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"The Only Crime": Testimony of Marcial Hernandez, beaten, detained and hospitalized in Honduras

August 16, 2009

"The Only Crime": Testimony of Marcial Hernandez, beaten, detained and hospitalized in Honduras


"The Only Crime": Testimony of Marcial Hernandez, beaten, detained, and hospitalized in Honduras

Text, translation and photos by Sandra Cuffe

San Pedro Sula, Honduras, August 15th, 2009.

Repression against the national movement against the military coup in Honduras has become a daily occurrence. All over the country, police and the army are using tactics of terror and violence to disperse protests and illegally detain demonstrators.

Nevertheless, the resistance actions coordinated by the National Front of Resistance to the Military Coup in Honduras (FNRCGE, for its acronym in Spanish) continue to grow across the nation.

On August 14th, organizations and citizens in resistance from the northwestern region of the country mobilized in Choloma, blocking vehicle traffic along the highway between San Pedro Sula and Puerto Cortés. It was a very strategic choice of location, along the main highway leading to the country's main port. Puerto Cortés has a great volume of exports, principally to the United States, of textile goods from the maquila factories in the northwestern region, as well as the fruits of the Tela Railroad Company, subsidiary of the transnational banana company Chiquita.

Soon after the highway blockade began, there was a negotiation between resistance leaders and police officials, supposedly in order to avoid yet another violent eviction. According to witnesses, a verbal agreement was made between the two parties to allow the protest to continue for another hour and peacefully disperse.

However, approximately twenty minutes after the agreement was reached, a large police presence gathered, along with some elements of the army, and police proceeded to violently disperse the protest, using tear gas and a water cannon. The demonstration dispersed, but police ran after resistance participants running towards downtown Choloma, using brutal violence during their arrest of protestors and others and during their transfer to the nearby police station in Choloma.

Twenty-seven people were detained. Among them were minors, elderly people, women, and journalists. The majority of the 27 detained were violently beaten.

Due to the severity of their injuries, five men were transferred in police custody to the Catarino Rivas public hospital in San Pedro Sula. All received treatment in the emergency ward for wounds documented as having been "caused by impact with a hard object." Two men were released, but three protestors were still hospitalized late that same afternoon and were being held for observation and further treatment in the emergency room for an undefined period of time.

Julio Espinoza Carías, from Tela, Atlántida, has an exposed fracture of his right femur caused by the impact of a bullet, along with other wounds on his face and body.

Rogelio Mejía Espinoza, of the Aguán Farmers' Movement (MCA) in the community of Guadalupe Carney in the Silín sector, Colón, has a fractured left maxillary sinus, with blood in the sinus, along with other injuries to his face and head, including a head wound that required several stitches.

Marcial Hernández, a member of the Coordination of Popular Organizations of the Aguán (COPA), from Tocoa, Colón, has a fractured left hand, a wound on the top of his head that required several stitches, and other injuries on his body. Immediately after the following interview, he was taken for a second time to get further X-rays done.

The following testimony was recorded in the Catarino Rivas hospital in San Pedro Sula in the late afternoon of August 14th. It was then transcribed word for word and translated into English.


After the police arrived throwing [tear gas], we ran towards the central plaza. We ran well past the plaza, and they kept following us. And when we came back to regroup in the plaza, well, they let us make it to the plaza - some of us.

Those who were further away, dispersed, were being pursued. The police were grabbing them, beating them with their batons, hitting them, and taking them away to be detained.

We stayed there. Later, they surrounded the plaza. So once again we ran, this time towards the bridge. And when we were running there, the police came out in front of us, so we turned back.

There were some women from the Medicine, Hospital and Similar Workers' Union (SITRAMEDHYS). And they were running, and we all went into some disgusting bathrooms that were there. We opened the gate and ran in. And the very same people closed the gate behind us. But when we went in, the women who had children with them entered the bathrooms and there was no more room for me, but anyways, we had to save the kids. So I sat down in a chair. The police passed us and about two minutes went by.

When they came back, they came to where I was. They opened the gate and came in running. And as though I were the enemy they grabbed me. They didn’t ask me for any kind of declaration. Someone simply pointed me out and then they came, but all at once, with their batons, hitting me on my back, on my head.

