5 New Years Resolutions from WFPSW and 5 Highlights from 2013

Click here to make a year end gift to WFPSW. Checks can also be mailed to 

WFPSW PO Box 1781 Ojai, CA 93024.

 5 New Years Resolutions from Witness for Peace Southwest

 1. Be a model for Social Justice from the inside out– WFPSW is dedicated to being an organization that reflects the change we wish to see in the world. We respect workers rights by making sure our staff has fair contracts and working conditions. We use horizontal participatory decision making, we bank at at a non-corporate community bank and we try to be green by recycling and reducing waste. In 2014 WFPSW wants to take it a step further by making sure our delegations, events, membership and leadership is accessible to youth and communities of color. Support our Equity and Inclusion scholarship fund.

2. Install an International Advisory Board- WFPSW bylaws and purpose states that the organization ultimately takes direction from groups that suffer the most from harmful policies and practices. In 2014, WFPSW plans to appoint an international advisory board representing civil society from Colombia, Cuba and Honduras as well as migrants in the U.S. This international advisory board will make annual recommendations to the WFPSW board of directors regarding existing and proposed programs and policies. Help WFPSW to bring one of our new international advisory board members to the U.S for a multi-city and state speaking tour.

3. Organize Delegations within the U.S-Our international solidarity delegations will take you to Cuba, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela or Mexico to learn about human rights and social justice struggles abroad but in 2014 WFPSW would like to organize more domestic delegations that connect to the struggles we have right here at home. In 2014 we are planning a California migrant farmworker delegation, a delegation to the Arizona/Mexico border, a Hawaii Climate Change tour, a Los Angeles failed Drug War delegation and a San Francisco Bay Area Environmental Racism tour. Contact us if you would like to join one of our international or domestic delegations.

4. Provide protective accompaniment to Hondurans resisting repression-In 2013 WFPSW sent delegates to observe in the Honduran elections and WFPSW members responded to dozens of urgent actions from Honduras. WFPSW hosted Ana Rivera, a leader of the Honduran resistance on a speaking tour of 3 states and 11 cities which contributed to a statement of neutrality from several U.S congress members. Despite the new leadership that was elected in the contested Honduran elections, political assassinations and death threats have continued. In 2014 WFPSW would like to increase protective accompaniment measures for our Honduran partners by funding international accompaniers and delegations to visit and stay with our partners when they request international observers. WFPSW would like to set up an emergency fund for Honduran human rights defenders who need to temporarily relocate due to death threats. Please support our Honduras Human Rights Fund.

5. Free the Cuban Five and exercise our right to travel to Cuba– For over 15 years now the Cuban Five have been jailed in US prisons for protecting their home country of Cuba from terrorist attacks. In 2013 we saw Rene Gonzales return home to Cuba and in 2014 we expect Fernando Gonzales to also return home. Meanwhile the remaining three Cuban political prisoners continue to be held in US prisons including Gerardo Hernandez who is serving two life sentences after never having committed a violent act. In 2014 WFPSW renews our commitment to fight for the release of the Cuban 5. WFPSW will also send a licensed delegation this fall to the International Solidarity Conference with Cuba while we continue to fight for Freedom to Travel to Cuba for all US citizens. Contact us to get involved in the campaign to Free the Cuban Five and/or to travel with us to Cuba in 2014.

Click here to make a year end gift to WFPSW.

Checks can be mailed to WFPSW PO Box 1781 Ojai, CA 93024.

Click here to become a monthly sustainer! Email tanya@wfpsw.org or call 805-669-VIVA

Happy New Year!!!

 Top 5 Highlights of 2013

  1. Venezuela- 2013 we experienced the passing of a Latin American legend. The death of President Hugo Chavez brought millions of Venezuelans to the streets to memorialize and mourn the passing of their leader. WFPSW stood with the Venezuelan people as they went to elections after the loss of their President. WFPSW held a webinar report back on the Venezuelan elections and led an action alert for US neutrality in the Venezuelan electoral process.

CHAVEZ-supporters-_2504378k

  1. Cuba- The infamous handshake– In 2013 we all got to witness the handshake between U.S President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. Only the second U.S President to do so in 5 decades. In 2013 WFPSW recruited several congress members from California and New Mexico to send a letter to President Obama encouraging him to support more diplomatic relations with Cuba and freedom to travel to Cuba for all US citizens.

