Posts Tagged ‘defending water’

Unknown Assailants Abduct, Murder Activist in Honduras

Janeth Urquía

Lesbia Janeth Urquia Urquia murdered July 5, 2016

The activist, part of the group founded by Berta Caceres, was found dead near a garbage dump.

Another Indigenous activist has been murdered in Honduras, with local activists reporting Wednesday night that a woman identified as Yaneth Urquia Urquia was found dead near a garbage dump with severe head trauma.

Urquia was a member of The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, the group founded by Berta Caceres, who was assassinated in March. According to La Voz Lenca, the communications arm of COPINH, Urquia was an active member of the activist group and fought against the building of hydroelectric power plants on Indigenous land.

Body of Janeth Urquia found near garbage dump

Body of Janeth Urquia found near garbage dump

“The comrade was killed with a knife,” the group said on its Facebook page, adding that she had been “abducted by unknown persons.”

Urquia’s body was found Wednesday near the municipal garbage dump in Marcala, in the western department of La Paz, according to Via Campesina Honduras, a local social movement. Her body has been sent to the Forensic Medical unit of the Public Ministry for an autopsy, it said.

Yaneth Urquia

Janeth Urquia indigenous leader in COPINH

The news comes four months after Berta Caceres, the founder of COPINH, was assassinated in her home. Caceres, an environmental activist, had been leading protests against the building of hydroelectric dams on Indigenous land. Four people have been arrested in connection with her murder, including both former and active members of the Honduras military.

Another leader of COPINH, Tomas Garcia, was shot dead at a peaceful protest in 2013.

Honduras has been wracked by violence since the 2009 U.S.-backed coup against its elected center-left government, experiencing one of the highest murder rates in the world.

A Voice for Honduras’ Voiceless

The Lasting Legacy of Berta Cáceres

By Lauren Carasik

Honduras is reeling from the assassination of prominent indigenous rights activist and environmental leader Berta Cáceres, who was gunned down in her home in La Esperanza on March 2. For years, she had faced death threats from industrialists who laid claim to the land of her people, the Lenca. Her hallmark fight pitted her against powerful figures who sought to dam the Gualcarque River—a sacred site for the Lenca. The construction would have threatened the indigenous group’s livelihood and spiritual connection to the river.

Cáceres’ most public battle may have focused on the small indigenous communities of Rio Blanco that live adjacent to the river, but her struggle was far from local—indeed, her efforts to protect indigenous land rights made her a national and global symbol, standing against transnational capitalism and the threat it poses not only to indigenous people throughout the developing world, but to global ecology as well. In the wake of Cáceres’ death, thousands mobilized to march in Tegucigalpa on March 17 and 18. Outside of Honduras, the killing has galvanized a groundswell of outrage as well. Hundreds of international organizations and academics have signed letters condemning the killing and demanding justice, and activists unfurled a protest banner in front of the headquarters of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington and disrupted a meeting of the Council of the Americas attended by U.S. ambassadors to Central America. Inside the beltway, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahydenounced the United States’ role in “supporting and profiting” from the “corruption and injustice” in Honduras, and 62 members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew to demand an independent investigation into Cáceres’ death and the suspension of U.S. military aid to Honduras. Washington is the Honduran government’s biggest patron, and it must now decide which side of the nation’s history it wishes to be on.


Cáceres came of age during the 1980s, a decade marked by brutality across Central America. She was raised in a household that was steeped in the ideas and actions of resistance. The Cáceres family spent nights huddled around a radio listening to revolutionary dispatches from Nicaragua. Her mother, also named Berta, frequently took in refugees fleeing the civil war in El Salvador.

Cáceres first entered politics in 1993 when she co-founded the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras(COPINH). COPINH sought to resist illegal logging and protect therights of indigenous people, a group historically excluded from Honduras’ political system. Cáceres soon emerged as a leader in a broader social movement that united a coalition of marginalized groups seeking greater political and economic inclusion. Cáceres spent the next 16 years advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples, women, and other marginalized groups. To advance those goals, she helped build a social movement in Honduras and established strong connections to groups across the region and around the world.

Her work became particularly urgent after the coup in Honduras in 2009 that ousted democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya. The president had laid the groundwork for populist changes which included land reform, efforts that were scrapped once Zelaya was out of office. Since then, life has become harder for activists of all stripes. Indeed, any groups who opposed the new regime’s neoliberal agenda became an official target for retribution.

