miércoles, 21 de junio de 2017

Alert: COPINH demands respect for the lives of Lenca people in Río Blanco

New death threats in Rio Blanco against COPINH memberAlert: 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.

martes, 6 de junio de 2017

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

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.  MORE>>>

miércoles, 31 de mayo de 2017

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

"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.    MORE>>>

domingo, 9 de abril de 2017

Berta is dead, but the movement she started lives. COPINH celebrates its 24th anniversary

“Your bullets won’t kill our dreams.” From the 24th anniversary celebration on COPINH’s liberated territory, Utopia. Credit: Beverly Bell

By: Beverly Bell / Source: Other Worlds / The Dawn News / April 4, 2017
The Convergence of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) has defied all efforts over the past year, by the Honduran government and the DESA dam company, to destroy it. This past Monday, March 27, 24 years after BertaCáceres cofounded the Lenca indigenous organization, COPINH hosted an anniversary celebration of rebellion and recommitment.
About 150 people from throughout Honduras and at least five other countries joined for a Lenca ceremony; a forum on challenges and advances; a concert; a film festival; and a humble feast of roasted pig, rice, tortillas, and birthday cake. The event closed late at night with an open-air performance of “Ancestras”, a new play by the Teatro Taller Tegucigalpa (Tegucigalpa Theater Workshop) about COPINH’s fight to defend the Gualcarque River, and structural injustice by the government and oligarchy.
COPNH has not only survived, it continues to serve as a source of inspiration for indigenous and other movements throughout Honduras and the world. As with Berta Cáceres’ life work, COPINH’s goes far beyond environmental defense. Its aim is to transform the political, economic, and environmental landscape of Honduras, and – in conjunction with movements elsewhere – of the world.   MORE>>>

miércoles, 29 de marzo de 2017

Demand the Supreme Court hear the case!


Tomás Gómez Membreño is in grave danger because of his efforts to defend Indigenous lands and rights, work that includes challenging powerful economic interests like the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River.
Tomás is General Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (known as COPINH). He courageously assumed the role following the March 2016 assassination of the organization’s then-leader Berta Cáceres, amidst outspoken campaigning to stop the Agua Zarca dam. 

The COPINH after Berta Cáceres: Indigenous Resistance in Honduras

In conversation with Marlene and Tomás, representatives of the COPINH and the Lenca people

(en español a continuación)
Photo by Pablo Dominguez Galbraith
In the wake of last weeks’ International Women’s Day marches around the world, we wish to share these interviews with Marlene Reyes Castillo and Tomás Gómez Membreño, the leaders of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) who are now at the forefront of the organization led by Berta Cáceres until her assassination on March 3, 2106. Berta Cáceres was and remains a global symbol of women’s and indigenous resistance to the dispossession, forced displacement, ecological destruction, and state violence inflicted by extractivist mega-projects around the world.  MORE>>>

sábado, 11 de marzo de 2017

Planting Berta: A year of impunity, a life of rebellion and the roots of a new world

Reflections by Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, La Voz de los de Abajo
“They tried to bury us, they didn’t know that we are seeds.”
            -Latin American proverb

March 1st-4th, 2017

Tegucigalpa, La Esperanza and Río Blanco, Honduras

Drums rumbled, shakers rattled and copal incense smoke swirled through the air as thousands of black and brown bodies flooded the streets of Honduras’s capital one year after the assassination of indigenous leader Berta 
Cáceres. The pain and persistence of a people, of many peoples, and of the planet they protect, were on full display. “Your bullets can’t kill our dreams,” read one banner. “Wake up humanity, time is running out,” Berta’s famous words, screamed out from another banner. Thousands of people showed up in open defiance of a new “anti-terrorism” law criminalizing public protest, pushed through by the U.S.-backed Honduran dictatorship just in time for the one year anniversary of Berta’s assassination. The march poured out of the STIBYS bottle workers union headquarters, a key site of the Honduran resistance movement following the 2009 military coup, and took over one of the main thoroughfares of the mountainous Honduran capital. Supporters from around the country and world, including La Voz de los de Abajo’s a delegation from Chicago of youth, nurses, unionists, and other solidarity activists, accompanied thousands of people from all of Honduras’s indigenous nations to make clear that one year after the assassination, as the chant goes, “Berta hasn’t died, she’s multiplied.”   LEER TODO>>>

