Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New death threats in Rio Blanco against COPINH members

Alert: COPINH demands respect for the lives of Lenca people in Río Blanco
COPINH urgently communicates to the national and international community our serious worry about the defenseless state of the Lenca people in Río Blanco, faced with armed men and constant threats. We insist that the authorities take immediate action to protect the physical wellbeing and lives of COPINH members in Río Blanco, who continue to defend their ancestral territory against the invasion of people linked to the DESA corporation.

In recent months, and especially in the past few weeks, the threats against COPINH members have intensified, especially while they are working on their ancestral lands in Vega del Achiotal and Vega del Culatón, sites where the DESA corporation has invaded Lenca territory to build the Agua Zarca project.

The Madrid family, who is originally from santa Bárbara, illegally took over Lenca territory and sold part of it to the DESA corporation. Several of these people have been employees of the DESA corporation and have been put to work threatening members of COPINH, including our sister Berta Cáceres. We remind you that one of them threatened that they were going to “set things straight with Berta one way or another” just a few months before her assassination and they warned to look out for the consequences.

We denounce that Franklin Madrid has pointed firearms at COPINH members in Río Blanco and fired into the air close to COPINH members while they worked their ancestral landsb. The frequency of the threats is increasing and the COPINH members are in a state of complete vulnerability against the armed men who are openly threatening and intimidating them. Today, June 21st, in the morning hours, several armed men once again threatened COPINH members while they were working at Vega del Culaton. We alert that one of the armed men threatened to kill at any moment the children of Francisco Javier Sánchez, Coordinator of the Indigenous Council of Río Blanco and member of the General Coordination of COPINH.

COPINH has filed complaints with the authorities regarding the threats and destruction of the corn crops, nonetheless, to this day those responsible continue to be free. Instead of penalizing those who make violent threats, the police have instead accompanied them.

We also denounce the responsibility of the Municipality of Intibucá for having illegally granted land rights on ancestral Lenca territory at the Vega del Achiotal, facilitating the invasion of Lenca territory.

We demand that the authorities take immediate action to secure the life and physical wellbeing of the Lenca people of Río Blanco and to resolve the situations denounced by COPINH. We call on the national and international community to speak with the Honduran authorities and embassies to demand that they Honduran state take immediate action and prosecute those who are threatening the Lenca people with firearms.

·         Oscar Chinchilla, Attorney General - 504-2221-3099

·         Julian Pacheco, Secretary of Security – 504-9456-3699

·         National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH)

Tegucigalpa: 504-2231-0204,

Intibucá: 504-2783-0039,

No more martyrs!

We demand immediate action before it is too late.

Berta lives on, COPINH is still strong!

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota and Etempica, we raise our voices full of life, justice, dignity, freedom and peace!

From Río Blanco, Intibucá, June 21st, 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Calling on national and international organizations: Preliminary hearing in case of Berta Cáceres set to begin

[Original en español]

The preliminary hearing for one of the most renowned human rights cases in Latin America in recent memory – the case of Berta Cáceres - will take place this Wednesday June 7th, in the First District Court in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The hearing comes after two previous continuances due to failure to provide evidence to all parties to the judicial process and in the midst of numerous irregularities in the investigation, which has been under the exclusive control of the Attorney General.  

The purpose of this hearing is to formalize charges against four of the eight men detained thus far: Mariano Díaz Chávez (Major in the Armed Forces), Sergio Rodríguez (Technical and Environmental Manager for the DESA corporation), Douglas Bustillo (former Security Chief for the DESA corporation) and Elvin Heriberto Rápalo (the supposed hitman).

The purpose of the case brought by COPINH and the family of Berta Cáceres is to take a broader look than the case brought by the Attorney General and thereby demonstrate that the assassination is not an isolated incident carried out by individual interests but rather part of a systematic attack against COPINH and its general coordinator.

This crime is part of a plan to destabilize the organization by criminal structures along with private corporations, state agents, international financial organizations and hired criminals.

It is important to recall that a year and three months after the deplorable assassination of our sister Berta Cáceres Flores and despite heavy national and international pressure and ongoing mobilization, the Attorney General’s investigation is replete with deceit and irregularities, which are coming to light as a portion of the file is opened to supplement information from previous hearings.

COPINH calls on all national and international organizations to join us in taking action and echoing our outcry, since this hearing is part of a process full of irregularities that could lead to the case ending with impunity.

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota, Iselaca and Etempica we raise our voices full of Life, Justice, Freedom, Dignity and Peace!

