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Where Will the Children Play? Neoliberal Militarization in Pre-Election Honduras

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Written by Adrienne Pine, Photos by Jesse Freeston
Tuesday, 05 November 2013 09:31
Pro-Corporate State Violence

On Thursday, October 24th I attended the late-night wake for 32-year-old journalist Manuel Murillo, whose body had been dumped in an alleyway the previous day with three gunshots to the face. I was with two international journalists and Honduran activist Edwin Espinal. As we walked past the truckload of military police outside the hall, one of them said “tienen huevos.”

In the months leading up to the first national elections since the 2009 coup in which members of the Resistance movement will participate, state-led terror and the criminalization of social protest have intensified. Juan Orlando Hernández, the presidential candidate for current president Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo’s National Party, has made the promise of security through militarization his central campaign theme. “Voy a hacer lo que tenga que hacer para derrotar a la delincuencia y recuperar la paz,” [“I will do whatever I have to do to crush criminality and bring back peace”] Hernández’s voice intones on his omnipresent campaign spots. The new military police force is an initiative of Hernández, which has significant support among the Honduran population. This is due in part to a complete lack of trust in the Honduran national police force which is widely seen as irremediably corrupt and murderous. In this context, the military appears to many to be a more reliable force to confront rampant criminality in the most murderous country in the world.

However, Honduran soldiers have also murdered several civilians in recent years. In one case that gained international attention last year, 15-year-old student Ebed Jassiel Janes was shot dead by soldiers while riding his motorcycle to meet a girl he had befriended on Facebook. Most of victims of the military have been engaged in grassroots struggle against national and international corporations exploiting lands, water, and subsoil resources of which their communities claim ownership. On July 15th of this year, Tomás García, a leader of the National Council of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was shot and killed by soldiers who also seriously wounded García’s son in the same attack. The soldiers who killed García were protecting the Chinese-owned DESA corporation against the indigenous Lenca population who oppose DESA’a construction of a hydroelectric dam on their ancestral territory.

Honduran soldiers are also linked to murders of numerous campesino land rights activists in the Aguán. Just last Wednesday, following numerous death threats, Osbin Nahum Caballero Santamaria was allegedly killed by an operation of approximately 70 soldiers, who then abducted his body along with his still-alive wife and two small daughters by helicopter. Caballero’s mother, campesina leader Maria Digna Santamaria, denounced the murder and kidnapping on Radio Globo the following morning, holding the commander of the regional operation, former battalion 3-16 death squad member and School of the Americas graduate Col. German Alfaro Escalante, personally responsible. For his part, Colonel Alfaro—also on Radio Globo—asserted that Caballero himself had been involved in criminal activity and denied any military involvement in Caballero’s death. Instead, he repeated the commonly-employed refrain (used also by police) that criminals—not soldiers—often don army uniforms in order to carry out crimes.

Overall, in the Bajo Aguán region, more than 110 campesinos have been killed since the coup, primarily by security guards and soldiers employed by Miguel Facussé and three other large regional landowners. Facussé owns Dinant corporation, which specializes in products derived from his mono-cropped African Palm plantations, many of which are planted on ill-gotten, disputed agricultural reform lands. Like AZUNOSA, Dinant flaunts its ties with World Wildlife Fund in promotional materials while downplaying its role in the criminalization and murder of social activists.

The Honduran military and the judiciary both were primary institutional state actors in the 2009 coup against president Manuel Zelaya, whose wife Xiomara Castro is running for president against Hernández on the Resistance-affiliated LIBRE (Liberty and Refoundation) Party ticket. The two institutions have joined forces in the repression and criminalization of social movement leaders. Trumped-up charges including usurpation, coercion, and continued damages against DESA (which Tomás García was killed while opposing) have been leveled against COPINH leaders Berta Cáceres, Aureliano Molina and Tomás Gómez. The judge on the case ordered Cáceres to jail while the decision is pending; Cáceres has stated that the charges against her amount to political persecution and is currently in hiding. A similar case is pending against National Committee for Agricultural Workers (CNTC) leader Magdalena Morales, who has fought to reclaim agrarian reform lands from the British-owned sugar corporation AZUNOSA. The Honduran military has joined AZUNOSA’s private security guards in violently evicting campesinos on land disputed by AZUNOSA, and there has been no police investigation of campesinos murdered by AZUNOSA guards.

Military and judicial violence are necessary and central components of the imposition of neoliberal economic policies in post-coup Honduras. In order to legitimate and secure the economic violence effected against Honduran citizens by corporations like AZUNOSA, Dinant, and DESA, the judiciary actively criminalizes opposition to them while the military (along with other state security forces) goes after citizen-“criminals” with an iron fist.

Patterns of Political Violence

In a country where so-called “random,” “street,” “gang,” and “terrorist” violence is rampant and used to justify the criminalization of social activism and the corresponding militarization of public space, it is crucial to keep careful track of the patterns of political violence (keeping in mind that all violence in in some sense political). Following the coup, reports published by Amnesty International and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission found over 4,000 human rights abuses, including arbitrary detentions, torture and targeted assassinations that had been carried out between the June 28th coup and August of the same year by military and police forces against coup opponents. The Resistance movement, for its part, staunchly rejected in theory and practice the use of any violence that could have resulted in bodily harm to the enforcers or supporters of the coup.

Despite the incendiary labeling of social justice and human rights campaigners as “terrorists” and “insurgents” by Honduran armed forces, police, and their allies in the media, no credible evidence has emerged to substantiate claims of armed leftists using violence to destabilize the country. There have been very few instances of violence perpetrated against members of the military, police, or private security companies in recent years. In the Bajo Aguán region, where some such cases have occurred, no investigations have taken place. As such it is impossible to say who was responsible for the killings. Campesino communities, meanwhile, are under siege—terrorized by state and private security forces’ campaigns of systematic rape, harassment and targeted assassinations, and criminalized by a corrupt judiciary. A February 20, 2013 report by Annie Bird of Rights Action includes a exhaustive tally of murders in the Bajo Aguán region carried out between January 2010 and the date of the report’s publication. Bird counts a total of 89 campesinos, their supporters and neighbors killed during that period, whereas only 16 members of security forces were killed in the region during the same period.

