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Honduras: Thousands Defy Military Crackdown and Flood the Streets to Protest Alleged Vote-Rigging

Tensions are rising in Honduras, where security forces have opened fire on protesters over the weekend.

Tensions are rising in Honduras, where security forces have opened fire on protesters over the weekend, killing at least three people and injuring dozens more. On Sunday, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets to protest what many are calling an electoral coup d’état against opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla. Protesters accuse the electoral commission of rigging the vote in favor of incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández, who is a close US ally. For more, we speak with Zenaida Velasquez, a Honduran human rights activist and one of the founders of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras. We also speak with Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, a member of La Voz de los de Abajo and one of the founding members of the Honduras Solidarity Network. He has been in Honduras for over a week leading a human rights observation delegation.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue on the crisis in Honduras, where tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets Sunday to denounce alleged election fraud and to support opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla, last week the electoral commission pausing the counting of the votes when the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, was trailing opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, who is now calling on the military to stop the crackdown on protesters.

We’re joined by Honduran human rights activist Zenaida Velasquez. She’s one of the founders of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras. Her sister, Ilse Velasquez, was a teacher who was killed during a demonstration in March 2011. Her brother, Manfredo Velasquez, was abducted and disappeared by Honduran security forces decades ago, in 1981.

Joining us from Honduras is Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, one of the founding members of the Honduras Solidarity Network, a member of the group La Voz de los de Abajo and a longtime friend of murdered environmental organizer Berta Cáceres.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! I’m going to begin with Zenaida Velasquez. What do you understand is happening right now? And what are you calling for, Zenaida?

ZENAIDA VELASQUEZ: Good morning, Amy.

What is happening is the risk of a general strike in the entire country, because they are opposing all this curfew that certainly is mostly a coup d’état. And so, the possibility of having a general strike, because the people say, “If they are imposing this curfew to us from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., so there’s us act from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and do a general strike, that we have to stop this rigged electoral vote, this blatantly rigged electoral result.”

It’s incredible how they have hacked the system three times. And then, all of a sudden, when they reactivate the system, Juan Orlando is ahead of Salvador Nasralla. This is completely outrageous. It’s blatant, really, that they are talking about this, when, on Sunday — actually, Monday, early morning, about 2 a.m., finally, the first results were given, and Salvador Nasralla was winning for five points, after counting 67 percent of the acts, and then the rest, 33 percent, was going to be done the rest of the days. And it was — it’s a week already. It’s more than a week already, and they are still playing with those results. And that’s why the people is completely frustrated and angry.

And the most amazing thing is that it is mostly youth. Yesterday, we had between 500,000 — 500,000 to 600,000 people on the streets only in Tegucigalpa. And it’s mostly youth. It’s about 80 perceent of the youth that are doing this, accompanied, of course, by the rest of the people. But as I was saying, San Pedro Sula, Santa Bárbara, Copán, Choluteca — everywhere — they were demonstrating, and they say, “Who is afraid of anything here?”

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle into the conversation. Matt, can you tell us just where you are in Honduras and what you see happening on the ground?

MATT GINSBERG-JAECKLE: I am in Tegucigalpa. I’ve been here for several days. I’ve been in the country for about 10 days. And it’s really eerie and surreal. It’s hard to know what word to pick to describe what’s been happening in these days.

I spent a good portion of the last few days doing human rights monitoring, both in the protests and at the Hospital Escuela, the main public hospital in Tegucigalpa, which is really ground zero to see how this military siege is playing out. Ambulance after ambulance, truck after truck, taxi after taxi come pouring through the gates, bringing wounded protester after wounded protester. And these are protesters being wounded by live ammunition, Amy. It’s unreal. There’s not enough room for them in the emergency room. They’re leaving some people that are shot just in the leg, waiting for up to an hour because they have so many other cases to attend to.

And it’s a state of complete impunity. I was at the Hospital Escuela when the curfew was called. They gave one-hour notice. And we were in the middle of documenting severe violations of human rights, when we had to all be rushed out to get home safely ourselves.

