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Solidarity with the Honduran people in Pandemic Times:  COVID-19, Another Weapon in the Hands of the Dictatorship

The U.S. and Canada-backed regime of Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) is using the very real dangers and fears of the
coronavirus pandemic to militarize the country, justify acts of corruption, destroyand further privatize public services, repress dissent, and criminalize poverty.

 

On March 15, 2020, without previous implementation of any minimal COVID-19 prevention measures, JOH implemented a nation-wide lockdown enforced by and managed by the Honduran military and police. The regime suspended numerous
constitutional guarantees, including the right to freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and freedom from arbitrary detention. The regime closed public spaces and many businesses, and, in the name of enforcing the lockdown, has carried out hundreds of arrests. Some of these arrests have been politically-motivated.

 

On March 17 in the southern city of Choluteca, the police surrounded the home of a well-known community activist, Aleyda Huete. The next day, Huete was released from jail after an international and national outcry against her arrest but still faces charges and death threats that are believed to grow out of her opposition to the JOH dictatorship. Journalists covering police evictions of the public markets are threatened to be put in government-run quarantine.

 

The Honduran government has used the crisis to justify freeing at least one individual indicted and jailed on corruption charges and also named in connection to JOH’s brother, Tony Hernandez’s drug trafficking activities. This is while the
government continues to ignore judicial motions and demands to free the eight Guapinol defenders and political prisoners that are at exceptional risk inside Honduran prisons.

 

Over the last few days, the desperation of the population in rural and urban areas has led to increased government attacks and repression. At the best of times, 60% of Hondurans live in poverty and half of that number live in extreme poverty. Approximately 70% of employment in Honduras is through the informal sector, and with the closure of street markets, small, road-side vendors, streets and parks, an emergency life and death situation is growing across the country.

 

With the extreme government-imposed measures, Hondurans are being forced to “lockdown and starve” and are unable to go to the streets in search of food, assistance, and whatever means to survive without facing arrest, harassment, and
repression. As the well-known Honduran human rights organization COFADEH explained: “A curfew can’t be obeyed when people are dying of hunger.” The already difficult economic, social, and political situation in Honduras has been
exacerbated by the pandemic, and again, Hondurans are being forced to confront the illegitimate, U.S. and Canada-backed JOH regime in the most extreme circumstances.

 

In early March, under the real threat posed by the global pandemic but when less than 3 COVID-19 cases were reported in the country at the time, the Honduran Congress used the crisis to approve over $420 million USD in alleged assistance to confront the crisis. In addition, the JOH government is requesting support from the international financial institutions that have turned a blind eye while feeding public corruption for several years. The Honduran Convergence Against Re-election fears that this money will never be audited and instead, used to line the pockets of the corrupt instead of addressing the public health crisis. As of March 29, there are 139 reported COVID-19 cases, 3 resulting deaths, and increasing economic and public health demands being made by the population.

 

Despite the availability of emergency funds, the government’s response to the crisis has been to politicize food packages, delivering small amounts of food aid only to families on the National Party’s election roster. With growing indignation and
desperation, people in several communities, municipalities, and urban neighbourhoods have taken to the streets and blocked roads, demanding that food and basic supplies be provided. These protests are met with repression, live
bullets, tear gas, and arrests. In addition, physicians, medical residents, and healthcare workers have walked off the job and continue to complain of the complete lack of basic medical protective equipment in the largest public hospitals
in the two major cities. These complaints add to the growing frustration of the intentional neglect of the public healthcare system which has been decimated by corrupt plundering and privatization efforts for several years.

 

The JOH government’s corruption is well-documented, whether it is theft of money designated for public health services that then found its way into JOH’s 2013 election funds or the bank accounts National Party officials and their family
members accused of theft of public funds, fraud, etc. Hondurans are outraged by the evidence presented in U.S. Federal Courts in New York during court proceedings against JOH’s brother Tony Hernandez, his cousin, and other narcotics traffickers that link JOH directly to drug cartels in Honduras, and the fact that, despite this evidence and the blatant corruption and violations of human rights, JOH is still supported politically and financially by the U.S. and Canadian
governments.

 

The Honduras Solidarity Network stands with the Honduran people and organizations who call for an end to the repression and corruption and demand urgent funds and resources for healthcare, food, and water for the Honduran
people. We also continue to stand with the people’s demands for an end to the U.S. and Canada-backed narco-dictatorship. Our governments must stop propping up an illegitimate and corrupt government in Honduras.