Similarly, journalism is one of the most dangerous professions in Honduras. But according to Hector Becerra, director of the Honduran press freedom organization C-Libre, it is more dangerous for journalists whose reporting is critical of state abuses and police corruption than for those whose reporting is complicit with the same. Proving this in individual cases is complicated because of the levels of generalized violence and the context of impunity. Becerra states that of the 31 actively-employed journalists murdered since the coup, it is possible to demonstrate in 15 cases that the murders were directly related to the journalists’ exercise of freedom of expression. In each of the cases where enough evidence exists to determine that a journalist was killed in direct relation to his or her reporting, the reporting in question was critical of the coup, the Lobo administration, government corruption on the local or national level, or police ties to organized crime. On the other hand, there are no known cases of journalist murders that have been linked to reporting critical of social movements or coup opponents.

Numerous local candidates from the LIBRE political party have been killed in targeted assassinations in recent months. As Karen Spring of Rights Action notes in a recent report analyzing an exhaustively-researched list of pre-election violence, 18 LIBRE candidates and immediate family members of candidates were murdered between May 2012 and October 19, 2013, and 15 more suffered armed attacks. Spring writes:

“According to the list…LIBRE party…pre-candidates, candidates, their families and campaign leaders have suffered more killings and armed attacks than all other political parties combined. The disproportionate number of killings of LIBRE candidates seems a clear indication that many of the killings have been politically motivated.”

Many more non-candidate LIBRE activists have been killed in targeted assassinations, the most recent being photojournalist Manuel Murillo, who was working for LIBRE congressional candidate Rasel Tomé at the time of his murder. On Thursday, October 31st, LIBRE congressional candidate Beatriz Valle announced she was leaving the country after receiving numerous death threats. LIBRE leaders have told me that in an effort to maintain a positive message to attract voters, they until recently avoided politicizing what other party members have referred to as the “extermination campaign” against them.

In pre-election Honduras, the numbers make clear that overtly political violence is predominantly uni-directional, carried out by State security forces and death squads on behalf of powerful individuals and corporations, and against those who stand in their way, or appear to do so. And as the November 24th elections approach, that violence is intensifying.


The Case of Edwin Espinal

At 7 a.m. on Wednesday, October 23rd (the day before I attended Manuel Murillo’s wake) I received a call from a human rights activist. She told me that Edwin Espinal’s house in the Flor del Campo neighborhood of Tegucigalpa had been broken into and was being ransacked by military police. Five minutes later, I was racing across town in a car with her, Edwin, one of his family members, and Canadian journalist Jesse Freeston.

I first met Edwin on July 1st, 2010, in the offices of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). He arrived after having been tortured by police officers from his neighborhood, his eyes swollen from the pepper gas they had sprayed directly into them 12 hours earlier after dragging him out of his parked car with no explanation. He had been refused medical attention and tortured with tasers (on his back, stomach, and ears) throughout the night, which he spent in a prison cell. I knew of Edwin at the time from his public statements following the death of his partner, Wendy Ávila, from tear gas inhalation nearly a year earlier. Since our first meeting Edwin has been continuously harassed by his neighborhood police who, he states, oppose his Resistance and community organizing activities. The same police have violently assaulted and arbitrarily detained him on multiple occasions.

Following local police officers’ repeated use of arbitrary detentions and torture against Edwin, the World Organization Against Torture and the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights both requested that the Honduran government provide him precautionary measures. But the Honduran state response has been far from satisfactory. In a judgment declaring the officers involved in Edwin’s torture innocent, judge Marta Marlene Murillo Castro claimed his torture represented a “legitimate use of force” and accepted the police claim that spraying pepper gas in Edwin’s eyes had been an accident (Judge Murillo is the same judge who determined that the military had acted legally in violently raiding two radio station and one television stations on the day of the 2009 coup against Zelaya confiscating and/or destroying nearly all their equipment in the process).

Two of the Flor del Campo police officers who repeatedly harassed and tortured Edwin, José Luís Alemán Pérez and Walter Isaías Burgos Vargas, have since been implicated in different crimes. Alemán is currently serving a jail sentence for illegal arms possession and extortion. Burgos was named by the Police Reform Commission (formed in 2012) for his involvement in corruption. However, the commission—formed largely in response to the police murder of the son of powerful National University Rector Julieta Castellanos—has failed to tie Burgos’s “corruption” to (or hold him accountable for) Edwin’s torture.

After receiving numerous death threats, Edwin and his family fled their Flor del Campo home on October 9th and went into hiding. Human rights workers involved with the case and Edwin’s neighbors suspect that the threats, which were delivered by local gang members, originated from National Party activists in the community. When National Party candidate Hernández rolled out his military police with great fanfare days later on October 14th, Flor de Campo (infamous for its violence and gang activity) was the new state security force’s first and primary target. Driving into Flor del Campo on the morning of October 23rd, we took detours around several roadblocks that had been set up throughout the neighborhood. Dozens of heavily-armed balaclava-wearing military police stood around each one.

