Category Archives: news & updates from Honduras

Annie Bird: 3 Killed; 2 Kidnapped in the Aguan



(By Annie Bird, June 9, 2011)

On Sunday, June 5, Jose Recinos Aguilar, Joel Santamaria and Genaro Cuesta, all members of the Authentic Revindicative Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MARCA), were massacred in a car a few meters from the San Esteban cooperative.  At approximately the same time it is reported that armed forces entered the installations of the National Agrarian Institute and opened fire on families who for several months have taken refuge within the government owned agrarian training center. Doris Pérez Vásquez was shot in the abdomen and is reported to be in critical condition.

Even as the community buried the three men murdered this Sunday, they continued the search for Olvin Gallegos and Segundo Gomez, two members of MARCA.  Eyewitnesses saw private security guards, from the same forces being trained as paramilitaries, kidnap the two men.


The killing and kidnapping of these 5 campesinos follows upon the May 15th forced disappearance of Francisco Pascual López as he tended cattle on his farm close to the property line with the Panama African palm plantation, a farm that maintains heavy presence of paramilitaries.  Nearby farmers with whom he shares the farm heard shots fired, but when they arrived where he had been, he was gone.  Police found bullets and a trail of blood leading into the Panama African palm plantation, but refused to enter the plantation to continue the search.


On May 18, Sixto Ramos was killed along the highway, shot from a passing car.  Additionally, on May 10, Jose Paulino Lemo was shot as he walked on the road to sell fish by a passing motorcycle.  Francisco Pascual Lopez, Sixto Ramos and Jose Paulino Lemo were active members of the Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MCA).



There are reports that approximately 400 private security guards, employed by African palm producers in the region, are being trained in the Rio Claro base in Tocoa, Colon, home of the 15th Army Battalion.  The security guards reportedly are from the Orion security company, employed by the Exportadora del Atlantico, and others are employed directly by the Dinant palm oil and derivatives company.

The trainers wear Honduran military uniforms, and rarely leave the base though they have been reported to participate in forced, illegal evictions.  During these evictions security guards have been reported to change into military uniforms; close collaboration between police, military and security guards has been reported.

Local informants claim the trainer’s accents, stature and coloring lead people in the region to believe they are not Honduran.  Many suspect they are Colombian.  In October 2009, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the use of Mercenaries, Private Security and Paramilitaries reported the Honduran African palm producers were recruiting security forces in Colombia particularly among former AUC members – a right-wing paramilitary group.

There have also been reports of Chinook helicopters flying to and from the Rio Claro base, which leads many to believe US troops maintain a presence on the base.

On January 8, 2011, Juan Chinchilla, a Honduran land rights activist, was kidnapped and tortured.  Able to escape the evening of January 9, while being moved from his illegal detention center, Chinchilla reported that participants in his torture spoke English and another language he was not able to identify.


The rash of killings and forced disappearances is obviously of grave concern; all the more shocking as Honduras was re-admitted to the OAS.

A communiqué by the National Agrarian Institute Workers Union asserts that since the June 2009 military coup, 39 campesinos have been killed by paramilitary forces working for the oil palm planters while 10 more have been disappeared.

As violence by paramilitary forces increases so does criminalization of land rights activists and other human rights defenders.  The limited media reporting of the killings in the Aguan region is coupled with accusations that the land and human rights movements being targeted by the paramilitary actions are armed.

In March 2010, when the military backed Honduran regime was criticized for the extreme militarization of the Aguan, de facto president Lobo responded with unsupported accusations that the campesinos were armed and Venezuelan and Nicaraguans were present in the area.

Following the November 15, 2010 massacre of 5 campesinos by Dinant palm oil security forces (with military and police support), Lobo claimed that campesinos had a stash of over 1,000 high caliber weapons and had received foreign training, which Security Minister Oscar Alvarez claimed took place in Nicaragua.

On this pretext the military took over the National Agrarian Institute (INA) and the INA union reported that the army stole documentation that demonstrated that palm oil planters did not hold legitimate claim over lands being contested by campesinos.

African palm producer Miguel Facusse (one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Honduras and major backer of the June 2009 military coup) is again using Honduras’ corrupted “justice” system to persecute human rights defenders, a practice long employed by Facusse and others.

On May 30, 2011, Facusse’s lawyers announced he was suing Catholic Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos for statements that implicated Facusse in the killing of 14 farmers in the Aguan region. A few days later, June 6, 2011, Facusse presented defamation charges against Andres Pavon, the Director of the Honduran Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH).  Several months prior Pavon had presented legal charges against Facusse related to the killing of the 14 farmers, and just days before being subject to the defamation charges had denounced that the evidence on the killings was disappearing from the Attorney General Offices files.


This State-backed, paramilitary repression occurs in the context of a series of complex, long-term land rights disputes in the region.

The lower Aguan, a fertile agricultural plain that surrounds the Aguan river near Honduras’ Caribean coast, was subject to an agricultural colonization program in the 1960s and 1970s facilitated by an agrarian reform program.  At that time dozens of cooperatives were formed and many began cultivation of a crop pioneered by United Fruit Company, African palm for vegetable oil production.

In the beginning of the 1990s, a “land modernization” law was passed.  Among other measures, the “Land Modernization Law” in Honduras removed restrictions on resale of land obtained through the agrarian reform program.  Dozens of cooperatives established through the agrarian reform program were resold to today’s Honduran palm oil magnates, Miguel Facusse and Rene Morales.  However many of the sales were marred by illegalities, fraud and violence.

By 2000, there were tremendous problems of landlessness, underemployment and terrible working conditions among small farmers in the region.  With the support of the Parish of Tocoa, landless farmers organized the Campesino Movment of the Aguan (MCA).

