dorset chiapas solidarity

May 23, 2016

Global demonstration convened for Berta Caceres next June 15th

Filed under: Dams, Displacement, Uncategorized, water — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:37 pm

 

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Global demonstration convened for Berta Caceres next June 15th

Desinformémonos
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Following the murder of indigenous leader Berta Caceres, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) has convened a Global Action on 15th June 15 to demand justice through demonstrations in that country and in front of the embassies of Honduras around the world.

The protests aim to demand the immediate establishment of an independent investigation group led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), to clarify the crime and ensure the prosecution of all those responsible.

In addition, the demand is for the immediate and definitive cancellation of the concession granted to the company DESA for the construction of the hydroelectric project “Agua Zarca” on the Rio Blanco.

Berta Caceres, coordinator of COPINH, was killed on 3rd March at her home in La Esperanza, when unknown individuals entered in the morning. The environmental leader fought for the cancellation of Agua Zarca project because it is a threat to the indigenous peoples and nature.

 

http://desinformemonos.org.mx/convocan-manifestacion-global-por-berta-caceres-el-proximo-15-de-junio/

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April 22, 2016

AN INTERVIEW WITH GUSTAVO CASTRO, SOLE WITNESS TO ASSASSINATION OF BERTA CÁCERES

Filed under: Dams, Displacement, Human rights, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:09 am

 

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AN INTERVIEW WITH GUSTAVO CASTRO, SOLE WITNESS TO ASSASSINATION OF BERTA CÁCERES

Danielle Marie Mackey

gustavo-castro-article-headerActivist Gustavo Castro at a news conference at the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center in Mexico, April 4, 2016.

 

GUSTAVO CASTRO was the sole witness to the murder on March 3 of Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, the co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Movements of Honduras (COPINH). Castro, the director of Otros Mundos, an environmental organization in Chiapas, Mexico, was also shot in the attack. After being barred from leaving Honduras, Castro was released on March 30 and has since settled in an undisclosed location. Last week he spoke by phone to The Intercept about the night of the murder and the reasons why environmental activism in Latin America is so dangerous.

Castro’s experience over the past month provides a remarkable glimpse into the Honduran justice system, which is notorious for its culture of impunity. In the months before her murder, Cáceres repeatedly said that she was being harassed by Desarrollos Energéticos, SA (DESA), the private energy company behind the Agua Zarca dam project, which she had vigorously opposed. After the murder, Cáceres’s family immediately pointed to DESA. On March 31, the Honduran public prosecutor’s office announced that it had seized weapons and documents from DESA’s office and questioned several employees.

Contacted for comment, DESA provided the following statement: “The board of directors of the company that is carrying out the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project has not given any declaration nor does it plan to do so until the authorities in charge of the investigation determine the causes and perpetrators of this regrettable incident that ended the life of the indigenous leader Berta Cáceres.”

What happened during your last hours with Berta Cáceres?

I arrived on March 1 in San Pedro Sula, and that day they put me up in another home that belongs to other COPINH members in La Esperanza. It had been years since I had seen Berta in person, although we had been in touch by email. I was there to facilitate a workshop on environmentalism. That day Berta said to me, brother, come to my house, I have internet so you can get in touch with your family. We spent a while talking, even discussing the threats that she had received in the past and in recent weeks — intimidation and threats to her safety by employees of DESA and people who seemed to be hit men contracted by DESA, the company behind the hydroelectric project called Agua Zarca.

And I said to Berta, this is a very isolated home, how is it that you live here alone? So I decided to stay the night. I started to get ready for the second day of the workshop, and she was in her room. At midnight, there was a loud bang on the door and immediately one hit man entered my room, and simultaneously another entered hers. Everything happened very quickly, within 30 seconds, in which simultaneously they assassinated her and shot me. They had clearly been following her and were expecting her to be alone, so I think it surprised them to find another person there and they didn’t know what to do, so they just shot me and ran away.

Were their faces covered?

I don’t know about the other one, but the one who shot me wasn’t masked. I wasn’t able to decipher his face well, but that’s the moment when I became the principal witness, and a protected witness.

When Berta told you that she had received threats from DESA and Agua Zarca, did she say at any point that the people threatening her were from Honduran state security forces? Or were they gang members, or just random individuals?

 

HONDURAS-PROTEST-CACERES

Human rights activists take part in a protest to claim justice after the murdered of indigenous activist leader Berta Caceres in Tegucigalpa on March 17, 2016. Caceres, a respected environmentalist who won the prestigious Goldman Prize last year for her outspoken advocacy, was murdered in her home on March 3, her family said. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA. / AFP / ORLANDO SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

 

 

I don’t remember her saying anything like that. She did say they were employees, people in favor of the company. In fact when I arrived in Mexico, on March 30, the public prosecutor’s office in Honduras published a press release publicly linking the company to their line of investigation. In the press release they also announced that they had seized weapons and questioned some of the company’s people. But they didn’t want to get to this point. Before coming to that line of investigation, I got the impression they wanted to see if another line of investigation could be useful or believable for national and international public opinion, but that was impossible. Everyone in COPINH already knew the recent history, so they had no other option than to finally go after the company. I’m unaware of any advances they’ve had in this line of investigation.

Over the last decade there were more than 100 murders of environmentalists in Honduras. And these conflicts are often linked to the army and the police. That’s part of the reality of Honduras. In this specific case, Berta said that the guilty party was the company. It was the company with which she had a strong and direct confrontation.

At first we were hearing that they questioned you, took you to the airport, and then suddenly told you that you couldn’t leave the country. Is this how it happened?

The whole process was confusing and handled poorly. I spent the first three or four days in constant legal procedures in La Esperanza. I could have refused several times, because one has the right to solicit a six-hour prevention order as a victim and a protected witness. Nevertheless, I never used this instrument, and every time they asked me to take part in more legal procedures, I did — at any hour, in the middle of the night, whenever. So I went nearly four days without sleeping. I gave the statement for the attorney general, the statement for the public prosecutor, medical examinations, cross-examinations, photographic identification, etc.

And, yes, at first they said I could go. They always said, just one more thing, and then just one more thing, and then it finally seemed like everything was done and ready. They even prepared a helicopter for me to get back to Tegucigalpa on March 5. But because of weather conditions they weren’t able to land the helicopter, so instead they deployed a security detail to accompany me to Tegucigalpa by land. Later, the public prosecutor’s office claimed I was trying to escape, which was a huge lie.

So I arrived at the Mexican Embassy, where the ambassador and the consul bought me a plane ticket for March 6 at 6:20 a.m. But when we got to the airport, Honduran officials were waiting in hiding around the airport for me, as if this were necessary, as if this were a criminal matter and as if I weren’t a protected witness and a victim. It was so shameless. It felt like having an army at my heels. And the ambassador and the consul were with me. Suddenly eight or 10 people from the attorney general’s office and the public prosecutor’s office stood in front of the door and said that I couldn’t leave. They wouldn’t hand over any official document explaining anything. I know that this government is the result of a coup, but this game was so ridiculous that even they had to ask for apologies from the ambassador and me. What they did was totally unnecessary. And obviously they had to justify themselves before the national and international press by claiming they thought I was fleeing. Even then I could have said I was leaving. Because of a convention on penal matters between Mexico and Honduras, as a victim and a protected witness, I had the right to participate in the legal procedures from Mexico. I’m not a criminal — I’m a victim. But they forgot that.

They said, we need just one more thing. So I asked for more protection for the ride back: a bulletproof vest and more bodyguards. What they originally said they needed was more testimony, but what it ended up being was more cross-examination. At the end of the night they produced a document saying it was necessary for me to stay 30 days more. That was also illegal — the judge used arguments based on international human rights laws regarding suspects. When my lawyer argued they were violating my rights, the judge not only removed her from the case but furthermore suspended her ability to practice law for 15 days.

The government wanted me under its control. It has no laws that protect victims. Nor does it have regulations or protocols or a budget to protect human rights activists. Nor does it have regulations for protected witnesses. So they wanted me under their so-called protection where there is no law that obligates them to do anything. Which is why I stayed in the Mexican Embassy. But it was a month of horrible stress and tension, in which the government, with its complete lack of regulations or protocols, could easily accuse me of anything at any moment, show up with a judicial order, and the Mexican Embassy wouldn’t have been able to do anything. One week before I arrived in Honduras, the Judicial Commission had been dissolved, so there was no legal instrument with which I could defend myself. There was no commission before which I could denounce a judge who acted illegally, because that commission had been dissolved. So I found myself in total legal defencelessness — without a lawyer, because they suspended her. And it seemed neither international pressure nor the Mexican government could do anything. So it was a state of complete insecurity and a constant violation of my human rights.

