Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"The path is more struggle, more organization" - Statement of COPINH's 11th General Assembly

Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of  Honduras (COPINH)

Declaration of the 11th General Assembly of COPINH: Berta Lives. 
Facing extractivist death, more organization and struggle is our path

We, gathered here as community delegates of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) this May 26th-29th, 2017 in the Utopía Center for Encounter and Friendship, with representation from the states of Intibucá, Lempira, La Paz and Santa Bárbara, declare the following to the national and international public:

We have gathered in this XI Assembly to discuss and debate the future of our organization, taking into account the tremendous obstacles that present themselves along the way, but with full determination and commitment to the ancestral struggle of the Lenca people, we have made strategic decisions about COPINH’s work in coming years.
We have united our hearts and visions, guided by our leader and ancestor Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores with the strength of her spirit and the legacy of her struggle, who for the first time is not with us physically in this Assembly, he have carried out deep discussions about the communities’ needs and the path that our organization will take in the current moment and our reading of the times ahead.

As a product of these discussions, we re-affirm our struggle in defense of our territories and our resolve to continue building this political project known as COPINH to promote an alternative life, one consistent with the Lenca people’s worldview and in harmony with life, and to confront with more struggle and organization the process of criminalization, persecution and harassment promoted by the economic elite and the corrupt officials who serve the capitalist project of death that invades our territories and violates our sovereignty.

We agree to develop our organizational strength through an intense process of training, grassroots media and struggle against the plunder and destruction of our territories and communities. 

In the face of the sleezy political practices in vogue in our country, the Lenca people and COPINH exercises an assembly-based and grassroots political practice that challenges the vices of  political practices that yield few possibilities for building the project of life that our territories yearn for. We declare that our organization will continue to struggle aginst the extractivism and pillaging that has been imposed on Honduras no matter what government we face.

Prior to this General Assembly and as part of it we carried out a women’s convening in which we questioned through a libratory process carried out by women our organizational consistency in strongly promoting the rights of women in all structures. As such, in our assembly we made clear that we won’t allow aggression against the sisters of our organization and that the elected general coordination must lead the developingment of anti-patriarchal work within COPINH.

Out assembly has unanimously agreed that one of the principal lines of COPINH’s struggle is the search for justice for our sister and compañera Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores and we declare her to be our permanent General Coordinator, the guardian spirit of our organization and struggle, the political and spiritual guide of our actions in defense of life. We declare that we will not stop and will not rest on this path in search of justice, for the capture of those who plotted and called for the assassination and the deepening of our struggle in her memory.

In defense of our territories, on a path against patriarchy and for education, for grassroots media, natural medicine, food sovereignty, along with our ancestors we cry out that Berta lives on and COPINH is strong!

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota, Iselaca and Etempica we raise our voices for life, justice dignity, liberty and peace!

2017-2019 COPINH General Coordination:
1.      General Coordinator: Bertha Isabel Zúniga Cáceres
2.      Organizational Coordinator: Sotero Chavarría Fúnez.
3.      Coordinator of Records: José Asención Martínez.
4.      Coordinator for Political Development and Education: Eiby Doris Sánchez.
5.      Coordinator of Development and International Relatiions: Julian García.
6.      Coordinator of Finances: José Tochez.
7.      Accountability Coordinator: Francisco Gámez Gámez.
8.      Communications Coordinator: Efraín Sorto.
9.      Coordinator of Culture and Acnestral Heritage:  María Pascuala Vásquez.
10.  Coordinator for Land, Territory and the Environment: Francisco Javier Sánchez.
11.  Youth Coordinator: Irma Odilia Mendoza Quintano.
12.  Women’s Coordinator: Liliam Esperanza López.
13.  Health Coordinator: María Teresa Guevara Díaz.
14.  LGBT Coorinator: José Gaspar Sánchez Acosta.
15.  Legal Affairs Coordinator: María Tomasa Hernández Mancía.

Written in La Esperanza, Intibucá, on the 29th day of May, in the year 2017.
#justiciaparaberta #SoyCOPINH

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Ahuas victims still demanding justice

The Ahuas victims are still demanding justice
U.S. State Department Report reveals DEA lies about the massacre of Misquito indigenous peoples

By Giorgio Trucchi | LINyM
(Translation by Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, La Voz de los de Abajo)

Original en español: http://nicaraguaymasespanol.blogspot.com/2017/05/honduras-las-victimas-de-ahuas-aun.html

The families of the massacre victims demand that the case be reopened and that the impunity that has surrounded the assassination of their loved ones come to an end.
Photo/Foto: G. Trucchi | Rel-UITA

In the early morning of May 11th, 2012, a small boat with 16 people on board was quietly floating on the waters of the Patuca river, in the Mosquitia area of Northeastern Honduras. It was a long and tiring journey of over seven hours to get to the community of Paptalaya, in the Ahuas municipality within the state of Gracias a Dios.

