Journalists, Activists Targeted as Honduran Repression Grows

[Source – Democracy Now!]


Workers, students and activists have held a month-long general strike in Honduras to protest repression by the government of President Porfirio Lobo. Lobo came to power following elections under the regime of Roberto Micheletti, who seized power in a violent military coup against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. Honduras is one of the world’s most violent countries, with a homicide rate four times higher than in Mexico, according to national statistics. In 2010, Honduras became the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, with this March being the deadliest month on record. We speak to Gerardo Torres, an independent journalist and a leading member of the National Front of Popular Resistance in Honduras. [includes rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Honduras, where for the past month workers, students, activists have held a general strike to protest repression by the government of President Porfirio Lobo. He came to power following elections held under the regime of Roberto Micheletti, who seized power in a military coup against the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. It was the first military coup in Central America in a quarter of a century.

Well, under Lobo’s administration, state security forces have brutally cracked down on thousands of teachers demonstrating against the privatization of Honduran education. In 2010, Honduras became the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, with March being the deadliest month on record.

To discuss the situation, we’re joined by Gerardo Torres. He is an independent journalist, leading member of the National Front of Popular Resistance in Honduras.

Welcome. Talk about the situation in Honduras right now.

GERARDO TORRES: Well, thank you, Amy.

Since the coup of June 2009, March has become—was the most violent month until now, even worse than when Micheletti was at the head of the coup. The United States government has supported Lobo and is trying to say to the world that he’s a legitimate president and that we are in a democratic process, in a reconciliation process also.

But you can see what’s going on right now in Honduras. We have an average of—2011, the last few months—of 25 women killed each week in Honduras. We have over 40 hate murders against the gay community members. We have four teachers that have been shot; two of them died during demonstrations. We have three high school students found three weeks ago near Tegucigalpa, the same day Hillary Clinton was congratulating Lobo for his advancements in human rights and for his advancements in the reconciliation of Honduras.

So, right now, what we see is that in the streets of Tegucigalpa and the main cities of Honduras, we have huge tear gas bombs thrown at us, rubber bullets, people being imprisoned, people dying. But on the one hand, you can see Santos from Colombia or the State Department asking for Latin America to put Honduras back in the OAS, in its national—in the General Assembly that’s going to be taken in June. So, in one way, we can see how we’re facing repression, but on the other way, there are a lot of efforts to get some legitimacy to Lobo.

The other thing is that there is no freedom of speech, there’s no freedom of meeting in Honduras. There’s a lot of violence increasing, because the regime knows that it has the support of the mainstream media. And in one year and three months of Lobo being president of Honduras, he hasn’t finished one single project. And all the budget, it’s spent in weapons and the control of mass media. And now the United States has just approved $200 million for the drug war, and it’s going to give it to militaries and policemen in Honduras that are known to be part of drug bands. So it’s very contradictory and it’s very ironic how, in some other parts of the world, United States is supposedly helping popular movements against dictators and against military regimes, but in Honduras, it refused to—keep on giving money to those who are killing the people of Honduras. This is the second part of a process of the coup; the first one was to take out Zelaya and to try to destroy the resistance.

AMY GOODMAN: Manuel Zelaya—

GERARDO TORRES: Manuel Zelaya.

AMY GOODMAN:—who was ousted June 28th, 2009.


AMY GOODMAN: Afterwards, a truth commission was set up. It was set up by the Organization of American States, and it designated the former Costa Rican president, Óscar Arias, the Nobel Prize winner, as mediator between the coup regime and the ousted government. What happened?

GERARDO TORRES: Well, it’s a truth commission that is made by the regime. It’s sponsored by Lobo and his government. So, we don’t expect much of it. There’s another commission that is made from the platform of human rights organizations. It’s called the Commission of Truth, La Comisión de la Verdad, which is trying to gather together—they have been all around Honduras getting the testimony of the people that have been victim of the repression, of the violence. And they’re going to present their final report in October or November of this year. We’re going to have two reports: one in which Lobo already said that no one is going to—

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

GERARDO TORRES: Lobo is not going to go to—nobody is going to go to [inaudible], and the other one that’s going to say some things. Something that I have to say is that the new part of the coup is—there’s going to be, on the second week of May, a conference that’s called “Honduras Open for Business,” which has its title in English. And we’re going to have in Honduras, in San Pedro Sula, Álvaro Uribe, from ex-president of Colombia, Carlos Slim from Mexico. Bill Clinton is invited; he still hasn’t said if he’s going or not. And the idea is to put on sale what they have control by the military forces.

AMY GOODMAN: Gerardo Torres, thanks so much for being with us.