But I also want to emphasize there’s another side of what’s going on here. One moment is the moment that we’re there and watching these grave violations of human rights. The other moments are the moments that we’re seeing this brave people that are refusing to give up and are refusing to accept this fraud. The night after, what’s — it’s actually been called, that first night of the toque de queda, or curfew, has been called the Black Night, because of the amount of death, because of the amount of blood that was shed. That next day, there was what’s called the cacerolazo, the banging of pots and pans. And when you step outside the doors in Tegucigalpa, it sounded like there wasn’t a single household in the whole city that wasn’t banging on pots and pans. It was a symphony of pots and pans, of joy, of yelling, of open defiance. In many neighborhoods, people were flooding out of their homes in open defiance of extreme levels of militarization, and making very clear that the will of the Honduran people is not broken. And the next day after that, there was over 100,000 in the streets, as you’ve already reported.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt, can you describe a case that you intervened in? You saw the military chasing a group, beating a man. Describe what happened and where it was.

MATT GINSBERG-JAECKLE: Yeah. So we were along the Boulevard Centroamerica. It was on Thursday. And the military was chasing after a group of protesters that had been maintaining a blockade. The military had, through extreme, excessive use of tear gas, been able to dislodge the blockade and was chasing after a number of people. It was a group of approximately 10 young women, plus a couple, a middle-aged couple. And they turned around the corner and started running as fast as they could. And right after them came military, that were yelling with foul language, yelling, “We’re going to get you, you” — I won’t use the actual language they used — and running at full speed.

So I decided — me and a colleague of mine decided to run as fast as we could after the military. Unfortunately, we were a few steps behind them. By the time we got to them, the man was already bloodied in the face, but we were able to insert ourselves between the military and the man and his wife, who were the ones that the military had caught up with, and told the military that we were from international human rights and to please stop and let us know if there was accusations, and that if there wasn’t, that they needed to leave these people alone. And the military responded to that by swinging their bat towards me in an intimidating manner, but finally deciding to run back down the hill.

AMY GOODMAN: And the woman who was killed, the teenager, 19 years old, Kimberly Fonseca, on Friday night, can you tell us her story?

MATT GINSBERG-JAECKLE: Yes. She was — unfortunately, that wasn’t one of the cases I personally documented. I know that she was one of the people that was out banging pots and pans and out in the neighborhood when the curfew had been called, showing defiance, and that she — the military opened fire and shot her, I believe in the head. And she was pronounced dead on the site. I went to the morgue to try to verify the details of the case, but there’s two morgues here, and the one that I was at, in Hospital Escuela, is the one they — where people go to after they’ve died in the hospital, not the one they’ve been brought in dead to. But she’s one of, I’m hearing, six cases now. I know that there — I’ve been able to confirm at least four of those cases of people around the country who have been killed by live ammunition by the military.

AMY GOODMAN: Zenaida Velasquez, The Intercept is reporting the president of Honduras is deploying US-trained forces against election protesters. And, of course, the amount of money the US has poured into the Honduran military and other security over the last years, since the coup d’état in 2009, is well over $100 million, could be $200 million. What are you calling for now?

ZENAIDA VELASQUEZ: We are calling to stop — to stop this military aid. Juan Orlando is preparing. He has also — apart from the army, he has an imperial police that obeys to him. And he has prepared these police to kill. I know that the order is to kill, to shoot the people directly, to kill them. And the other rumor that is going on, Amy, is that today he’s back — he will be back in Honduras, after being in the United States searching for help, more help, and support, and that they are going to decide that he’s the winner. And if all these protests, if all these demonstrations, if all this outcry from not only Honduras but international outcry is not heard and he is declared the winner, I think we will see rivers of blood, because those people are going to kill. They have been given the order to shoot directly to the people. And so —

AMY GOODMAN: And, Matt, the demands of the people on the ground? We only have 20 seconds.

MATT GINSBERG-JAECKLE: The demands of the people on the ground, first of all, there were 5,000 tally sheets of votes that were introduced directly from the electoral tribunal’s headquarters in Tegucigalpa right after the system went down for eight hours. And it was at that point that they tended to reverse. They want every single one of those scrutinized. They want the illegal and scrupulous — unscrupulous regime, scurrilous regime, of Juan Orlando Hernández to come to an end. It’s a dictatorship. He was an illegal candidate from the beginning. The people want the restoration of democracy and an end to the human rights abuses and state of siege.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there for now, but of course we’ll continue to cover this developing story, Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Honduras Solidarity Network and Zenaida Velasquez, Honduran human rights activist.

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