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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. The members of the delegation are listed in the left column.


Daily Report #4 - Jackie McVicar

NI GOLPES DE ESTADO, NI GOLPES A LAS MUJERES!

(Report by Jackie McVicar, jmcvicar@gmail.com, Breaking the Silence, in Honduras

November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women

The brutal assassination of the Mirabel Sisters on November 25, 1960 marked a horrific day for women political activists and those struggling against oppression at the hands of their State. The three women, Patria Mercedes, Maria Argentina and Antonia Maria Teresa paid the ultimate price for fighting against a dictatorship in the Dominican Republic where they were tortured, incarcerated and later executed.

Women political activists in Honduras are also paying a price for speaking the truth against a regime that has raped, disappeared and murdered women since the coup d’état on June 28 that ushered in a military and oligarchy backed regime.  The Honduras based Center for Women’s Rights – CDM reports serious violations that women have suffered in the past five months.  In their recent publication of “Time to Read”, distributed widely on November 25 throughout Tegucigalpa, some horrifying examples were outlined.

“During the repressions executed by the policy and the armed forces by order of the de facto President Roberto Micheleti and his team, women have been victims of a distinct kind of violence that is aimed directly at our female body. We are victims of sexual abuse, they beat our breasts, hips, buttocks and vulva; they put batons in our crotch, they threaten us with rape and other types of sexual aggression in a clear demonstration of contempt of this society towards the body and the integrity of women.”

According to CDM, 51 women were murdered during the first month after the coup d’état, a number which is much higher than the 18 registered monthly in the months before the coup. In three and half months following the coup, 147 women were killed.  At the same time, the number of women denouncing domestic violence has dropped. CDM speculates that it’s because women have lost the trust in public institutions, like the police, to whom these cases must be reported, according to the law.

This is why many Honduran women won’t be going to the polls on November 29: “There isn’t enough trust,” says Gilda Rivera, Director of the CDM, affirmed at a press conference held November 25 in Tegucigalpa. “There has been a series of events that have caused us fear.” The Center has gathered testimony from women throughout Honduras and bravely spoke out against the violence.

“In the confusion I got lost from the group,” states one of the testimonies.   “Four police officers raped me. Then they insulted me, and they raped me with the black thing that the police hit with.”

“They spit on me,” describes another woman. “They kicked dirt and stones at me with their shoes, they beat me with their baton in my arms and body. I fell in a ditch from being hit so much and they fractured my left foot. While they were hitting me they were yelling, ‘Daughter of a bitch, we’re going to leave you crippled so that you stop fucking us around.’”

Others say the reason women won’t be going to the polls is because they don’t want to value the process, which, according to Bertha Oliva, isn’t an election, rather, “a public act that they [those of the coup d’état] have convened.”

Bertha is the Director of the Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) and has spoken out loudly against the coup. “There isn’t an environment of freedom of civil rights. Our political rights are not being guaranteed,” she added.

COFADEH reports that to date, 21 people have been killed in Honduras as a direct result of the coup and military regime. Among these are three women: Wendy Araceli Avila, Olga Osiris Ucles and Vicky Hernandez Castillo. Other women are intimidated, monitored and persecuted, especially those involved in organizations that are part of the resistance movement.

When the press conference ended, and questions were taken from the floor, an aging woman stood up to say, “I sell little cakes. I am a humble woman who is suffering. I am sad. It breaks my heart to know that my President is not free.” She went on to say that if he is guilty for what he is accused, why wasn’t he charged? Why wasn’t there a legal process to judge him?

Leonel Casco with the Lawyers Front Against the Coup asks the same thing: if Zelaya was doing something illegal, why wasn’t there a legal process to indict him or formally charge him for his crimes? Why haven’t his constitutional rights been guaranteed, like right to innocence until proven guilty, right to defense? Casco says that Honduras is in a state of defenselessness.

“There are no legal or constitutional guarantees and we are living in a militarized state. There are not conditions here for free elections” he says.

The Lawyers Front Against the Coup represents over 650 lawyers working to defend the rights of citizens who are being illegally detained and charged for bogus crimes since the de facto regime took power.

Violence against women is, unfortunately, a tool for repression and to generate fear used throughout the world. The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women will be commemorated in Canada on December 6, on the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, in which 14 women were singled out for their gender and murdered. In addition to vigils, there are political advocacy campaigns planned while ongoing questioning of how to strengthen public institutions and society as a whole to support women and deconstruct systems of patriarchic oppression against them continue.

The assassination of the Mirabel Sisters had the opposite affect that the Dominican Republic’s dictator Trujillo hoped for: instead of getting rid of the problem by ordering the Sisters murder, it only served to cause major uprising and strengthen popular resistance to the dictatorship, which fell only six months later.

Five months into Micheleti’s de facto regime, the voice of Honduras’ women continue to be heard: My body is mine!

Ni golpes de estado, ni golpes a las mujeres!

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