by Galen Cohee Baynes, Nicaragua International Team
César Omar Silva Rosales - a journalist, filmmaker and member of the Honduran resistance movement - was arrested and tortured by Honduran authorities last December after compiling and distributing a video that demonstrated the repressive tactics used by the police and military against protestors in the wake of the June 28, 2009 coup. Three of his colleagues, including film editor Rénan Fajardo and gay right’s activist and film distributor Walter Tróchez, were assassinated in the weeks after the documentary’s release. Reports of targeted kidnappings and assassinations by Honduran security forces have been frequent since the controversial, U.S.-supported November elections that brought Porfirio Lobo to power.
César Silva was able to flee Honduras and go into hiding in Nicaragua after his kidnapping and torture. In the following excerpts from an interview conducted by WFP with César he discusses his exile, his documentary, and his expectations for Mr. Lobo’s government.
WFP: You are currently living here in Nicaragua in exile. Why did you flee Honduras?
César Silva: I had to leave Honduras after I was kidnapped on the 29th of December. I was held almost thirty hours,and subjected to interrogations, to beatings. I was tortured. Then they let me go – maybe accidentally, maybe because there weren’t orders to hold me…This was after they had killed many of my friends and colleagues, so I did not think that I was going to survive. But they let me go around noon on the 30th of December. I spent that night and the following night in Honduras, and then I escaped to Nicaragua on January 1.
I feel that I escaped within twenty-four hours of when I was going to be assassinated. They let me go, but they were still planning to kill me. They were going to make it look as if it had been a common crime, as if I had been assaulted and then murdered. That was their plan...so I had to leave Honduras immediately.
You leave your country and abandon absolutely everything - your family, everything that you have done. These are difficult conditions. Even when you arrive in a country where people speak the same language and have the same customs, you arrive without a cent, without anything…But I have the benefit of being alive, and with [my wife and child] also alive. There is no price you can put on that. So, I am happy to be alive, even in these difficult conditions.
WFP: You made a documentary capturing some of the repression that took place in the wake of the coup. Why did you make the video?
C.S.: I think that I achieved my goals in making the video, and it is because I achieved those goals that I had to leave Honduras. What happens after the coup? Most of the Honduran media outlets are controlled by the same owner, who was behind the coup d’etat…There was a period of time where we were completely muted and left without means of communication. It was only what they [the coup perpetrators] were saying that one could hear or read…
So, what did we do? We began from day one to film videos and produce short news alerts - about five minutes long, made in a very rudimentary style. We had a computer and an editing program. We spliced the audio and video and that was it. But we had to get the information out to people. Some of the organizers said, “Let’s make DVDs so that more people can see these videos.” So we burned discs, reproduced and distributed them…I decided that I was going to make a documentary, compiling the footage that we had taken. I call the documentary, “Honduras Repressed.” The documentary shows beatings and repression, so that people could get an idea of what the reality in Honduras was.
WFP: How was the video received within Honduras?
C.S.: Well, the police got word of the video and got their hands on a copy. In the end they wound up arresting me. They murdered my editor, they murdered a young man who helped to collect some of the footage, and they executed a young man who helped to distribute the DVDs…
The existence of the video made the authorities nervous because the leaders of the resistance would get people together in the neighborhoods - sometimes over one hundred people - and would show the video… People took in the video with a lot of enthusiasm because they had been lacking information…And this is what scared the authorities.
WFP: Now that Porfirio Lobo has taken over the presidency, do you think there is any chance that you will see justice in the cases of your colleagues?
C.S.: To start, the government of Porfirio Lobo Soza is a continuation of the coup d’etat…He never spoke out to say that any of this [the coup] was wrong. He is just another supporter of the coup. He has been in agreement all along. But he kept his mouth shut because he knew that he was going to win the presidency.
In terms of the cases of the young men that were killed…[and] as to whether or not the people that are responsible for these crimes, who work within Pepe Lobo’s government, will be punished – I don’t think so. The Minister of Security under Lobo is Oscar Álvarez…During the campaign period he said that, if it had been up to him, he would have “dragged that criminal [Manuel Zelaya] out of the Brazilian embassy by his hair.” Since the day that he (Álvarez) came into office…he (has sent) out patrols to the different neighborhoods and they arrest people without warrants. Or they get a warrant and then enter into all of the houses in a neighborhood. And, apart from arresting criminals, they also arrest people that are not linked at all to crime…What does that mean?... The repression will continue, and the population is well aware of this.
WFP: What actions can concerned U.S. citizens continue to take to stand in solidarity with the people of Honduras in the midst of this repression?
C.S.: The way that people abroad can continue to support us is, first, by not closing their eyes. This is of utmost importance. Do not believe that [the crisis] is now over. Do not believe that, now that there is a new government, our problems have ended. No. The problems continue …Look for ways to continue publishing – in every blog where Honduras is mentioned – information about what is really happening. That, for us, would be a victory. Because we have relied on that press - the independent press…If you all close your eyes, that will be like a huge wall collapsing on us, and we will lose everything.
As the repression continues in Honduras, we must not close our eyes! Watch César Silva’s documentary, courtesy of the Quixote Center, and forward it to your friends and family. Check out the Witness for Peace video, Shot in the Back, filmed the weekend of the November elections and spread the word. Contact the U.S. State Department to express your concern about the horrific human rights situation in Honduras.