For daily updates on the situation in Honduras including possible calls to action,please visit:

Facebook: Honduras Solidarity Network
Twitter: @hondurassol

March 30, 2020

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Our friends at the Latin America Working Group (LAWG) are gathering signatures on a petition to President Trump and Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf to stop deportations to Mexico and Central America during the COVID-19 pandemic. While international travel is restricted during this health crisis, it is outrageous that the U.S. risks increasing spread of the coronavirus by deporting detained migrants. They already may have been exposed to the virus while in overcrowded detention centers. Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have fragile and underfunded public health systems, which are having enough difficulties treating the coronavirus patients they already have.

 

Please read and sign the petition at the link below.

https://lawg.salsalabs.org/stopdeportations/index.html

 

For more information at LAWG, click here

 

“Central America Fears Trump Could Deport the Coronavirus” (Los Angeles Times)

 

 

 

 

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Last year, Guatemala experienced a constitutional crisis when former President Jimmy Morales ignored orders from the highest court in the land, ended the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (who had accused him of corruption), and surrounded their offices with tanks to force commissioners to leave the country. Now a constitutional crisis has erupted in El Salvador. Here’s what happened.

 

President Nayib Bukele called for an extraordinary session of the Legislative Assembly on Sunday, February 9, at 3:00 p.m. in order to get approval for a $109 million international loan he wanted for modernizing military and police forces. He insinuated on social media to his followers that if deputies did not show up, they would be violating constitutional order and that the people had the right of insurrection in this case, although the Legislative Assembly is an independent branch of government that is authorized to make decisions about its own affairs. Not wanting to be dictated to, deputies scheduled a regular session for Monday, February 10, to take up the matter.

 

The president then called for his supporters to gather at the Legislative Assembly and deployed military and police forces throughout the city. A small number of deputies showed up for the extraordinary session, and then the President brought armed soldiers into the legislative chamber to surround the room, railing against the deputies who had not shown up and against all of them for not yet passing his request to approve the loan. Finally, he prayed silently, left the chamber, and spoke to his followers outside that God had told him to be patient. In a real violation of Constitutional order, he commanded the deputies to pass his request within the week, or he would call out his supporters again, with the implied threat that they would remove the deputies from offfice by force.

 

The militarization of El Salvador’s political spaces had been, until now, a thing of the past, since before Peace Accords were signed in 1992 ending the civil war. Now, political leaders on the left and the right are concerned that President Bukele is about to perform a self-coup, using the armed forces and his supporters to take control of the Legislature. CRLN urges its members to read the joint statement, sent to us by U.S .- El Salvador Sister Cities, signed by some of El Salvador’s social movements and to learn more from the articles below. Then, please take action, following the Action Alert from our friends at CISPES (copied below the articles).

 

 

Joint statement by groups in Salvadoran popular movements:  https://www.elsalvadorsolidarity.org/pronunciamiento-bukele-militars

 

 

Article in “El Salvador Perspectives”: www.elsalvadorperspectives.com/2020/02/bukele-sends-armed-troops-before-him.html?utm_source=MailChimp+Bulletin&utm_campaign=857ddc5cf9-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_02_10_10_52&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d6d7f903dd-857ddc5cf9-420957

 

 

Press release by U.S. Solidarity groups: https://www.elsalvadorsolidarity.org/press-release-regarding-feb-2020/?utm_source=MailChimp+Bulletin&utm_campaign=857ddc5cf9-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_02_10_10_52&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d6d7f903dd-857ddc5cf9-420957

 

TAKE ACTION!

  1. Use this link to send an email to your Representative in Congress, asking them to speak out against Bukele’s power grab in El Salvador.
  2. Call your Representative and/or Senator and ask them to speak out. Call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected to their office. Ask to speak with the person in charge of foreign affairs.Sample script: My name is ______ and I am a resident of _________. I am calling because I am extremely concerned about threats to democracy in El Salvador. Have you been following the crisis there over the weekend? The president commanded the legislature to hold an extraordinary session in order to approve a loan he wanted for security funding, which he does not have the authority to do, in this case, and threatened consequences if they didn’t show up. Then he deployed the Armed Forces to occupy the legislature in a clear violation of the Peace Accords. It is urgent that Members of Congress speak out against this rollback of democracy in El Salvador. Will you make a statement calling on the President Bukele to respect the autonomy of the elected legislature? Will you call on the U.S. Embassy to do the same?

[They will probably want more details. If so, ask for their email address and offer to connect them with Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of CISPES, who is coordinating the national effort and can provide additional information: alexis@cispes.org. Please let Sharon Hunter-Smith in the CRLN office know if you reach your Illinois Representative. She will work with you to get Illinois Representatives to speak out and will stay in contact with Alexis.]]