In 2000, hundreds of small farmers established themselves in an area known as the Center for Regional Military Training (CREM), an extension of land used by the US army in the 1980s to train Central American militaries and to provide support to the Contra armed insurgency that fought the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Between 1989 and 1990, the CREM land had been purchased by the National Agrarian Institute, reportedly from US citizen Temistocles Ramirez, for $17 million to be used exclusively for agrarian reform purposes.  Previously, the land had been used for large scale cattle ranching, and according to some reports drug trafficking, largely by former Honduran military, who naturally quickly came into conflict with the campesinos who established farms in the property in 2000.

However, with support from the catholic church and national land rights organizations, the “cattle ranchers” were compensated through the INA for the “improvements” they had made on the CREM land, so as to take pressure of the campesinos who were now setting up coops and businesses, with the support of INA.

Only a few portions of the land then remained in conflict, particularly an area known as El Tumbador which Miguel Facusse claimed to own, via a questionable land purchase.  The MCA divided the CREM lands between 45 distinct Campesino Businesses.

In 2004, campesinos began organizing to reclaim cooperative lands that had been illegally acquired by the palm oil magnates in the 1990s, forming the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan, MUCA.

In February 2006, 7000 campesinos organized in the MUCA blocked the main highway in Tocoa, demanding that the District Attorney in Tocoa, the Attorney General of Honduras and the Supreme Court investigate the irregular purchases of the cooperatives in the 1990s.

By March 2009, after years of investigation, the MUCA proposed a negotiation platform focused on demanding that 29 cooperatives be returned to campesinos.

On May 28, 2009 MUCA occupied the palm oil processing plant owned my Miguel Facusse.

President Zelaya personally went to the Aguan to negotiate with the campesinos.  On June 12, 2009 an agreement was defined between the MUCA and the government, and the processing plant occupation was lifted.  On June 19 President Zelaya signed the agreement, which essentially mandated a technical-legal team with the investigation of the legal history of the cooperatives.

On June 21 the investigation began, but ended with the June 28, 2009 military coup.

In reaction to the suspension of the investigation, on December 9, 2009 the MUCA began occupying the former cooperatives in conflict, and claim to hold documentation to demonstrate that the palm oil magnates do not legally own 29 cooperative farms.

In April 2010, de facto president Porfirio Lobo sent thousands of troops to occupy the Aguan, and forced the MUCA to enter into negotiations, not only threatened private security forces controlled by the palm oil magnates, but also by the Honduran military.

An agreement was signed in which Miguel Facusse agreed to sell an extension of land to the MUCA.  At this time a section of the MUCA split off to form the Authentic and Revindicative Campesino Movement of the Aguan, MARCA.

MARCA campesinos decided to pursue recognition of their land rights through law suits using the documentation they had gathered that showed flawed titling processes by the palm oil magnates rather than signing a negotiated agreement as those in MUCA chose to do.

The terms of the “agreement” signed between the palm oil companies and the MUCA have not been complied with and the “justice” system has not facilitated the advance of the legal remedies sought by MARCA.

Instead, throughout 2010 palm oil planters strengthened their paramilitary presence and the area remained militarized.  Dozens of campesino killings have been documented, and it is understood that others have occurred which have not been documented; please see the list below:


1. January 4, 2010: Miguel Angel Alonso Oliva, from the Cooperativa Guanchias, Shot in the back

2. January 31, 2010: Juan Ramon Mejia, from the Cooperativa Occidental, Intentionally run over by a car

3. February 4, 2010: Isidro Santos, from the Cooperativa Occidental, Died in car crash while fleeing from armed men shooting at them from another car

4. February 4, 2010: Francisco Montes, from the Cooperativa Buenos Amigos, Died in car crash while fleeing from armed men shooting at them from another car

5. February 14, 2010 – Feliciano Santos from the Cooperativa 21 de Julio – fatally shot while walking to lands in dispute

6. March 17, 2010 – Jose Antonio Cardoza from the Associative Business Brisas de COHDEFOR – fatally shot while walking home from the fields

7. March 17, 2010 – Jose Concepcion Carias from the Associative Business Brisas de COHDEFOR – fatally shot while walking home from the fields

8. April 7, 2010 – Jose Leonel Guerra Alvarez from La Confianza Cooperativa – shot in front of his home by two people who stopped on a motorcycle

9. April 25, 2010 – Esteban Garcia from the Associative Business 9 de Agosto – shot while riding his bicycle from a passing car

10. June 20, 2010 – Oscar Giovanny Ramirez of the La Aurora Coopertiva – killed in the midst of an assault carried out by Cobra police force and Orion security guards

11. August 18, 2010 – Victor Manuel Mata Olica from the La Auroroa Cooperative – shot while traveling home in a car that according to witnesses was fired upon by security guards riding in blue double cabin pick up truck

12. August 18, 2010 – Rodving Omar Villegas from the La Auroroa Cooperative – shot while traveling home in a car that according to witnesses was fired upon by security guards riding in blue double cabin pick up truck

13. August 18, 2010 – Sergio Madiel Amaya from the La Auroroa Cooperative – shot while traveling home in a car that according to witnesses was fired upon by security guards riding in blue double cabin pick up truck

14. September 10, 2010 – Francisco Miranda Ortega of the La Aurora Cooperativa – shot by six people while he rode his bike to Tocoa

15. November 15, 2010 – Raul Castillo of the Cooperative 14 de mayo – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

16. November 15, 2010 – Jose Luis Sauceda of the Cooperative 14 de mayo – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

17. November 15, 2010 – Ciriaco Munoz of the Cooperativa Nueva Esperanza – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

18. November 15, 2010 – Teodoro Acosta de la Cooperativa Nueva Esperanza – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

19. November 15, 2010 – Ignacio Reyes Garcia of the Three United Families Cooperative – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

20. Esteban Garcia from the Associative Business 25 de abril was shot while riding his bike by gunmen in a white sedan

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Rights Action: Protests Challenging to IDB-Funded ‘Shock’ Program Met with Massive Violent Repression

Honduras Regime Impunity Watch

Rights Action – April 12, 2011



By Karen Spring & Annie Bird, April 12, 2011


March 2011 was marked by the worst repression seen against the people of Honduras since the June 2009 military coup.  The repression came in response to massive protests against an all-out final push by the Pepe Lobo regime to essentially privatize Honduras’ public education system while destroying teacher’s independence, politicizing schools, slashing salaries in half and ransacking retirement funds.


