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Honduras: What Has Happened to the Rest of Us?

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“If that kind of barbarity can be directed against the highest-ranking person in the country, what will happen to the rest of us?” asked the activists at COFADEH, the Committee of Families of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras, right after the June 28th coup that sent President Manuel Zelaya into exile.  Now the answer to that question can be seen in COFADEH’s hard-hitting October 22nd report, “Statistics and Faces of Repression.”

Twenty-one people have died in the context of the repression following the coup.  Ten of these killings, according to COFADEH, are directly related, primarily people killed by police or military during demonstrations, as well as two women who died allegedly of bronchial problems after they were tear gassed.   To just mention two cases:

  • Jairo Sanchez was shot, allegedly by police, when demonstrating on September 23.  After protestors allowed a police vehicle to pass, a policeman in the car then started shooting, wounding four people, including Sanchez, who later died.
  • Twenty-four-year-old Pedro Magdiel Salvador Muñoz was found killed July 25 with 42 bullet wounds and signs of torture after being seen detained by a soldier while awaiting the return of President Zelaya on the Honduran border.

Eleven additional killings by still-unidentified assailants should be investigated, says COFADEH.  Among the reasons for believing these may have been related to the political context is that those killed were involved in protesting the coup; some had previously received death threats; and the killings, in some cases by hooded assailants, appear to be targeted assassinations.

Physical abuse against demonstrators and against those in detention is widespread.  The report documents that police and soldiers have beaten protestors with fists, sticks and chains; used burning cigarettes on their skin; and threatened women with rape.  Union leader and presidential candidate Carlos H. Reyes was beaten in the face, causing him to fall and break his wrist, while those who attacked him said, “You are the old man who wants to be my president—here are your votes.”  Democratic Unification Party congressman Marvin Ponce was attacked by soldiers August 12, who hit him repeatedly, leaving his arm broken.

The report compellingly documents the extent of repression against protests.  It paints the picture of the July 30 protest in Durazno, where, according to COFADEH, police and soldiers used tear gas, hit protestors’ heads and faces, and shot into the crowd, leading to the death of thirty-eight-year-old teacher Roger Abraham Vallejo Soriana, whom a witness observed shot by police. On August 12 in Tegucigalpa, when some 20,000 people gathered in protest, police and soldiers indiscriminately beat people, detaining 27 people who were then beaten in custody.  The report claims that 3,033 people have been arbitrarily detained since June 28th.  For the complete report, see http://www.cofadeh.org/html/documentos/segundo_informe_situacionl_resumen_violaciones_ddhh_golpe_estado.pdf.

COFADEH itself has been the victim of attacks and intimidation, with its offices being teargassed and its activists threatened.  We salute the valiant, tremendous efforts that it took to document and release this report.