A poster of a young man in Tegucigalpa’s central square. Kidnapped April 19, 1988. It’s in a photograph I just happened to take when I was there one year later. Looking at it recently, I wondered who is he? Thanks to search engines and dedicated searchers for the disappeared in Honduras, I found him. Roger Gonzáles, 24 year old student. Still disappeared.
Last week I’d wondered if Donald Trump remembered anything about the 1980s US interference in Central America. If he really didn’t realize that there might be a connection between then and the caravan of people at the US border now. (see Honduran Contra Camps 1989)
Disappeared in 1988: ROGER SAMUEL GONZALEZ
The contradictory responses of the military no longer surprise Elvia Zelaya, mother of the “disappeared” student Roger González.
Roger González, a 24-year-old leader of the Federation of Second-Year Students (FESE) and employee of the Honduran Forestry Development Corporation (COHDEFOR), was kidnapped before witnesses on April 19, 1988, at noon, while walking through the Central Park of Tegucigalpa. His captors were two men and a woman dressed in civilian clothes. Subsequently, one of them was identified by a witness as a member of the DNI*.
In the Honduran courts, five writs of habeas corpus were filed in favor of Roger González. In response to these appeals, several members of the DNI, FUSEP* and the First Infantry Battalion denied having Roger González in their custody. In one case, the executing judge was not even allowed access to the cells of the police unit cited in the habeas corpus. A statement by a spokesman for the Armed Forces, according to which Roger González had been captured by FUSEP, was later vehemently denied by agents of FUSEP itself, one of whom added that, in fact, FUSEP was looking for Roger González in relation to a violent demonstration held before the United States Embassy in Tegucigalpa on April 7, 1988.
In May 1988, relatives, friends and colleagues of Roger Samuel González Zelaya began a hunger strike in the Central Park of Tegucigalpa to protest their arrest and demand their release. The hunger strike lasted 23 days, and was suspended when Roger’s mother became ill.
In an interview with the press on October 8, 1988, the then head of the armed forces declared that Roger Samuel González Zelaya was probably hiding somewhere abroad.
However, Fausto Reyes Caballero, a former member of Battalion 3-16* who fled to the United States of America after deserting, testified in a testimony before several human rights groups in 1988 that he had seen Roger González in mid-July in the barracks of Battalion 3-16 in San Pedro Sula.
(Google translation of COFADEH page)
*DNI is Dirección Nacional de Investigación, National Directorate of Investigation (police).
FUSEP is Fuerza de Seguridad Pública, Public Safety Force (police).
Battalion 3-16 was an intelligence unit of the Honduran army “responsible for carrying out political assassinations and torture… Battalion members received training and support from the United States Central Intelligence Agency” (Wikipedia).
“Honduras Accused of Death-Squad Operations”
Julia Preston, in The Washington Post (Nov. 1, 1988), tells the story of González and others. She wrote about Sgt. Fausto Reyes Caballero:
Reyes said he last visited the [Battalion 316] office in San Pedro [Sula] in mid-July , caught a glimpse there of a pale youth, handcuffed and blindfolded, and was told by a sergeant on duty that the prisoner was Roger Gonzalez. Gonzalez disappeared in Tegucigalpa during a police sweep in which about a dozen Hondurans were arrested after the burning of the U.S. Consulate there April 7…
Honduran police first acknowledged, then denied Gonzalez was in their custody.
“My tongue sticks to my palate
from so much repeating
your name to the wind.
My hands age playing
They offer me silences for an answer … “
– Fragment of the poem Where are you Roger?, written by his mother Elvia Zelaya.
In a 2017 Conexihon post (Spanish, or see in English), Doña Elvia remembers her son Roger. He’d be 52, she says. She still offers a Mass for him. Aside from protests for answers, that’s all she can do in his memory. “When the mother buries her son, she knows that she is going to put a flower in the cemetery, she is going to visit there,” she says, but “not even that” for her. There still are no answers to what happened to Roger Samuel González Zelaya.