OAS Commission in Honduras

HAVANA TIMES, Oct. 7 – The following is a report from Honduras from the website rel.uita.org, with photos by Giorgio Trucchi.

Dialogue with Wolves

Campesinos continued struggling for their freedom on eve of the arrival of the OAS mission. Indigenous request political asylum in Guatemala.

Expectations are growing in Honduras with the arrival of the delegation of OAS foreign ministers and the initiation of dialogue, though its content remains contradictory and uncertain.  Meanwhile, the victims of repression -who continue struggling for their freedom after more than 101 days of resistance-, have intensified their efforts with the recent repeal of the executive clampdown on civil rights imposed by the de facto government.

Photo: Girogio Trucchi rel-UITA
Photo: Giorgio Trucchi rel-UITA

Early yesterday morning, October 6, the Court of Oral Appeals of the Supreme Court of Justice in Tegucigalpa was the scene of the trial begun against 51 of the 55 people belonging to the three main campesino confederations of Honduras.  They were evicted by the police and the army after a peaceful three-month takeover of the facilities of the National Agrarian Institute (INA).

Accused of sedition against state security, 38 men have remained in jail for more than one week on a hunger strike after having declared themselves political prisoners.  At the same time, preventive measures were taken against five adult women, six elderly individuals and two minors.

The judge who ordered these provisional measures at the same time released four INA workers who are members of the Union of Workers of the National Agrarian Institute (SITRAINA), an organization affiliated with UITA.

According to defense attorneys for the 51 individuals, there are sufficient grounds for their cases to be definitively dismissed; however, they are concerned that reprisals will be taken against their defendants to thwart the resistance movement against the coup.

Dozens of people arrived at the Supreme Court of Justice wielding signs and banners, and chanting slogans in a show of their unconditional support for the detainees, who slowly made their way into the courtroom.

“The workers affiliated with SITRAINA are continuing their resistance,” asserted union secretary-general Luis Santos Madrid.

101 Days of Terror, photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA
101 Days of Terror, photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA

We do not recognize the new authorities imposed by the de facto government, and we are making posters and banners to make people aware of the situation taking place within the National Agrarian Institute.

“As long as our comrades remain detained, we will not negotiate with the de facto minister. Today we are here to support the struggle of unjustly detained people; and the four SITRAINA comrades that were found innocent will testify to the distortions in all of the allegations,” continued Luis Santos Madrid

“We will continue struggling until they’re freed and constitutional order is restored in the country,” he concluded.

Through an official statement, President Manuel Zelaya demanded of the dictatorship “the immediate release of political prisoners, the immediate cessation of the repression of people who are resisting, and the re-opening of Radio Globo and Channel 36, since these actions took place under an illegal ordinance and are infringing the rights and freedoms of individuals and the media, which have resisted and who have spoken out for the return to constitutional order.”

Politician Asylum Pursued by Indigenous Peoples

Twelve members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), among them four minors, entered the Guatemalan embassy in Tegucigalpa yesterday (October 6) to request political asylum.  They contend they are suffering political persecution on the part of the current de facto government.

Photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA
Photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA

The twelve members of the Lenca ethnic group, from Itinbucá Department in western Honduras, contend that they are victims of persecution, torture and repression occurring as a result of the coup d’état and for their having actively participated in mobilizations organized by the National Front Against the Coup.

According to COPINH director Salvador Zúniga, “We’ve seen people killed; we’ve seen hundreds of arrestees and today there are still more than 60 people imprisoned. There are summary executions. The situation is outrageous.”

Among the people that today requested asylum in the Guatemala embassy, four of them had suffered imprisonment and one of them displayed fresh scars from blows to the face, head and back, and signs of torture.  We are confronted with a terrible régime that is making attempts against people’s lives,” Zúniga charged.

Hours later, the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry issued an official statement outlining that “article 27 of the constitution establishes that Guatemala recognizes the right of sanctuary and grants it in agreement with international practices.”  At the same time this announcement acknowledged the presence within the OAS delegation of Guatemalan Foreign Minister Haroldo Rodas Melgar, who is looking “to set up of a negotiating table to search for a solution to the political crisis being experienced in Honduras.

The official statement also demanded that “the de facto authorities fully respect human rights and cease acts of repression against citizens.”  Within the next few days the Guatemalan government will announce its decision regarding the asylum request presented by the COPINH members.

OAS Commission on the Ground

This morning (October 7) the high-level OAS commission arrived in Honduras.  The commission is made up of the foreign ministers of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Canada and Jamaica, as well as the OAS ambassadors from Argentina and Brazil.

The commission will also be joined by OAS Secretary-general Jose Miguel Insulza, Spanish Secretary of State for Ibero-America Juan Pablo de Laiglesia and a representative of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

The objective of the commission will be to spur the dialogue process, while -at the time of this report- the National Front Against the Coup d’état had still not decided if it would participate, though it has been invited to do so by President Manuel Zelaya.

Translation by Havana Times