Janet Spring, Karen Spring ( Honduras Solidarity Network) Springwater Deputy Mayor, Don Allen.
For immediate release
Springwater Township calls on Freeland to intervene in Honduras
‘Not dealing with a normal bunch down there’ – Councillor Perry Ritchie
ELMVALE – April 22 2018 – Springwater Township Council has unanimously voted to call on the federal government to uphold human rights and the rule of law in Honduras and to urgently intervene to help free Edwin Espinal and other political prisoners in that country.
Deputy Mayor Don Allen put forward a motion at the request of the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor, started by the Springs, a well-known local farm family.
“My family and the families of all political prisoners are deeply grateful for the support from Springwater,” Karen Spring said after the meeting. “This resolution is a demonstration of the stance of local residents in relation to human rights issues that affect us all, one way or another.”
“Thank you to Springwater Township for the support and for insisting that Minister Freeland’s office demand the immediate release of Edwin and all political prisoners.”
Spring has been based in Honduras for nine years as the coordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network which comprises more than 30 organizations from Canada and the United States. She and her mother Janet appeared before council April 18 2018.
Spring told council it’s been three months since her husband Edwin was detained by Honduran security forces. “I haven’t been able to speak with him for two weeks because phone communication has been turned off inside the prison as punishment for a protest that was carried out by other inmates.”
The conditions in the prison are unbearable, she told council. Prisoners have access to water for only 5 to 10 minutes a day, for drinking and washing, they are allowed two hours of sunlight a month, Espinal has not seen his family, with the exception of five visits from Spring before she left the country, he is given little food and has lost 10-15 pounds, and he has respiratory problems that may be related to widespread untreated tuberculosis among inmates.
Espinal’s arrest was part of a crackdown following public protests over an election November 26, 2017 that opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla had appeared to be winning with a mathematically insurmountable lead. But late on election day, the count was suspended. When it resumed, President Juan Orlando Hernández was found to be receiving the majority of votes. The election has been widely condemned by international observers.
Some members of council expressed reservations about some of the wording of the resolution. The mayor put forward a series of amendments that eliminated some of the stronger language in the original motion with the aim, he explained, of making the message more effective with higher levels of government.
“The objective to free Edwin is the only purpose that we have here – and those other prisoners, I’m not suggesting we’re not going to take care of them, because they’re all caught up in the same net,” French said.
Deleted from the Springwater motion:
- that Opposition Alliance presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla was “fraudulently robbed of victory”
- that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland “regrettably followed the United States lead in recognizing the Hernandez regime”
- that Espinal was arrested on “trumped up charges.”
Spring said she was willing to accept the changes but nevertheless defended the deleted wording. “There’s no rule of law in Honduras and there’s widespread corruption,” she added, explaining that the charges against Espinal and other political prisoners were “randomly ticked off” by prosecutors.
However, she argued, that reference to “inhumane conditions” inside the prison should remain. “It’s a very strong message to the Honduran government that they’re not meeting international standards,” because James Hill, the Canadian ambassador to Honduras, has also raised concern about these horrific conditions.
French agreed that reference to inhumane conditions should remain.
Janet Spring pointed out that much of the wording in the resolution is taken from the findings of international bodies like the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Organization of American States.
“Let’s not water it down too much here,” urged Councillor Perry Ritchie. He referred to information conveyed at a well-attended information meeting in Elmvale earlier this month. “These are people that walked out, grabbed the president and took off!” he said, referring to the kidnapping of President Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
“And then they’ve instilled a curfew that at 6 o’clock at night to 6 o’clock the next morning, if you’re caught outside, they automatically shoot you,” Ritchie said.
“So to water this down, turn the other cheek, be nice about it, I don’t think it’s going to get anywhere. So I liked the way it was. But whatever it takes to get this passed, let’s do it and help these people – because we’re not dealing with a normal bunch down there.”
The majority of council voted for the mayor’s amendments. They then voted unanimously in favour of the deputy mayor’s resolution.
Link to the Springwater Council discussion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AwvRVn8gkM
(start 54:08 end 1:37)
Simcoe County Fact-Finding Delegation: Political Prisoners in Honduras
Dates: Tuesday, May 22 (arrival day) to Sunday, May 27 (departure day)
Cost: $700 Canadian + round-trip flight to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Delegation fee covers food, hotel, translation, in-country transportation & small stipends to some groups we meet with. No groups will make money from this trip and we aim to break even.