The largest concentration of military police we saw was outside Edwin’s house. In addition to the troops storming his house (which sustained significant structural damage in the raid), between 50 and 60 heavily armed troops were assigned to different strategic tasks. Some blocked off vehicle and pedestrian traffic to Edwin’s dead-end street; others sat facing out on either side of the converted pickup beds of several military vehicles, guns ready; others directed traffic on the street perpendicular to Edwin’s alley; others guarded each of the neighbors’ homes and businesses and walked back and forth patrolling the block; and still others took video and pictures of everyone who came to the scene, in particular those of us who arrived with Edwin. The military police were accompanied by a contingent of embedded television, radio and print journalists. At one point a group of journalists and military police officers worked themselves into hearty laughter imitating Juan Orlando Hernández’s campaign refrain, “Voy a hacer lo que tenga que hacer para derrotar a la delincuencia y recuperar la paz.

Military Police directing local traffic away from the area where the raid of activist Edwin Espinal’s Flor del Campo home was taking place.


Military Police arriving to Edwin Espinal’s house in one of several pickup trucks. In the background is aluminum fencing surrounding the newly-privatized Flor del Campo community soccer field, and another military police truck with three dog cages. Two other military police vehicles also came loaded with dogs.


Members of the the military police used video and still cameras to record neighbors, friends, and human rights workers who arrived at the scene.


Militarized Neoliberal Sport

On the far side of the street where we stood, blocked by military police from entering the alleyway to Edwin’s house, sits an enormous gated construction site slated to become a private soccer field. This soccer field—the “campo” in Flor del Campo—was until recently the only open, public green space for neighborhood residents. But earlier this year, CONAPID, a Honduran public-private government commission, was brought on to redesign the field as part of its privatization. CONAPID receives funds from the Inter-American Development Bank and the controversial Honduran “tasa de seguridad”—a tax on businesses created after the coup to pay for public security initiatives. Many neighborhood residents argue that the privatization of the field is illegal. Since the field is collectively maintained, paid for and administered by the community, Honduran law requires that the community be consulted in the event of a transfer of administration or ownership. No such consultation ever took place; instead, neighbors say, two Flor del Campo residents who had no authority to do so signed away the development rights to the field. One of the signatories is a National Party member who assumed de facto leadership of a defunct community council after its elected president was murdered for what neighbors claim are political reasons.

The president of CONAPID is Reinaldo Sánchez, currently a Congressional candidate with Juan Orlando Hernández’s National Party, the party behind the military police. Part of CONAPID’s public relations strategy (in keeping with its tasa de seguridad funding) is that the organization’s work is central to crime and violence prevention in Honduras. A March 2010 article celebrating the inauguration of a privatized soccer field (replacing another public one) states (my translation):

Reinaldo Sánchez, head of CONAPID, said he felt proud to collaborate in something that will keep young people away from vices.


Sánchez reiterated this sentiment in a press release the following year:

[Sánchez] noted that society as a whole should take an active role in the processes of change developed by the Government, in order to create an atmosphere of peace among the citizenry. “These works create progress, development and opportunities for children and youths, since they enable us to distance them from taking on bad habits,” he stated.


Community members in Flor del Campo take a markedly different view of CONAPID’s involvement, and of the privatization of their communal land. Neighborhood residents, including Edwin, began organizing to oppose the venture and to maintain the public space that has defined their neighborhood as soon as they heard about the irregular transfer, even as the field was being dug up in preparation for the installation of artificial turf. Today, the site is only visible through small gaps in the approximately 8-foot high aluminum fence erected around the entire field. Once community members began to engage in actions that included the attempted removal of the fence and spray painting it with slogans protesting the venture, the military was brought in to protect the field. Slogans visible on the morning of the raid included:

●      “We the poor also have a right to public spaces”

●      “La Flor Sin Campo” (“Flower Without a Field” a play on the neighborhood’s name Flor del Campo)

●      “+Profit, -Sports, =Crime”

●      “Primero los Pobres?” (The slogan of the National Party mayor of Tegucigalpa and strong CONAPID ally, Ricardo Álvarez, “The Poor Come First,” framed sarcastically as a question)

Graffiti opposing the privatization of the Flor de Campo community soccer field, sprayed on the aluminum fencing surrounding the field. The field has been guarded by members of the Honduran military since the graffiti appeared. More recently, the newly-formed military police have been patrolling the area.


Since members of the community began organizing against the privatization of their field, several of them have received direct and credible death threats from the same few neighborhood residents who signed away the community’s rights and who stand to profit from the field under its new management. On the weekend after Edwin fled his home in Flor del Campo, a public report-back of the activities of community members opposing the CONAPID venture had been planned. It was canceled because the neighborhood activists feared for their lives.


Impunity and Elections

The terrorizing of activists like Edwin Espinal falls within the context of criminalization of social movement leaders like Berta Cáceres and Magdalena Morales. It is also part of a recent pattern of apparently politically-motivated military police-led home invasions. In the past two weeks, military police “allanamientos” (technically, forcible home raids) have been carried out against union leader Marco Antonio Rodríguez, Vice-President of the National Child Welfare Agency Workers’ Union and an international journalist who chose not to publicize their case. According to Rodríguez, when he asked the military police ransacking his home to show him their warrant, their response directly reflected the impunity they enjoy. “What search warrant?” they answered, “We can do whatever we want here.”

In Edwin’s case, there was in fact a search warrant, administered on site by public prosecutor Ricardo Adolfo Núñez (cited in the same document as having requested a search warrant), who wore a ski mask and a bulletproof vest. In the days following the raid, Edwin attempted to locate Núñez, a public figure who works for the Public Ministry and has been assigned to the Military Police. He was told that there was no phone number or office at which Núñez could be located. The signature on the search warrant was that of “juez ejecutor” (judge executor) Santos Alberto Reyes Castillo, a sergeant working directly for the military police. According to COFADEH journalist Dina Meza (herself a victim of ongoing harassment and death threats directly related to her work), who arrived at the scene later in the morning, Reyes Castillo was also present at the raid.

COFADEH journalist Dina Meza leaving the scene of the military police raid of activist Edwin Espinal’s home.


