Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Swiss delegation expresses concern over the human rights situation in Honduras

May 13, 2015

conferencia_foro_hond_suiza

The Honduras Switzerland Forum, a Swiss NGO which advocates for democratic processes and respect for human rights in Honduras, organized a delegation to Honduras from May 4 to 11, with the objective of monitoring the general human rights situation in the country. The delegation met with representatives of civil society, national and international organizations, CONADEH and communities impacted by the mining industry.

PROAH acompanied the delegation in its various meetings and visits.

Click here to see the communication of the delegation (in English) and HERE to read the entire report (in Spanish).

Press Conference about Health Impacts of San Martin mine and Honduras’ Proposed Mining Law

August 28, 2012

On August 1, 2012, members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee (Comité Ambientalista del Valle de Siria) traveled to Tegucigalpa for a press conference about the health impacts of the San Martin mine. PROAH accompanies the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, whose members have been criminalized for their efforts to defend the environment, and was present for the press conference, held as part of the Continental Day of Action Against Canadian Mega Resource Extraction. It was led by Dr. Juan Almendares, a medical doctor who has worked extensively with communities affected by the mine in Honduras and the coordinator of the Movimiento Madre Tierra (Mother Earth Movement) of Honduras.


The San Martin mine, owned by Canadian mining company Goldcorp, operated in the Siria Valley from 2000 until 2008. Dr Almendares and community members report that the mine has left behind a legacy of health and environmental problems due to the mine’s contamination of the water in the area with heavy metals. According to Dr. Almendares, when the mine opened in 2000, only 8 out of every 100 people in the area had skin problems. Ten years later, after the operation of the mine, this figure has increased ten-fold, to 80 out of every 100 residents. High levels of heavy metals – lead, arsenic, and mercury – have been found in the blood of both children and adults in the Valley.

A recent photo report by Carlos Amador of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee documents the “serious endemic health crisis [that] continues to unfold” in the Siria Valley. The report includes testimony from community members, such as Juana Aceituno, who explains, “Look at how sick I am. I never had problems like this. It was when the mine came that I got sick. I have a lot of pain and I don’t know what to do about it. This Canadian mine came here and ruined everything.”

Last month, members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee traveled to Guatemala for the People’s International Health Tribunal to testify about the health effects of the San Martin mine. The Tribunal heard testimony from people affected by Goldcorp mines in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras and in its verdict stated:

“All of the cases that have been presented have the common elements of: (a) contamination and the irreversible loss of water sources, (b) irreversible environmental devastation: disappearance of mountains, ecosystems and changes to the hydrologic cycle, (c) dust that is constantly inhaled and that contains heavy metals and toxic substances that include carcinogenic elements that accumulate in organisms, (d) effects in the chain of life: destruction of crops and soil, illness and death of wild and domestic animals. In the testimonies, we have heard people talk about skin and eye illnesses, hair loss, skin rashes, miscarriages, infertility, premature births, birth defects and death of newborns, joint pains, auditory damage, gastrointestinal problems, nervous system problems, cases of poisoning that have led to death….We heard from ex-workers of Goldcorp whose health has been affected because they suffer from frequent intoxication, leaks, toxic chemical explosions, and workplace accidents due to a lack of equipment and security measures. These accidents have also led to death.”

Pedro Landa, Coordinator of CEHPRODEC (Honduran Center for the Promotion of Community Development) and facilitator of the National Coalition of Environmental and Social Networks of Honduras (Coalición Nacional de Redes Ambientales y Sociales de Honduras) noted at the press conference that 70% of mines in Latin America are owned by Canadian companies or companies with headquarters in Canada and it is no coincidence that the Canadian government sent experts to ‘advise’ on the proposed mining law currently being considered by the Honduran Congress. In a recent article, Jennifer Moore of Mining Watch Canada examines the role of the Canadian government in the proposed mining law in Honduras and finds that “the Canadian government is spending taxpayer dollars to help set up a favourable legal framework for Canadian mining operations against the will of Honduran civil society.”

Numerous Honduran civil society organizations have rejected the proposed mining law that the Honduran Congress is currently considering. This proposed law would end the current moratorium on new mining concessions, paving the way for the 300 mining applications that were stalled by the moratorium to move forward. It allows for open-pit mining — which 91% of Hondurans oppose, according to a survey by the CESPAD (Center for Democracy Studies) and the World Lutheran Federation. The National Coalition of Environmental and Social Networks of Honduras released a statement about the recent ‘socialization’ process in which the Mining Commission of the National Congress and government agencies held briefing sessions about the proposed law. The Coalition notes, “In all these “briefing” sessions, the above-mentioned public officials have tried to deceive the population by telling a series of half-truths which, according to ethical principles and values, are complete lies.”

