Honduras: protester murdered, leader detained

Hundreds of people attended the burial of murdered Honduran bricklayer Pedro Magdiel Muñoz Salvador on July 26 in the El Durazno cemetery, about 5 kilometers north of Tegucigalpa. “Blood of martyrs, seed of freedom,” chanted the mourners, who said the police had killed Muñoz for his role in a July 24 demonstration near the border with Nicaragua, where protesters had been trying to join up with deposed Honduran president JosĂ© Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

During the burial ceremony, mourners seized two police agents from the General Directorate of Investigation, beat them and set their vehicle on fire. According to witnesses, campesino leader Rafael AlegrĂ­a rescued the agents from the crowd. AlegrĂ­a, who heads the local branch of the international VĂ­a Campesina (“Campesino Way”), has been a spokesperson for the grassroots movement resisting the military coup that removed Zelaya from office on June 28.

Muñoz, a 23-year-old Tegucigalpa resident, was found dead with signs of prolonged torture on the morning of July 25 near a police post in the community of Alauca, El Paraíso department, about 10 kilometers from the Las Manos border post. On the afternoon of July 24, hundreds of protesters had confronted soldiers and police in El Paraíso in an attempt to reach Zelaya, who was trying to enter Honduras at Las Manos from the Nicaraguan side. Witnesses said Muñoz was active in building a large, smoky bonfire near the soldiers who were blocking the protesters.

A police official acknowledged that agents arrested Muñoz that afternoon but said the arrest was for smoking marijuana, not for protesting. The police said they released him at 6:30 AM on July 25, but a medical examiner said in the presence of witnesses—including representatives of the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), an independent human rights organization—that Muñoz had died several hours before that. (Qué, Spain, July 26 from unidentified wire services; La Jornada, Mexico, July 26 from AFP; Honduras Laboral, July 26 from Frente de Resistencia Popular de Honduras)

Muñoz’s murder appears to be part of a pattern of increased repression against opponents of the coup starting July 24.

On the night of July 24, unidentified people fired on a car near Tegucigalpa’s ToncontĂ­n international airport, wounding Juan Carlos Trochez, who was hospitalized with wounds in the chest and the lower body. He had been returning to the capital after participating in an anti-coup demonstration in the western department of Santa Bárbara with his older brother, CĂ©sar DarĂ­o Trochez. Their father is Rodrigo Trochez, a legislative deputy from Santa Bárbara for the center-right Liberal Party, whose membership includes both President Zelaya and de facto president Roberto Micheletti, a leader of the coup. Deputy Trochez is one of the minority of Liberal legislators who opposed the coup; he had been in Washington since July 19 with six other deputies to talk to US officials and Congress members. He told the Italian wire service ANSA that he thought the attack was a reprisal for protesting against the de facto regime. (ANSA, July 25)

Campesino leader Rafael Alegría was detained along with driver Gustavo Adolfo Suazo and the Austrian writer Leo Gabriel in Las Manos around 1 PM on July 25. The police refused to say where Alegría had been taken, but the independent Spanish journalist José Carlos Gallaga located him with about 45 other detained protesters—including 18 women and 11 minors—in El Paraíso in departmental police station number 7. The police assaulted Gallaga, but finally released the protesters at around 6 PM. (Honduras Laboral, July 26 from Común Noticias)

On July 26, shortly before the burial of Pedro Muñoz, a small bomb exploded in a bathroom in the Tegucigalpa offices of the Union of Workers of the Brewery Industry and the Like (STIBYS). There was material damage but no injuries. The union has been a meeting place for the resistance, and the explosion came at the end of a strategy meeting. (Qué, July 26 from unidentified wire services; La Jornada, July 26 from AFP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 26

See our last post on Honduras.