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In “Deported to Danger: United States Deportation Policies Expose Salvadorans to Death and Abuse,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) shares the results of its investigation into what happens to Salvadorans seeking asylum who are nevertheless deported back to El Salvador. Here’s a quick summary of what they found:

  • Between 2014-2018, the U.S. recognized only 18.2% of Salvadorans as qualifying for asylum.
  • In the same period, the U.S. and Mexico deported 213,000 Salvadorans.
  • While no official tally exists, HRW was able to document 138 people who were killed after being deported, many for the same reasons they had fled from El Salvador in the first place. The number killed is likely higher, since not every death makes it into public records.
  • HRW was also able to identify over 70 people deported who were subjected to sexual violence, torture, other harm, or who went missing, also at the hands of the same people whose violence they had fled. The number is almost certainly higher, since these instances are almost never reported.

Here is the link to the full report: https://www.hrw.org/report/2020/02/05/deported-danger/united-states-deportation-policies-expose-salvadorans-death-and

The U.S. now has a cap on the number of  refugees allowed into the country, and much lower percentages of them are actually receiving asylum in response to their petitions.

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We had a very short timeframe–2 days–to get U.S. Representatives from Illinois to sign a letter asking the Department of Homeland Security to end the mis-named Migrant Protection Protocols, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexican border cities indefinitely until their court cases come up. Now the deadline to sign has been extended until tomorrow, February 7!

Thanks to your calls, 9 Representatives from Illinois have signed on so far: Rush, Kelly, Garcia, Quigley, Danny Davis, Krishnamoorthi, Schakowsky, Foster, and Bustos. Please call and thank them if they are your Representative. Rep. Schneider’s staffer has contacted CRLN to say that they will have an opportunity tonight to put the letter before him, and they expect he will sign. We will keep you posted on his action. If your Representatives are Lipinski, Casten, or Underwood, or any of the Republican Representatives, please call again and emphasize that it is horrific that our country is forcing people who fled danger once to wait in areas without sanitary facilities, access to food and water or proper shelter, and where they are subjected to violence, extortion and kidnapping by organized crime.

When CRLN made calls from our office, many Congressional staff people thanked us for flagging the letter in what was a very busy week full of other nationally televised events: the Iowa Caucuses, the State of the Union Address, and the final day of the Senate impeachment trial.

Now we need to make an effort to get these same Representatives and more to sign onto H.R. 2662, the Asylum Seeker Protection Act, which would defund this cruel “Remain in Mexico” policy. So far, only Garcia, Schakowsky and Schneider have signed. If you are represented by one of these 3, please call and thank them. If not, please call your member of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 2662.

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The so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) implemented by the Trump administration since January 29, 2019 have been in place for a year, and we have seen the disastrous results. We are alarmed that 60,000 people,having fled life-threatening situations in their home countries and having experienced trauma on their way north, have attempted to seek asylum in the U.S., only to be told that they must fend for themselves in Mexican border cities until their court case comes up, usually 6-8 months later. Organized crime, which has preyed upon migrants for years, poses a grave danger for these asylum seekers. In addition, they live in precarious conditions, with little access to food, water or shelter; no sanitation services; very few doctors available on site to provide medical care; and no access to U.S. lawyers who could represent them in their asylum cases.

A Congressional delegation went to the Texas-Mexican border to provide oversight of the MPP. Click here to read what they found.

We must act to end this inhumane and dangerous policy! Please call the U.S. House Switchboard at (202224-3121, ask to be connected to your Representative’s office (If you don’t know the name of your Representative, click here), and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 2662, the Asylum Seeker Protection Act, which would defund the MPP. Leave your phone number or email address and ask the office to let you know whether the Representative has signed or not. Let them know you are tired of hearing politicians portray all migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers as murderous criminals, and that you see them as community members, neighbors and friends.

If you receive a response from your Representative’s office, please call the CRLN office (773-293-2964) or email shunter-smith@crln.org to let us know. We will be following the progress of this House Resolution.

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CRLN is a member of the Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN), a decentralized network of approximately 30 organizations from across Canada and the United States that are committed to demonstrating and advocating for solidarity with the Honduran social movements. Here is the statement put out by HSN in response to the narco-trafficking trial of President Juan Orlando Hernandez’ (JOH’s) brother Tony, himself a former Honduran Congressman:

JOH Must Go!
Stop US and Canadian Support for Honduras’ Narco Dictatorship!

Honduras’ narco-dictatorship installed through a US backed coup MUST GO! For ten years, since the US backed coup in June 2009, a crisis of the rule of law, constitutionality, and democracy has deepened as a blatantly criminal neoliberal dictatorship has sunk its teeth into Honduras.

The 2009 coup, subsequent fraudulent elections, official corruption, and impunity and violence by the state against its people are reasons enough to call for an end to the regime. Now the public exposure of the depths of criminal activity and narco-perversion of the entire state of Honduras by the dictatorship confirms what many Hondurans have denounced for years.