And someone grabbed me. One of them grabbed me by the shirt and shoved me. And when I walked forward, another one kicked me with his feet, his shoes, and knocked me over. And then I didn’t have any other choice but to curl up on the ground. And they really went at it there until they felt like stopping.

From there, they dragged me out. Then I stood up, and while I was getting up, they took advantage of it because I was exposing my back, so they took the chance to hit me as much as they wanted. And when we went out into the street, they put me back into the truck.

At that point, I was losing a lot of blood from my head.

They grabbed another compañero, and they were taking him on foot, beating him with the baton, and the police took us. And when we were arriving at the police station, they pushed me so hard that I fell down. They kept kicking me there, and then they dragged me into the police station.

The police official called them animals, he said something to them anyways. I could see that he said something about why they were doing that. But I couldn’t get up.

And the compañera that was here - she was the only one who helped me at that moment in the police station. When they wouldn’t respond to anything anyone said, someone yelled ‘stop hitting that man, don’t beat him, he’s defenseless.’

And that’s what happened. That’s what happened today.

The only... What’s it called? The only crime, absolutely the only one, was that we were going to a protest against this de facto government.

# # #

Sandra Cuffe - sandra.m.cuffe@gmail.com - is a freelance journalist and photographer from Canada. In Honduras since July 3rd, she is currently a correspondent for the DominionPaper.ca (Canada), UpsideDownWorld.org (United States), DefensoresEnLinea.com (Honduras), and several community radio stations.

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This story is not even half

This story is not even half based on the truth. There is a video of these events that recorded non stop. They were given an hour and after the hour begged for 15 minutes more, the police conceeded that to them and they still refused to break up. The crime is blocking a roadway to the traffic you cannot do that in ANY country. Shall we look at the way the police dealt with the LA riots? What about the violence perpetrated by these folks against average citizens.
One citizen, a security guard, headed to work, was pulled off his motorcycle and they painted golpista on his face and stole the motorcycle and beat him. The security guard isn´t police and makes minimum wage.
Another act perpetrated by these vandals and terrorists is attacks against businesses where minimum wage workers need their jobs. Burger King, Popeyes, Dunkin Donuts, and Pollo Campero.
The bus they sat on fire is on tape as well. This bus belongs to an individual not a corporation and he probably cannot afford to replace it. They sat the bus on fire with children and pregnant women on the bus.
They burned a car inside the UNAH which had nothing to do with their protset.
They also have attacked El Heraldo, several other media centers including Channel 6 news which was caught on tape and Edgardo Castro is in jail for inciting rioters to attempt to burn one of their cars..a homemade bomb was thrown at their installation after that. Channel 10 and Televicentro have both been attacked with granades. La Tribuna, one of their drivers was attacked in Olancho and his car was burned while he pleaded for his life.
Anyone can make a sad story but the truth is somewhere vastly in between and it is WRONG for you to try to paint the police as evil and as them as victims who have committed no crimes.
If their marches were pacifist there would be no removing of their protests you cannot block roadways you cannot cover your face with a bandana, and you cannot call yourself pacific if you have rocks, sticks in hand, and throw rocks at the police.

"truth," media, and anonymous comments

Thanks for your comments, anonymous.

If you could identify who you are (ie full name) and what your sources are regarding the situation in Honduras, I think that people, including myself, will pay more attention to your comments.

By all means, please post another comment with a link to the non-stop recording of the events of August 14th in Choloma so that we can all judge for ourselves. I assume that if it is a non-stop recording, it will also show the massive police operation firing tear gas into the demonstration, using the water cannon, and beating anti-coup demonstrators with batons, guns, fists, kicks, etc. If it a non-stop recording, then presumably it will show the blood running down the faces of those detained, several of whom were not even involved in the protest. If it is a non-stop recording, then perhaps it might also show the five men who were taken in police custody to the Catarino Rivas hospital in San Pedro Sula as described above in my introduction to Marcial Hernandez' testimony?

Or do you think that Rogelio fractured his own sinus and cracked his own head open, that Julio shot himself in the leg and fracturing his own femur, and that Marcial fractured his own hand and cracked his own head open? All three were detained by police but released with no charges...