Since the coup, successive administrations have courted foreign capital, engaged in privatization efforts, granted hundreds of hydroelectric and mining concessions to international corporations, and built infrastructure to support the accelerated exploitation of natural resources in Honduras. Among the projects was the Agua Zarca dam over the Gualcarque River—the issue the defined Cáceres efforts. The dam is being built by Desarrollos Energéticos, SA(DESA). Among the company’s owners is the powerful Atala family, suspected of ties to the coup, including Camilo Atala, president of theFicohsa Bank, the largest in the country. The Chinese hydroelectric engineering firm Sinohydro was initially overseeing the work with financing from the World Bank. But the protests over the construction compelled both to withdraw in 2013. Cáceres had also implored other foreign financiers, including the Dutch Development Bank FMO, the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and German firms Siemens and Voith, to pull their funding. Mounting public pressure after the murder of Cáceres’ and COPINH activist Nelson Garcia two weeks later finally prompted the Dutch and Finnish banks to suspend disbursements on March 16, although they have not permanently withdrawn from the project.


The words “Berta Lives” are seen written in chalk to honour the slain environmental rights activist, Berta Caceres during a vigil to mark International Women’s Day in Tegucigalpa, Honduras March 8, 2016.

The heart of Cáceres’ strategy was to push the government to recognize that the COPINH’s demands were grounded in internationally recognized rights, including the right to prior and informed consent for projects that affect indigenous communities, and to target the project’s international financiers. At first, Cáceres and COPINH tried to block the Agua Zarca dam’s construction through political channels, including indigenous assemblies, public declarations opposing the dam, and legal challenges. When these failed and construction was set to begin in 2013, it seemed like the community was out of options.

The next salvo was peaceful protests. COPINH set up a roadblock that prevented DESA from accessing the river. DESA responded with a concerted campaign of harassment and intimidation that, at times, turned violent. Tomás Garciá, a COPINH protestor who was unarmed, was shot at close range and killed by a Honduran soldier in 2013. Two other members of COPINH have also been killed since then, and others have been attacked with machetes. Cáceres herself had been arrested on charges of illegal possession of a firearm (which she claimed was planted), as well on charges of usurpation, coercion, and damages as a result of the blockade. These charges were ultimately dismissed.

In the IACHR’s December 2015 Situation of Human Rights in Honduras report, the group specifically decried the criminalization of Cáceres’ protest movement. According to Global Witness, Honduras was the most deadly country in the world for environmental and land rights defenders in 2014.

In the end, COPINH’s orchestrated resistance to the Agua Zarca dam halted its construction in Honduras’ Rio Blanco community, but failed to thwart the project altogether. DESA moved the dam project across the river, near the town of San Francisco de Ojuera, where the company boasted of winning support for USAID projects. Construction began in August of 2015. The conflict simmered on, reaching a boiling point again on February 20, as security forces detained 100 protesters, including Cáceres, who had traveled to the new dam site to register their disapproval. Among those seeking to block the path of the protestors were members of the Honduran military. During the altercation, COPINH members reported that a local official told Cáceres that she would never come back to the project’s new site, and that she might be killed.

A man puts flowers on the coffin of slain environmental rights activist Berta Caceres at a cemetery in the town of La Esperanza, outside Tegucigalpa, Honduras March 5, 2016.
A man puts flowers on the coffin of slain environmental rights activist Berta Caceres at a cemetery in the town of La Esperanza, outside Tegucigalpa, Honduras March 5, 2016.


Since Cáceres’ death, the Honduran government has yielded to tremendous public pressure and agreed to launch a prompt investigation into her murder.

Initial signals, however, have inspired little confidence. State investigators ignored the Cáceres family’s demand for an independent expert to attend the autopsy. The crime scene was compromised, and authorities were quick to suggest that her murder was either a crime of passion or a random robbery. Gustavo Castro Soto, a prominent Mexican environmental activist who was injured in the attack and is the sole eyewitness, provided testimony over multiple days in harsh conditions, but was prevented from leaving the country for 30 days, though he believes his life is in danger in Honduras. His lawyer’s license was suspended for 15 days after lodging a request that the decision to detain him in Honduras be revised. To this day, Castro remains in the Mexican Embassy compound in Tegucigalpa for his own safety, despite his stated desire to return home to his family. Intense and prolonged questioning of COPINH leaders have fueled concerns that Honduran authorities are more interested in extracting intelligence about Cáceres’ activist group to distract their efforts, rather than finding her murderer.

