dorset chiapas solidarity

December 17, 2016

Native Waters, Native Warriors: From Standing Rock to Honduras

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:02 pm

 

Native Waters, Native Warriors: From Standing Rock to Honduras

By: Beverly Bell

honduras_standingrock-png_1718483346In both Honduras and North Dakota, Indigenous communities are hard at work defending their territories and waters from further theft and desecration | Photo: Reuters

 

It’s time for us all to follow the lead of those in Standing Rock and Honduras, and stand, resist and act fearlessly.

Around the globe, land has become gold-standard currency. As a result, Indigenous and other land-based peoples face threats to the natural commons on which they live, produce food and sustain community, culture and cosmovision.

In some places, organized Indigenous movements have stood up and fought off extraction and corporate development, winning protection of waters, forests, territories and more. In most places, the resistance has been met with assassination and violent repression by state security forces and corporate-financed hit squads.

Two of the fiercest Native battles in the Americas today are closely connected. They are led by the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota and by the Lenca people in Honduras, organized through the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Both are hard at work defending their territories and waters from further theft and desecration: At Standing Rock they are struggling against an oil pipeline being laid under their ancestral Missouri River, which they use for ceremony, drinking water and sustaining other life; on Lenca lands they are resisting the damming of their ancestral Gualcarque and other rivers.

In both cases, the movements face enormous stakes. And they both know that, as Howard Zinn said, “The power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below.” So they are challenging the power on top with shared strategies of mass mobilization and direct action. They both have the capacity to inspire the world, as seen by an outpouring of active solidarity with their uprisings from around the globe.

Each is enduring tremendous assault. Standing Rock Water Protectors have suffered dog attacks, water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures, rubber bullets and tear gas. Twenty-one-year-old activist Sophia Wilansky risks amputation of her arm after being hit by what witnesses claim was a concussion grenade. Vanessa Dundon may lose permanent sight in one eye after being hit with a tear gas canister. Red Fawn Fallis is in prison, facing a  trumped-up federal charge. More than 500 others have been arrested.

RELATED:
New World Bank Policies Imperil Environment and Land Defenders

COPINH founder and leader Berta Cáceres was slain this past March by the Honduran government and an internationally financed dam company, with at least implicit backing from the U.S. government, which funds the Honduran military. More than 90 additional COPINH members have been killed, and another 90 or so permanently injured, over the group’s 23-year history, according to Lenca Indigenous coordinator Tomás Gomez. Gomez himself has survived three assassination attempts and been beaten by soldiers twice since March.

The Standing Rock Sioux and the Lenca, moreover, each claim one of the greatest leaders for Native autonomy and territory in their country. Sitting Bull (c. 1831-90) and Lempira (d. 1537) were powerful spiritual and military leaders who fought back conquest by Americans and Spanish, respectively.

On the gentle North Dakotan hills — recently covered with yellow-brown grasses, now buried in white snow — where thousands of Water Protectors are convened, we talked with Native people about their counterparts in Honduras. Some knew about COPINH and especially about Berta Cáceres. All felt their lives, stories and fates reflected in their Honduran counterparts.

Nathan (pictured at the top of this article) is from Nebraska, though now Standing Rock is his only home. He is a Native children’s advocate and works at the school for the children living in the camp. When asked if he would like to be photographed holding a poster of Berta Cáceres, he said, “Oh, Berta! That would be a blessing. We love Berta!”

To help those on the front lines turn the tide, we must all stand with Standing Rock. December is Global Month of  #NoDAPL ActionCall banks that have invested in the Dakota Access pipeline and urge them to pull their funds. Almost $18 million have already been divested from the project. Look for more ways to lend support  here.

The best way to turn the tide in Honduras is to cut US military aid to the government, which runs the most dangerous country in the world in which to be an environmental defender. Work for the passage of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act, which will be reintroduced in the new US Congress in January. Keep up-to-date here.