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(Photo: Karen Spring, Honduras, April 2011)


On April 1, 2011 teachers stopped the protests, a gesture to demonstrate a willingness to dialogue.  Pepe Lobo’s response was to publish the names of 300 teachers being summarily fired.  This forced parents and teachers back into the streets, and on Monday, April 11, protests began again.  A national strike will take place on Tuesday April 12, challenging the shock changes to the nation’s education system.  Violent repression of the protests is feared.


Strong national and international interests lie behind the plans for the Honduran education system.  Business interests and national political party power structures are teaming up with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank (WB), to capitalize on education in Honduras while neutralizing teachers as an important voice in Honduran public policy.




On March 17, thousands of teachers began protesting as the de facto Honduran Congress examined a new law that fundamentally restructures the Honduran education system on a scale not seen since 1895 enacting what Honduran teachers call the privatization of the national education system.


This comes on the coattails of the June 2009 military coup and is just one of a series of ‘shock’ measures being undertaken to profoundly change the way Honduras administers everything from education to water to land rights to electricity to national sovereignty to retirement funds.  It also comes very shortly following the February 1, 2011 approval of a $100,000 technical loan from the IDB, Project Number HO-T1149, for a project called “Support of a comprehensive educational model.”


Over the past 16 months of the Pepe Lobo administration, a whirlwind of laws have rushed through congress to facilitate these shock measures, many facilitated by WB and IDB funding, and they are generating massive protests that build on the already widespread rejection of the legitimacy of the Pepe Lobo regime.  Lobo assumed office in January 2010 following illegitimate elections which were carried out by the post-military coup regime, under extreme repression and were not recognized by most of the nations in the Americas.


As the population of Honduras witnessed the extreme repression unleashed against protesting teachers and grasped the gravity of the changes to be enacted in the educational system, Hondurans joined the teachers in protest.


Since March 30th, parents from communities throughout Honduras occupied schools and blocked roads.  The Lobo regime’s response was to order teachers back to school and send in the military.




Tear gas, live ammunition, tanks spraying a mix of water and pepper gas, illegal detentions, trumped up charges, violent beatings, disappearance attempts and murder are some of the tactics that the post-coup regime is deploying against the pro-democracy people’s movement and public school teacher’s movement that have taken to the streets to protest government education policies changes since July 2010.


Honduran teacher’s professional associations have not only been targeted for destruction by the IDB, as is clearly described in a March 2010 IDB study of the educational labor market in Honduras, but also by the Lobo regime, as teachers have also been a pillar of support for the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP, acronym in Spanish) that formed in opposition to the June 28th, 2009 military coup.  Strategically, destroying the teachers professional societies would mean a directly attack on the FNRP.


Since the coup, over 65 members of the pro-democracy people’s movement have been killed, disappeared and directly targeted for their role in the movement, 14 of them being public school teachers.  In addition, human rights organizations have identified over 300 “suspicious” killings, with indications of political motives and/or participation of state security forces.


On March 18, a 59-year-old teacher, Ilse Velasquez Rodriguez was shot in the head with a tear gas canister, fell to the ground and was run over by a news vehicle.  Tear gas launchers are considered a lethal weapon if fired directly on targets, an increasingly common practice by Honduran police.  Police and military also shot many tear gas canisters inside the central offices of teacher’s associations, COLPROSUMAH and COPEMH after protests had ended for the day, while teachers were meeting and resting. Dozens were arrested and charged with crimes including sedition, and dozens were injured.


The collective power of the teachers, both in the pro-democracy people’s movement and in the struggle against privatizing education, impedes both national interests of the post-coup regime and international interests of the WB and IDB.


In an IDB document from March 2010 with recommendations and conclusions regarding ‘needed’ Honduran educational reform, the IDB wrote, “That [The National Teacher’s Work Code] gives the teacher’s union an enormous coercive power over the government.”




Throughout Latin America a series of educational ‘reform’ or ‘decentralization’ programs have been enacted over the past decade, programs promoted by the WB and IDB.  In the case of Honduras the program is called the Honduran Program for Community Education, PROHECO.


In this model, the responsibility for administering schools and their funding is given over to non-governmental organizations, and in some countries businesses, that administer schools in theory, though often not in practice, in collaboration with local communities.


The PROHECO program was created in Honduras during the presidency of Ricardo Maduro from the National Party.  Administration of PROHECO schools was then charged to a Honduran NGO, the Ricardo Ernesto Maduro Andreu Foundation for Education, FEREMA.


The new education law passed on March 31, 2011 amidst massive repression of protests, follows the same model as PROHECO, but rather than just being a handful of schools in each municipality, the new law shifts all public schools from elementary to high school, over to the “decentralized” model.


The March 31 education law creates Municipal Educational Development Councils (COMDE) in each municipality, which coordinates administration of schools.  Though not explicit in the language of the law, Honduras’ experience with PROHECO and other experiences in the region make it clear to teachers that the COMDE schools would be administered in coordination with an NGO that administers the schools budgets.


WB and IDB technical grants, like the February 1, 2011 IDB grant, are usually extended to help governments prepare the groundwork to receive the multimillion dollar loans to promote new programs.  Teachers expect the IDB to provide a $50 million loan to support the shift to the COMDE model in the near future, and they are also expect that FEREMA would also assume management of COMDE schools.