Did they ever try to accuse you of anything officially?

There wasn’t anything explicit. There were rumours in the press that the public prosecutor’s office was trying to justify involving me in the crime in some way. But with the evidence and my declarations, it was simply impossible for them to invent such a farce. No matter how many circles they ran around the matter, they eventually had to go to DESA. They had no other option. I had the sense that they wanted to keep me there while they were trying to find something. It was a horrible uncertainty, because you have no lawyer. They have the ability to leave you totally legally defenceless.

 

honduras-dam-constuction-1000x681A 745-foot-high dam under construction for a future power plant in Honduras, April 4, 1983. Photo: David A. Harvey/National Geographic/Getty Images

 

How do you explain the fact that opposing dams is interpreted as a threat?

This isn’t true only in Honduras — also in Guatemala, Mexico, Chile, etc. One of the reasons is that these dams mean flooding out huge swaths of jungle, forest, and indigenous and campesino lands. And this causes a strong reaction from these communities, because there are thousands and thousands of them displaced violently.

Another reason is that one of the most profitable businesses at the moment is the sale of electrical energy, especially in Latin America, because free trade agreements are opening huge investments for transnational corporations. And what does this mean? For example, free trade agreements allow major investors to put up factories, industrial parks, infrastructure, and mines, which all consume a ton of electricity and a ton of water. And bear in mind that one gold mine can use between 1 and 3 million litres of water every hour. That implies relinquishing the water that belongs to communities, their rivers, and their wells — using it to instead generate electricity for the big industrial corridors. So the sale of energy, and thus investments in energy, is one of the most profitable businesses for big capital. But that means entering into battle over territory with campesino and indigenous communities.

Additionally, with the Kyoto Protocol they’ve invented the stupid idea that dams make “clean energy.” Thus in order to gain carbon credits and reduce their greenhouse gases, wealthy countries started investing in dams. That’s why we have a world full of dam construction.

In Latin America almost every country has free trade agreements with the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and many also with Asia. This means changing your constitution, your environmental legislation that concerns water, energy and foreign investment, in order to adopt and facilitate these free trade agreements. If you don’t, companies sue. For governments, it’s easier to repress people than to pay damages and compensation to corporations. A good example is the case of the gold mine in El Salvador. El Salvador has had to pay millions to defend itself against a mining company before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. And we are talking about one mine. But imagine 10,000 or 15,000 — we are talking about thousands of mining concessions in the region. And to this if you add dams, and to that you add highways, ports, airports, mines, fracking, petroleum, huge shopping malls, tax-free zones, charter cities, huge elite tourist resorts — there are so many concessions.

If the human rights claims that activists make are actually upheld — contamination of water and land, violating previous and informed consent of communities — or if they kick out a company for dumping toxic waste into rivers, for murdering community members, for causing cancer around mining sites like we’ve seen in Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala — if governments have to do something about these human rights claims by kicking out the extractive industry, they’ll have to pay millions and millions of dollars that they don’t have. Each country would have to sell itself 20 times over to pay off the debt. So this is not easy to solve.

This leads to confrontation with communities. This will only deepen with things like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and governments prefer to react by criminalizing citizen protest. Peaceful protest used to be a human right. Now they call it “terrorism,” “violence.” They’re criminalizing human rights.

In a recent interview, Hillary Clinton said that the coup in Honduras was legal. What do you think about this statement?

It seems to me that in the end, the government had to justify a way for another group to come to power. And Honduras’s legal antiquity allows you to make any argument you want. For example, one of the reasons they gave for overthrowing Zelaya was that he proposed to modify the constitution to allow for re-election. Which the current president, Juan Orlando Hernández, is now trying to do, to modify the constitution to allow for re-election for him next year. So that’s why I say it depends on how you want to see it. If Zelaya proposes it, it’s unconstitutional and he has to go. If the oligarchy and the global hegemony says it, it’s legal, it’s democratic.

How do you see your future? Or are you living more day by day right now?

More day by day. Many are asking me if I’m going to throw in the towel, if I’m like the boxer who can’t take any more and gives up. I say no, I’m picking that towel up. This struggle must continue. I am not alone. Across Latin America there are thousands of people who are criminalized, who are being persecuted and threatened for defending human rights, who are defending the well-being of our planet. We must realize that that no one is exempt from this criminalization. Like so many friends who have been murdered for resisting. But there are many of us, and we will carry on.

The voracious capitalism we face cannot continue as is, with its accelerated and extractionist logic that is finishing off our planet. I think our great challenge is to realize that other worlds are possible. We can build something different, something dignified and just. There is enough water for everyone. There is enough land, enough food for everyone. We cannot continue feeding this predatory system of capital accumulation in the hands of so few. That system is unsustainable. So from wherever we are — in the Americas, in Europe, in Asia — we will all be affected by this system. Sometimes it seems that the crisis doesn’t touch certain places, and sometimes we don’t make the structural link to capitalism with the crises that the U.S. and Canada and France and Spain face. But I hope that we realize this soon, because it will affect us all sooner or later. And I want to say that there is still time to do something. This is urgent.

 

https://theintercept.com/2016/04/18/an-interview-with-gustavo-castro-sole-witness-of-the-murder-of-berta-caceres/

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April 11, 2016

More than 60 Mexican and Guatemalan communities reject hydroelectric project

Filed under: Corporations, Dams, water — Tags: , , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:16 pm

 

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More than 60 Mexican and Guatemalan communities reject hydroelectric project

Desinformémonos

 

dams usumacinta

 

Almost 300 people from 60 communities in Chiapas and from the Peten Front Against Dams of Guatemala rejected the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Usumacinta River, which would represent an invasion and therefore an eviction from their lands.

During the Forum of resistances and alternatives of the peoples of the north of Chiapas, attendees reported that work on the binational hydroelectric dam Boca del Cerro has already started with the construction of embankments on both sides of the river.

Boca del Cerro is one of five planned dams in the watershed that divides Mexico from Guatemala. The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) said that the works are planned to last for four years and will have a limit of 55.5 metres maximum height.

Of the 1,799 hectares which will make up the total area of ​​the reservoir, 707 belong to the municipality of Tenosique, Tabasco, and 1,092 to Palenque.

The work will lead to “the disappearance of the community of San Carlos Boca del Cerro, Tenosique, which will become the offices and camp of the company building the dam,” said the representatives.

They are also sure that “the government will not compensate us for our lands, the cost of living will increase and we, the Chol and Tzeltal indigenous peoples of the region, will disappear.”

The representatives of the communities know that the imposition of the dam by the government violates Article 2 of the Constitution and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which deals with the autonomy of indigenous peoples and their right to consultation.

Given this, they pledged to implement a work plan to stop the construction of the hydroelectric project which will pollute their land and river, besides the effect of the weight, and expressed their solidarity “with the actions of sister organizations struggling to stop mining projects, highways, hydroelectric schemes and to expel from our lands the large companies who want to deprive us of our lands “.

Finally, they demanded justice for the murder of the coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Berta Caceres, “and respect for the human rights and the lives of those who fight against megaprojects and against dams in Mexico, Central America and other parts of the world.”

With information from La Jornada

 

Translated by the UK Zapatista Translation Service

http://desinformemonos.org.mx/mas-de-60-comunidades-mexicanas-y-guatemaltecas-rechazan-proyecto-de-hidroelecrtica/

 

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April 5, 2016

Murder of Environmental Activist Berta Cáceres, Political Crime

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:02 am

 

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Murder of Environmental Activist Berta Cáceres, Political Crime

 

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Regent’s Canal, London

 

La Jornada: Ignacio Ramonet

She called herself Berta. Berta Cáceres. March 4, 2015, would have been her 43rd birthday. They killed her on the eve of her birthday. In Honduras. For being an environmentalist. For being insubordinate. For defending nature. For opposing the extractive multinational corporations. For reclaiming the ancestral rights of the Lenca, her indigenous people.

At the age of 20, as a college student, Berta had founded the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which today brings together some 200 original communities and has become the most aggressive environmental movement. The Honduran regime, born of a coup, has ceded 30 percent of the national territory to transnational mining and hydroelectric corporations. Dozens of megadams are under construction, and more than 300 extractivist companies plunder the territory through government corruption. But COPINH has managed to stop the construction of dams, halt deforestation projects, freeze mining operations, prevent destruction of sacred sites and obtain restitution for the despoiled lands of Indigenous communities.

So it is that in the predawn hours of March 3, as she slept, two hitmen of a death squad entered her house in the city of La Esperanza and murdered Berta Cáceres.

