Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tragedy and "Tranquility" Reveal Dual Realities in Honduras

by Galen Cohee Baynes, Nicaragua International Team

On the eve of Honduras’ “elections,” Angel Sagrado lays in critical condition in a hospital bed in downtown Tegucigalpa. After nearly twenty-four hours of delicate surgery during which doctors attempted to remove the bullet lodged in Angel’s head, he was transferred to the recovery room late this afternoon.

Angel Sagrado lays in critical condition after soldiers fired on his car on Friday night.

According to witnesses’ reports, the bullet that penetrated Angel’s skull was just one in a hail of gunfire that soldiers unleashed on Angel’s car on Friday night. As his car took a turn near the neighborhood La Granga in Tegucigalpa, Angel was surprised to find himself rapidly nearing a military barricade constructed alongside the road. He apparently attempted to slam on the breaks, but his vehicle scraped the cement barrier. At that point uniformed soldiers open fire directly on the car, putting a bullet into the back of Angel’s head. It is unclear whether he will recover from the shooting.

As Angel’s car approached the barricade, M.H. was selling food at her nearby stand. Hearing the squeal of tires and the first shots fired in the barrage of bullets, she attempted to crouch down for protection. At that point it appears that a stray bullet grazed the left side of her head. After he was shot, Angel’s unmanned car swerved in the road, smashing into a taxi. The impact of the vehicles sent them spinning onto the sidewalk, crushing M.H. and causing serious injury to her lower abdomen. She is also in critical condition in a Tegucigalpa hospital.

M.H. was injured in the same incident, likely by a stray bullet.

M.H. was injured in the same incident, likely by a stray bullet.

O.H., the sister of M.H., gave an interview on Saturday under the condition that only her initials be printed. Why does she feel the need to protect her identity? “We are afraid of the people that did this,” she says. “How can we file a complaint if it is the police, if it is the soldiers that fired the shots? My sister has three children. What will we do? She was both mother and father to these children…The police cleaned up the whole area, cleaned up all of the blood, collected the bullets.”

O.H. feels that the only place she can turn to for help in an investigation are independent human rights organizations. This is the atmosphere of terror that innocent victims of police and military violence are living under the day before the “elections” that have been much celebrated by the coup regime as a way to solve Honduras’ five-month old crisis. Those that have suffered repression or violence at the hands of soldiers know they cannot turn to the official legal institutions for justice. Indeed, filing claims could lead to harassment, threats, or much worse.

A group of election observers whisked off on a Supreme Electoral Tribunal retreat this morning were presented with a markedly different picture of pre-“election” Honduras. In Valle los Angeles, a small tourist hub forty minutes west of the capital, the officials strolled leisurely down closed-off streets and bought memorabilia at cigar and souvenir shops. Other observers paused to examine paintings at the town’s small museum. One Costa Rican delegate noted that, though he has only been in the country for two days, the atmosphere appears to be quiet and normal.

Election observers in front of a souvenir shop in Valle los Angeles on Saturday morning.

Election observers in front of a souvenir shop in Valle los Angeles

When asked about their strategy for monitoring tomorrow’s elections, delegates replied that they had not yet been informed where they will be stationed. A patrol of soldiers was assigned to secure the town while the observers were present. The de facto government has promised that Honduras’ armed forces will “ensure tranquility” during the electoral process tomorrow.

Armed Forces patrol Valle los Angeles

The heavily armed troops might signify comfort and tranquility to election observers, but tomorrow will be anything but a tranquil day for the Sagrado family.

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