Text, translation and photos by Sandra Cuffe
San Pedro Sula, Honduras, August 15th, 2009.
Repression against the national movement against the military coup in Honduras has become a daily occurrence. All over the country, police and the army are using tactics of terror and violence to disperse protests and illegally detain demonstrators.
Nevertheless, the resistance actions coordinated by the National Front of Resistance to the Military Coup in Honduras (FNRCGE, for its acronym in Spanish) continue to grow across the nation.
On August 14th, organizations and citizens in resistance from the northwestern region of the country mobilized in Choloma, blocking vehicle traffic along the highway between San Pedro Sula and Puerto Cortés. It was a very strategic choice of location, along the main highway leading to the country’s main port. Puerto Cortés has a great volume of exports, principally to the United States, of textile goods from the maquila factories in the northwestern region, as well as the fruits of the Tela Railroad Company, subsidiary of the transnational banana company Chiquita.
Soon after the highway blockade began, there was a negotiation between resistance leaders and police officials, supposedly in order to avoid yet another violent eviction. According to witnesses, a verbal agreement was made between the two parties to allow the protest to continue for another hour and peacefully disperse.
However, approximately twenty minutes after the agreement was reached, a large police presence gathered, along with some elements of the army, and police proceeded to violently disperse the protest, using tear gas and a water cannon. The demonstration dispersed, but police ran after resistance participants running towards downtown Choloma, using brutal violence during their arrest of protestors and others and during their transfer to the nearby police station in Choloma.
Twenty-seven people were detained. Among them were minors, elderly people, women, and journalists. The majority of the 27 detained were violently beaten.
Due to the severity of their injuries, five men were transferred in police custody to the Catarino Rivas public hospital in San Pedro Sula. All received treatment in the emergency ward for wounds documented as having been “caused by impact with a hard object.” Two men were released, but three protestors were still hospitalized late that same afternoon and were being held for observation and further treatment in the emergency room for an undefined period of time.
Julio Espinoza Carías, from Tela, Atlántida, has an exposed fracture of his right femur caused by the impact of a bullet, along with other wounds on his face and body.
Rogelio Mejía Espinoza, of the Aguán Farmers’ Movement (MCA) in the community of Guadalupe Carney in the Silín sector, Colón, has a fractured left maxillary sinus, with blood in the sinus, along with other injuries to his face and head, including a head wound that required several stitches.
Marcial Hernández, a member of the Coordination of Popular Organizations of the Aguán (COPA), from Tocoa, Colón, has a fractured left hand, a wound on the top of his head that required several stitches, and other injuries on his body. Immediately after the following interview, he was taken for a second time to get further X-rays done.
The following testimony was recorded in the Catarino Rivas hospital in San Pedro Sula in the late afternoon of August 14th. It was then transcribed word for word and translated into English.
TESTIMONY OF MARCIAL HERNANDEZ:
“After the police arrived throwing [tear gas], we ran towards the central plaza. We ran well past the plaza, and they kept following us. And when we came back to regroup in the plaza, well, they let us make it to the plaza – some of us.
Those who were further away, dispersed, were being pursued. The police were grabbing them, beating them with their batons, hitting them, and taking them away to be detained.
We stayed there. Later, they surrounded the plaza. So once again we ran, this time towards the bridge. And when we were running there, the police came out in front of us, so we turned back.
There were some women from the Medicine, Hospital and Similar Workers’ Union (SITRAMEDHYS). And they were running, and we all went into some disgusting bathrooms that were there. We opened the gate and ran in. And the very same people closed the gate behind us. But when we went in, the women who had children with them entered the bathrooms and there was no more room for me, but anyways, we had to save the kids. So I sat down in a chair. The police passed us and about two minutes went by.
When they came back, they came to where I was. They opened the gate and came in running. And as though I were the enemy they grabbed me. They didn’t ask me for any kind of declaration. Someone simply pointed me out and then they came, but all at once, with their batons, hitting me on my back, on my head.
And someone grabbed me. One of them grabbed me by the shirt and shoved me. And when I walked forward, another one kicked me with his feet, his shoes, and knocked me over. And then I didn’t have any other choice but to curl up on the ground. And they really went at it there until they felt like stopping.
From there, they dragged me out. Then I stood up, and while I was getting up, they took advantage of it because I was exposing my back, so they took the chance to hit me as much as they wanted. And when we went out into the street, they put me back into the truck.
At that point, I was losing a lot of blood from my head.
(Marcial Hernandez: head wound from police brutality. Photo: Sandra Cuffe)
They grabbed another compañero, and they were taking him on foot, beating him with the baton, and the police took us. And when we were arriving at the police station, they pushed me so hard that I fell down. They kept kicking me there, and then they dragged me into the police station.
The police official called them animals, he said something to them anyways. I could see that he said something about why they were doing that. But I couldn’t get up.
And the compañera that was here – she was the only one who helped me at that moment in the police station. When they wouldn’t respond to anything anyone said, someone yelled ‘stop hitting that man, don’t beat him, he’s defenseless.’
And that’s what happened. That’s what happened today.
The only… What’s it called? The only crime, absolutely the only one, was that we were going to a protest against this de facto government.”
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Sandra Cuffe – email@example.com – is a freelance journalist and photographer from Canada. In Honduras since July 3rd, she is currently a correspondent for the DominionPaper.ca (Canada), UpsideDownWorld.org (United States), DefensoresEnLinea.com (Honduras), and several community radio stations.