its capital is a city where people watch murders on YouTube, wake up to photos of the dead in the newspapers and drive by bodies dumped on the outskirts of town. It is a country where the disparaging concept of the ‘‘banana republic’’ was born, when U.S. fruit companies used the Honduran military to control labor, but it is not a nation that recovered from a legacy that favored the interests of the few over those of the many.

Honduras never developed the democratic institutions that would guarantee a rule of law. Instead, it is a largely lawless land where there are few choices for the poor, heroes are scarce, and violence is a given.

___

Edwin and Eduardo downed a breakfast of coffee and left their rough neighborhood, Sinai, one of many controlled by gangs where even the police did not venture without guns drawn or at least a warning that they were headed in.

It was almost lunchtime.

The boys would use the same strategy as the day before. Edwin would drive the motorcycle, Eduardo would ride behind him. When they found a target, Eduardo would hold up the mark, then drive away on the stolen bike. Easy.

The year before, Edwin had dropped out of school to help out his mother. Tortillas had to be sold before lunch, so he didn’t have much choice. In a nation where 70 percent of people live in poverty, few could afford the luxury of school beyond sixth grade.

Many Hondurans had discovered that crime does pay, and the best way to commit one was with a motorcycle — for a fast getaway.

It was illegal, in fact, for two men to ride tandem on a motorcycle, a new law to cut down on drive-by shootings.

The boys ignored that law and made their way downtown. Oddly, amid the traffic chaos in one of the poorest cities on the continent and in a place where the law is rarely obeyed, what would bind the fates of Edwin and Eduardo with that of a humble traffic cop was a red light.

The boys stopped. They did not see Arita, helping a woman cross the street behind them. She carried an umbrella as a sunshade while Arita guided her through the traffic.

___

Arita had been reassigned to Tegucigalpa two months earlier and already had requested a transfer back home. He missed his family, and he talked with his wife every day by phone. His family lived in Ocotepeque, a seven- or eight-hour bus ride from the capital, but with his $400 monthly salary, Arita couldn’t afford a ticket. He hitchhiked home every two weeks for just 24 hours — to see his wife and three children, go to church.

His home in Ocotepeque was not so different from Edwin’s. It sat on a muddy street, a one-room with concrete floors, a tin roof that leaked and plywood walls. There was no running water, and the kitchen was just a wood stove. For furniture, they had two beds, a beaten sofa and a couple of tables with a bare bulb hanging from a wire.

It wasn’t much, but it was paradise compared to the barracks he shared with dozens of other police officers when he was working in the capital. There was no running water for a shower, just a cup and a barrel. No heat for the chilly evenings, and, of course, no meals.

Arita had arrived in the city two days before that fateful afternoon at the intersection. He had come with $10 in his pocket after leaving $20 at home.

Many Hondurans, from the country’s newly elected president to elementary school children, say the police are corrupt. The problem has reached such a crisis that Congress recently approved a plan to put the military on the streets while police ranks are cleaned up.

The problems are vast. Police have been accused of running death squads to eliminate gang members. The government does not know how many officers are on the National Police payroll — estimates range from 8,000 to 15,000.

One police general appeared on national television recently and accused another general of ordering the killing of his son. The boy was 17, ambushed along with his two special forces bodyguards in a restaurant shooting earlier this year.

On the street, many motorists are wary of the traffic police, who often stop them to extort money. It is hard to tell the difference between a bad cop, and a good one.

___

What happened on the afternoon of Aug. 7 was captured on a traffic camera, and on several others in the area.

As soon as Arita saw the two teenagers on their motorcycle, he left the woman with the umbrella and ran up to the boys.

He ordered the young men off the bike and, thanks to decades of experience, pulled out the bike’s keys. He did not see Eduardo, dressed all in black, reaching for something tucked into his pants. A gun.

Eduardo fired off two shots before the policeman, miraculously unhurt, wrestled him to the ground and attempted to disarm him. Edwin, in a blue T-shirt, rushed to help his friend as he scuffled with the cop.

Drivers around them sped out of the way.

Although he would later insist that the day’s plan marked only his second attempt at robbery, Edwin seemed skilled as he tried to grab the policeman’s weapon. Eduardo managed to hand him the other gun. In the struggle, Arita fell down.

He was a middle-aged, paunchy man fighting with two tall and agile teenagers. As he tried to get up, Edwin shot him twice in the back of the head point-blank. Eduardo looked on. Arita collapsed, lifeless, on the pavement.

With an eerie calm, Edwin picked the bike keys up off the road, waited for Eduardo to climb back on, and sped off.

The entire exchange between the officer and the boys had lasted 42 seconds.

Later, the police would leak the CCTV video to a local paper.

___

What came next would last four hours.

The two teenagers, visibly nervous, ditched the bike and started running in the middle of a five-lane highway, desperately trying to stop anyone to give them a ride. They ran past a Clarion Hotel, a Burger King and a McDonald’s. At one point, traffic video caught them trying to jump a moving bus, pointing their gun at the driver, who did not stop.

The fleeing pair was not such an unusual sight, running in broad daylight, in the middle of Tegucigalpa. Seasoned motorists knew to stay out of the way.

Two policemen finally caught the boys in a parking lot near the Marriott Hotel, in the same block as the presidential palace.

Police won’t say what happened next, but according to public prosecutor Alexis Santos, 40, the police officers started beating both the boys, focusing on Eduardo, whom they thought had fired the gun.

‘‘Immediately they started beating us, with their weapons, with their feet,’’ Edwin said. ‘‘They’d hit me on the head with the back of the gun, and they kept telling us they were gonna kill us.’’

When officers realized people had gathered to watch, they took the young men, already badly hurt, to the headquarters of the transit police. The beatings continued — again in a parking lot — for three hours. At the time, Santos said, neither boy had been officially detained, which would have alerted a prosecutor.

Edwin doesn’t know how many policemen took part in the beating. Santos later said soldiers were also there.

‘‘One of the cops would grab me by the hair and hold me, while another one punched and kicked me,’’ Edwin said.

The cops took pictures with their cellphones, something Honduran policemen often do when they catch a suspect. Graphic photographs of the beaten, the tortured and the dead are typically sent to reporters for publication — including to The Associated Press. La Tribuna published photos of the boys, showing Eduardo lying on the ground, shirtless, unconscious and covered in blood. Edwin slumped stunned against a wall, handcuffed, his left eye swollen.

He couldn’t see past the blood in his eyes, and then he passed out.

Eduardo was taken to Hospital Escuela, a medical school. He died four days later.

The autopsy indicated the cause of death was more than 20 blows to the base of the skull with a blunt object — a gun, prosecutors say.

Santos calls the incident a crime, a public lynching. The charges were clear: illegal detention, torture leading to death, dereliction of public duty and a cover-up.

Accusations that police commit extrajudicial killings are nothing new here. At least seven times in the last few months, members of a street gang were killed or went missing after run-ins with police, the AP has reported, feeding charges that they were victims of federal death squads.

There is some justice in Honduras, but not much — 82 percent of the complaints filed to a prosecutor never reach trial. An attorney general testified before Congress in June that nine out of 10 crimes went unpunished. He was fired shortly thereafter.

People who talked to Santos about the case were mystified that he was frustrated by his inability to corral a chaotic criminal justice system.

‘‘People say, ‘Why are you going after the police, if the one they caught has killed a policeman?’’’ Santos said.

The video of Arita’s killing and the boys’ escape went viral after it was broadcast by the media, triggering hundreds of responses on newspaper websites.

But rather than demands for justice, the crime epidemic has created an ‘‘eye for an eye’’ culture.

‘‘They are too dangerous to be allowed to live, these people should die,’’ read a comment left on a local newspaper’s website.

‘‘Too bad the thugs didn’t kill each other. I hope he gets raped and killed in prison,’’ said another.

And a third one: ‘‘One less scumbag in the world.’’

Santos thinks the images of the policeman’s killing were released to justify what happened afterward. Eduardo’s death was a sort of ‘‘social cleansing.’’

The surveillance video of the beating in the parking lot was never released to the public.

Santos doesn’t expect to find evidence that will indict the police. When he asked for the names of the agents who participated in the beatings, he was given more than 100 names. None of them are compelled to testify. The crime will just top his mountain of some 600 open cases — the average for a federal prosecutor.

The case was as good as closed since Santos had no assistant and no car to conduct investigations — or even a motorcycle.

Police director Juan Carlos Bonilla told the AP in an interview in September that ‘‘you should not have the slightest doubt that we will act according to the law, and we will do it fast.’’

Four months later, there were still no arrests. Bonilla was removed from his post. Santos was fired shortly after landing Edwin’s case.

___

At the correctional center for minors outside Tegucigalpa, Edwin is awaiting trial.

His mother rarely visits. She can’t afford the trip.

‘‘If she comes, she can’t sell tortillas, and if she doesn’t sell tortillas, there’s no money for food.’’

Why did he shoot Arita? He didn’t really mean to, he insists. He panicked and went after the gun. ‘‘I regret it; of course I regret it.’’

Edwin faces eight to 15 years in jail. But he will be lucky if he lives that long. In September, he was admitted to a hospital for more injuries from a second police beating, this one in jail. During his first meeting with an AP reporter, he could not walk on his own.

One of the guards says that in Honduras, someone who kills a policeman ‘‘is carrying four planks of wood on his shoulder’’ — a dead man walking.

But Edwin has left his own legacy.

In the town of Ocotepeque, the son of the murdered traffic cop has a new set of dreams.

Joaquin, the oldest at 15, dropped out of school to sell paintings for $5 a day, to help the family make ends meet after his father’s death. He is nurturing a slow vengeance. When he grows up, he said, ‘‘I want to be a policeman and kill those gang members.’’

© Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Fuente: http://www.boston.com/news/world/latin-america/2013/12/28/teens-thievery-turns-tragic-for-honduran-cop/CqwrPiXUP5cTZ6YbsP1bGL/story.html

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Honduras fires top cop dogged by death squad claim

Posted on Thursday, 12.19.13

By FREDDY CUEVAS

Associated Press

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — President Porfirio Lobo on Thursday fired Honduras’ national police chief, who has long faced accusations he ran death squads when he was a lower-level officer and whose force has been hit with frequent abuse claims.

Lobo said he made the decision to remove Gen. Juan Carlos Bonilla in consultations with President-elect Juan Orlando Hernandez, who takes office Jan. 27.

Neither Lobo nor the incoming president explained the reasons for the firing. But the step had been expected with the change in administration as Hernandez has expressed skepticism of efforts to weed out corrupt officers and shake up the National Police, which is the only police force in Honduras. Bonilla also indicated he was interested in leaving.

“We are making these changes now, because we are in the planning phase to have a successful start on Jan. 27,” Hernandez said.

As chief, Bonilla has been the U.S. government’s go-to man in Honduras for the war on drug trafficking, although the past charges have dogged him and the State Department denied it worked directly with a man also known as “the Tiger.”

Bonilla was indicted in 2002 for alleged human rights violations stemming from accusations he led a social cleansing campaign that killed criminals while he was a regional police chief. A court acquitted him of one alleged death squad killing, and Honduras’ Supreme Court upheld the verdict in 2009.

In August 2012, Lobo named him chief of Honduras’ National Police department, which faces frequent allegations of beating, killing and “disappearing” people who are detained. Bonilla has run all policing, from planning operations to directing investigations and even approving travel abroad for training and vehicle repairs.

Bonilla “was the only high-ranking official without known ties to organized crime,” said Arabeska Sanchez, who is an investigator with the University Institute of Peace and Security and a teacher at the country’s Police Academy. “He remains under suspicion because it is impossible to know if he has been implicated in state policies of human rights violations that have occurred close to him.”

In a wide-ranging conversation with The Associated Press earlier this year, the 49-year-old five-star general denied the accusations against him, and said that he was in no way responsible for a rash of gang members who disappeared after being arrested.

“I can’t be on top of everything. Sometimes things will escape me. I’m human,” Bonilla told the AP.

Bonilla referred frequently to the support he receives from the U.S. Embassy for police operations.

The claim of a close relationship ran counter to a memo sent by the State Department to Congress shortly after Bonilla was named police chief, saying it was aware of the human rights allegations against him. The U.S. government says it has no relations with him.

His replacement will be Commissioner Ramon Sabillon, who said that he expects to talk to Bonilla about the job and the state of security in Honduras.

“We are ready to establish important and necessary communication with citizens so that they help us and we help them with respect to social needs and security,” said Sabillon.

Honduras serves as a way station for most South American cocaine bound for the U.S. The deeply poor nation of 8 million people has one of the world’s highest homicide rates. Corruption is rampant and the rule of law is weak.

Associated Press writer Alberto Arce in Managua, Nicaragua, contributed to this report.

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British Gas risks fueling dirty war in killing fields of Honduras

Monday, 09 December 2013 10:25

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On a death list: Bertha Oliva, head of the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras. On a death list: Bertha Oliva, head of the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras. Photo: Michael Gillard

Death squads are operating in a coastal area where British Gas has started a multi-million pound offshore oil exploration drive. Michael Gillard reports from the killing fields of Honduras where peasant and community leaders are dying and a British company is at risk of fueling the dirty war.

Josbin Santamaria Caballero has disappeared. Soldiers came looking for him in the early hours of the morning on 30 October. They traveled in patrol boats through this remote but heavily militarized corner of northeast Honduras, where British Gas has just started exploring for oil that could lead to a £50m investment over the next ten years.

When the soldiers arrived, Josbin’s wife, Rosa, was making breakfast for their daughters Keilin, aged six, and two-year-old Nesly. She said the soldiers started beating her husband, a peasant farmer, and accusing him of being a sicario or assassin for local drug lords.

The long-abandoned region of Gracias a Dios has more than potentially large oil and gas fields. It is also a transhipment point for tons of cocaine sent by Colombian and Mexican cartels to the United States. However, there is little to thank God for among the farmers and fisherman living in this war zone.

Last year, a joint US-Honduran drugs operation led to the death of four innocent villagers traveling home by small boat. Two were pregnant, one a teenager and the other a father. Four more were injured in a hail of bullets when the army helicopter gunship opened fire on the boat.

