Sunday, October 4, 2015

"We can't be indifferent to the defense of our environnment"

Chance for Justice: Trujillo, Colon
October 4, 2015
Environmental Justice in Honduras
V. Cervantes

The retrial of Chabelo Morales Lopez is recessed until October 19th; our group remains accompanying the family in the community of Guadalupe Carney but we decided to make a visit to the small city of Trujillo close to Guadalupe where we arrived in the middle of the "day of the environment" action.

Trujillo is an old Spanish colonial city right on a beautiful bay on the sea. It is a part of the Garifuna coast where the Garifuna people have ancestral rights to the coast under international and national agreements. It is on the edge of of the Aguan Valley's fertile palm growing region, home to thousands of campesinos and their communities as well as to the wealthiest landowners in the country like Miguel Facusse, Reynaldo Canales and Rene Morales: perpetrators of incredible violence against campesino and Garifuna groups in the region.

Another piece of the land conflicts in the region has to do with the struggle to protect the environment and includes the concerns of most of the residents of the area about the destruction caused by mining, tourism and mega-agricultural projects.

The action we saw today was part religious procession, part parade and part protest march with several hundred people carrying placards and banners, children dressed as animals riding on colorfully decorated "floats" created on pick-up trucks. The paticipants were Garifunas, campesinos, school children, nuns, and a variety of Trujillo residents. I spoke with one of the participants who told me the Catholic church in Trujillo was the main organizer of the action with the participation of a lot of different people.  They were chanting slogans such as "no puede ser indiferente--a la defensa del ambiente" (you can't be indifferent to the defense of the environment) and against the new (2013) mining law which granted more concessions to private mining companies. Around 35% of the total country is now concessioned to mining and hydroelectric projects. Communities, especially indigenous and rural communities, all over Honduras are resisting displacement and/or the contamination of their water and soil. In the Trujillo area there are dozens of mining concessions that the people oppose. We talked earlier in the week to one of the long time campesino leaders at Guadalupe Carney who is part of a regional group organizing to resist the mining companies and the Honduran government and keep mining out of the area.

Another big environmental and land tenancy issue is related to the attempts
to develop mega-tourism in the area. Randy Jorgensen (the Canadian porn king millionaire) is one of the highest profile "developers". He is leading an aggressive and threatening push to displace the Garifuna communities in the Trujillo area so that he and his investors can take over the beaches for cruise ship landings and high end large tourist resorts. This kind of development  degrades the fragile environment in the area as well as displacing the indigenous Garifuna from their land and destroying their way of life and stability.  So far the communities have resisted despite threats of violence and it was good to see the different groups whose lives are affected joining together.

The UK based group, Global Witness, issued a report earlier this year that showed that Honduras has had the highest per capita rate of people murdered because of their activities to defend the earth and environment, for each of the past five years, than any other country in the world. In 2014, three quarters of these murders were in Central and South America, including 12 in Honduras. Global Witness reported that world-wide these murders and conflict in general are increasing because of the intensifying competition over land and land use and the fact that the lack of government action to protect people or environment is putting the ordinary residents and their organizations on the front lines of the conflict.

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