Cáceres’ family has expressed their doubts about the integrity of any investigation conducted by the Honduran government. They have demanded an independent international investigation to be overseen by the IACHR—one that could not only name the material perpetrators of the crime, but its masterminds as well, however high up the chain of command they may be. Honduran authorities have cited an agreement with the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights to accompany the investigation, but there is good reason to doubt that the local office has the capacity, expertise, and investigative authority necessary to ensure an independent inquiry.

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Cáceres’ family and the international community have also demanded that the Honduran government implement the IACHR’s orders to keep members of COPINH safe. But activists cannot be protected with armed guards and cameras alone. Rather, Tegucigalpa must confront the root of the social conflict that claimed Cáceres’ life, by respecting the rights of indigenous people, and canceling the concession to the Agua Zarca dam and others. Short of this, the cycle of unrest and repression in Honduras is sure to continue.

As U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton provided tacit support for the administration of former Honduran interim President Roberto Micheletti despite near universal condemnation of his tenure. Cáceres herself criticized Clinton for opposing the demand for Zelaya’s reinstatement, which set the stage for a deepening of the human rights crisis inside the country. And despite pervasive and persistent reports of repression—some of which has been directly linked to Honduras’ state security forces—Washington has continued to provide security aid as well as development financing to Honduras.

When Cáceres won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, she dedicated it to “all the rebels out there, to my mother, to the Lenca people, to the Rio Blanco, and to the martyrs who gave their lives in the struggle to defend our natural resources.” She now takes her place on that list, but if her killers thought they could silence her voice and derail her mission, they were mistaken.


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[22] abuses-in-rio-blanco-honduras
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Incumplimiento de consulta previa en proyectos mineros genera violencia

Jun 13, 2014

Una carta llegó a la comunidad de Nueva Esperanza y otras comunidades del sector Florida en Tela, Atlántida. Procedía de la Honduras Mining Company, pidiendo el derecho de paso de servidumbre para un proyecto minero que pretenden instalar en la aldea Carmen colindante con Nueva Esperanza. La comunidad encendió las alertas de nuevo, hace apenas un año un proyecto minero les había quitado la paz montaña arriba.

El derecho a la consulta previa, libre e informada es muy poco conocido en las comunidades del interior del país. Procesos organizativos en el departamento de Atlántida (uno de los más ricos en minerales y agua) han intentado luchar por el mismo y antes que un proyecto, ya sea hidroeléctrico o minero, se instale, están exigiendo toda la información necesaria para que desde su autodeterminación, el pueblo tome la decisión de dejarlo pasar o detenerlo.

Ese día en que el empresario Gustavo Urrutia, minero conocido en el sector por instalar proyectos mineros sin consultar, la comunidad de Nueva Esperanza montó vigilancia y colocó una pancarta en la entrada de la aldea que decía: el agua y los territorios son de los pueblos.

Doña Evangelina y don Enrique recuerdan que no hace mucho, el proyecto minero de otra empresa llamada La Victoria, les causó muchos problemas. La policía confabulada con el empresario los intimidaba, llegó a disparar en la tranca que ellos habían colocado para evitar el paso de los camiones, y varias personas tuvieron que huir de la comunidad para sobrevivir ante amenazas a muerte. A manos de empleados del empresario de la zona, en Nueva Esperanza se dio la privación de libertad de 5 extranjeros observadores de derechos humanos que apoyaban la lucha contra la minera en ese entonces.

Ayer se llevó a cabo el seminario “Derecho a la consulta previa y la defensa de los territorios” organizado por la Convergencia por los derechos humanos zona noroccidental, en la que especialistas explicaban la normativa nacional e internacional para el desarrollo de un proyecto extractivo y los derechos de las comunidades. Doña Evangelina estuvo allí escuchando atentamente junto a otras mujeres y jóvenes del sector.

El expositor Pedro Landa, miembro de la Coalición de Redes ambientalistas de Honduras explicó la nueva Ley de Minería y en su análisis concluyó que según esta normativa, la consulta ya no tiene que ser tan previa. “si la consulta no se realiza en plazo (60 días), la solicitud está aprobada directamente. Y si el resultado de la consulta es negativo, se puede volver a realizar dentro de 3 años.  ¿Pero por qué no se aplica lo mismo para el caso que se acepte, que cada tres años se pueda volver a  realizar?”, dijo Landa. Todo esto contradiciendo tratados internacionales como la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y el Convenio 169 de la OIT.