This October, when a helicopter landed at the Caballeros’ farm near Bruss Laguna, Rosa recalled in a witness statement how some 40 soldiers spread out to secure the area.  “They blindfolded us so we couldn’t see the soldiers’ faces. I heard one, who appeared to be in charge, say ‘kill and burn him’, then two shots. When I was able to remove the blindfold I saw soldiers carrying Josbin onto the helicopter. I didn’t know if he was alive or dead. When the helicopter left they said to me, ‘We’ll give you five minutes to get out of here.’ I grabbed my two girls and fled to the mountains.”

Honduras
Josbin’s mother Digna Santamaria with his two daughters

Rosa’s statement went to the Human Rights prosecutor. It arrived five days before the presidential elections on 24 November, which saw the return of the right wing National Party on an internal security and foreign investment manifesto.

An investigation is underway. However, there remains almost total impunity for human rights abuses committed by Honduran security forces. The prosecutor’s office is under-resourced and itself under threat from sicarios.

The US-trained army deny they were ever at the Caballero farm. The family has formally accused Colonel German Alfaro, commander of the Xatruch Task Force based near the border of Gracias a Dios, of planning Caballero’s murder. Days before his disappearance the colonel publicly denounced Caballero as an assassin. Last Wednesday he said: “This individual is a criminal and sicario. In fact, today someone came to my office willing to give evidence in a court that he had seen this man kill a 6-month old baby”.  Col. Alfaro said Caballero also kills for the United Peasant Movement (MUCA) and fled to Gracias a Dios to escape justice.

Digna Santamaria, Caballero’s mother, is a high profile member of MUCA in Tocoa, the town where Col. Alfaro is based. Her two grandchildren are staying with Digna in the peasant settlement of La Confianza. She believes he was ‘disappeared’ because of her work in defending peasant land rights against landowners in the palm oil industry. Since 2010, 113 peasant leaders have been killed in the region.

Caballero’s case has been taken up by the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared (COFADEH) in Honduras.  Bertha Oliva, its director, said the police and military are using the US-led war on drugs in Honduras to eliminate civilian political and community leaders seeking land reform in an area dominated by agribusiness, cocaine kingpins and now oil barons. Oliva has been marked for death many times since the early 1980s when her husband, a resistance fighter, disappeared. “The death squads are here waiting to strike at the people. I am on the list again,” she said.

Amnesty International has warned that human rights defenders, indigenous and peasant leaders, justice officials and journalists are subject to phone tapping, surveillance, death threats, kidnapping and murder. The military and private security working for big business are targeting and criminalising peasant communities, it said in a recent letter to presidential candidates.

British Gas is talking to the Honduran army and navy about future security arrangements in the coastal area of La Mosquitia in Gracias a Dios.  It is concerned about working in the world’s most violent country and the third most corrupt in the Americas.

“We believe that Honduras offers considerable potential of reserves and felt that the offshore region had been largely overlooked by our competitors. We strongly support human rights within our areas of influence and recognise the significant impact that a major oil or gas discovery and development could make to the country,” said a spokesman for the company, which split in 1997 from the UK domestic gas supplier of the same name.

British Gas started negotiations with the Honduras government last year. In May it signed a contract securing rights to explore an offshore coastal area of 13,500 square miles. La Mosquitia is home to at least four indigenous peoples. In 1859, Honduras signed a treaty with the departing British Crown agreeing to hand back land titles to the ‘Mosquito Indians’.

The Honduran government only fully complied with the treaty this September when British Gas was consulting with Miskitu Asla Takanka, which the company says is “one of the largest groups representing indigenous communities”.  However, Bertha Caceres, head of the Coordinating Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras, said the land title transfer is a way for the government to divide tribal peoples and buy off those opposed to or demanding greater investment from the oil and gas project. She said British Gas had not consulted her group.

Honduras
Josbin Santamaria Caballero before he disappeared in October

British Gas is waiting for government environmental licences to begin surveys. The company has allocated £300,000 over the next two years for social and environmental investment projects.

A spokesman said: “We haven’t gone in with our eyes closed. Clearly the security situation and human rights issue is a major area of concern.”

Col. Alfaro denied there are any state-sponsored death squads operating in the northeast, except those linked to drug traffickers and the peasant movement. He said he would shortly be releasing recently received video and witness evidence proving that Caballero is alive.

It’s day 40 and his body is nowhere to be seen.

An edited version of this article first appeared in The Sunday Times on 8 December 2013.  Photos:  Michael Gillard ©

Fuente: http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/climate/item/5598-british-gas-risks-fueling-dirty-war-in-killing-fields-of-honduras

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AP Exclusive: Top cop is US go-to man in Honduras for war on drugs, denies death squad charge

By Associated Press,

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — In a capital accustomed to daily bloodshed, the man in charge of law enforcement is as feared as the criminals. Few dare speak his name above a whisper.

Five-star Gen. Juan Carlos Bonilla was accused a decade ago of running death squads and today oversees a department suspected of beating, killing and “disappearing” its detainees. He is the top cop in the country that serves as a way station for most South American cocaine bound for the United States and beyond.

Bonilla is also the U.S. government’s go-to man in Honduras for the war on drug trafficking.

Though the State Department officially keeps the 49-year-old chief at arm’s length over his dubious past, Bonilla embraces the U.S. government as his “best ally and support.” If the U.S. wants to fight drug trafficking in Honduras, it has to work with Bonilla.

“I am the director general, and I don’t delegate that responsibility to anyone,” Bonilla said during his first interview with a reporter since 2011.

In a wide-ranging conversation with The Associated Press that started over lunch at his favorite Tegucigalpa restaurant and ended after a late dinner at his well-appointed home, Bonilla denied he once led a social cleansing campaign, that his police force is as criminal as those it arrests, or that he is in any way responsible for a rash of gang members who disappeared after being arrested. Two of them later turned up dead on the edge of town.

“I can’t be on top of everything. Sometimes things will escape me. I’m human,” Bonilla said.

Honduras is a country under siege with one of the world’s highest murder rates, where corruption is rampant and the rule of law weak. Its citizens scurry home before dusk in the capital. The sound of automatic gunfire peppers the night, and cities awaken to discarded bodies, the handiwork of street gangs, extortion rackets, drug mafias and, apparently, the police.

By law, Bonilla runs all policing in Honduras, everything from planning operations and directing investigations, to approving travel abroad for training and vehicle repairs.  He oversees a troubled force where there is no consistent account of how many officers are on the payroll or how many show up for work, only estimates ranging from 8,000 to 15,000.

The police routinely are accused of civil rights violations. Between March and May, the AP reported at least five cases of alleged gang members missing or killed after being taken into police custody in what critics and human rights advocates call death squads engaged in a wave of social cleansing of criminals. In July, a man died of a burst liver after he was arrested for disorderly conduct and beaten by police, according to a prosecutor’s file. In August, a gang member was beaten to death after being arrested for shooting an officer, a crime captured on surveillance tape that went viral on the Internet.

Bonilla said he is aware of the charges and insisted that every complaint is being investigated.  Excesses “happen, yes. We investigate them and act,” he said. “You cannot use a word like ‘death squads,’ because there is no chain of command or an order by me, never, under any circumstances, to act illegally.”

He defended the institution where “I’ve spent my whole life. I am loyal to it.”

Bonilla is a formidable figure, solidly built at 6 feet, with a shaved head and large nose set in a ruddy face. His voice is like a windstorm rising from the depths of a cavern, his words come slowly at first and then accelerate to a dizzying onslaught.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, Bonilla returned frequently to the support he receives from the U.S. Embassy for police operations. In one case, he ordered a subordinate to track a police commander with possible ties to drug traffickers. “I want to know where he is now. Find their phones and tap them. I will ask the Embassy for help,” he said.

The close relationship runs counter to an August 2012 memo issued by the State Department to Congress shortly after Bonilla was named police chief, saying it was “aware of allegations of human rights violations related to Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla’s service a decade ago.”

A 2002 report by the Honduran police department’s internal affairs section  accused Bonilla of three killings or forced disappearances starting in 1998, when he was a regional police chief. It also linked him to at least 11 other cases. He was tried on one of the charges and acquitted. The others were never fully investigated.

The State Department decided to conduct its own review, meanwhile, and said in the memo that it was “carefully limiting assistance to special Honduran law enforcement units … not under Bonilla’s supervision.”  In March, Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield reiterated, “We have no relations with him; we don’t give him so much as a dollar or even a cent.”

Bonilla said there are no police units beyond his supervision. Fourteen months later, the U.S. investigation has not been completed. U.S. officials say there is no law against talking to Bonilla, and that it is necessary to do so in a country where an estimated 87 percent of all cocaine smuggling flights departing from South America land. Of $30 million in U.S. aid that was held up by the Senate Appropriations Committee because of concerns about human rights, impunity and Bonilla, two-thirds has since been released.

“Our diplomats talk to lots of people because they are in positions of authority, not because they like them,” said an aide to Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who wrote the provisions requiring human rights vetting for U.S. aid. The aide was not authorized to speak on the record.   “What matters is not that they talk to him, but what the Honduran police are doing.  Are they protecting the people, or are they protecting the drug traffickers?  As far as his saying the U.S. is his biggest ally in counterdrug operations, our ally is Honduras, not the chief of police.”

The jury is still out on Bonilla’s success in fighting drug trafficking. In September, a joint Honduran-U.S operation targeted “Los Cachiros,” the cartel that controls an estimated 90 percent of the clandestine runways in the country. U.S. and Honduran officials first touted that Operation Neptune yielded some $500 million in assets, including real estate, a mining company and a zoo.  But then the director of Honduras’ Office of Seized Property said that 71 bank accounts seized were empty. Corrupt authorities had alerted the traffickers ahead of time, said Director Humberto Palacios Moya, though he did not implicate anyone specifically.

Bonilla says he hails from humble indigenous origins and was forcibly recruited into military service at age 12, where he gained the nickname “El Tigre,” or the Tiger. He transferred to the National Police when it was created 1998. Much to the dismay of international human rights groups, he was tapped as police chief in May 2012 after his predecessor was fired, presumably for two high-profile criminal cases involving police. In one, a prominent journalist close to President Porfirio Lobo was assassinated. In the other, civilians were shot dead during a joint Honduran- U.S. anti-drug operation in the remote Moskitia region, where most clandestine cocaine flights from South America land.

Bonilla “was the only top police commander without known links to organized crime,” said Arabeska Sanchez, researcher and founder of Honduras’ University Institute for Peace and Security who, as a professor at the National Police Academy, taught Bonilla in many classes. “But he still comes under suspicion because it’s impossible to know if he was involved in state-sponsored human rights violations that evidently happened very close to him.”

Dressed in a crisp, dark blue uniform, Bonilla moves about in an armored car in a city where gunmen travel by motorcycle for a quick kill and getaway. He keeps a loaded M-16 by his seat and says he would not hesitate to use it if attacked.

In private, many Hondurans say they are terrified of Bonilla. In the interview, however, he was unwaveringly gracious, smiling even when answering the most pointed questions. He showed off his library of hundreds of books on drug-trafficking, history and philosophy, underlined or marked with colored Post-it notes. The feared general liberally quotes French social theorist Michel Foucault and Austrian writer Stefan Zweig.

Among his books, Bonilla keeps a leather-bound copy of the indictment against him and says the death squad charges are not only false, but the stigma still haunts him.

“It’s very painful as a human being for your family, your children, your children’s schoolmates, your father, your friends or a woman you just met to ask you if you are a murderer,” he said.

At the end of the day, Bonilla asked his bodyguard to bring him a book from the glove compartment of his car. It was an annotated edition of “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu, a Chinese general who lived 2600 years ago.

He read an underlined paragraph in the introduction: “We live in a culture of simulation, in which nothing is what it seems and the image that reigns has no reference to the real world.”

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fuente: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/ap-exclusive-top-cop-is-us-go-to-man-in-honduras-for-war-on-drugs-denies-death-squad-charge/2013/11/01/3507243c-432c-11e3-b028-de922d7a3f47_story_2.html

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AP Exclusive: Top cop is US go-to man in Honduras for war on drugs, denies death squad charge

In this July 3, 2012 photo, Honduras Police Chief, Gen. Juan Carlos Bonilla, center, speaks to the press during a news conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The five-star general was accused a decade ago of running deaths squads and today oversees a department suspected of beating, killing and “disappearing” its detainees. He also is the top cop in the country that serves as a way station for most South American cocaine bound for the United States and beyond. Bonilla is also the U.S. government’s go-to man in Honduras for the war on drug trafficking. (Fernando Antonio/Associated Press)

By Associated Press,  Published: NOVEMBER 01, 5:00 PM ET


      Aa


TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — In a capital accustomed to daily bloodshed, the man in charge of law enforcement is as feared as the criminals. Few dare speak his name above a whisper.

Five-star Gen. Juan Carlos Bonilla was accused a decade ago of running death squads and today oversees a department suspected of beating, killing and “disappearing” its detainees. He is the top cop in the country that serves as a way station for most South American cocaine bound for the United States and beyond.

Bonilla is also the U.S. government’s go-to man in Honduras for the war on drug trafficking.

Though the State Department officially keeps the 49-year-old chief at arm’s length over his dubious past, Bonilla embraces the U.S. government as his “best ally and support.” If the U.S. wants to fight drug trafficking in Honduras, it has to work with Bonilla.

“I am the director general, and I don’t delegate that responsibility to anyone,” Bonilla said during his first interview with a reporter since 2011.

In a wide-ranging conversation with The Associated Press that started over lunch at his favorite Tegucigalpa restaurant and ended after a late dinner at his well-appointed home, Bonilla denied he once led a social cleansing campaign, that his police force is as criminal as those it arrests, or that he is in any way responsible for a rash of gang members who disappeared after being arrested. Two of them later turned up dead on the edge of town.

“I can’t be on top of everything. Sometimes things will escape me. I’m human,” Bonilla said.

Honduras is a country under siege with one of the world’s highest murder rates, where corruption is rampant and the rule of law weak. Its citizens scurry home before dusk in the capital. The sound of automatic gunfire peppers the night, and cities awaken to discarded bodies, the handiwork of street gangs, extortion rackets, drug mafias and, apparently, the police.