FEREMA, created by former National Party president Ricardo Maduro, is closely tied in to National Party structures. The potential for political manipulation through the nation’s schools when managed by a private foundation closely tied to political party structures is tremendous.


Political manipulation has already occurred in some PROHECO schools, such as occurred in Santa Rositas, San Francisco de Lempira, where a conflict between National Party municipal and school authorities and the families of the students of the school culminated in the burning of the school in early March.


The on-going two year dispute in Santa Rosita centered around municipal and school authorities attempts to fire and replace teachers that were not loyal to the National Party. Local authorities and PROHECO administrators, along with the police and military, entered the school to attempt to physically remove the teachers despite strong resistance from the parents.


Many of the PROHECO and municipal officials involved in the attempted illegal firings also have outstanding legal complaints for other abuses, particularly the school director, accused of raping young students and making death threats against the parents denouncing the abuses.


In early March the Special Prosecutor for Indigenous Peoples Rights conducted an investigation of the charges and was herself threatened.  When charges were formalized, according to the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organization of Honduras), COPINH, the abusive authorities responded by burning the school.  COPINH was blamed publicly by the media and authorities for the burning while an investigation has still not been carried out.




In Honduras, it is considered that certain professions like public prosecutors and teachers, should have a certain guarantees to ensure their ability to carry out their profession with independence. Destroying the professional associations not only destroys labor conditions but destroys their ability to act with independence.


Teachers’ professional associations have played a key role in the structure of the Honduran educational system for over on hundred years. Teachers associations are more than unions, though they fulfill some of the important functions of unions, such as collective bargaining on teachers working conditions and administration of important benefits like retirement pensions.  But professional associations also accredit teachers, have an important voice in educational policy, and protect the teachers from arbitrary firing / hiring.


The creation of the PROHECO program for the first time allowed the government to hire teachers to practice without belonging to professional associations.  PROHECO starting teachers earn salaries of approximately L4500 per month, less than the minimum wage, and are only paid the 10 months of the year classes are in session. The Secretary of Education teachers affiliated with the professional associations earn salaries of about L9800 over the 12 month calendar year, with two additional bonus salaries per year.


PROHECO teachers are hired on ten month contracts, which must be renewed yearly.  Since they are hired year to year they have no right to unemployment compensation or retirement benefits.  It also makes their job security contingent on absolute compliance with whatever the school’s administrating NGO demands of them.


In short, the experience of PROHECO has confirmed to teachers that the measures being undertaken to dismantle the professional associations and “decentralize” education open up the possibility of politically motivated firing of teachers, while ravaging teachers working conditions.




Ilse Velasquez, the teacher killed in protests on March 18, had hoped to retire this year, but had been told she could not since the teachers’ pension funds were gone.  The de facto Roberto Micheletti regime that took power for 5 months after the military coup until the ‘election’ of Pepe Lobo, illegally took four billion lempiras ($40 million USD) from IMPREMA, the institution that manages pension funds for 68,000 teachers.


The stolen funds are believed to have been used by the de facto government to fund the military machine run by the oligarchy, illegal “President” Micheletti and head of the armed forces, Romeo Vasquez Velasquez to repress and terrorize the pro-democracy movement critical of the coup and it’s perpetrators.


The Lobo regime has not complied with an agreement reached with teachers in August 2010 to return a portion of the stolen funds to IMPREMA. Instead, the government and Congress have been attacking IMPREMA; attempting to create the impression of corruption and mis-management to convince the population of needed reform.


Teachers claim the de facto government, backed by the IDB, intends to consolidate IMPREMA into the IPM (military retirement fund) and that the age for retirement will be raised from 60 to 70.




Attempts to consolidate the privatization process that began under the Maduro administration were largely unsuccessful in the privatization effort during the  overthrown President Zelaya’s term in office from 2006-2009, the IDB and WB seem to be successfully pushing this agenda with the Pepe Lobo’s regime comprised of Honduran oligarchy and business elite, who have many reasons to follow suit.


Strong and growing national resistance against the new education law continues. Including departmental assemblies and protests organized by the teacher’s movement and pro-democracy people’s movement. This is despite Lobo’s threat that all teachers that do not present themselves to work will be suspended for one year without pay. Taking democracy into their own hands, municipal consultations are also now occurring throughout the country in an effort to reject the Congress’s recent decision and the new education law.


In a last final effort to defend public education to avoid the system to be handed over to the same people that planned and supported the military coup, the teachers, the National Front of Popular Resistance, students, indigenous organizations, churches and parents of public school students continue to resist by occupying schools, holding assemblies, consultations and protesting in the street.


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Annie Bird,

Karen Spring, in Tegucigalpa,, 011 [504] 9507-3835

Grahame Russell,




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OFRANEH: ALERT, April 7: Eviction in the Garifuna community of Punta Gorda, Roatan

ALERT: Eviction in the Garifuna community of Punta Gorda, Roatan.

At the request of the Military Social Security Institute [Instituto de Prevision Militar, IPM, which owns several businesses], agents from the Ministry of Security are right now carrying out an eviction in the island community of Punta Gorda, Roatan.

The more than 40 families that are being violently evicted live in the neighbourhood known as Punta Gorda, located in the community of the same name. It is outrageous that that while the State of Honduras boasts about a policy of inclusion and makes an ostentatious show of its celebration of the International Year of Afro-Descendants, the armed forces order the Ministry of Security to carry out an eviction.

As Garifuna, we find ourselves suffering a second expulsion from the Caribbean. In just a few days, on April 12th, the arrival of our People to Honduras will be commemorated, specifically marking our arrival to the island of Roatan, after our forced displacement by the British from the island of Saint Vincent in 1797.

