HONDURAS: 2 MORE JOURNALISTS KILLED - Alfredo Villatoro and Erick Martínez Ávila
HONDURAS: A VIOLENCE, REPRESSION AND IMPUNITY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
by Grahame Russell, May 17, 2012, firstname.lastname@example.org
There is no end in sight to violence and repression in Honduras. There is also no end in sight to American and Canadian governments and business maintaining political, economic and military relations with by military-backed regime.
Even as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officers killed at least 4 Honduran civilians - including 2 pregnant women - in the name of the "drug war" (http://rightsaction.org/action-content/honduras-us-government-dea-kills-...), 2 more journalists have been killed in Honduras. (Below: BBC, CNN and UNESCO reports on killings of journalists Alfredo Villatoro and Erick Martínez Ávila.)
'VIOLENCE CAPITAL' OF THE WORLD
Since the June 2009 military coup, that ousted the democratically elected government, Honduras has been referred to as the 'murder capital' of the world, a 'journalist killing' capital of the Americas, an 'LGBT killing capital', a 'prisoner killing capital', a 'lawyer killing capital', etc.
In January, The Miami Herald published an editorial "Central America's free-fire zone. Our opinion: dramatic crisis in Honduras demands action" (http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/24/2606175/central-americas-free-fire-zone.html). They write:
"The country is quickly turning into a disaster zone. ... To make matters worse in Honduras, there are indications that elements of the U.S.-backed government are complicit in the violence and criminality. ... A report in Sunday's Miami Herald ("Graft, greed, mayhem turn Honduras into murder capital of world") offers an eye-opening look at the rampant mayhem. Honduras has become a free-fire zone ... . The murder rate of 82.1 per 100,000 residents (compared to 5.5 per 100,000 in Florida), gives Honduras the highest homicide rate in the world."
In January, the New York Times published an op-ed piece "In Honduras, a mess made in the U.S." (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/opinion/in-honduras-a-mess-helped-by-the-us.html). Dana Frank writes:
"It's time to acknowledge the foreign policy disaster that American support for the Porfirio Lobo administration in Honduras has become. Ever since the June 28, 2009, coup that deposed Honduras's democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, the country has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss. That abyss is in good part the State Department's making. ... According to the United Nations, it now has the world's highest murder rate, and San Pedro Sula, its second city, is more dangerous than Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a center for drug cartel violence. Much of the press in the United States has attributed this violence solely to drug trafficking and gangs. But the coup was what threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression."
DARK TUNNEL OF VIOLENCE AND REPRESSION
In the short term, there is no light at the end of Honduras' tunnel of violence and repression. A fundamental, underlying problem is that American and Canadian governments and business are maintaining profitable economic and military relations with the military-backed Honduran regime, turning a blind eye to, and partially benefiting from the violence, repression and impunity. These North American relations 'legitimize' and empower the regime.
SHORT TERM CHALLENGES
In the short term, North Americans must keep on writing and pressuring their elected politicians and other government officials, with copies to the media. Public shaming of and pressure on North American governments and businesses is vital if we are to weaken the 'legitimizing' and empowerment of the Honduran regime.
It is also crucial to continue supporting (with funds, human rights accompaniment, solidarity delegations, etc.) civil society groups in Honduras - many of which are members of the National Resistance Front - that are courageously struggling to denounce the abuses and human rights violations of the regime, all the while struggling and working to restore their democratic order and to re-found the State and society.
2013 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
Despite the repression, violence and impunity, there is a chance for positive change in 2013. The wife of the militarily ousted President Zelaya has been chosen as leader of a new political party - LIBRE. Whereas many Hondurans, now in the National Resistance Front, were not Zelaya supporters before the coup, they have been moved by the dignified position that both Mel Zelaya and his wife Xiomara took, since the day of the coup.
Even as repression and violence will assuredly continue through 2012 and into 2013, with complete impunity, the 2013 presidential elections will pit the corrupted pro-coup, pro-oligarchy traditional parties versus this new LIBRE party that has grown out of civil society's courageous opposition to the military coup and on-going State repression and to the overwhelming desire of the Honduran people to re-found their State and society and restore a truly democratic order.
LIBRE would easily win truly democratic elections, given the chance. However, these elections will be very complicated, at best, and will likely see corruption and systematic threats and repression against people aligned with the LIBRE party
The struggle in Honduras against repression, violence, corruption and impunity, and for democracy and a just and equal society is at once a Honduran struggle and also a struggle for the Americas, south to north.
ABDUCTED HONDURAS REPORTER ALFREDO VILLATORO FOUND DEAD. MR VILLATORO WORKED FOR A MAJOR RADIO STATION
Honduran journalist Alfredo Villatoro has been found dead on the outskirts of the capital, Tegucigalpa, a week after he was abducted. Mr Villatoro, a radio reporter, was dressed in a police uniform, Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla said. He had been kidnapped by a gang of young men on his way to work on 9 May.