“Existen mecanismos de protección internacional ante los organismos de Naciones Unidas que exigen  la consulta y  consentimiento libre, previo e  informado de los pueblos cuando se ven afectados, y hacen énfasis en los proyectos de explotación de bienes naturales. Esta exigencia va incluso  cuando se llevan a cabo medidas legislativas (nuevas leyes), incluso del rango constitucional”, explicó la abogada Ivania Galeano de la Convergencia por los derechos humanos.

Falta de consulta previa provoca violencia

San Juan Pueblo del municipio de La Masica, Atlántida es una comunidad muy conocida a nivel nacional, especialmente por la crisis de temblores que sufrió el año pasado. Por esta comunidad pasa una falla geológica que atraviesa la cordillera Nombre de Dios donde además hay múltiples áreas protegidas por ser productoras de agua. Aun así las comunidades han sido alertadas por solicitudes de concesión para explotación minera e hidroeléctrica.

El padre Marco Ayala, párroco de San Juan Pueblo, Atlántida, también participó en el seminario “Derecho a la consulta previa y la defensa de los territorios” y concluyó que es necesario que estos talleres lleguen a las bases, a los líderes comunitarios.

Ayala escuchó atentamente a Landa quien explicaba que la nueva Ley de Minería en la que los minerales son catalogados como bienes mercantiles y no naturales presenta muchas trampas para beneficiar la explotación minera. Por ejemplo, explicó Landa, el artículo 48 dice que en ningún caso se otorgarán  permisos mineros en  las áreas protegidas declaradas e inscritas  pero de las 117 áreas protegidas declaradas, solo el 8% están inscritas.  Lo mismo con las zonas productoras de agua, tienen que estar inscritas, y el ICF les cobra a las comunidades por hacerlo (aunque debería ser gratis).

La Masica es un municipio rico en fuentes de agua, vida silvestre y tierra productiva.

El sacerdote cuenta que en San Juan Pueblo, la falta de consulta previa ha generado tal violencia que por el conflicto minero ya hay 8 personas asesinadas. La comunidad de Betania, montaña arriba ha sido codiciada por dos empresas mineras que han puesto en confrontación a la comunidad y alrededor de 30 familias han sido desplazadas por el conflicto. Los proyectos aún no se desarrollan.

“Las normas sobre la consulta previa son violadas en estos proyectos, se meten a la brava y cuando supuestamente socializan el proyecto continúan haciendo las mismas cosas que antes invitando solo a los que están de acuerdo dándoles regalitos y eso es contrario a las leyes. El proyecto actual es de extracción de piedra de hierro, primero un señor apellido Rojas se introdujo a la montaña, sin tener el consentimiento de la municipalidad ni del pueblo pero tenía documentos de la Serna (Secretaría de Recursos Naturales). Se introdujo a la brava, cercó el camino, y generó violencia”.

En su participación en el seminario, Landa explicaba que a partir de la nueva Ley de Minería se han dado 19 conflictos mineros de esta envergadura. Y que la llamada “narco minería” está agarrando fuerza, junto con el sicariato y crímenes de terror, para paralizar a la comunidad.  Al plantearle la situación al gobierno de Porfirio Lobo Sosa, Landa dijo que la respuesta fue que era algo normal en los proyectos mineros.

La ley establece que una persona podrá tener 10 concesiones. Estos mineros de San Juan Pueblo ya son conocidos por solicitar varias concesiones en el sector. Landa explicó que el 45% de las solicitantes de concesiones son hondureños, luego buscan los socios en el extranjero. Los empresarios  extranjeros son los dueños, pero piden a un hondureño que solicite la concesión a cambio de regalías: velo corporativo para evadir las  responsabilidades jurídicas.

Y es que en la práctica, el Estado parece favorecer a los concesionarios por encima de los derechos de las comunidades.

“Como iglesia nosotros nos sentimos involucrados, hemos convocado a caminatas por la paz rechazando este tipo de violencia y responsabilizando a los entes involucrados en el conflicto. Eso nos ha traído amenazas. Yo no tengo miedo porque no hago nada malo lo que hago es defender y  darle la información necesaria a la gente.”

Comunidades indígenas también han sido afectadas por la falta de consulta previa y los conflictos que se generan a raíz de esto. Un ejemplo es el caso de Locomapa, Yoro en el que indígenas Tolupanes han sido asesinados y amenazados por su defensa del territorio ante proyectos mineros que se quieren establecer en sus montañas.