By law, Bonilla runs all policing in Honduras, everything from planning operations and directing investigations, to approving travel abroad for training and vehicle repairs. He oversees a troubled force where there is no consistent account of how many officers are on the payroll or how many show up for work, only estimates ranging from 8,000 to 15,000.

The police routinely are accused of civil rights violations. Between March and May, the AP reported at least five cases of alleged gang members missing or killed after being taken into police custody in what critics and human rights advocates call death squads engaged in a wave of social cleansing of criminals. In July, a man died of a burst liver after he was arrested for disorderly conduct and beaten by police, according to a prosecutor’s file. In August, a gang member was beaten to death after being arrested for shooting an officer, a crime captured on surveillance tape that went viral on the Internet.

Bonilla said he is aware of the charges and insisted that every complaint is being investigated. Excesses “happen, yes. We investigate them and act,” he said. “You cannot use a word like ‘death squads,’ because there is no chain of command or an order by me, never, under any circumstances, to act illegally.”

He defended the institution where “I’ve spent my whole life. I am loyal to it.”

Bonilla is a formidable figure, solidly built at 6 feet, with a shaved head and large nose set in a ruddy face. His voice is like a windstorm rising from the depths of a cavern, his words come slowly at first and then accelerate to a dizzying onslaught.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, Bonilla returned frequently to the support he receives from the U.S. Embassy for police operations. In one case, he ordered a subordinate to track a police commander with possible ties to drug traffickers. “I want to know where he is now. Find their phones and tap them. I will ask the Embassy for help,” he said.

The close relationship runs counter to an August 2012 memo issued by the State Department to Congress shortly after Bonilla was named police chief, saying it was “aware of allegations of human rights violations related to Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla’s service a decade ago.”

A 2002 report by the Honduran police department’s internal affairs section accused Bonilla of three killings or forced disappearances starting in 1998, when he was a regional police chief. It also linked him to at least 11 other cases. He was tried on one of the charges and acquitted. The others were never fully investigated.

The State Department decided to conduct its own review, meanwhile, and said in the memo that it was “carefully limiting assistance to special Honduran law enforcement units … not under Bonilla’s supervision.” In March, Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield reiterated, “We have no relations with him; we don’t give him so much as a dollar or even a cent.”

Bonilla said there are no police units beyond his supervision. Fourteen months later, the U.S. investigation has not been completed. U.S. officials say there is no law against talking to Bonilla, and that it is necessary to do so in a country where an estimated 87 percent of all cocaine smuggling flights departing from South America land. Of $30 million in U.S. aid that was held up by the Senate Appropriations Committee because of concerns about human rights, impunity and Bonilla, two-thirds has since been released.

“Our diplomats talk to lots of people because they are in positions of authority, not because they like them,” said an aide to Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who wrote the provisions requiring human rights vetting for U.S. aid. The aide was not authorized to speak on the record. “What matters is not that they talk to him, but what the Honduran police are doing. Are they protecting the people, or are they protecting the drug traffickers? As far as his saying the U.S. is his biggest ally in counterdrug operations, our ally is Honduras, not the chief of police.”

The jury is still out on Bonilla’s success in fighting drug trafficking. In September, a joint Honduran-U.S operation targeted “Los Cachiros,” the cartel that controls an estimated 90 percent of the clandestine runways in the country. U.S. and Honduran officials first touted that Operation Neptune yielded some $500 million in assets, including real estate, a mining company and a zoo. But then the director of Honduras’ Office of Seized Property said that 71 bank accounts seized were empty. Corrupt authorities had alerted the traffickers ahead of time, said Director Humberto Palacios Moya, though he did not implicate anyone specifically.

Bonilla says he hails from humble indigenous origins and was forcibly recruited into military service at age 12, where he gained the nickname “El Tigre,” or the Tiger. He transferred to the National Police when it was created 1998. Much to the dismay of international human rights groups, he was tapped as police chief in May 2012 after his predecessor was fired, presumably for two high-profile criminal cases involving police. In one, a prominent journalist close to President Porfirio Lobo was assassinated. In the other, civilians were shot dead during a joint Honduran- U.S. anti-drug operation in the remote Moskitia region, where most clandestine cocaine flights from South America land.

Bonilla “was the only top police commander without known links to organized crime,” said Arabeska Sanchez, researcher and founder of Honduras’ University Institute for Peace and Security who, as a professor at the National Police Academy, taught Bonilla in many classes. “But he still comes under suspicion because it’s impossible to know if he was involved in state-sponsored human rights violations that evidently happened very close to him.”

Dressed in a crisp, dark blue uniform, Bonilla moves about in an armored car in a city where gunmen travel by motorcycle for a quick kill and getaway. He keeps a loaded M-16 by his seat and says he would not hesitate to use it if attacked.

In private, many Hondurans say they are terrified of Bonilla. In the interview, however, he was unwaveringly gracious, smiling even when answering the most pointed questions. He showed off his library of hundreds of books on drug-trafficking, history and philosophy, underlined or marked with colored Post-it notes. The feared general liberally quotes French social theorist Michel Foucault and Austrian writer Stefan Zweig.

Among his books, Bonilla keeps a leather-bound copy of the indictment against him and says the death squad charges are not only false, but the stigma still haunts him.

“It’s very painful as a human being for your family, your children, your children’s schoolmates, your father, your friends or a woman you just met to ask you if you are a murderer,” he said.

At the end of the day, Bonilla asked his bodyguard to bring him a book from the glove compartment of his car. It was an annotated edition of “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu, a Chinese general who lived 2600 years ago.

He read an underlined paragraph in the introduction: “We live in a culture of simulation, in which nothing is what it seems and the image that reigns has no reference to the real world.”

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fuente: http://m.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/ap-exclusive-top-cop-is-us-go-to-man-in-honduras-for-war-on-drugs-denies-death-squad-charge/2013/11/01/3507243c-432c-11e3-b028-de922d7a3f47_story.html

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Las frases del jefe de policía hondureña


Associated Press Published: Nov 1, 2013
 

               
En esta fotografía del 3 de julio de 2012, el jefe de la policía de Honduras, general Juan Carlos Bonilla, al centro, habla durante una conferencia de prensa en Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  El general de cinco estrellas fue acusado hace una década de operar escuadrones de la muerte y en la actualidad supervisa un departamento sospechoso de golpear, matar y “desaparecer” a sus detenidos. También es el principal policía en el país por el que pasa la mayor parte de la cocaína sudamericana que se dirige a Estados Unidos y otras partes. Además Bonilla es el hombre al que recurre el gobierno estadounidense en la guerra contra el narcotráfico. (Foto AP/Fernando Antonio)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) – Acerca de los periodistas: “No me gusta el sesgo, la intencionalidad de las repreguntas de los periodistas”.

Acerca de sus orígenes: “Hay gente a la que le molesta que un indio, que el hijo de un campesino y pescador pobre del sur del país, haya llegado a ser General Director de la Policía. Bien, a mí no me gustan los ricos y los famosos”,

Acerca de su apodo: “Hace años que me llaman “Tigre”, no recuerdo cómo comenzó. Tengo un nombre que me gusta, un nombre bonito, Juan Carlos Bonilla. Quien me conoce me llama Juan Carlos”.

Acerca del miedo que le tienen: “Yo no grito, no me altero, no levanto la voz. Digo lo que tengo que decir sin importarme a quien, ni dónde, ni cuándo. Pero cuanto más enfadado esté, más suave lo diré. Nunca me verá usted perder la compostura ni la educación. Si alguien me tiene miedo es porque sabe que conmigo no hay negociación, ni influencia posible, yo no hago favores, yo no me pliego al poder político ni a sus campañas ni a las amenazas. Yo no me pliego ante nadie”.

Acerca de las acusaciones sobre los escuadrones de la muerte: “Esa acusación es totalmente falsa. La niego totalmente. Yo no estaba allí, yo no tuve nada que ver con esos hechos. Eso sucedió en San Pedro Sula cuando yo estaba en Tegucigalpa. La entonces Jefa de Asuntos Internos de la policía reunió testimonios y decidió atacarme. Nunca sabré porque lo hizo. No quiero seguir hablando de ello durante más de diez años”.

Acerca de su seguridad personal: “igual que no tengo miedo de morir, tampoco tengo miedo del uso de las armas y los brazos para defenderme si se me ataca. Si alguien entrase por esa puerta, yo saltaría por encima de la mesa con mi pistola para defenderme antes de que usted se diese cuenta de estar paralizado por el susto. Usted nunca sabrá el tipo de amenazas contra uno o miembros de su familia que conlleva un cargo como este”.

Acerca de las acusaciones en contra de sus policías: “Yo no puedo estar encima de todo, alguna vez se me va a escapar algo. Soy humano. No puede tratar de culparme a mí de todo lo que sucede dentro de la policía”.

Acerca de su infancia: “Fui un recluta forzado. Era otra época. Así era entonces en Honduras, que no había firmado las convenciones de los derechos del niño. No elegí, no lo pienso, no lo cuestiono. La vida es así y así tira uno hacia delante. Tengo un recuerdo bonito de aquella etapa porque me marcó y me hizo ser quien soy”.

Acerca de su relación con la Embajada de Estados Unidos: “Hay cuestiones de trabajo que es imposible solucionar políticamente, que pertenecen al ámbito operativo y de las que uno tiene que ocuparse personalmente. ¿Yo le pido cosas a la Embajada? Sí. No les pido nada que no entre dentro de mis competencias o en las relaciones de coordinación de las que soy responsable, existen las relaciones interpersonales a las que yo tengo que acceder a diario pero acceder no significa interceder”.

Acerca de la violencia de Honduras: “La violencia de Honduras es una violencia importada, llegada de fuera, que no se corresponde con la idiosincrasia hondureña. Desde el punto de vista histórico, gran parte de las armas que circulan por el país vienen de la época del problema Irán-Contra, que inundó Honduras de armamento originalmente destinado a la Contra nicaragüense. La deportación de delincuentes desde los Estados Unidos trajo a Honduras un número de personas preparadas para el crimen y la desarticulación de los carteles colombianos provocó el efecto cucaracha. Al aplastar las cucharas, sus huevos explotaron y expandieron las crías, al fumigarlas, las expulsaron del lugar en el que estaban

Acerca del estado hondureño y su gobernabilidad: “Honduras no es un país ingobernable. No hay una conmoción social generalizada. No es un Estado fallido. Es cierto que hay zonas del país donde no hay una presencia policial o militar permanente, pero es cierto que cuando se toma la decisión de entrar se entra, aún podemos entrar, con lo cual, no somos un estado fallido, somos un estado con problemas serios, pero no fallido”.

Fuente: http://m.apnews.com/mnnes/db_15336/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=Rb7NZo7h

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En Honduras escuadrones de la muerte actúan impunemente, según coordinadora del Cofadeh

27 Julio 2013, 13:32
Tegucigalpa – Luego de conocer la exhortación que hicieron el jueves dos legisladores demócratas al gobierno estadounidense de Barack Obama, para aumentar la atención sobre la crisis de seguridad ciudadana y respeto a los derechos humanos en Honduras, la coordinadora del Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (Cofadeh), Berta Oliva, denunció que en el país existen escuadrones de la muerte que actúan impunemente.

El representante demócrata por Massachusetts, James McGovern, señaló que la seguridad y el respeto a los derechos humanos no ha mejorado, “sino más bien se han deteriorado” desde la elección del presidente Porfirio Lobo en 2009, e identificó como su principal preocupación que “Estados Unidos pueda estar apoyando a esos violadores (de derechos humanos) a través de nuestra cooperación internacional, que incluye 16 millones de dólares para la Policía hondureña en lo que va de este año”.

Por su parte, el senador Tim Kaine, demócrata por Virginia, quien durante su juventud trabajó con jesuitas en Honduras en 1980, acusó al gobierno de Lobo de “no encausar a los responsables por atacar a víctimas sólo por su profesión o activismo” y exhortó a los 79 legisladores de la Comisión de Derechos Humanos a “presionar al gobierno (estadounidense) para que contacte al gobierno hondureño” sobre el nombramiento del fiscal general, lo que calificó como “crítico para garantizar la rendición de cuentas sobre infracciones a los derechos humanos patrocinadas por el Estado”.

En ese sentido, Oliva manifestó que “para nosotros es claro que la situación del país que estamos enfrentando día a día, en otros países del mundo que monitorean y donde hay un compromiso real por la vida y las libertades, califican que Honduras sufre una epidemia que va en contra de todo lo que es fortalecer un Estado de derecho”.

Berta Oliva, actualmente forma parte de la directiva del Partido Libertad y Refundación (Libre), que coordina el ex presidente Manuel Zelaya y que postula a Xiomara Castro como candidata presidencial.

Oliva añadió que los habitantes de los países que dan donaciones para ayudar a un país en crisis como Honduras y principalmente los estadounidenses que pagan sus impuestos, exigen a su gobierno que les explique qué es lo que están haciendo con sus impuestos porque saben claramente que han apoyado al país centroamericano para mejorar las condiciones de vida, la seguridad interior y los resultados que se tienen en la actualidad, son lamentables y condenables.

Agregó que eso hace suponer que si hay una estrategia en esa materia por parte de las autoridades de Honduras porque no se puede explicar que en menos de nueve meses hay 16 personas que han sido asesinadas con clara evidencia de persecución política y eso significa una sistematicidad en las acciones y que reflejan un patrón o modus operandi.

“Si los países que han desembolsado una gran cantidad de fondos para mejorar la seguridad interna del país, es lógico que los congresistas estadounidenses reclamen y tomen posiciones y ese no es una antojo de los defensores de derechos humanos sino que no se puede tapar el sol con un dedo; aquí están operando escuadrones de la muerte, hombres armados que actúan al margen de la ley”, aseveró la coordinadora del Cofadeh.

Citó el caso que ocurrió el jueves en la ciudad de Tela en el Caribe hondureño, donde dos defensores de derechos humanos, uno de nacionalidad suiza y otro de nacionalidad francesa, quienes fueron secuestrados prácticamente por más de dos horas y obligados a que borraran todas las fotografías que habían tomado en el lugar y también forzados a no denunciar pues de lo contrario algo le iba a pasar a gente de la comunidad o a ellos mismos.

