Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #999, July 26, 2009
1. Honduras: Protester Murdered, Leader Detained
2. Honduras: Rights Group Reports 1,155 Violations
3. Honduras: Army Blocks Thousands of Protesters
4. Guatemala: Thousands March Against Cement Plant
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US
ISSN#: 1084‑922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to firstname.lastname@example.org . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/
Note: The Update will not appear next week; the next Update, #1,000, will be dated August 9, 2009.
*1. Honduras: Protester Murdered, Leader Detained
Hundreds of people attended the burial of murdered Honduran bricklayer Pedro Magdiel Muñoz Salvador on July 26 in the El Durazno cemetery, about 5km north of Tegucigalpa. “Blood of martyrs, seed of freedom,” chanted the mourners, who said the police had killed Muñoz for his role in a July 24 demonstration near the border with Nicaragua, where protesters had been trying to join up with deposed Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales. During the burial ceremony, mourners seized two police agents from the General Directorate of Investigation, beat them and set their vehicle on fire. According to witnesses, campesino leader Rafael Alegría rescued the agents from the crowd. Alegría, who heads the local branch of the international group Vía Campesina (“Campesino Way”), has been a spokesperson for the grassroots movement resisting the military coup that removed Zelaya from office on June 28.
Muñoz, a 23-year-old Tegucigalpa resident, was found dead with signs of prolonged torture on the morning of July 25 near a police post in Alauca municipality, about 12km from the Las Manos border post in the southern department of El Paraíso. On the afternoon of July 24, hundreds of protesters had confronted soldiers and police in nearby El Paraíso municipality in an attempt to reach Zelaya, who was trying to enter Honduras at Las Manos from the Nicaraguan side. Witnesses said Muñoz was active in building a large, smoky bonfire near the soldiers who were blocking the protesters.
A police official acknowledged that agents arrested Muñoz that afternoon but said the arrest was for smoking marijuana, not for protesting. The police said they released him at 6:30 am on July 25, but a medical examiner said in the presence of witnesses--including representatives of the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), an independent human rights organization—that Muñoz had died several hours before that. (Qué (Spain) 7/26/09 from unidentified wire services; La Jornada (Mexico) 7/26/09 from AFP; Honduras Laboral (7/26/09) from Frente de Resistencia Popular de Honduras)
Muñoz’s murder appears to be part of a pattern of increased repression against opponents of the coup starting July 24.
On the night of July 24, unidentified people fired on a car near Tegucigalpa’s Toncontín international airport, wounding Juan Carlos Trochez, who was hospitalized with wounds in the chest and the lower body. He had been returning to the capital after participating in an anti-coup demonstration in the western department of Santa Bárbara with his older brother, César Darío Trochez. Their father is Rodrigo Trochez, a legislative deputy from Santa Bárbara for the center-right Liberal Party, whose membership includes both President Zelaya and de facto president Roberto Micheletti, a leader of the coup. Deputy Trochez is one of the minority of Liberal legislators who opposed the coup; he had been in Washington since July 19 with six other deputies to talk to US officials and Congress members. He told the Italian wire service ANSA that he thought the attack was a reprisal for protesting against the de facto regime. (ANSA 7/25/09)
Campesino leader Rafael Alegría was detained along with driver Gustavo Adolfo Suazo and the Austrian writer Leo Gabriel in Las Manos around 1 pm on July 25. The police refused to say where Alegría had been taken, but the independent Spanish journalist José Carlos Gallaga located him with about 45 other detained protesters—including 18 women and 11 minors—in El Paraíso in departmental police station number 7. The police assaulted Gallaga, but finally released the protesters at around 6 pm. (Honduras Laboral (7/26/09) from Común Noticias)
On July 26, shortly before the burial of Pedro Muñoz, a small bomb exploded in a bathroom in the Tegucigalpa offices of the Union of Workers of the Brewery Industry and the Like (STIBYS). There was material damage but no injuries. The union has been a meeting place for the resistance, and the explosion came at the end of a strategy meeting. (Qué (Spain) 7/26/09 from unidentified wire services; La Jornada (Mexico) 7/26/09 from AFP)
Correction: The original version of this item had a typo in the name of the man found murdered in El Paraíso department in southern Honduras on July 25. Our sources give his name as "Pedro Magdiel Muñoz Salvador." We were incorrect in saying his body was found in El Paraíso municipality; it was in nearby Alauca municipality.
*2. Honduras: Rights Group Reports 1,155 Violations
A mission of delegates from international human rights organizations released a preliminary report on July 23 in Tegucigalpa charging “serious and systematic violations” of rights in Honduras following the June 28 military coup. The mission’s 15 members included representatives from the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), and the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ).
The report listed five killings that appeared to be politically motivated: the death of an unidentified man whose body was found in Tegucigalpa on July 3 in a t-shirt supporting the “fourth ballot box” (a reference to a proposed poll on a constitutional reform that precipitated the coup); the shooting death of protester Isis Obed Murillo Mencias by soldiers during a July 5 demonstration at the Toncontín airport; and the murders of journalist Gabriel Fino Noriega and two activists from the leftist Democratic Unification Party (PUD), Ramón García and labor leader Roger Iván Bados [see Update #997]. The report also listed one apparent homophobic murder. Vicky Hernández Castillo (Sonny Emelson Hernández Castillo) was shot and strangled San Pedro Sula during the nightly curfew the de facto regime imposed after the coup.