La justicia aún no ha llegado luego del asesinato de tres Tolupanes indígenas que eran defensores de bienes naturales; María Enriqueta Matute de 60 años, Armando Fúnez Medina y Ricardo Soto Fúnez en San Francisco Locomapa, Yoro. Los responsables materiales e intelectuales no han sido capturados.

El crimen ocurrió el 25 de agosto del 2013 a las 5:30 de la tarde, cuando los tres indígenas pertenecientes a la tribu San Francisco, fueron asesinados con armas de fuego, cuando estos realizaban acciones en defensa de su territorio ante la explotación ilegal de los recursos naturales en la zona.

A pesar que se ha reconocido por medio de testigos los responsables de este crimen, la policía no ha dado el seguimiento correspondiente a la investigación de estas muertes, los testigos indican a Selvin Fúnez y Carlos Matute como los responsables, ellos supuestamente estaban al servicio del Consejo Indígena y de empresarios mineros que explotan antimonio en los territorios de estas tribus y debido a la oposición que realizaban estas tres personas, los victimarios les quitaron la vida.

Después de estos hechos, la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, CIDH, ordenó medidas para proteger a 38 personas de la comunidad, sin embargo el Estado no responde y la comunidad plantea la posibilidad de recurrir nuevamente ante estas instancias para exigir justicia para los indígenas Tolupanes.

Desde los años 90 hasta la actualidad se han contabilizado 43 asesinatos en la comunidad de los Tolupanes, según un recuento realizado por Juan Mejía del Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia (MADJ).

Municipios libres de explotación minera

El padre Ayala es de la idea de que al tener toda la información de las contrapartes, las decisiones que el pueblo tome serán en beneficio de todos y todas. Con experiencias cercanas como la de Balfate en Colón, o la de El Negrito en el departamento de Yoro, que han sido declarados municipios libres de explotación minera. La Masica quiere seguir un camino y al hablar con el alcalde actual, la comunidad corroboró que hay apertura para que el pueblo decida.

“El alcalde actual del municipio de La Masica nos ha dicho que está disponible a apoyar la lucha y si las comunidades quieren declarar el municipio libre de minería lo va a hacer. Para eso hay que darle una información amplia a la gente, en las dos partes, en los desastres que ocasiona la explotación minera y los beneficios que podría generar también”, dijo Ayala.

Sin embargo, Landa explicó que las leyes de Honduras no están hechas para este tipo de iniciativas. “No pueden establecerse zonas del territorio que quedan excluidas de la minería, sin cumplir con el procedimiento legal  correspondiente, dice la ley ¿Pero  cuál es el procedimiento correspondiente? No se sabe.  ¿Y cómo quedan las declaratorias de municipios libre de minería?  La ley se lo pasa por encima. Los abogados de las empresas mineras se agarran de este artículo para todo”.

Si las leyes nacionales no contemplan la consulta previa, las organizaciones exigen que se cumplan las leyes y tratados internacionales y han llevado el tema de consulta previa a la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. También pretenden presentarlo  dentro del Examen Periódico Universal y aprovechar los mandatos de Naciones Unidas.  Han solicitado al Consejo de derechos humanos de la ONU  que brinde una opinión sobre el no cumplimiento de los Convenios a  partir de esta ley de minería, esto puede tener impacto.

“Es importante hacer todas las acciones legales para demostrar que el  sistema interno no funciona”, concluyó Landa.

Brutal, Public Murder of Anti-mining, Community and Environmental Defender in Honduras

Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Posted by Rights Action Team | comments

“Rigoberto’s throat was slit and his tongue cut out. These characteristics of terror are a message that seeks to silence the voices of those who bravely defend their livelihoods against the overpowering destruction caused by mining companies that are presently tearing up many lands in our country.”

This assassination, dumping the brutalized body in a public place, is an act of terrorism reminiscent of the U.S.-backed military repression of the 1980s.  The intent is to eliminate community defenders and terrorize the general public into silence and submission.

  • !WARNING! – Explicit photo below


The Honduran Center for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC) and the 49 organizations that comprise the National Coalition of Environmental Networks most forcefully condemn the horrific assassination of the environmental defender, Rigoberto López Hernández, which occurred on May 3, 2014 in the community of Santa Cruz, Municipality of El Níspero in Santa Bárbara.

Once the National Congress passed the fateful Mining Law, we cautioned the government, holding it responsible for the aggressions and violations against lives and human rights that would derive from the implementation of the extractive policy.

Today, these warnings became contemptible reality.