The first half-truth they cite is the claim that “the new law better protects natural resources,” noting that “the truth of the new law” is that “it makes it possible for buffer zones of protected areas to be subject to mining concessions, it fails to safeguard the human right to water for the population, … removes from municipalities their authority to designate zones as protected, … [and] relaxes the requirements for obtaining an environmental license.” Read the whole statement from the National Coalition of Environmental and Social Networks of Honduras here.

Residents of Zacate Grande reject declarations by the Dinant Corporation in La Tribuna newspaper

January 23, 2012

Residents of Zacate Grande reject declarations by the Dinant Corporation in La Tribuna newspaper

Last week, members of the Movimiento de Recuperación y Titulación de la Tierra y Liberación de las Playas de Zacate Grande (Movement for the Recovery and Titling of the Land and Liberation of the Beaches of Zacate Grande) were made aware of an article published in the Honduran daily La Tribuna on Sunday, 15 January, 2012. The article stated that the Dinant Corporation had given land titles to various leaders of the movement, who were named in the article. The group rejects these claims in a public statement published here on the blog zacategrande.blogspot.com on 19 January, 2012. The statement reiterates that the leaders mentioned in the Tribuna article have not benefited from said individual land titles, and that, according to them, the Dinant Corporation is not the legitimate owner of the land and therefore not qualified to hand over such titles. The Movement considers the article to be a clear attempt to deepen existing divisions and create additional rifts among the residents of peninsula of Zacate Grande, located in on the Gulf of Fonseca on the Pacific coast of Honduras, and to sow doubt in the national population with respect to the true nature of the struggle for land on the peninsula.

Communal shrimp farms on Zacate Grande. September, 2011.

The article published 15 January also refers to an “Association of Youth Environmental Reporters” with a website listed as www.somoszacategrande.org [which on the date of this posting, 23 January, 2012, was not yet online]. Youth reporters with the community radio La Voz de Zacate Grande (The Voice of Zacate Grande), who created and manage the radio station as part of the Asociación para el Desarrollo de la Península de Zacate Grande (Association for the Development of the Peninsula of Zacate Grande, ADEPZA) believe that the creation of the parallel organization mentioned in the Tribuna article can be interpreted as an effort to confuse the Honduran population and make them think that the youth at the radio station, and ADEPZA, are in favour of the activities of the Dinant Corporation on Zacate Grande. They stated to PROAH that they are concerned that the formation of this parallel group of young people will serve to try to whitewash the image of the Dinant Corporation and its owner Miguel Facussé in their region, nationally, and internationally.

Reporters with The Voice of Zacate Grande receive ID cards from the Ministry of Security identifying them as recipients of precautionary measures from the IACHR. September, 2011.

Reporters at The Voice of Zacate Grande have been granted precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) due to the insecurity they have experienced as a result of their work as human rights defenders in the region, defending the right to freedom of expression and the right to land. The radio is located on recovered land in the village of Puerto Grande known as Playa Julián (Julián Beach). These lands are referred to in the Tribuna article as the subject of a lotification project to increase the town limits of Puerto Grande. If such a lotification process were to take place where the radio station is located, it would be in violation of the current precautionary measures granted by the IACHR, which cover the physical location of the radio station. Campesinos on the peninsula are afraid that the land conflict could intensify again in the next rainy season. In their experience, during this season, after planting, they have suffered more direct attacks against them as individuals and the lands they have cultivated and consider to be communally owned by all legitimate residents of Zacate Grande.

Residents of Zacate Grande travel to the Island of Amapala, where the local courthouse is located. May, 2011.

ADEPZA was waiting for communal land titles to be granted for their communal lands under decree 18-2008, a law created under the government of Manuel Zelaya that stipulated a process for land expropriation in cases where unused land had been occupied and cultivated by campesinos for a minimum number of years. According to members of ADEPZA, they received notice from the Instituto Nacional Agraria (National Agrarian Institute, INA) days before the coup d’état on 28 June, 2009 that there titles were only missing one official signature. After the coup, however, they were not able to acquire those titles. The decree was eventually declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2011 after an appeal was filed by the Federación Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Honduras (National Federation of Agriculturalists and Ranchers, FENAGH).

According to its website, the Dinant Corporation was founded in 1957 by businessman Miguel Facussé Barjum. The company has been implicated in various cases of human rights violations by various international human rights organizations, particularly in the lower Aguán Valley in the north of Honduras, but also on the peninsula of Zacate Grande.

PROAH has accompanied the Association for the Development of the Peninsula of Zacate Grande (ADEPZA) since January 2011. All fotos by PROAH.

The statement below was original published in Spanish here.