The pressures on our territory that our People suffer are rooted in the speculation by the tourism industry. Projects such as Banana Coast, Laguna de Micos, and in a not-so-distant future the so-called Model City have precipitated an onslaught of evictions in Punta Gorda and in the majority of coastal communities, which are the aim of businesspeople, politicians and armed forces, taking advantage of the vast judicial void that exists in Honduras.

Since the coup d’etat in 2009, the pressures on Garifuna territory have intensified. The eviction in Punta Gorda is part of the “Christian humanism” of the current administration, which uses violence in an attempt to impose its vision of a “democracy” of the few associated with the party in power.

The Garifuna of Punta Gorda lack a land deed for their territory, despite dancing to the tune of numerous governmental administrations over the years – administrations that tend to celebrate the anniversary of our arrival to Honduras in Punta Gorda with rituals of power.

How will the State of Honduras and its kindred organizations explain this eviction at the Afro-Descendant summit they plan to hold this August? Basta Ya – enough! – of the expulsion of the Garifuna People of Honduras.

La Ceiba, April 7, 2011.


Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña, OFRANEH
Tel: (504) 4420618, (504) 4500058
Av 14 julio, calle 19, Contiguo Vivero Flor Tropical, Barrio Alvarado, La Ceiba, Honduras


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Banging the Drums of Resistance to the Repression, by Karen Spring


(by Karen Spring,


On March 28th, Miriam was shot by police in the stomach with tear gas canisters, illegally detained and threatened, during a peaceful road occupation to reject the privatization of public education being carried out by the military-backed Honduran regime.


Three days after her release, and still recuperating, Miriam was present in Tegucigalpa marching with the Garifuna people.


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(Miriam Miranda, Tegucigalpa, April 1, 2011. All photos: Karen Spring)


(From a speech by Miriam Miranda, Coordinator of OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), on the streets of Tegucigalpa, April 1, 2011)


“Today we are here, present in the capital, not just so people can watch us dance. We do not want to maintain this idea that Garifuna are only useful to dance. As well, we will not be used to help legitimize a government that carried out a coup d’etat.


“We are here as Garifuna so we can make visible the problems of the Garifuna people. So that people will realize, on a national and international level, that the Garifuna people are here to reclaim their historical rights.


“We are here on the 1st of April, inaugurating the International Year of the Afro-descendents named by the United Nations.


“Today we can say that we are facing the second expulsion of our territories, that is why we’re here.


“The Garifuna people have inhabited Honduras and resisted for more than 214 years. It is not true that we are just able to dance. That is why we are here. We are here with our identity, our spirituality, our culture, because we have a culture of resistance. Even before a system that wants to eliminate all of the value of our culture. All the value that we are as Garifuna people. We are proud to be Garifuna. The Garifuna culture is a culture of milleniums. The Garifuna people just like the Lenca people, Pech, Mosquito, and Tolipan, all the indigenous and black peoples, we have been resisting against a monoculture, one culture that they are trying to create and say that we are.


“We are here to say that we are not interested in speaking with [President] Pepe Lobo because he is not in charge. We want to tell the world that yes, we are present. We do not want them to receive us in the Presidential House … when he [Pepe Lobo} will not dialogue with the teachers. When he is repressing the people. Because of this we are here to say we are present!”




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“The sounds of our drums are symbols of resistance.” (Garifuna doctor, Luther Castillo)


In Honduras, April is a month of celebration for the Garifuna people. To inaugurate the African Heritage Month during the International Year of Afro-Descendents and 214 years since the Garifuna people arrived in Honduras (forcibly brought here by [British] imperialists carrying out an ethnic cleansing on the island now known as San Vincent), roughly 2000 Garifuna people and 214 drums were brought from various communities on the north coast and Bay Islands of Honduras to Tegucigalpa last Friday, April 1st.


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From the National Teaching University to the Central Park, the Garifuna community – joined by Lenca indigenous members of COPINH (Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras) – marched with 214 drums, many maracas while singing and dancing in the streets of the capital city.


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But as Garifuna doctor, Luther Castillo said to the crowd, “We commemorate [the African heritage month] but we have nothing to celebrate.” With many colourful written banners carried on the streets of Tegucigalpa, the Garifuna demonstrated the various threats to their culture and survival. All reasons why it’s difficult for the Garifuna to celebrate as they are facing “a second expulsion from their territory.”


Banners read:


* The Plundering of Garifuna land and Territory is racism

* In the International Year of Afro-descendents, the Robbery of African and Latin American Lands has Intensified

* The Hydroelectric Dam Decrees are Unconstitutional: We Demand the Right to Consultation

* We Demand Integral Agrarian Reform: No to Facusse-landia

* The Municipalization of Education, Water & Indigenous Land is Privatization


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Honduras Military-backed Regime & Impunity Watch

Rights Action – April 6, 2011



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Annie Bird,

Grahame Russell,

Karen Spring, in Tegucigalpa,, 011 [504] 9507-3835

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[en] COFADEH: 157 Hondurans have fled into Exile

By Dina Meza,

Original article in Spanish


The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, COFADEH, is able to confirm that there are political exiles. Over the last few weeks, three more people have been taken out of the country because their lives are in danger, bringing the total to 157 persecuted people who have left Honduras, said Bertha Oliva, coordinator of the human rights organization COFADEH.

After declarations by [ousted] President Manuel Zelaya Rosales about the existence of political exiles, the regime of Porfirio Lobo Sosa has tried to delegitimize these allegations, requesting a list of the exiles’ identities. On the matter, Oliva pointed out that COFADEH has registered 157 people in exile due to political persecution by the Honduran State and its agents.

“At the same time they say they are creating mechanisms, they are going looking for people with photographs in hand. They are paramilitaries, death squads that persecute people who have some level of leadership in their communities and neighbourhoods,” denounced the coordinator of COFADEH.

