Reports from Honduras

Final Report - Jan 6

Media Release - Dec 3

Media Release - Nov 29

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Daily Report #15

 

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Canadian members of the CF / Quixote Centre delegation to Honduras

 

Irene Lazinger – President of the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) currently on leave from the Vancouver school district where she is a teacher of Math and Physics;

 

Larry Kuehn – Director of Research at the BCTF and responsible for the BCTF International Solidarity Programme.

 

Scott Marshall – Executive Officer on the Provincial Executive of the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation (OSSTF) was a Special Education teacher from 1997-2004 with the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board before taking up his union duties;

 

Domenic Bellissimo – OSSTF Executive Assistant and responsible for the OSSTF Human Rights Committee and for International Programmes;

 

Jackie McVicar – Breaking The Silence (BTS) Coordinator and a member of the Atlantic Region Solidarity Network (ARSN).

 

Nov 25 - Dec 2, 2009

Honduras Human Rights Observers Daily Reports

A bi-national delegation of Canadian and US representatives from labour, human rights, and faith-based organizations is in Honduras to conduct human rights accompaniment and observation at the time of the country’s controversial elections on November 29. The bi-national delegation has been co-organized along with the Quixote Centre in the U.S. (that has organized 7 previous delegations since the June 28 military-backed coup). The delegation’s members hope that their presence will mitigate human rights violations by the Honduran military and police, and that they will be able to document any violations that occur. The team is posting regular reports which appear below, with the most recent report on the top. The members of the delegation are listed in the left column.

- See photos from the delegates in our Gallery
- Jan 6 - Read the final report from the delegates (PDF - 245KB)

 


Daily Report #15 - Larry Kuehn

Honduras government cancels school to avoid teacher activism

By Larry Kuehn

The law in Honduras directs that the school year ends on November 30 and the new school year opens at the beginning of February. However, this year the coup government ordered schools to close on October 30 and to reopen on January 3 in 2010.

The coup took place on June 28 when the Honduran military grabbed the elected president, Manuel Zelaya from his home and put him on a plane out of the country, still in his pajamas. The response of many Honduran social groups was to create a resistance movement against the coup.

Teachers have played a key role in the resistance coalition, described by many in the country as the “spine” of the resistance movement.

A human rights delegation from Canada met with one of the teachers active in the resistance, Carlos Mauricio Lopez, while in Honduras. The delegation included representatives from the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

Lopez is a former president of COLPROSUMAH, the largest of the teacher unions in Honduras, as well as former president of FOMCA, the federation of teacher unions in Central America.

- Read the full report


Daily Report #14 - Jackie McVicar

Honduras: I Didn't Vote!
Few voters turn out for sham elections

After a long bus ride back from the north eastern part of the country and the department of Colon, we arrived in the capital today just in time to join a massive caravan organized by the Popular Resistance Front. Like the other demonstrations held since the coup d'etat on June 28, the mobilization winded through the "barrios", the neighbourhoods in Tegucigalpa where supporters left their homes to show their support.

This time, instead of walking, organizers decided to drive their cars in a caravan, to avoid confrontation or repression that they feared by the State security forces. Hundreds of cars and people drove through the streets honking their horns, with flags, horns and music.

Both those in the caravan and people yelling support from the streets, "I didn't vote!" showed their ink-less fingers, to show they had not been registered at a polling station where a finger print as part of your id is normally taken. Though the media is reporting record high turnouts for Sunday's election, no one is buying it.

One woman I interviewed who didn't want to be identified because of fear ("if they see my picture, they [the military] will come after me"), said, "I have over 150 people in my [extended] family and not one went out to vote."

- Read the full report


Daily Report #13 - Irene Lazinger

Sunday – Election Day in Honduras

We arrived at the market at about 10:00 a.m. as people started to gather. Armed police drove through a few times. Shortly after 11:00 a.m. a truck arrived with crosses bearing the names of the people who have been murdered or disappeared during the resistance to the coup.

The march started about noon with about 200 people. The Hondurans asked us to stay near the back near the police so they could see us. We did that but we also traveled up and down the march to observe. It was a completely peaceful march with lots of flags, banners and a truck with a loud speaker.

We arrived at the central square at about 12:45 p.m. The numbers increased during the march and about 500 people gathered at the square. Along a side street to the square I could see a huge water canon truck, a large military truck and police jeeps. A crowd gathered in front of the military truck. A loud speaker was advising people to move to the public square, to sit down and not to provoke police. There was absolutely no provocation of the military or police. At one point someone told me that the police were putting on their gas masks.