When a journalist from the Honduran newspaper El Tiempo later questioned the legality of allowing a judge executor within the military police to authorize the same military police to raid a citizen’s home, the president of the Honduran Supreme Court stated it was perfectly legal (though this interpretation was disputed by the Attorney General). On the eve of Honduran elections, what is in effect a parallel security force with its own internal legal structure has been created. And it appears to be entirely unaccountable to Honduran citizens.

Outside Edwin Espinal’s home (Espinal is in the foreground), public prosecutor Ricardo Adolfo Núñez, wearing a blue plaid shirt, balaclava and bulletproof vest, confers with members of the military police in charge of the raid. One carries on his back a large mallet used in the operation.


The search warrant itself highlighted Edwin’s alleged LIBRE activism, and authorized the raid in order to confiscate “Objects related to Illegal Drug Trafficking, Prohibited Weapons, and Cash from Crimes of Theft and Extortion.” While we waited down the street from his house, the military police broke down Edwin’s doors (external and internal) and illegally remained inside the house for two hours before the evidence-gathering inspection team went inside with three large drug-sniffing dogs, giving them ample time to contaminate the scene. Edwin photographed the search warrant of his house and gave a brief statement to the press denouncing the political nature of the raid.

Edwin Espinal giving a declaration to the press, in which he stated that the destruction of his home by military police was part of an ongoing campaign of harassment and political persecution meant to terrorize his family and political activists.


The following day, Manuel Murillo’s body was identified. Murillo, like Edwin, had been granted precautionary measures after suffering arbitrary detention, torture, and death threats against himself and his family at the hands of police. I joined Edwin and the same group of colleagues who had accompanied him to his house the previous day to Murillo’s service in a community hall in the Kennedy neighborhood, right next to a police station. We arrived late, close to 11 p.m. A LIBRE flag hung from Murillo’s coffin, and a couple prominent party members stood around in the aisle, their expressions unreadable to me. Family members walked around offering us coffee and cake. I only glanced momentarily at the young man’s face, which was crudely sewn together with black thread in an attempt to mask the disfigurement caused by his murderers.

Part of the nature of living in a context of state repression and impunity coupled with the highest homicide rate in the world is that it is difficult to assert political motives for state violence in any given case with certainty. Is there proof that Murillo’s murder was carried out by the police who tortured and threatened him with death three years ago, or by the new military police force comprised of former members of the national police and military, who now enjoy even greater power and impunity than before? Not at the moment. Is there proof that that the military police’s raid of Edwin’s home was an act of individual and collective intimidation tied to his resistance activities, and most recently to his fight to retain a public green space where neighborhood children could play? His multiple experiences of arbitrary detention and torture at the hands of police who enjoy full impunity for the harm they have caused him, and the inclusion of his alleged LIBRE affiliation in the search warrant indicate the possibility of a political motive, but do not qualify as definitive proof. The military police saying “tienen huevos” as we passed them on the way to pay our respects to Manuel Murillo and his family seemed to us to be a clear message. But can we prove that? Absolutely not.

For community organizers, democracy activists, LIBRE candidates, and potential LIBRE voters, the pre-election context in Honduras is one of extreme everyday violence amplified by a campaign of state terror carried out in the service of neoliberal policies and politicians. The criminalization and persecution of individuals and groups who oppose Honduran state policies—while difficult to prove in any individual case thanks to the near total impunity that exists for human rights violators—is nonetheless in the aggregate a clear example of what sociologist Emile Durkheim called a social fact. As 20 senators recently pointed out in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, this persecution is being carried out by police and military (and now military police) forces that receive funding and training from the United States. These are the conditions under which Honduran elections will take place later this month, and only the most cynical of observers could call those conditions “free and fair.”

Many thanks to Karen Spring for her extensive research help on this article.

Adrienne Pine is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University, and author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras. She is currently on leave to teach at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, and blogs at http://quotha.net.


Fuente: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/honduras-archives-46/4542-where-will-the-children-play-neoliberal-militarization-in-pre-election-honduras

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Pre-Election Persecution Increases In Honduras:

New Military Police and State Forces Persecute FNRP and LIBRE activists Weeks Before the General Elections

November 3, 2013, By Karen Spring (spring.kj@gmail.com)


In the early hours on the morning of October 23, the newly created Honduran Military Police broke down the doors of the residence of Edwin Robelo Espinal, a long-time National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) activist. Heavily armed Military Police accompanied by a military judge and public prosecutor, with their faces entirely covered by balaclavas, carried out a thorough search of Edwin’s house looking for “weapons and a rocket-propelled launcher” (1)




(Upon arriving at Edwin Espinal’s house, Military Police blocked the entrance to the shared driveway. Initially, they refused to provide the name of the person in charge and the search warrant. October 23, 2013. Photo by: Karen Spring)




(On the left is Espinal’s house where a Resistance flag has been hung since June 2009. Military Police stand outside, as officers inside the house break down over 15 bathroom, bedroom and entrance/exit doors. Every drawer and corner of the house was opened, pulled out and searched. There was significant damage to the house for which the Espinal family is unlikely to be reimbursed for. October 23, 2013. Photo by: Karen Spring)


The search warrant, authorized by a military judge, read: “Robelo [as he is known by his community] belongs to the LIBRE party and is one of the leaders of that area.” Along with GPS coordinates of the location of his house, the warrant also noted that: “outside, [the house] has a LIBRE flag.”(2)


Since the 2009 military coup, Edwin has been an active member of the Honduran resistance, the FNRP. Since the formation of its political arm – the Liberty and Refoundation Party –, Edwin has been supporting LIBRE organizing efforts along with his community group, “Collective en Resistencia Wendy E. Avila” in the neighbourhood Flor del Campo in Tegucigalpa.




