Honduras: Women Targeted for Resisting the Coup
28 Sep 2009
Honduran women continue their resistance to the de facto regime that kidnapped and ousted the democratically elected president in a coup d’état on June 28, 2009. In August an international delegation organized by JASS (www.justassociates.org), Petateras, Radio Feminista and allied organizations traveled to Honduras and accompanied Honduran Feminists in Resistance, an alliance of feminists and women’s organizations. The delegation, together with the Feminists in Resistance, documented the impact of the current political crisis on women – in particular, the human rights abuses, sexual harrassment and rape committed against women who are resisting the coup and calling for a return to democracy.
“Women have walked this country from end to end, raising consciousness about what is happening and connecting women and movements. Like the “grandmother”, an old woman who, in El Paraíso, took a megaphone and for 18 hours straight stood in front of the military and told stories and parables. Or the young women who challenge the military head-on, pushing their bayonets out of the way so that they don’t use them on anyone again…. those women who have been raped, verbally and emotionally tortured, the political prisoners… those women who refuse to stop honoring life through their actions.” ~ María Suárez, Radio Feminista
Women challenge the coup-instigated violence
Saturday 23rd November 2013
Assassinations, death threats and kidnappings have marred the run-up to Honduran elections, writes Virginia Lopez Calvo
Tomorrow’s Honduran general election takes place in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for human rights defenders, many of them women, as well as journalists.
The Central American Women’s Network (CAWN) and our partner the Centre for Women’s Studies-Honduras have long campaigned to improve the legal framework and justice system in Honduras.
Our joint focus remains to address gender-based violence, to raise social awareness of violence in the community and to strengthen the security and human rights of women.
Last month CAWN’s partner joined four other organisations to form the Bureau of Analysis on the Situation of Human Rights in order to monitor violations during the elections.
According to the bureau, the main victims of harassment until now have been members or supporters from Libre, a new left-wing pro-democracy party.
It was formed by a coalition of radical politicians, unions and indigenous groups run by former president Manuel Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro. She proposes a demilitarisation strategy that includes using the armed forces to secure borders against organised crime and drug-trafficking, and creating a community police force to increase safety in the streets and tackle structural violence.
Zelaya was overthrown in a 2009 military coup when he proposed a non-binding referendum to amend the constitution. Zelaya started as a conservative, but shifted to the left under the influence of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
According to Zelaya, the coup was heavily supported and organised by the US government. After six months of intense political repression the military coup government was legitimised with elections that most of the international community – except the US – rejected as illegitimate.
Human rights standards and poverty are worsening under the current Honduran government. President Porfirio Lobo’s ruling National Party holds control of key government institutions such as the public ministry, the supreme court, the electoral machinery and the military.
Increasing militarisation has generated various forms of intimidation that aim to scare and demobilise Honduran citizens. Honduras has seen a considerable rise in the already high level of violence since the coup. It also has the largest homicide rate, partly due to the ongoing drugs war in the central American region.
The persecution of human rights defenders and journalists poses a huge challenge for Honduras to enjoy free and fair elections. This situation appears to have worsened in the run-up to the polls.
The most recent incident against journalists is the murder of Honduran cameraman Manuel Murillo Varela, shot in the face outside the capital Tegucicalpa.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had asked Honduras for precautionary measures to protect Murillo after police kidnapped and tortured him and a colleague for 24 hours.
Murillo was close to Zelaya and filmed soldiers forcing the president out of his bed to fly him to Costa Rica in the coup. He reported to the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras and the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation that police were seeking to confiscate video footage of demonstrations by opponents of the coup and threatened to murder his family. No fewer than 26 journalists have been killed since the coup.
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, cites the likelihood that Libre would triumph if the election was held on a level playing field. But only weeks ago the party’s assistant co-ordinator was killed at his farm by three heavily armed men.
And soon afterwards a raid took place on the house of Robelo Edwin Espinal, an active member of the resistance against the coup and a Libre sympathiser.
Moreover, also in October, military police – without a search warrant – entered the house of Marco Antonio Rodriguez, vice-president of the Sitrapan union.
Earlier this year another raid occurred at the home of Libre activist Maria Concepcion Ortega Lanza. About 50 masked soldiers and sniffer dogs detained the whole family at gunpoint, with a pistol directly pointed at her face.
So far this year 20 activists and Libre party members have received death threats.
It remains a challenge to provide fair and free elections amid the continued persecution of human rights defenders and journalists. Nonetheless, CAWN hopes the polls will not be manipulated and offer Honduran people an opportunity to be heard.
Virginia Lopez Calvo is project co-ordinator at the Central America Women’s Network
War on the Poor in Honduras: Social Control, Gangs and the US’s Role in Remilitarizing Central America: here.