QC Delegation Report from Tocoa, Nov. 27, 2009

We arrived in Tocoa after a 10-hour bus trip from Tegucigalpa.  Tocoa is the end of the bus line.  Beyond here is the Mosquito Coast, an area of the country without road connections to the rest of Honduras.
We were met at the bus station by Amelia Castro.  She had arranged our hotel and a ride with a taxi driver who is a supporter of the resistance.  The daily radio show from the resistance was playing as he drove us to the hotel.
When we gathered after checking in, Amelia said she would like to know more about us.  She had been called at the last minute by a friend who was supposed to meet with us.  However, the woman had left town, going to ground because of fears of what was going to happen to her.  This became a theme for everyone from the resistance we talked with after that.
After we told her about ourselves, Amelia seemed much more comfortable with us.  She told us that this area is the least peaceful place in Honduras and that it was necessary to be cautious.
This region is far from the media and things can happen without them every being reported.  It is important to have the word of the situation spread both to the national and international media and she hoped that we would be able to do that.
She told us that security is a problem all the time.  It is a drug traffic corridor because of the sea being close. It is a transfer place from Colombia and has also made drugs very available to create users here.  Some of the politicians are financed by drug dealers, she is convinced.
The focus of the resistance here has been on the "fourth ballot."  This is shorthand for wanting a constituent assembly to produce a new constitution.  It is the fourth ballot because currently the system has three ballots–for president, for deputy and for the city mayor.  Ballots go in the appropriate box for that office.  This demand would have another ballot that would be, in essence, a referendum on whether there should be a new constitution.
The resistance in this area is very strong in seeing that this the objective, and that it will continue as the key objective whatever the outcome of the election or what happens with President Zelaya.  
The mayors in this region had been outspoken in support of the resistance. However, when a decision was made that candidates supporting the resistance should drop out, that did not happen.  Elsewhere in the country, candidates from many parties are withdrawing, but the mayor of Tocoa decided to stay in the race.
Mayor Adam Fundes has been one of the national coordinators of the resistance.  Now he has gone to the Liberal party asking to be taken back and apologized for supporting the resistance. Amelia said this was big news, being reported in the national press and CCN Espanol, claiming that this was a significant break of the resistance.
She told us that this has not discouraged the resistance, but has ruined his reputation.  He had political influence beyond the region and a possible national position.  The only good thing to come from this, she said, was taking the blinders off to see where people really stand.
Amelia described the local area as diverse both in population and organizations.  A portion of the population are African-Hondurans, descended from Africans being brought over to be slaves on the Caribbean islands, but whose ships were destroyed and they landed on the east coast of Central America.  A significant black population lives on the coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as Honduras.  Several indigenous groups live here, as well as those from Spanish background.  The campesinos in the rural areas are particularly well organized and that is the most likely place for violent repression.
A climate of fear has been created.  The military are showing up at the homes of activists in the resistance and sometimes searching the house.  They believe that there are undercover people infiltrating.  Across from the bus station where we arrived, she pointed out satellite equipment that had not been there before.
Amelia said that people had been watching her house and that a number of vehicles have shown up in town without license plates. The speculation is they may be paramilitary mercenaries who have been brought in from Colombia–people with experience in killing and disappearances.
In addition to possible repression of resistance supporters, the partisan competition between the National Party and the Liberal Party, the largest political parties, could set off conflict as well.
Amelia herself was planning to find someplace to be away from her home on Sunday, as will many of the activists in the resistance.
When we asked her why she was involved in the resistance, she told us that she was acting as a citizen who believes in a better Honduras.
Before leaving us, she made arrangements for two resistance leaders to talk to us the next day and to make decisions about what we would be doing on Sunday.  And she told us where to find places to eat where the  people running the restaurants are sympathetic to the resistance.