This is a political crime. In June 2009, the constitutional president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was overthrown by a coup—which Berta protested with unprecedented courage, leading demonstrations against members of the coup. Since then this country has become one of the most violent in the world and a paradise for the predatory big transnationals and criminal organizations. In this context, the regime of Juan Orlando Hernández and the Honduran oligarchy continue to murder with impunity those who oppose their abuse.

In the last seven years dozens of campesino leaders, union leaders, social movement activists, human rights activists, rebel journalists, educators and environmentalists have been killed with impunity. Nothing is investigated, nothing is explained. No one is punished. And the mainstream international media, so willing to raise hue and cry at the least slip that might be committed in Venezuela, hardly mentions this horror and barbarism.

The same day that Berta Cáceres was murdered, the non-governmental organization Global Witness, London, reported that Honduras

“is the most dangerous country in the world for environmental activists.”

Of the 116 murders of environmentalists who were on the planet in 2015, almost three-quarters took place in Latin America—the majority in Honduras, one of the continent’s poorest countries.

In 2015 Berta Cáceres received the most prestigious international environmental award, the Goldman Prize, the Green Nobel, for her resistance to construction of a hydroelectric megadam that threatens to expel thousands of Indigenous people from their land. With her bold struggle, Berta got the state-owned Chinese company Sinohydro—the largest builder of hydroelectric dams on the planet and an enterprise linked to the World Bank—to back down and withdraw their involvement in construction of the Agua Zarca dam, on the Gualcarque River, a branch of the river sacred to the Lenca in the Sierra of Puca Opalaca. Mobilized by Berta and COPINH, the Indigenous communities blocked construction access for over a year … And they got some of the world’s most powerful business and financial interests to give up their involvement in the project. This victory was also the most direct cause of Berta’s murder.

Propelled by the Honduran company Development Energies SA, with financial support from the Honduran Commercial Finance Bank SA, which received funds from the World Bank, the construction of the Agua Zarca megadam began in 2010. The project relied on financial support from the Central American Economic Investment Bank and two European financial institutions: the Dutch development bank, Nederlandse Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden Financierings-NV, and the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation. It is also involved the German company Voith Hydro Holding GmbH & Co. KG, contracted to construct turbines. All these companies have responsibility for the murder of Berta Cáceres. They cannot wash their hands.

They cannot wash their hands because both environmentalists and the Lenca people are defending a legitimate right. They denounce the violation of Convention 169 “concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples” of the International Labour Organization, signed by Honduras in 1995. There has been no free and informed prior consultation of persons affected by the megadam, as also required by the Declaration of the United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).

Berta knew she was a woman marked to die. She had been threatened on numerous occasions. She was in the crosshairs of the death squads, hitmen for Honduran bosses. But she used to say:

“They don’t scare us, because we are not afraid of them.”

When she received the Goldman Prize, they asked her if this award could be a protective shield, and replied:

“The government tries to link the murders of environmental defenders with common violence, but there is sufficient evidence to show that there is a planned and financed policy to criminalize the struggle of social movements. I hope I’m wrong, but I think that instead of decreasing, the persecution against activists is going to intensify.”

She was not wrong.

The Agua Zarca dam is still under construction. And those who oppose it are still being unceremoniously murdered, as just happened—10 days after Berta’s murder—to Honduran environmental leader Nelson García.
The same people who killed Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Archbishop Romero and Chico Mendes also cut short the life of Berta Cáceres, marvellous flower of the Honduran countryside. But they will not silence her struggle. As Pablo Neruda says:

“They can cut all the flowers, but they cannot stop the spring from coming.”

 

Translated by Jane Brundage

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2016/04/03/opinion/018a1mun

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April 3, 2016

The Dammed of the Earth: The Deadly Impact of Mega Hydroelectric Projects in Latin America

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:26 am

 

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The Dammed of the Earth: The Deadly Impact of Mega Hydroelectric Projects in Latin America

Written by Sian Cowman and Philippa de Boissière

 

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Early in the morning of March 3, Berta Cáceres was assassinated as she slept.

A world-renowned environmental activist, Berta had been a driving force in protecting the lands and waters of rural communities in Honduras. Among the many victories of the organization she founded was the delay of a megadam project on the Gualcarque River that could be disastrous for the indigenous Lenca people living there.

Berta is not alone, nor is her story unique to Honduras. Across the Global South, mega hydroelectric projects are expanding — driven by governments and multinationals as a source of cheap energy, and branded by international institutions as a solution to poverty and the climate crisis.

But despite claims that they create clean energy, dams often have devastating impacts. They can displace communities, destroy the local social fabric and spiritual ties to land, lead to privatization of land and water, and generate food insecurity. Often used to power mining and fossil fuel extraction, they’re part of a system that damages the ecosystem and advances climate change.

Increasingly, communities throughout Latin America have been resisting these projects. Some have succeeded in protecting their territories in the face of violent repression. Yet when these groups go so far as to speak out about the root causes of the projects — corporate greed, unfettered capitalism, political impunity — they, like Berta, may be targeted and killed.

 

Megadams and Neoliberalism

International development banks and transnational corporations are pushing an expansion of mega hydroelectric dams at a rate never seen before. In Honduras, the Agua Zarca dam that Berta fought against is far from the only project: The Lenca people alone are facing the prospect of 17 dams being imposed within their territories.

 

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Photo: COPINH participating in a march agains a US military base in Palmerola, Honduras, 2011. Source: Felipe Canova on Flickr.

 

This picture is being replicated across the region. In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos’ master plan for the strategic use of the Magdalena River calls for adding 11 to 15 megadams to those already in operation. In Peru, former President Alan Garcia made the construction of 20 megadams along the Marañon River into a national priority with the signing of a single decree in 2011.

Overall, 829 hydroelectric projects were approved in South America during 2014, with a total investment of $22 billion.

The power and resource grab going on throughout Latin America has roots stretching back to Spanish colonization. The river Gualcarque — with its deep spiritual significance for the Lenca people — was famously defended against Spanish invaders by indigenous resistance leader and hero, El Lempira. Although the form has evolved, the struggle against powerful foreign forces in the region has continued to this day.

Conquering not with swords and horses but with a ruse of “corporate social responsibility” and market-based mechanisms, the plunderers of the 21st century are bolstered by a deepening and globalized neoliberal agenda. The package of privatizations, deregulations, and loosening of restrictions on trade and finance prescribed under the “Washington Consensus” for global trade — widely implemented by institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in the 1990s — tipped the balance of power towards the interests of corporate global elites.

In Honduras, market-oriented principles reached a new extreme following the U.S.-backed military coup in 2009. The new de facto government immediately overhauled Honduras’ legal frameworks in a bid to create favorable conditions for foreign investment. In practice, the sweeping changes — ranging from enforcing eminent domain to repealing laws preventing the construction of dams in protected areas — were intended to facilitate the rapid and cheap transfer of the country’s natural wealth into global markets.

Berta was highly critical of the coup and of the subsequent handover of the country’s wealth. “There are a projected 300 hydroelectric projects planned,” she said in a 2015 interview with El Tecolote. “We are a small country with many riches. To give 30 percent of the territory to the transnational mining companies is worse than the colonization of 500 years ago. And, they do it with impunity.”

The explosion in the number of megadams under construction in Latin America follows a decade-long hiatus in the World Bank’s hydroelectric strategy — a pause that was prompted by social protests.

After being rebranded as a “clean energy” solution to the climate crisis, however — a position amplified by industry representatives at the Paris climate talks last December — the megadam staged its comeback. Taking advantage of the new business opportunities created to respond to the climate crisis, corporations are now being effectively bankrolled by UN-sponsored market solutions such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

But mega hydroelectric projects are anything but clean. In tropical regions like Honduras, they are a major source of the potent greenhouse gas methane. Moreover, mega hydroelectric facilitates the extraction of fossil fuels, such as coal and fracked gas, as well as other minerals. In Peru, as in Colombia and Brazil, mega hydroelectric dams are being brought online with the express intention of generating cheap energy for extractive industries.

This unprecedented expansion of mega hydroelectric power is increasingly generating resistance. Berta’s fight against dams is being repeated in community after community in Latin America.

 

Resistance in Rio Blanco

bertacaceres

To defend the territorial rights of indigenous and campesino people against logging and other extractive projects, Berta cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH. For over 20 years, COPINH has been a major player in resisting Agua Zarca, and in 2015 Berta was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in that effort.

