Victim of DEA shootings in Honduras

 

Yesterday I lost my son.

My son will be turning two and has a beautiful name that means message or word. Born into a period of violence because of the coup in Honduras, he was for many of us a symbol of life and hope amidst a reality informed by pain and death.

Panic overwhelmed me when I realized that he was lost. I was unable to react properly. I was unable to ask anyone for his whereabouts. I was unable do almost anything. Someone in my head or outside of me would observe me jumping uncontrollably from here to there screaming out his name. I could feel my breath abandoning me as my throat tightened, my trembling and sobbing body became weak.  Complete helplessness.

Fortunately, by those wonders of life, my older sisters found him about to cross a street, calm, as if nothing was happening and unaware that I was dying of anxiety.

In those brief moments when madness threatened to take over my mind, as I suppose has happened to many mothers, I saw myself at the police stations reporting the disappearance of my son. I also saw him, alone and crying when he realized that neither his father, nor his sister, nor his mother were with him. I also wondered at the time if I would see him alive again. And frankly that’s what terrified me, the possibility of a world without him.

My thoughts turned to other mothers, the friends that endured every day the loss of their sons and daughters.  I also thought about the victims of the recent attack in the Honduran Mosquitia.  According to various human rights organizations[1], the attack was supervised by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Patuca in the Honduran Mosquitia. Under the banner of the war on drugs, the DEA has been active in the region and the U.S. recently opened a military base there in 2010.

Four people were killed in the attack, including two pregnant women, Candelaria Pratt and Juana Jackson,  14 year-old Hasked Brooks and and twenty-one year old Emerson Martinez. They were traveling the Honduran Mosquitia transport routes by night in a small boat carrying them to another village.

According to the report entitled “Collateral Damage of a Drug War” by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and Rights Action, “The boat carried passengers with legitimate reasons to travel” in the area[2]. According to the newspaper Proceso Digital, the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras stated, “it is a tragedy, but in this case, as I understand, they were acting in self-defense (DEA) and that it is their duty, because the fight against drugs is important. ”

In light of these statements, one wonders was it necessary to kill a young pregnant women, and a child under the justification of the war on drugs? Were they a threat? The answer is obviously ‘no’–they were not a threat, no one has been able to verify they were transporting drugs or weapons, and to date the U.S. and Honduran officials cannot justify that they acted in “self-defense”, as quoted by the report[3].

Clara Wood, mother of the 14-year-old boy, recounted sobbing in a COFADEH press conference[4], how they started shooting and explained that as they jumped into the water to avoid the bullets Hasked was hit by four shots to the face and legs. She found this out after two days of searching when finally they found his body. Clara, torn with anguish, wept for her lost son who was slain on the threshold of life. The cries of the other mothers accompanied Clara’s. Hopeless, inconsolable cries.

It’s amazing how many memories surge forth within a short span of time and how “life passes before our eyes”.  That’s what happened to me in the brief moment that I lost my son. I was overwhelmed with so much angst, this feeling of interconnectedness with others, and the thought that my situation could easily be their reality. I needed to know nothing bad had happened to him, that I would find my son safe and sound so that the world, my world, could keep spinning.

Amid tears and shortness of breath, with my baby in my arms, relieved but still terrified by that brief glimpse of misfortune, a woman approached me out of nowhere with a bottle of water and said: “Please, take it, this happens to us sometimes”. I thanked her infinitely, although I could not articulate any words. I only remember her brown face, her hair in a ponytail and a touch of blue in her eyes.

I thought with relief about the solidarity and strength we as a people have maintained since the coup, and I say this not just as mere demagogic speech. Sometimes when you least expect it, solidarity bursts in your face like a gush of fresh air, a shower of flowers.  A small gesture that reminds us that despite the burden we carry of violence, underdevelopment, poverty and the rawness of militarization, they have failed to stifle solidarity and our ability to feel for and with the other, to embrace each other, to stand with each other.

We stand with Clara Woods and the families of the victims of La Mosquitia. We want our solidarity to reach them in a warm embrace– not only in the form of a hug, a glass of water, a shared memory, or a shoulder to mourn on, but also in the form of our commitment to justice for the victims, the cessation of attacks on civilians, the withdrawal of the region’s army and U.S. military bases.  The pain of Clara and the other mothers is also ours.

That way we remember that our cry of indignation goes out and finds us every day here in Honduras, although sometimes it may appear to be lost, although sometimes it seems that the world is falling because we cannot find it. However small it may seem, it is what keeps us standing.

Jessica Isla is a Honduran journalist, author, and member of Feminists in Resistance. She collaborates with the Americas Program as a monthly columnist.

Translated by: Nidia Bautista


[1] Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), Center for Women’s Rights, among others.

[2] Proceso Digital: DEA had “central role” in drug operation in Honduras. Tuesday August 14, 2012

[3] Digital Process: Incident in La Mosquitia DEA has to be thoroughly investigated, says President Lobo. June 1, 2012

[4] Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras

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