Berta Cáceres loved to say, “They fear us because we’re fearless.” With so much at stake for humanity and Mother Earth, it’s time for us all to follow the lead of those in Standing Rock and Honduras, and stand, resist and act fearlessly.

This article was originally published by Truthout.

Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and the US. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance and of Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide. She is also a member of Truthout’s Board of Advisers.

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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

Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice Reaches San Cristobal de Las Casas

Filed under: caravan — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:46 am

 

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Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice Reaches San Cristobal de Las Casas

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The event in Plaza de la Paz, San Cristobal de las Casas, Photo @ SIPAZ

On April 7, the Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice reached Plaza de La Paz in San Cristobal de Las Casas, where it held a discussion with representatives of various civil organizations which expressed their accompaniment and solidarity. The Caravan is a broad initiative of families of victims of human rights violations, civil society organizations and social movements from different nations, which call for a “halt to the war on drugs.” On their journey, the Caravan has joined a group of some 35 people from seven countries.

It left Honduras on March 28 and will arrive in New York on April 18. According to Otros Mundos, “the route reflects the commitment to raise the voice of the victims and of the heroes of the war on drugs, and it turns out they are the same. From their pain, the victims are becoming in an organized way the people who struggle for peace and justice, for an exit from the war.”

On their way through Mexico, the Caravan entered through the border of Guatemala – Mexico at La Mesilla – Ciudad Cuauhtemoc on April 6. There they held an event in which they listened to the words and struggles in the region of the southern border of Mexico, “invaded by a growing militarization which worsens the human rights situation of the peoples in defense and care of the earth as well as migrants from Central America and Chiapas year after year.” The participants in the Caravan proposed a compilation of testimonies of violations of human rights committed combatting drugs with the aim of presenting it at the special session on narcotics at the General Assembly of the United Nations, to be held from April 19 – 21.

During the event in San Cristobal de Las Casas, some civil organizations, among them Otros Mundos, The Civil Society of Las Abejas of Acteal, and Mesoamerican Voices shared their words. They demanded “that justice be done for the killing of the coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), Berta Caceres, murdered on March 3 last in Honduras.” The Colombian Alex Serra, who coordinated the passage of the Caravan through Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala reiterated that, “one of our principal demands is that justice be done because she was part of the Caravan and with her murder, we are in mourning.” In commemoration of the Honduran leader, there was a minute of applause during the event. Las Abejas de Acteal underlined that if “there is insecurity for the life of the population of Honduras, migration and pillage of our mother earth, it is not only in Honduras, there is also a wave of violence and injustice here in Chiapas and in Mexico, the youth of Ayotzinapa being a clear example.” Marco Castillo of the Popular Assembly of Migrant Families and coordinator of the Caravan in Mexico, sustained that, “it would appear that the great gain of the war is not security but the control of territory, terrorism in the population, such that it is undeniable that the security policy has failed.”

The Caravan left at noon on the same day to Oaxaca, from where it will travel to Morelos to have a meeting with Javier Sicilia, leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. From there it will continue its way to the seat of the United Nations Organization (UNO) in New York to demand justice and dignity.

 

https://sipazen.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/chiapas-caravan-for-peace-life-and-justice-reaches-san-cristobal-de-las-casas/

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April 8, 2016

Gustavo Castro Criticises the SRE’s Delay in Ensuring his Return from Honduras

Filed under: Human rights, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:28 am

 

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Gustavo Castro Criticises the SRE’s Delay in Ensuring his Return from Honduras

 

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By: José Antonio Román

Gustavo Castro, the Mexican activist held for almost a month in Honduras due to being a witness to the murder of Berta Cáceres, criticised the delay with which the Secretariat of Foreign Relations (SRE, its initials in Spanish) acted to ensure his return to national territory.

“Faced with the evident lack of application of Honduran laws in my case, and the irregularities, it is strange that the Mexican government here did not act sooner, and that it waited for so long despite having legal frameworks and mechanisms for doing so,” the coordinator of the Otros Mundos Chiapas organization said.

