“This is to say that Honduras is living an undeclared war-a silent war. Honduras at this moment is undergoing massive human rights violations.” Journalist Ronnie Huelte in a statement to KGNU.
Honduras consistently ranks among the top deadliest countries in the world for journalists. Those who report on the post-coup violence, or who challenge the current regime are especially targeted. Some have fled the country, some have fled temporarily, and some continue to work under a cloud of threat.
Ronnie Huelte has worked as a journalist for thirteen years in Honduras. Although he hasn’t received recent direct threats, he has been blacklisted because of his critical writing against the current government. He felt forced to leave the country to continue his work in the US.
He spoke to KGNU via Skype about why he left and if he has been threatened himself:
KGNU: Have you yourself been threatened?
Huelte: Yes it happened in 2010. I first started receiving threats in 2009. I denounced the human rights violations to international media. That is when help was called for at that moment in Honduras.
Now I denounce it because I no longer have work as a journalist. I’m censored. A journalist like I am cannot work due to human rights violations, for having political thought that doesn’t sympathize with the dictatorship, actually.
KGNU: Because of your message?
Huelte: Yes. Because of the message. I worked in Honduras up until the 25th of May in a human rights organization that worked for the rights of those who were deprived of freedom. The project ended and I was without work and had to come here, the truth is, to look for opportunities here because there aren’t any in my country.
KGNU: Then how long will you be here?
Huelte: Well indefinitely. I’m looking for solidarity with someone. I’m in Washington to look for work, maybe to collaborate with someone who knows of work because I’m available to work here. I came here for that reason, to work. Because in Honduras there is not work for an independent journalist and human rights activist. It’s a risk to work plus there’s not work anyway. Up until my last days, I was working as a volunteer providing coverage about the hunger strike that is happening outside of the presidential palace, and of the torch marches. Oh, and also of the university which is spectacular about what has been happening in Honduras. That was what I last did as a volunteer even though I have bills to pay like everyone else.
KGNU: Can you describe the risk that you confront?
Huelte: Yes. As a defender of human rights who denounces the university where there is fascism as is practiced by the Director, Julieta Castellanos who turned on the students in an abrupt and violent way and violated the students’ human rights. These were denounced and they continue to be denounced. There is ongoing demand as journalists and the risk is assassination. That’s how it is. She can respond with persecution in the form of military or police response. Or threats can be delivered in the form of texts to a person’s phone. Or you simply can be killed.
KGNU: And the threats that you received, could you give us details of those?
Huelte: Actually, at this time, I haven’t received any. I was denouncing the violations from my position but thank God I hadn’t received any threats since 2010.
KGNU: And this director, Julieta Castellanos, she has a relationship with the president, right?
KGNU: Yes. Julieta Castellanos is the Director of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. She has advised the conservative government, with conservative tendencies. In fact she was an adviser to the government of [President] Ricardo Maduro Joest in 2002-2006. In 2011 her son was assassinated by the same military police. Of course because her son was assassinated, and in spite of her son being assassinated, in spite of it being such a major incident we supported her at the time because she was a woman who lost her son. It was her son.
Of course four years later in 2015 she is completely involved in the same political thought and executions of the dictatorship of (President) Juan Orlando Hernandez .
KGNU: So we better understand, what is your message to the people of Colorado?
Huelte: Honduras at this moment is undergoing massive human rights violations against people who defend those rights such as for example freedom of expression, freedom of thought. Also the rights of indigenous communities are violated such as the communities of the Lenca, Tolupanes, Miskitus. They are assassinated . There is practically in the last four years and I mentioned Dr. Juan Almendares- there is 90% impunity in the country. In the last four years, more than 4,000 people have been assassinated.
This is to say that Honduras is living an undeclared war-a silent war. People who are critical of the Honduran government or of private corporations or of the dictatorship are assassinated.
Another point I’d like to make is that there are people who are resisting. In the last 28 or 29 days there has been a hunger strike a few feet away from the presidential palace that was completely repressed. The hunger strikers were victims of psychological torture, physical torture. The hunger strike was gassed.
They are not eating. It’s a completely peaceful hunger strike. Right now the community is peacefully standing up. Still the military and national police together with the president and private industry repress the people who criticize it.
There is no work in Honduras. Imagine. I have a Master’s Degree in cooperative development from Spain. I have been a journalist for 13 years. I have worked in television, and print journalism. And I don’t have a job. It’s the same for everyone. The only people who have a job are the ones who support the government and the conservative party which is the National Party. They are the ones who have a few jobs. It’s a violation to not be able to find a job too.
To this point, it was necessary for me to leave the country. I couldn’t make a living. I couldn’t live a normal life without a job. And also because of my position as a defender of human rights in Honduras.
Another message that I’d like to relay to the people of Colorado: thank you for being aware of what is happening in Honduras. Honduras at this moment is a nation that is a laboratory of undeclared war.
Proof of that is also the violent eviction of resident students who peacefully shut down and protested the director’s implementation of regulations that are further privatizing the National University which is public. About a week ago, they took over the University and they were violently evicted.
Four hundred military and police arrived to confront just 70 students. It was ridiculous. The students left peacefully. No doubt as soon as the military and police arrived, it turned violent. Although no one was injured that God, it was the intention to hurt the students. Three students have been charged and could go to jail. Just for protesting. Peacefully.
KGNU:Will you ever go back to Honduras?
Huelte: I don’t know what to say. The work that I do voluntarily in defense of humanity in Honduras and to report on what’s happening there, it was necessary for me to leave and also because of financial reasons that prevent me from living a normal life. For that reason I’m here indefinitely looking for opportunities.
I see a lot of respect here. Honestly at the moment I feel a moment of peace. In Honduras there is military behind every corner, everywhere, the vehicles of drug traffickers, things such as that. A person walks the street in fear.
And a person comes here to Washington DC and everything is more relaxed, peaceful, nobody will assault you. You don’t have to look over your shoulder at every moment to see who is following you. You don’t have to speak in code when you are talking on the phone. And that is what is happening in Honduras. This type of violence.