I cannot describe the horror that assaults me, as I am sure it does many of my compatriots, every time I find myself looking at the pages of some national newspaper.  To give an example, I read in The Herald that yesterday in the early hours of the morning, a soldier shot an unarmed man in his own home in the city of El Progreso during an auto theft investigation.[1] Omar Herrera, 34 years old, managed to say, “Don’t shoot, buddy! I’m not a thief! I live here!”, before the soldier shot him twice in front of his family.  His sister said that, after he was wounded, they brought him to the patrol car and asked that no family accompany him.  “A few minutes later, they returned to collect the shells they shot,” she said.  According to the news, a short while later, they were informed that Omar had died in Hospital Mario Rivas in San Pedro Sula.

Militarización en el Bajo Aguán, Honduras. Fotografía de Giorgio Trucchi.

As I look at this scene, questions jump into my head: “Is a car worth a human life?” “Have we come to the point already where we’re not even safe in our own homes?  Isn’t it an ironic twist that we’re being attacked by the same forces the government says are responsible for guarding our personal integrity and our lives?”

In the face of a wave of violence, the answer from both the cabinet and the National Congress has been and continues to be, militarization. They face every new problem by saying, “We will put more soldiers in the streets.”  I definitely don’t feel the slightest bit more secure seeing the military forces strengthened with weapons and more soldiers in our country.

On the contrary, I think of those cases in which they “accidentally” shoot someone, as in last week’s case where a soldier killed a woman also in her home when the gun he was carrying went off.

On July 24, Judge Mireya Mendoza of the sentencing tribunal in El Progreso, Yoro, and secretary of the Association of Judges for Democracy, was gunned down.  Counting Judge Mendoza,  sixty-four legal professionals have lost their lives to violence since 2010, and until now, this so-called and obligatory military protection has not been able to stop these assassinations, much less prevent them.

To this we can add the growing wave of homicides and particularly the increase of femicides, including that of Judge Mendoza. According to the Observatory of Violence in Honduras, the homicide rate increased 246.3% from 2005 to 2012, a period in which 2,851 cases were added, the majority unpunished.

The Interamerican Commision on Human Rights has passed sentence on several cases, ordering the government of Honduras to protect human life. However, these demands appear to fall on deaf ears,  since far from proposing comprehensive alternatives that make the concept Human Security central, the state’s answer is to continue down the road to more military build-ups in all regions of the country.

Furthermore, military operations deployed with the announced intention of combating crime, for example Operation Lightening and Operation Liberty (both  names are metaphorical), have reported violations of human and civil rights.  A recent study by The Center of Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation for Torture Victims and their Families (CPTRT) called “Violence and the Security of Women”[2] identified multiple violations of the rights of  young people, including physical violence and sexual harassment, among others, during Operation Lightening.

To these one can add other allegations of abuses and military occupation filed by diverse social movement organizations by specific geographic regions, among which we can point out the assassination and repression of campesino leaders in the zone of Bajo Aguán on the North Coast and Rio Amarillo in the western zone of the country.

It is all too clear that we ordinary citizens don’t feel protected by this militarization. I don´t believe that more gates, more weapons and more violence is the solution.  Nor do I believe that more funds for arms in a country where one can legally carry five weapons is the right answer.  In the face of this, what is the role of international cooperation?  Because it has to be said that the role of international cooperation also has to be reviewed in this regard, including the role of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.

There has to be a review to our national budgets, as well as international loans and donations designated for security, since, according to the dean of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (UNAH), Julieta Castellanos, based on an analysis of the security and justice budgets over the last thirty years, Honduras has invested more than 160 billion Honduran lempiras in these areas.[3]  However “at present there is an institutional crisis and society lives in an atmosphere of panic in the face of the increase of violence to a rate of 85.5 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants.”[4]

We can say that we are a society where those elements that ought to safeguard our security have failed completely, and not only that, they have left us almost powerless to defend ourselves and our civil and political rights. This disaster leaves us  fearful and lacking confidence in a place where democracy and citizen participation are only a mirage and where it is assumed that we should trust in armed men in order to live free and without fear.  Definitely this is not the Honduras we dream of and wish for.

“I am the authority,” said the soldier  who demanded our papers a few days ago while traveling on a work trip, when we asked why we had to show them to him.  This time we didn´t challenge him, and we continued on our way. But you could feel the sense of outrage in the air.

Luckily, accompanying the sense of outrage is our way of thinking, this voice that irreverently pops up, without asking permission or giving explanations, and surprised me by telling me, “To hell with them, those people who believe such things.” And so I proceeded to follow what for hundreds of years has been our people’s strategy of resistance and liberty: to smile and sing a song that chases away fears and brings the return of happiness.

Jessica Isla, Honduran, is a journalist, author and member of Feministas en Resistencia.  She is a columinist for the Program of the Americas, online at www.americas.org

Photo: Giorgio Trucchi


[2] CPTRT. Caracterización de las violencias interseccionales de género y estrategias de seguridad de las mujeres en Nueva Suyapa y Villanueva. June 2013

[3] http://www.elheraldo.hn/Secciones-Principales/Al-Frente/Fracaso-del-Estado-en-politica-de-seguridad

[4] Op.cit.