“Eso el mundo lo está viendo, lo está monitoreando, el trabajo de los defensores de derechos humanos en este momento está siendo vigilado internacionalmente, entonces el informe que han emitido los senadores de Estados Unidos, no lo están haciendo por una presión política sino que lo hacen porque la situación que estamos viviendo refleja datos y nombres y cuando hablamos de patrones, de sistematicidad y de personas que están siendo amenazadas, torturadas y asesinadas, manifiesta una intención de sembrar el caos, el terror y someter a la población que demanda otras condiciones o que quiere otras opciones a medida que se acercan las elecciones (generales)”, denunció.

Oliva advirtió que si no se toman en cuenta esos análisis, señalamientos y comparecencias de sociólogas connotadas como la doctora Dana Fran, que esta semana compareció ante el Departamento de Estado, donde fue llamada para que diera un informe sobre la situación de Honduras ya que conoce mucho de la realidad del país centroamericano.

La activista de derechos humanos, aseveró que en Honduras no se pueden hacer actos de reclamación pública porque está criminalizada la protesta pública lo que conlleva consigo una violación a la libertad de expresión porque no sólo es dirigida al periodista sino a la población y a las comunidades que hacen reclamos.

“Hoy lo que tenemos es una sociedad atemorizada y la gente que viene a Honduras, que tiene un mediano conocimiento sobre el tema de derechos humanos y la afectación emocional y sicológica que está sufriendo el pueblo hondureño, se va espantada inmediatamente y lógicamente, el futuro del país bajo esas condiciones y las elecciones próximas que se van a practicar, van a ser un voto a través del miedo y los hondureños estaríamos sometidos a una crisis peor a la que estamos viviendo”, aseveró Oliva.

Fuente: http://www.proceso.hn/2013/07/27/Term%C3%B3metro/En.Honduras.escuadrones/72489.html

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AP Further Documents Evidence of Honduran Police Death Squads; U.S. State Department Hits Back

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Written by Dan Beeton
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 16:40

A new investigative feature by award-winning Associated Press correspondent Alberto Arce probes deeper into recurring police death squad activity in Honduras. Following up on his reports in March, Arce details the cases of several gang suspects who have disappeared after being taken into police custody, as well as what witnesses have described as the gunning-down, in cold blood, of suspects in the streets. The article reveals that:

At least five times in the last few months, members of a Honduras street gang were killed or went missing just after run-ins with the U.S.-supported national police, The Associated Press has determined, feeding accusations that they were victims of federal death squads.

In March, two mothers discovered the bodies of their sons after the men had called in a panic to say they were surrounded by armed, masked police. The young men, both members of the 18th Street gang, had been shot in the head, their hands bound so tightly the cords cut to the bone.

That was shortly after three members of 18th Street were detained by armed, masked men and taken to a police station. Two men with no criminal history were released, but their friend disappeared without any record of his detention.

A month after the AP reported that an 18th Street gang leader and his girlfriend vanished from police custody, they are still missing.

As we have previously examined, Arce has noted that U.S. support for the Honduran National Police while some officers engage in death squad activity would seem to violate the Leahy Law. Rather than proceed with greater caution or reexamine ongoing policy, the U.S. State Department has responded defensively. Arce quotes Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield as saying

“The option is that if we don’t work with the police, we have to work with the armed forces, which almost everyone accepts to be worse than the police in terms of … taking matters in their own hands[.] Although the national police may have its defects at the moment, it is the lesser evil.”

Brownfield has taken a PR offensive to the Honduran and Latin American press as well. But there, rather than describe the U.S.’ Honduran police partners as an “evil”, an EFE article yesterday reports that Brownfield said that he “respects” and “admires” the “effective work” that notorious Police Director Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla has done, and that

“I want to make it very clear that I am working with the Honduran police, and supplying aid through programs, because everyone in Honduras agrees that they are suffering a problem of violence, homicides, and drug trafficking. And to solve them we have to work with the police,” he concluded.

The comments represent a doubling-down by the State Department in the face of growing congressional pressure and concern about human rights violations committed by Honduran police and other authorities. While Brownfield — who has been the State Department’s point person regarding the Bonilla controversy — has previously defended ongoing U.S. support to the Honduran police, neither he nor anyone else at State seems to have previously been willing to praise Bonilla while members of Congress point fingers at him regarding past and current death squad activity.

In another sign of doubling-down and lashing back, Brownfield also dismissed what he described as “some groups’” claims regarding Bonilla and other suspect cops: “I haven’t seen that any conclusion has been reached that supports the accusations of some groups about the history of the leadership of the Honduran police,” and he reiterated his misleading claim that some Honduran police units are not under Bonilla’s control:

“As a precaution, we are working with those parts of the police that do not report directly to the director general.  But I understand that he has taken steps to purge the corrupt members of the police and to professionalize it, and he has been effective in delivering a better police force to the community and streets of Honduras,” he affirmed.

While Honduran officials have previously denounced statements by “groups” and individuals regarding rights violations and corruption in Honduras, it seems to be a departure from recent practice for the U.S. State Department to do so. And as we have previously noted, Bonilla’s activities a decade ago were at the time cause for great concern from the State Department. A 2003 cable made available by Wikileaks reveals that then-Western Hemisphere Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Dan Fisk had urged Honduran authorities “to send a strong signal about impunity by arresting fugitive policeman Juan Carlos “Tiger” Bonilla.”

While Bonilla did go to trial for murder charges in one case and was found innocent (when the prosecutor quit mid-trial), Bonilla was suspected in over a dozen others. The head of the police internal affairs department at the time, Maria Luisa Borjas claimed that her investigation was obstructed by authorities and that she received death threats.

Part of Brownfield’s PR counter-offensive focuses on aerial operations, citing this as an area in which Leahy Law restrictions were hampering police counternarcotics operations:

Brownfield assured today that the restrictions that come from the US Congress are applied fundamentally to “the country’s aviation program.”

“That is due to issues that are outside the question of the national police,” he underscored. “We are in the process of resolving this issue, and if we can resolve it we will be able to supply more aid to aviation for the Honduran national police for its security operations in isolated areas of the country,” he added.

(Coincidentally, Honduran armed forces chief, general René Osorio Canales, gave an interview to Honduras’ La Tribuna newspaper today in which he described in detail areas in which he says the air force has a need for upgraded planes and helicopters.)

Various Honduras observers and authorities in Honduras have described the involvement of the Honduran police and other authorities in the drug trade.

The Honduran National Police, meanwhile, have predictably also reacted defensively to the report. Arce reports:

Honduran National Police spokesman Julian Hernandez Reyes denied the existence of police units operating outside the law. He asserted that the two gangs are murdering each other while disguised as law enforcement.

“There are no police death squads in Honduras,” Hernandez said in an interview. “The only squads in place are made of police officers who give their lives for public safety.”

But while Hernandez claims it is gangs dressed as cops who are committing the murders, Arce notes that plain clothes officers may also be gunning down suspects.

Fuente: http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/ap-further-documents-evidence-of-honduran-police-death-squads-us-state-department-hits-back

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Honduran Criminals Missing After Arrest

By ALBERTO ARCE Associated Press
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras May 13, 2013 (AP)

At least five times in the last few months, members of a Honduras street gang were killed or went missing just after run-ins with the U.S.-supported national police, The Associated Press has determined, feeding accusations that they were victims of federal death squads.

In a country with the highest homicide rate in the world and where only a fraction of crimes are prosecuted, the victims’ families say the police are literally getting away with murder.

In March, two mothers discovered the bodies of their sons after the men had called in a panic to say they were surrounded by armed, masked police. The young men, both members of the 18th Street gang, had been shot in the head, their hands bound so tightly the cords cut to the bone.

That was shortly after three members of 18th Street were detained by armed, masked men and taken to a police station. Two men with no criminal history were released, but their friend disappeared without any record of his detention.

A month after the AP reported that an 18th Street gang leader and his girlfriend vanished from police custody, they are still missing.

Honduras Death Squads.JPEG

The 18th Street gang and another known as Mara Salvatrucha are the country’s biggest gangs, formed by Central American immigrants in U.S. prisons who later overran this small Central American country as their members were deported back home. Both engage in dealing drugs and charging extortion fees under threat of death. Now the 18th Street gang says its members are being targeted by police death squads, described by witnesses as heavily armed masked men in civilian dress and bullet-proof vests who kill or “disappear” gang members instead of bringing them to justice.

In the last two years, the United States has given an estimated $30 million in aid to Honduran law enforcement. The U.S. State Department says it faces a dilemma: The police are essential to fighting crime in a country that has become a haven for drug-runners. It estimates that 40 percent of the cocaine headed to the U.S. — and 87 percent of cocaine smuggling flights from South America — pass through Honduras.

“The option is that if we don’t work with the police, we have to work with the armed forces, which almost everyone accepts to be worse than the police in terms of … taking matters in their own hands,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield told the AP via live chat on March 28. “Although the national police may have its defects at the moment, it is the lesser evil.”

Alba Mejia, Deputy Director of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, said her group has documented hundreds of death squad cases in the country since 2000. The squads burst into homes with no warrants and take away young men, she said.

“We are convinced that there is a government policy of killing gang members and that there is a team dedicated to this activity,” Mejia said. Federal prosecutors say they have received about 150 complaints about similar raids in the capital of Tegucigalpa over the last three years.

The 18th Street gang originated in Los Angeles and spread through Central America after many of its members were deported in the 1980s and early 1990s. In Honduras, the gang controls entire neighborhoods, with entrance impossible for outsiders, while gangsters extort what is called a “war tax” on small business owners and taxi drivers, even schools and corporations.

Last year, the U.S. Congress withheld direct aid to Honduran police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla after he was appointed to the top law enforcement post despite alleged links to death squads a decade earlier. Bonilla, nicknamed “the Tiger,” was accused in a 2002 internal affairs report of involvement in three homicides and linked to 11 other deaths and disappearances. He was tried in one killing and acquitted. The rest of the cases were never fully investigated.

The U.S. State Department has resumed funding to the Honduran police, but said the money only supports units vetted by the U.S. So far this year, the U.S. has provided $16 million to the police force, and argued last month that the money isn’t sent directly to Bonilla or any of his top 20 officers.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the State Department and foreign operations, has led a group in Congress concerned about the alleged human rights abuses, and has held up $10 million, despite State Department pressure.

“A key question is whether we should provide aid, and if so under what conditions, to a police force that is frequently accused of corruption and involvement in violent crimes,” Leahy said. “If there is to be any hope of making real progress against lawlessness in Honduras, we need people there we can trust, who will do what is necessary to make the justice system work. That is the least Congress should expect.”

Two weeks before a visit to Central America by President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey toured Honduras amid questions over how U.S. aid is spent.

“I understand that there are concerns among my colleagues in both the Senate and House about certain U.S. assistance to Honduras,” said Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The U.S. has a moral and legal authority to ensure U.S. assistance is not tainted by human rights concerns.”

The latest string of attacks began with gang leader Kevin Carranza Padilla, who disappeared with his girlfriend, Cindy Yadira Garcia, on Jan. 10. Witnesses said he was arrested, and a police photo leaked to the local press showed Carranza with his hands tied and face duct-taped. The couple has not been seen since, and police say they were never arrested.

In March, Carranza’s close friend, Billy “Babyface” Jovel Mejia, 23, and another gang member, Wilder Javier “Sadboy” Alvarado, 20, were on the run, changing houses every couple of days, when they called a friend to say they had been surrounded by police.

A woman named Kelsa, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of reprisals, had helped the two hide out. She told the AP of a call one night from a panicked Jovel, whom she quoted as saying: “The police are coming for us. They are going to enter the house. Tell our families that they are coming to kill us.”

“I could hear pounding.” she said. “Billy told me he couldn’t explain what house they were at. … I could hear screams. Billy left the phone and then the call dropped.”

As often happens in such cases, his mother, Maria Elena Garcia, went from station to station in search of information from police.

Honduras Death Squads.JPEG

“I went to the 4th district, from there they sent me to the 7th, then to the metropolitan police headquarters,” Garcia said. “At 5 a.m. they called me to tell me that they had found two bodies.”

Garcia and Alvarado’s mother identified their sons, whose bodies were found dumped at the edge of the capital. Each had a single 9 millimeter gunshot to the head, and their hands were tightly bound. Jovel was missing his right eye, Alvarado his left.

“The blood was still fresh and the bullets were still there,” Garcia said.

Alvarado’s mother, Norma, said police had raided her home at least six times in search of her son in a neighborhood called the United States, one of many named for a country.

She described the same routine each time: They would come in civilian clothes with bullet-proof vests and ski masks and identify themselves as police. They were teams of six to eight men in large, expensive SUVs without license plates.

“There were times when I would close the door to give him time to escape,” she said. “They even came on New Year’s Eve.”

In the middle of the night on Feb. 14, six masked men who identified themselves as police took Alvarado’s 13-year-old grandson.

She told them he was studying, that he was a good boy.

“I begged them not to take him, not to kill him,” Alvarado told the AP, crying. “There was only one car outside our door, but at each end of the street there were more cars. It was a big operation.”

The boy, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, said in an interview that they covered his face with his own shirt and pushed him to the floor of the SUV. Two agents kept him down with their feet while another drove the car around for half an hour, asking about Wilder, the boy’s cousin.

“They wanted to know where my brother was. They thought Wilder was my brother. They wanted to know where the weapons were,” the boy said. “They kept punching me, and because I wasn’t telling them anything, they would punch me more.”

The boy was taken to an office.

“They were six men. I could only see them when they took the shirt off of my face to put a black, plastic bag over my head. They always wore the ski masks. I was sitting down and they were asphyxiating me with the bag. When I would faint they would beat me up to wake me up and they would do it again,” he recalled.

The boy said he could see photos of 18th Street gang members pinned to the walls.

He doesn’t know why, but suddenly they let him go, and the following day his family filed a complaint with the prosecutors’ office. They have heard nothing about the investigation.

The 18th Street gang leaders told the AP that the attacks against its members are not the work of rival gangs. Members say police have declared war on them, especially in the southeast Tegucigalpa neighborhood once led by Carranza.