Shortly after, the water canon began firing on people, and the tear gas was fired into the crowd. Scott Marshall (OSSTF) and I started to run through the square. Scott told me we should stop and film what was happening so we did for a few minutes. The police were running toward us. When the police raised their guns I told Scott we had to go and we continued running through the square. At the back of the square a Honduran shouted at us to go right not left and we followed his advice. It was good advice because the majority of the crowd, the police and most of the tear gas went left.

- Read the full report


Daily Report #12 - Irene Lazinger

Saturday in Honduras

Our colleague from OSSTF, Scott Marshall had been in touch with embassy officials to arrange a meeting with them on Tuesday. On Friday night he got a call and was told that the Canadian ambassador to Honduras would be in town and could meet with us Saturday morning.

So Saturday at 8:00 a.m we met with the Canadian ambassador to Honduras, Neil Reeder. He is the ambassador to both Honduras and Costa Rica and is based in Costa Rica.

He began by talking about the economic situation in Honduras, describing the poverty and the economic impact of the current situation. He said that the situation was “not black and white”. He talked about the “events of June 28th” and Canada’s condemnation of the coup and the failure of the San Jose accord. He implied that the failure of that accord was a result of “large egos”, stubbornness and “fixed positions”.

He then talked about the elections and said “good or bad the elections are happening” because the date was fixed four years ago.

- Read the full report


Daily Report #11 - Scott Marshall

Scott’s second report from San Pedro Sula Nov. 29 Election day

We witnessed some significant events after my initial email this afternoon. Our plan was to visit a few of the polling stations after I first e-mailed you, however when we stepped outside to wait for our transportation we saw people running through the streets again, away from the police. We could see a police helicopter circling in the air. The police followed behind them and stopped about a block away from where we were standing (5 or 6 of us) waiting for our van. They fired 2 tear gas cylinders at us, 1 landing right beside us. We managed to get back into the hotel safely, with some exposure to the tear gas.

After the tear gas dispersed we got back into the van and drove to a police station where we believed they were detaining some protestors from the afternoon march. When we arrived some other human rights advocates had arrived at the station to assist with the release of the detained citizens. We saw a young man (probably 21 years old) being released from the police station. His eyes were swollen shut (he said he was sprayed with tear gas), and his head was bleeding and his shoulder limp.

- Read the full report


Daily Report #10 - Larry Kuehn

Election Day in Honduras--Sunday, November 29

The day started early, with the polls opening early.

Here in the isolated east coast of Honduras election day was very calm. Only a pipe bomb going off by Liberal party headquarters well after the voting finished created much noise, and no casualties.

We visited a polling booth that at about 8 am was very quiet. There were many more party workers and election workers, along with some military, than there voters. The military are the ones running the election here.

The most interesting part of the day was a visit to the Guadelupe Carney community of campesinos. This was the place we heard last night had military waiting outside their community.

When we arrived, there was a gate blocking the entrance, with a half dozen young men sitting around. We told them who we were and one of the men opened the gate and went to get some of the leaders of the community.

The community maintains security with members assigned to patrols during the night and requires cars to register when they come in.

- Read the full report


Daily Report #9 - Scott Marshall

Report on the Nov. 29 demo in San Pedro Sula:

We just returned from the downtown square in San Pedro. The people decided to march into the core from a location about a kilometre away from the square. Such a protest is illegal under this coup regime; after gathering for about an hour the protestors decided to march and the crowd gathered steadily as they approached the market square. The police were making a visible presence with large weaponse showing, ahead and behind the march. Upon gathering at the square the police blocked the protestors in with their police in riot gear and a water cannon. The protestors faced the police and water cannon and sat down peacefully singing their anthem. The climate was tense; the police then fired tear gass into the crowd and advanced with the water cannon, chasing the protestors through the streets. We managed to get to safety and then came back to the square to see some people who had been beaten by the police. We are hearing that voter turn out at polling stations is very low. We will be going soon to observe for ourselves later today.

- Read the full report


Daily Report #8 - Larry Kuehn

Honduras Human Rights Observers
Day 4--November 28, 2009
Larry Kuehn

Two of the leaders of the Frente (the resistance coalition) in this region met with us to give more information about the situation and to work out what we will do tomorrow, on election day.