It was 2am and almost all of the passengers were asleep. They woke up to the noise of at least four U.S. military helicopters flying over the area. A rain of bullets from high-calliber weapons ambushed the small boat and its occupants.

The joint operation of DEA FAST (Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team) agents, and Honduran National Police's Tactical Response Team left a body count of four dead: Emerson Martínez Henríquez (21 years old), Hasked Brooks Wood (14 years old), Juana Jackson Ambrosio (28 years old) and Candelaria Pratt Nelson (48 years old).

There were also at least 5 people seriously wounded. According to their family members, Juana and Candelaria were both several months pregnant [1].

Military Escalation

The operation took place in the context of growing militarization of the area. In recent years, under the pretext of a direct confrontation with narco-traffickers, the U.S. government has again invested millions of dollars in the installation and equipping of new military bases, as is the case of the naval bases on Isla Guanaja and Caratasca, in the state of Gracias a Dios, which have been added on to the list with its long-standing Soto Cano (Palmerola) base.

In addition, the U.S. embassy in Honduras, the Honduran government, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the DEA, and the U.S. Southern Command have designed a plane to temporarily deploy U.S. helicopters in Honduran territory to support the anti-narcotic missions. 

Thus, Honduras has become the country hosting the most U.S. military bases in the entire region. A military escalation that has had its biggest boost following the 2009 coup d'etat that overthrew then-President Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

DEA and Honduran State wash their hands

After the massacre, the then-spokesperson for the DEA in Washington, Dawn Dearden, admitted that FAST agents were working on board the helicopters in support of the Honduran police. She claimed that it wasn't them who fired. The U.S. ambassador to Honduras at the time, Lisa Kubiske, backed up those statemens and assured the national media that the units who led the anti-drug operation acted properly and in self-defense, supposedly in response to gunshots that came from the small boat.

The families of the people killed said that it was a random attacked, followed by senseless persecution against them and the people from the communities.

Both the victims' families as well as the Ahuas mayor, Lucio Baquedano, adamantly stated that the Honduran and U.S. agents fired indiscriminately, believing that the boat was transporting drugs unloading from a small plane that had landed a few hours prior. 

In addition, the terror that overtook the small community of Paptalaya didn't end with the attack on the small boat, but instead continued for several hours, while hundreds of Honduran and U.S. troops deployed into the area looking for supposed narco-traffickers and their product. The residents were detained, thrown to the floor, tied up and beaten without cause. 

To date, nobody has been held accountable for this night of terror. Five years after these events, two of those accused, Noel Andrés Hernández and Iván Neptaly González Herrera, had their charges dismissed while a case was opened against DEA Alexander Ramón Robelo Salgado for the crime of homicide and abuse of authority against Emerson Martínez Henríquez.

The families were right

Five years after the massacre that sent Honduran Mosquitia into grieving, a report from the U.S. State and Justice Departments reveals that the DEA lied to Congress, to officials from the Justice Department and to the general public. In addition, it mis-planned the operation, didn't completely investigate the incidents and provided inexact information to officials from the Justice Department and Congress. 

In its report, the Justice Department's Inspector General does find evidence to back up the DEA's story.
“Even as information became available to D.E.A. that conflicted with its initial reporting, including that the passenger boat may have been a water taxi carrying passengers on an overnight trip, D.E.A. officials remained steadfast,” points out today's New York Times, citing the report.

At no time, the report continues, were they able to corroborate the story that the individuals who were attacked by Honduran agents were narco-traffickers trying to transport drugs.

"The report demonstrates that the family members of the victims were right about the violation of their human rights. It shows that the statements, both by the DEA and the Honduran state, were false. Now they will have to answer for their lies and for having manipulated the facts and even stigmatized the population of the Mosquitia indigenous communities," said Miriam Miranda, coordinator of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), who has taken on the legal representation of the victims' families. 

"Once again they show that the supposed policy of fighting drug trafficking generates human rights violations amongst the peoples of local communities," Miranda told LINyM.

Families demand justice

“My sister was massacred. Her body was floating in the river's waters and had four bullet wounds. She was only 28 years old and was five months pregnant. I am a single mother with four children and I had to take on her two children. A very, tremendously difficult situation. I am alone and I don't know how to keep going," said Marlen Zelaya Jackson, sister of Juana Jackson Ambrosio yesterday during the Second National Gathering of Indigenous and Black Women of Honduras (Segundo Encuentro Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas y Negras de Honduras).

“We haven't had any response from the authorities. These people are to blame, even the report from the U.S. says so. We have always been right and now they have to pay for what they did. We demand justice," Zelaya Jackson concluded.

[1] This text includes portions from the broad report published by Opera Mundi (aquí en español)
Source: LINyM
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