Interviewee: Lizandro [pseudonym]
Interviewer: Martin Mowforth
Location: Centro de Amigos para la Paz, San José, Costa Rica
Date: 11th July 2010
Notes: Lizandro [pseudonym] is a Honduran coup exile and a refugee in Costa Rica. There were 27 exiled Hondurans being helped and supported by the Centro de Amigos Para la Paz
Martin Mowforth (MM): Can you give me your name, nationality and other circumstances. And can we use your name?
Lizandro:I am Lizandro from Honduras. I am here in San José, Costa Rica, and I have come here seeking refuge, fleeing the repression of the army, the police and the oligarchy of Honduras, for being an active member of the Popular Resistance in Honduras.
MM: How long have you been here?
Lizandro: We have been here about seven months. We arrived in January .
MM: Can you tell me what happened immediately after the coup? First in your life and second in general on the streets.
Lizandro: Before the coup there was joy in the people, because we had never had a president who would walk amongst the people. At first we thought that he was like all the other presidents. Mr. José Manuel Zelaya, constitutional president to date, because that is how we Hondurans see it. At least 85% of Hondurans think so, and before the coup there was a great joy in the people and we were anxiously waiting for the 28th June 2009, because we knew that we were changing for a better life. We felt happy knowing that we were going to vote on a fourth ballot to decide whether or not we wanted to be consulted. Of course we want to be consulted about everything that happens in the country. The country belongs to the Hondurans, not to the oligarchy that is completely foreign. Immediately afterwards there was going to be a change in the Constitution because we know ex-presidents that have become millionaires at the expense of the people, of companies that have borrowed money from the people and have gone into liquidation, of banks like the General Investment Corporation [la Corporación General de Inversiones] run by foreigners, including Flores Facussé, Ferrari, other foreigners who do not come to mind at this moment. They ran this bank, they bankrupted it, cynical, because until they sold the building of the bank, we remember because we are still paying that money.
We arrived to vote at the fourth ballot and unfortunately on that day the coup happened, which I now realise, through deputies and trusted people here in Costa Rica, that four days before the coup it was known here in Costa Rica that there was going to be a coup in Honduras. So we believe that they are the same people. In fact, ex-presidents of Honduras have companies here in Costa Rica. José Leonardo Callejas has companies in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala. He has investments in Mexico, less in Honduras, where he robbed all the money with which he goes around with influence everywhere.
He walks around enjoying our money, with our wealth from Honduras. We do not like it, and that is the root of the poverty in Honduras. We are not poor; we are miserable in Honduras, with so much wealth, but belonging to only ten families, who are unfortunately all foreigners.
MM: Can you tell me about the protests in the streets after the coup and if you were involved in the protests?
Lizandro: As soon as we realised, at a few minutes past five in the morning, that there was a coup, the people took to the streets to see what was happening and we realised that we were already under siege, that we were not allowed to be on the streets; but the people were on the streets and ignored the call of the tyranny, because it was a military coup, oligarchic, and in which Cardinal Rodríguez and Evelio Reyes of the Evangelicals were also involved and in agreement that the coup was the best thing that had happened in Honduras. Also Ramón Custodio, from human rights, said that he did not know how so many people from the Resistance were falling dead on the streets of Honduras because the bullets being fired by the army and the police were made of rubber. From that moment we nicknamed Ramón Custodio ‘rubber bullet’. We saw that the firefighters were not collecting the dead; we saw that the Red Cross was not collecting the dead from the streets, but that the same people, instead of supporting the people, they carried arms, tear gas, they carried prisoners in the ambulances, because there came a time when the police could not cope with carrying so many prisoners, so many injured, that is, so many people, because with an entire population, even if they are soldiers, they are never going to beat us. We beat them because we tired them out. They were awake for 24 hours and we were resting, continuing, and taking turns. We walked in the streets day and night to demonstrate to the world and the international community that we were not, we are not, nor will we continue to agree with the policy of the current dictator in Honduras.
MM: What is happening with your job, your company in Tegucigalpa?
Lizandro: I worked in printing, my wife in another company. I always kept on with the protests, from the very moment of the coup I never stopped going to the streets every day to protest against the government. I am an active member of the Popular Resistance and on 12 August 2009 I was arrested in the Central Park and taken to the Támara penitentiary in Tegucigalpa; and it was then when a group of lawyers joined forces against the coup and it was them who litigated for us to be able to leave.
At the moment of the arrest, they took me by force, they beat me, tortured me, chained me, handcuffed me and then we disappeared for nine hours. The human rights bodies did not know where we were, nor our families. But we realised that we were in the Cobra Squadron, a squadron where the 3-16 were trained by officers trained by the School of the Americas of the United States. It is a special squadron for torture. There we were tortured, we were savagely beaten, we were asked where the weapons were, who was paying us, if we were being paid by Hugo Chávez, Mel Zelaya, who it was that was paying us. No one pays us, it is something that comes from the heart for the love of Honduras, for the love of the people of Honduras and to live in a State under the rule of law; that is how we want to live. Right now, with this Pepe Lobo, it is not a State of law, there are no laws in Honduras; it is a lie.
