Aguán Police (and by association, the USG) to Human Rights Advocates: Fuck You

Last night I called the Tocoa police station, after UCSC professor of history Dana Frank had the following experience, which she immediately documented in an email to other human rights advocates after calling to inquire about the campesinos who were rounded up, illegally detained, and who were likely being tortured in a classic example of collective punishment for a crime that most likely was directly the police's own fault (reports are that a grenade they planned to throw out their window at the campesinos exploded in the car, killing an officer):

I just got through to 2444-3105. I asked if it was the police station in Tocoa. She said yes, very nicely. I said I was a journalist and human rights worker, calling about the situation of the detained campesinos. She said, and I heard it exactly and correctly: "Dile que han matado todos los campesinos" [Tell her they've killed all the campesinos]. I said, excuse me? and she laughed with someone else, and hung up.

I called the same number, and a woman answered and confirmed it was indeed the station. I identified myself by name as a person from the United States working with human rights groups asked her how the campesinos from Rigores were being treated. After some back and forth, during which she seemed to be evading the question (I had to repeat myself two or three times) she responded "como perros"—"like dogs." I repeated her words and asked, "are they being tortured?" She laughed at that and said "ojala y fuera asi"—"if only that were true." She told me, in response to my question about when they would be released, that they'd let them out when they damn pleased, and then told me she didn't have time to be bothered and hung up.

I was shaken. More than that I was furious. Furious at the U.S. government and embassy that funds and supports police who openly and gleefully torture. Furious at idiots like the "reporters" at InSight who promote a dangerous—even murderous—logic of crime control in which criminals like Oscar Álvarez, instead of being the primary force behind operations like Xatruch and the invisible genocide of mano dura since the Maduro regime, are painted as anti-corruption heroes. I was furious at my own inability to stop people fighting for their right to survive against druglords and their CSR backers (e.g., Miguel Facussé and the World Wildlife Fund) from being tortured, raped, killed.

A friend happened to call from Tegucigalpa. I told him about the conversation I had just had, and the subsequent conversations reported by other people in the U.S.-based Honduras solidarity network, in which a woman (presumably the same one) told them variously that if they wanted information, they should come to the police station, that if they were so concerned, they should call "human rights" (unspecified), and that they should stop bothering her. My friend didn't seem that impressed. I tried to explain my horror, saying "it's just so inhuman." He laughed at that. Not in a cruel way, just in a sort of wake up and smell the roses way. "That's how it is here, inhuman."

He said he remembered how he felt when he was abducted by police on the day Pepe Lobo was "elected" in November 2009. I'd heard him mention it before. "What did happen to you that day?" I asked. Previously, he'd only mentioned he'd gotten roughed up. This time he told me. They had corralled him and a number of other friends and people near him at the San Pedro march. They singled out one of them, his friend Evelio (whom I know- a nice young guy), and tortured him in front of them, beating him in the face, crushing his knuckles with batons, ripping off a fingernail. They put them all in the back of a police van and beat them all severely while inside, then proceeded to drive off, telling them they were being disappeared and would be tortured and killed.

My friend's voice faded off and dropped into silence. After a long pause I asked him if he was still there. "Yes," he said. "I just hadn't thought about it in a while."

The 2009 elections are still celebrated by the embassy and by the NED financiers of the elections as the most orderly, peaceful and most enthusiastically voted in Honduran history, despite the well-documented violence, fraud, and incredibly low turnout. They served to legitimate the U.S. government's support of the coup, and have been used to obfuscate the ongoing coup government's responsibility for human rights violations on a massive scale, like those in the Aguán. The elections not only were violent themselves, they have facilitated the violence we're seeing now, violence that the U.S. embassy has supported through its financing, training, and public statements of support for Honduran security forces that act like (and descend from) death squads. And for some, the scars of that violence run deep.