Rigoberto López was known for his firm decision to struggle to close the iron oxide mine, found in the “Quita Ganas” mountain, due to the natural springs in this mountain that provide water to several communities in El Níspero, including the Santa Cruz community.

In the visits made by CEHPRODEC we also confirmed that in addition to affecting the communities’ water sources, this mine also destroyed extensive farming areas used by families alongside the highway that the mining companies constructed, since landslides are permanently burying vegetable gardens and farming land of the families that live in the lower altitude side of the highway.

Similarly, the sediments caused by the mine are causing serious damage to the reservoir of the El Níspero dam, the only energy generating plant that was one hundred percent state owned, and which was since given in concession to private groups with ties to the governing party.

This new martyr in defense of life, Rigoberto López, repeatedly expressed that mining is an environmental threat that produces the loss of the quality of life, illness and leaves an environmental debt to future generations. He also motivated the population of the El Níspero municipality to oppose the continuation of mining since it only left them poverty and unfulfilled false promises such as employment, infrastructure and development.

In a community assembly with Mayor Antonio Leiva and representatives of the mines, Rigoberto expressed his objection to negotiating false promises and demanded the mining company leave the municipality. The community’s independent action of protest on the highway in March was broken up by the National Police and Military, with the Municipal Mayor’s promise to bring them to Tegucigalpa to resolve the conflict.

According to the version that the El Níspero mayor expressed to the Santa Cruz population and the media: “the mine’s presence in the community is legal because it has the permission of SERNA, INHGEOMIN, while the population clings onto myths that mining supposedly harms the country.”

According to community leaders, Rigoberto’s throat was slit and his tongue cut out. These characteristics of terror are a message that seeks to silence the voices of those who bravely defend their livelihoods against the overpowering destruction caused by mining companies that are presently tearing up many lands in our country.

In response to this crime, we demand:

A thorough investigation by police authorities, the office of the prosecution and human rights organizations, which should lead to the capture, trial and sentencing of the intellectual and material authors of the murder of Rigoberto López.

Similarly, we demand the immediate granting of protective measures to the other leaders of the El Níspero community who have publicly opposed this mining project.

To the authorities from INHGEOMIN and SERNA we demand they respect the voice of the citizenry that rejects mining projects in their territories.

We call to the general population and the international community to condemn this despicable assassination and demand that the Honduran government respects the human rights of environmental and territorial defenders. We demand that the Honduran government fulfills its obligation to afford justice and tell the truth regarding the seriousness of conflicts and human rights violations caused by mining companies. Just one year has passed since the National Congress passed a terrible mining law that brought persecution, criminalization and the death of community leaders, indigenous populations and human rights defenders who reject mining activity in our country. Similarly, in accordance with international law, we demand that comprehensive reparation be granted to the family of Rigoberto López, a martyr of the struggle for life.

Tegucigalpa, M.D.C., May 9, 2014



Honduras: Mining Law Reform  – 2010-2012

In the wake of the 2009 military-backed coup in Honduras, a coup that Canada tacitly supported such as by refusing to consider sanctions against the de facto regime and pressuring other OAS members to do the same, the Canadian Embassy began lobbying for a new mining law. Several years earlier, in 2006, thirteen articles in the existing mining law were declared unconstitutional and a moratorium put in place on all new mining projects pending the passage of a new law. Honduran civil society had been lobbying for a ban on open pit mining and stronger protections for community participation in decision making over mining projects, among other reforms. At the time that then President Mel Zelaya was ousted in 2009, a draft law was ready to be debated that incorporated their proposals. But the debate never took place. From January 2010 to January 2013, Canadian representatives worked hard to help pave the way for a law that would be more favourable to the interests of Canadian companies. For example, in early 2010 then Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder travelled to Honduras and arranged meetings between Canadian mining executives, President Lobo and members of his cabinet. They also “discussed with a Breakwater Resources executive possible strategies to influence the development of a new mining law.” Later, in early 2012, when a Honduran legislative committee announced that a new mining law had been drafted sparking outcry from Honduras civil society, Ambassador Cameron MacKay organized a meeting of government officials, companies and NGOs under the banner of Corporate Social Responsibility at which MacKay emphasized the positive relationship between Canada and Honduras. This and other Canadian support to get a new mining law passed in January 2013, including a technical support project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, run contrary to the interests of Honduran society, who according to one public opinion survey undertaken in the fall of 2011 are 90% opposed to open pit mining.