miércoles, 8 de marzo de 2017

Constitutional Challenge Presented Against Agua Zarca

Indigenous peoples and other communities of Honduras gathered together in Tegucigalpa this March 1.  With a colorful mobilization, accompanied by the drums of the Garifuna people and the faces of the Lenca, Tolupan, Garifuna and other peoples, they demanded justice marching towards the Supreme Court of Justice to accompany the presentation of the legal action challenging the constitutionality of the decrees through which the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project on the Gualcarque River was approved, an action promoted by the legal team of the Caceres Flores family and COPINH.
The legal filing aims to declare unconstitutional decrees No. 67 and 68 of 2011, through which the State of Honduras converted in law the Contract of National Waters for the generation of electricity by the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project (PHAZ), located on the Gualcarque River, and the Operating Contract for the Generation, Transmission, and Commercialization of Electricity for the installation of the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project registered in the community of San Ramón, municipality of San Francisco de Ojuera, departament of Santa Bárbara, in territory of the Lenca people of Honduras.  The contracts went into effect in 2011, on the date of their publication in the Official Newspaper La Gaceta.
The petition to declare these decrees unconstitutional is based on the fact that these decrees violate provisions of international treaties such as International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Nations and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as contents of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras. The decrees violate provisions referring to the right of collective property and the obligation of the State to recognize, title, demarcate, and delimit the lands that Indigenous Peoples have traditionally occupied and utilized; the right to determine their own priorities and strategies for development and the utilization of their lands, territory, and resources; the right to consultation and the obligation of the State to consult in good faith with the goal of obtaining free, prior, and informed consent before any action or measure that could affect their rights as Indigenous peoples. The contracts in favor of DESA, the company promoting the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project, as well as contracts in favor of other projects in the country that affect Indigenous Peoples, were approved through legislative acts not consulted with the affected Indigenous Peoples, as the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has declared.
Decisions of the Honduran Justice system confirm that Legislative Decrees 67 and 68 violate the rights of Indigenous Peoples
The legal challenge presented to the Supreme Court makes reference to the criminal proceedings against Martiniano Dominguez, former Mayor of Intibuca, Marco Jonathan Laines, former SERNA Vice-Minister, and Dario Roberto Cardona Valle, former SERNA Vice-Minister, who have been indicted on charges of abuse of authority against the Lenca people and the public administration for their participation in licensing and amplification of the Environmental License of the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project without fulfilling the relevant free, prior, and informed consultation of the directly affected community.  
The court’s argument is that the accused and the institutions they represented violated ILO Convention 169 when they did not realize a consultation and obtain free, prior, and informed consent at the moment of granting the operations permit or the construction permit for the project in question.  

The constitutional challenge also details the series of legal actions carried out by the Lenca people with the goal of guaranteeing respect and compliance with ILO Convention 169 and other instruments that safeguard them.  In 2010, the Indigenous Lenca people organized in COPINH denounced public officials related to the concession of resources for the generation of energy in their territories, and subsequently, in 2014, they presented 49 complaints against 49 Hydroelectric projects that affect Lenca territory, which have been approved without consultation.  
The Lenca and other Indigenous Peoples of Honduras request the declaration of the decrees that enable the Agua Zarca project as unconstitutional and its closure and complete withdrawal from ancestral territory and the Gualcarque River.
In its final part, the legal challenge ratifies that it is presented by COPINH as part of its obligation to safeguard the judicial order that regulates the rights of Indigenous peoples, and particular defend the territory, decision-making, cultural respect, traditions, and everything that constitutes their own vision of the world from the Lenca perspective.  

The legal challenge also establishes the murder of Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, General Coordinator of COPINH, on March 2, 2016, and the implication of DESA with the indictment of its former head of security Douglas Geovanny Bustillo and Environmental and Communications Manager, Engineer Sergio Ramón Rodríguez, as one of the conditions or context that contributes to the constitutional delegitimization of the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project, for which the petition requests that decrees 67-2011 and 68-2011 be declared unconstitutional and as a consequence, be declared inapplicable.  

miércoles, 25 de enero de 2017

“Berta lives on, COPINH is strong” - COPINH calls for month of actions

On March 2nd, 2016 they assassinated our sister Berta Cáceres. They thought they would get rid not just of her as a leader recognized throughout Latin America and around the world, but also would end a struggle, a political project, that they would destroy the organization of which she was both founder and daughter, COPINH (the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras).

