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Military “takes responsibility” for shooting

Military “takes responsibility” for shooting

by Julie Webb-Pullman with Rights Action in Honduras

Maria Elena Hernandez lies in a coma in Escuela Hospital today, election day, after being critically injured in Tegucigalpa yesterday. Maria Elena, a street vendor, was going about her business when a car driven by Angel Fabricio Selgado (see went out of control after he was shot in the head by soldiers outside the Military High Command, crashing into a barrier and also hitting her.

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Oscar Salgado, Angel Fabricio's father, on death watch

These two victims of the military dictatorship, who had never previously met, now lie side by side in the intensive care unit as a result of bullets from the same gun, one on life support and the other perhaps paralysed.

The nurses on duty today said they could not comment on the condition of either victim, and they were unaware that their two most critical patients were in their care as a result of the same incident. “We thought he was shot and she was in a car accident,” one commented, adding that is what they were told by the military ‘doctors’ who came yesterday. They were reluctant to talk, saying that even the staff are not safe. “We also receive threats,” they said. “It is time someone protected our human rights as well.”

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Maria Elena Hernandez' three sisters staning vigil outside the intensive care unit

Maria Elena was in surgery for three hours yesterday for injuries to her lower abdomen, right leg, forehead, cheek, and left ear. She is still in a coma, but today was moving one arm. Her sister, Ofelia Hernandez, informed that as far as they have been able to determine, Maria Elena was hit in the body by the car, and grazed in the ear by a bullet. “The nurses say that it is a good sign that she has moved her arm,” she said. “We hope she will recover.”

“It has left the family in a very difficult situation,” she added. “My sister has three children and no husband, and she sells things in the street to support them. Now who is going to pay their rent and feed them? The Government of Honduras will not do this, they care only for the rich.”

Ofelia said that Maria Elena is a poor and humble woman who works very hard to support her family. “None of us has ever belonged to any group, none of us are members of the resistance,” she said, “We are just workers.”

The precise sequence of events is unknown, and how she came to receive a bullet to the head as well as being critically injured by the car is a mystery. It is also unknown why there was a delay of some 7 hours between the accident, and Maria Elena being taken into surgery at Escuela Hospital.

There was also a crucial delay in Angel Salgado receiving medical attention - immediately following the accident, the occupants of the car were taken to the police station for interrogation, and only after an hour was Angel presented for medical treatment – and not to the IMSS hospital nearby which he had a right to be treated in, but to Escuela Hospital some 8 kilometres away.

Ofelia said her family has made a complaint to a human rights organisation, but that they do not expect to get justice from Honduran authorities. “There is no justice for the poor in Honduras, there are only laws for the rich,” she said. “They want us to vote for them but they don’t give us anything.”

Oscar Salgado, Angel’s father, said that this morning he went to the Military High Command and was told that they will take responsibility for what happened to his son. What this means in practice he is not so sure He is more concerned about how much pain his son is in, and when they will be permitted to turn off the life support that is the only thing keeping him alive. “The doctors say to wait for another another few days,” he said. “We don’t want him to suffer more pain, but we can only wait and see what the doctors say.” Some family members believe that this is merely a tactic to avoid his death appearing as an election statistic which might tarnish the image of the electoral process.

Events of the past two days have left both families with no faith in either the electoral process or the national authorities, and they both expressed their appreciation of the attention of international human rights organisations to their situation. “We need you to help us,” they said. “There is no justice now in Honduras, no matter what the authorities say.”


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