PUBLIC STATEMENT:

Movimiento de Recuperación y titulación de las Tierras y Liberación de las playas de Zacate Grande (Movement for the Recovery and Titling of the Land and Liberation of the Beaches of Zacate Grande) – Directorate-General of campesino groups

Through the coup-supporting media, Facusse is trying to cover up his campaign of death and dispossession waged against the people of Zacate Grande

http://www.latribuna.hn/2012/01/15/avanza-centro-de-conservacion-de-vida-silvestre-y-la-organizacion-de-jovenes-comunicadores/

To the people of Honduras

To social, indigenous, popular, rights and campesino movements

To alternative and community media

To human rights organisations, national and international

Friends and colleagues. As is public knowledge, the media octopuses continue to legitimise (according to them) attacks on the people, and being used as the big landowners’ intermediaries, as in the case of La Tribuna newspaper and Miguel Facusse Barjum.

On Sunday 15 January, in one of La Tribuna’s many publications, Miguel Facusse made use of his family ties to the newspaper’s owner to publish a flattering article on his wildlife park (which is what the Zacate Grande Peninsula has been converted into, according to the article), thereby covering up the manhunt unleashed against the country’s campesinos, smearing the region’s leaders by stating that in 2010 they were the beneficiaries of the fourth round of granting land title, and threatening through this newspaper a fifth round of granting land titles, which this time would entail subdividing the land in the community of Puerto Grande, in the areas known as El Curil and Playa Julián. Such a move would lead to a confrontation even more intense than the one on 22 August 2010, when employees of Facusse wanted to take possession of the land that we campesinos had sown.

We reject Facusse’s statements as published in the article:

1 – It states that species such as the macaw, iguana, and white-tailed deer are released into the wild by this businessman. This is not true, as he keeps them in captivity to be used as he sees fit.

2 – We reject Facusse’s argument that there would be no wild species if it were not for the breeding centres. The Zacate Grande Peninsula by tradition and by its very nature provides habitats for different kinds of animals and, contrary to what he says, breeding centres have never been necessary. In reality, his son Mauricio Facusse has been the most destructive force that the wild area has known, in practising his favourite sport of hunting white-tailed deer.

3 – We reject the argument that Facusse is creating jobs, particularly as far as women are concerned. As of some years now he has fired the few local people he employed, because he distrusted even his own guards. In reality, no kind of work or source of employment created in his tourist complex benefits the people in the area, as he now imports his workers from other regions.

4 – We reject the statement that leaders Pedro Canales, Antonio Zerón, Benito Pérez, Danilo Corrales, Lolo Chirinos y Mariana Posadas benefited from receiving land titles under the fourth round supposedly granting these deeds.

WE WOULD LIKE TO CLARIFY THAT:

In 2005, Facusse took advantage of a period when there were talks between him and Zacate Grande’s campesino leaders to take over the access routes to the top of El Cerro (The Hill), as his lawyers requested a remeasurement of half of El Cerro, and once this had been carried out, he put wire fences across all the lanes and erected signs saying ‘Propiedad privada, prohibido el paso’ (‘Private property – keep out’).

It is true that some title deeds were granted, but the price paid for these documents was:

  • The arrest and imprisonment of 12 campesinos on 13 April 2005. They were taken away in the early morning, their houses surrounded by over 150 police officers from the department of Valle, who then transferred them to Nacaome Prison, by order of that municipality’s court.
  • The eviction of the Cárcamo family from Playa Las Gaviotas (Seagull Beach) in 2002.
  • Eviction of Doña Mariana Posadas’ family in Puerto Grande in 2008.
  • Legal proceedings against over 60 campesinos for the crime of land theft, with the result that they are still subject to alternative measures [medidas sustitutivas – that is, alternative to prison] imposed by the court in Amapala.
  • The constant persecution of the people of Zacate Grande by Facusse’s guards.

WE CONDEMN Miguel Facusse’s malicious campaign, seeking to monopolise the young people of the Communities of Zacate Grande, with whom he is now forming an Association of Young Environmental Reporters of Zacate Grande (Asociación de Jóvenes Comunicadores Ambientalistas de Zacate Grande) with the sole aim of widening the divisions between the people and discrediting the fight for land.

We are a movement of men and women who are fighting, with many ideas but also with clear and specific objectives – Recovering and Titling the Land and Liberating the Beaches of Zacate Grande. We therefore do not accept any smears targeted at our colleagues, nor Facusse’s dirty publicity campaigns, under which he grants land titles which he does not have, and never has had.

CAMPESINOS, WITH THEIR STEADFAST RESOLVE TO FIGHT UNTIL THEY WIN OR DIE, ARE REBELS UNTIL DEATH OR FREEDOM COMES” Ernesto Che Guevara.

COMRADES FROM THE COMMUNITIES OF ZACATE GRANDE – COME AND JOIN THE STRUGGLE!!!

BECAUSE THE LAND BELONGS TO THOSE WHO WORK IT AND LOVE IT!!!

BECAUSE THE LAND CAN NOT BE SOLD – IT IS TO BE RECOVERED AND DEFENDED!!!

THROUGH THE SOLIDARITY AND DECLARATIONS OF THE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD, WE ARE NOT ALONE!!!

Movimiento de Recuperación y Titulación de la Tierra y Liberación de las Playas de Zacate Grande, 19 January 2012