The Honduran human rights group COFADEH listed 1,155 human rights violations since June 28, of which 1,046 were illegal detentions, mainly for violating the curfew or for participating in protests. Oscar Raúl Matute, governance secretary in the de facto government, denied the human rights groups’ accusations on July 23. “You can travel freely around the country,” he said. “There are no persecutions; there are no political prisoners.” (La Jornada 7/24/09 from AFP, DPA, Reuters; Upside Down World 7/23/09; Equipo Nizkor 7/24/09)
*3. Honduras: Army Blocks Thousands of Protesters
According to both resistance organizers and international wire services, thousands of Hondurans headed to the border with Nicaragua when they learned that President Zelaya would try to reenter there at the Las Manos border post in El Paraíso department on July 24. The military responded by deploying a large number of troops to stop the movement toward the border. The de facto regime also imposed a round-the-clock curfew on the department.
Witnesses reported 14 to 20 military roadblocks along the 100km route from Tegucigalpa to Las Manos. Protesters were also detained when they tried to come from Choluteca and Olancho departments. Two teams of investigators from COFADEH headed by the group’s general coordinator, Bertha Oliva, were stopped at Arenales, 7km from Danlí, El Paraíso. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the president’s wife, was also stopped there for several hours, along with the couple’s daughters and the president’s mother, Hortensia Rosales. Protesters who managed to get through some roadblocks found themselves trapped by others; they were unable to go forward or back, and had to sleep outdoors. The military also blocked food shipments and medical supplies. A number of protesters were sick from exposure, while others were suffering from the effects of tear gas or beatings by the police.
The Reuters wire service reported that by July 26 many protesters were discouraged and were trying to head for home. “We’re tired and there’s no food,” protester César Castro told Reuters. “We’re going to withdraw to Tegucigalpa, where most of the people are,” Lilian Ordoñez, a school teacher, explained. "We have to change our strategy.” (Minga Informativo de Moviemientos Sociales 7/25/09 from Vía Campesina, 7/25/09 from Común Noticias; Prensa Latina 7/26/09; La Jornada 7/26/09 from Reuters)
But others were circumventing military roadblocks by cutting across the countryside. Four resistance leaders--Salvador Zúñiga and Berta Cáceres from the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and Miriam Miranda and Alfredo López from the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH)--set out with a group of about 230 protesters to reach the Las Manos border post through the mountains during the weekend of July 25. Supporters lost cellular contact with the four at about 6 am on July 26 and reported them missing, but they were contacted in the evening and said they were still trying to get to Las Manos.
According to the Mexican daily La Jornada, in the 1980s the rugged terrain at the border around Las Manos was the site of encampments by some 20,000 US-backed contra fighters seeking to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist government of the time. The de facto Honduran government’s foreign minister, Carlos López Contreras, was foreign minister then too, from 1986 to 1990; one of his jobs was denying that the contras were operating in Honduran territory, which led many to call him “Carlos López Contras.” In his current position as foreign minister, he has been demanding that foreign governments “respect [Honduran] sovereignty.” (LJ 7/26/09 from Notimex, 7/27/09 from correspondent)
*4. Guatemala: Thousands March Against Cement Plant
Thousands of indigenous and campesino Guatemalans marched the 35km from the town of San Juan Sacatepéquez to Guatemala City on July 13-14 as part of a continuing struggle against the construction of the Cementos Progreso cement plant about 15km from the town. Organizers said more than 10,000 residents marched in the protest, which also demanded the release of imprisoned campesino leaders and was supported by a number of social organizations, including Vía Campesina and the National Coordinating Committee of Guatemalan Widows (CONAVIGUA).
Clashes over the plant began in December 2007, when 12 police agents were injured and 17 campesinos were arrested. One campesino was killed during a protest on June 23, 2008, and 43 were arrested. San Juan Sacatepéquez residents say the plant will damage the environment and deprive the community of water. Environment Minister Luis Ferrate insists the $690 million plant will comply with environmental impact recommendations. After arriving in the capital, a delegation of protesters met with President Álvaro Colom and Congress President Roberto Alejos. Community representative Juan Saban said the president agreed to appoint a group to make a thorough review of the issues with the plant.
In other demonstrations, hundreds of people blocked roads in San Marcos, Huehuetenango, Petén, Sololá and Quetzaltenango departments on July 14 to protest mining concessions. (Latin American Herald Tribune 7/14/09 from EFE (English); EFE 7/14/09 (Spanish); Adital 7/15/09)
*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US
Argentina: Turning Around - An Interview with Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young
Independent Candidate Challenges Chilean Political Establishment
Ecuador signs oil deal with China
Damming Magdalena: Emgesa Threatens Colombian Communities
Colombia: indigenous march against violence in Cauca
Colombia: FARC assassinate indigenous people in Antioquia
Colombia: "emergent" paramilitaries "disappear" campesino in Meta
Chávez protests Colombian plan to host US bases
Nicaragua: Memories of the 1979 Final Offensive
Take Action Against the Coup in Honduras
Honduras: Mass resistance to military coup grows
Honduras: military control of Caribbean zone behind conflict?
Honduras: Zelaya establishes border camp; another protester killed
Honduras: Micheletti appoints death squad veteran
Honduras: showdown at border as Zelaya attempts to return
Honduras: talks break down again; Otto Reich denies involvement
Surreal Honduras: Putting the Narrative Together in the Local Press
A Military Coup is Violence; A President's Return is Restoration of Constitutional Order
Twenty-first Century Coups d'Etat
No Going Back: Why the Coup in Honduras Won't—and Shouldn't—Succeed
The Honduran Battle for Washington
Zelaya Just One of Millions
Guatemala: Mines Bring No Benefits to Local People
Honduran Coup Tests Mexico's Refugee Policy and Resolve
Obama and Latin America: The First Six Months
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
WNU #999: Honduran Protester Murdered, Leader Detained
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The coup leadership may not have wished for this when they began on their vile escapade, but coups have a vicious logic of their own, and the undemocratic seizure of power by the military leads directly to intimidation, violence, censorship and murder.
I've written more about this here:
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