Host group: Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor
Led by: Janet Spring, Karen Spring, and Grahame Russell (from Canada and US-based organization, Rights Action). Both Karen and Grahame have extensive experience coordinating and leading delegations in Honduras and Guatemala.
The delegation is part of the on-going work of the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor that is demanding the release of Edwin Espinal and the additional 21 political prisoners arrested in the context of the post-electoral crisis in Honduras. The purpose of the delegation is to continue the pressure on Honduran and Canadian authorities as part of efforts to demand that charges be dropped and all political prisoners be released.
This delegation is a full four-day fact-finding mission that will meet with relevant institutions involved in the issue of the political prisoners including Honduran and international human rights groups and organizations, families of the political prisoners, (at least one and maybe two visits to military-run jails where political prisoners are being detained), and Canadian and Honduran authorities in Tegucigalpa.
Before each meeting, the delegation will establish a clear strategy and talking points and conduct the relevant follow-up afterwards. The delegation may participate in a press conference at the end of the trip to discuss their findings, visits and meetings. Following the delegation, some delegates will be asked to attend meetings arranged in Ottawa to share findings with Canadian government authorities.
This delegation is for people that:
· Are comfortable with sitting through long meetings, being on a tight schedule or ‘hurrying up and waiting’ and if necessary,
· Understand that the Honduran climate is hot,
· Are comfortable with inexpensive, but adequate lodging and open to experiencing different and limited types of food options. We can accommodate vegetarians and people with mild food allergies.
· Are ready to learn a lot about Canada’s role in Honduras, work to free political prisoners, and end Canada’s support for the Honduran regime until the political prisoners are free.
For further information and/or to register, contact:
Janet Spring: firstname.lastname@example.org
For immediate release
Small rural community takes on repressive Honduras dictatorship
ELMVALE ON – APRIL 8, 2018 – How does a small rural community take on a repressive Central American dictatorship?
With determination – as demonstrated by some 150 people who packed the Elmvale community hall on Sunday afternoon in response to an appeal by a local farm family to help secure the release of political prisoners in Honduras.
Pressure from Elmvale has made a huge difference, said Janet Spring, who has been working on behalf of Honduran human rights worker Edwin Espinal, being held along with 21 other political prisoners under “horrific” conditions in military style jails.
Espinal is the husband of Janet’s daughter Karen, also a human rights worker based in Honduras. Karen choked back tears as she thanked people for coming out in support of her family. “It means a lot to see so many people from the community where I grew up,” she told the crowd.
Janet Spring said the pressure has been felt in Ottawa, where officials in Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office have acknowledged that they have heard from the community. And, she added, it’s been felt in Central America, as Canadian Ambassador James Hill told her in a telephone conversation. “He did mention the fact that we have had an awful lot of support from our Elmvale community.”
A full complement of local dignitaries joined the Springs at the head table, headed by local Conservative MPs Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North) and Alex Nuttall (Barrie–Springwater–Oro-Medonte), along with Springwater Mayor Bill French and Deputy Mayor Don Allen. Among those in the audience were Simcoe County Warden Gerry Marshall and Tiny Township Mayor George Cornell, as well as Springwater Councillor Perry Ritchie.
Stanton paid tribute to the courage of human rights workers who “are on the front lines of taking personal harm… to stand up for ordinary folks that just want a fighting chance to build their lives in their own country.”
“The world needs more Karen Springs,” he said, to applause. “And Edwin Espinals sas well,” he added, to more applause.
The November 26 2017 Honduran election has been widely recognized as having fraudulently robbed Opposition Alliance presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla of victory.
Millions protested the seizing of power by Juan Orlando Hernandez, who ran for a second term despite being constitutionally ineligible. The protests resulted in more than 30 deaths that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has characterized as extra-judicial killings by security forces. Espinal was among 22 pro-democracy supporters arrested on trumped-up charges.
Despite these clear abuses, the United States recognized the Hernandez government in December, and Canada followed suit a day later.
Stanton urged those present to “stand with the Spring family, with Karen and Edwin and the other political prisoners in Honduras and do everything we can to put pressure on the Canadian government.”
He said that Freeland does have “a listening ear” on the issue. However, Canada’s voice needs to be stronger, he said.
Nuttall pointed to $37 million in aid that Canada provides to Honduras. “Why are we spending S37 million a year propping up a government that is hurting its own people?” He urged that Canada announce it will cut back until Honduras respect the rights of its citizens.”