131211-obama-shakes-castro-hand

3. Honduras Elections: The end of Two Party Rule-In November of 2013 Hondurans went to the polls in historical elections. After 100 years of two party rule in Honduras, a new leftist party emerged after only 2 years in the making. Even though the new LIBRE party narrowly lost the highly contested Presidential elections, LIBRE gained 38 seats in congress winning the second largest majority and ending 100 years of 2 party rule. WFPSW sent delegates to observe the elections and human rights observers to accompany communities facing repression.

student protests after elections Honduras

  1. Stop the Deportations-In 2013 we saw brave protests against the unjust US immigration system in an effort to halt deportations and the separation of families. In July, 8 undocumented Dreamers crossed the US/Mexico border and re-entered in protest, in November President Obama’s speech was interrupted by an immigrant rights activist, and in December activists shut down ICE offices in L.A and DC. Pictured below protesters block a snowy New Jersey road in the name “Not one more deportation”. WFPSW will continue to participate in the struggle for migrant rights in 2014.

n-IMMIGRATION-DETENTION-CENTER-PROTEST-large570

5. Environmental Justice, Human Rights and Sustainability in the Americas- WFPSW Ojai Retreat-In September WFPSW held is annual conference and retreat in Ojai, California focussed on the links between human rights, climate change and environmental sustainability. We participated in workshops on Colombia, Honduras, Climate Change and non-violent communication with special guest speaker Ana Rivera from Honduras.

IMG_0193

 Click here to make a year end gift to WFPSW.

Checks can be mailed to WFPSW PO Box 1781 Ojai, CA 93024.

Click here to become a monthly sustainer! Email tanya@wfpsw.org or call 805-669-VIVA

 Happy New Year!!!

Advertisements

“Honduras: Stolen elections, continued assassinations and US antics as usual” Preliminary report by Tanya Cole- December 4, 2013

Honduras: Stolen elections, continued assassinations and US antics as usual”

Preliminary report by Tanya Cole- December 4, 2013

Contents

1. pre-election violence

2. International Observer Teams

3. Election Day

4. Election results

5. LIBRE press release

6. Assassinations continued

7. Next steps for solidarity

Honduras: Stolen elections, continued assassinations and US antics as usual”

Preliminary report by Tanya Cole (Director -Witness for Peace Southwest, co-leader Sister Cities/Share Observation Team)

Dec 4, 2013

Witness for Peace Southwest sent three representatives to observe the Honduras elections this past Nov 24th as part of 166 international observers organized by the Honduras Solidarity Network. The elections were wrought with pre-election violence, fraud, intimidation, protests, assassinations and US attempts to legitimize a stolen election. The Honduras electoral tribunal declared the right wing national party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez the official winner while three political parties claim fraud and demand a recount. The night of the election just hours after the closing of polling stations, US Ambassador Lisa Kubiske called the election “transparent” and called on the Honduran people to peacefully respect the results.

Pre-Election Violence

A Rights Action report showed in the weeks leading up to the elections, LIBRE and Resistance activists were harassed, threatened and assassinated for their political involvement. The homes of Edwin Espinal and Marco Antonio Rodriguez were raided by military police, LIBRE congressional candidate Beatriz Valle received deaths threats forcing her flight from the country and TV Globo cameraman and LIBRE activist Manuel Murillo was assassinated. Our delegation met with Edwin Espinal a week before the elections. (more to come in full report)

manuel murillo

(In the early morning of June 28, 2009, Manuel Murillo was one of the first journalists on site to document the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya. His body was found exactly one month prior to the elections on Oct 24, 2013 in Tegucigalpa. Photographer unknown.)

International Election Observers

The Honduras Solidarity Network organized the largest international election observation team with 166 credentialed observers by the TSE. U.S delegations were organized by Sister Cities/Share Foundation (of which WFPSW members participated, co-led by Tanya Cole), La Voz de los de Abajo-Chicago, Alliance for Global Justice/Taskforce on the Americas, SOAW, National Lawyers Guild, Cross Border Network and more. Observers were in 10 of the 18 departments of Honduras: Ocotepeque, Copan, Lempira, Santa Barbara  Cortes, Francisco Morazan, Choluteca, Olancho, Atlantida and Colon. WFPSW members as part of Sister Cities/Share delegation observed in the Aguan Valley, Department of Colon where 113 campesino leaders have been killed since the 2009 coup. Other international observer groups also sent delegations: US State Department, Organization of American States, European Union, Carter Center, National Democratic Institute (NDI), International Republican Institute (IRI) and a few more.