In his first statements in this country, where he arrived last Friday, he said that this delayed action of the Mexican Chancellery prolonged his stay in the Central American country in the midst of total uncertainty. “For me it was like psychological torture not having clarity about what assistance the government (of Honduras) wanted, what it wanted from me, and also including the possibility that my stay there could be prolonged.”

Castro remained almost a month held “illegally and arbitrarily” by that country’s judicial authorities that are investigating the murder of the human rights defender Berta Cáceres, perpetrated with gunshots in the early morning of last March 3 in the leader’s home casa.

At a press conference, Castro said that it would be “absurd” to oblige him to return to Honduras for the investigation, because during his retention he cooperated with authorities and gave a statement about everything he knew about the Honduran activist’s murder; she had invited him to her country to participate in several workshops on sustainable projects. Berta Cáceres was advising different indigenous communities against a hydroelectric project that would affect several rivers.

Nevertheless, in response to an express question, he pointed out that he has not yet decided whether he will file a complaint or not against the Honduran government for this “arbitrary and illegal” retention committed against him. “It’s something about which I still have to speak with the lawyers,” he said.

Moreover, representatives from diverse organizations who accompanied Castro’s defence process during his retention lamented the “poor political and diplomatic behaviour” that the Chancellery realized from Mexico for a co-national to whom the Honduran State did violence and re-victimized.

They even deplored that Foreign Relations now boasts that its efforts caused Gustavo Castro’s return to Mexico, when it was the work of the Mexican activist’s lawyers and the growing national and international pressure demanding his liberation that was cornering the Honduran government into terminating the retention. This is also pointed out in a joint position with the Mexican Network of those Affected by Mining (Rema) and the Mexican Movement of those Affected by Dams and in Defence of Rivers.

They mentioned that the Chancellery proposed waiting for the 30-day “immigration alert” imposed on Gustavo Castro to conclude to act. They were also the ones that offered information to the functionaries for the diplomatic mediation. Chancellor Claudia Ruiz Massieu refused to receive the Mexican activist’s family members, arguing a “tight agenda.”

In contrast, the organizations as well as Castro recognized the “excellent protection operation” that Mexico’s ambassador in Honduras, Dolores Jiménez Hernández, and Consul Pedro Barragán had, for guaranteeing his security.

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2016/04/05/politica/014n1pol

Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

 

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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

Gustavo Castro is free!

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:02 pm

 

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Gustavo Castro is free!

 

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Today, April 1 – April Fool’s Day – the power of collective action has trumped the fools, killers, and thieves in the Honduran government. Gustavo Castro Soto is back in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, with his family. His return marks the end of 24 days of captivity in Honduras – first in the custody of the government, which subjected him to psychological and physical torture, and then in the haven of the Mexican Embassy, because the Hondurans prohibited his departure. Gustavo was both witness to, and twice-shot victim of, the assault that killed global social movement leader Berta Cáceres in La Esperanza, Honduras, on March 3.

The Honduran government could not stand up to the international pressure from the US Congress, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Vatican, and many other sources of pressure and denunciation. More than anything, the power of the fraudulently elected regime could not trump that of citizens around the world, who held rallies, sent well over a hundred thousand letters, and committed themselves to continue organizing until Gustavo was freed. The government capitulated yesterday and gave Mexican activist and writer permission to return home. However, it mentioned that it may demand his subsequent return to help with the investigation.

This morning, Otros Mundos in Chiapas wrote to us, “What still remains is guaranteeing security for his family and the team.”  We hope you will remain with us, mobilizing the power of people united, until Gustavo; members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) – the organization that Berta founded 23 years ago this week; and all Hondurans have security and democracy.

To use a favourite term of Gustavo’s: ¡Animo! Let’s do it!

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Who is Gustavo Castro?

