Honduras’ murder rate, now the world’s highest, jumped from 37 per 100,000 in 2004 to 82 last year. With 15 journalist murders over 19 months, Honduras is at the top in that category too. Killings and crime make present day Honduras look like the former U.S. “wild west.” Yet the “sheriffs” – read police and armed forces – are in cahoots with the bad guys.
Since January 2010, thugs serving Miguel Facussé have killed 50 small farmers in Lower Aguan. Honduras’ richest mogul helped inaugurate the military plot that deposed President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Facusse is emblematic as an entrepreneur seizing land to create a bio-fuel empire. Private paramilitaries, the police, and soldiers collaborate as enforcers against small farmers fighting to keep land they acquired through agrarian reform.
The police murder on October 22 of two university students in Tegucigalpa was different. Impunity was not automatic, because one of the victims was the son of Julieta Castellanos, rector (president) of Honduras’ National Autonomous University. Although eight police were detained as suspects, four went missing after they didn’t return to jail from an authorized leave.
Honduran President Porfirio Lobo dismissed police officials and retained Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla whose predecessor Lobo had fired two months earlier for trying to remove corrupt police officers. The National Congress supposedly is considering legislation allowing for “rapid and effective” cleaning out of the police force.
Honduran security forces have friends in high places. U.S funding for the Honduras’ police and military skyrocketed over the past year, with $40 million having been added to last year’s $10 million grant directed at drug trafficking. The United States recently allocated $45 million for military construction at three new military bases and at its Palmerola Air Force Base, which hosts drones and 550 U.S. troops.
Honduran expectations were evident recently as military head René Osorio told reporters of his “great satisfaction at the announcement of these troops operating in our country.” The general had misinterpreted an expression of dismay from U.S. presidential candidate Michele Bachmann that the United States would soon have more troops in Honduras than in Iraq. He’d assumed U.S. soldiers in Iraq would be heading for Honduras.
The U.S. government provides financial backing for a Honduran brigade of 1,000 troops presently beating up on small farmers in Lower Aguan. According to reporter Dana Frank, U. S. Rangers train some of them and also paramilitaries serving Miguel Facusse.
The U.S. role in Lower Aguan came under a cloud due to Wikileaks revelations that Facusse is involved with drug trafficking and meets with U.S. Embassy officials.
AP writer Mark Stevenson indicates, “Almost half of the cocaine that reaches the United States is now offloaded somewhere along [Honduras’] coast and heavily forested interior.” He quotes a U.S. official who claims, “Honduras is the number one offload point for traffickers to take cocaine through Mexico to the U.S.”
Officials cite the robbery recently of 300 high caliber rifles and ammunition from a police storehouse as an example of widespread drug trade participation. A helicopter landing pad built next to the house of a small-city mayor sends a similar message. .
Nevertheless, massive popular mobilization is developing to confront these murders and other crimes under state auspices. “The police and the army are one and the same,” and both must go, says the left leaning El Liberador website. According to an editorial, “Policies of division, infiltration and electoral fraud” are protected through “low intensity warfare…behind which are U.S. and Colombian occupation troops, mercenaries, and thugs.” Disarray suits the “geopolitical interests of the United States and well off officials.”
On November 3, the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) held a press conference at which sub-coordinator Juan Barahona explained that repression, always a constant, had worsened since the 2009 coup. He noted that “crimes, impunity, and political repression” are aimed primarily at the poor and that 62 young people have been murdered over four months. A new police force is essential, he stated.
On October 30, Manuel Zelaya, the deposed Honduran president and now FNRP coordinator, led a front delegation to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. There, he gave notice of FNRP formation of a political party called the Liberty and Refoundation Party (Free). The Tribunal took delivery of supporting documents and 81,000 signatures. Included was a Declaration of Principals appearing under the slogan, “Revolution is inevitable.”
In a speech to thousands of adherents nearby, FNRP leader Carlos Reyes observed that, “Unfortunately we come in under the hegemonic power of the United States and they have us trapped inside a fence. They use us as a drug war frontier,” he stated, “and it’s the United States that has to run things inside its frontiers.”