(Edwin Robelo Espinal speaks to journalists suspected of being embedded in the operations of the Military Police as they raided his house. October 23, 2013. Photo by: Karen Spring)


The Killing of Edwin’s Partner Wendy Avila

Edwin’s partner, Wendy Avila was killed in September 2009, when military and police violently evicted the Honduran resistance who had gathered around the Brazilian embassy to welcome overthrown President Zelaya, back to the country. Edwin was also disappeared for 5 hours and tortured by police officers in Flor del Campo in June 2010 (3).


Most recently and likely directly related to the current persecution against him, Edwin is involved in organizing his community against efforts by National Party activists in the Flor del Campo ‘Patronato’ (community leadership) to privatize the community soccer field. In 2010, after he was tortured by Honduran poice, Edwin was given protective measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (4).




(One morning, the Flor del Campo community woke up to find the community soccer field had been blocked off. The ‘Wendy E. Avila Collective in Resistance’, in Flor del Campo, began organizing against the privatization of the community space by gathering signatures and investigating the fate of the soccer field. October 23, 2013. Photo by: Karen Spring)


Not An Isolated Incident: Raids, Death Threats, Killings and Disappearances

According to a recent Rights Action report, political candidates, their families and campaign leaders of the LIBRE party have suffered a disproportionate number of attacks and killings since May 2012 than all other political parties combined (5).



Not included in the attacks and killings listed in the report are the countless cases of political persecution, death threats and kidnappings of FNRP and LIBRE leaders that continue to occur on almost a weekly basis. Investigations are rarely conducted and impunity continues to reign in Honduras.


The raid on Espinal’s house has not been the only Military Police operation directed against FNRP and LIBRE activists nor is it an isolated example of political violence in the context of the elections.


In the first week the Military Police were on the street (October 14-21, 2013), the residence of Dassaev Aguilar, an ex-correspondent for Telesur was raided for an unknown reason by Military Police (6).


On October 10 at 5:00 am, the Military Police broke in and raided the house of Marco Antonio Rodriguez, the Vice President of the National Child Welfare Worker’s Trade Union (SITRAPANI by its Spanish acronym). With a gun pointed at Antonio Rodriguez and his youngest son, the Military Police forced them out of the house, made them lie chest down on the street and handcuffed them while they searched the house. When Antonio Rodriguez asked to see the search warrant, the officers responded: “what search warrant, here we can do whatever we want.” (7)




(Military Police. Some are dressed in uniform and some in civilian clothes wearing bulletproof vests, all with their faces completely covered. “Justice without a face” as Honduran journalist, Felix Molina says. Photo by: Karen Spring)


Another Killing of a Former Journalist and LIBRE Activist

In another incident of suspected state involvement, the body of Manuel Murillo Varela, a journalist, a former cameraman for Globo TV and LIBRE activist was found in Tegucigalpa on October 24 (8).


Murillo Varela had suffered years of political persecution for his involvement with the FNRP and the LIBRE party. In 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued protection measures for Murillo Varela after he and his colleague were disappeared and tortured for over 24 hours by police dressed as civilians on February 2, 2010.


Murillo Varela is also well known for his coverage of overthrown President Zelaya’s militarized house in the early hours of June 28, 2009 as Hondurans woke up to find that President Zelaya had been overthrown and taken out of the country (9). Since 2010 over 30 journalists have been killed and very few cases have been investigated and brought to trial (10).




(In the early morning of June 28, 2009, Manuel Murillo was one of the first journalists on site to document the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya. Photographer unknown.)


Death Threats Against a LIBRE Congressional Candidate

On October 30, Beatriz Valle, a LIBRE Congressional candidate in the department of Francisco Morazan and ex-Vice Foreign Minister under Manuel Zelaya’s government, announced that she had received death threats. It is unknown where the death threats originate from but Valle decided, in consultation with human rights organizations, to leave the country (11).


Repression And Persecution Of Lenca Indigenous Communities And COPINH Leaders

Since April 1, 2013, the Lenca communities of Rio Blanco supported by the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) have maintained a roadblock preventing the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project. The Rio Blanco region continues to be heavily militarized and security forces are utilizing various tactics to attempt to divide and discourage the communities in resistance including pressing charges against community members, threats, persecution and negotiating projects with groups of community members in an attempt to bribe and to weaken the resistance. Berta Caceres, a COPINH indigenous leader was sent to jail on September 20th, 2013 while two other COPINH leaders, Tomas Garcias and Aureliano Molina are required to sign before a judge on a regular basis. The three COPINH leaders are unable to visit the Rio Blanco area – one of many attempts to weaken the resistance and unity of the Lenca struggle.


Further Criminalization of the Campesino Movements in the Aguan Valley

According to Honduran human rights organization, COFADEH (Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras), a group of 6 individuals in Samaria in La Moskitia region were disappeared by approximately 80 military traveling in helicopters and boats on October 30. Josbin Nahúm Caballero and his family including his wife, Rosa Florinda Alvarenga Lara and their two children, Nesly Rosibel Caballero Alvarenga (2 years-old) along with Javier Castillo (25 years-old) and Justo Castillo (27 year-old) and were disappeared after the military raided Nahúm Caballero’s house and shooting him during the operation.


Nahúm Cabellero’s mother, Maria Digna Santamaría lives in the campesino community ‘La Confianza’ and is a member of the United Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MUCA). Digna Santamaria spoke to COFADEH and to the press regarding her son’s disappearance and suspected assassination. She denounced that the Commander of the Xatruch Military Operation in the department of Colon, Germán Alfaro Escalante, had directly threatened her son accusing him of being an assassin in an interview on a local radio in Colon, Honduras (12). Commander Alfaro also mentioned in the interview that the campesino community ‘La Confianza’ was hiding an assassin named ‘Caballero’, as part of his repeated effort to criminalize campesino movements and justify the continued militarization of the Valley that has contributed to the killings of over 100 campesinos in the Aguan Valley since 2010(13).