To Oliva, the total of 157 Hondurans who have fled Honduras is a scandalous number, considering that if Honduras is supposedly living through a process of reconciliation, there should not be a single person leaving the country due to terror or political persecution.

COFADEH is not working with cases of family vendettas, but with people involved in the national resistance with some level of leadership in their communities and neighbourhoods who are being followed, pursued using their photographs – in short, we are talking about paramilitaries, death squads, reiterated the human rights activist.

It is about political persecution. If it were not so, why is it that members of the resistance are those who are being persecuted?, she asked while emphasizing the regime’s double standards.

Concerning Porfirio Lobo’s repeated statements asking for the list of exiles in order to prove that they really exist, human rights defender Oliva asked how it is possible that Lobo, who supported left-wing movements in the 1980s, now asks for names and addresses, which would place these people at risk.

“This is not a legend, it is not happening in Bosnia… this false respect of human rights needs to be stopped,” expressed Oliva, who returned last weekend from a trip to the United States where she denounced what is happening in Honduras and, together with the Human Rights Platform [of Honduras], received the Letelier Moffitt award.

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[en] Annie Bird: Indigenous Communities Defend Their Rivers Against Privatizations



by Annie Bird, Rights Action co-director, October 13, 2010

Honduran indigenous communities resist illegal concession of rivers for dams while the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) violates its charter and international law in supporting the projects


On the “Day of Indigenous Resistance”, indigenous communities across Honduras demanded respect for their fundamental rights, affirming the government’s obligation to obtain their free, prior and informed consent when implementing projects that affect their communities.

Honduran communities and many nations in the Hemisphere do not recognize the legitimacy of the current government, imposed following the June 28, 2009 military coup and then the November 27, 2009 illegitimate election.

Despite the precarious situation of the Honduras regime and state, in international law, on September 2nd and 3rd laws were passed that conceded use Honduran rivers to private corporations for the construction of 41 hydroelectric dams.

Many of these dams would affect indigenous communities.  While none of these communities have been consulted, as international law prescribes, many communities, both indigenous and not, have declared their express opposition to the projects in community assemblies, the maximum traditional indigenous authority, and in municipal referendums.


The complete disregard for indigenous rights by the military coup authors was demonstrated earlier this year by the Honduran National Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) in its call on the ‘de facto’ regime to withdraw from the International Labor Organization’s Covenant 169, a key instrument in initially establishing a framework for the recognition of indigenous rights.

Indigenous peoples from across Honduras met on October 3 in Garifuna territory to articulate a response to the assault to which they are being subjected, and convoked a national Constituent Assembly of Indigenous Peoples and Blacks.  Protection of national resources and the full recognition of the territorial rights of indigenous people are issues at the heart of the call to draft a new constitution for Honduras.

Protection of national resources is also what is most feared by transnational corporate interests and what has generated the tremendous and persistent mainstream media distortion of the reasons for the call for a new constitution and the motives behind the coup, focusing on the red herring of changes in term limit restriction.

As recently as October 7, even the Huffington Post ran an article by a Council on Foreign Relations fellow focused on the change in term limits.  The current and sixteenth constitution was adopted in 1982 during a military dictatorship.


The Inter-american Development Bank (IDB), in violation of its own Charter, has resumed funding in Honduras despite Honduras’ ongoing suspension from the Organization of American States.  To compound its violation of international law, the IDB has approved funding for a technical assistance grant to undertake initial project feasibility studies for the Gualcarque and Mixure dams, both in Lenca territory and both having been expressly rejected on multiple occasions in both community assemblies and municipal referendums.

The ‘de facto’ regime is planning to make use of funds obtained through financial mechanisms established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for construction of three large dams on the Patuca River despite studies that demonstrate that large dam reservoirs, especially in tropical regions, emit significant methane emissions.


The push for the construction of dams is occurring as the World Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration fund programs oriented toward the privatization of the Honduras National Electrical Energy Company, ENEE.  Though national energy companies across the region had been privatized through similar World Bank promoted programs, Hondurans had strongly defended their national energy company and small consumers received energy for a fraction of the cost as in privatized neighboring countries.

A process of segmenting sectors of ENEE began in 1999.  The meter reading services were contracted out to a Honduran financial services corporation owned by Arturo Corrales, currently the de facto Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.  Corrales was a key actor in the military coup.

Privatization of the national energy and telephone companies seem to be high on the agenda of the coup government.  General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, the military officer who carried out the coup, was named head of the national telephone company, and talk of privatization has already begun.  Washington lobbyist and former State Department official Otto Reich, who was a key voice justifying the coup in Honduras, has worked extensively with telephone and energy corporations.

ENEE’s labor union protested on October 6, demanding that the privatization process be stopped and the already privatized sectors of the energy company be nationalized.  In August ENEE’s union denounced in a press conference that the de facto administration was not enforcing payment for electricity and thus not paying thermal generators money owed in an effort to bankrupt the company as a pretext to allow financial corporations to take it over and privatize it.

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya had rigorously enforced payment of massive outstanding debts by large consumers, restoring financial viability to the State corporation and providing sufficient funds to finance subsidies for low income, small consumers.  Though this generated widespread popular support, corporations that consumed large quantities of energy were angered.  It was denounced by the Union that during the coup the ENEE headquarters were occupied and millions of dollars in debt were erased from the system.

* * * * * * *


TO MAKE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS … for community based groups in the pro-democracy / anti-military regime movement, make check payable to “Rights Action” and mail to:

UNITED STATES:  Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887

CANADA:  552 – 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8



SPEAKERS:  Contact Rights Action to plan educational presentations in your community, school, place of worship, home, about the tireless and courageous Honduras pro-democracy movement.

EDUCATIONAL DELEGATIONS TO CENTRAL AMERICA:  Form your own group and/ or join one of our educational delegation-seminars to learn first hand about community development, human rights and environmental struggles.



