Honduras Prison Fire, my reaction a few hours after the news hit the net.
PRISON FIRE KILLS OVER 300.
15 Feb 2012
An electrical fire at one of the severely overcrowded prisons in Honduras is apparently to blame for the death of upwards of 400 inmates. Many – if not most of the inmates – burned a terrible death in their cells while prison guards could not locate the proper keys. In one cell, 60 people perished in this fashion. Of the 800 or so people calling the Tegucigalpa jail home, many are missing and most of the dead will require DNA testing to identify. It has yet to be seen – nor will it be reported – how many convicts escaped unharmed into the streets and neighbourhoods of the city, to vanish forever back to a life of crime or simple persecution, or both. This is it, at a minimum security prison there are those convicted, those simply being held for political reasons or speaking against the government – although as has been shown, the easiest way to keep these people quiet is not to lock them up with their mouths and minds still working – but rather to simply dispense of them on the streets. This fate has happened to political activists, union leaders, journalists, human rights advocates and even simple land owners. So is the diatribe that is life in Honduras. Not being able to lock up the real criminals, dispensing of the non criminals and a white wash of a burning jail story just to make everything chaotic, indescribable, and without any context for comparison to other places, events, or catastrophes. This certainly leaves the public without any recourse or any relevant path for action or justice to take place. This is not the reality of every poor country – Honduras included – but rather a reflection of a very corrupt country which happens to be poor. To top it all off, friends and relatives of inmates rushed to the scene in order to determine if their loved ones, work colleagues (re:gang menbers), or even enemies were alive or part of the carnage. At once the rush was met with military and police resistance and things once again turned ugly. The public enraged with the lack of response resorted to throwing rocks. Those in charge with keeping the peace responded with tear gas to quiet and disperse the crowd. In a short while those in charge decided to read allowed the names of the deceased and those who were alive – over loud speaker. There were 105 names not recited to the incensed crowd – meaning – they were not found in the remains or remained at large. The question exists: If most of the deceased would need to be identified using DNA then how could an accurate list be compiled only hours after fire was extinguished? Honduras is a country where you can be alive or dead, on paper or in reality, and its someone else determining this for you for reasons which are rarely legitimate – in a hopefully legitimate world.
A month ago a story ran in the Miami Herald about the prison and justice system in Honduras and simply how corrupt it is, top down. Let me re emphasis this…..how CORRUPT the system is TOP DOWN. The story quoted a very outspoken (saying anything of the sort in Honduras is considered outspoken) previously high ranking public official. He recounted instances of inmates being let out of jail during the day to run drugs and collect cash….not just for themselves but for their gang and for those in charge of the prison system. There were stories of inmates pictured with guns, police uniforms, cellphones, drugs and prostitutes….again, in the very prison system set a blaze the other day. The source knew of the danger in speaking out and had being doing this towards anyone who would listen for sometime. A couple weeks after the article ran in the Herald, this source was murdered in cold blood. And hey why not, its easier and quieter than putting them in jail.
There have been just under 20 journalists murdered in Honduras since the coud’etat of June 2009. There have been many more sources who have met the same fate in the same time frame. The highest murder rate in the world and one that has gained attention from all corners of the globe and groups who watch and look out for this sort of thing. But it doesn’t take a watch group to see whats going on here. Suppression on a grande scale. Suppression to the degree of death. Suppression to the degree of death with no chance for justice what so ever for the perpetrators. Now that’s suppression without to many comparisons globally, and its not letting up.
Next up: social media, where are you in Honduras?