Rights groups say more than 20 reporters have been killed in Honduras since a 2009 coup that ousted the then president, Manuel Zelaya.
Following his abduction, his employers at the HRN radio station said Mr Villatoro's captors had been in contact with his family to confirm they were holding him, but gave no further details. Mr Villatoro had reported receiving death threats.
Mr Villatoro's abduction came just days after the disappearance and subsequent death of journalist and gay rights campaigner Erick Martinez. Mr Martinez's body was found by the roadside in the village of Guasculile, north of Tegucigalpa. Local media quoted police as saying Mr Martinez's body showed signs of strangulation. Honduras has the world's highest murder rate and pressure groups say journalists face a growing risk amid a rise in drug trafficking and organised crime.
ANOTHER HONDURAN JOURNALIST SLAIN
From Nelson Quinones and Elvin Sandoval, May 16, 2012
(CNN) -- A Honduran radio journalist has been found executed, authorities said -- the 22nd journalist to be killed in the nation since 2010. As he drove to work last week, Alfredo Villatoro Angel was kidnapped by six unknown people traveling in two vehicles, police said. His body was found Tuesday night. "He had two shots to the head, and his face was covered with a red bandanna," Security Ministry spokesman Ivan Mejia said.
Dozens of relatives, co-workers and government officials flocked to the morgue in Tegucigalpa in solidarity. Video showed dozens of people crying and holding each other.
HONDURAS OVERTAKEN BY ORGANIZED CRIME
Villatoro is the latest in what the Committee to Protect Journalists this month called a "wave of violence and intimidation against journalists." According to the media freedom organization, an atmosphere of violence and impunity has made Honduras one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. "A climate of unrelenting hostility toward Honduran journalists is restricting the flow of news and eroding citizens' right to information," Carlos Lauría, the Committee to Protect Journalists' senior program coordinator for the Americas, said last week. "This situation endures because Honduran authorities have yet to take decisive action to enforce the law and guarantee the safety of journalists."
According to the United Nations, Honduras has the highest homicide rate per capita in the world.
Danilo Izaguirre, who was Villatoro's companion at National Radio Honduras (HRN by its Spanish initials), said journalists will continue their work, despite the message the killers are sending. "If it (the message) is to shut up, I will not be silent. If it is about speaking the truth, we'll tell the truth anywhere we are located, from any trench, from anywhere," he said.
President Lobo, who took office in 2010, urged journalists not to be intimidated and said the government will continue to fight crime. But according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Lobo's government has minimized crimes against journalists and has been slow in bringing the killers to justice. According to the country's Public Ministry, only five cases relating to journalist killings are being processed, and no one has been convicted.
"This is serious, especially the degree of impunity ... in these cases of death and threats against journalists and the media. That tells the world that we have failed in criminal investigations," said Andres Pavon, president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras.
UNESCO DIRECTOR-GENERAL DEPLORES MURDER OF HONDURAN JOURNALIST AND RIGHTS ACTIVIST ERIC MARTÍNEZ ÁVILA
15.05.2012 - UNESCOPRESS
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova today called for an investigation into the killing of Erick Martínez Ávila, a journalist and gay rights activist. "I condemn the murder of Erick Martínez Ávila," declared the Director-General. "I am deeply concerned about this second journalist killed in Honduras in a month and call on the authorities to bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime against the basic human right of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democracy and rule of law and it is essential that journalists be allowed to contribute freely to political and social debate."
Erick Martínez Ávila, 32 was a spokesman for Kukulcán, an organization that defends lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. According to Reporters Without Borders, Ávila's body was found on 7 May, two days after he had been reported missing. He is said to have been strangled.
Nineteen journalists and media workers, including Erick Martínez Ávila, have been killed in Honduras since 2009. They are listed on the dedicated webpage, UNESCO Remembers Assassinated Journalists.
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NO MORE POLITICS AND BUSINESS AS USUAL
Rights Action asks North Americans to keep on, keep on, keep on sending copies of this information, and your own letters, to your own elected politicians (congress members, senators, members of parliament) and to other government officials and your local media.
Since the June 2009 military coup, that ousted the democratically elected government of President Zelaya in Honduras, the governments of the USA and Canada are the governments that have most supported and legitimized the post-coup, military-backed regime of Honduras. North American companies and investors have increased their business activities in Honduras since the coup. In no small part, this illegitimate, repressive regime remains in power due to its political, economic and military relations with the USA and Canada.
- WHITE HOUSE: http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/, 202-456-1111, Comment Line: 202-456-1414
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