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[en] COFADEH: Alert in the Aguan, Young MUCA Member Murdered

Alert: New Violent Incidents in the Aguan, Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, COFADEH, calls out urgently to the international community in the face of new acts of violence that occurred in the Aguan region today, Thursday, April 1st:

1.-We condemn the murder of 22-year-old Miguel Alonso Oliva, murdered by security guards when the Aguan Unified Campesino Movement (MUCA) occupied lands in the Boleros estate, which are illegally possessed by landowner Rene Morales.

2.-At the same time, we condemn the lack of quick action to solve the land conflict in the lower Aguan by the Porfirio Lobo Sosa regime, which is showing itself to be acquiescent to the landowners by failing to take on the responsibility of returning the State-owned lands that should be immediately handed over to the campesinos and campesinas, as per the law.

3.-We urge the international community to send urgent actions to the Honduran State in order to end this precarious and difficult situation against women, men, and children. They are terrorized by the weapons belonging both to the security guards working for landowners Miguel Facusse, Rene Morales and Reynaldo Canales, as well as those of the heavily-armed army and police forces that are preparing to move into the area with the intention of evicting the campesinos and campesinas who have recuperated the lands along the left bank of the Aguan river. Several cooperatives are located along the left bank: Suyapa del Aguán, Guanchías, Buenos Amigos, Remolino, Despertar, Trinidad, San Esteban, Quebrada Honda, Paso Aguán, El Plantel, Islas 1 and 2, Marañones, and Boleros.

4.-We proclaim our solidarity with the family of young Miguel Alonso Oliva, whose wake is being held in the community of Guadalupe Carney in Silin, Colon, where dozens of people have gathered to accompany his relatives.

5.-COFADEH has received unconfirmed reports of other possible deaths of security guards, demonstrating the urgency of a resolution to this conflict in order to avoid further bloodshed and the polarization of the Honduran family.


Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras

Tegucigalpa, April 1st, 2010

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[en] Human Rights Platform: Prevent Intensification of Violence in Aguan Region

Press Release

We Must Prevent the Intensification of Violent Incidents in the Lower Aguan

The Human Rights Platform, in its travels to learn in situ about the conditions of violence in the Aguan Valley and the conditions in which the families organized in the Aguan Unified Farmworkers’ Movement (MUCA) live, visited the La providencia de la Concepción, La Aurora, La Confianza and Los Camarones cooperatives, located along the right-hand riverbank, and the Guanchías cooperative along the left bank.

From this visit, we summarize our report in the following points:

* The facts learned refute the media campaign that criminalizes the actions taken by MUCA, relating them to guerilla groups advised by foreigners who supposedly operate in the region;

* We confirmed the presence in the land occupations of families including children (including infants), pregnant women, seniors, disabled people, living in deplorable conditions;

* The Human Rights Platform has documented complaints that reflect a state of distress, helplessness, and anxiety, caused by the presence of groups armed with sophisticated military equipment (weapons with laser beams and night vision) that harass the population in the area, violent evictions, and constant death threats against members of the different cooperatives;

* The testimonies highlight that various people have been injured as a result of the violent evictions and acts of intimidation, and that a series of anomalies has taken place during illegal detentions: arrest and detention of minors (children between 5 and 8 years of age); confinement in places of detention with no legal authorization (a case in which detainees were held in military facilities in the region); the supposed authorities did not identify themselves at the moment arrest, and did not read the detainees’ rights or inform them of the supposed charges.

* We denounce the precarious situation of the families claiming their right to land in the lower Aguan. Among our discoveries in the settlements, we found that there is little food, serious signs of malnutrition, unsanitary conditions, huts made of palm fronds and/or plastic, where entire families live, and ontop of all of this the lack of medical attention that may cause problems in the children’s development. Furthermore, the Human Rights Platform is concerned about the impossibility of obtaining a working income while the crisis continues.

* In the case of the Guanchías cooperative, the families occupying the property are living in warehouses with toxic waste, which represents a threat to their health. Ontop of this, ten people with rabies due to bat bites have been identified.

* Apart from the violations of the rights to life and to physical and psychological integrity, the rights to education, health, and food are being violated.

As the Human Rights Platform, we declare ourselves in constant vigilance with respect to the situation in the lower Aguan, taking into account that it demands prioritized attention in terms of human rights.

We demand that the Special Attorney’s Office on Human Rights pay close attention to the conflict posed in this region and we encourage the national and international community and international human rights organizations to issue statements with regard to the observations presented in this release.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 24, 2010.


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[en] COFADEH denounces threats against its members


The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) denounces that this past Sunday, February 7th, at around eight in the morning, Daniel Martinez, who was in our office at the time, answered a phone call to 222-71-44, and a woman warned him: “Be careful because there is going to be an attack against you people, especially those of you who are out in the streets…”

Martinez explained that when he asked the woman who was speaking, she hung up the phone.

This new threat against COFADEH occurs at a time when the repressive forces of the State continue to hunt various people linked to the resistance. Some of the recent incidents that have us on alert are:

On February 3rd, young nurse Vanesa Zepeda (29) was found dead. She was an active participant in the resistance against the coup d’etat and a union activist from the Honduras Institute of Social Security (IHSS). She had left her home at two in the afternoon, after which time there was no further contact with her. Her body was thrown from a vehicle in the Loarque neighbourhood, between 6:30 and 7:00 that night. Administrative persecution by way of layoff hearings in Social Security were the preamble to her death.

On February 2nd, young camerographers Manuel de Jesus Murillo Varela, of the Hable como Habla program, and Ricardo Rodriguez, of the Mi Nacion news program, were temporarily kidnapped by a police unit of men dressed in civilian clothing who drove them to a clandestine jail where they were subjected to “the hood” and were asphixiated to the point that they lost consciousness. They were also contantly threatened that if they did not say where they had money and weapons, their heads and toes would be cut off.

