Honduras: Despite torture, the truth will out

Since last year’s military coup in Honduras, an ongoing mass movement, with deep roots throughout the county, has erupted to f

The people of Honduras are continuing their struggle for democracy more than one year after the June 28 military coup that overthrew elected President Manuel Zelaya.

The dictatorship tried to legitimise itself with fraudulent elections that brought President Profiro Lobo Sosa to power. The United States government, which was complicit in the coup, recognised the results despite almost no other government doing so. The US has since fully restored military assistance.

An ongoing mass movement with deep roots throughout the county has erupted to fight for democracy and social justice. Organised by the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), the movement’s key demands are for the restoration of democracy, justice for the victims of the coup and for an elected constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Dozens of people have been assassinated or disappeared since the coup, and many more detained and tortured for the crime of opposing the dictatorship. Ida Garberi, a journalist for Lawyers on Line, wrote the article below on July 5 on the persecution of a resistance activist. It has been translated by Warwick Fry and is reprinted from the website of the FNRP.

* * *

When I woke up this morning, it wasn’t one of the best days of my life. After a year of struggle following the June 28, 2009 military coup that violated the constitutional rights of the Honduran people, one should be used to it — but no.

No one should ever get used to torture, to human rights violations. As the Argentinean-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara said: “Above all, always be able to feel profoundly any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world. It is the finest quality of a revolutionary.”

When my colleague Dina Meza, a journalist from Defenders of Human Rights Online for the Committee for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) called me to tell me that, for the umpteenth time, Edwin Espinal had been taken by the police without any charge, tortured, insulted and threatened with death, a huge rage grew within me.

What does the coup regime want from him? What is their problem? Can't they understand that a soul as bold as Edwin’s can’t be turned to betrayal, or bought?

They have already taken the life of the person he loved and brutally destroyed a future family by murdering his wife Wendy Elizabeth Avila.

Edwin is paying for having taken part in the peaceful resistance movement and helping to organise his neighbourhood Flor de Campo. Above all, he is paying for having been a witness to the murder of Francisco Alvarado, brutally killed by three police in Flor de Campo on September 22.

That same night, his car was raked with gunfire.

Four days later, the teargas of the murdering regime asphyxiated Wendy when troops were deployed around the Brazilian Embassy in which the legitimate president Zelaya was sheltered.

From that day on, Edwin’s life was totally destroyed. But he kept his head up, kept up the peaceful struggle as part of the resistance with one more motivation; not to let the killers of Wendy sleep in peace.

There will be no forgetting and forgiving for them.

I believe the coup-masters fear his spirit, his example and his ability not to be broken by all his arrests (of which there have now been more than 10, none with a valid excuse). In spite of everything, he didn’t go into exile, and he didn’t lock himself in his room and cry.

When I arrive at my office of COFADEH, my heart warms: Edwin is sitting on a chair, in pain, blinded by toxic gas spray, recognising my voice.

I am fierce with the impotent rage I feel. I cannot and never will understand unprovoked violence.

He tells me that the police stopped him at 11.30pm last night for drunk driving. When the police detained him, he was standing outside the car chatting with a friend. He wasn't even sitting behind the steering wheel.

I should add that he is virtually a teetotaller.

Edwin told me: “The officer who made the arrest is called Vargas. He is new to the neighbourhood, but with him were the three police I had reported as killers.

"When I declared that I wouldn’t accept being detained for no reason, Vargas sprayed gas in my eyes and the others began to beat me up and threw me into the patrol van.

“When we arrived at the station, the police began to torture me with electric shocks. They put a gun to my ears and fired shots from it. It feels as though your brain is being shaken up.”

We were able to find Edwin alive thanks to the reports of neighbours present at the arrest, the questions asked by Dina and, above all, the fact that COFADEH coordinator Bertha Oliva personally went to the police station.

Dina told me the police were very cynical, making fun of her and joking about Edwin’s delicate health.

Edwin confided: “They laughed in my face and threatened me, saying that if they hadn’t killed me this time, they would the next; that the police would kill off all the resistance because they knew we all hated anyone in uniform.”

When will the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights truly respect the preventative measures that they advocate? How can one respect a police force which is committed to persecute the same citizens that they should genuinely be protecting from crime?

What can we hope from people corrupted and bought off by fascism?