obsevation team

Sister Cities/Share Observer Delegation Team-Aguan Valley, Honduras

International Observers were subject to intimidation and harassment in the days prior to the elections by immigration police sent by national party President Pepe Lobo. Several raids occurred in Tegucigalpa and El Progreso. One raid occurred while HSN delegations were receiving observation training from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE). Another raid in Tegucigalpa was conducted by immigration police heavily armed and faces covered in masks.

immigration police honduras

Honduran Immigration police, some heavily armed and masked, harassed credentialed international election observers in El Progreso and Tegucigalpa.

Day of Elections- Nov 24, 2013

Violence and Intimidation: The eve of elections took the lives of two campesinos while they were returning home from electoral training in preparation for their election duties the next day. Maria Amparo Pineda Duarte was the elected President of her cooperative. Julio Ramon Maradiaga was an active member. The community is the site of an ongoing land struggle in the area, and both victims were active members in the LIBRE party (see video report). In the department of Copan, International Observers from the Alliance for Global Justice recorded reports of LIBRE members who were held hostage the morning of the elections so that they could not serve on their voting tables. Two women also reported being attacked and their credentials stolen.

Vote Buying- Both the traditional parties (Liberal and National) were reported to be buying votes outside voting centers. Testimonies, photos and video recordings of the vote buying was collected at the majority of voting centers where the international observer teams were present. In most cases votes were bought for 500 Lempiras ($25 USD) and the voter was to make a public open vote in front of the whole voting table (a voting option normally for handicapped or elderly), with the national party or liberal party representative watching through the window to confirm the vote for payment. See video here of vote buying. Also see video sample of open ballot voting.

Election Results

Within hours of the closing of polling stations on election day, the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal), whose President is a well known member of the National Party, began to post preliminary results of National Party Presidential candidate Juan Orlando leading LIBRE’s Xiomara Castro by 5 percentage points. Almost immediately US Ambassador Lisa Kubiske called the Honduran elections “transparent”, said the results coincided with the reports from her observers and called on Hondurans to peacefully respect the results of the TSE.

kubiske and lobo

US Ambassador Lisa Kubiske with current National Party President Pepe Lobo.

Discrepancies in vote reporting- It soon became clear that the vote tallies that were reported from the original voting “mesas” did not match the posted results on the TSE website. See this video description of the discrepancies in vote counts on the TSE website.

LIBRE sweeps in congress and municipalities– Despite discrepancies in vote counts LIBRE candidates still swept in the areas of congress and municipal mayorships. LIBRE went from zero seats in congress to 38 seats holding the second largest majority. Other smaller parties like the PAC also gained seats. LIBRE also swept in many municipalities, winning mayorships and local level positions across the country. Many members of the grassroots FNRP resistance gained political positions. Former President Mel Zelaya won a congressional seat from his department of Olancho.

composition of Honduran congress 2014

The chart above shows the new breakdown of the Honduras congress after the Nov 24, 2013 elections. The LIBRE party (PLR) is the color orange holding 38 seats. The National Party (PN) color green holds 48 seats, Liberal Party (PL) color red 26 seats and the Anti-Corruption Party (PAC) color grey won 13 seats. 2014 will hold a very different Honduran congress, unseen in the 100 year history of 2 party rule between the National and Liberal Parties.

LIBRE refuses to recognize results, shows proof of fraud and calls its base to the streets.

On Friday November 29, 2013, Presidential candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya held a press conference in which she stated We do not recognize the legitimacy of any government that is the product of this shameful assault. We will demonstrate that triumph of LIBRE was the will of the Honduran people with its votes on November 24th. And this triumph is being stolen by those who have turned the electoral system into a farce, by falsifying voting records and adulterating electoral results…They have everything. The power to bully us, attack us and to persecute our people. But they will never make us give up our dignity! Sisters and brothers, let us peacefully take to the streets that we came from!” See full english translation here. See video of speech in Spanish here.