La Esperanza, Intibucá, June 5th, 2017

#FueraDESA #1AñoSinJusticia #BertaVive #COPINHsigue
#justiciaparaberta #SoyCOPINH
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"The path is more struggle, more organization" - Statement of COPINH's 11th General Assembly

Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of  Honduras (COPINH)

Declaration of the 11th General Assembly of COPINH: Berta Lives. 
Facing extractivist death, more organization and struggle is our path

We, gathered here as community delegates of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) this May 26th-29th, 2017 in the Utopía Center for Encounter and Friendship, with representation from the states of Intibucá, Lempira, La Paz and Santa Bárbara, declare the following to the national and international public:

We have gathered in this XI Assembly to discuss and debate the future of our organization, taking into account the tremendous obstacles that present themselves along the way, but with full determination and commitment to the ancestral struggle of the Lenca people, we have made strategic decisions about COPINH’s work in coming years.
We have united our hearts and visions, guided by our leader and ancestor Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores with the strength of her spirit and the legacy of her struggle, who for the first time is not with us physically in this Assembly, he have carried out deep discussions about the communities’ needs and the path that our organization will take in the current moment and our reading of the times ahead.

As a product of these discussions, we re-affirm our struggle in defense of our territories and our resolve to continue building this political project known as COPINH to promote an alternative life, one consistent with the Lenca people’s worldview and in harmony with life, and to confront with more struggle and organization the process of criminalization, persecution and harassment promoted by the economic elite and the corrupt officials who serve the capitalist project of death that invades our territories and violates our sovereignty.

We agree to develop our organizational strength through an intense process of training, grassroots media and struggle against the plunder and destruction of our territories and communities. 

In the face of the sleezy political practices in vogue in our country, the Lenca people and COPINH exercises an assembly-based and grassroots political practice that challenges the vices of  political practices that yield few possibilities for building the project of life that our territories yearn for. We declare that our organization will continue to struggle aginst the extractivism and pillaging that has been imposed on Honduras no matter what government we face.

Prior to this General Assembly and as part of it we carried out a women’s convening in which we questioned through a libratory process carried out by women our organizational consistency in strongly promoting the rights of women in all structures. As such, in our assembly we made clear that we won’t allow aggression against the sisters of our organization and that the elected general coordination must lead the developingment of anti-patriarchal work within COPINH.

Out assembly has unanimously agreed that one of the principal lines of COPINH’s struggle is the search for justice for our sister and compañera Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores and we declare her to be our permanent General Coordinator, the guardian spirit of our organization and struggle, the political and spiritual guide of our actions in defense of life. We declare that we will not stop and will not rest on this path in search of justice, for the capture of those who plotted and called for the assassination and the deepening of our struggle in her memory.

In defense of our territories, on a path against patriarchy and for education, for grassroots media, natural medicine, food sovereignty, along with our ancestors we cry out that Berta lives on and COPINH is strong!

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota, Iselaca and Etempica we raise our voices for life, justice dignity, liberty and peace!

2017-2019 COPINH General Coordination:
1.      General Coordinator: Bertha Isabel Zúniga Cáceres
2.      Organizational Coordinator: Sotero Chavarría Fúnez.
3.      Coordinator of Records: José Asención Martínez.
4.      Coordinator for Political Development and Education: Eiby Doris Sánchez.
5.      Coordinator of Development and International Relatiions: Julian García.
6.      Coordinator of Finances: José Tochez.
7.      Accountability Coordinator: Francisco Gámez Gámez.
8.      Communications Coordinator: Efraín Sorto.
9.      Coordinator of Culture and Acnestral Heritage:  María Pascuala Vásquez.
10.  Coordinator for Land, Territory and the Environment: Francisco Javier Sánchez.
11.  Youth Coordinator: Irma Odilia Mendoza Quintano.
12.  Women’s Coordinator: Liliam Esperanza López.
13.  Health Coordinator: María Teresa Guevara Díaz.
14.  LGBT Coorinator: José Gaspar Sánchez Acosta.
15.  Legal Affairs Coordinator: María Tomasa Hernández Mancía.

Written in La Esperanza, Intibucá, on the 29th day of May, in the year 2017.
#justiciaparaberta #SoyCOPINH

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Ahuas victims still demanding justice

The Ahuas victims are still demanding justice
U.S. State Department Report reveals DEA lies about the massacre of Misquito indigenous peoples

By Giorgio Trucchi | LINyM
(Translation by Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, La Voz de los de Abajo)

Original en español:

The families of the massacre victims demand that the case be reopened and that the impunity that has surrounded the assassination of their loved ones come to an end.
Photo/Foto: G. Trucchi | Rel-UITA

In the early morning of May 11th, 2012, a small boat with 16 people on board was quietly floating on the waters of the Patuca river, in the Mosquitia area of Northeastern Honduras. It was a long and tiring journey of over seven hours to get to the community of Paptalaya, in the Ahuas municipality within the state of Gracias a Dios.

It was 2am and almost all of the passengers were asleep. They woke up to the noise of at least four U.S. military helicopters flying over the area. A rain of bullets from high-calliber weapons ambushed the small boat and its occupants.