That same night, Resistance members Ariel Lobo and Ricardo Dominguez were arrested by the preventative police and were transferred to the police station in El Manchen. The two were also interrogated about ownership of weapons. In August 2009, Ariel Lobo was the victim of a kidnapping attempt by soldiers and heavilly armed men dressed in civilian clothing who were carrying out an operative in downtown Tegucigalpa.

In mid-January, teacher, indigenous Pech leader and active resistance member Blas Lopez was murdered in the community of Carbonal, in the department of Olancho.

COFADEH requests that the international community, and especially human rights organizations, stay alert and express their concern about the current situation.

Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, COFADEH

Tegucigalpa, MDC, February 7th, 2010.

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[en] Work Brigade to rebuild and relaunch Radio Faluma Bimetu

Work Brigade to rebuild and relaunch Radio Faluma Bimetu, “The First Garífuna Voice”

Encuentro for the Right to Disseminate our Voices
Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras, February 1st through 7th

The call:

Radio Faluma Bimetu, OFRANEH, and COMPPA call for participation and support in the reconstruction and re-launching  of Radio Faluma Bimetu in the Garífuna community Triunfo de la Cruz, in the Tela Bay, Honduras, during the first week of February.

What happened:

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 6th, the Garífuna community radio Faluma Bimetu (Sweet Coconut) based in Triunfo de la Cruz was burnt down by unknown armed individuals who proceeded to loot the station’s radio equipment. This is not the first time the radio has been attacked and its equipment stolen.

In 2002, unknown persons stole the Faluma Bimetu transmitter and other key radio equipment. The Garífuna people are in resistance to a slow process of forced assimilation into the dominant culture by proponents of the tourist industry and mass media; and subject to evictions by corrupt corporate monopolies.

Transmission of Radio Faluma Bimetu began in 1997, promoted by the Land Defense Committee of Triunfo de la Cruz (CODETT) in order to strengthen Garífuna culture and defend ancestral lands.

Triunfo de la Cruz, like other Tela Bay-Garífuna communities, has become a conflict zone since the invasion of venture capitalists, politicians, and foreign investors attempting to seize community land for the construction of mega–tourism projects. The Garífuna community radios provide a social service to the community and do not generate private profit. Transmitting from Triunfo de la Cruz, Faluma Bimetu is necessary in the fight against Honduran elite, and its attempts to displace Garífuna communities for more corporate development and tourism.

International Brigade

From the 1st through the 7th of February, there will be a national and international brigade for the reconstruction and re-launching of Radio Faluma Bimetu. During the week, the community, the organizations, the Network of Indigenous and Garífuna radios in Honduras and Central America and citizens of the world will gather to collectively reconstruct and reinstall the house, production and transmission cabins. We will reinstall electricity, paint the walls, remove and replace the roof, rebuild the tables, put a fence around the radio, and reinstall radio equipment (including mixers microphones, headphones, transmitters, computers, CD players, and internet, etc.)

During the same week, OFRANEH will organize accompaniment (day visits and overnight trips) with other radios of the Network of Garífuna Community Radios: Radio Durugubuti Beibei in San Juan Tela and Radio Sugua in Sambo Creek. Come with us and meet the people of OFRANEH, who use community radios and popular communications to fight against the censorship of Garífuna voices and culture.

Encuentro for the Right to Disseminate Our Voices:

On February 6th, exactly a month after Radio Faluma Bimetu was attacked, there will be an Encuentro for the right to communication and for the democratization of the media. It will take place in the same community of Triunfo de la Cruz. Participants include representatives of the Network of Indigenous and Garífuna Radios of Central America, AMARC Honduras, Central America and Latin America, ALBATV (Venezuela), Rights Action, COMPPA, OFRANEH and COPINH, among other regional, national and international organizations.

Inauguration of Faluma Bimetu:

Saturday, February 6th, Faluma Bimetu will be re–inaugurated. The inauguration will include cultural ceremonies, music, art, and declarations against the politics of marginalization and erasure.

Solidarity and Support:

We need $7,500 dollars to rebuild Faluma Bimetu and get it back on the air. Join our work party or support us with what you are able (5$ dollars and up). Raise your voice and help defend the communication rights in this effort to rebuild Radio Faluma Bimetu.

Send your donations quickly and conveniently with  PAYPAL or with a CREDIT CARD, send your paypal donation to or make a donation via

Or, send a donation directly to OFRANEH´s account in Honduras using this information:
Account No. 3100023062, Banco Atlántida, SWIFT ATTDHNTE, La Ceiba, Atlántida, Honduras C.A.

Finally, you can make a tax deductible donation by sending a check to Rights Action.
Make the check out to “Rights Action” and mail it to:
•    UNITED STATES:  Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
•    CANADA:  552 – 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8

Please write “Ofraneh-Radio” in the memo line.

For more information on how to participate and support Faluma Bimetu, contact us:

For more information please consult the following links:
Antes y Después del Atentado Contra Faluma Bimetu
Before and After the Attack of Radio Faluma Bimetu

Collection of Denouncements, Audios, and Letters of Solidarity

Honduran Black Fraternal Organization, OFRANEH
Telephone (504) 4420618, (504) 4500058

Popular Communicators for Autonomy

A partial list of equipment stolen or damaged during the attack:
1 – 500 watt transmitter 1- 10 channel mixer 2- desktop computers
1- cellphone for the  station
1- air conditioner
1- dvd and cd player
4- microphones  (2 condensed mics and y 2 handheld mics)
2-digital voice recorders 2 – headphones
2- speakers
2 –portable microphones
1- building material ($500.00 corrugated metal roofing, paint, and lumber)
1- electrical wiring

As OFRANEH and COMPPA, our hearts and solidarity go out to the Haitian people.  To support the many rescue and relief efforts in Haiti, visit the following pages and support their work:

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