“Follow the money,” echoed Springwater’s Bill French.
Tyler Shipley, author of Ottawa and Empire – Canada and the Military Coup in Honduras, stressed that Canada has played a major role in the country’s descent into state-sanctioned terror. It started in 2009, when the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and flown out of the country. Canada recognized the government that seized power back then. Since then there have been three flawed elections, the last one in November having been “irrevocably fraudulent.”
In each case, as people were being arbitrarily arrested and being shot in the streets, “the surprising bit is that Canada throughout this process has taken the side of the Honduran military,” Shipley said.
But perhaps, he said, it’s less surprising when one considers that a lot of Canadian capital is invested in Honduras, in the mining sector, in manufacturing, in the tourism industry.
“Unfortunately the Canadian government decided it was more important to support those interests,” Shipley said, a stance that has held across political lines in Canada, involving decisions by both the Harper and Trudeau governments, but has been uniformly harmful to Hondurans.
Questions from some in the audience indicated a level of understanding of Canada’s financial complicity. There was a request for a list of Canadian companies that invest in the country, and Karen Spring promised that would be posted on the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor.
Members of the audience were invited to sign letters to the Canadian government and a petition in Spanish. The Springs have appointments next week in Ottawa with Global Affairs Canada, and with Sofia Cerrato Rodriguez, the Honduran Ambassador to Canada, and plan to take the messages from the Elmvale meeting to those officials.
MC James Nugent, Mayor Bill French, MP Bruce Stanton, Dr. Tyler Shipley- Guest Speaker, Karen Spring, Janet Spring, Mayor Don Allen, MP Alex Nuttall
- Write your MP with the demand that they call for the Government of Canada, under the leadership of the Honourable Justin Trudeau, to stand by its stated position in support of human rights and the rule of law in Honduras. Your local Member of Parliament: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members
2. Download and sign the open letter to the government as a citizen of Canada The letters mailed (no stamp required) to:
Chrystia Freeland Minister of Foreign Affairs
Global Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
3. Download and sign the sample Spanish Letter-
English translation version below
mail it to:
Sofia Lastenia Cerrato Rodriguez, Ambassador
Honduran Embassy in Ottawa, Canada
130 Albert Street, Suite 805
Ottawa, ON K1P 5H3
4. Have your organization, union or association, download and pass the following resolution. Mailing information contained wit
DONATE TO THE CAMPAIGN TO FREE POLITICAL PRISONERS IN HONDURAS
– 3 ways to donate – 2 involve receiving a tax receipt.
If you want to make a donation directly to the Honduran Political Prisoners Fund (no tax charitable receipt provided), or if your donation by cheque is under $250, then …
- Deposit your donation to any TD Canada Trust location, Branch 2400 Account 6339776
Cheques are payable to Janet M Spring and/or Christine Nugent
In memo on the cheque put ‘in trust for Free Honduras Political Prisoner Fund’.
If you require a tax receipt, please donate to Rights Action in the following ways:
- Make online credit card donations (Canada or U.S.). Go to http://rightsaction.org/donate/ and click on link for donations in Canada or U.S. In the appropriate “message” box (accompanying your donation), write “Honduran political prisoners.”
- 3. Make donations by cheque that are over $250. Make cheque payable to “Rights Action” (write “Honduran political prisoners” on cheque memo line) and mail to: Rights Action, (Box 552), 351 Queen St. E., Toronto ON, M5A-1T8. You will receipt a formal tax receipt from Rights Action.
Mining Companies Goldcorp, Aura Minerals, Glenn Eagle Resources Co., Lundin Mining
Tourism Companies, NJOI, Life Vision Developments, Caravida
On April 5th, Ottawa residents joined protesters worldwide who have been denouncing the fraudulent Honduran elections and arrests of political prisoners, and calling on the Canadian government to act.
Two Weeks With No Communication from the La Tolva Prison
Update #8 – April 19, 2018 – Day 89
Sunday April 8: Free Honduras political prisoners – meeting in Elmvale
Edwin Espinal, in November 2015 with young friends in Rio Blanco where he had gone to support Berta Cáceres, just months before her assassination. -Karen Spring photo
The Spring family of Elmvale is hosting a meeting on the extreme danger faced by their daughter Karen, a human rights worker in Honduras, and the inhumane treatment of Karen’s spouse Edwin Espinal, jailed for almost three months on trumped-up charges.
When: Sunday April 8, 2018
Where: Elmvale Community Hall, 33 Queen Street West