Gerardo Torres (Los Necios) speaks in a video interview with the Real News: “We’re going to bring the struggle back to the streets, as we have been doing for the last four and a half years, because Juan Hernández is not the legitimate president of Honduras. The election was won by Xiomara Castro more than 5 percent. People decided that she had to be the president. And we’re not willing to let anybody steal this. On the other hand, Libre Party has now almost half of the Congress, of the people in Congress. So we made alliance with other parties that are also against the National Party. We can make a strong position as a party in Congress while the resistance is keeping on the pressure against Hernández government…we’re not going to stop fighting. We’re going to keep the international pressure, the national pressure, until at some point in Honduras the will of the people is respected.”

LIBRE takes to the streets after elections student protests after elections Honduras

Student and LIBRE protests of electoral fraud.

Continued Assassinations of Resistance leaders

Within a week after the elections, two more political assassinations occurred. A day after the elections in the area of Ocotal, Santa Barbara, Gilberto Lara aged 60, a member of the Central Nacional de los Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC) campesino organization and of the cooperative “Sacrada Familia” was murdered. Gilberto disappeared after going to buy some batteries. His fellow cooperative members went to look for him when he did not return and found his decapitated body.  Gilberto is the third member of the CNTC to be murdered with 2 days of the election.  

The next victim was Jose Antonio Ardon known as Emo 2 (for his resemblance to the beloved resistance figure Emo who was also murdered). He was part of the famous motorcycle group Motorizada of the Resistance who always accompanied Xiomara, and LIBRE. He was ambushed by 4 gunmen and hit 4 times, about a block away from his home. See video interview (spanish) of Juan Barahona, LIBRE vice-presidential candidate and sub-coordinator of the FNRP regarding the recent assassination of Jose Antonio Ardon and other resistance leaders. Barahona states that there has never been investigations of the political murders of resistance members, they have been committed with complete impunity and it has been planned attacks with the intent to hurt the morale of the social struggle. Barahona continues to state that “they will never accomplish this…the front and the party will keep going to defend the interests of the Honduran people.”

Emo2

Jose Antonio Ardon (Emo 2) pictured left red shirt was part of the LIBRE motor brigade. He was assassinated near his home on November 30, 2013 by four gunmen.

 Next Steps for Solidarity

1. Report Backs- Witness for Peace Southwest and Sister /Share delegation members will be completing a full delegation report that will include reports from visits to Rio Blanco, Siria Valley, meetings with the Movement for Diversity in Resistance (Erick Martinez), Los Necios (Ana Rivera ad Gerardo Torres), Edwin Espinal, COFADEH, Hugo Noe Pino (former ambassador to US), Berta Caceras and Aureliano Molina of COPINH, Bartolo Fuentes (new elected congressman LIBRE), OFRANEH (Afro-Hondurans), Wilfredo Paz (Aguan), MUCA-Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan and much more. There will also be report back events taking place in Southern California and other states and cities. WFPSW will host a webinar report back in coming weeks.

2. Holding the US Embassy accountable- WFPSW and partner organizations will be launching a letter and call in day campaign to denounce US Ambassador Lisa Kubiske’s interference in the Honduran electoral process. Stay tuned for action alert.

3. Honduras Solidarity Network face to face planning meeting-The Honduras Solidarity Network will be holding a face to face strategy meeting in coming months to plan next steps of solidarity in post elections Honduras. WFPSW will be sending representatives to this strategy meeting.

4. Fundraising for increased accompaniment and security protections for resistance activists- WFPSW will continue its fundraising efforts to provide increased accompaniment to resistance activists through speaking tours and delegations in addition to raising funds to assist with increased security measures for resistance leaders under threat. Donations can be made at www.wfpsw.org.

Resources:

websites:

www.wfpsw.org

www.hondurassolidarity.org

www.hondurasresists.blogspot.com

www.resistenciahonduras.net

Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz5yEwgyCWgMIKp632-ujcw

http://www.youtube.com/user/wfpsw

http://therealnews.com

http://jessefreeston.com

Facebook pages:

(WFPSW) https://www.facebook.com/groups/witnessforpeacesouthwest/

(HSN) https://www.facebook.com/HondurasSolidarityNetwork

(HSN election watch) https://www.facebook.com/hsnelectionwatch

(FNRP) https://www.facebook.com/FrenteNacionalDeResistenciaPopular

(COPINH) https://www.facebook.com/copinh.intibuca?fref=ts

(MUCA) https://www.facebook.com/movimientounificado.aguan?fref=ts

(OFRANEH) https://www.facebook.com/ofraneh.garifuna?fref=ts