One year since she spread her wings, since the crime that tried to steal her clarity and leadership from us, the peoples of the world who recognize her legacy are here, walking in her footsteps, confronting the patriarchal, capitalist, colonial and racist system that is imposed upon our peoples. We have been and will continue confronting the deadly projects of transnational corporations and imperialism in every corner of the planet.

In March we won’t just painfully remember that horrendous crime, above all we will celebrate life: the life of Berta, who was born on March 4th and the life of COPINH, which was founded 24 years ago on March 27th.

For all of these reasons, we invite you to use every day of March to multiply:

• Actions of protest, resistance and struggle against the deadly policies of transnational corporations…
• Actions to defend the bodies and lives of women in the face of the patriarchal and colonial system...
• Actions against the criminalization of grassroots movements, against militarization and commodification of the lands and all dimensions of life...
• Actions to denounce the Honduran State in front of its embassies in every country of the world...
• Actions of solidarity with COPINH and with the organizations of the grassroots Honduran social movement...
• Actions to spread the thinking and example of Berta’s life…
• Moments of reflection and spirituality...

We call for these types of actions to be developed and spread through every corner of Abya Yala and the world. As movements, organizations and people, let’s accompany COPINH, embody it, multiply its march.

In all of these potential proposed actions, and all others that your creativity gives rise to, let the world shake with the cry of: “Berta lives on, COPINH is strong!”

In the face of militarization and criminalization, more struggle and organization!

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

#justixciaparaberta #SoyCOPINH

jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth to Be an Environmentalist

Berta Cáceres

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth to Be an Environmentalist


The assassination of Goldman Prize-winning activist Berta Cáceres last March shocked the global community. But in her home country of Honduras, where more than 100 activists have been cut down in the past five years, it was business as usual. MORE>>>

ACTION 9 months #justiceforberta


Friday 2nd December will mark nine months since the attack that took place in La Esperanza, Intibucá in which Berta Cáceres was murdered and Gustavo Castro, the sole witness, was injured.

There are currently seven suspects in the case, but the Public Prosecutor continues to conceal information from the family and prevent them from actively participating in the investigation. Furthermore, DESA is threatening to reactivate the hydroelectric project ‘Agua Zarca’.

In November, the creation of an International Expert Advisory Panel (GAIPE) was announced. The panel has since met with local authorities to push forward an independent investigation to be carried out according to the law. Meanwhile, Honduras continues to be one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders.

Next Friday, on the nine-month anniversary of Berta’s death, COPINH will carry out activities in La Esperanza, Honduras while representatives of Berta’s relatives and COPINH meet with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH) as the next step in their fight for justice. We would like to invite you to support these events from where you are.
How can you help?
Below are examples of messages that you can share on Facebook or Twitter:
  • Today we join Berta Cáceres’ family and COPINH in their demands for an independent investigation #JusticeForBerta #DESAOut!
  • 9 months have passed since the death of Berta Cáceres. Today we demand an independent investigation #JusticeForBerta #DESAOut!
  • Berta Cáceres was murdered 9 months ago today, but her struggle for justice only grows. We join COPINH and her family to demand a fair and impartial investigation #JusticeForBerta #DESAOut!
Check-in at ‘Panama’ before you hit post 
Help us spread the word
Together we will show those responsible that Berta’s struggle did not die with her – it has only grown.

miércoles, 23 de noviembre de 2016

Defender profile | Francisco Javier from Honduras

Francisco Javier, member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), talks about the role of UN mechanisms in combatting the ongoing impunity in investigations into the murder of Berta Cáceres, and emphasises that risks for her colleagues are only increasing.

Lea este artículo en español aquí

Francisco Javier

In response to the ongoing threats against human rights defenders in Honduras, ISHR, along with 169 organizations and 16 academics, recently sent a letter to the Attorney General Office and the Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, Interior and Decentralisation in Honduras calling on them to comply with their international human rights commitments.

You are a human rights defender in Honduras, advocating for environmental and land rights, can you tell us a bit about the human rights work you do?

We speak for indigenous populations about protecting our common goods. We want to protect the forests, river and air, and also our territories. COPINH has built capacity among indigenous populations to help them understand that we are here to take care of the gifts of nature – that we must defend the little that we have, otherwise the nature will become a desert. As human rights defenders we have this obligation and commitment to give support to other communities and indigenous peoples in Honduras and in other countries. For example, we have colleagues in Panama who are suffering the same challenges that we are. We’ve come here to talk about these things, and to fight – not just for today
and tomorrow, but for the generations to come, so that they may also be defenders of natural resources.