As I write this at ten at night, the streets are deserted and all the shops and restaurants closed. Last night these same streets had a steady stream of cars and people walking along the sidewalks. The hotel, tonight, has a guard armed with a shotgun circulating around the hotel.

We have this evening heard that all the schools and other buildings that will be used as polling places have been taken over by soldiers. We were called by one of the resistance activists to let us know that a community of campesinos faced 200 to 300 soldiers in the vicinity of their homes and there was fear that the group of more than 600 would be attacked. This was an area where the community was in a conflict over land last August. The man who claims to own the area also has links to the police and about half the soldiers are at his hacienda.

- Read the full report


Daily Report #7 - Scott Marshall

Scott Marshall’s Day 3 report

We have just returned to our hotel. Today was a busy day. We met with the Canadian Ambassador to start the day. He presented us with an official position taken by the G16 (written paper), as well as the press release yesterday from Minister Peter Kent. The Ambassador indicated that Canada has not stated that they will recognize the elections on Sunday, but he did also not take a position that they would not recognize the elections. We appear to be sitting on the fence.

-Read the full report


Daily Report #6 - Larry Kuehn

Honduras Human Rights Observers
Day 3--November 27
By Larry Kuehn



We arrived in Tocoa after a 10-hour bus trip from Tegucigalpa. Tocoa is the end of the bus line. Beyond here is the Mosquito Coast, an area of the country without road connections to the rest of Honduras.

We were met at the bus station by Amelia. She had arranged our hotel and a ride with a taxi driver who is a supporter of the resistance. The daily radio show from the resistance was playing as he drove us to the hotel.

When we gathered after checking in, Amelia said she would like to know more about us. She had been called at the last minute by a friend who was supposed to meet with us. However, the woman had left town, going to ground because of fears of what was going to happen to her. This became a theme for everyone from the resistance we talked with after that.

- Read the full report


Daily Report #5 - Irene Lazinger

Irene's Report
Friday, November 27, 2009

We spent this morning with the president and some other representatives of one of the six teachers’ unions in Honduras Coprumh. They represent 68,000 teachers. The president was Milton Bardales. One of the other representatives there was a fellow named Elgardo. I met Elgardo in Panama at the report on the project we help fund on non-sexist pedagogy in Central America. It was great to see him again.

Teachers and their union leaders have been at the fore front of the resistance movement. Milton began by telling us about the strategies the coup government is using against them including: changing the curriculum to remove education regarding the constitution, a strong media campaign to discredit teacher union leaders, organizing parents of the economic elite to file charges against teachers and the profiling and persecution of teachers. Five teachers have been killed in the resistance.

- Read the full report


Daily Report #4 - Jackie McVicar

NI GOLPES DE ESTADO, NI GOLPES A LAS MUJERES!

(Report by Jackie McVicar, jmcvicar@gmail.com, Breaking the Silence, in Honduras

November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women

The brutal assassination of the Mirabel Sisters on November 25, 1960 marked a horrific day for women political activists and those struggling against oppression at the hands of their State. The three women, Patria Mercedes, Maria Argentina and Antonia Maria Teresa paid the ultimate price for fighting against a dictatorship in the Dominican Republic where they were tortured, incarcerated and later executed.

Women political activists in Honduras are also paying a price for speaking the truth against a regime that has raped, disappeared and murdered women since the coup d’état on June 28 that ushered in a military and oligarchy backed regime.  The Honduras based Center for Women’s Rights – CDM reports serious violations that women have suffered in the past five months.  In their recent publication of “Time to Read”, distributed widely on November 25 throughout Tegucigalpa, some horrifying examples were outlined.

“During the repressions executed by the policy and the armed forces by order of the de facto President Roberto Micheleti and his team, women have been victims of a distinct kind of violence that is aimed directly at our female body. We are victims of sexual abuse, they beat our breasts, hips, buttocks and vulva; they put batons in our crotch, they threaten us with rape and other types of sexual aggression in a clear demonstration of contempt of this society towards the body and the integrity of women.”

- Read the full report


Daily Report #3 - Scott Marshall

Day 1 consisted primarily of travel to Honduras and arrival at our retreat centre. We met the delegation in the evening on Day one and discussed the itinerary for the week and some practical measures to ensure our safety.

