Police Brutality in Honduras – by Stephen Lendman
On June 28, 2009, a coordinated State Department-Pentagon project allied with Honduran military commanders and top opposition figures ousted President Manuel Zelaya, establishing the current fascist dictatorship, supported, armed, and funded by Washington.
In fact, all Honduran officers from captains on up are trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the School of the Americas (SOA), popularly known as the “School of Assassins.”
Established in 1946, SOA Watch calls it “a combat training school,” teaching soldiers how to torture, repress, exterminate poor and indigenous people, overthrow democratically elected governments, assassinate targeted leaders, and suppress popular resistance when it erupts.
As a result, its graduates have “left a trail of blood and suffering in every country,” sending recruits to learn the latest ways to brutalize, disappear, and massacre their people back home, including in Honduras.
On March 31, Rights Action contributor Karen Spring headlined, “Honduras Is Burning – Endless Repression by Military-Backed Regime,” saying:
After two weeks of brutal repression, anger over 18 political prisoners on trial for illegally protesting and sedition, and attempts by the fascist government to privatize public education, public school teachers and the National Front of Popular Resistance (NFPR) called a nationwide strike.
On March 30, NFPR reported widespread protests, shutting down many highways. “Live rounds (were) fired at protesters at some of the take-over” locations, injuring many people. “Severe repression (was reported) in Nacaome, Planes, Tegucigalpa, Potrerillos, Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Santa Rosa de Copan and San Pedro Sula, as well as in other communities and neighborhoods throughout the country.
On April 1, March of the Drums celebrants, commemorating 214 years since the Garifuna people arrived in Honduras, released a statement declaring “nothing to celebrate,” saying:
“We commemorate, we do not celebrate. Because we cannot celebrate the infamous inhumane and genocidal exile” suffered by our ancestors….a flagrant violation of the most elemental human rights that even today the aggressor powers refuse to repair.” Its “pseudo-leadership (is) completely disconnected from the daily reality of a community that is bleeding and agonizing through the systematic loss of its ancestral richness,” compounded by more suffering from police state neoliberal repression.
On March 30, occupying major roads, bridges, universities, and other locations, police attacked protesters and gatherings with tear gas, water canons, batons, and live fire, unconfirmed reports saying at least four dozens were arrested, many others injured, and at least one killed.
Police illegally swept through the National Autonomous University (UNAH), accosting non-participating students. They resisted. Several were seriously hurt. Teachers were also attacked. Outside, they beat, tear-gassed and arrested anyone they encountered.
On March 25, students’ parents demonstrated against daily violence. Police confronted them with tear gas and batons. On March 26, teachers and NFPR members organized a motor vehicle caravan through Tegucigalpa streets. A nurses’ group also announced plans to protest.
Those arrested were held in a military building basement, despite constitutional prohibitions against using “special installations” for incarceration. On March 21, police assaulted 13 reporters covering a demonstration, destroying their equipment.
In the past 18 months, 10 reporters were killed. Also targeted are human rights workers, other activists, unionists, campesinos, and anyone promoting democratic change.
On March 27, the government said teachers not returning to classes would be suspended for a year without pay. On March 30, Human Rights Watch (HRW) headlined, “Honduras: Probe Charges of Police Brutality,” saying:
Since mid-March, police have assaulted teachers and other protesters violently, “firing teargas canisters indiscriminately and beating people with batons. HRW Americas director, Jose Miguel Vivanco, said they’re obligated “to respect the basic rights of demonstrators.”
Sandra Ponce, head of human rights at the Attorney General’s Office, said her unit “verified a pattern of excessive” police force. In addition, national human rights ombudsman Ramon Custodio and human rights minister Ana Pineda also questioned indiscriminate police violence against peaceful protesters.
On April 3, the Committee of Relatives of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) headlined, “Honduras: the Human Rights Emergency Continues,” saying:
Under the militantly backed fascist regime, “the citizenry suffered from the worst period of violations of their human rights.” Since the June 2009 coup, it’s used disproportionate terror against civil society. As a result, a National Civic Strike was called for change, a notice announcing it saying: “Pardon the inconvenience. We are fighting to build a new country!”
On March 18, Ilse Velazquez Rodriguez, a teacher and human rights activist was struck on the head by a tear gas canister and killed. The same day, union leader Adalid Romero was beaten and severely injured. On March 28, human rights activist Mirian Miranda was beaten and locked in the trunk of a police car for hours.
In San Pedro Sula, capital of Cortes province, a former Party of Democratic Unification (UD) member’s daughter, Silvia Ayala, was wounded during violent clashes at the University Center of the Valley of Sula where dozens of students and professors were detained. Josue Rodriguez, a student, was struck by a tear gas canister on his head and badly hurt.
The Regional University Center was surrounded by police and soldiers, attacking students and professors with tear gas canisters fired directly at them. Fainting and vomiting resulted. In several municipalities, dozens were arrested, beaten, and injured, some severely.
At the highway turn-off to La Flores, Santa Cruz, in Cortes, violent repression and 17 arrests were made. Six protesters were wounded by live fire. Riot police punctured tires of more than 30 vehicles, using firearms and knives, then assaulted owners with tear gas and gunfire. In numerous towns, locations, and neighborhoods, police assaulted, beat, tear-gassed, injured, and arrested others. A dozen or more were wounded by live fire.
In offices of the College of Professors of Middle Education (COPRMH), police planted evidence against the organization to strip its legal status, telling the Public Ministry that a box of molotov cocktails was found close to the center.
In Comayagua province, police and soldiers (accompanied by a judge) violently evicted 500 families that occupied a land area rightfully seven years ago, naming their community Colonia 25 de October. Homes, the community school, and a church were destroyed. Five arrests were made.
In Nacaome, de Valle provincial capital, police and soldiers assaulted residents in their homes with tear gas, especially harming children. In the La Flor community of Amapala, De Valle, police intimidated residents to learn if they participated in strike demonstrations.
Since mid-March, police and soldiers unleashed violent repression throughout the country, using infiltrators to provoke demonstrators into confrontations to justify what may result in massacres. This is how police state barbarism works, crushing resistance oppressively.
As a result, COFADEH calls it urgent for the world to monitor Honduras “now; tomorrow may be too late. For the deeds and the perpetrators, neither forget nor forgive.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.