Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview with Teresa Reyes, Garifuna leader from Triunfo de la Cruz

My name is Teresa Reyes and I am from the Garífuna community Triunfo de la Cruz and I am the current preseident of the patronato (council of the patron saint).

Teresa what is your opinión about the current political crisis and the de facto government?
Well, I think that this crisis is affecting all of us, because we didn’t expect that it would unfold into violence and into such a horrible attitude by the people from the de facto government, as much from the military as Mr. Roberto Micheletti himself, who believes he is president of the republic. Nonetheless we believe that the elected president, who is legally constituted, is Manuel Zelaya, who had his rights violated and was taken out of the country by force, which at this point in this century doesn’t happen
anymore in any part of the world.

How have you been affected by the political crisis and how has it affected the Triunfo community?
First of all, we have been morally and psychologically affected. We were terrorized, we had our constitutional rights violated, our right to movement, our right to information, and to media also. Our rights have been violated. We have also been terrorized by the members of the de facto government, because they have used a lot of scare strategies on the population. And we have been directly affected in that aspect.

When you talk about the media, what type of information do people here in the community have access to?
Well we don't have access to any type of information except for the information that the de fact government wants us to know. Since the first day that the coup d'etat happened, June 28th, we started being isolated, all the media was cut off, both the radios we usually listen to, the television channels, and
even the cable was closed. They were also saying over the news that people shouldn't leave their houses because anything could happen to them. Then they opened up some television channels and radio communication that was in favor of the de facto government and just present information that they want people to have. That's what they present. On the other side, from the legitimate government, they haven't presented absolutely anything, not even about the popular resistance happening right now. They don't present the public protests that happen and that are massive and we have also participated in these protests, which we are living through permanently. There is permanent resistance in the country, which isn't being broadcast by the media.

What has been the reaction of the Garifuna community to the coup d'etat?

What they have wanted is for people to stay calm in their houses because anything can happen in the streets, but we have a movement in the community which has come out because we can't continue to sit in our homes with our arms crossed. We have to do something to participate because we have a right to the participation even if it's limited. We have looked for ways to protest because we can't stay silent about a situation as horrible as what we are living through in this country. We are representing the Garifuna people currently even though there's few of us but we are doing it and we are showing the face of our people because we are also against what is happening.

How have you participated in the Resistance Front?

I have had to leave the community by going from bus to bus until I got to Tegucigalpa with some other friends, although the trip is difficult because along the way we have been questioned. A lot of people have had to return. They [police and military] have limited people's access. But we have been able to get through to Tegucigalpa to also participate in the protests and be there permanently, eating or without eating, but we are there. Nobody is supporting us economically. The organization is making an effort to cover the costs of the mobilization and we are also collaborating.

The organization OFRANEH (National Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras)?
OFRANEH, yes. Because it is the only one that is representing the Garifuna people currently. All the other Garifuna organizations have stayed silent.

And what was the level of support for Zelaya in the Garifuna communities before the coup?

Before the coup, there was a situation of confusion, because Zelaya had committed to some things with the Garifuna people that we wanted to do but nonetheless those around him were in practice against the agreements he was taking up with the Garifuna People.

It is not as much for Zelaya that we are showing support as for Honduras, because we know that the current situation can't continue like this. Also, they are closing off the constitutional and international rights of peoples, which is why we consider it necessary to support so that we can return our constitutional rights, that's what this is about.

Specifically, how have the authorities responded to the resistance movement to re-establish democracy?
The authorities have responded violently, they are quartering off everything so that people don’t protest. That's how the authorities are responding because it is they who are promoting the coup d'etat.

And in your opinion what is necessary to achieve a solution to this crisis?

The solution that we see is international intervention, because we have lost our say at the national level. No other national entity can give a resolution because there are two opposed positions: there's the people and there is the economic and political power against the power of the people. So we believe that we won't be able to resolve absolutely anything without international intervention.

Finally, can you explain to me what you hope for from a Constitutional Assembly and why there is so much opposition by national politicians?

We believe that a Constitutional Assembly is for changes that we want to present for the constitution that favor the groups that have been marginalized, such as the peoples we belong to because historically we have been marginalized and we have been ignored by the government. That's why the same people that have been governing for centuries are the same people that now are against us making changes to the constitution. Because they have made all the changes and reforms that they have wanted but they don't want there to be a change again that's in favor of the people, of the most dispossessed classes. Nonetheless we believe that this has to happen some time although right now we don't know how the situation is going to end up, but one day that change will have to happen because the world changes constantly just like there have been changes in other countries.

Honduras has to create a change. We can't live a whole life just favoring one political class in the country. There also has to be a change for those peoples who have been dispossessed for centuries, for years, those who have been historically marginalized, vulnerable and that's what the constitutional assembly is about. We believe it is an opportunity for us that we have to take advantage of because it is giving us an opening to participate because we have never had the opportunity to participate in the decisions, in the making of decisions in the country.

Thank you very much Teresa. Is there something else you want to share before the end of the interview?
No, what we would like is solidarity and support from international organizations or from solidarity organizations that can support us to get information out from here. Because on a national level there is no way to get out real information about what is happening in this country. That's why we have to go to international organizations in solidarity so that they can get the information that we want the world to know out, the truth, because the media are the same people who are in power, the coup-makers are the same owners of the media, so what they want the world to hear is what gets out. And we also want the world to know about our protests and what we are suffering through with this crisis

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