Gustavo Castro Soto is beloved by movements throughout Latin America, and not just for his political organizing prowess and strategic brilliance. His together-we-can-do-this attitude, easy gap-toothed grin, and quick humour draw people into what otherwise could be overwhelming leadership.

Gustavo – like his dear friend Berta Cáceres– is a fomenter of the collective imagination that says that we can re-envision and build just and humane political, economic, and social systems, that we are not condemned to live in the worlds we currently have.

The name Gustavo chose for his current organization – Otros Mundos (Other Worlds) – combines the World Social Forum slogan that “Another world is possible” with the Zapatista slogan that “In this world fit many worlds.”

Under Gustavo’s guidance, Otros Mundos – which is also Friends of the Earth Mexico – has become a focal point for environmental defence throughout Mexico and Mesoamerica. The group organizes impacted peoples and their allies for campaigns around water, energy, foreign debt, and climate crisis, amongst other issues. It also connects and mobilizes activists for effective action toward economic and environmental alternatives.

Gustavo is an electric light switch – solar electric – sparking and connecting currents across the region. He has founded and coordinated many Mexican and transnational social movements to build the power of united people. In addition to Otros Mundos, Gustavo co-founded Other Worlds; the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model (M4); the Latin American Network against Dams and in Defence of Rivers, Waters, and Communities (REDLAR); the Mexico-based Movement of Those Impacted by Dams and Defending the Rivers (MAPDER); the Mexican Network of Those Impacted by Dams (REMA); the Convergence of Movements of Peoples of the Americas (COMPA); the Network of Alternative Sustainable Family Networks (RESISTE); and the Popular School for Energy and Water, where communities throughout Southern Mexico learn about environmental alternatives; among others.

In times past, he founded and coordinated the Institute for Economic and Political Research for Community Action (CIEPAC) and, together with Berta, the Yes to Life, No to IFIs [international financial institutions] campaign. He served on the coordinating committee of the World Bank Boycott and the board of the Centre for Economic Justice, amongst many other affiliations.

On the refrigerator in Gustavo’s home hangs a drawing of him with a computer substituting for his head. A sociologist, he pounds out analyses of neoliberalism, of the devastating impacts of dams and mining on the earth and people, and of the need for a profound transformation.

With his high-speed brain, uncontrollable grey curls, frumpy clothing, coffee, and cigarettes, Gustavo is the archetypal Latin American Bohemian intellectual. Yet he doesn’t spend his days in discussion with a left academic elite, but rather with campesinos/as and indigenous peoples in mountains and villages. Gustavo’s focus has been on popular education, ensuring that those directly impacted by the problems have the information and understanding they need to be effective change agents. He has strongly encouraged the academy to become more socially engaged and useful.

Another drawing of him could just as accurately show a heart on top of his neck. He constantly welcomes friends to share a meal or stay for a week in his home, where he is tightly surrounded by the partner and four children he adores. He has friends and fans throughout the world, of whom an especially close one was Berta.

Motivated by compassion, Gustavo worked for years with the most resource-poor and exploited indigenous and campesino people of southern Mexico and Guatemala, seeking both economic and social justice and an end to state-sponsored violence against them. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Gustavo worked for years in refugee camps with Guatemalans who had crossed into Mexico seeking refuge from the war. Throughout the mid- and late-1990s, Gustavo accompanied Mexican indigenous communities who were harmed by the state violence that surged in response to the Zapatista uprising. He was a key part of the peace negotiations between the Zapatistas and the government, through Bishop Samuel Ruiz’s National Commission for Mediation (CONAIE), which launched in 1994.

From his imprisonment in Honduras, Gustavo published on March 15 “Words to the Honduran people.” In it, he said:

My wounds hurt me terribly, although they are healing. But my greater pain is for my dear Honduran people, who don’t deserve this; none of us do. We’ve always admired this noble, brave people who are fighting for a dignified life for all, without distinction and with justice. That was Berta´s struggle.

I feel love for this beautiful country, its landscapes, its nature, and especially its people. We should not let murders cloud our hope or landscapes.