Day 2 – November 26
Morning meeting with Felix Molina (8am)
Felix is a journalist working for Radio Global in Honduras. He has been working as a journalist in Central America since the 1980’s, reporting on many of the social justice issues throughout the region. The evening prior to meeting with us, Felix was at the Brazilian Embassy reporting on the status of deposed President Zelaya. Felix spoke to us about the challenges faced by the alternative media in Honduras today. According to Felix, the 4 pillars holding the coup in power today are the private corporate media, the church, the military, and the economic elite. The print, radio, and television media in Honduras are all controlled by a very small group, who also control the media message. The message that they have been delivering since the first day of the coup is that Zelaya is corrupt, everything is OK in the country, and the November election will be the political and legal solution to the crisis.

It has been a great challenge alternative media to get their story out. They have been under constant oppression by the military. Felix provided examples of hydro being cut, offices and transmitters being vandalized, advertizers being forced to pull out, and media owners under constant threats and some facing legal charges. This constant barrage of pressure has forced nearly all alternative media to shut down.

-Read the full report


Daily Report #2 - Larry Kuehn

Honduras Human Rights Observers
Day 2 November 26, 2009

Today was a heavy day of meetings, getting briefings that are deeply into the situation in Honduras. We spoke with a radio reporter who works for Radio Progresso, three people involved in the coordination of the resistance coalition, a presidential candidate who has withdrawn from the election and the director of the organization of the families of the disappeared. Part of the group also talked with the “Feminista Resistance.”

Felix Molina works for radio stations sympathetic to the resistance. He has a one hour show each night about what is happening with the resistance.

Most of the media is controlled by two families who own most of the radio and TV stations. The coup has done everything possible to shut out other voices. The only sympathetic TV channel stopped broadcasting recently after losing its ads and being harassed. The few sympathetic radio stations have had equipment attacked, had power turned off, and signals blocked.

Molina identified four groups that have been key to the current structure: business, media, the church and the government. In response to the resistance calling for people to stay home on election day (the people’s curfew), both the Catholic and evangelical churches are telling people that it is a sin not to vote.

He told us that Sunday will be just one more day in the struggle, with the focus from this point being to have a constituent assembly to write a new constitution that does not just represent those with power and money.

-Read the full report


Daily Report #1 - Jackie McVicar

The Canadian Government is officially waiting to see what happens!

Please consider calling your MPs TOMORROW, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27 to let them know you do not support the elections in Honduras this weekend. There are no conditions for a free and fair election in Honduras and we have heard over and over again that they are illegitimate. State sponsored military and police repression is overwhelming, with mass detentions (over 5000), rape and sexual abuse, and extrajudicial murders reported (confirmed numbers to be around 30, though many more suspected). There have been over 100 candidates who have withdrawn from the elections and President Mel Zelaya is still not free, nor willing to leave the Brazilian Embassy to put a legitimate face on the de facto regime's "political act" on Sunday.

Alternative journalists (that, is anyone who doesn't go along with the Micheleti line) have been terrorized, equipment burned and sabotaged, journalists threatened and followed. Two days ago, the last television channel reporting anything other than the party line, Channel 36, was forced to shut down. Previously, their frequency was disrupted and pornography was played over the air. Christian radio stations (Catholic and Evangelical) who have over 100 frequencies throughout the country are also touting the regime's line: "Not voting is a sin." Radio Globo has been forced to go live from clandestine sites, to ensure that if there are problems in one place, they can go on in another. Though there are a few exceptions, the church and corporate media are helping keep the coup propped up.

Tomorrow, I am part of a group of five heading to the north east part of the country to a region that has been particularly targeted and repressed. WE ARE NOT GOING AS ELECTIONS OBSERVERS! As a group in solidarity with the Popular Front in Resistance and the general population, which is estimated to be 60% against the coup (20% in favour, 20% not giving opinion), who clearly and loudly DO NOT SUPPORT the ELECTIONS, we are not here in any way to legitimize this process. We are human rights witnesses. The Popular Front in Resistance is not calling for protests the day of the elections, and many believe many Hondurans will stay home. This, of course, is not the hope of the de facto regime: the more people who vote, the more the international community will see what is happening in Honduras as a legitimate election. Interestingly, the figure for eligible voters is 4.6 million, the CIA and other groups with strong interests in the country, put that number at 3.6 million, perhaps hoping to increase the voters percentage.

- Read the full report

 

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