COPINH and local communities have pursued formal routes of resistance against the dam. Yet their calls for prior, free, and informed consent as required by international law have not been heard. Cases brought to the Honduran courts denouncing the illegality of the dam were also not pursued. The imbalance of power between the industry and local communities is evident: While Agua Zarca’s backers benefit from police protection, the communities’ legal cases against the dam lapse. In these situations — a story repeated throughout Latin America — affected communities are left with little choice but to take direct action.

In 2013, defying a military lockdown of the area, the Rio Blanco community took a stand. They maintained a road blockade that prevented machinery from reaching the dam site for over a year.

In clashes with police and paramilitary guards hired by the corporation, Tómas Garcia was shot several times at close range by a soldier. Garcia died instantly, and his son was left injured. At that time, the activist’s assassination brought the number of deaths suffered by defenders against the Agua Zarca project to three.

In a video made for the Goldman Prize ceremony, Berta explained how Garcia’s death prompted increased local resistance during that conflict. The resistance prompted Chinese Sinohydro, the largest dam builder in the world, to pull out of the project. That accomplishment “cost us in blood,” Berta said. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation also pulled its investment from Agua Zarca.

This was a temporary victory, however, because threats against the defenders failed to abate. In an interview with El Universo newspaper in 2015, Berta said: “I never doubted I would continue the struggle despite the threats; they even gave me more resolve. Today we are receiving death threats not only against me, but against other compañeros.”

With Latin America being the most dangerous region in the world for environmental defenders, Honduras tops the list.

 

Challenging the Powerful

Berta’s resolve to continue resisting led to her voice being prominent on the international stage. In conversation with the Guardian in 2015, Berta asserted:

“The political, economic, and social situation in Honduras is getting worse, and there is an imposition of a project of domination, of violent oppression, of militarization, of violation of human rights, of transnationalization, of the turning over of the riches and sovereignty of the land to corporate capital, for it to privatize energy, the rivers, the land; for mining exploitation; for the creation of development zones.”

Publicly calling out the dirty politics, human rights abuses, impunity, and systemic drivers behind the dam made her even more of a threat to the powerful actors involved. Her supporters have no doubt that’s what led to her death.

“We know very well who murdered her,” COPINH said in a statement on March 3. Speaking of the Honduran government, corporations, and financial institutions backing the Agua Zarca dam, COPINH wrote, “their hands are stained with indigenous blood and with the blood of the Lenca people.” In a statement, her family concurred: “Her assassination is an attempt to end the struggle of the Lenca people against exploitation and dispossession of their territories.”

The repression in Honduras is the kind of backlash to resistance all local communities face as extractivism and mega hydro expands across Latin America.

Some examples will show the scope of these killings.

Before the 2014 climate talks in Lima, Peru, four indigenous environmental defenders in the Amazon were murdered for protecting their territory from illegal logging. “Edwin Chota had received numerous death threats for his resistance to the criminal gangs who were gutting his community’s forests,” reports Global Witness, “but his appeals to the authorities were ignored.” The loggers are reputed to have connections to the government.

Similarly, indigenous tribes living in the area of the Belo Monte megadam in Brazil have been resisting the dam for decades. They’ve suffered threats of imprisonment, police violence and militarization of the area, killings of defenders, and sexual abuse. There have been a number of legal cases made against the dam that have gone nowhere.

And the megadam El Quimbo in Colombia has provoked strong resistance from local communities — who in response have faced assaults and arrests at protests, and violent evictions from their homes.

Accompanied by militarization, privatization of land and water, violence, and power imbalances in the judicial system, megadams are a symptom of a new form of colonization. The resistors who have died throughout Latin America have been doing the same thing Berta did: challenging the powerful.

 

The Fight Continues

Opposition to dams isn’t only taking place in dispersed communities. It’s also spurred a global movement.

The effort officially began 19 years ago. On March 14, 1997, representatives of affected peoples from 20 countries assembled in Curitiba, Brazil to take part in the first International Meeting of People Affected by Dams. Recognizing a common struggle — one that transcended different economic and political contexts — activists decided that the Brazilian Day of Struggles Against Dams would be globalized. And so was born the International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Dams, held annually on March 14.

This new international platform aimed to make visible and to connect the diverse struggles taking place across the globe to protect rivers and the communities that depend upon them. But for those losing their homes and sovereignty to megadam expansion, these battles are fought not once a year, but on a daily basis.

The need for international action against megadams has been underscored by Berta Cáceres’ murder, and the subsequent murder of another member of COPINH, Nelson García, on March 16. Following their example, there’s an urgent need for global activists to continuously and vociferously denounce the mega hydroelectric dam complex — calling it out as a false solution to the climate crisis that it’s helping to drive. Berta not only put her body on the line to protect the rivers, lands, and communities she felt a part of. She also went beyond her own community struggle, relentlessly shining a light on the global dynamics of power that lay behind local injustices.

Like transnational corporations, resistance movements are strongest when they connect beyond fenceline struggles. Berta’s strength of resistance and international perspective posed a threat to a development paradigm based on the enrichment of global elites — so much so that the forces pushing that agenda felt it necessary to take her life.

But there can be no silencing of a movement. As those celebrating Berta’s life cried just days after her murder, “Berta lives, and the fight continues!”

Organizations and activists across the world are calling for an independent investigation into Berta’s murder and an end to the ongoing criminalization of members of the COPINH. Please add your voice here.

 

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/international-archives-60/5607-the-dammed-of-the-earth-the-deadly-impact-of-mega-hydroelectric-projects-in-latin-america

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March 29, 2016

Sole witness to Berta Cáceres murder fears he might be framed, lawyer says

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:43 pm

 

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Sole witness to Berta Cáceres murder fears he might be framed, lawyer says

Attorney for Gustavo Castro Soto calls on Mexican government to intervene and secure client’s release from Honduras amid growing concern for his safety

 

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Nina Lakhani in San Cristóbal de las Casas

The lawyer representing the only witness to the murder of the environmental activist Berta Cáceres is appealing to the Mexican government to help secure his release amid mounting concern he could be framed for the killing.

Gustavo Castro Soto, coordinator of Friends of the Earth Mexico and director of the Chiapas-based NGO Otros Mundos, was wounded during the attack in which Cáceres – last year’s winner of the Goldman environmental prize – was murdered.

Cáceres, a longtime friend and colleague, died in Castro’s arms just before midnight on 2 March at her home in La Esperanza, north-west Honduras.

Castro, who only survived by playing dead, was subsequently questioned for 48 hours before investigators said he was free to return to Mexico.

But on 6 March, police stopped him boarding his flight after investigators obtained a court order requiring the activist remain in Honduras to further assist investigators. The order initially prevented his departure for 30 hours but was later extended to a month.

Since then, Castro, who is married with four children, has stayed at the residence of the Mexican ambassador in the capital Tegucigalpa for his own protection. He has not been required to give further assistance to investigators, apart from to hand in his shoes.

In an interview with the Guardian, his lawyer Miguel Ángel de los Santos said he was concerned for Castro’s safety and called on Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto to intervene.

“There is a lot of fear because in Honduras there is total insecurity and impunity – and blaming someone close to Berta would be the easiest and most convenient thing to do,” he said. “We need action at the highest diplomatic level to get Gustavo home.”

He added: “Under Honduran law, witnesses and victims of crimes cannot be prevented from leaving the country. Gustavo’s detention is totally illegal and arbitrary.”

Castro arrived in Honduras on 1 March to give a series of workshops to Cáceres’s organisation, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh), about alternative energy. He had worked for years with Copinh, which Cáceres cofounded 22 years ago to defend indigenous Lenca community territory.

According to the chronology recounted by Castro to De los Santos, Cáceres invited him to stay with her on 2 March so the pair could continue working that evening. They returned to the house around 7.30pm, ate dinner, and then worked on the patio until around 9.45pm, when they both retired to their rooms.

At around 11.45pm, Castro, who was working on his laptop in bed, heard noises coming from outside. He heard Cáceres shouting “Who’s there?” – and seconds later, the kitchen door was kicked in.

One assailant with a pistol entered Castro’s room, where the Mexican activist pleaded for calm.

Castro heard three shots from Cáceres’ room; then the gunman opened fire. Two bullets grazed his left ear and left hand, and Castro dropped to the ground, where he played dead.

The assailants fled immediately and Castro rushed to Cáceres, who was bleeding profusely from bullet wounds to her heart, left arm and stomach. Castro called for help, but she died almost immediately, he said.

Supporters of the two activists have raised serious concerns over the impartiality of the investigation and the detention of Castro. According to De los Santos, a bilateral treaty between Honduras and Mexico means Castro could still collaborate with investigators from his home in San Cristóbal.

