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"The people are resisting despite all of the attacks, despite their lives being at risk. During the night, people are persecuted, entire communities cannot leave their homes because there are military officers in the neighborhoods. We continue under an undeclared state of siege. Despite this, people are looking for ways to express their opinions, to shout "You are not my president, I didn´t choose you", said Miriam Miranda, leader of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) in an interview with Real World Radio.
"As an organization, we demand that the will of the people is respected", said Miranda summarizing the reason behind the large protests taking place in Honduras since November 27, when after the national elections, current president Juan Orlando Hernández declared his victory amid a clear electoral fraud that prevented the candidate of the opposition, Salvador Nasrallas, to win.
The black community has been suffering attacks by Hernandez´ administration for a long time, but now the situation is worse than ever and in less than two months they were attacked twice. OFRANEH´s offices are located in Sambo Creek village, La Ceiba municipality, in the Northern coast of the island. Miranda told Real World Radio that in the first days of December, while they were carrying out a peaceful spiritual and cultural activity "the police came and without saying a word threw tear gas bombs at us". Seeing this, the Garifuna community, especially young people, joined the resistance and between 70 and 80 police officers arrived an hour later and "hunted down the people", she said. This was something never seen by the Garifuna community, we had never been attacked in this way. This showed us that in the framework of Juan Orlando Hernández´ administration, his Praetorian Guard is willing to do whatever it takes".
On December 20, another Garifuna leader, Luis Enrique García, head of the supervision board of the community, was shot by people who were waiting for him. "He now went underground because his life is in danger", said Miranda. And there is a third case, that of Nahum Lalin, member of the General Coordination of OFRANEH: three hitmen went to his house in the middle of the night. Luckily, he wasn´t in the country, said Miranda, but she added that "there is a price on our comrade´s head".
"In Honduras we have never been this exposed and unprotected in terms of the respect of human rights. There is no-one to turn to, no institution", she stated, and said that it is not useful for them to go to the Human Rights Prosecution Office or the Indigenous People Prosecution Office, or any other national body, because they just write down what they say and don´t investigate.
"We don´t have anyone to turn to, we are completely defenseless in the country right now, to the point that every day people tell us how military police officers are entering their neighborhoods, communities, ever since December 28, when there was a massive protest against the electoral fraud. The officers arrive to communities with profiles and lists of people, ready to arrest them, harass them. They don´t respect anyone, not even children or young people".
Miranda said that "the people who have been participating in this struggle are being directly persecuted", and reminded that the military police have killed over 35 people since November 27.
Latin America as a test field
At international level the situation is no better. She said that Hernandez "has a strong international campaign to legitimate this coup". OFRANEH states that this "electoral coup in Honduras affects Latin America as a whole, not only Honduras, because we see that in an electoral process, which is the backbone of a democracy, the decision of the people is not respected. We wonder what will happen with all the democracies and all the countries in Latin America if they end up legitimating and accepting an electoral fraud as clear as this one", said Miranda. She also questioned how countries such as the US, Israel, Colombia or Canada are OK with Hernández taking office on January 27, when the OAS itself stated that there were some irregularities in the electoral process. "This is a sign of what will happen in other countries, and of how democracies can be weakened", she said. That is why she stated that the Garifuna community is calling the international community to "realize that Honduras has been a political test field since the coup d´ Etat of 2009 and that now they are stripping the people away from their right to decide who their next president will be".
Moreover, she said that the government has created a media campaign to legitimate itself. In this way, she made reference to the challenge to counter the information coming from the dominant media, because "the media not only legitimates coups, but also promotes them, and helps to maintain them".
OFRANEH is making proposals, and that is why they point to the need to "establish an anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, anti-racist, inclusive National Constituent Assembly, where we can define the future of our country. And we also need to empower communities, which as always will be in charge of setting the course of our country. They need to strengthen their resistance, to be empowered over their territories", she said.
Hernandez has announced that he will take office on January 27. Miranda stated that she doesn´t have high expectations with reference to this, because the OAS is not doing enough to change this reality. She said that Luis Almagro, Secretary General of OAS, has tried to make some changes, but he maintains his attacks against Venezuela, news about which continue to be the center of Honduran communication media. “Protests continue and will become stronger as we approach January 27”, she concluded.
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