Reports from Honduras

Daily Report #1

 

Daily Report #2

 

Daily Report #3

 

 

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Canadian members of the CF / Quixote Centre delegation to Honduras

 

Irene Lanzinger – President of the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) currently on leave from the Vancouver school district where she is a teacher of Math and Physics;

 

Larry Kuehn – Director of Research at the BCTF and responsible for the BCTF International Solidarity Programme.

 

Scott Marshall – Executive Officer on the Provincial Executive of the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation (OSSTF) was a Special Education teacher from 1997-2004 with the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board before taking up his union duties;

 

Domenic Bellissimo – OSSTF Executive Assistant and responsible for the OSSTF Human Rights Committee and for International Programmes;

 

Jackie McVicar – Breaking The Silence (BTS) Coordinator and a member of the Atlantic Region Solidarity Network (ARSN).

 

Nov 25 - Dec 2, 2009

Honduras Human Rights Observers Daily Reports

A bi-national delegation of Canadian and US representatives from labour, human rights, and faith-based organizations is in Honduras to conduct human rights accompaniment and observation at the time of the country’s controversial elections on November 29. The bi-national delegation has been co-organized along with the Quixote Centre in the U.S. (that has organized 7 previous delegations since the June 28 military-backed coup). The delegation’s members hope that their presence will mitigate human rights violations by the Honduran military and police, and that they will be able to document any violations that occur. The team is posting regular reports which appear below, with the most recent report on the top.


Daily Report #3 - Scott Marshall

Day 1 consisted primarily of travel to Honduras and arrival at our retreat centre. We met the delegation in the evening on Day one and discussed the itinerary for the week and some practical measures to ensure our safety.

Day 2 – November 26
Morning meeting with Felix Molina (8am)
Felix is a journalist working for Radio Global in Honduras. He has been working as a journalist in Central America since the 1980’s, reporting on many of the social justice issues throughout the region. The evening prior to meeting with us, Felix was at the Brazilian Embassy reporting on the status of deposed President Zelaya. Felix spoke to us about the challenges faced by the alternative media in Honduras today. According to Felix, the 4 pillars holding the coup in power today are the private corporate media, the church, the military, and the economic elite. The print, radio, and television media in Honduras are all controlled by a very small group, who also control the media message. The message that they have been delivering since the first day of the coup is that Zelaya is corrupt, everything is OK in the country, and the November election will be the political and legal solution to the crisis.

It has been a great challenge alternative media to get their story out. They have been under constant oppression by the military. Felix provided examples of hydro being cut, offices and transmitters being vandalized, advertizers being forced to pull out, and media owners under constant threats and some facing legal charges. This constant barrage of pressure has forced nearly all alternative media to shut down.

9am meeting with leaders from the National Resistance Front
This meeting was with two leaders from the National Resistance Front, who chose to meet with us at our retreat. They are under constant pressure for their safety as leaders with the resistance. Benedicto Santos is a teacher and a lawyer, his colleague (I missed the other leaders name) is a professor of economics, has been teaching for 25 years, was schooled in France, and is a leader in the resistance coalition representing his indigenous people. Both men spoke to us about how the events on June 28th galvanized the resistance front. Many of the organizations in the resistance front have been organized on their own for years to fight in support of their own struggles. and the removal of Zelaya on June 28th brought together all of the groups in solidarity. The Resistance Front today consists of unions, women, feminist groups, students, farmers, co-ops, indigenous groups as examples. They asked us to share that Hondurans are a smart people who are only poor because countries such as Canada and the United States have made them poor. While Zelaya was not initially supported by most of the groups in the resistance front, this changed as they believe he did not forget about the Honduran people while in power. Zelaya was under great pressure to cater to large international and national business, and made decisions that would have kept more money with the Honduran people than with the large corporations.

1pm meeting with Carlos H. Reyes – Independent Presidential Candidate who recently withdrew from the November 29th elections

Carlos was an engaging speaker who spoke to our delegation about the history of Honduras and the past governments and coups. Carlos is still healing from a beating at the hands of the military coup regime. He spoke about the interference from the United States, and his belief that they have always had a hand in the coups, including this one today. The constitution governing the country today was written at a time when Honduras had just moved out of military rule, and it is in need of reform. President Zelaya was moving the country towards discussing constitutional reform, and for this reason and his decisions to bring private dollars back into the hands of Hondurans are what led to his removal from power. Zelaya was not calling for a referendum to allow himself to stay in power. Carlos removed himself as a candidate in the November 29th election because he does not want to legitimize an election that he believes is fraudulent to begin with. He, along with the resistance movement, are hoping that a small voter turn-out will leave the government without respect internationally and to create the right environment in Honduras for the formation of a constituents national assembly who could then reform the constitution.