The joint operation of DEA FAST (Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team) agents, and Honduran National Police's Tactical Response Team left a body count of four dead: Emerson Martínez Henríquez (21 years old), Hasked Brooks Wood (14 years old), Juana Jackson Ambrosio (28 years old) and Candelaria Pratt Nelson (48 years old).

There were also at least 5 people seriously wounded. According to their family members, Juana and Candelaria were both several months pregnant [1].

Military Escalation

The operation took place in the context of growing militarization of the area. In recent years, under the pretext of a direct confrontation with narco-traffickers, the U.S. government has again invested millions of dollars in the installation and equipping of new military bases, as is the case of the naval bases on Isla Guanaja and Caratasca, in the state of Gracias a Dios, which have been added on to the list with its long-standing Soto Cano (Palmerola) base.

In addition, the U.S. embassy in Honduras, the Honduran government, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the DEA, and the U.S. Southern Command have designed a plane to temporarily deploy U.S. helicopters in Honduran territory to support the anti-narcotic missions. 

Thus, Honduras has become the country hosting the most U.S. military bases in the entire region. A military escalation that has had its biggest boost following the 2009 coup d'etat that overthrew then-President Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

DEA and Honduran State wash their hands

After the massacre, the then-spokesperson for the DEA in Washington, Dawn Dearden, admitted that FAST agents were working on board the helicopters in support of the Honduran police. She claimed that it wasn't them who fired. The U.S. ambassador to Honduras at the time, Lisa Kubiske, backed up those statemens and assured the national media that the units who led the anti-drug operation acted properly and in self-defense, supposedly in response to gunshots that came from the small boat.

The families of the people killed said that it was a random attacked, followed by senseless persecution against them and the people from the communities.

Both the victims' families as well as the Ahuas mayor, Lucio Baquedano, adamantly stated that the Honduran and U.S. agents fired indiscriminately, believing that the boat was transporting drugs unloading from a small plane that had landed a few hours prior. 

In addition, the terror that overtook the small community of Paptalaya didn't end with the attack on the small boat, but instead continued for several hours, while hundreds of Honduran and U.S. troops deployed into the area looking for supposed narco-traffickers and their product. The residents were detained, thrown to the floor, tied up and beaten without cause. 

To date, nobody has been held accountable for this night of terror. Five years after these events, two of those accused, Noel Andrés Hernández and Iván Neptaly González Herrera, had their charges dismissed while a case was opened against DEA Alexander Ramón Robelo Salgado for the crime of homicide and abuse of authority against Emerson Martínez Henríquez.

The families were right

Five years after the massacre that sent Honduran Mosquitia into grieving, a report from the U.S. State and Justice Departments reveals that the DEA lied to Congress, to officials from the Justice Department and to the general public. In addition, it mis-planned the operation, didn't completely investigate the incidents and provided inexact information to officials from the Justice Department and Congress. 

In its report, the Justice Department's Inspector General does find evidence to back up the DEA's story.
“Even as information became available to D.E.A. that conflicted with its initial reporting, including that the passenger boat may have been a water taxi carrying passengers on an overnight trip, D.E.A. officials remained steadfast,” points out today's New York Times, citing the report.

At no time, the report continues, were they able to corroborate the story that the individuals who were attacked by Honduran agents were narco-traffickers trying to transport drugs.

"The report demonstrates that the family members of the victims were right about the violation of their human rights. It shows that the statements, both by the DEA and the Honduran state, were false. Now they will have to answer for their lies and for having manipulated the facts and even stigmatized the population of the Mosquitia indigenous communities," said Miriam Miranda, coordinator of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), who has taken on the legal representation of the victims' families. 

"Once again they show that the supposed policy of fighting drug trafficking generates human rights violations amongst the peoples of local communities," Miranda told LINyM.

Families demand justice

“My sister was massacred. Her body was floating in the river's waters and had four bullet wounds. She was only 28 years old and was five months pregnant. I am a single mother with four children and I had to take on her two children. A very, tremendously difficult situation. I am alone and I don't know how to keep going," said Marlen Zelaya Jackson, sister of Juana Jackson Ambrosio yesterday during the Second National Gathering of Indigenous and Black Women of Honduras (Segundo Encuentro Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas y Negras de Honduras).

“We haven't had any response from the authorities. These people are to blame, even the report from the U.S. says so. We have always been right and now they have to pay for what they did. We demand justice," Zelaya Jackson concluded.

[1] This text includes portions from the broad report published by Opera Mundi (aquí en español)
Source: LINyM

Friday, April 21, 2017

April 17th - International Day of Campesino Struggle From Honduras to Chicago - Fighting for land, food and justice.