(Operation Xatruch II. Aguan Valley. October 2011. Photo by: Karen Spring)


The human rights situation in Honduras is grave. The creation of new security forces like the Military Police that in less than two weeks of being on the street, have been accused of targeting political opponents of the current Pepe Lobo government.


These raids, like other violations by Honduran police and military, raise serious concern regarding the context of the November 24th General Elections. Suffering a disproportionately higher number of killings and attacks than all other political parties combined, LIBRE political candidates participating in the campaigning process are very vulnerable to political violence.


However, persecution, attacks, disappearances and killings of community-based Resistance activists such as Manuel Murillo Varela, Marco Antonio Rodriguez, Edwin Robelo Espinal and other cases discussed above, are a less visible form of political violence that often escapes the watchful eyes of the ‘international community’.


The mood in Honduras is undoubtedly intense as the elections approach in less than 3 weeks.


(Karen Spring has worked with Rights Action since 2009.  She is currently living in Honduras.  Spring.kj@gmail.com)



[1] Quoted directly from the search warrant signed by Executing judge, Santos Alberto Reyes Castillo and Adjunct Secretary, Lesbia Verenice Vallejo Sanchez. The Executing judge was appointed by Claudio Daniel Aguilar Elvir and the fiscal present at the raid was Ricardo Adolfo Nuñez.

[2] Same as above.

[3] “One More Day of Repression in Honduras/Edwin Espinal At Risk” Rights Action. March 18, 2011. http://www.rightsaction.org/articles/Edwin_Espinal_and_Honduras_repression_031811.html. and “En peligro la cuidanía hondureña: Jueza sobresee juicio contra politicas torturadoras”. Defensores En Linea. COFADEH. June 29, 2011. http://defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1460%3Aen-peligro-la-ciudadania-hondurena-jueza-sobresee-juicio-contra-policias-torturadores&Itemid=171

[4] “CIDH solicita al Estado de Honduras garantizar la vida de Edwin Espinal” Defensores en Linea. COFADEH. July 27, 2013. http://defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=892%3Acidh-solicita-al-estado-de-honduras-garantizar-la-vida-de-edwin-espinal&Itemid=150

[5] Spring, Karen. “Context of the Honduran Electoral Process 2012-2013: Incomplete List of Killings and Armed Attacks Related to Political Campaigning in Honduras, May 2012-October 19, 2013” Rights Action. http://rightsaction.org/sites/default/files//Honduras-Violence-Political-Campaign.pdf

[6] Emanuelsson, Dick. “Honduras sangra: Ejecutan a Camarógrafo beneficiario de medidas cautelares otorgadas por la CIDH.” October 25, 2013. http://www.kaosenlared.net/america-latina/item/72052-siguen-derramando-la-sangre-de-los-periodistas-y-camarógrafos-en-honduras.html?tmpl=component&print=1

[7] “Policia Militar: Cual orden de allanamiento aca nosotros podemos hacer lo que queramos” Defensores en Linea. COFADEH. October 28, 2013. http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2821:policia-militar-cual-orden-de-allanamiento-aca-nosotros-podemos-hacer-lo-que-queramos&catid=54:den&Itemid=171

[8] “Another journalist murdered a month before general elections” Reporters without Borders. October 25, 2013. http://en.rsf.org/honduras-another-journalist-murdered-a-25-10-2013,45384.html

[9] See (8) or “Asesinan a un periodista a un mes antes de las elecciones: cuando acabara la violencia?” Reporters without borders. October 25, 2013. http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2815:asesinan-a-un-periodista-a-un-mes-de-las-elecciones-icuando-acabara-la-violencia&catid=42:seg-y-jus&Itemid=159

[10] “Honduras: Special force to solve murders of journalists, lawyers” Rene Novoa, Infosurhoy. http://infosurhoy.com/en_GB/articles/saii/features/main/2013/11/01/feature-01

[11] “Candidata de LIBRE denuncia amenazas a su vida” El Heraldo. October 31, 2013. http://m.elheraldo.hn/Secciones-Principales/Sucesos/Candidata-de-Libre-denuncia-amenazas-a-su-vida

[12] “Militares raptan a familia completa en la Moskitia” Defensores en linea. COFADEH. November 3, 2013. http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2826:militares-raptan-a-familia-completa-en-la-mosquitia-&catid=54:den&Itemid=171

[13] Bird, Annie. “Human Rights violations attributed to Military Forces in the Bajo Aguan Valley in Honduras”. Rights Action. February 20, 2013. http://rightsaction.org/sites/default/files/Rpt_130220_Aguan_Final.pdf; and Bird, Annie. “103rd and 104th Campesinos killed in the ‘Murder Capital of the World’, As Presidential Elections Loom in November 2013: Aguan Campesino Movement leader and son killed, wife injured” Rights Action. June 4, 2013. http://rightsaction.org/action-content/103rd-104th-campesinos-killed-‘murder-capital-world’-presidential-elections-loom


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La ONU condena el asesinato del cámara hondureño Manuel Murillo Varela

Domingo 03 de Noviembre de 2013 12:22 EUROPA PRESS
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La directora general de la Organización de Naciones Unidas para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, ha condenado el asesinato del cámara hondureño Manuel Murillo Varela en Tegucigalpa.

“Estos actos no deben quedar impunes. Urjo a las autoridades hondureñas a investigar profundamente este crimen y a llevar a sus autores ante la justicia”, ha dicho, de acuerdo con un comunicado difundido por la ONU.

Murillo Varela, de 32 años de edad, fue asesinado el pasado 23 de octubre y su cadáver fue hallado un día después con tres impactos de balas en el rostro en la Colonia Independencia de Tegucigalpa.