4pm Meeting with COFADEH – Committee of Families of Disappeared
Bertha Oliva – General Co-ordinator of COFADEH

  • Husband, professor Thomas Nativi, was disappeared when Honduras death squads were under military dictatorship
  • Organization seeks justice and compensation for families of the hundreds of dissidents who disappeared b/w 1979 and 1989, and now today supporting victims and families of oppression by the current military coup regime

Current Climate

  • Strategy used by coup regime to intimidate was well planned and scripted; easy to carry out in Honduras today
  • Situation on oppression and intimidation will only get worse after “elections” this weekend
  • Too much money being spent on military and security to terrorize citizens of such a poor country
  • Numerous deaths, beatings, and rapes reported as carried out by current regime; reminds Bertha Oliva of oppression in the 1980”s
  • Evidence of mayors being asked to turn over phone numbers of resistance leaders
  • Evidence of hospitals being told to prepare for large numbers between November 19th and December 4th
  • Michelletti leaving office November 25th to Dec.2; coincides with congressional decision  regarding Zelaya
  • Gvt. Looking for chaos this weekend to justify need for more military control
  • 3 tear gas bombs blasted into office of COFADEH in September, their office has been vandalized on other occasions
  • Teachers  have particularly been targeted as they are leaders in their communities
  • Gentleman was in COFADEH office during our visit giving testimony . He is director of a school district and has been intimidated by beatings and false accusations
  • Not 1 person has been held responsible for numerous deaths;

Day 3 November 27 – Meeting with COPRUMH (teachers union)

  • Milton Bardales current president Professional Union College of Teachers of Honduras met with us at their office
  • Military regime has been incredibly strong and powerful and linked to traditional economic elite in the country who have always worked to keep population without education and are always looking for conflict with their organization
  • Teachers colleges have been in constant conflict with government, other colleges, and the people, because of this education lack stability
  • Government working to keep teachers permanently struggling for the work that they should legally be entitled to. The effect is to hold back actual teaching because energies are spent in conflict with government. Well planned systematic strategy by elite
  • Conclusion is that oligarchs hope people remain uneducated.
  • Government has also been changing curriculum so that student no longer learn about constitution or regulations that govern the country
  • Since June 28th the teachers in the country “fired up” and led movement to see that citizens are aware of the important issues within the country – and the constitution
  • Today most citizens can recite back the articles of the constitutions violated by the coup government
  • Union in talks with parents of students, students, and entities in government against the coup

(Introduced professor Moya  and vice president Eduardo Cassania)

  • The colleges of teachers have played a significant role against the coup; educating the public about the issues of concern around the coup  
  • Organized teacher workers power in Honduras is very strong and government has tried to remove these leaders – strong media campaign to discredit leaders of teachers unions, also tried to organize groups of parents of students to try to influence teachers (parents of economic elite),
  • These societies of parents have gotten so extreme some have actually hit teachers, filed charges against teachers for participating in the struggle. These are the parents who are part of the economic elite
  • Oppression by government against teachers escalated with government actually killing their teachers
  • In context of marches and protests, 29 have died, 5 are teachers
  • Tuesday of this week teachers was killed in the south; of the 5 who have died 2 have been from this organization
  • Also subject of illegal searches by military – Monday his house was searched. Military saying they are looking for weapons – they do not have weapons as this is a non violent resistance
  • Teachers form a part, the spinal cord of the central nervous system, because of their knowledge and history
  • 68,000 teachers at the national level represented by this organization
  • In Honduras every teacher in every community is a leader
  • The coup media also have undertaken a strong campaign against the teacher statutes, especially because these statutes give them the legal right to protest
  • Another  method of oppression used against teachers union was closing a radio broadcast station that teachers had at the national level
  • The teachers unions also had economic power with dues paid by members giving teachers funds to support the people economically in the struggle; government has tried to shut down this economic power of the teachers unions
  • This oppression is so powerful that dues taken from paycheques have been retained by government who now owe this union over 14 million (Honduran currency)
  • This targeted oppression is part of what has weakened the resistance as well as a law that was passed that could not guarantee individual rights placing individuals at the will of the military/coup
  • Union dues also paid life insurance policies that they are now not able to pay leaving members unprotected
  • From perspective of union of teachers they believe it is necessary to reform the current constitution of this country
  • Why change? Current constitution favours rich much more than the poor.
  • Much international aid does not make it to where it was intended but retained by the elite chaining the people by a high level of debt
  • The contracts made with businesses are overseen by their own economic members/interests so no guarantee of overseer for ethics/ corruption
  • examples such as McDonalds and other fast food chains paying no taxes. Small local merchants pay taxes every single day. Within fast food sector alone approximately $1 billion dollars in lost revenue from no taxes
  • The Zelaya administration was progressing; In administration before Zelaya many tax and debt breaks were given to the private sector
  • Large amounts of money that could have been available to invest in public services have been lost – these are some of the reasons for the resistance today
  • Also have difficulties with religious institutions/businesses and enterprises – call these institutions businesses because this is what they do using the word of God to do it.
  • Teachers union will boycott election on Sunday because it is illegitimate and then fight for peoples government and constitutional reform.
  • Concerned that government may retaliate with massacre against those responsible for election boycott, if Hondurans do stay home as a peoples protest

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