Counterpunch — Killing Organizers in Honduras

Topic(s): Honduras | Comments Off on Counterpunch — Killing Organizers in Honduras

Left to Fend for Themselves
Killing Organizers in Honduras

CounterPunch Front Page

January 5, 2010
The bodies of slain activists are piling up in Honduras. While it’s
being kept quiet in most Honduran and international media, the rage is
building among a dedicated network of friends spreading the word
quickly with the tragic announcement of each compañero/a.
Now that the world heard from mainstream news outlets such as the New
York Times of a `clean and fair’ election on Nov. 29 (orchestrated by
the US-supported junta currently in power), the violence has increased
even faster than feared.
The specific targets of these killings have been those perceived as
the biggest threats to the coup establishment. The bravest, and thus
the most vulnerable: Members of the Popular Resistance against the
coup. Their friends and family. People who provide the Resistance with
food and shelter. Teachers, students, and ordinary citizens who simply
recognize the fallacy of an un-elected regime taking over their
country. All associated with the Resistance have faced constant and
growing repercussions for their courage in protesting the coup. With
the international community given the green light by the US that
democratic order has returned via elections, it’s open season for
violent forces in Honduras working to tear apart the political unity
of the Resistance Front against the coup.
The killings are happening almost faster than they can be recorded.
On Sunday, Dec. 7, a group of six people were gunned down while
walking down the street in the Villanueva neighborhood of Tegucigalpa.
According to sources, a white van with no license plates stopped in
front of the group. Four masked men jumped out of the van and forced
the group to get on the ground, where they were shot. The five victims
who were killed were:
· Marcos Vinicio Matute Acosta, 39
· Kennet Josué Ramírez Rosa, 23
· Gabriel Antonio Parrales Zelaya, 34
· Roger Andrés Reyes Aguilar, 22
· Isaac Enrique Soto Coello, 24
One woman, Wendy Molina, 32, was shot several times and played dead
when one of the assassins pulled her hair, checking to see if anyone
in the group was still alive. She was taken to the hospital and
The Honduran independent newspaper El Libertador reports that the
group members were all organizers against the coup. According to a
resident in the area, “The boys had organized committees so that the
neighbors could get involved in the Resistance Front.”
This massacre was part of a string of Resistance-related murders
during the past few weeks alone. On December 3, Walter Trochez, 25 a
well-known activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
(LGBT) community was snatched off the street and thrown into a van,
again by four masked men, in downtown Tegucigalpa. In the report that
he later filed to local and national authorities, Walter said he was
interrogated for hours for information on Resistance members and
activities, and was beaten in the face with a pistol for refusing to
speak. He was told that he would be killed regardless, and he
eventually escaped by throwing open the van door, falling into the
street, and running away.
It wasn’t the first time Walter had been subject to these kinds of
threats. He was a much-loved organizer against the coup who had been
documenting human rights violations, particularly in the gay
community. Walter had just published two articles. One following the
elections was titled “The Triumph of Abstentionism”, on the success of
the effort by the Resistance to encourage citizens to refuse to vote.
The other was called `Escalation of Hate and Homophobic Crimes against
the LGBTT Community Rooted in the Civil-Religious-Military Coup d’état
in Honduras’.
In both, he concludes: “As a revolutionary I will be today, tomorrow
and forever on the front lines of my people, all the while knowing
that I may lose my life”.
On Dec. 13, one week later, Walter was shot in the chest by a drive-by
gunman while walking home. He died at the hospital.
On Dec. 5, Santos Garcia Corrales, an active member of the National
Resistance Front, was detained by security forces in New Colony
Capital, south of Tegucigalpa. He was then tortured for information on
a local merchant who was providing food and supplies to the
Resistance. After reporting the incident to local authorities, Santos’
body was found five days later on Dec 10, decapitated.
There have been others as well, notably a rise in murders in the LGBT
community since the coup. In particular, several transvestites have
been recently killed in similarly gruesome ways. Human rights
advocates report that `up to 18 gay and transgender men have been
killed nationwide – as many as the five prior years – in the nearly
six months since a political crisis rocked the nation.’
The latest victim, Carlos Turcios, was kidnapped outside his home in
Choloma Cortes, at three in the afternoon of Wednesday Dec. 16. He was
found dead the next day, with his hands and head cut off. Carlos had
been vice-president of the Choloma chapter of the Resistance Front, a
town located a few hours outside of the capital. Andres Pavón,
president of CODEH (Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in
Honduras), commented: “We believe this horrendous crime joins others
where the bodies show signs of brutal torture…This aggression is
directed to the construction of collective fear.’
It is a sinister effort to shake up a community that is now in fact
stronger than ever. As Walter Trochez noted (and CNN confirmed), most
of the country refused to go to the polls that day. Many of the
world’s governments, including most of Latin America, refused to
recognize the results.
In this climate of fierce repression, citizens can no longer depend on
authorities for the most basic protective rights, and those fearful
for their lives cannot report to the police. Complaints they file,
such as those of Santos and Walter, could soon become signatures to
their own death letters. Many believe with good reason that the
killings are state-sponsored. At the very least, they are the result
of new conditions which allow for the widespread deterioration of
state protection.
Pavón and other human rights leaders in Honduras have been extremely
vocal in denouncing these atrocities, but the story has remained under
the radar for most Hondurans and almost all international media. At
the time when Hondurans most need exposure to these abuses, they’ve
been left to fend for themselves.
How did this happen? Why are people being randomly executed in dark
corners of the country for simply standing in opposition to a military
Most of the bloodshed is on the hands of coup president Roberto
Micheletti and other leaders of the regime. However, President Barack
Obama and the US State Department played a major role in allowing
conditions to get to this point. The US government took no concrete
action against the thousands of documented violations since the coup
took place June 28. It’s no shock that the violence has worsened
dramatically with the eyes of the world now averted.
In a recent interview, Francisco Rios of the National Front Against
the Coup reiterated Frente communiqués which stated that the
Resistance, though now lying low, is preparing a massive organization
effort for next year and beyond. Rios reported that they have stopped
meeting publicly as a safety measure for now, but will soon begin
dividing into chapters around the country with plans to emerge as a
new, strengthened political force. Walter, Santos, Carlos, and all of
the Resistance fighters who gave their lives have inspired others in
the movement to continue the struggle for justice in Honduras.
Joseph Shansky was reporting from Honduras during the recent military
coup, and can be reached at fallow3@gmail.com. More articles on the
coup in Honduras are available at http://j-shansky.net
This article also appears in Upside Down World.