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Rosie’s 4th Honduras coup report- women’s grassroots struggle, construction workers organise, concert and grains for Aguan, & company attack Copinh radio

January 9, 2011
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Women neighbours maintain bonds, campaigns against femicide, violence against women and the coup

In San Pedro Sula, I talked with some women of APOMUH (Women’s Mutual Support Association) in the home of its coordinator Zoila. They have no office due to economic constraints and work in the women’s homes.

Women chatting about the coup

Women generously shared their experiences, they said that before the  coup the group worked more with the police and prosecutors in relation to reducing violence against women, but since these ‘authorities’ became the main violators of human rights with the coup, the association turned to focus more on human rights and femicides, and to look for ways to exclude police and prosecutors from the process of women living with DV seeking freedom from violence.

Some of these women marched everyday in the first 6 months of the coup under conditions of thirst, hunger and sun, and being shot lots of tear and pepper gas in all parts of the country. Families often opened their door to people being chased by police and soldiers running for refuge, but as these same families became victims of beatings and persecution, fear made some of these families close their doors.

‘Everything is more expensive since the coup, its harder for people without remittance, and remittance buys less now, people have to make do and eat less,’ Fatima.

There is also less jobs, and people who work have to work more for less money.

Schools closed after the coup – in 2009 children lost the school year. They stay at home watching TV, watching the news – the news of the alternative channels that tell the truth, and live in a lot of fear.

About false news the women said on the coup supporting channels the reporters say  anything to satinise Petrocaribe, the 4th urn project and about the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying things like that Fidel will come and take away older people and put them in gas chambers, and that homes of the poor will be taken away, and people who are scared and misinformed believe what they say.

There is no security or protection. APOMUH had to hold meetings in clandestine to avoid being arrested for meetings.

Zoila spoke of a compan~era teacher who in her coup resistance was sexually tortured (including raped) by the police. She was one of few who had the courage to denounce this to human rights organisations. 4 months later she was travelling in a car with 3 family members when the family was kidnapped by the police and they were taken to the mountains and she and another woman were raped (again) for having made the complaint. This did not silence her but had enormous impact on all women who in their resistance suffer sexual violence.

A 75 year old woman in resistance was also mentioned to have been raped in front of her grandchild by the police after having the police force a stick up her vagina.

But impunity in general although it is worse for resistance members. Zoila spoke of being robbed of her ring at gunpoint just the day before waiting for a bus at uni. She was really angry, but although she was surrounded by people everyone was paralysed and nobody did anything.

Problem of attitudes

They spoke about the issue of that women get blamed when they get killed. Police and society say it is because we walk in the streets instead of looking after children, because we drink alcohol, because we leave a boyfriend for another (so-called passion crimes).

‘At my work there is a rapist but nothing is done about it. Police also rape and assault so to whom can we denounce? The rapist attacks women who work in the laundry or in the reception’ G.

All the women live locally. There is a real sense of community, strength, love, solidarity and social consciousness. One woman said she got involved when she was living in a violent relationship and struggling with this. A neighbour invited her to a meeting and she accepted the invitation and she has been with the association fighting for women’s rights every since.

The association apart from meeting supportively and having different discussions, organises public events and workshops towards eradicating violence against women and femicides. They said 3 women are killed every day in Honduras although official statistics are less because not all or even most killings are reported to the Prosecutors. Most of these killings are in the biggest cities: Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

International solidarity with this cause? Groups and organisations can organise activities to denounce what is happening, raise awareness, break the silence, put on the pressure. Where possible financial contributions are most welcome towards human rights campaigns to increase awareness of human rights by women in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Construction workers organising new union, against the coup and for the refoundation of Honduras

In the renamed ‘Plaza de Libertad’ in San Pedro Sula I chatted with one of 75 organizers in the process of starting a union for construction workers of Honduras – Sigtraco – Sindicato Gremial Trabajadores de Construccion Honduras.

He said according to the state statistics (INE) there are 70,000 unorganised construction workers in Honduras. It is an initiative with a number of objectives; to create a whole-industry union (including construction, labourers, painters, cement workers, etc), to organise against construction projects that only destroy and plunder natural resources without concrete social outcomes and benefit for the community such as pensions, for safety and health for workers, against current state of affairs (completely informal employment, everyone subcontracted, just about), to protect and fight for workers’ rights in general.

This initiative began in 2005 with meetings. They have their constitution ready and are currently collecting signatures for it. They need 35 signatures. They have 75 signatories, but physically obtaining everyone’s signatures is a long labour, with many of these workers not being in San Pedro Sula, but 30 have signed to date.

The process was interrupted by the June 2009 military coup, when its organisers decided to incorporate themselves 100% to the work of the Resistance. They had papers ready before the coup, but all agreed that involvement in the struggle for transformation of Honduras is important. Participation in resistance and refoundation continues to be of high importance to this union in formation.

Another resistance member commented that reforming unions to be ones of struggle and with refoundational values is extremely importance to refounding Honduras and a new union based on such values is welcome and exciting.

The union has just sent 3 representatives to undertake OH&S courses who will return to pass on the knowledge to everyone else. They have also been talking with other similar unions in Central America and Dominican Republic and have received invitations for a delegation of 10 representatives to go visit Nicaragua/El Salvador to go observe. The union will hold an assembly to select 10 representatives to go.

Concert Against the Indifference: Entry – Bring grains for Aguan campesinos

Back in Tegucigalpa a concert was organised by people (not the leadership) of the Resistance to collect food items like rice and beans for campesinos under struggle in Aguan. Artists in Resistance such as Cafe Guancasco, Nelson Pavon, Karla Lara and others played music for us all night🙂 those who came and gave their grains and went away to get more were awarded with a Tshirt ‘we are all Aguan’ or ‘Aguan resists’.

This blurry photos shows some of the bags of grains…

The place was packed (the photos don’t show it as they were taken earlier..), many youths in resistance came and danced and sang along to different songs of the resistance, from the post coup Honduras anthem, to ‘I am ordinary (chusma?) at heart’, …etc…

Aguan is I think about 10 hours drive from Tegucigalpa. This night a bus was also being organised for the grains to be brought to Aguan and there were seats available for those who wanted to join.

An update on Copinh: attack against their radio and leaders..

Copinh: Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras.

On 5 January 2010, Copinh’s radio transmission office was attacked by uniformed employees of the private electricity measurement company (which has million dolloar contract with the defacto regime) whose main shareholder is the defacto Planning Minister Arturo Corrales – the employees entered angrily, came in and cut the electricity without showing any official orders for the action, pulled out weapons to give death threats to Copinh coordinators Berta Caceres and Salvador Zuniga.

Copinh is active in resistance against the coup and its radio La Voz Lenca is beneficiary of cautionary measures from the Inter American Commission of Human Rights, the attack shows there is no such thing as protection against political persecution.

Coalition of Barrios and Neighbourhoods in Resistance

Before heading to San Pedro Sula, I also attended one of many meetings of different groupings of the resistance.. this coalition holds many training sessions from who are the 10 families who own and control all the commerce and industry of Honduras, to training on organisation, mobilisation, etcs.

In this day long meeting lots of discussion was had amongst representatives of different organised barrios and in discussing effective strategies, ideals were affirmed including for strengthening organisation, horizontality, collectivity, unity, diversity and debate, against sectorism, against opportunism..

As well as leaning towards techniques that impact economically, as many resistance members lost jobs and remained unemployed due to employers (state and private) discrimination against people in resistance and economic circumstances, collectives were exploring cooperative commercial opportunities to create autonomy for people in resistance.

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