Death squads appear to be operating freely in Honduras, in spite of claims by the United States and Honduran leaders that the election of President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo of the conservative National Party on November 29 would produce peace and normality.
Unions and peasant and other popular organizations have stayed mobilized to be able to respond to efforts to roll back progressive changes instituted by former president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, such as increases in minimum wage, labor and women’s rights and land reform.
On Thursday, February 25, parties unknown murdered an activist of the left wing resistance movement that arose after the April 28, 2009 coup d’état that overthrew Zelaya.
Claudia Larisa Brizuela Rodriguez was shot to death in front of her home in the northern city of San Pedro Sula. The killing happened in broad daylight and in full view of her children, ages 2 and 8.
Ms. Brizuela Rodriguez was an active member of the National People’s Resistance Front (FNRP) and the daughter of the host of pro-Zelaya Radio UNO, Pedro Brizuela. The radio station and its staff have been the target of numerous threats because of their opposition to the coup.
She is the third resistance leader to be murdered in this fashion since Lobo was sworn in as president on January 27. On February 3, FNRP activist Vanessa Yaneth Zepeda was kidnapped and later found murdered, her body thrown from a moving vehicle by unknown parties. She too was a mother of three children. At the time of her murder Zepeda was 29 years old and was considered to have great potential as a future mass leader in her country.
The third person to be murdered, on February 15, was Julio Funes, a labor leader in the Water and Sewage Workers Union (SITRASANAA) and also a resistance activist, was shot down by four unknown men who came up to him in a taxi, in the town of Comayaguela.
There are numerous other reports of threats, beatings, rapes and other attacks on people associated with pro-Zelaya and anti-coup unions, civic organizations organizations and media entities. The FNRP says that the total number of such incidents is now in the hundreds just since Lobo took power. The Committee of Relatives of Detained and Disappeared People in Honduras (COFADEH) says that several hundred people have had to flee the country because of persecution. However, Honduran police sources claim that there is no proof that any of these incidents are politically motivated; pointing out that the crime rate in the country is very high.
Most countries in the region are still not affording diplomatic recognition to Lobo’s government because of the dubious way the election was carried out, with a coup regime in power and troops in the streets repressing its opponents. The U.S. government has been focusing on getting the Lobo regime recognized as well as promoting a “truth commission” headed by former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein to find out why the coup happened. Yet, many organizations oppose this, pointing out that the reasons for the coup are hardly a secret, and that the coup leaders have already arranged pardons for themselves while continuing to demand prosecution of Zelaya and several of his cabinet members. The resistance is focusing on the fight for a constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduran constitution to allow for much more mass participation in governance.
The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) is asking that people in the U.S. call the State Department Bureau of Human Rights at 202-647-4000 to ask that the U.S. government exert pressure on the Honduran government to put an end to these abuses. Details can be found on the CISPES website.