On April 17th campesino and all kinds of rural as well as urban land and water rights groups participate  in the International Day of Farmer and Peasant Struggle.  The April 17th date was chosen by the international organization Via Campesina in 1996 to commemorate the massacre of 19 Brazilian peasants organized in the MST (Movement of Landless Workers) in Eldorado dos Carajas , Brazil at the same time as the Via Campesina’s international assembly. This year once again there were activities around the globe including both Honduras and Chicago. A representative from La Voz de los de Abajo attended some of the events in Chicago. 
Article by V. Cervantes

Campesinos in Honduras  - Agrarian Reform Now and Stop Criminalizing Campesinos!

April 17,Tegucigalpa - foto L. Rivera, OnNoticias
In Honduras the campesino organizations that belong to Via Campesina, including the CNTC (National Center for Rural Workers), held a march and a one day occupation of the plaza at the Honduran Congress on April 17th. They are demanding agrarian reform and an end to the criminalization of the campesino movement.  For Honduran campesino and indigenous communities the fight for land, food, and water continues to be framed by violence, evictions, and displacement of their communities. Since the military coup of June 2009 more than 200 campesinos and campesinas have been murdered because of their participation in land struggles.  6,000 campesinos and campesinas have some type of criminal charges against them and are on probation, awaiting trials or in jail related to their activism. The protest condemned the fact that a week earlier, near the northern town of Las Lomitas, 5 members of an organized campesino community that has been on the land for 10 years were arrested and were still in jail as of April 17th. Campesino leaders are emphatic in their analysis that the only solution to violence in the countryside and the repression against the campesinos, as well as a way forward out of poverty in the countryside and food dependency, is an integral, equitable land reform that puts land and meaningful agrarian assistance in the hands of the campesinos. Three years ago the campesino movement in Honduras wrote a real land reform law and got it introduced into the Congress but it was then tabled and has disappeared from sight.   

Also on April 17th, Honduran government authorities accompanied by police arrived for “an inspection” of the embattled CNTC campesino community “9th de Julio” in the province of La Paz. This inspection was supposed to be a surprise and the authorities expected to find only a small number of campesinos on the land at that time. However, the CNTC discovered the inspection plan and the community was accompanied by a large number of other campesinos and supporters in La Paz. CNTC leaders stated that the inspection was part of ongoing intimidation and part of the strategy to displace the campesinos. Fabricio Velásquez, one of the leaders of the community was  interviewed by  Defensores En Linea and stated that the authorities were visibly startled to find so many campesinos and, although the campesinos did nothing to deter the inspection, the officials and police only stayed perhaps 15 minutes. The “9th of July” community is emblematic of the organized campesino struggle in Honduras — they have been evicted more than 26 times in 7 years, 3 times in just the past 12 months. Each time their houses and crops are destroyed, but they return to rebuild and replant, despite the fact that all of the leaders have  criminal charges made against them. La Voz de los de Abajo has visited “9 de Julio”  a number of times and there are several articles in Honduras Resists with more information about CNTC land recuperations. 

April 17th In Chicago: Farmers, Environmental Justice and International Solidarity 
April 17, Chicago, foto Family Farm Defenders

In Chicago, Via Campesina supporters and food sovereignty activists from Family Farm Defenders, Friends of the MST, and Food and Water Watch also held actions and educational forums on April 17th. There were actions at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange during the day to protest that institution's price setting that is driving small dairy farmers out of existence and another action at the offices of TIAA Financial Services against land grabbing pension fund speculation that hurts both small farmers and pensioners.

In the evening a representative from La Voz de los de Abajo attended the educational forums. Joel Greeno (Family Farm Defenders), Jessica Fujian (Food and Water Watch) and Amy Mall (Family Farm Defenders) spoke on food sovereignty and environmental justice, and Jeff Frank of the Friends of the Brazilian MST reported on the International Land Reform Conference held in Brazil in 2016.  He also gave an update on the wave of repression and criminalization of the MST since the 2016 coup against President Dilma Rousseff. Two MST members have been arrested, the MST school was attacked by the police and fighting for land reform is being treated as a criminal conspiracy. 

The speakers drew many connections between the farmers and peasant struggles in South America and Central America with the struggles in the United States including supporting the Native people’s fight to defend water and territories in the US and the No DAPL movement, and the struggles of urban and rural communities for environmental justice and healthy food.
They were familiar with the campesino and indigenous movements in Honduras through groups like Grassroots International and Agricultural Missions that along with La Voz de los de Abajo are members of the Honduras Solidarity Network, and they invited La Voz to given an update on the situation for the campesinos in Honduras and the campaign for support for justice for Berta Caceres, indigenous leader assassinated in 2016.

March 1, Tegucigalpa
foto V. Cervantes
This is one more example of the importance and the possibilities of building more mutual solidarity to confront the attacks on the peoples' movements in the world today. 

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