miércoles, 14 de septiembre de 2016

Honduras: “The State and the extractive economic model are responsible for the assassination of Berta”

Photo G. Trucchi/REL-UITA
Interview with Tomás Gómez, Interim Coordinator of COPINH

By Giorgio Trucchi / LINyM |Rel-UITA

On September 2 of this year, in various cities around the world, voices of protest were raised again against the complicit silence of Honduran authorities and the veil of impunity that, after 6
months, still covers the brutal assassination of the indigenous leader Berta Cáceres Flores.

In La Esperanza, Intibucá hundreds of indigenous Lenca people organized by Copinh (1) mobilized along with family members of the murdered social justice fighter and with members of the Garífuna people organized in Ofraneh (2) to demand justice for Berta Cáceres, punishment for the material and intellectual perpetrators of the crime and an immediate end to the criminalization of the struggle against the extractive model and plunder of the natural resources that are public goods.

- See photo gallery LINyM or Rel-UITA

Tomás Gómez Membreño is the interim coordinator of Copinh. Six months ago it fell to him to take the position and begin tirelessly  working so that the pain, frustration and anger of an entire people would be transformed into a creative and purposeful force. 

LINyM and Rel-UITA spoke with him.

- What have these six months of indignation and struggle against impunity meant?
- It has been six difficult months and the assassination of our general coordinator remains in impunity. The State of Honduras continues to refuse to give us information and its secretiveness is total. At the same time, the criminalization, stigmatism, and harassment has increased against our organization and the Lenca communites in struggle, for example Río Blanco which opposes the hydroelectric project “Agua Zarca” owned by the company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA).

We have denounced the media campaign against Copinh launched by the corporate communication media, while we continue demanding the fulfillment of our 5 point agenda.  These points include the creation of an independent impartial investigative commission, and the immediate and definitive closing of “Agua Zarca.” As well, we demand the demilitarization of our territories, the annulment of the new Mining Law and the end of any type of national or international financing for death projects that are a part of the current predatory economic model.

The investigation of Berta’s assassination and finding those truly responsible for it is not important to the Honduran authorities. They are also not interested in investigating the assassinations of the other members of Copinh.

Despite the difficulties and the “vacuum” left by our comrade Berta, we are continuing in the struggle and we will do so to the ultimate consequences, advancing organization in the communities,  educating members and strengthening the struggle against this economic model.

- Copinh as well as Berta’s family continue to denounce that this was a State crime. What does that mean?
- It was a State crime because the State’s institutions threatened, persecuted, hounded and criminalized Berta and because they never did anything to prevent her assassination. Instead they tried to blame Copinh for this vile assassination. But, it was also a crime of the extractive model pushed by the Honduran government — a neoliberal, patriarchal and racist model that destroys resources, steals the territories, and criminalizes and assassinates those who defend life. 

In Honduras to go up against the economic interests of big national and transnational capital is a crime, and this crime is paid for with one’s life. It is evident that Berta was assassinated in order to stop the resistance struggle against the “Agua Zarca” project and to do away with Copinh and its 23 years of struggle.

- There is a strong debate on the rule regarding the right to a free and informed previous Consultation, established by the International Labor Organization in its Convention #169. What is the position of Copinh?
- We strongly reject the “Law for a Free and Informed Previous Consultation” that the Honduran State with the support of UNDP (3) is trying to impose. Besides not taking into account the elaboration of information and discussion by the peoples, the law leaves the final decision in the hands of the State through the entity the Agency of the Indigenous and Afrohondurans (Dirección de pueblos indígenas y afrohondureños - Dinafroh), violating the fundamental condition for a “Free Consultation”.

Currently there are like four proposals, one of them was introduced in the National Congress in March of this year by the Observatory of the Human Rights of the indigenous peoples of Honduras (Odhpinh). This proposal was developed from the communities and in agreement with the cosmovision of the Indigenous and Black peoples. Berta herself participated actively in the elaboration of the text of this proposed law, which is the one that we support.

-How has Berta been missed in these 6 months and how is Copinh preparing to face the future?
-Berta has been missed in every sphere. Her assassination occurred while we were developing our five year plan and we have had to revise it. It falls to us to assume her legacy and establish an integral plan. We are advancing gradually, overcoming crisis and difficulties to dismantle this neoliberal system that oppresses us.

- Enormous solidarity, support continues.

-There is a flood of solidarity with Copinh, with the family of Berta; it is fundamental to continue denouncing what is going on. We are infinitely grateful to all those organizations and people who continue to support us and to struggle alongside us.

(1) Consejo cívico de organizaciones populares e indígenas de Honduras (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras)
(2) Organización fraternal negra hondureña (Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras)
(3) United Nations Development Program 

Source: LINyM and Rel-UITA

Translation: Vicki Cervantes

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