But the Honduran government has rejected calls for an independent investigation overseen by international experts.

Three legal cases, including an attempt to secure a writ of habeas corpus, have been launched in Honduras, but they will almost inevitably be delayed by the Easter holiday.

At least 109 people were killed in Honduras between 2010 and 2015 for opposing infrastructure and logging projects, making it the most dangerous country in the world for environmental defenders, according to the NGO Global Witness.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/28/berta-caceres-murder-witness-honduras-appeals-to-mexico

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March 27, 2016

Mexico Has Failed Berta Caceres Murder Witness Gustavo Castro

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:36 am

 

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Mexico Has Failed Berta Caceres Murder Witness Gustavo Castro

 

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Thousands of Indigenous activists march to demand justice for Berta Caceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 17, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

 

Gustavo Castro, the sole witness to Berta Caceres’ assassination, has been barred from leaving Honduras and fears he will be charged for the murder.

As Mexican activist Gustavo Castro fears for his life in Honduras after witnessing and surviving the assassination of renowned leader Berta Caceres, Mexican authorities have not done enough to ensure his safe return while Honduran authorities have clamped down on his freedom of movement.

That is the assessment of the situation according to Mexican politician and human rights defender Candelaria Ochoa, Mexico’s La Jornada reported on Saturday.

Ochoa, a federal lawmaker with the Citizen’s Movement, just wrapped up an international human rights mission in Honduras where she visited Castro and took stock of how the investigation into Caceres’ murder has gone in the three weeks since armed gunmen broke into her home and shot her dead on March 3 while Castro was staying with her.

The Mexican politician echoed other human rights defenders in saying that Castro’s life is at risk in Honduras, where local authorities have barred him from leaving the country as a key witness in the case. Ochoa argued that the restrictions have violated Castro’s right to return and freedom of movement while failing to guarantee his safety.

She added that the Mexican Foreign Ministry has also not put enough pressure on Honduras over Castro’s situation, urging for Mexican Congress to take steps to ensure he will be able to leave the Central American country safely.

Ochoa was part of a group of 11 other international observers from Mexico, El Salvador, Spain, Mexico, and the United States, who travelled to Honduras for five days to meet with various social groups and reiterate demands for an independent investigation and an end to corporate projects on Lenca land.

We demand protections that guarantee Gustavo Castro’s safety and return him safely to Mexico.

The international mission presented a damning report of their findings, including Honduras’ failure to guarantee democratic principles and human rights, lack of independence of the legal system, flagrant violation of international law with respect to Indigenous rights, and a lack of political will to tackle impunity.

The delegation also found that there is no legal basis for the ongoing restriction of Castro’s movement and that barring him from returning to his home country puts his life in danger, according to a statement.

Castro, shot twice and taken for dead in the attack that killed Caceres, fears that Honduran investigators are trying to hold him responsible for the murder as the sole witness.

Caceres’ family and supporters have slammed Honduran authorities for criminalizing Castro and members of Caceres’ organization, COPINH, rather than showing the political will to uncover the truth and get to the bottom of the crime.

Human rights defenders have argued that Castro is a victim of psychological torture living in a situation of arbitrary detention in Honduras.

 

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Mexico-Has-Failed-Berta-Caceres-Murder-Witness-Gustavo-Castro–20160326-0033.html

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March 24, 2016

Interview with Berta Cáceres: “To fight against repression in Honduras is to fight for our whole continent.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:59 pm

 

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Interview with Berta Cáceres: “To fight against repression in Honduras is to fight for our whole continent.”

By Beverly Bell

 

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Photo credit: Roger Harris.

 

Below is a never-before-published interview with international social movement leader and Honduran indigenous organizer Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated on March 3, 2016. The interview was taken in Havana on September 4, 2009, two months after Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a US-backed coup d’état, while the unelected regime was still on a rampage to destroy resistance and the activists behind it. Cáceres’ murder has brought the overthrow of the last legitimately elected government to rule that country back into the global spotlight, because that overthrow laid the groundwork for the repression that now engulfs grassroots justice movements.

Cáceres’ message in the interview was clear: Pay attention. Stand up with and for us. Our fates are connected, and what happens to us can happen to you.

“What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare said. Today, an unelected regime is again attempting to destroy resistance and the activists behind it. Berta’s message is as relevant to the Americas and the US now as then.

 

Beverly Bell: We’re in Havana at the Forum on Emancipatory Paradigms, speaking about the repression of those behind the coup d’état.

Berta Cáceres: We’ve seen an enormous attack against social movements, trying to dismantle us. The repressive forces have been brutal against youth, against women, against indigenous people. There has been an uncountable number of individual and collective human rights violations. The repression has been direct and shameless.

There have been smear campaigns and threats. There’s been a campaign of terror through the media, using the psychology of fear to criminalize protest and social movements. We’ve seen how the media, owned by the coup oligarchs, has been violating the right to free expression, repressing all the [dissenting] media and shutting up their journalists.

We know there are plans to capture and assassinate leaders.

BB: How have laws been trampled to justify all this?

BC: One way is suspending our constitutional rights and guarantees. The regime has pushed forward laws that, when they capture activists, let them use accusation against the compañeros like sedition, terrorism, illegal protests.

They’ve taken actions that are illegal, unconstitutional, and they haven’t even had to change many laws to do it, because the body of laws was already there as part of the plan for the war on terrorism that Bush was pushing.

But it doesn’t really matter to them whether or not there’s a law. It’s a coup.

BB: The other day, you spoke about the fact that, even though this is a terrible coup and completely in disregard of human rights and democracy, it is also a special time for you all. Could you tell us what advances the movement has made as a result of this coup?

BC: Well, Honduras has always been an unknown country. We’ve always been known for two things: for being a military base, the launching pad and training site for the attack on the Nicaraguan revolution and for the elite death squads of Guatemala and El Salvador. And the other thing we’re known for is Hurricane Mitch, that terrible disaster.

Now the world knows Honduras for a very different phenomenon. We’ve seen the amazement of the international community and the solidarity community. And we were surprised, as well, at how from the Honduran people burst forth this enormous force, after all the accumulated history of frustration and demands.

A real gain has been the massive, incredible involvement of women. They have been strong, energetic, creative, coming up with new kinds of struggle, displaying an amazing amount of energy.

Also the youth, the superstar participants in this movement.  It’s no coincidence that the repression has been so fierce against them.

Indigenous people, as well: Since the first day we’ve been present in this mobilization, in all the marches, the occupation of highways.

We’ve been able to unite ourselves around one central objective, which is to overthrow the dictatorship. And to demand not only the restoration of the democratic president Manuel Zelaya, but also to unite around other historic demands.

We have a chant that we’ve really taken to heart, that says, “They fear us because we’re fearless.”

The oligarchs made a mistake when they said: “Three days and this will all be over.” They were wrong. They’ve been wrong about a lot of things.  We can see that they are weak. We see them as beaten down. We see them as wavering in front of the force of the people of Honduras.

BB: You’ve said this is the first time that you all have been united in a popular movement.

BC: Yes. To me, this is the biggest accomplishment: the unity of a social movement. And they didn’t wait for structure or directions or ideology or leaders or anything. They had this explosion of organization, of rebellion, of insurrection in a way that was spontaneous, autonomous, and creative.

The coup and the military dictatorship helped us to form ourselves into what we call here one big knot. We’re all united under the same objective. The movement understands that the resistance front, which is a broad-based movement with a lot of different mass organizations, needs to maintain its principles and its independence. This movement has taught a lesson not only to the ultra-right, but to us in the popular movement.

BB: You’re here with a lot of progressive folks at this Forum on Alternative Paradigms. Many of them have lived through dictatorships in their own countries. What’s the message you’ve been saying?

BC: You have to be clear about one thing: The coup in Honduras hasn’t just been against Honduras. It’s been against all emancipatory processes. It’s been a clear, threatening message to the progressive and leftist governments in our continent. It’s a message that the ultra-right and the imperialists aren’t going to stop. They want to reclaim power, and they know very well that they need our resources.

The coup is directly related to the plundering of our resources. It’s very clear, the involvement of gringo geopolitical interests in the region. It’s connected to other plans of militarization and annexation, as in the so-called drug war in Colombia, the threat of destabilization of the governments of Ecuador, of Bolivia, of Paraguay, of our region in Central America, of others.

So our call to this continent is that we need to really push to unite ourselves and create strategies between social movements and left governments.

BB: You have said that a museum should be built. For what and why?

