Sunday, December 8, 2013

Honduras Delegation - The Struggle for Democracy, Human Rights, & the Environment

On August 10, 2013 a delegation arrived in the capital Tegucigalpa from the USA and Canada to embark on a journey that documents the human rights crisis in Honduras. Dozens of people shared their stories of resistencia (resistance) for human, land and environmental rights against a repressive regime that currently reigns over the country following the 2009 military coup d'etat. 

Below is the first set of a series of documentary footage from our journey:


Among the many people we visited, who are resisting repression and brutality by the current ruling Nationalist Party, included:
  • Indigenous Lenca activists who are defending their native land in Rio Blanco from a hydro-electric dam project; 
  • Garifuna communities, descendants of escaped African slaves, living along the coasts of Triunfo de la Cruz and San Juan whose land is being usurped in order to build resort hotels; 
  • Campesinos in La Panama in the Aguan Valley who have been terrorized by and are seeking justice for the brutal murder of Gregorio Chavez from multi-million dollar land baron Miguel Facusse; 
  • A worker led community cooperative named MUCA (united campensino movement) who are fighting to keep from being evicted from their land; 
  • Political prisoner Isabel "Chavelo" Morales being held in La Ceiba prison; 
  • Displaced communities in Nueva Esperanza who are being repressed by iron oxide mining interests; and others in the struggle for human rights and justice.

The first stop after arriving in the capital was the small, rural community of Siria Valley which has been torn apart and lives destroyed due to the mining operations of a Canadian-based gold company named Goldcorp. "For [the] mining company to come and for their vision of wealth and money, we lost a community," says Roberto, who lost his daughter due to environmental contamination of the water and who has also suffered health impacts due to the mining operations.


"At first, we had the problem that was psychological which was caused because we were evicted from that area where we had lived. And then after, another impact was the issue where the company dug a well for human consumption of the water, which was later found to be contaminated with arsenic and caused a lot of problems in the community," says Roberto.

Currently, the Honduran people are struggling to etch out a democracy following the most recent elections on November 24, 2013. However, signs do not seem hopeful and the ruling National Party refuses to relinquish power by any means necessary. For the most current information on the election results visit Rights Action.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday Protest in Solidarity with Walmart workers in Lubbock

While Walmart keeps its wages low, and its workers are dependent on government assistance, guess who has to foot the bill? The hypocrisy is that while conservatives complain about federal government spending, yet at the same time don't support living wages for dead-end jobs, this means that the federal government must spend more to support those who can't afford health care or who depend on food stamps.

And these corporations are raking in billions, while they sell us useless items made by sweat shop labor and make us obese with their industrialized, fatty foods. One solution is to avoid these mega-super stores like Walmart or McDonald's, to name a few, and to support your local economy by shopping at local retailers.

Lubbock Texas, a city of less than 250,000 people, has four Walmart superstores, with an additional two others in nearby  towns. This attests to the level of poverty and gentrification that exists in this small, university town.

Just three people showed up at the Walmart on 4th and Avenue Q on Friday, November 29 in solidarity with OUR Walmart Black Friday actions across the nation. However, in a city this small, three people can actually make a difference!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Context of Violence and Human Rights Abuses in Honduras

By: Karen Spring

Honduras has maintained a two party political system for decades. However, in the wake of the June 28, 2009 military coup a strong new political force emerged, the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) which sought to oppose the coup through peaceful means. After overthrown president Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras, the decision to participate in the 2013 General Elections was taken by the resistance movement and the FNRP, and the first major third political party in the modern history of Honduras was created: the Libertad y Refundación (Freedom and Refoundation) party, or LIBRE.

Including LIBRE candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, there are eight presidential candidates participating in the November elections involving nine political parties, as one, new, non-traditional party formed an alliance with the existing Unión Democrática (UD) party.

Though President Porfirio Lobo’s post-coup regime has been promoted internationally as a government of ‘Unity and National Reconciliation’, it includes none of the key actors who were forcibly removed from power during the 2009 coup. The Canadian and United States government as well as the European Union have stood behind the false projection of reconciliation and unity projected by the Honduran government.

Lobo’s term in office has been marked by unprecedented levels of violence: Honduras today has one of the highest homicide rates in the world coupled with a high impunity rate. The Lobo government’s efforts to persuade the international community that the government is taking effective action against the country’s rampant violence - as Honduran Vice President María Antonieta Guillén attempted to do at the UN Assembly on September 27, 2013 - has been followed by continued massacres and killings in Honduran streets and the on-going systematic targeting of political opponents and social activists.

Since the 2009 coup, international human rights organizations including the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Commission, and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have noted gross human rights abuses particularly targeting certain sectors of Honduran society – lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders, and opponents of the current post-coup military regime.