Berta meant a lot to me, as much as she meant to you. Berta was an exceptional woman who fought for a better Honduras – more dignified, more just. Her spirit grows in the heart of the Honduran people, because we didn’t bury her, but sowed her so that she can grow hope for us.

Soon there will be justice.

 

http://otherworldsarepossible.org/gustavo-castro-free

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Travel ban for Gustavo Castro Soto lifted

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:40 am

 

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Travel ban for Gustavo Castro Soto lifted

 

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from Friends of the Earth International, 01 April, 2016

March 31, 2016 – After being prevented from leaving Honduras for 24 days, the director of Friends of the Earth Mexico (Otros Mundos A.C.) was notified that the ‘migratory alert’ impeding his travel has been lifted.

Today, the First Courthouse of Letters of Intibucá, Honduras, acting on instructions from the judge Victorina Flores Orellana, decided to lift the measure prohibiting Gustavo Castro Soto from leaving the country, which has been in place since March 7.

This decision was made after the Honduran General Attorney’s office requested that the restriction be lifted because “all of the [necessary] investigations and scientific tests have been exhausted” in the case of the assassination of Berta Cáceres on March 3rd.

Gustavo Castro, witnessed the murder of Berta Cáceres, the coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and was wounded during the attack. As a Mexican citizen, and as a witness and victim of attempted murder in Honduras, he has had the right all along to collaborate with the Honduran authorities from his own country, in accord with the Treaty for Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters in effect between Honduras and Mexico.

However, this right was violated by the Judge Victorina Flores Orellana who on March 7 issued a migratory alert for thirty days against Gustavo Castro, and by the Honduran General Attorney’s Office, which took 24 days to revoke this measure. During this period, Gustavo Castro has only been required to undertake two more procedures in the context of the investigation – an obligation he could have fulfilled from Mexico.

We are pleased with this decision, which should finally allow our colleague Gustavo Castro to return to Mexico.

However, we condemn the lack of reaction on the part of the Mexican government, in particular by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs who, despite its communiqué today, did not take the necessary steps to urge the Honduran government to let a Mexican citizen return home. Meanwhile, the team of Otros Mundos A.C./Friends of the Earth Mexico, the family and legal counsel of Gustavo Castro, organizations acting in solidartiy and international bodies have continue to condemn the violation of human rights that this migratory alert represented.

We demand that the right of Gustavo Castro to continue collaborating in the investigation from Mexico according to the treaty between both countries be respected. Gustavo Castro should immediately be permitted to safely return to his home country.

Our position remains the same:  We demand an impartial investigation of the facts until the murder of Berta Cáceres, and the assassination attempt against Gustavo Castro, are fully clarified and those truly responsible are held to account.

Our thanks to the many thousands world-wide who have spoken out against this injustice, and in defense of Gustavo Castro and others at risk in Honduras. Together, we will continue the struggle.

http://www.foei.org/news/human-rights-honduras/travel-ban-gustavo-castro-soto-lifted#

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

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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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April 1, 2016

Gustavo Castro, Berta Caceres Murder Witness, Leaves Honduras

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:09 pm

 

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Gustavo Castro, Berta Caceres Murder Witness, Leaves Honduras

 

gustavo_castro_mexico_honduras.png_1718483346Gustavo Castro, the only witness to Berta Caceres’ murder and survivor of an assassination attempt, has returned to Mexico. | Photo: Facebook / Otros Mundos Chiapas

 

Honduran officials were preventing Gustavo Castro from leaving the country despite fears over his safety.

Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castro, the sole witness to the murder of Indigenous leader Berta Caceres and a victim in the attack, was finally allowed to leave Honduras in the early hours of Friday morning after a judge repealed the order that had kept him trapped in the country despite warnings that his life was in danger.