A lo largo de su carrera profesional, había trabajado en Globo TV y en el estatal Canal 8. También fue cámara oficial del ex presidente Manuel Zelaya, que fue derrocado en un golpe de Estado perpetrado el 28 de junio de 2009 por las Fuerzas Armadas.

Además, era miembro del Partido Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE) cuya candidata a las elecciones presidenciales del próximo 24 de noviembre es la esposa de Zelaya, Xiomara Castro. Murillo Varela también aspiraba a una diputación en estos comicios.

La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos otorgó a Murillo Varela medidas cautelares el 25 de febrero del 2010, tras denunciar que el 2 de febrero de 2010 fue secuestrado y torturado junto a un colega por policías vestidos de civil.

“Los policías lo amenazaron con asesinar a su familia si no entregaba los vídeos grabados en las protestas del Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) tras el derrocamiento de Zelaya”, ha dicho la Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa (SIP).

El presidente de la Comisión de Libertad de Prensa e Información de la SIP, Claudio Paolillo, ha recordado que en el informe sobre la situación de libertad de prensa presentado durante la reunión anual de la SIP esta semana en Denver se detalló que “no ha cesado el clima de inseguridad contra la prensa” en Honduras.

En concreto, ha alertado sobre la “gravedad” de la “falta de justicia” en los 36 asesinatos de periodistas ocurridos desde 2003. “Sólo uno ha sido juzgado y objeto de sentencia condenatoria, lo que significa que el 97 por ciento de los casos permanecen impunes”, ha denunciado


Fuente; http://www.resistenciahonduras.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5916:la-onu-condena-el-asesinato-del-camara-hondureno-manuel-murillo-varela&catid=60:derechos-humanos&Itemid=244

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SIP asesinato de camarógrafo en Honduras y pide al gobierno aplicar mecanismos de protección

Escrito por Redacción en Mar, 10/29/2013 – 13:47

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SIP asesinato de camarógrafo en Honduras y pide al gobierno aplicar mecanismos de protección
Miami, Estados Unidos (Conexihon).- La Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa (SIP) condenó el asesinato en Honduras del camarógrafo Manuel Murillo Varela, y urgió al gobierno a cumplir con los compromisos adquiridos a nivel nacional e internacional sobre mecanismos de protección para periodistas.
Murillo Varela, camarógrafo de 32 años, fue asesinado el miércoles 23 de octubre, aunque su cadáver con tres impactos de balas en el rostro fue hallado un día después en la Colonia Independencia, Comayagüela, en Tegucigalpa. En 2010 Murillo Varela había laborado en el canal Globo TV y en el estatal Canal 8. También fue camarógrafo oficial del presidente Manuel Zelaya en 2008, antes del golpe de estado de 2009.
De acuerdo a medios locales, Murillo Varela era miembro del Partido Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE) que tiene como candidata a las elecciones presidenciales del próximo 24 de noviembre a la esposa de ex presidente Zelaya, Xiomara Castro, y en las que el camarógrafo también tenía previsto disputar una diputación.
La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos otorgó a Murillo Varela medidas cautelares el 25 de febrero del 2010, luego de que denunciara ante el organismo que el 2 de febrero de 2010 fue secuestrado y torturado junto a un colega por policías vestidos de civil, quienes los condujeron a una cárcel clandestina. Los policías lo amenazaron con asesinar a su familia si no entregaba los vídeos grabados en las protestas del Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) tras el derrocamiento de Zelaya, explicaron medios locales.
Respecto a Honduras, el presidente de la Comisión de Libertad de Prensa e Información de la SIP, Claudio Paolillo, recordó que en el informe sobre la situación de libertad de prensa presentado durante la reunión anual de la SIP esta semana en Denver, Colorado, se detalló que “no ha cesado… el clima de inseguridad contra la prensa” y se advirtió sobre la gravedad de la falta de justicia por cuanto de 36 asesinatos de periodistas ocurridos desde 2003, “solo uno ha sido juzgado y objeto de sentencia condenatoria, lo que significa que el 97% de los casos permanecen impunes”.
Paolillo, director del semanario uruguayo, Búsqueda, reiteró al gobierno hondureño la urgencia de esclarecer el crimen del periodista Aníbal Barrow, asesinado en junio, e insistió en la necesidad de crear un sistema de protección para periodistas, entre otras medidas y reformas de políticas públicas que el país debe adoptar para sancionar los crímenes contra la libertad de prensa.

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Asesinan a un periodista a un mes de las elecciones: ¿cuándo acabará la violencia?

El 24 de octubre de 2013 encontraron en Tegucigalpa el cuerpo del camarógrafo Manuel Murillo Varela, con impactos de bala en el rostro, a sólo un mes de las elecciones generales que se llevarán a cabo 24 de noviembre de 2013. Su asesinato ocurrió exactamente cuatro meses después del secuestro y asesinato del periodista Aníbal Barrow, registrado el 24 de junio pasado.

“Reporteros sin Fronteras pide a las autoridades que emprendan una investigación independiente y a profundidad para que se esclarezca este homicidio. También hacemos un llamado para que se ponga fin a la impunidad en que permanecen los crímenes perpetrados contra periodistas, pues las investigaciones realizadas tardan en dar frutos”, señaló la organización.

“En respuesta al clima de violencia constante contra los actores de información y de la impunidad que rodea a la mayoría de las agresiones, pedimos a los candidatos de las próximas elecciones que se comprometan para que se respete la libertad de información en su país y que las autoridades creen un Comité Especial de Protección de Periodistas durante el periodo electoral”, agregó Reporteros sin Fronteras.