Honduras Death Squads.JPEG

Carranza’s partner, Elvin Escoto Sandoval, known as “Splinter,” was detained by police on March 13, according to his wife, Doris Ramirez, now seven months pregnant with their first child. Nilson Alejandro “The Squirrel” Padilla, 21, said he was taken into custody along with Splinter and another member identified only as “Chifaro.”

“There were seven in civilian clothes, bulletproof vests, ski masks, automatic rifles, and a police badge hanging with a string from their neck. They pushed me against the ground and told me not to lift my head. They were traveling in two cars,” Padilla recalled.

“They took us to the National Criminal Investigations offices,” he added. “They told me and Chifaro that we didn’t have a record and we were released that afternoon. They didn’t even question us.”

By then, Ramirez was at the station, asking police about the fate of her husband, “Splinter.”

Police told her they had only detained two men, not three, she said.

“We then went to all the police stations in the area and finally filed a complaint on his disappearance at the police headquarters,” she said.

Ramirez still goes to the morgue every time she hears of an unidentified body. She has also been to the “little mountain,” a known dumping ground outside Tegucigalpa for bodies of murdered young men. Her husband has disappeared.

Chifaro is missing now, too.

 

Fuente: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/ap-impact-honduran-criminals-missing-arrest-19170294

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Honduras: State-Sponsored Death Squad Terror

by Stephen Lendman
Sunday May 5th, 2013 12:02 AM
Adrienne Pine is American University Professor or Anthropology.  She’s worked in Honduras. She’s written about state-sponsored violence.Her book “Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras” discusses structural inequality, horrendous human rights abuses, and state-sponsored murder. She calls it “invisible genocide.”

Her recent article headlined “Militarization Ramped up in Honduras,” saying:

“On February 8, 2013, the Honduran government announced that it would be sending its military to patrol the streets of its two largest cities: San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, the capital.”

Honduras is Latin America’s murder capital. Pine calls it “the most violent country on the planet.” Its murder rate is 92 per 100,000.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), it’s 91.6. It’s multiples higher than America.

In 2008, it was 61 per 100,000. After Washington’s sponsored June 2009 coup, it noticeably increased. Interim leader Roberto Micheletti replaced democratically elected Manuel Zelaya.

In November, sham elections followed. On January 27, 2010, fascist Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo Sosa became president. He’s Obama’s man in Honduras. Death squad terror is policy.

Tegucigalpa dailies publish “gruesome photos of corpses riddled with bullet holes are blown up and pasted on the walls around town providing a disturbing display of the brutal violence,” said Pine.

Honduras is in crisis. It’s “on the brink of bankruptcy.” Teachers and soldiers haven’t been paid in months. Other major problems persist.

In November 2011, legislation changed constitutional law. Doing so lets soldiers perform police functions. America trained Special Forces responsible for murder.

Lt. Coronel Reynel Funes is a School of the Americas graduate. He’s accused of covering up murder. Police states operate that way.

Ahead of November’s presidential, parliamentary and local elections, Pine expects things to worsen. Democracy’s excluded from the ballot.

On April 22, Law Professor Lauren Caraski headlined “US Funds Still Supporting Honduras Death Squads,” saying:

“A climate of immunity” persists. It’s “solidified (under) generals and others who carried out the coup….” They were rewarded for services rendered. They’re part of Lobo’s fascist government.

Most violence isn’t “random or drug-or gang-related,” said Carasik. Some of Honduran society’s most vulnerable are targeted.

They include women, human rights workers, trade unionists, independent journalists, opposition party members, other regime opponents, the LGBT community, lawyers and campesinos.

A previous article discussed Bajo Aguan Valley killings and abductions. Death squads linked to Honduras’ military, police, and private security firms targeted campesinos.

Dozens perished or disappeared. Death squad terror persists. Honduras is a virtual killing field. Carasik recently visited the Lower Aguan region.

She met with San Isidro collective campesinos. They were occupying land they’re entitled to. They have legal title to prove it. “(T)he patina of legitimacy (has) often been wrested (from them) through fraud and coercion,” she said.

Their “legal title emanated from a rare victory meted out by the notoriously ineffective judicial system that typically favors the agro-oligarchs engaging in brutal land grabs in the region.”

Give credit where it’s due. “(I)ntrepid lawyer Antonio Trejo” represented campesinos. He’s the only Aguan region attorney to have litigated land rights claims successfully.

In September 2012, he was murdered in cold blood. He attended a wedding. After leaving church, unknown gunmen killed him.

Hours before his death, he participated in a televised debate. He accused corrupt politicians of passing a Charter Cities law.

It divides Honduras into autonomous municipalities. Corporations run them. Foreign investment is encouraged. “Uninhabited,” indigenous, ancestral lands are targeted.

“….Trejo’s untimely death eliminates the one lawyer who had achieved any relief for the beleaguered campesinos of the Lower Aguan. Each murder statistic rattled off is a real person with a real family that will be forever anguished by the loss of their loved ones,” said Caraski.

Washington supports Honduran death squads. Generous funding is provided. Politicians, military officials and police benefit. Concerned US citizens object.

According to Caraski, they “voiced their concerns about US support for Honduras’ police and military while (they) continue to kill, kidnap, torture and commit other heinous crimes with impunity.”

In March 2012, 94 congressional members addressed the State Department. They wrote then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In part, they said:

“We are concerned with the grave human rights situation in the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras and ask the State Department to take effective steps to address it.”

“The abuses taking place in this area of the country reflect a larger pattern of human rights violations in which human rights defenders, journalists, community leaders and opposition activists are the subject of death threats, attacks and extrajudicial executions.”

“We urge you to continue to pressure the Honduran government to protect the fundamental human rights of its citizens, and to investigate and prosecute abuses.”

In January 2013, 58 congressional members voiced concerns about Honduras’ Afro-indiginous Garifuna community repression.

They addressed Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder. They called for an “investigation of alleged abuses by Honduran security forces and the possible role DEA agents played in a shooting incident that led to the tragic death of four indigenous villagers on the Patuca River in northeastern Honduras.”

“The State Department and the DEA have acknowledged involvement in the May 11, 2012, incident. A pregnant woman and a 14-year-old boy were among the four villagers killed. Several other innocent bystanders were injured.”

They also addressed “the worsening human rights situation of Afro-indigenous communities since the June 2009 military coup in Honduras. These communities have been hit particularly hard by drug-related violence from both drug-traffickers and US-backed drug war in Honduras.”

Carasik called the State Department’s response “tepid at best.” State Department spokespersons speak about human rights. In Honduras or elsewhere, they do nothing to protect them.

In 2012, Congress invoked the Leahy Law. It part of the 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (Sec. 8092 of PL 106-259). It states:

“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to support any training program involving a unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of Defense has received credible information from the Department of State that a member of such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights, unless all necessary corrective steps have been taken.”

The law prohibits funding foreign security forces that commit gross human rights violations unless its government “is taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.”

Congress halted millions of dollars in Honduran aid money. Senator Patrick Leahy (D. VT) and others voiced concerns about National Police Director-General Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla. He was accused of heading deaths squads for the past decade.

Earlier he was tried and acquitted. At the time, police internal affairs head, Maria Luisa Borjas, said she was threatened. High-level security officials obstructed investigations. Other murder charges against Bonilla haven’t been investigated.

Funding Honduras’ police continues. State Department officials claim they’re for specially “vetted” units. US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield plans millions more dollars in additional security funding.

He said so during a St. Patrick’s Day Honduran visit. At the same time, AP headlined “Honduras Police Accused of Death Squad Killings,” saying:

“Police have long been accused of operating more like assassins than law enforcement officers in Honduras, but few cases ever have been investigated.”

“Despite millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Honduras aimed at professionalizing the country’s police, accusations persist.”

“In the last three years, the AP has learned, Honduran prosecutors have received as many as 150 formal complaints about death squad-style killings in the capital of Tegucigalpa, and at least 50 more in the economic hub of San Pedro Sula.”

“Even the country’s top police chief” was charged. Bonilla’s linked to numerous deaths. He “was chosen to lead the national police force despite unanswered questions about his past.”

Death squad killings don’t vary much. “(M)asked men in bulletproof vests, traveling in large vehicles with tinted windows and no plates, roam the city in groups of 10.”

Bonilla replaced Gen. Ricardo Ramirez del Cid. He was ousted on charges police murder and kidnapping involvement.

Honduras failed to purge its National Police. Corrupt officials run it. According to Commission to Reform Public Security president Victor Meza:

Honduras’ police force “appears to be an institution that is absolutely beyond reform.”

State Department officials know what’s going on. Congress isn’t fully informed. No special “vetted” units exist outside of Bonilla’s control. US funding goes to police-run death squads.

Caraski expressed outrage. The State Department “is attempting an end run around Congress to fund shady, questionable security forces in Honduras.”

“Such conduct disrespects Congress, and disrespects constituents who have worked hard to have our voices heard regarding what is done in our name, with our taxpayer dollars.”

Washington’s been involved in Central American human rights abuses for decades. Geopolitical interests alone matter. Crimes against humanity continue.

American complicity facilitates them. It’s longstanding policy. It persists globally.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net.

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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Life and Death Squads in the World’s Homicide Capital

 

by

In a society ravaged by crime, radical ‘law-and-order’ forces end up being at the root of the problem.

Schell

Illustration by Erin Schell

My friend Mariano runs a fruit and vegetable stand on a busy street in Tegucigalpa, not far from the United States embassy. One after­noon in 2011, I stopped by to find that Mariano’s watermelon knife had been stolen by an unkempt pedestrian, who was standing in the middle of a traffic jam threatening motorists with it.

Eventually, all was resolved with the help of a metal baton hidden in a pile of papayas. Assessing the situation afterward, Mariano reasoned that the man was simply under the influence of paint thinner and that there had been no real danger. This was the very same reaction he had had to a recent incident when, sleeping under his stand to deter potential nighttime thefts, he was shot at multiple times by a passerby with mercifully poor aim.

I often wondered if Mariano’s “don’t worry, it’s only paint thinner” attitude was just a defense mechanism for living in the homicide capital of the world, or if specific instances of violence really do feel insignificant in the context of mass disorder.

The June 2009 coup against Manuel Zelaya marked the beginning of the current era of enhanced impunity in Honduras. Shortly afterwards, I traveled to Tegucigalpa for a four-month stay that also was also a psychological experiment in coping with a personal-security-free environment. Despite never going outside with anything more than an inconspicuous black plastic bag containing a cheap cell phone and some small change, I was apprehended on multiple occasions and threatened with death unless I produced something of value.

The first encounter ended auspiciously after I suggested to my would-be assailant that we walk to an ATM. Our conversation en route saved me from having to figure out what to do about not having a bank card, although in exchange for not being robbed or killed it was decided that I would adopt the man’s eighteen-month-old son, who was poorly cared for as a result of his mother’s crack habit.

The second mugging ended with my being relieved of five dollars and a decrepit alarm clock, though I was ultimately permitted to keep the clock. This happened down the street from a swarm of soldiers and policemen stationed around the Brazilian embassy, where Zelaya had taken up residence after being smuggled back into the country in September 2009. The duties of state security forces had expanded accordingly and now included not only assaulting citizens opposed to the coup, but also preventing “dual-use items” such as ballpoint pens, toothbrushes, shoelaces, tamales, vitamins, and the Bible from entering the embassy.

The most harrowing event took place one night when I awoke to discover that a man had gotten into my second-story pension room after cutting away the screen and removing the glass window slats. My strategic response was to scream maniacally, run into the hall in my underwear, and abstain from sleep for another two years.

Of course, my privileged ability to extricate myself at will from Honduras meant that I wasn’t forced to permanently adapt to the reality there. The normalization of violence in that society — which became particularly evident when Honduran friends phoned me to report, for example, witnessing groups of schoolchildren step nonchalantly around a fresh cadaver — is aided by media dissemination of gruesome homicide photographs, a practice that also serves the morbid entertainment and fear maintenance industries.

In her book Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras, anthropologist Adrienne Pine recounts an evening in a family home in 2002:

[Ten-year old] Miguelito came in and sat down. “You know that girl who they showed on TV who was killed last night?” he said. His tone would have been no different had he been telling me about the results of a soccer match or the weather. “She was from right down the street. That happened here.” “Right here?” I asked him. “Did you know her?” “Yeah, I knew her. She was ten years old. The other was three. They killed them both.” “Who killed them?” I asked. “Some guys. People are always killing around here. Because of the gangs.” He then saw my camera and, giggling, posed for a picture with our smaller neighbor.

Crucially, the deaths of the two girls in this case are attributed to “el carro asesino”, described by Pine as “a sort of ethnic (read: social class) cleanser” and the heir to public terror techniques cultivated during the 1980s, heyday of the elite right-wing death squad Battalion 3-16 and its benefactor John D. Negroponte, US ambassador to Honduras.

In a 2002 report on Honduras to the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on Human Rights, United Nations Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir called attention to the strategic mentality of social cleansing as espoused by politicians, business leaders, and journalists “who deliberately incite public sentiment against street children.” Her conclusion: “In the end, every child with a tattoo and street child is stigmatized as a criminal who is creating an unfriendly climate for investment and tourism in the country.”

By pinning the blame for Honduras’ violence on gangs, leaders have obscured the state’s role in creating a climate where extrajudicial police execution of tattooed people and other alleged potential gang members is relatively common. Also obscured is the state’s role in overseeing the socioeconomic deprivation that boosts gang membership.

In a country ruled by a ten-family oligarchy, where a president was recently overthrown for raising the monthly minimum wage to $290 in certain sectors and attempting to hold a referendum to rewrite a constitution that sanctifies elite interests, it’s unsurprising that some citizens turn to alternate support networks.

As is the case globally, an effective way to get people to support government policies that fundamentally endanger them and their families is to trot out a menace in need of vanquishing. In Honduras, the gang menace and now the narco-menace have proved sufficiently reliable, though the military did briefly revive the communist menace to discredit Zelaya.

