School of the Americas Watch Annual Action Takes Over Congressional Offices

WASHINGTON-“We are here in honor of Berta Caceres, the indigenous activist and environmentalist who was assassinated last month in Honduras, a country that has been ripped apart since the 2009 military coup with the complicity of the United States, including you Representative Kay Granger!”

At that moment, money buckets were used as props in a street theater held outside of the Cannon Building where Representative Kay Granger’s office is located.  The buckets read, “Honduras is Open for Business,” a reference to a 2011 campaign by the government of Honduras under then President Porfirio Lobo Sosa to sell concessions to private corporations thereby enabling the extraction of natural resources from land including in indigenous territory.

The School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) holds an annual Spring Days of Action that focuses attention on the US role in the increased militarization and subsequent violence in Latin America that is said by the group to explain the increase of refugees and asylum-seekers in the US.  The theme this year for the action was “Solidarity with Communities in Resistance and Sanctuary for Refugees.”

To achieve that end, the SOAW took their demands to the offices of Representatives Kay Granger (TX), for her role as Chair of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and Vice Chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.  Granger’s office walls display military equipment at bases throughout the country.  In a statement issued by SOAW the group’s goal was to hold Granger accountable for her role in committees that fund the drug war in Latin America and the residual effects of the funds, “Kay Granger wants to deport Honduran yet continues to arm the criminal Honduran regime they are fleeing.”  The group issued a demand for sanctuary for Latin American refugees in the U.S. and an end to the militarization of the police force in the US:

“Increasing militarization and violence in Central America and Mexico is leading to an increase of asylum-seekers looking for refuge in the U.S. While some try to scapegoat them for all of our problems, we must stand up and demand accountability from the U.S. government and respect for the people of the region, whether they are in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, or in the U.S. We recognized and answered this call in the 1980s, and it is time for us to do so once again.”

Brian Stefan-Szittai member of InterReligious Task Force of Cleveland has participated in human rights observation delegations to Honduras and took part in the Spring Days of Action.  He was one of the groups who confronted Representative Granger, “[We] went in to protest the US complicity in the assassination of indigenous and environmental activist Berta Caceres from Honduras.  In [Granger’s] district is a lot of military aircraft such as from Bell.  She’s gotten contracts for Bell to supply military aircraft to Honduras including personal helicopters for Juan Orlando Hernandez, the president of Honduras. “

Stefan-Szittai said that her office staff stood by as the names of some of the people assassinated were read:

“We remember that and we are here to remind you that it is you that is irresponsible and unaccountable, not the brave women and men that flee with their children in an attempt to save their lives. 

Pedro Magdiel Salvador Munoz assassinated in July 25, 2009.

Roger Abraham Vallejo Sorian assassinated August 1, 2009.

Wendy Elizabeth Avila, September 26, 2009

Jacobo Euceda September 22, 2009

These are four of the first known cases of the over 400 who have been killed by Honduran security forces or the private security mercenaries employed by the rich and powerful Hondurans that the US including this Congress aligns itself with.”

Stefan-Szittai described the subsequent actions, “We read the four demands of the family of Berta Caceres namely to call for an independent investigation headed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the other demand to stop all US security aid until the Honduran state cleans up its human rights violations.”  On March 2, 2016 Berta Caceres,  a Lenca indigenous community leader who fought for the environment, was assassinated in her home in Esperanza, Intibuca, Honduras.

Security was called to Granger’s office but there were no arrests as the group made their way to the office of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) not only for her role in the supporting the 2009 military coup but according to SOAW she has been one of the most aggressive proponents for the coup regime in Honduras.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) did not escape notice by the Spring Days of Action for his “outspoken [role] in favor of the coup and [who] has written letters of support to the presidents of Honduras such as Pepe Lobo since the coup.”  According to SOAW, Rohrabacher not only denied that a coup had even taken place, but sent a letter of support to the coup President of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, who had been implicated in corruption and narco-traffickng.

Stefan-Szittai  described the actions, “We brought paper cut out hands that we had already painted with red paint and we taped those to the desks in their office and on the nameplate outside in the hallway and we left several fliers about Berta Caceres and the continued struggle of the people of Honduras to protect their lands and their human rights.”  Stefan-Szittai said that not one Representative was present and that none has issued a response.

SOAW in this action wanted to emphasize that, “She was assassinated in cold blood with the complicity of the US government and that of the so-called Honduran democracy.  You Dana Rohrabacher are complicit!”

Last Friday a ceremonial march of hundreds trekked the half hour to the Gualcarque River that Berta Caceres worked a lifetime to protect.  The group was attacked by those familiar with their faces and identified that attackers as security guards of a hydroelectric dam that Caceres worked to prevent.   During the attack Honduran National Police only watched, stood by, made no arrests, and even were reported to have laughed during the attack.

In response SOAW continued in their statement,

The same security forces that you continue to arm and support despite all of the evidence of human rights violations against them.

For her death, we echo the four demands of her family and her organization COPINH.

  1. Public support for an independent investigation of the murder of Berta Caceres by the Inter-american Commission of Human Rights
  2. The immediate suspension of all US security aid and US general aid pending an independent investigation
  3. Respect for the international convention, ILO 169 that supports the “free, prior, and informed consent” of indigenous people
  4. The US defunding of World Bank and other multilateral institution investments in Honduras that fund the plundering of indigenous lands and territories, including the termination of the funding of the agua zarca dam, the destructive mega project that Berta died opposing.

“We don’t care what you say, which death squad did you arm today?”


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