La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) había otorgado medidas cautelares a Manuel Murillo Varela después de que él y uno de sus colegas fueran secuestrados durante 24 horas y torturados por una veintena de policías vestidos de civil, el 2 de febrero de 2010. Según las denuncias del joven periodista ante el Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (Cofadeh) y la Comisión de la Verdad y la Reconciliación (CVR), los policías le exigieron que les entregara los videos que había grabado de las protestas del Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular contra el golpe de Estado y lo amenazaron con asesinar a su familia. Manuel Murillo Varela continuó ejerciendo su oficio en medio de un infierno de amenazas e intimidaciones, hasta su asesinato. Su caso encarna perfectamente el inconmensurable grado de violencia que padecen los periodistas desde el golpe de Estado del 28 de junio de 2009.

En vísperas de las elecciones generales, se resienten fuertemente las secuelas del golpe de Estado. Reporteros sin Fronteras ha registrado 9 asesinatos de periodistas ligados directamente con su profesión periodística en los últimos cuatro años. No obstante, al menos otros 18 actores de la información han sido asesinados sin que se pueda probar hasta ahora si el crimen tiene relación con su actividad profesional. La cobertura de temas como la extracción minera, la “depuración” de la policía o la situación general de los derechos humanos parece haberse convertido en una fuente de represalias automática. La lentitud de los procesos y la falta de voluntad política son garantías, que van en aumento, de la impunidad. Frente a la violencia, los actos de censura y la persecución de los medios de comunicación comunitarios, ciertos periodistas como Dina Meza o Fidelina Sandoval han optado por el exilio.

Honduras se encuentra en el lugar 127 en la Clasificación Mundial de la Libertad de Prensa. La inseguridad, ya de por sí presente antes del golpe, se ha exacerbado y el país se ha convertido en uno de los más peligrosos del mundo para los periodistas y los defensores de los derechos humanos.


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Honduras – Another journalist murdered a month before general elections

Source: Reporters Without Borders – Fri, 25 Oct 2013 07:21 AM

Author: Reporters Without Borders

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The bullet-riddled body of Manuel Murillo Varela, a young freelance cameraman, was found in Tegucigalpa yesterday, exactly four months after journalist Anibal Barrow‘s abduction and murder. This later murder of a journalist comes just a month before general elections scheduled for 24 November.

“We call on the authorities to organize a thorough and independent investigation to shed light on all aspects of this murder,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We also call for an end to impunity for all crimes of violence against journalists, because investigations have been slow to produce results.

“In view of the constant violence against journalists and the fact that most cases go unpunished, we urge candidates in next month’s elections to undertake to ensure respect for freedom of information in their districts, and we urge the authorities to create a special committee for the protection of journalists during the election period.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had asked Honduras to take precautionary measures to protect Murillo after a score of policemen kidnapped and tortured him and a colleague for 24 hours in February 2010.

Murillo had told the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) and the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (CVR) that policemen seeking video footage of demonstrations by opponents of the June 2009 military coup had threatened to kill his family.

He continued to work as journalist despite all the threats and intimidation to which he was exposed right up until his murder. His case is emblematic of all the violence against journalists since the coup – violence that seems to be increasing again in the run-up to next month’s elections.

In the past four years, Reporters Without Borders has registered nine murders of journalists in which the motives were directly linked to the victims’ work. At least 18 other journalists and information providers have been killed in the same period without it being possible to establish a link with their work.

Attempts by independent news providers to cover such issues as mining, the “purge” of the police and the human rights situation seems to prompt almost automatic reprisals.

The slowness of judicial investigations and a lack of political will are contributing to the growing problem of impunity. As a result of the violence, censorship and persecution of community media, journalists such as Dina Meza and [Fidelina Sandoval have fled abroad.

Ranked 127th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Honduras has seen a considerable increase in the already high level of violence since the coup and is now one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists and human rights defenders.

Fuente: http://www.trust.org/item/20131025181032-s3l8m/?source=hppartner

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Urgente: asesinan a camarógrafo hondureño en un punto solitario de Tegucigalpa

Artículo | October 24, 2013 – 12:27pm
Manuel Murillo fue reprimido tras el golpe de Estado de 2009.

Redacción Central / EL LIBERTADOR

Tegucigalpa. Sin vida fue encontrado el camarógrafo Manuel Murillo en un paraje solitario de la colonia Independencia de la capital de Honduras.

Al momento del hallazgo, el ahora occiso presentaba tres impactos de bala en su cabeza; el calibre de los casquillos es desconocido.

Hasta el momento, se desconocen las causas por las fue ultimado el camarógrafo. Murillo dejó dos niños de 9 y 7 años.

Cabe recordar que el fallecido laboró para Globo TV y en la actualidad trabajaba con uno de los aspirantes a cargos de elección popular en Francisco Morazán.

Mientras laboró para la casa televisora, fue objeto de secuestro por dos miembros de la Policía Nacional en un punto de la capital, hecho ocurrido en febrero de 2010.

Denunció en ese entonces que los dos funcionarios policiales le exigieron que entregara vídeos sobre protestas populares, caso contrario, su familia sería asesinada sin contemplaciones.

Tras la privación ilegal de la libertad que padeció el fallecido, declaró que fue amenazado de muerte en varias ocasiones, por lo que grabó a ambos individuos.

“Temo por mi vida, esa gente me sigue buscando y mi hijas y mi madre corren riesgo, a veces no puedo ni dormir porque hay demasiada movilización de vehículos y motos a altas horas de la noche en las cercanías de mi casa que queda en la esquina, a veces pienso que van a entrar y hacernos daño”, dijo al Cofadeh en su momento.

La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), otorgó medidas cautelares al afectado, el que nunca se cumplió.

Con este crimen, se eleva a 36 los comunicadores sociales liquidados durante el decenio 2003-2013; la mayoría ocurrieron tras el golpe de Estado del 28 de junio de 2009.

Fuente: http://www.ellibertador.hn/?q=article%2Furgente-asesinan-camar%C3%B3grafo-hondure%C3%B1o-en-un-punto-solitario-de-tegucigalpa

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