In the section of her book on former Honduran President Ricardo Maduro’s zero-tolerance policy on crime — inspired by none other than Rudy Giuliani — Pine analyzes government exploitation of violence and fear:

[T]he language of war resonates with many poor people … who tend to forget that they themselves will be the victims of a war on crime…. Poor people are more afraid of their own neighbors than of the repressive neoliberal state and industry, despite the fact that they are often themselves labeled criminals by virtue of class and geography.

True to form, my friend Mariano the fruit vendor endorsed the initial appointment of Oscar Alvarez, Maduro’s security minister and a proponent of extrajudicial killings, to the same post in Pepe Lobo’s administration. (Lobo was elected in illegitimate elections held under the post-Zelaya coup regime). A symbol of continuity in more ways than one, Alvarez is the nephew of the late General Gustavo Alvarez Martínez, School of the Americas attendee and Battalion 3-16 commander.

According to Mariano, who acknowledged the collateral damage that inevitably attended street-cleaning operations, a no-nonsense approach was nonetheless necessary to combat “delinquents.” But there aren’t any structural constraints in place to protect Mariano — who lives in an impoverished neighborhood whenever he’s not sleeping under his fruit stand — from posthumous conversion into a suspected gang member were he to be a victim of police violence himself.

During my own time in Honduras, I started looking for safety in one of the very causes of my insecurity. In the aftermath of the intruder’s appearance in my room, I would catch myself attempting to coordinate my outdoor movements with those of military and police deployments — except, obviously, when they were firing tear gas, water-cannon-propelled pepper spray, and other items at peaceful anti-coup protesters.

A decade after Jahangir’s report mentioning the allegedly detrimental impact on investment and tourism of the ugly surplus of street children in Honduras, the coup has paved the way for the establishment of aseptic neoliberal enclaves called “special development regions” or charter cities. These city-states will be severed from Honduran territory without the consultation of the nation’s citizens and will be unaccountable to Honduran law, governed instead by foreign corporate interests. Extricated from the violent trauma of Honduras proper and from any pretenses to democracy, capital will thus be free to flourish in fulfillment of Lobo’s pledge: “Honduras is open for business.”

A bit of additional trauma is probably required to get the ball rolling, perhaps involving the forced displacement of Afro-indigenous communities living in supposedly uninhabited zones. The 2012 DEA-assisted murder of four Afro-indigenous civilian canoe passengers — including a pregnant woman and a fourteen-year-old boy — in the Mosquitia region underscores the danger of increased US militarization of the country under the guise of fighting narcotrafficking. A review of past US-Honduran partnerships such as the Contra War–era alliance between the CIA and top Honduran drug lord Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros further calls into question US qualifications for such projects.

The charter city concept, hailed as a visionary solution to poverty, has meanwhile been greeted with such euphoria — at the New York Times, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Policy magazine — that one might forget the whole sweatshop phenomenon and the fact that Honduras has already functioned as a free-market oasis for quite some time.

Expanding on the utility of violence to the neoliberal adventure in the country, Pine emphasizes that structural adjustment programs have amounted to an assault on the population’s security, ensuring corporate enrichment at the expense of public education, healthcare, and government oversight. “At the same time,” she argues, “people have been distracted by the extremely high levels of violent crime, often carried out by agents of the state and private industry. Thus, many call for a different kind of security than that offered by education and healthcare.”

Following the 2009 coup, agents of the state and private industry have had their hands full in areas like the Bajo Aguán in northeastern Honduras, where peasant farmers in pursuit of land rights have encroached on the personal lebensraum of the country’s wealthiest man, biofuels magnate Miguel Facussé. The task of countering this assault on prosperity and development has fallen to the armed forces — endowed with various forms of US support — and paramilitary actors, who assassinate and otherwise terrorize farmers and their supporters.

One hundred people have reportedly been eliminated since January 2010. To top it off, an October 2011 dispatch in the Nation by UC Santa Cruz professor Dana Frank raises this red flag:

New Wikileaks cables now reveal that the US embassy in Honduras — and therefore the State Department — has known since 2004 that Miguel Facussé is a cocaine importer. US “drug war” funds and training, in other words, are being used to support a known drug trafficker’s war against campesinos.

What Honduras really needs, of course, is a war on poverty aimed at eliminating rather than criminalizing deprivation. It needs a war on the crimes that are committed in the name of wars on crime. But, in the meantime, paint thinner is a handy palliative.

 

http://jacobinmag.com/2013/04/life-and-death-in-the-worlds-homicide-capital/

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US Funds Still Supporting Honduras Death Squads

Guest Columnist Lauren Carasik of the Western New England School of Law says that the US must restrict aid to the Honduran government, so long as human rights abuses continue …


 

Honduras is plagued by the world’s highest homicide rate. This has been widely reported for the past two years, yet the number of deaths has continued to climb. The UN put the number of homicides in 2011 at 91 per 100,000. The rate has spiked since the illegal coup d’état that ousted the country’s democratically elected president in 2009 and the subsequent breakdown of Honduras’ institutions; in 2008 the homicide rate was 61 per 100,000. A climate of impunity solidified as the generals and others who carried out the coup were rewarded with appointments in the post-coup government rather than prosecuted for their role in the overthrow.

Contrary to what is often suggested in the press, the violence is not just random or drug- or gang-related; some of the most vulnerable sectors in society are frequent targets — those whose rights the US Department of State tells us it considers to be a high priority — women, the LGBT community, journalists, opposition party politicians and Hondurans who opposed the coup. Twenty-five journalists have been murdered in Honduras since the 2009 coup; all but one of them since the current post-coup president, Pepe Lobo, took office in January 2010. At least 53 lawyers were killed between 2010 and 2012.

On my recent trip to the Lower Aguan region of northern Honduras, I visited with campesinos from the San Isidro collective that were occupying land to which they possessed legal title, the patina of legitimacy that has often been wrested away from the campesino collectives through fraud and coercion. This legal title emanated from a rare victory meted out by the notoriously ineffective judicial system that typically favors the agro-oligarchs engaging in brutal land grabs in the region. Those with whom we met spoke eloquently of their intrepid lawyer, Antonio Trejo. He was the only lawyer in the Aguan region that had successfully litigated land rights claims for the campesinos. Trejo was gunned down in September 2012, and his brother was murdered five months later. While some are confident that Trejo’s murder was related to political persecution, alternative apolitical motives for Trejo’s murder have been floated. Irrespective of the motive, Trejo’s untimely death eliminates the one lawyer who had achieved any relief for the beleaguered campesinos of the Lower Aguan. Each murder statistic rattled off is a real person with a real family that will be forever anguished by the loss of their loved ones.

This repression has been aided by US support for the alleged perpetrators of many of these crimes: the Honduran police and military. Concerned US citizens across the country have weighed in with our members of Congress, and Hondurans and other Latinos living in the US have also voiced their concerns about US support for Honduras’ police and military while it continues to kill, kidnap, torture and commit other heinous crimes with impunity. Congress responded to these concerns. In March 2012, 94 members sent a letter [PDF] to the State Department urging it “to suspend US assistance to the Honduran military and police given the credible allegations of widespread, serious violations of human rights attributed to the security forces.” Just this January, 58 members voiced concerns about repression of Honduras’ Afro-indigenous Garifuna community, several of whom were “collateral damage” in a lethal DEA-related counter narcotics operation last May.

The response from the State Department has been tepid at best. When asked about human rights in Honduras, State Department spokespersons speak of “protect[ing] the human rights of all Hondurans,” as they did yet again last month, yet they fail to express concern regarding the many attacks targeting political opponents and other vulnerable groups. Meanwhile, the killings have continued while the perpetrators go free. Partly in response to the lack of urgency on the part of both the State Department and the Honduran government to halt the killings by the police and military, last year Congress halted tens of millions of dollars in aid money under the “Leahy Law” which bars US assistance to units believed responsible for gross human rights abuses.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and his colleagues’ concerns have focused on National Police Director General Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, who has been accused of running death squads in the early 2000s. While it is true that Bonilla was acquitted of a murder charge, the head of police internal affairs at the time, Maria Luisa Borjas, claims that she was threatened and that high-level security officials obstructed investigations into serious allegations against Bonilla regarding murders and forced disappearances. Other pending murder charges against Bonilla have not yet been fully investigated.

US funds for the Honduran police have continued, but State Department officials have said that these are for specially “vetted” units that are not under Bonilla’s control. US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield even committed to increasing security assistance to the tune of $16.3 million during a trip to Honduras over St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

The same weekend, the Associated Press released a major investigative feature examining ongoing death squad activity in the Honduran police, profiling among others the case of a suspected gang member and his girlfriend who were taken into police custody and subsequently disappeared. The AP also noted that other recent incidents — including one caught on video showing the extrajudicial killings of suspected gang members by armed gun men on city streets — fit the modus operandi of police death squads, and that Honduran prosecutors have received over 200 complaints about “death squad style killings” in Honduras’ two largest cities over the last three years.

It appears that the State Department has not been honest with Congress about whom it is funding. A follow-up AP report reveals that no special “vetted” units exist outside of Bonilla’s control. All Honduran police — according to Honduran officials and legal experts cited in the article — report to the national police chief after all. It is inconceivable that the US State Department was not aware of this chain of command, nor that US funds could easily wind up in the hands of police death squads.

It is outrageous if the State Department is attempting an end run around Congress to fund shady, questionable security forces in Honduras. Such conduct disrespects Congress, and disrespects constituents who have worked hard to have our voices heard regarding what is done in our name, with our taxpayer dollars. Given US complicity in human rights abuses in Central America for decades, we should know better. History has demonstrated our willingness to disregard human rights abuses while advancing US geopolitical interests. In fact, these revelations come just as General Rios Montt finally faces trial for the genocide perpetrated by his scorched earth policies in Guatemala, and the US has apologized for its role in Guatemala’s bloody history. We must not repeat past mistakes that contributed to unspeakable suffering.

There are simply too many concerns, too many red flags, for the US-Honduran relationship to continue on its current path. The State Department’s response to ongoing questions over Bonilla’s dark history should be to exercise the precautionary principle and cut off funding as long as the questions persist. But that cannot be all: more importantly, US support for Honduras’ brutal police and military must cease as long as the rights violations continue and impunity reigns. John Kerry, the new US secretary of state, has signaled before that he is sympathetic to this common sense approach. Let’s hope he maintains that posture in his new capacity.

Lauren Carasik is a Clinical Professor of Law at Western New England University School of Law, where she serves as Director of the International Human Rights Clinic and the Legal Services Clinic. Her areas of interest include poverty law, law and social change, and human rights.

Suggested citation: Lauren Carasik, US Funds Still Supporting Honduras Death Squads, JURIST – Forum, Apr. 22, 2013, http://jurist.org/forum/2013/04/lauren-carasik-death-squads.php


This article was prepared for publication by Dan DeRight, an assistant editor for JURIST’s academic commentary service. Please direct any questions or comments to him at academiccommentary@jurist.org

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¿Serán los escuadrones de la muerte de Honduras el legado de Obama?‏

domingo, 14 de abril de 2013

 Mark Weisbrot /
The Guardian Unlimited
Puede que un escuadrón de la muerte no sea la primera opción del régimen de Obama en Honduras, pero ellos lo prefieren frente a otro gobierno de izquierda
El vídeo, tomado al azar por una cámara de seguridad de un almacén, es escalofriante. Cinco jóvenes están caminando por una calle tranquila en Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Un gran todoterreno negro se detiene, seguido por otro vehículo. Dos hombres enmascarados con chalecos antibalas saltan rápidamente desde el coche que va a la cabeza levantando unos fusiles AK-47. 
Los dos jóvenes que están más cerca de los vehículos ven que no tienen ninguna posibilidad de huir, por lo que se quedan congelados y ponen sus manos en alto. Los otros tres echan a correr velozmente y son perseguidos a balazos por el segundo equipo de asesinos. Escapan milagrosamente con uno de ellos herido; sin embargo, los dos que se rindieron se ven obligados a tumbarse boca abajo en el suelo. Frente a la cámara, los dos estudiantes, que eran hermanos de 18 y 20 años, son rápidamente asesinados a balazos en la parte posterior de la cabeza. En menos de 40 segundos desde su llegada, los asesinos huyen lejos, para nunca más ser encontrados.
Este alto nivel de profesionalidad y el ‘modus operandi’ de los asesinos han llevado a muchos observadores a concluir que se trataba de una operación del Gobierno. El vídeo fue publicado por el diario ‘El Heraldo’ el mes pasado, y el asesinato tuvo lugar en noviembre del año pasado. No ha habido ningún arresto.
Actualmente, el Gobierno de Obama está siendo criticado por su papel en la financiación y el armamento de la asesina Policía hondureña, violando la ley estadounidense. Bajo de la “Ley Leahy” –llamada así por el senador de Vermont Patrick Leahy– al Gobierno de EE.UU. no se le permite financiar unidades militares extranjeras que hayan cometido impunemente graves violaciones a los derechos humanos. El Director General de la Policía Nacional de Honduras, Juan Carlos Bonilla, está implicado en escuadrones de la muerte, algo que miembros del Congreso de EE.UU. han denunciado desde que Bonilla fue nombrado en el cargo el pasado mes de mayo. Gracias a unos excelentes reportajes de investigación de the Associated Press en el último par de semanas –mostrando que todas las unidades de la policía están, de hecho, bajo el mando de Bonilla– se ha evidenciado que la financiación de la Policía hondureña, por parte de Estados Unidos, es ilegal.
Ahora veremos qué significa el “estado de derecho” o la “separación de poderes” aquí en la capital del país al que tanto le gusta dar lecciones a otros países “menos desarrollados” sobre estos principios.
¿Por qué el gobierno de Obama sería tan obstinado como para engañar y desafiar al Congreso con el fin de apoyar escuadrones de la muerte pertenecientes al Gobierno en Honduras? Para responder a esta pregunta tenemos que ver cómo llegó al poder el actual Gobierno de Honduras, y cuán importante fue el papel que desempeñó la represión violenta hacia la oposición política para que éste se mantuviese allí.
El Gobierno del presidente hondureño Pepe Lobo fue “elegido” después de que un golpe militar derrocara al Gobierno democráticamente electo del presidente Mel Zelaya en junio de 2009. Zelaya dijo más tarde a la prensa que Washington estuvo involucrado en el golpe; lo que es muy creíble, dada las pruebas indiciarias. Pero lo que sabemos con certeza es que el Gobierno de Obama estuvo muy involucrado en ayudar al gobierno golpista a sobrevivir y legitimarse. Washington apoyó la elección de Lobo en noviembre de 2009 desoyendo la oposición de casi todo el hemisferio. La Organización de Estados Americanos y la Unión Europea se negaron a enviar observadores a unas elecciones que la mayor parte del mundo veía como manifiestamente ilegítimas.
El golpe de Estado desató una ola de violencia en contra de la disidencia política, violencia que continúa hasta nuestros días. Incluso la Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación, creada por el gobierno golpista, encontró que se había “llevado a cabo una persecución política. . . y ésta era responsable de una serie de asesinatos cometidos por agentes del Estado y quienes actuaban por orden suya, además de la represión generalizada y violenta de los derechos de expresión, reunión, asociación…”.
Esto fue señalado por el ‘Center for Constitutional Rights’ (Nueva York) y por la Federación Internacional para los Derechos Humanos con sede en París, en un informe presentado a la Corte Penal Internacional. El informe de CCR/ FIDH también identifica “más de 100 asesinatos, la mayoría de los cuales fueron selectivos, o asesinatos dirigidos, producidos incluso despuésde que dos comisiones de la verdad terminaran sus investigaciones”. Un informe que va desde 2009 hasta octubre de 2012.
Los asesinatos son la terrible señal de un ataque más amplio, el que también se caracteriza por las amenazas de muerte contra activistas, abogados, periodistas, sindicalistas y campesinos, así como los intentos de asesinato, tortura, violencia sexual, arrestos y detenciones arbitrarias. La Comisión de la Verdad [la segunda, la Comisión de la Verdad independiente] describió los “ataques” del régimen como una forma de utilizar el terror como medio de control social…
Ello nos lleva a las elecciones que están programadas para el próximo año. Hay, una vez más, un partido socialdemócrata en la contienda, que incluye a las personas que valientemente defendieron la democracia contra el golpe militar de 2009. Su candidata presidencial es Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, la esposa del presidente del que Washington trató de librarse tan obstinadamente. Este partido es una de las víctimas de la represión política del gobierno: en noviembre el precandidato a alcalde por el partido LIBRE, Edgardo Adalid Motiño, fue asesinado a tiros después de asistir a un mitin político de Xiomara Zelaya.
Así que ahí lo tienen. Puede que un escuadrón de la muerte perteneciente al gobierno no sea la primera opción de la Administración Obama en Honduras, pero ellos lo prefieren frente a otro gobierno de izquierda que la gente elegiría si tuviesen la capacidad de organizarse en unas elecciones libres. El gobierno actual pertenece a Washington, al igual que la base militar de EE.UU. que el Pentágono quiere mantener allí indefinidamente.
Si todo esto le suena repugnante, y le recuerda a los escuadrones de la muerte del presidente Reagan en Centroamérica en los 80’s, es porque es así. La política de EE.UU. hacia América Central en realidad no ha cambiado mucho en los últimos 30 años. La pregunta correcta ahora sería, ¿qué es lo que los miembros del Congreso de los EE.UU. van a hacer al respecto?
The Guardian Unlimited – www.cepr.net