Castro’s lawyer, Ivania Galeano, told teleSUR that his legal team made the request for him to be able to leave two weeks ago, in the aftermath of Caceres’ murder on March 3. The Honduran Public Prosecutor’s Office had banned Castro from leaving the country for 30 days, an order that was set to expire on Monday.

“Of course we receive this new resolution with great satisfaction because it confirms what we have been saying all this time that there is no legal justification to continue restraining Gustavo Castro in Honduras,” Galeano added.

Authorities lifted restrictions on Castro’s travel on Thursday, but added that they reserved the right to call Castro back to the country should the need arise.

Castro’s brother, Oscar Castro, who went to Honduras days after Caceres’ murder to accompany Gustavo and who has accused authorities of arbitrarily detaining the witness, also welcomed his brother’s release.

“We hugged because this whole month we have been under a lot of stress, him more than me,” Oscar Castro told teleSUR, adding that compliance with legal processes is crucial to protecting human rights.

Oscar and members of the Mexican Embassy, where the witness was forced to stay for nearly one month, accompanied Castro on his trip back to Mexico.

Castro is a sociologist and environmental activist with Otros Mundos Chiapas and Friends of the Earth Mexico. The organizations released a joint statement Thursday after news of Castro’s release expressing relief over his ability to return safely to his home country and reiterated demands for an impartial investigation into Caceres’ murder.

But the organizations also criticized Mexico for not doing enough to pressure Honduran authorities to ensure Castro’s safety, echoing similar criticism from other human rights defenders. The groups also called for Castro’s right to continue collaborating in the investigation from Mexico to be respected.

The statement from the Public Prosecutor also said that the offices of DESA, the company behind the dam project opposed by Caceres, was raided by officials on March 13. Authorities found weapons and seized a number of documents, according to the statement.

Caceres’ supporters have maintained that the environmental activist was killed over her opposition to the building of the controversial dam and have slammed the investigation for criminalizing Castro and members of Caceres’ organization, COPINH.

Beverly Bell, a colleague of Castro and friend of Caceres, wrote for Other Worlds on Thursday that Castro’s unjust treatment has been the result of the fact that he is “a roadblock to the regime’s plan to pin the murder on COPINH.”

Castro and his lawyers were concerned that prosecutors would try to frame him for the murder of Caceres. The Public Prosecutor has not put forward any conclusions drawn from the investigation or thesis as to the motives behind Caceres’ murder.

 

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Gustavo-Castro-Berta-Caceres-Murder-Witness-Leaves-Honduras-20160331-0066.html

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Honduras Relents, Allows Witness of Caceres Murder to Leave

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:24 pm

 

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Honduras Relents, Allows Witness of Caceres Murder to Leave

 

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An indigenous man holds a Honduran national flag during a protest to demand justice for slain environmental rights activist Berta Caceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 17, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

 

Honduran officials were preventing Gustavo Castro from leaving the country despite fears over his safety.

Gustavo Castro, the Mexican national who witnessed the murder of environmental activist Berta Caceres, will finally be able to leave Honduras after a judge on Thursday repealed the order that had kept him trapped in Honduras.

The Honduran Office of the Public Prosecutor had banned Castro from leaving the country for 30 days, an order that was set to expire on Monday.

The Public Prosecutor issued a statement stating that they had requested Wednesday that the order keeping Castro in Honduras be lifted. The statement added that they reserved the right to call Castro back to the country should the need arise.

Castro is expected to fly back to Mexico on Friday.

The statement from the Public Prosecutor also said that the offices of DESA, the company behind the dam project opposed by Caceres, was raided by officials on March 13.

The statement indicated that weapons were found and a number of documents were seized.

Caceres’ supporters have maintained that the environmental activist was killed over her opposition to the building of the controversial dam.

Castro and his lawyers were concerned that prosecutors would try to frame him for the murder of Caceres. The Public Prosecutor has not put forward its thesis as to the motives behind Caceres’ murder.

 

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Honduras-Relents-Allows-Witness-of-Caceres-Murder-to-Leave-20160331-0066.html

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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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