Sisters of the Siria Valley, We Support Your Struggle for Justice and Health

Friday, March 08, 2013

Development and Peace – MiningWatch Canada

(Ottawa/Montreal) On this International Women’s Day, as sixty women from the Siria Valley of Honduras gather in Tegucigalpa, we the women of Development and Peace and MiningWatch Canada are present in spirit, sisters in solidarity, accompanying them in their struggle for justice.

Since 2000, they have lived in close proximity of the San Martin open pit gold mine owned by the Vancouver-based company, Goldcorp. Today, thirteen years later, and only two years since the closure of the mine, they have learned that levels of heavy metals in their bodies, or those of their children, are unacceptably high and found a proliferation of skin and respiratory ailments in their communities.

As women, effectively responsible for most domestic work in the household, they and their children have been most in contact with and are most vulnerable to contaminants through the water supply or other means. High levels of heavy metals such as lead and arsenic can lead to a broad range of diseases, including certain cancers and nervous system disorders.

We deplore the fact that the Honduran government has had detailed knowledge of this situation since 2007, having carried out blood and urine tests that revealed lead in the blood of those tested. Yet, the government did not disclose the results of the blood tests that the Honduran Office for Forensic Medicine through its Criminal and Forensic Science Laboratory carried out with those involved until 2011 – not only failing to provide medical care, but effectively denying the women the right to seek treatment by their own means. Now, some six years later, the women are no closer to receiving the further information and medical care that they and their families and neighbours need.

We fully support the legitimate demand of the women of the Siria Valley and urge the Honduran government to assume its responsibility to carry out comprehensive epidemiological studies and new blood and urine exams. Once new testing has been done and the results determined, which should take place as quickly as possible, the Honduran government must immediately make the results available and ensure the appropriate medical treatment to the women and all those affected. This is an obligation of the Honduran government to ensure the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, set out by international treaties ratified by Honduras, and by the Honduran Constitution in which the state guarantees the right to a healthy environment.

We also urge a a full and impartial investigation into the source of the contamination in order to determine what responsibility Goldcorp’s San Martín operation might have and to then ensure adequate compensation for the families based on the results, as well as mitigation for damages in the communities, to their land and resources.

Such action is all the more urgent today in view of the new Mining Law, approved in the Honduran Congress in January 2013, with technical assistance paid for by the Canadian International Development Agency.  With the imminent implementation of this legislation, hundreds of other new mining concessions, many granted to Canadian companies, will be open to mining activities, creating a state of insecurity for affected communities throughout Honduras based on environmental contamination and public health issues that have arisen in the Siria Valley and elsewhere in the country.

We support the urgent demand of the women of Siria Valley to overturn the mining law that has been adopted without consideration for the proposals from Honduran civil society that sought to guarantee communities a say over mining activities taking place in their communities before they begin, to guarantee them safe water supplies before prioritizing industrial use of water, and to prohibit open-pit mining, which they have seen seriously jeopardize the health of affected communities.

Dear sisters, women of the Siria Valley, today we salute your struggle and your bravery and determination to demand what is just. And we state our commitment to continue to stand by you, as you continue in this struggle.