Unfortunately, any recording probably would not have caught the rape of a 25-year-old young woman by four policemen, because after dropping off other detainees, they drove with her handcuffed and face down in the back of the police truck to an isolated spot outside of Choloma, raped her one by one, and then left her there. Impunity is so rampant that two of the police officers did not even bother to rip their velcro nametags off of their uniforms...

If you are not IN Honduras, actually witnessing what goes on, then I completely understand why someone might make comments similar to yours.

There is a near-complete media blackout in Honduras. Almost all mainstream media is owned by politicians and businesspeople who helped orchestrate the coup in the country and therefore defend it to the point of outright lies and manipulation. At least seven media outlets were militarized on June 28th, just hours after the Honduran army illegally detained and exiled elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya. Dozens of journalists - mostly Honduran, but also several international journalists, ALL OF THEM COVERING RESISTANCE TO THE COUP AND POLICE BRUTALITY - have been severely beaten, threatened, and detained. At least one outspoken and critical journalist has been murdered.

There is a very serious and dangerous media campaign demonizing anyone who supports elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, the 4th ballot box campaign, the National Constituent Assembly, and especially demonizing the hundreds of thousands of Hondurans who have taken to the streets.

It is interesting that your choice of words parallels this media campaign: "vandals" & "terrorists."

The identity of the perpetrators of more serious incidents, such as arson against fast food outlet EMPTY BUILDINGS, and bombs thrown at EMPTY BUILDINGS of media outlets (strange that several of these were in the middle of the night during the MILITARY-IMPOSED CURFEW while the army and police patrolled the streets and detained anyone outside, isn't it???) is as of yet unclear.

Plainclothes undercover police have been caught in the act of engaging in these kind of activities during a number of peaceful protests and even the funeral of Pedro Magdiel Munoz Salvador, stabbed over 40 times in El Paraiso only hours after his documented and photographed violent detention by a police official in El Paraiso. In all of these cases, people have taken away the guns and badges of the undercover agent provocateurs and handed them all over - weapons, badges and police officers - to the police without further incident. The National Police of Honduras have officially admitted the use of undercover agents and provocateurs in declarations to the media.

Regarding less serious incidents of PROPERTY DAMAGE and also the issue of ROAD BLOCKADES, well, yes, these certainly are illegal under Honduran law. But these are the consequences of closing off every single legal channel for dissidence and protest.

If the police had any evidence of these kinds of crimes, then they would likely press charges, wouldn't they? Funny that of the hundreds and hundreds of Hondurans arrested at these demonstrations against the de facto government, charges have only be laid against a few dozen people! There is a hearing tomorrow in the Supreme Court for a couple dozen people arrested on August 11th and charged with terrorism, sedition, and property damages. Don't you think that's a better venue to pass judgement than the media?

Other activities illegal under Honduran law include: MURDER, RAPE, ABUSE OF AUTHORITY, ASSAULT, ILLEGAL DETENTION, KIDNAPPING, SEXUAL ASSAULT, FORCIBLY REMOVING ANY HONDURAN CITIZEN FROM THE COUNTRY (that includes elected presidents), ILLEGAL MILITARY CURFEWS (nothing is law until published in La Gaceta & only one curfew decree was published about a month after ongoing military curfews), FORCED RECRUITMENT INTO THE ARMED FORCES (oh yeah, that was made unconstitutional, but they just brought it back, huh?)...

Article 3 of the 1982 Constitution of Honduras (rough translation; emphasis mine): "No one owes allegiance to a usurped government nor to those who take on authority or public office through the force of weapons or by using means or procedures that violate or ignore what this Constitution and the laws establish. The acts carried out by these authorities are null and void. THE PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO RECUR TO INSURRECTION IN DEFENSE OF CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER."

The original in Spanish reads as follows: "ARTICULO 3.- Nadie debe obediencia a un gobierno usurpador ni a quienes asuman funciones o empleos públicos por la fuerza de las armas o usando medios o procedimientos que quebranten o desconozcan lo que esta Constitución y las leyes establecen. Los actos verificados por tales autoridades son nulos. El pueblo tiene derecho a recurrir a la insurrección en defensa del orden constitucional."

Sandra Cuffe
(in Tegucigalpa, Honduras)

http://hondurassolidarity.wordpress.com * (504) 9525-6778 * sandra.m.cuffe@gmail.com * http://flickr.com/photos/lavagabunda