Monday, 19 September 2011

Police & Military Attack Protestors in Tocoa, During Pro-Independence Parade

16 September 2011

The national independence day celebration of September 15th was an excuse for an attack in the city of Tocoa, Colon, militarization center of Bajo Aguán.
As in the two previous years, the National People's Resistance Front (FNRP) called for peaceful public protests throughout the country. Tocoa was by no means the only site of protest, but as had occurred in previous years , the military and police forces dedicated themselves to the task of repression in the interest of silencing the voices that denounced them and demanded justice facing the situation of violence against the organized campesino population of this region of the country. This violence has increased in recent days with the massive presence of soldiers in the region and with the murders of various recognized regional agrarian leaders.
On this day, September 15th, the FNRP carried out its protest immediately following the parades of educational and military institutions of the department. They began at 8:30am. From the FNRP, around 600 people participated, including homesteaders, professional campesinos/as, homemakers and students. Students expressed their outrage against the attempts to privatize public education.

Soon after the march had begun, leaving from a well-known commercial center at the exit to Trujillo and going toward the central park of the city, the protesters came up against a massive police blockade which threateningly surrounded them and presented an obstacle to their peaceful march. Then, a little bit further, more agents joined the contingent of police and military, always with the aim of provoking fear among the FNRP protestors.

As the group was approaching the central park, in the busy commercial street at 11:45am, a group of police tried to arrest three protestors with the aim of capturing them without giving specific reasons or warrants for their arrests. Several leaders of social organizations tried to mediate to avoid the illegal detention, but the police responded with teargas and attacking those who approached them with their batons.

With the gas attacks, the protest was dispersed and soldiers and police officers unleashed a brutal attack against the protestors throughout the center of the city, even breaking into private residences where many had taken refuge.

An elderly gentleman was brutally beaten, and numerous children suffered from the teargas they inhaled. Two people were severely wounded: Arnulfo Alvarado, from the "La Confianza" campesino settlement and Carlos Martínez from the "Lempira" campesino settlement, both of whom were immediately hospitalized. Both of the injured come from settlements that pertain to the Unified Movement of Campesinos of the Aguán (MUCA).

Furthermore, two people were detained by police authorities: Elmer Ángel Villeda Andrade, minor, resident of the 18th of September neighborhood of this city, and Gregorio Godoy Caballero, who works as a taxi driver in the city. The charges against them have not been made public, and as of this afternoon, they have not been released.

Program of Human Rights and JusticePOPOL NAH TUN
Tocoa. September 15, 2011
Translation by A. Pine