BC: We’ve marched so much to defy a dictatorship that if we were to add up the hours and the kilometres – from Colon to San Pedro Sula, or from Batea or Piedra Gorda, del Paraiso to the capital – it would be something incredible. A friend said, “We’ve marched so much, for real, that we’ve worn out our shoes and our flip-flops. We’ve got to put together a museum for all the worn-out shoes.”

For us this means to raise up the evidence of the resistance. You know? We’ve seen compañeros with foot problems, with injuries, and they’re still there marching. We’ve seen a 76-year-old woman who never let the resistance down, day after day. And a 10-year-old giving profound speeches to crowds of 70,000 people. It’s something a people can only do when they feel that their hour has come.

BB: Is there anything else you want to say?

BC: Only that for us, as the Honduran people, it’s important that you understand our reality better. We have been a forgotten country. It’s important to understand our history, our resistance, the accumulation of all of these demands that the people are expressing right now.

Also to emphasize the need for solidarity, to call out to the international community and all movements to be in solidarity with us.

To fight against the dictatorship and repression in Honduras right now is to fight for our whole continent.

Please take action here to call for safety for members of COPINH and Gustavo Castro Soto, the sole witness to Berta Cáceres’ murder who is being prevented from returning safely to his home in Mexico, as well as for a fair, internationally led investigation into Berta Cáceres’ killing.

 

http://otherworldsarepossible.org/interview-berta-caceres-fight-against-repression-honduras-fight-our-whole-continent

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March 23, 2016

Gustavo Castro Soto and the rigged investigation into Berta Cáceres’ assassination

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:03 am

 

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Gustavo Castro Soto and the rigged investigation into Berta Cáceres’ assassination 

By Beverly Bell

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Gustavo Castro Soto, imperilled in Honduras. Photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 2014.

The sole eyewitness to Honduran social movement leader Berta Cáceres’ assassination on March 3, 2016 has gone from being wounded victim to, effectively, political prisoner.

Now Gustavo Castro Soto may also be framed as the murderer of his long-time friend.

Both the Mexican Ambassador, Dolores Jiménez, and Castro himself are worried that he will be charged by the government for the killing, they told the National Commission of Human Rights of Honduras on March 16.

A writer and organizer for environmental and economic justice, Castro has been forbidden by local authorities from leaving the country to return to his native Mexico until April 6, at least.  Since being released from several days in Honduran government custody, he has been forced to take refuge in the Mexican Embassy in Tegucigalpa. The protection of the Mexican Embassy “does not mean that my life is no longer in danger,” Castro wrote to some friends and colleagues on March 4. As long as he is on Honduran soil, he remains in peril. Ambassador Jiménez called the risk he is running “an objective fact.”

Castro – who is able to identify Cáceres’ killer – is an impediment to the plan that the Honduran government is clearly advancing, which is to pin the murder on members of the group which Cáceres founded and ran, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH). It could help the strategy of the fraudulently elected regime to dispense with Castro by charging and arresting him.

The government may also charge COPINH members with the killing of their leader, in the hopes of eliminating them from the body politic. Authorities tried to incriminate three of them just after the murder. Prominent COPINH organizer Aureliano Molina was imprisoned for two days on suspicion of a “crime of passion,” though he was two hours away from La Esperanza on the night of March 3. Two other COPINH leaders, Tomas Gómez and Sotero Echeverria, were interrogated for days, during which time the government denied their request for accompaniment by their lawyers. On March 15, Echeverria was threatened with arrest.

The Real Assassins

Cáceres was a tireless organizer for accountable government, participatory democracy, indigenous peoples and their territories, human rights, and women’s and LGBTQ rights.  For many years, she was subject to threats, attempted violent attacks, legal prosecution for being a “continual danger to the nation,” and other persecution.

Just during the three-month period prior to Cáceres’ murder, human rights accompaniers tracked 11 threats and attempted assaults by national and local government officials, police, soldiers, employees of the Agua Zarca dam project which Cáceres and others were fighting, and unidentified men. In addition to that litany within 10 days before Cáceres’ death, Agua Zarca released two incendiary public email announcements. Their message lines read “THE ACTS VIOLENT” and “FALSEHOODS OF BERTA CACERES  – COPINH.”

Those who have witnessed the price Cáceres has paid for her decades of advocacy have no doubt who is culpable in her murder. Her four grown children and mother stated publicly on March 5, “We hold DESA [the company behind the dam], the international financial organizations backing the project (the Netherlands Development Finance Company [or] FMO, Finnfund [the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation], the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, Ficohsa Bank)… responsible for the …constant death threats against Berta, us, and COPINH. We hold the Honduran state responsible for obstructing Berta’s protection and for contributing to her persecution, criminalization and murder.”

Castro’s Ordeal

Many elements of the government’s so-called collection of evidence from Castro have been irregular at best, and illegal at worst.

Beyond being inconvenient for knowing too much, the eyewitness falls into the repressive government’s category of public enemy. Like Cáceres, Castro has been a vocal opponent of dam construction on indigenous rivers, as well as of the broad powers given transnational corporations and the local elite to plunder democracy and the riches of nature. Castro is coordinator of the group Otros Mundos/Friends of the Earth Mexico. He has cofounded, and sits on the governing body of, many anti-mining and anti-damming networks, as well as the US-based organization Other Worlds. In his interrogation, the public prosecutor has asked Castro about his environmental organizing and history of activism.

Following the killing in Cáceres’ home in the town of La Esperanza, Castro was detained for days in the local public prosecutor’s office for interrogation. On March 5, having been told the questioning was complete, he was transported by the Mexican ambassador and consul to the airport in Tegucigalpa so that he could return to his homeland. As he approached the migration checkpoint, Castro was set upon by multiple Honduran police, who attempted to grab him. The Mexican ambassador stopped them.

The government has since forbidden Castro from leaving Honduras for 30 days, or until April 6. When Castro appealed the order, the judge in the case ruled against it, even while admitting that there is no legal provision for a 30-day restraint for witnesses or victims.

The judge also suspended the license of Castro’s lawyer, Ivania Galeano, for 15 days. The stated reason was that Galeano had requested a copy of Castro’s file which, according to Honduran law, was her right.

Even in the Mexican Embassy, almost three weeks after the killing, Castro continues to be interrogated by the Honduran prosecutor.

Hearing No Protest from the US, Honduran Government Ramps Up Repression

The US State Department put out a brief, generic statement of condolence the day after Cáceres was assassinated. At the same time, according to email communications, the State Department confirmed that it is cooperating with the Honduran government in the investigation, with various US agencies actively participating in it.

The Obama Administration has failed to raise questions about the Honduran government’s role in the murder, given its persistent, well-documented targeting of Cáceres over the years, and its transparent attempts at a cover-up by fingering Cáceres’ close colleagues. US military assistance to the Honduran government continues to flow.

On March 17, 62 US Congressional representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, calling for an independent investigation of the assassination and urging the Secretary to immediately stop US security funding pending a review. Rep. Hank Johnson, co-sponsor of the letter along with Rep. Keith Ellison, said, “It’s time for our government to leverage security assistance and multilateral loans so as to put real and lasting pressure on the Honduran government to protect its activists and pursue those responsible for these hideous crimes.”

Meanwhile, the silence from the administration has given the Honduran government a green light for repression.

That repression was aggressively launched on March 15. On that single day, Honduran soldiers and police coordinated assaults against 10 activists from four geographic regions and three separate organizations. Nelson García, a COPINH leader, was assassinated during a violent government eviction of the community of Rio Chiquito. As stated above, police threatened Sotero Echeverria, member of the COPINH coordinating committee, with arrest. In the capitol, three hit men shot and wounded Christian Mauricio Alegría, who works with the global peasant movement La Via Campesina. His uncle, Rafael Alegría, is a deputy in the national parliament from the opposition Libre Party, and is former secretary general of La Via Campesina. José Flores, head of the United Movement of the Peasants of the Aguan (MUCA), was temporarily arrested along with family members in the town of Tocoa.

The message was clear to all. No matter where one is or with whom one works, activists are not safe in Honduras.

From the Mexican Embassy on March 15, Castro sent out a note of condolence and support to the Honduran people. He closed the missive this way: “Soon there will be justice.”
Please take action here to call for safety for Gustavo Castro and members of COPINH, as well as for a fair, internationally led investigation into Berta Cáceres’ killing.

 

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part. Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

http://otherworldsarepossible.org/gustavo-castro-soto-and-rigged-investigation-berta-caceres-assassination

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March 22, 2016

Stop the Killings: Friends of the Earth petition on Honduras

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:51 am

 

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Stop the bloodshed in Honduras

 

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In the space of 2 weeks, 4 activists have been shot. 2 are dead and 1 is currently in grave danger.

