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Sat Jun 28, 2014, 11:03 PM

Puerto Castilla, Honduras: Corporate and Military Interests Above Garífuna Community

Puerto Castilla, Honduras: Corporate and Military Interests Above Garífuna Community

Written by Greg McCain
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 09:10

Six children from the community of Puerto Castilla, Trujillo, suffered severe respiratory damage resulting from an attack carried out on May 23, 2014 by the Honduran National Police, Military Police, and in conjunction with the Operation Xatruch III military unit. Hundreds of tear gas canisters were fired into the community in a haphazard manner as a means of dispersing a peaceful protest. After inundating the town with tear gas, the roughly 500 security force members entered the community, dousing anyone within reach with pepper spray.

Tear gas canisters landed in the yard of the kindergarten and the Colegio 14 de agosto, the local high school. The wind pushed concentrated levels of the gas into the classrooms. Younger students were foaming at the mouth and convulsing as they gasped for air.Canisters landed at doorsteps and windows of houses and businesses, which also filled with the noxious fumes. No one in the town could escape the irritant laden clouds. A cat, hit by one of the intensely hot canisters, has a permanent scar the size of a nickel on its head. The clouds of tear gas and pepper spray covered the entire town to the extent that many of the children had to be evacuated by small fishing boats out to the Bay of Trujillo. After a week, many of the children and adults still suffered nasal irritation and severe coughs while the four still hospitalized, one as young a six months old, continued to suffer headaches, vomiting, asthma like symptoms, and emotional trauma.

According to the Material Safety Data Sheet supplied to OSHA by a manufacturer of the gas,

Overexposure to some of the components (such as to people in a confined space) has been found to cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage in laboratory animals. Vapors can cause headache and nausea... Medical Conditions Generally Aggravated by Exposure: May put persons with pre-existing heart disease at risk. Vapors released at high concentrations may have an asthmatic effect and will displace air in confined spaces.

According to medical professionals writing in Irish Medical Times:

CS (teargas) is a cyanide compound and when it is metabolized, cyanide can be detected in human tissue. Also, when exposed to fire, cyanide compounds are undoubtedly released... According to the United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, CS emits “very toxic fumes” when heated to decomposition, and at specified concentrations CS gas is an immediate danger to life and health.

The Honduran security forces were acting at the behest of the Municipality of Trujillo and of the Empresa Nacional Portuaria (ENP, the National Port Authority). On its web page, it states that the primary user of the Puerto Castilla port is Dole, the multinational fruit company. Further, it states,

The National Port Authority is a decentralized institution of the Government of the Republic ... Our goal is to create leading market positions in order to establish and develop investment projects in the short, medium and long term to provide port services and profitability by offering our customers very competitive flexible rates to allow us to compete in a global economy.


(My emphasis.)

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