The details are emerging in a US federal court in New York City, where Tony Hernandez, brother of current Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), went on trial starting October 2nd. The testimony against Tony Hernandez in just the first days of the trial include information that narcotics traffickers, including El Chapo, gave $4 million to the presidential campaigns of National Party politicians Pepe Lobo and Juan Orlando Hernandez. Pepe Lobo was installed in office through the farcical elections of November 2009, which simply aimed to whitewash the illegal coup. JOH took power in 2013 (the year he got the “donation” from El Chapo) after highly questionable elections, and then he declared himself the winner in a blatantly fraudulent election in 2017. Beyond money, evidence being presented shows that Tony Hernandez was also directly
involved in murders.

All of these crimes were never prosecuted in Honduras. Witnesses who were involved in the crimes have even stated that they knew that any investigations in Honduras would be blocked by the Honduran government. Meanwhile, the Honduran justice system focuses on arrests and imprisonment of people participating in protests against the
narco-dictator: small farmers recuperating land and indigenous communities protecting land and water from mining and other extraction industries.

Throughout this post-coup history, both Democratic and Republican administrations in the U.S. and administrations in Canada have upended Honduran democracy and supported dictatorship while diligently advancing the interests of large corporations engaged in the exploitation of labor and resources in Honduras. In so doing, they have aided in the theft of the lives, property, freedom, and rights of the Honduran people.

The Honduran Solidarity Network supports the demand of the Honduran people and their organizations that JOH immediately leave office and be held accountable for all of the crimes he and his government have committed. Hondurans want a process to renovate democracy and constitutionality that involves the social movements, opposition political parties and society as a whole and works on solutions for the economic, social and political destruction that has taken place since the 2009 coup. This means support for dictatorship from Canada and the US must end now!

October 13, 2019

The Honduras Soldarity Network co-coordinator, Karen Spring will be observing the Tony Hernandez trial in New York City and publishing reports on HSN Facebook, twitter@HondurasSol and in the blog Aqui Abajo.

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CRLN, along with the Honduras Solidarity Network, is pushing initiates for the liberation of political prisoners Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez! The extents to which these two have been repressed are examples of the perpetual efforts by the US and other entities to undermine Honduras’ sovereignty.

Edwin is a close friend of Berta Cáceres, slain leader and the subject of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.

  • Ask your representatives to speak out on the bill:

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/urge-your-rep-to-speak-out-on-10th-anniversary/

  • Follow the link for a timeline of the violations of Due Process on the Judicial Case Against Political Prisoners Edwin Espinal & Raul Alvarez:

http://freeedwinespinallibertad.blogspot.com/

  • Watch the brief video detailing events of Edwin Espinal’s case:

https://vimeo.com/307472141

  • You will find alerts on the risk to the lives of Edwin and Raul by clicking Like and Follow on the Free Edwin Espinal Libertad Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/freeEDWINESPINALlibertad/

 

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Click the links to contact your representative and ask them to sign Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act:

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/urge-your-rep-to-speak-out-on-10th-anniversary/

https://www.solidaritycollective.org/bertacaceresact

The Solidarity Collective includes that the bill states:

“The Honduran police are widely established to be deeply corrupt and to commit human rights abuses, including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder, with impunity” and that the military has committed violations of human rights. Therefore, the bill asks that the United States suspend all “…security assistance to Honduran military and police until such time as human rights violations by Honduran state security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Read about 10 Years Since the Coup in Honduras:
https://actionnetwork.org/letters/urge-your-rep-to-speak-out-on-10th-anniversary/

Follow what our friends at the Honduras Solidarity Network share on Facebook: @HondurasSolidarityNetwork and Twitter: @HondurasSol

You can find updates on Berta’s case at: https://berta.copinh.org/

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On June 28th, 2019, 10 years will have passed since the 2009 coup. For 10 years, Hondurans have maintained a powerful resistance against neoliberalism, militarism and corruption, and continue to demand a real democracy, sovereignty and a “refounding” of the country. The resistance against the US and Canada-backed regime in Honduras continues to inspire others. Today, teachers and health care workers have ignited the latest upsurge as they refused to accept the @JuanOrlandoH regime’s dismantling of public education and health care. The struggle is far from over, stand up in solidarity with Hondurans!

Click on our Action Alerts page to find out how you can help by asking your reps to speak out on the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act

Be sure to follow our friends @HondurasSolidarityNetwork on Facebook and see their release on the topic at:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1b6ZqKkMzsj9xYu5MZ0UrfKKp9AwK7ELTvLwcf8wOcpE/edit

The following article offers context on the coup:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/honduras-protest-crackdown-190621221439388.html

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