  • Berta Cáceres, an indigenous environmental activist opposing a mega-dam project in Honduras, was shot dead in her home on 2 March.
  • Gustavo Castro, director of Friends of the Earth Mexico and sole witness to Berta’s murder, was wounded in the same attack. Gustavo is being prevented from leaving Honduras. He is in grave danger.
  • On 15 March Nelson García, an activist in COPINH, the same indigenous organisation as Berta, was shot dead in his home.
  • On the same day Mauricio Alegría, from the peasant organisation Via Campesina, was shot near his office. He survived and was rushed to hospital.

It’s time for the Honduran government to protect its citizens and those within its borders. They need to know the world is watching.

Ask the Honduran government to end the killings

 

Sign Here

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Nelson Garcia, another member of COPINH, murdered; Gustavo Castro detained for 30 more days

Filed under: Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:41 am

 

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Nelson Garcia, another member of COPINH, murdered; Gustavo Castro detained for 30 more days

 

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Photo @Resumen Latinoamericano

Following the murder of Berta Caceres last March 3, social activist, member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and member of the opposition to the building of the hydroelectric dam at Agua Zarca, COPINH reported another murder of one of its leaders. On March 15, Nelson Noe Garcia Lainez “was murdered when he arrived at his mother-in-law’s home for lunch, having spent the morning helping to move the shelters of the evicted families from the Rio Chiquito commuity”, COPINH declared in a statement. The events took place in the Rio Chiquito community, in the Cortes department of Honduras following the recovery of lands at Rio Lindo, an area which the same day “was violently evicted by the military police and special forces”, according to organizations that witnessed the events. The General Direction of the National Police denied any connection between the murder of Garcia Lainez and the eviction, which they claimed was carried out “in a peaceful manner.”

Likewise, COPINH warned about capture threats that two more of its members are receiving from the police. “FOR HOW MUCH LONGER WILL WE CONTINUE TO PUT UP WITH MORE MURDERS OF THOSE WHO STRUGGLE FOR A MORE JUST WORLD, FOR THE RIGHT TO LAND, FOR A DIGNIFIED ROOF [over their heads], FOR A DIGNIFIED AND NOT EXPLOITED JOB [?]. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH OF THE EXTERMINATION OF INDIGENOUS AND BLACK PEOPLES AND CAMPESINOS”, they added.

On another note, Other Worlds Chiapas (Otros Mundos Chiapas) member, Gustavo Castro Soto, who was injured during the murder of Berta Caceres as he was present in her home, remains in detention as a protected witness in Honduras. A range of organizations have expressed concern for the safety of the activist, describing as “arbitrary” the fact that his return to Mexico is impeded for 30 more days and demanding that the Honduran government lift the migratory alert. The most important of those was the demand of the special rapporteur of the UNO for the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michael Forst, who asked the government of the Central American country for the return and protection of the activist. Furthermore, Castro Soto’s attorney added that the order to remain in Honduras “is illegal for a witness, it is not covered by the law, we have forwarded the legal resources that establish the norm, because this limitation of freedom does not exist in relation to witnesses.”

They also announced the establishment of an International Mission “Justice for Berta Caceres”, called for by COPINH, the National Network for the Defence of Human Rights in Honduras, and individuals, collectives and organizations of an international network for solidarity in support of the Honduran people. This Mission plans meetings with the authorities of the Central American country “to demand clarification of the murder of Berta Caceres, with the participation of an Independent Investigative Commission; to demand the immediate release of the Mexican Gustavo Castro and guarantee his personal integrity.”

 

https://sipazen.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/chiapasinternational-nelson-garica-another-member-of-copinh-murdered-gustavo-castro-detained-for-30-more-days/

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March 19, 2016

Enough! Second COPINH member assassinated in Honduras

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:09 pm

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 Enough! Second COPINH member assassinated in Honduras

 

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March 15, 2016
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) calls public attention to today’s murder of our compañero Nelson García, from the Río Chiquito community in the Cortés Department, at the hands of two unknown persons.

We regrettably inform you that compañero Nelson García was murdered when he arrived at his mother-in-law’s house to have lunch, after spending all morning helping move the belongings of displaced families from the Río Chiquito community.

The murder occurred in the midst of an eviction carried out against the community of Río Chiquito in the Río Lindo area, in the Cortés Department, during which approximately 100 police officers, 20 military police officers, 10 soldiers and several people from the DGIC (General Criminal Investigations Administration) invaded the territory reclaimed by 150 families, on which more than 75 had built their houses with the materials and efforts at hand.

The eviction took place at noon today, using tractors and heavy machinery to destroy the wood houses that the compañeros and compañeras from COPINH had lived in for almost two years, leaving them without a roof over their heads. Similarly, they destroyed the community’s garden and fields, using tractors to destroy the yucca, sugarcane, banana and small corn fields, violating all kinds of rights. They even destroyed an artisanal oven and killed chickens belonging to the community.

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The community of Río Chiquito has protected its territory since it was first donated to the women of the community. However, they have been attacked by the municipal authorities, especially by the former mayor, who used three front men in order to displace the compañeros and compañeras and to sell the land.

Compañero Nelson García was an active member of COPINH in defense of the right to housing, we remember him for his active participation in the process of reclaiming the land and establishing the community of Río Chiquito. We lament this new death, 13 days after the vile murder of our General Coordinator, Berta Cáceres.

The murder of our compañero Nelson García and the displacement of the community of Río Chiquito add to the war against COPINH, which seeks to do away with its more than 22 years of advocacy, resistance and building.

Today’s attacks join the large number of threats, attacks, murders, intimidation and criminalization directed against COPINH.

1935614_1678291705777935_738524049392240836_nSince the murder of our compañera Berta Cáceres we have been subjected to a large number of incidents which demonstrate the complete lack of interest on the part of the Honduran State to safeguard our lives and the work we carry out. As well as its disregard in implementing the preliminary injunctions accorded us by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH). The injunctions were issued on March 6 and today, nine days later, they murdered a compañero.

How is one supposed to trust the State’s investigation if it is criminally harassing the coordinating body of our organization with the statement that it is investigating our supposed participation in the murder, while it doesn’t investigate the sources of the threats?

How is one supposed to believe that justice will be done in the case of our leader Berta when they won’t implement the measures necessary for the protection of her family, and the daughters and compañeros of our compañera Berta have been chased by an armed man in the city of Tegucigalpa during meetings with the authorities?

Since the day of Berta’s murder, the offices of COPINH in La Esperanza have been monitored by unknown persons, intimidating those who are still resisting, following the legacy of our leader.

Similarly, the compañeros and compañeras of the community of Río Blanco suffered attacks when they traveled to the city of Tegucigalpa in order to present their case to entities such as the Ministry of the Interior and representatives of the diplomats of the G16.

In addition, there was an incident in which compañeros from the community traveled to Río Gualcarque and were attacked with shotgun fire by security guards from the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project that fortunately did not wound any members of the community.

All these attacks form part of an extermination plan against our organization and we are calling for national and international solidarity in order to fight against it.

We demand an end to the persecution, harassment and war against COPINH.

We demand that the Honduran State respond to the death of our compañeros and compañeras and for there to be no more impunity.

We demand justice for our compañera Berta Cáceres.

With the ancestral force of Lempira, Mota, Etempica, Berta, our voices rise up, full of life, justice and peace.

Berta lives, the struggle continues!!!

La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras. Issued on March 15, 2016.

 

Translated by Scott Campbell

http://elenemigocomun.net/2016/03/enough-assassinated-copinh-honduras/

http://www.copinhonduras.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/copinh-basta-ya.html

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March 14, 2016

Organizations of Chiapas Denounce the Criminalization and Death of Indigenous Compañeros and Environmental Activists

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous — Tags: , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:16 pm

 

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Organizations of Chiapas Denounce the Criminalization and Death of Indigenous Compañeros and Environmental Activists

 

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Original peoples of the northern region of Chiapas demand justice and liberty for Gustavo Castro detained in Honduras

March 12, 2016

To Juan Orlando Hernandez, President of Honduras

To the Consulates of Honduras in Tapachula and Comitan, Chiapas

To Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico

To the national and international press

To the organization of the United Nations

To the national and international defenders of human rights

To all of the solidarity of the world

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Communities of indigeous Tsostil, Tseltal, and Ch’ol peoples of the northern region of Chiapas, Mexico, in a regional assembly in the Ejido of La Illusión, Municipality of Simojovel de Allende, Chiapas, organized by the Pueblo Creyente of Simojovel, analyzed the critical situation of our environmentalist and patriotic compañero Gustavo Castro Soto, in this situation we protest the criminalization and death of indigenous compañeros and environmental activists. The cowardly assassination of the indigenous Lenca compañera Berta Cáceres and the attempted assassination of our environmentalist Mexican brother Gustavo Castro Soto is not a coincidence and much less an isolated act; this cowardly act is the practice of extermination that has been imposed by international capital with the complacency of national governments.

