jueves, 16 de septiembre de 2010

Mobilization and Repression on Independence Day

Two stories in El Tiempo tell the story:
The FNRP Demands True Independence
reads one; the other
The Police Dislodge the FNRP

The first story, time-stamped 9:41 am reported that "tens of thousands of people" marched in San Pedro Sula, stopping at the statue of 19th century founding father Francisco Morazán before proceeding to the lovely main plaza of San Pedro where a concert was planned.

The second headline, posted at 11:23 am, sadly, leads a story of brutal violence used to shut down a concert with popular pro-Resistance performers, Cafe Guancasco. The photos and videos are shocking, recalling the most violent moments of the de facto regime's attacks on the people of Honduras. Revistazo reports 12 people wounded and 37 arrested.

Andrés Pavón, president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras CODEH, reported that Efraín Hernández Villalta, a lottery ticket salesman who habitually worked in the Parque Central, died of the effects of the massive teargas attack. Others were badly injured by beatings, with witnesses reporting not just the use of the batons issued to riot police (which are bad enough) but of wooden clubs.

Revistazo quotes the rationalization provided by the police:
they said that they were obligated to disperse the demonstrators, in the face of the intrusion that they made in the marches of the schools in the patriotic festival.

It is not clear what this might mean. With even less credibility, an unnamed police member is quoted as saying
"We had to disperse them because among them there were people carrying firearms and they tried to make disturbances."

What seems really to have happened is somewhat different. The Artists in Resistance had set up a stage for a concert. The police attack was unprovoked and coordinated, with tear gas shot into the plaza from the banks that line the north side. Water cannons were used on the stage and the band, destroying the equipment and instruments there.

While El Tiempo reported the violence in San Pedro promptly, other Honduran news media, while at least admitting that "thousands" of members of the Resistance marched in Tegucigalpa, downplayed the incident. La Prensa wrote that in San Pedro Sula "some incidents without major consequences were registered."

La Tribuna presented the most complete account of the rationalization by the security forces of the attacks in San Pedro Sula:
The march coordinated by the Frente in San Pedro Sula was detoured at 10 AM, apparently because it had presented disturbances, according to the report of the National Police.

The Police intervened when the two marches coincided in the city center, with the result of various people beaten and detained, but then both continued along separate streets, according to local media.

In San Pedro Sula, the resistance began its march, walking from the Dandi market along 14th avenue, nonetheless one block before arriving at 1st street [more commonly called the Boulevard Morazan after the statue located there] it was diverted.

The chief of police of San Pedro Sula, Héctor Iván Mejía, spoke with one of the directors of the FNRP and allowed a commission of 12 to 15 people would go to place a floral offering at the statue of General Morazán, but they did not accept it and continued their walk along 2nd street until they arrived at the Parque Central.

“We used the human and material resources that the State assigned us to maintain order. They wanted to install themselves next to the other march and according to intelligence reports they wanted to do damage to intimidate those that were peacefully marching", said Mejía.

There are familiar strategies here. Claiming to have "intelligence reports" of violent intentions to justify a pre-emptive attack; the police as reasonable actors offering a compromise (one that limits the freedom; vague claims of disturbances and minimizing the actual security violence and injuries.

El Tiempo has now updated its website with a long article that effectively refutes this account. They write that "The indiscriminate dislodging provoked chaos and confusion".

They report that the attack in the Parque Central was by the dreaded Special Squadron Cobras and even members of the Armed Forces.

Among those injured and affected by tear gas were onlookers, members of the press, and reportedly, some students.

Members of Cafe Guancasco have issued their own statement describing the unprovoked attack on the stage.

Videos of the moment of confrontation show resistance members attacked without provocation. The Roman Catholic church that faces the square appears prominently in the background, with clouds of gas floating into the crowd.

So let's be sure we understand this: the repression was, as has become normal, disproportionate. The primary victims were musicians and those waiting for a concert, one of the activities through which members of the resistance have continued to express solidarity.

And one harmless vendor died.

Fuente: hondurasculturepolitics.blogspot.com

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