Tuesday, November 1, 2011 – “A complete overhaul of the Ministry of Security and the Ministry of the Attorney General is urgent,” said Bertha Oliva, Coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras, COFADEH, as she called on the international community to suspend financial aid to these institutions, which she refers to as “death machines.”
The human rights defender made these declarations to representatives of the media who asked for her comment regarding the escape of police officers identified as involved in the murders of Alejandro Vargas and Carlos Pineda, both students of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), who were riddled with bullets last weekend after being captured by the officers.
Evidence was discovered regarding the crime, including videos that betray the identity of those considered responsible, who are currently fugitives. The suspects are subinspector Carlos Galaes Cruz and officers Wilfredo Figueroa, Arnulfo Padilla and José Rubén Pozo, who are suspected of having killed university students Carlos Pineda Rodríguez and Rafael Alejandro Vargas Castellanos on October 22nd.
“We must remember that in our country the death penalty does not exist, and so any explanation that state authorities give that serves to justify deaths of this kind implicates those authorities in an illegal act,” stated Oliva.
She added that with the latest actions of state agents prompting the flight of the four suspects, COFADEH’s reiterated claim—that policies and practices are being implemented that serve to paralyse all those who believe that civilized methods for seeking justice should be carried out in the wake of the horrendous crimes that have taken place in Honduras—gains renewed validity.
According to Oliva, the day after Alejandro Vargas—the youngest son of Julieta Castellanos, Rector of the UNAH—was murdered, the authorities had investigated the facts and had all the required information to proceed. “And look what has happened,” she says. “This is why I reiterate that here we have a State policy to assassinate young people and pursue those who, one way or another, are the objectives of criminal elements, and to say that they were ‘involved in something bad’ is considered a sufficient explanation.”
“Security in this country cannot be built on terror and cannot be strengthened by having criminals and their accomplices in the structures responsible for investigating and guaranteeing the rule of law,” added Oliva.
“In Honduras we don’t have a State. Here our institutions are money-grabbing machines, and are broken. This is why we are asking all international organizations to stop supporting these ‘death machines’ until real action is taken.”
She added that it is not enough to either purge or strengthen these state institutions, or to reinitiate the National Council on Interior Security (CONASIN). She claims that these entities need a complete overhaul in order to rectify them and initiate a rehabilitation process in state institutions, not continued investment of funds. Without this kind of overhaul, she claims, there will never be security in Honduras, just better trained machines for killing young people.
There are also other international organizations of human rights defenders who are “profoundly concerned” that the government of the United States es perpetrating grave human rights abuses by providing funds and military training to security forces in Honduras.
“An example of this is the 40 million dollars provided by the State Department,” offers Dale Sorenson, human rights observer with the Marin County Task Force on the Americas, based in California, last month.
According to information of COFADEH’s “Access to Justice” team, since 2006 at least 5 police officers and one member of the military who have been sentenced for murder are currently fugitives, and their escape has characteristics similar to those of the suspects in the recent murder of of the two university students.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011 Sandra Rodríguez