VALLECITO, COLON, HONDURAS-A canoe carrying villagers mostly from the community of Ahuas in Honduras was sprayed with bullets that came from helicopters above. It was May 11, 2012 and the helicopters carried US Drug Enforcement agents as well as Latin American military.
The bullets missed most of the small children in the canoes, but killed 14 year-old Hasked Brooks who was in the boat with his mother. Two pregnant women and a 21-year old man were also killed. Four other people survived their multiple gunshot wounds but most were critically injured.
Spokesperson for the US State Department Victoria Nuland was quick to relieve the US of any responsibility in the attack. In a May press briefing she said that no force was used, the US fired no shots, the US played only a supportive advisory role, that no US agent shot ANY weapons, and that the Honduran authorities were in the process of a broad investigation. After questions from reporters about the progress of the investigation, she went on to say that she was not aware of what the specifics of the supportive advisory role were that the U.S. was playing.
A week after the massacre, The Nation Report accompanied a human rights delegation organized by the human rights group the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ) to the area of the shooting.
Several survivors and community members were interviewed. In each of their testimonies, witnesses contradicted each of Nuland’s statements. They said that light-haired and light-skinned gringos played leading roles, shot guns from the helicopters, and threatened them on the ground. In reference to the investigation to which Nuland referred, all witnesses said that no investigation had been done up to that point, and no one from the authorities had been in the area to take their testimonies. In fact, one of the survivors took the group to where the canoe was retired off of the river to examine it. It was ridden with bullet holes.
Twenty-three-year old Lucio Adan Nelson Escoto was on the boat to visit his mother for Mother’s Day. He was shot in the back and in the arm rendering his ability to continue making a living as a farmer impossible. The group spoke to him approximately one week after the shooting from his hospital bed in the city of Ceiba,
“The helicopter shot us from above. I was asleep in the boat when I heard the shots from above. They got my arm and my back. Afterwards I fell into the water. Then I realized I had to get to a hospital so I started walking alone. My back and my arm hurt so much. It took me an hour to swim to shore. I suffered a lot on the walk to the hospital. We are very poor. My father traveled very far to come here and take care of me. We are suffering of hunger. I’m in a lot of pain. Right now my arm is hurting. When I speak, it hurts here. I need an operation on my arm. I was injured and when the military left, I went to the hospital. And with that injury, I made it all the way to the hospital.”
Today The Nation Report spoke to three community leaders who live in the area where the massacre took place. Dina, Serena Trapp, and Sendela are community leaders in the Mosquitia – an area of eastern Honduras accessible only by boat or helicopter where the massacre took place. The three attended a historic gathering of indigenous communities in Vallecito in the department of Colon.
Dina (we are using only her first name by her request), Vice-President of the Women’s Organization AMAT, comes from the community of Ahuas where the massacre took place, “I’m sad. Innocent people, innocent people were killed. So the people are very worried right now. [The area] has settled down some but they have to pay for the deaths. It’s sad. On behalf of the people of the Mosquitia, we are very worried and we want [the killers] to pay for those murdered. Not just the family but certain people are worried too that from the helicopter they were shot so they should pay the survivors for those they killed. It hurts the family and it hurts the culture. Although not just the family members but the entire community, those murderers who did this from the air!”
Serena Trapp is the representative of Indigenous Mosquitia Women of Barra Patuca Bucari Mat, “We Miskitus only want of the May 11th massacre that the U.S. government supports the orphaned children and those injured so that these children are able to continue studying. And since they killed a single mother, her children are now suffering from malnutrition. There’s too much hunger among them now.”
Sendela was at the meeting representing indigenous Mosquitia Women, “Look. As leaders in the Mosquitia, we are concerned because regarding the May 11th massacre, we still haven’t received a response. But as Miskitu leaders, we are demanding that there be an investigation and that [the case] doesn’t continue with impunity because we are people too and we shouldn’t be left as we were because it was a massacre that was committed in the first place in the state of Gracias a Dios. Children have been orphaned because their mother died and I believe that there should be justice.”
Humanitarian groups such as AFJG, Rights Action, and the School of the Americas Watch are calling for US compensation to the survivors, to pay hospital expenses and other losses.
The Nation Report returned to the location in November to see an even greater increase in military presence.