What motivated you to become involved in human rights work?

I am only beginning; I started in 2013. COPINH was working with us and helping us to see our shared objective: to defend nature. In each community, you will hear the same concerns: that the rivers and forests – which are life for us – are being destroyed when they come to construct mines, dams, and other deadly projects. In COPINH, we share this information with communities, helping them to understand, so that all indigenous peoples in Honduras can unite.

What challenges or risks do you face as a human rights defender in Honduras?

Because we speak the truth, they want to shut us up. They threaten to kill us because we tell the truth. It is companies and the State that threaten and attack us; they don’t like that we defend Mother Earth. When we denounce what seems wrong or unjust, about when our decisions are not respected, that’s when we face risks. That’s when they could kill us. But they won’t silence us. Even though they killed Berta and other colleagues, we – and anyone else who joins us – raise our voices so that we continue to grow. The spirit of Berta and our other comrades accompany us. Because we are defending life
itself. It may bring more threats, but they won’t silence us. We will continue, and those who remain, and the generations that come, we will teach them to do the same as us – to speak out for our rights.

Do you work a lot with other organisations working to protect human rights defenders – national, regional  or international?

Yes, we’re very proud because many organisations have given us support nationally and internationally.  We are very happy that we are not alone, that there are people of goodwill who provide such support. When we come to Geneva, we feel at home; we’re looked after.

What is the legislative framework like for human rights defenders in Honduras– are there laws that are applied abusively?
Human rights defenders are prevented from speaking. The laws on free, informed and priorconsultation aren’t being complied with in Honduras. Criminal laws are used against indigenous peoples unjustly to criminalise us, and the judicial system supports the companies, like DESA. Neither our autonomy nor our rights are respected. When we speak the truth, the police and the military are set on us, and sometimes they beat us. We want the military and police to leave our territories. It’s not easy for us to speak out because it makes our lives very challenging. They criminalise members of the indigenous peoples for saying the truth, they even wanted to imprison Berta in 2013. Yet the architects
of Berta’s assassination are at liberty.

What are your international advocacy goals? What do you hope to achieve here?

We hope that the actors within the UN will meet with us and consider all our requests. We want to speak the truth, and we want it to receive the attention it deserves. We want our decisions as indigenous peoples to be respected. We want Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples to be respected. In Honduras, they are not complied with, and so we have to seek international support to pressure the State of Honduras to respect the conventions and our rights. We await the cancellation of the Agua Zarca Project and all the other projects authorised in the Lenca territory without free, prior
and informed consultation. We have to travel to ask leaders and officials to open the door to us and to support us in demanding respect of our rights.

Do you think that this advocacy at the international level can help you in your work? Can it be useful?

Yes, we are very happy because it has helped us a lot. We feel that we are not alone. At the beginning,  the Government of Honduras tried to hide the truth about Berta Caceres’s murder, saying that it was a crime of passion, which is a lie. Thanks to international pressure, they had to admit that it was a political crime. But the State of Honduras continues to refuse to allow an independent international Commission to participate in the investigations. The State is keeping the investigations secret. We continue to call
for an independent international Commission so that the powerful persons who ordered the murder of Berta be properly investigated. We hope that the international community will continue to demand it too. We are persecuted in Honduras. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights granted us Precautionary Measures, but the police and military persecute and threaten us; we cannot trust them.
We hope to continue receiving international support to denounce the threats and killings that we experience and that it extends to all indigenous leaders and social movements that are threatened and attacked.
We want the Agua Zarca Project to leave our Gualcarque River, which is sacred to us. There are international banks that have financed this project, and we ask them to pull out definitively.

Do you have any thoughts on ways to make the UN more accessible and safe? Have the threats and attacks increased as a result of your work within the UN?

It is important that the UN listen to the voices of those of us who are being attacked and killed for defending human rights. We are grateful that the report of the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples exposes to the world what we suffer. We need to have a secure space because we run risks.
Recently we have been receiving more threats and much persecution, and that’s why we feel unsafe. There is still impunity for Berta’s murder, and there continue to be threats against COPINH members for defending the Gualarque River and Lenca territory. There are people who want to kill us so that we cannot speak the truth. But we will continue to demand our rights, our autonomy as an Indigenous people and our right to free, prior and informed consultation. We hope that the UN will support us.