Publicado por Américo Roca Dalton en 11:27

Fuente: http://www.hondurastierralibre.com/2013/04/seran-los-escuadrones-de-la-muerte-de.html

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“We’re Witnessing a Reactivation of the Death Squads of the ‘80s” in Honduras: An Interview with Bertha Oliva of COFADEH

Written by Alex Main, CEPR
Tuesday, 09 April 2013 09:44
Source: The Americas Blog

Bertha Oliva is the General Coordinator of COFADEH, the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras. Bertha’s husband was “disappeared” in 1981, a period when death squads were active in Honduras. She founded COFADEH together with other women who lost their loved ones, in order to seek justice and compensation for the families of the hundreds of dissidents that were “disappeared” between 1979 and 1989. Since then Bertha and COFADEH have taken on some of the country’s most emblematic human rights cases and were a strong voice in opposition to the 2009 coup d’Etat and the repression that followed.  We interviewed her in Washington, D.C. on March 15th, shortly after she participated in a hearing on the human rights situation in Honduras at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  During the hearing she said that death squads are targeting social leaders, lawyers, journalists and other groups and called on the IACHR to visit Honduras in the next six months to take stock of the human rights situation ahead of the November general elections (Bertha’s testimony can be viewed here, beginning at 17:40).

 

Q:  On various occasions you’ve said that what you’re seeing today in Honduras is reminiscent of the difficult times you experienced in the ‘80s and I’d like you to elaborate on that.

 

In the ‘80s we had armed forces that were excessively empowered. Today Honduras is extremely similar, with military officers exercising control over many of the country’s institutions.  The military is now in the streets playing a security role – often substituting for the work of the police forces of the country.

 

In the ‘80s we also witnessed the practice of forced disappearances and assassinations. In that era it was clear that they were killing social leaders, political opponents, but they also assassinated people who had no ties to dissident groups in order to generate confusion in public opinion and try to disqualify our denunciations of the killings of family members who were political opponents.

 

Today they assassinate young people in a more atrocious fashion than in the ‘80s and we’re seeing a marked pattern of assassinations of women and youth.  And within this mass of people that are assassinated there are political opponents.  We refuse to dismiss these assassinations as simply a result of the extreme violence that we’re experiencing, as they try to tell the country.  We say that it is a product of impunity and Honduras’ historical debt for failing to resolve cases perpetrated by state agents…

 

In the ‘80s the presence of the U.S. in the country was extremely significant.  Today it’s the same.  New bases have opened as a result of an anti-drug cooperation agreement signed between Honduras and the U.S.

 

In the ‘80s it was clear that political opponents were being eliminated.  Today they’re also eliminating those who claim land rights, as exemplified in the Bajo Aguán.  More than 98 land rights activists have been assassinated.  The campesino sector in the Bajo Aguán has been psychologically and emotionally tortured on top of the physical torture that certain campesino leaders have been subjected to.

 

Q:  Today in the hearing on human rights in Honduras at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights you discussed death squads. Death squads were active in the ‘80s and now you believe that this sinister phenomenon is coming back.

 

It’s certain that death squads are a product of the impunity that we’ve seen in Honduras. The death squads of the past were never really dismantled.  What we’re witnessing is a reactivation of these death squads.  And we’re seeing it quite clearly.  We’ve seen videos of incidents in the street where masked men with military training and unmarked vehicles assassinate young people. There is the recent case of the journalist Julio Ernesto Alvarado who gave up his news program from 10pm to midnight on Radio Globo because members of a death squad came to kill him, and to save his own life he had to stop doing his program.

 

In Honduras we had a military coup d’Etat and this resulted in persecution, an implosion of the state’s institutions which has left us with a dysfunctional judicial system and this has provided cover to those who wish to break the law.

 

And, what’s worse, state agents seem to have no political interest in improving and changing the situation.  What we’re witnessing is a growing professionalization of the capacity to justify illegal acts: authorities’ assertion that they intend to investigate these acts, when that’s simply not true.  In reality it seems the intention is to continue terrorizing the Honduran people, to make them submissive so as to undermine citizen action.

 

What we’d like to see in Honduras is real action to try to prevent crime rather than continued justification of the lack of progress of investigations into crimes.

 

Q:  COFADEH is providing legal counsel to the victims and the families of the victims of the emblematic case that took place in May of last year in Ahuas, in which there was a police operation that involved U.S. agents and Honduran security agents that killed four people and injured a few others.  Can you discuss the status of that case, over ten months after the killings took place?

 

Yes, we are the legal representatives of the victims in this case and, on the one hand, we are filing a complaint with Honduras’ judicial authorities to show or verify the responsibility of Honduran agents and DEA agents that participated in this incident.

 

But we’re also trying to reach out to the general public so that the case is better known and debated as this is the only real recourse we human rights defenders have: publicly denouncing the incident to see whether this will allow for some protection of the victims and of ourselves.  But legally we see this as a very difficult case to move forward and this is where we can see that the authorities aren’t interested in investigating, let alone sanctioning, those responsible.  The crime of the tragic attack against this indigenous community has been compounded by the crime of violating due process in the investigation.

 

We the legal representatives of the victims should have access to the case file. The Public Ministry [equivalent to the Attorney General’s Office in the U.S. – ed.] shouldn’t allow any obstacle to come in the way of our access to the file.  They can’t legally prevent us from learning about the actions that have been taken in the course of the investigation because we are part of the defense.  It is prohibited for either of the parties to be denied access to the case file.  The file can be classified with regard to the general public, but not with regard to the parties representing the victims and the accused.

 

We haven’t seen all the files in this case.  They haven’t been inserted in a binder [as is normally the case] in order to allow them to remove information when we ask for the file.  How can we participate effectively in a trial when we can’t see all of the case file?

 

Q: And what evidence do you have of their having removed parts of the case file before sharing it with you?

 

One is that when we’ve been shown the case file it basically only contains documents that we’ve produced.  We know the Public Ministry has carried out its own investigations; it has carried out the exhumation and autopsies of the deceased victims’ bodies for instance.  As a side note, we weren’t informed that they were carrying out the exhumations of the victims.  We’re left with the impression that the intention isn’t to find evidence but rather to remove [borrar] evidence… Our Public Ministry should be called a “Public Laundromat” because they’re engaged in destroying evidence.

 

Q: So you didn’t see the reports on the exhumations and autopsies of the victims in the Ahuas case file?

 

We haven’t seen them, just as we didn’t see the report that was sent by [Honduran Attorney General equivalent] Luís Alberto Rubi to the State Department of the United States.  This indicates to us that they remove information and documentation from the case file that they don’t want us to see.

 

The Public Prosecutor [Attorney General equivalent] sent a report to a representative of the State Department, Maria Otero, with – for instance – the names of the Honduran police agents and military personnel that participated in the operation, though not the names of the DEA agents, with the apparent goal of barring them from any sort of responsibility.

 

Q:  But you did end up managing to see the Public Ministry report sent to the State Department?

 

Yes, but not through the Public Ministry, but thanks to people outside Honduras who managed to get hold of a copy.

 

Q:  In this report there is information based on testimony provided to the Public Ministry by police agents that participated in the Ahuas operation.  Have you been able to see any of this original testimony?

 

No, we haven’t seen any of the testimony of the police agents.

 

Q:  What is the current situation of the surviving victims of the Ahuas incident, and of the families of the victims?

 

The situation of the families, of the survivors, of the community is really very critical.  They are emotionally and psychologically affected.  Being on the receiving end of an armed aerial attack is a shock for a remote community that never expected an attack of this nature.  Some of the community members were woken up by armed agents, were physically attacked and had certain belongings stolen.

 

I think that those that survived are no longer directly threatened but not all of them have recovered their physical abilities.  For instance, a young man sustained a serious injury to his hand requiring an operation that cost 100,000 lempiras [over $5,000 – ed.].  Where can this boy, who doesn’t have anything, find this kind of money?

 

COFADEH ended up having to take care of him and he’s still in treatment in Tegucigalpa, far from his community.  We are paying for his treatment and lodging him, feeding him and paying for his studies.  This is the responsibility of the state and it has refused to assume this responsibility even though we requested urgent protective measures from the state.  The state is good at providing technically well-designed reports before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, but it has been incapable of dealing with the needs of the survivors of this attack.

 

This sort of thing is a clear demonstration of their lack of interest in resolving and combatting the insecurity we’re experiencing, the political violence and the high level of impunity.

 

Q:  What about the other injured victims?

 

We’ve had to bring them to Tegucigalpa to be treated.  In the case of one boy they left studs [clavos] jutting out of his arm.  He almost lost his arm because after the operation they sent him back to his community but with no medicine.

 

We’ve also had to provide care for other relatives of the survivors and the deceased victims.  It’s impressive the level of neglect of these victims on the part of the state.

 

We [the human rights defenders] return to our country with the fear that the attacks will extend to us as a result of our decision to come and denounce a state that has shown itself incapable of assuming its responsibility.

 

Q:  COFADEH has received threats and recently its offices were raided.  Can you talk to me about your situation, your vulnerability, and what people in the U.S. can do to help?

 

Our situation isn’t good at all.  I confess that we’re frightened because we love life, that’s why we dedicate ourselves to defending the lives of others.  And I don’t want to die or be tortured.  And I don’t want to have to confront state agents.  But despite their machinery of hate and actions against us, they should know that they can’t stop us.

 

Fortunately we can count on support from people in the U.S. and the rest of the world, and I can reaffirm today that this support and this commitment of people abroad inspires us and makes us feel less alone.  Because the worst that can happen for a human rights defender facing threats is to feel alone.  That’s why we call on you to continue supporting us to defend the life and liberty of the citizens that need our help.

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/honduras-archives-46/4219-were-witnessing-a-reactivation-of-the-death-squads-of-the-80s-in-honduras-an-interview-with-bertha-oliva-of-cofadeh

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Honduran Death Squads Murder Peasants in the Bajo Aguán Valley: Reflections on the Bird Report

BY Frederick B. Mills, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Posted on March 6, 2013

Source: Eirik S. (Anticipation of Blog)         

On February 20, 2013, Rights Action Co-Director, Annie Bird, issued the most detailed report to date on “Human Rights Violations Attributed to Military Forces in the Bajo Aguán Valley in Honduras” (hereafter cited as the Bird Report). [1] The report’s findings remove ambiguities that may have given those who have chosen to remain silent a clear conscience. The Bird Report is far more than simply a compilation of documentation and analysis; it represents an urgent call to stop the killing taking place in this region of Honduras.