Ismael Moreno SJ

Ismael Moreno SJ

O n the 23rd of August 2003 some thirty thousand
people from the north, south, east and west of
Honduras took over all parts of the capital to
demand the non-privatization of drinking water.
From five in the morning the protesters occupied the four
main entries and exits of Tegucigalpa, led by the National
Coordination of Popular Resistance (CNRP), a movement
which brings together trade unions, and social, popular,
indigenous and community organisations from all over the
The drop which made the cup overflow was the decision
of the majority of deputies in the National Congress to
approve a Draft Law on Drinking Water and Basic
Sanitation, following recommendations from technicians in
the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). It was
approved on the 14th of August. The heads of political
parties in the National Congress had signed an agreement
on March 4th that year with the Honduranian social
organizations represented in the CNRP to approve no law
on drinking water not based on an agreement between the
various sectors of Honduranian society. At the same time,
the peoples’ organisations had committed themselves to
start a consultation process with the aim of presenting on
July 1st that same year a proposal for a law on water in
place of the proposal drawn up under the guidance of the
On July 1st the CNRP presented its proposal arguing that
the protection, administration and preservation of water was
linked to the principle of national sovereignty, and that
under no circumstances should the State abdicate its
responsibility for managing such a resource. Members of
Congress received the proposed law but then buried it in
The proposal for the privatization of water promoted by
the IADB with full support from the government of the
Republic contained a catch which fooled several leaders of
the popular movements. The proposed law was not
presented as a means to achieve the privatization of water.
It was presented as a proposal to “municipalize” water
services, thereby contributing to the decentralization of
public services, exactly the goal that many social and
popular sectors were fighting for.
An important argument in favour of the law proposed by
the IADB and the Government was the inefficiency of the
State institution responsible for administering the provision
of drinking water, caught as it was in a paralysing
bureaucracy, politically determined decisions and the
corruption of its officials. The IADB and the Government
saw here a great opportunity to break with an incompetent
administration and move towards empowering
municipalities in the matter of water as a strategic resource.
With this trick, the government and IADB officials won
the support of most of the 298 mayors in the country.
However, clauses in the new Law for Drinking Water and
Basic Sanitation envisaged “service providers”, which
meant that municipalities could hand over the
administration and maintenance of drinking water to
private institutions and organisations which, by charging a
fee, would guarantee both the efficiency of the system and
a profit for themselves.
The Law on Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation was
passed with the support of the majority of mayors and an
important group of NGOs who fell into the trap of the law
proposed by the IADB and Government, both interested in
decentralising and empowering municipalities in the
administration of natural resources. The central
Government, with the support of the IADB, warned
mayors that if they did not approve the Drinking Water
Law they would not qualify for loans destined for the
environment or the protection of natural resources.
For the first time in many decades, however,
r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s o f organisations from all over the
country met to plan a joint reaction. Copies of the
proposed law to be discussed in the National Congress were
distributed in all regions of the country and studied by many
grass-root organizations.
Many saw through the trick and highlighted the clear bias
towards privatisation favoured by the law in the 65 articles of
the official version. In the same manner, a consultation
process was launched on the peoples’ wishes with respect
to a law on water that would protect water basins, ensure
the preservation of water, and provide an efficient
administration shared by the central Government,
municipalities, water authorities, local associations and
other organisations.
The struggle against the privatisation of water had
achieved a miracle – calling on and uniting in a common
campaign regions and organisations hitherto engaged in
small localized campaigns. The popular mobilization of
the 26th of August 2003 was the expression of a greater
unity concentrated on one objective: to defend drinking
water. Preparations for the great mobilization are full of
anecdotes. In some cities in the north and interior of the
country collections were organised to raise money for
buses that would carry people to the capital. In others
communities radio stations cooperated in organising
marathons with the same aim of raising funds.
The Ministry of Security accused the demonstrators of
receiving money even from drug-traffickers to finance
their popular rally. Other government civil servants
accused international development organisations of
making funds available to agitate against and destabilize
the Government of the Republic. The Government
managed to stir people up through infiltrators, and when
the march reached the National Congress, a group of
demonstrators besieged the police guarding the building to
the point of provoking violence, which finally ended the
mobilization programme.
The Government accused the leaders of the mobilization
of making the Drinking Water Law an excuse to create a
situation of chaos and political destabilisation. Both the
IADB and the Government launched a strong publicity
campaign to discredit the movement that opposed to the
water law and to pressurise mayors and a sector of NGOs to
give their support to the official
Finally, the Law on Drinking Water was approved and ratified
by the President of the Republic. Two years after the struggle,
municipalities are busy seeking those “providers” best able to
buy the right of administering the service of drinking water.
The approval of this law was an anteroom for the approval of the
Free Trade Area with the United States with its corresponding
process of privatization of various public services.
Together with the struggle for the non-privatization of
water however, the country has taken on a direct struggle
for the defence of Honduranian forests, marching hundreds
of kilometres from communities far in the interior to the
capital in what has been called “The March for Life.”
The IADB and the Government may have achieved the
immediate objective of approving the Law of Drinking
Water and taken the necessary measures for its
implementation; in balance, the outcome of the campaign
was one of victory for the IADB and the Government and
of defeat for the social resistance movement. But what they
did not succeed in repressing is the growing conscience of
citizens in their struggle to defend natural resources and the
environment. At the present moment, several communities
in the interior of the country are preparing to resist
implementation of the Law on Drinking Water. And they are
also preparing themselves to resist the indiscriminate
cutting down of their forests, and the use of land and natural
resources in projects that almost exclusively benefit the
multinationals. These multinationals are keenly interested
in the region but not so much in its biodiversity. The
inference is inevitable: the protection and preservation of
this biodiversity, which the Central American region still
enjoys, depend on the immediate future of the resistance
struggle waged by the popular social classes. And
ultimately on this struggle depends the very future of life
itself in Central America.

Translation by Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ
Ismael Moreno SJ
Director, ERIC