La Voz de los de Abajo
August 8th, 2013
INTERNATIONAL DENUNCIATION OF THE CRIMINALIZATION OF COPINH AND THE CONTINUAL REPRESSION AGAINST RÍO BLANCO
Human Rights observers declare: To halt the bloodshed, stop the financing of the Honduran army and police
La Voz de los de Abajo, an international human rights organization that has been accompanying Latin American social movements for more than 14 years, once again denounces before the international community and the Honduran authorities the persistent harassment, repression and criminalization against the indigenous community of Rio Blanco and the indigenous organization with which it is affiliated, the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). We repudiate with indignation the indictment made against indigenous members of COPINH for their struggle in defense of the Gualcarque River, the community of Río Blanco and the cultural heritage of the Lenca people in the face of the threat from the transnational hydroelectric project Agua Zarca. This legal action is even more cynical because it comes a week after the people who should be facing legal charges – the soldiers and officials of the Honduran army who are openly collaborating with the companies that want to build the dam – shot down an unarmed indigenous person in cold blood.
In July we had already expressed our worry about a possible bloodbath if the Honduran government didn’t immediately stop the militarization of the area and the collaboration between the military, police, the hydroelectric companies and their private guards. Exactly as we warned, one week later there were two people dead, one of whom was Tomás García, the aforementioned indigenous man who was killed by a soldier from the army during a peaceful protest. We hold the Honduran government responsible for this killing and once again call for an end to these crimes against humanity against the Lenca indigenous people. These acts are yet another reason why we are pressuring the U.S. congress to cut off aide to the Honduran military and police.
The Lenca indigenous community of Río Blanco through its Indigenous Council has made clear on many occasions its clear and firm opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project. Many times they have expressed that they do not want to see their territory flooded, destroying natural resources of extreme cultural and spiritual importance to the Lenca people. In the face of the initiation of the project by the Honduran company DESA and the transnational Chinese company SINOHYDRO in clear violation of the rights of indigenous communities as laid out in article 169 of the United Nations International Labor Organization, the community decided to defend their rights to their land and resources with an occupation of over 100 days of one of the access roads to the site along the Gualcarque River where the companies want to put the dam.
We visited the community for two days during the month of July and we have interviewed community members, military, police and representatives of the hydroelectric companies during and after that visit. Our investigations have led us to several conclusions based on clear evidence:
· Without a doubt there is close collaboration between the police, the army the private security and the DESA and SINOHYDRO companies. The military and police advise the private security, sleep and eat in the facilities of the companies and use their vehicles.
· There is no concrete evidence for the accusations made against the Río Blanco community and other members of COPINH besides the statements of people with a direct interest in the building of the dam and/or the justification for the presence of the police and army.
· There is an abundance of evidence and documentation of the abuses against the community. Nobody denies that Tomás García was killed by bullets from the army even though he himself was not carrying a firearm. The army does deny the accusations by kids and elders of Río Blanco who say they have had weapons put in their faces and receive constant threats but there are hundreds of members of the community who have been witness to this behavior.
· The speeches of the COPINH coordinators and other members of the Río Blanco community have always been calls to peaceful and non-violent action to defend the Gualcarque river for environmental, cultural and spiritual reasons. Our delegation saw with our own eyes one of the assemblies in which the same people now facing political charges conducted a democratic and peaceful meeting, never inciting anybody to violence and on the contrary always emphasizing their strong opposition to violence.
· The authorities have never investigated the possible involvement of third parties interested in the Gualcarque River such as Freddy Nasser, Miguel Facussé and others with interests in the area.
· The criminalization of the struggle of the people of Río Blanco and other members of COPINH is clearly political in nature and intended to stop their struggle and wipe out their organization. The fact that the same authorities who recently killed in cold blood are now pressing charges against their victims is cynical, nefarious and reprehensible.
Our organization will work with all of our allies from the Honduras Solidarity Network in the United States and will be in communication with congressmen, representatives from the United Nations and other human rights organizations to spread the truth about what is happening in Río Blanco and demand:
· That those responsible for the human rights violations be investigated, charged and punished
· An end to the criminalization of social movements and the political legal attack against COPINH
· Stop economic support for the Honduran army and police until there is respect for human rights
La Voz de Los de Abajo
Chicago, Illinois, United States