There has been no dearth of credible reports of human rights abuses in the Bajo Aguán. The 2011 annual report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, Chapter 4) is based on the Commission’s own on site observations in May of 2010, correspondence from the State of Honduras, and reports from a number of international human rights organizations and networks, including the International Verification Mission. The Mission visited the area from February 25 to March 4, 2011. Section 295 of the IACHR report states:

During 2011, the IACHR continued to receive troubling reports that the situation in the Bajo Aguán had worsened. There has been a long-standing land dispute between campesinos and businessmen in this area and it has come to the attention of the Commission that as of the June 28, 2009 coup d’état, there has been an increase in the number of deaths, threats and intimidation against campesinos in the area and stigmatization and criminalization of the land rights struggle persists. [2]

Souce: BBC Images

The Bird Report provides an important update to the information collected by the IACHR. Bird’s methodology relies in no small part on the testimony of survivors and witnesses who reside in the Bajo Aguán Valley as well as the reports of other human rights defenders and organizations. Bird also gives a general assessment of recent publications by the Honduran Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CONADEH) and by the U.S. State Department Country Reports on Honduras (2010 and 2011). Of these two sources, Bird remarks:

CONADEH and the State Department reported significantly lower numbers of campesinos killed than did human rights organizations and the campesino movements. Further, there was little clarity regarding reports of members of security forces killed. While numbers of killings were reported, there was not confirmation of the identity of the individuals, nor the conditions under which their deaths occurred. Another key difference between U.S. State Department and Honduran government reports and those of human rights organizations was that the State department and CONADEH generally characterized the killings as having occurred in confrontations while human rights organizations denounced … the emergence of a pattern of targeted killings. (Bird Report, p. 18)

By focusing on the details of 34 cases, Bird documents a clear pattern of targeted killings and abductions in the area of the Bajo Aguán, mostly perpetrated against members of campesino organizations. It is important to note that the circumstances of these cases could not reasonably be described as “confrontations.” [3]

The Bird Report shows concrete links between death squads, the Honduran army’s 15th battalion, the Colón police, and a number of private security firms. The document points out that 77 of the 89 killings of peasants reported since January of 2010 “clearly have the characteristics of death squad killings” (p. 43). Bird points to cases where peasants have been murdered while in transit (on bicycles, on motorcycles, in cars, waiting on a bus, or walking along the wayside), at home, while working, at demonstrations, during evictions, or abducted and later found dead, often with signs of torture on the body.

Historical Context

If one deigned to surmise that the days of death squad operations in Central America were over, the Bird Report should provide a deeply troubling signal. Four years ago quarrels over land usage in the  Aguán were usually dealt with in court, not through the end of gun barrel. But the political and economic context has dramatically altered in a manner that obscenely valorizes property rights over human life.

According to Just the Facts, Honduras is in a fiscal crisis because of its “inability to pay both its domestic and foreign bills” and it is now faced with the prospect of being “unable to pay for state services ranging from education to security.” [4] One bright spot in the Honduran economy is in the export sector. Since 2000, the demand for African Palm Oil has doubled and the Bajo Aguán is among the ideal places for its cultivation. [5] African Palm Oil is used as a food additive and as a means to produce biodiesel fuel. This growing demand has motivated great interest in the few parcels of land available in the  Aguán for expanded levels of cultivation. This already has raised the immediate stakes in the longstanding conflicts between campesinos seeking to reclaim farm land and the three large plantation owners in the area who are bent on enlarging their holdings.  The Honduras government did not, at first, countenance murder as an acceptable means of resolving these land disputes. But starting in mid-2009, the legal tools of negotiation all too often have been giving way to the blunt instruments of terror.

On June 28, 2009 a civilian-military coup against the democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya triggered a crackdown by golpista forces on human rights and progressive activists across the country. Since then, dissident journalists, human rights attorneys, Afro-descendent and indigenous communities, the LGBT community, and political foes of the post coup regimes have suffered the brunt of the abuses, often with the direct participation and complicity of the police and security forces. It is in this precipitous economic, political, and security climate that death squads have surfaced against campesino organizations in the Bajo Aguán Valley. A brief look at the ideological context of the abuse of power shows the complicity (unwittingly or not) of a number of international players.

Ideological Context of Murder in the Aguán, Honduras

Despite an abundance of human rights inspired reporting on this issue worldwide, there has not yet been anything akin to the political will in Tegucigalpa to bring a halt to the targeted killing of campesinos in the Bajo Aguán Valley. How is this major moral failing to be explained given that there is no legitimate policy justification for the carnage over what is essentially a longstanding land dispute among Hondurans?

In the summary section of the Rights Watch Report, Bird describes how certain overarching narratives are used to mischaracterize the ongoing instances of murder being launched in the Aguán:

Impunity surrounding violations is so prevalent that it appears to constitute a policy of the state. Security forces apply the law unequally, criminalizing campesinos while providing protection to the local businessmen, some reported to engage in drug trafficking. High-ranking government officials have distorted the nature of the conflict, accusing campesinos of engaging in criminal activities and claiming that an armed movement is operating in the region, unsubstantiated accusations that wrongly position campesino movements as the object of anti-terrorism and anti-narcotics operations just as regional security initiatives are being promoted by the international community. (Bird Report, p. 4)

Source: National Guard

The ‘war on drugs’ is being met with growing skepticism both in the U.S. and in the rest of the hemisphere. In the U.S., the unjust application of drug laws to African Americans and the resulting unprecedented rates of incarceration are coming under increasing critical scrutiny by the North American public. [6] At the last Summit of the Americas in Cartagena (April 2012), there appeared to be a growing consensus among the heads of state in attendance of the region’s need to reassess the efficacy and human costs of the war on drugs. With regard to Honduras, the drug war suffered a serious public relations set back after a botched joint Honduran Military—DEA counternarcotics operation that took place on May 11, 2012 in Ahuas (Miskitia territory). This operation left four innocent civilians dead, including a pregnant woman, and four wounded. [7]

In the days and weeks that followed the counternarcotics operation in Ahuas, the international human rights community and some members of the U.S. Congress called for an in depth official investigation of this incident. Washington’s position up to now is to defer judgment on the DEA role in the Ahuas operation to the conclusions reached by the investigation conducted by Honduran authorities. [8] This flimsy approach to accountability in this high profile case is not exactly a confidence builder, but has taken on the appearance of providing cover for suspicious transactions. If Washington is unwilling to investigate the DEA’s “supportive” role in this tragic episode of the war on drugs, it loses leverage in holding Honduran authorities accountable for human rights abuses in Miskitia, the Aguán, and elsewhere in Honduras.

The Bird Report lifts the veil of pretext because it conveys enough testimony from persons on the ground to undermine claims that counternarcotics operations are what chiefly motivates the alliance between the security forces and big agribusiness in the Bajo Aguán. This alliance is supported, whether intentionally or not, by outside forces. For this reason the Report documents some of the U.S. funded military training and other assistance provided to the Honduran military’s 15th battalion and closely related units. This battalion and related units reportedly have been implicated in targeted killings of campesinos who are in most cases associated with farm coop organizations in the Bajo Aguán. So, at this point, it may be prudent for the U.S. to reconsider the controversial deployment of resources for these Honduran military units.

Source: Associated Press Images

With regard to the money trail, the Bird Report indicates that the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, and a number of other institutions have made loan commitments to the Dinant Corporation. This corporation is owned by Miguel Facusse, who runs one of the three big African Palm Oil plantations in the area. [9] This is important because the Bird Report links a security firm (called Orion Private Security Corporation) [10] in the pay of Dinant and at least one other agribusiness to some of the acts of violence against campesinos associated with several vicitimized coop organizations. These lenders have an ethical obligation to further research and reevaluate any loan commitments to questionable agribusinesses that are alleged to engage in murder for hire and other notorious crimes. Bird’s research, then, helps the readers to connect the dots from the military assistance and money trails to violence in the  Aguán.

U.S. Union and Congressional Concern Over Human Rights Abuses in the Bajo Aguán

Since unionists in Honduras are among the most persistent targets of repression it is no surprise that the AFL-CIO and other U.S. unions have urged Congress to act against human rights abuses in Honduras.  In a March 2012 letter from a number of U.S. unions to members of the U.S. Congress, the situation in the Bajo  Aguán is mentioned in the context of massive violations of human rights in that country:

The violence directed towards the campesinos in the Bajo Aguán represents a fraction of the violence, torture and harassment reportedly undertaken by the Honduran police and military against human rights defenders, trade unionists, peasant groups, and others. We respectfully ask you to sign the letter initiated by Representative Schakowsky calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately suspend all police and military aid to Honduras until the Lobo Administration ends state-initiated violence and impunity, investigates and prosecutes members of the police and military responsible for human rights abuses, monitors the activities of private security companies, and provides basic protective measures for campesino activists, human rights advocates, members of the opposition, and other targeted populations, including trade unionists. [11]

Source: Voice of America

Ninety-four members of the House signed on to Rep. Schakowsky’s (D-IL) Dear Colleague letter (March 9, 2012) which opens: “We are concerned with the grave human rights situation in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras and ask the State Department to take effective steps to address it.” The letter also urges the State Department to “suspend U.S. assistance to the Honduran military and police given the credible allegations of widespread, serious violations of human rights attributed to the security forces.”

Efforts by governmental and non-governmental human rights organizations, major U.S. Unions, and a significant number of members of Congress have so far not been successful in stopping the human rights abuses in the Bajo Aguán. The push for a change of course, however, continues. On January 30, 58 members of Congress signed a letter to then incoming Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder which closes:

“We strongly recommend a review on the implementation of counternarcotics operations carried out by our government in Honduras taking into account the unique conditions and high vulnerability of Afro-descendent and indigenous communities, who are disproportionately affected by drug trafficking activities.” [12]

Perhaps with a change at the helm of the State Department such voices of conscience will prevail. It remains to be seen whether Washington will develop a more progressive and responsive hemispheric policy which makes human rights and mutual respect among nations a top priority.

Urgency of the Now: Policy Recommendations

It is of critical importance to note the “urgency of the now” in the  Aguán. Since the publication of the Bird Report on February 20, 2013, two more killings in the  Aguán have been reported: on February 24, the tortured bodies of Yoni Adolfo Cruz of the Unified Peasant Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and Manuel Ezequiel Guillen García of the Peasant Movement for the Recovery of the  Aguán (MOCRA), were found; they had disappeared on Thursday, February 21. [13]

While the Bird Report provides detailed findings and recommendations, there are two immediate indispensible measures that can help put an end to the killings.

First, the Obama Administration should immediately halt military assistance to all security forces involved in the abduction and murder of peasants in the Bajo Aguán.

Second, the Honduran authorities ought to enforce a return to exclusive reliance on litigation and negotiation as the appropriate means for resolving land disputes and dealing with territorial occupations in the Bajo Aguán region. [14]

Overcoming Impunity

If there is to be a long term and broad cessation of human rights abuses in Honduras, the perpetrators of the murders in the Aguán area and in other locations in Honduras must be held accountable. It is not clear, however, that justice for the victims and their families can be achieved given the current political, judicial, and security situation in Honduras. At the present time, some elements of Honduran the law enforcement forces are implicated in a significant number of human rights abuses, the judiciary stands in serious need of reform, and the country is now being internationally seen as a dangerous place for human rights attorneys. Two of the country’s most prominent human rights attorneys, Antonio Trejo and Manuel Diaz were murdered in September of 2012, and other lawyers have been persuaded by bribes or death threats to mend their principled ways.

With compromised judicial and public security systems in much of Honduras, the International Criminal Court (ICC) appears to be the “court of last resort.” Perhaps as the ICC reviews Honduran cases, those responsible for the abuses in the  Aguán and other areas of Honduras will take note that universal jurisdiction in the case of crimes against humanity has no statute of limitations.

Frederick B. Mills, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

To read the Bird Report, click here: Human Rights Violations Attributed to Military Forces in the Bajo Aguán Valley in Honduras.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated.

For additional news or analysis on Latin America, please go to: Latin News.

References

[1] Bird, Annie, “Human Rights Violations Attributed to Military Forces in the Bajo Aguán Valley in Honduras,” Rights Action, February 20, 2013,  http://rightsaction.org/sites/default/files//Rpt_130220_Aguan_Final.pdf.

[2]  IACHR 2011 Annual Report, Organization of American States, 2011,  http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/docs/annual/2011/TOC.asp. See also Observaciones Preliminares del la Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos sobre Su Visita a Honduras Realizada del 15 al 18 de Mayo de 2010. Secretaria General de La Organizacion de Los Estados Amercanos, Washington, DC 20006, http//www.cidh.org. Sections 118 – 121.

[3] The 34 cases are further divided into three types: 1) Human rights abuses currently under investigation and prosecution; 2) Cases where some investigative measures have occurred; and 3) Cases widely reported by human rights organizations and the press.

[4] “Just the Facts,” Center for International Policy, the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, and the Washington Office on Latin America, January 30, 2013  http://justf.org/blog/2013/01/30/whats-happening-honduras

[5] John, Mark,  ”Special Report: Africa palm-oil plan pits activists vs N.Y. investors,” Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/18/us-africa-palm-idUSBRE86H09320120718.

[6] See Michelle Alexander (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.

[7] Mills, Frederick B., “Death in Miskitia Land and the Search for Justice,” Council On Hemispheric Affairs, June 8, 2012, http://www.coha.org/death-in-miskitia-land-and-the-search-for-justice/. Some reports claim two of the women killed were pregnant, not one.

[8] Guy, Taylar, “Government won’t probe of DEA raid in Honduras,” The Washington Times, February 12, 2013, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/feb/12/no-probe-of-dea-raid-in-honduras/?page=all.

[9] According to a US Embassy Cable of October 26, 2006 “Dinant is a diversified food products company that uses African Palm oil as an ingredient while exporting the balance, principally to the U.S. Overall, African Palm oil is Honduras’ fifth largest export at $56 million per year.” See http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/10/06TEGUCIGALPA2030.html.

[10] Niether Bird nor this author makes claims about any other firm which may have the same name, but refer only to the one on the ground in the Aguàn area.

[11] U.S. Union Joint Letter to the U.S. House of Representatives on Honduras Human Rights Violations, March 2, 2012.

[12] Johnson, Hank, Rep. Johnson, 57 colleagues call for investigation into DEA-related killings in Honduras, January 30, 2013, http://hankjohnson.house.gov/press-release/rep-johnson-57-colleagues-call-investigation-dea-related-killings-honduras.

[13] Annie Bird, e-mail message to author, February 28, 2013.

[14] There has not been a total stop to negotiations over land disputes, even during the period covered by the Bird Report.

Fuente: http://www.coha.org/21693/

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