Peace

In militarized Honduras, delegation speaks truth to power at U.S. embassy

NCR Editor’s note: Tom Webb traveled with an ecumenical delegation to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Jan. 24-30 to witness the repression against peaceful demonstrations to the recent presidential election. 

by Tom Webb

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS — After three days of intense listening, conversing and witnessing, members of the Emergency Religious Delegation to Honduras took a four-hour bus trip Jan. 28 from El Progreso to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to deliver a report to the U.S. Embassy.

We arrived shortly before sunset at the Loyola Center and prepared for a nighttime vigil outside the embassy. This site also serves as the satellite for Radio Progreso, one of the few independent radio networks in Honduras which investigates, analyzes and reports on human rights violations, military misconduct and the work of environmental defenders throughout the country. The main station in El Progreso is directed by Jesuit Fr. Ismael Moreno, also known as Padre Melo, a native Honduran who is considered one of the leading voices for the poor and marginalized. Honduras is a desperately impoverished nation, with one out of five Hondurans in rural areas living on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank.

At nightfall the delegation made their way through narrow and twisting streets to the embassy. We carried two six-foot-long orange banners with our delegation name proudly emblazoned on them. Several other people carried crosses with black ribbons bearing the names of seven of 33 civilians who have been killed in the post-election, government-ordered national repression.

It was difficult to avoid the heavily militarized state of this country. Over 100 heavily armed military and national police lined the sidewalk of the block-long embassy, arm-to-arm. Tear-gas guns and automatic weapons were menacingly displayed. The steps to the embassy were even more heavily guarded with several soldiers on each of the six steps to the main entrance…

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Peace

Post-election Honduras means living in a hyper-militarized state

NCR Editor’s note: Tom Webb is traveling with an ecumenical delegation to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Jan. 24-30 to witness the repression against peaceful demonstrations to the recent presidential election. National Catholic Reporter will continue to have reports from the delegation in the coming days.

by Tom Webb

SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS — In the aftermath of the allegedly fraudulent presidential election in November 2017, Hondurans have become accustomed to living under military rule.

In the northern region around San Pedro Sula, small squads of military and national police routinely occupy strategic intersections, bridges and demonstration points, keeping order armed with batons, tear gas and automatic weapons. In worse scenarios, order has involved beatings, home invasions, and the use of weapons maiming, wounding and in several instances actually killing innocent people.

Juan Orlando Hernández was inaugurated to a second term in office Jan. 27 in a heavily guarded ceremony in the National Stadium in Tegucigalpa. On that same day, several delegates from an interfaith group of Americans who journeyed to Honduras to accompany our Honduran brothers and sisters during this time of darkness joined with reporters from Radio Progreso to examine firsthand how this tense country might fare.

We accompanied four teams of reporters to points around El Progreso and San Pedro Sula to observe and speak to local residents.

What we found were generally a few scattered acts of protest that were met with a more tentative response from the military battalions. In Puller, north of El Progreso, we witnessed a small dirt road blocked by a burning log and palm fronds. As part of a weeklong strike to protest the election, the fire was intended to dissuade workers from going to their jobs at the Hondupalma factory in the rural community Aldea La 36. While some 100 villagers from the small rural community hovered around the smoking fire, there was no police response. But the protesters’ tactics proved successful as a caravan of cars and trucks idled on the road with no way to enter…

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Peace

Being a witness to election aftermath in Honduras

NCR Editor’s note: Tom Webb is traveling with an ecumenical delegation to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Jan. 24-30 to witness the repression against peaceful demonstrations to the recent presidential election. National Catholic Reporter will continue to have reports from the delegation in the coming days.

by Tom Webb

SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS —An ecumenical delegation of 50 U.S. citizens journeyed Jan. 24 to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to learn more about the furious national political turmoil following the mid-December announcement by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal declaring incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernández the winner of the Nov. 26 election.

Delegates representing 48 different denominations, religious communities, faith-based advocacy groups and Latin American solidarity networks from 13 U.S. states gathered at the Sisters of Notre Dame Retreat Center in El Progresso in northern Honduras for an overview of the current state of Honduras, to learn more about the events leading to and following the election and hear the witness of local groups of their experiences over the past several weeks. They were joined by four people from Canada, Colombia, El Salvador and Argentina.

Ordinarily, one would not expect such turmoil within days following a presidential election. The opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla, of the Alliance of the Opposition Against Dictatorship party, was winning the election by about 5 percentage points a day after the voting ended. But then the computer system used to tally the votes suddenly and inexplicably went down.

About 36 hours later, the vote count resumed. President Hernández had substantially cut the lead of Nasralla. By mid-December, following a re-count, Hernández was declared the winner by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal with 42.9 percent of the vote. Nasralla gathered 41.2 percent…

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