The justice system of the country of Honduras should continue the line of investigation into the company from China that has pressured the indigenous compañerxs of COPINH in order to take their land and flood it with the hydroelectric dam, which is the motive for the assassination of Berta Cáceres and of the attempted assassination of compañero Gustavo Castro.

We solicit and demand the immediate transfer to Mexico of environmental compañero Gustavo Castro Soto. The compañero is one of the victims of the cowardly assassination of the indigenous compañera Berta Cáceres that occurred on Thursday, 3rd March in the early morning, in the town of La Esperanza in Honduras. It is arbitrary to keep Gustavo Castro Soto for 30 more days in that country on the order of the Attorney General of Honduras.

We ask for the security of Gustavo Castro during the entire process of expanding his witness statement and during his stay in the embassy of Mexico in Tegucigalpa. We demand the government of Honduras comply with the promise to lift the migratory alert that they put on Gustavo Castro, so that he can immediately leave Honduras ending this last judicial process required without any other action that would prevent his exit.

We hold the two governments of Mexico and Honduras responsible for his security, physical and psychological integrity. We demand the intervention at the highest level of the two governments so he can immediately leave Honduras.

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Sincerely,

Pueblos originarios de la región norte de Chiapas México
Organización sociedad Civil de las Abejas de Acteal
Pueblo Creyente de Simojovel
Parroquia San Juan Bautista El Bosque
Parroquia San Juan Dieguito de San Cristóbal
Parroquia Santa Catarina Pantelho
Consejo Estatal de Nuevo Constituyente de Chiapas
Luz y Fuerza del Pueblo de Huitiupán
Centro de Derechos Humanos Oralia Morales de Frontera Comalapa
Luz y Fuerza de Chiapas

Signed in the presence of:

Observadores Nacionales e Internacionales del Movimiento Sueco por la Reconciliación (Swefor), Integrantes del Reconocimiento Jtatik Samuel Jk’anan Lum: Centro de Derechos humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas A.C (Frayba), Servicio Internacional para la Paz (Sipaz), Comisión de Apoyo a la Unidad y Reconciliación comunitaria A.C.(Coreco), Desarrollo Económico y Social de los Mexicanos Indígenas A.C (Desmi), Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz A.C. (Serapaz), Instituto de Estudios e Investigación Intercultural A.C. (Inesin), Coordinación de mujeres (Codimuj) y Vicaria de Justicia y Paz de la Diócesis de San Cristóbal de Las Casas

 

Translated by Palabras Rebeldes

http://espoirchiapas.blogspot.mx/2016/03/organizaciones-de-chiapas-denuncian-la.html

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Gustavo Castro’s continued stay in Honduras is a risk

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:17 am

 

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Gustavo Castro’s continued stay in Honduras is a risk

 

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Oscar Castro, Gustavo’s brother, during the press conference held in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he denounced that: “the crime scene was altered.” To his right are Berta Cáceres’ daughters. Photo: Afp

 

By: Blanche Petrich

Mexico’s ambassador in Honduras, Dolores Jiménez, affirmed that the risk that Gustavo Castro Soto runs by remaining in Honduras as a victim and the only surviving witness to a high-impact crime –the murder of Lenca [1] leader Berta Cáceres, last March 3– “is an objective fact,” and therefore the foreign ministry has put its effort into achieving the return of the environmentalist to the country as soon as possible.

In a telephone interview with La Jornada, the diplomat emphasized: “what’s notable in Castro Soto’s case is that, despite his vulnerability, he is very willing to contribute in whatever way may be required for the full clarification of the crime.”

Dolores Jiménez expressed that there are “high expectations” that the Honduran government will respond “as soon as possible” to the request that the foreign ministry officially sent this Thursday for Gustavo Soto, director of the organization Otros Mundos, with its headquarters in Chiapas, to be permitted to return to Mexico before the 30-day time period expires that a judge set in La Esperanza, where the attack was committed. As of now, the judge’s prohibition on leaving Honduras does not expire for 26 days.

She assured that bilateral agreements between Mexico and Honduras are in effect for cooperation in judicial investigations, like this one, so that Castro would be able to continue amplifying his statements at a distance, from Mexico, by means of the Honduran Embassy. “It’s something very common and is practiced all over the world.”

The environmentalist leader is being given shelter in Casa México, a building close to the offices of the Mexican Embassy which forms part of the official residence of Mexico in Tegucigalpa. The consul Pedro Barragán accompanies him all the time.

The ambassador pointed out that as of this moment the Honduran government has not responded in writing to Mexico’s request, delivered the day before yesterday (Thursday). She indicated that a communiqué from the Honduran government details the efforts that have been carried out with the Mexican in the process of investigating the murder of the Lenca leader Berta Cáceres, “and it permits us to have good expectations” that he can return “before the time that the judge set expires.”

Nevertheless, this communiqué, published by the Secretariat of Foreign Relations and International Cooperation and directed “to public opinion,” does not make any allusion to the case of Gustavo Castro. It only indicates that: “all lines of investigation are open” and are the object of “active and systematic efforts.” It reports that the agencies involved in the process are the attorney general’s office, the criminal investigations agency and the national police.

Yesterday, in a press conference, human rights organizations, Berta Cáceres’ daughters and a brother of Gustavo, Óscar Castro Soto, asked that, in the face of irregularities committed by the first judge of La Esperanza, in the southwestern department of Intibucá, the murder case record be assigned to another court.

Ambassador Jiménez declined to comment in that regard. “It’s not my business,” she said.

She explained that the Embassy of Mexico has offered the only witness to the crime consular protection from the first moment, “and it will continue offering all that he requires.”

She added that she would insist he be permitted to continue cooperating from Mexico through the Honduras representation. “It’s a very common practice all over the world. Honduras law permits it. There is a bilateral agreement in effect between the two countries for facilitating judicial cooperation in criminal matters.” She also emphasized that the protection that the Mexican government is offering is with full respect to Honduras law.

–Have you received an answer to the official communication from the Mexican Chancellery?

–No, as of now there is no written response. We hope that we will have a prompt and positive answer as soon as possible.

We observe that the State has expressed its commitment to an in-depth investigation and full clarification and punishment of those responsible. That is important. But above all is the protection of the witness’ life, if it should be at risk. One is not incompatible with the other.

–Does the government of Honduras recognize Gustavo as a victim?

–Of course. His legal situation here is that of a protected witness, as a victim and as a human rights defender with protective measures.

The ambassador specified that the witness is not able to stay in La Esperanza, where the case is followed, “because that’s where he would run the most risk. Although the judge ordered him to appear there to give his statements, the consul transported him to Tegucigalpa afterwards. The consul is with him at every moment.”

After emphasizing that: “nothing is superfluous in matters of security,” the diplomat explained the mechanisms that have been activated for the Mexican activist’s protection: a security operation of the Honduras government for his movements, the same security from the Mexican government and the precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

–Why did the Honduran police intercept Castro Soto’s departure in the international airport when he was going to travel to Mexico? Why were the facts presented that way?

–There is a lot of clamour and at times a lack of immediate communication. The day that he was leaving for Mexico, after the prosecutor released him from his responsibility to make a statement, he thanked him and told him that he could leave. He returned to the airport with the consul after getting a plane ticket. But at the last minute a requirement arrived from the attorney general’s office that he had to continue making statements. We knew that a notification could arrive, but it didn’t happen and we decided to take him to the airport. The consul and I went with him. He was there when they delivered the notification. Then we took him back to the Mexican residence in the official car in which we had taken him. We made contact immediately with the authorities to confirm that in effect he was willing to continue giving statements in La Esperanza.

We were organizing a security operation all day Sunday and on Monday, March 7, it was activated at the first hour to take him to La Esperanza with all guaranties.

–Where does the process stand at this time?

–There has already been a bunch of formalities in which he participated in La Esperanza and therefore he is proposing to the Honduras government that he can leave the country and continue collaborating from Mexico in any amplification that is required. The conditions are appropriate for doing it now.

[1] Lenca – Indigenous people in southwestern Honduras and eastern El Salvador.

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, March 12, 2016

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2016/03/12/politica/003n1pol

Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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