We continued, and until a lawyer from the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), after going three times to the Cobra Squadron, he ran into the official from Madrid and said to him “official, I have a call on my mobile from one of the police who says that the boys are being detained here. If you do not tell me the truth I am going to make it known internationally that you want them to disappear.” So this was how the official reacted a bit. He was one of the torturers there and he was the boss, he gave in and let the lawyer from COFADEH in, who began to see how we were, after nine hours of searching for us, and he saw that among the detainees were people injured, fractured, badly beaten, deprived of oxygen, in a pretty bad state. We had been put in an army car; the floor of the car we left covered in blood. Then by the request of COFADEH, a Red Cross ambulance was called. They arrived; they just looked at us, bandaged some of us, then the Official from Madrid said “they are fine”. At midnight we were taken to Code 7, a police station in Tegucigalpa in Dolores, always with hands and feet chained and shackled, like criminals. There they started torturing us again and they put us in cells.
From 2 pm when we were taken prisoners, until midnight, we had no water or food and we were given a real beating whenever they felt like it. We were hungry and thirsty. At midnight, by demand of the lawyers – at that time we had a front of lawyers led by the lawyer Neftalí – we appeared before a judge. The judge ruled that 11 of us would go to the Central Penitentiary. We left the meeting, we were handcuffed and put in the cells again and at 2.30 am we were taken to the Penitentiary in Támara, Tegucigalpa. We received a visit from an official, whose name we could not make out because the part of the shirt where the name is engraved was always covered up, and they began to torture us again. We got there at 3.20 am, we were completely soaked with buckets of water. That official ordered the police to bring plenty of water and wash us again and again with all our clothes and shoes on, and we were beaten, for at least one hour and 45 minutes. They laughed and told us “look, Mel Zelaya is with two women over there in Nicaragua and look at you here, you will no longer be doing that”. I always said, “it doesn’t matter, leave that to him, he is no longer president, but we will keep fighting”. To speak there at that time was not thinking in the same way as them and so they continued to beat us. We gave up speaking and just let them beat us and they threw water on us whenever they wanted to.
So this is how it was and how we entered the premises of the Penitentiary and until the fourth day we had the right to wash ourselves, during that time we did not have a bed, a sheet, a pillow, we had to sleep on the wet floor, not even in the cells but in the corridors. We had to ask for permission from the other detainees to sleep on the floor because there was not even any floor space on which to sleep. I happened to sleep on one of the stairs, sitting there. So this is how it was during the time I was kept prisoner. We watched nervously as the officials and police came in at 11, at 12, at 1 am, at 2 am, who will be taken today, who will be killed today, and who will they take to torture. There was a psychosis of fear because we knew nothing of the outside world; we were cut off; we thought that at any moment we would be taken off to be disappeared or tortured to get some truth out of us. A situation of terror.
MM: How long were you detained for?
Lizandro: We were there from the 12th until the 20th. We went to the Court five times. Each time it was the same, with feet and hands shackled and chained. Those were moments of terror and fear, because we were told that we would have to spend 30 to 40 years in prison and so we almost started to demand that the lawyers bring us the good oficios so that we would be able to leave. They told us “we have everything to win, but the oligarchy, the police and the army have the power right now and we cannot do much, but we are doing everything possible to remove them [or ‘get you out’ [sacarlos] – not sure if talking about the police / oligarchy/army or the prisoners]”. So they kept on working, with us always in solitary confinement. People came to see us at the Penitentiary – the Commission on Human Rights, from Brazil, from Spain, from Canada, from the United States – we told them everything that had happened to us and what was happening to us. They were aware of our situation. Those who have experienced firsthand the repression of the coup, we hope that they are working for us and for the people of Honduras.
MM: Are your family still in Honduras?
Lizandro: Yes, they are in Tegucigalpa. But the people that are active in the people’s movement have no right to work, no jobs, nothing. They are asking me to help them, but I cannot work here. The Government of Costa Rica does not allow me to work. If not, we will not have work to live, I cannot live by begging. There are people who support me [Friends Peace Centre, San José] and that is how I have been getting by. I do not know how it will be in the future. Right now we are processing documents, you just do not know. I am a foreigner in a country where I cannot demand anything, only do as they say.
MM: Are you still receiving news from Honduras, from your friends, your family, and from the newspapers? What do you think is happening?
Lizandro: The people are still in the streets, with the knowledge of all the deaths that there have been: professors, teachers, shoemakers, builders, carpenters, doctors, lawyers, journalists, disappeared. Like any oligarchy, everything is entangled with drugs, they say that they die for settling the scores. That is what the police said, because that is what the oligarchy tells them to say. But no, it is part of the popular movement and they do not like the people demonstrating so they look for ways to keep them quiet, to silence the people’s thinking. These people have to be eliminated, and they are eliminated by their death.
MM: Could you mention the importance of COFADEH and other similar organisations?
Lizandro: Immediately after the coup, all the human rights bodies, like CODEH, TPTRT, COFADEH, announced that they were available for the people 24 hours a day. When someone was arrested, they were present. They were ready to defend the people and we are very grateful to them because they condemned it, and as soon as they knew something, they were there; and the people are aware of this and it has been taken into account. Not so with the other traitor, Ramón Custodio, the ‘rubber bullet’, who put himself in their favour.
We trust in those organisations, we now see how they work and support us, otherwise there would have been more deaths, because there are many people around the whole country, not just in Tegucigalpa, but also in San Pedro Sula, in Copán, in La Ceiba, in Progreso, Tela, Trujillo, Colón, La Esperanza, Intibucá, Choluteca, who are in wheelchairs, there they are for history, to judge the military, like Romeo Vásquez, who hopefully one day I will be able to see die, to pay for the great number of deaths there have been and for the many crippled people who are walking around on crutches. They have caused great terror and they have to pay for it. I would like to see them in Rome paying for their crimes, Micheletti, all them, that would be a great joy for the people.