The 2013 General Elections will occur in a historical and on-going context of gross human rights abuses committed by the current government and the 5-month de facto government of Roberto Micheletti that preceded it, June – November 2009. A lot weighs on the results of the General Elections, whether it’s the US Government and OAS hoping for a seemingly clean, democratic and reliable election, or the sympathizers of the LIBRE party, hoping for a transformation of Honduran society as per the promises and principles of the FNRP.

The coup and its repercussions over the last four years have polarized Honduran society. At odds are those hoping to change the status quo and reject the interests behind the 2009 coup – largely the FNRP and the political party that grew from that movement, the LIBRE party - and those that perpetrated and/or supported the coup and hope to maintain the status quo - largely business elites, the two traditional political parties (the National and Liberal Parties) and its allies.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Health Emergency in Siria Valley, Honduras

A public health emergency has been declared in Siria Valley, Honduras by its local environmental committee, despite repeated attempts by the community and human rights organizations for the public prosecutor to help. 

Our human rights delegation visited the small farming communities of El Pedernal and Palo Ralo on August 12, 2013. Once a major supplier of food staples such as beans, milk, meat and other products, this community has been devastated by the mining operations of Goldcorp, a Canadian-based gold mining company.

Although mining operations of the San Martin mine began around 2000 and ended in 2008, the community continues to suffer from the environmental impacts caused by the toxic chemicals used in the mining process. These health impacts include skin rashes, discoloration, lesions, hair loss, gastrointestinal disorders, and tumors, and are most likely caused by water contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic.

To add insult to injury, Goldcorp had the audacity to construct an ¨eco-tourism¨ park on contaminated land, which offers a tour of the mine, a tilapia fish farm, and corralled white tailed deer.

The community was not consulted and 13 families were displaced by the construction of this mine. The Siria Valley Environmental Committee submitted the following demands to the Office of the Public Prosecutor and have yet to receive a reply:

1. Declare a public health emergency in the valley
2. Re-do the blood and urine tests by the government
3. Compensate the victims suffering with health impacts
4. Locate the source of the contamination

Friday, November 1, 2013

Letter to my Congress-members Urging them to Support Diplomacy and Oppose Extremism

Dear Representatives and Senators,

Efforts to end the nuclear standoff with Iran is being thwarted by powerful extremists in our country including some of your colleagues in Congress. I am asking that you stand up for diplomacy instead of for war and sanctions!

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has made it clear that he will do all in his power to push for war and support hateful, dehumanizing ideology in public.

Billionair Sheldon Adelson - the face of hate! [photo credit: NIAC.org]

The choice that you have is clear: continue to support more sanctions and the military industrial complex, dimming the future for new generations, or will you support democracy and peace?

At the same time, nuclear negotiations must be in good faith and not include threatening behavior by anyone representing a political party, by any new sanctions, or by an unrealistic demand requiring a zero-enrichment policy.

Iraq and Syria are fresh on people's minds. Recent polls indicate that 76% of Americans - including majorities in both parties - support direct diplomacy with Iran to resolve the nuclear issue. The American public is tired of war with no end. I implore you to have the courage to stand up against these war mongers and keep another war from happening.

I await your decision and I look forward to see where you stand.

Monday, September 9, 2013

No War on Syria Lubbock, Texas

People mobilized in solidarity with Syrians in hundred of actions across the USA on 9-9-13 in order to oppose any US military intervention. This is despite the fact that many of our "representatives" in Congress were still undecided on the Syrian Authorization for Use of Military Force authorizing a 2-3 month mini-war on the country.

The same day Obama was to plead his case before Congress, Russia apparently stepped in to broker a deal between the Assad regime and world powers to surrender its chemical weapons to avoid war with the USA. 

video

Were we, the people, responsible for changing the direction of Obama's administration because he could't get enough support in Congress to go to war? 

But it's not over! Recent reports say President Obama has met with Kuwait's emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah on Friday, September 13! This is while Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov continue their negotiations in Geneva!


Lubbock is one of the most conservative cities in the entire nation, yet the majority of people don't want an attack! Thank you to Occupy Lubbock and Moveon.org





Thursday, August 22, 2013

La Resistencia de Honduras

The follow are pictures from a recent human rights delegation in Honduras that documented the humanitarian crisis, but also the tenacity of the human spirit to resist oppression.

Protesters march to the hearing against Berta Caceres, Tomas Gomez, and Aureliano Molina of COPINH as part of the judicial persecution aimed at breaking the Rio Blanco Lenca people's resistance to the Agua Zarca dam being illegally constructed in their territory in La Esperanza on August 14, 2013.

"We don't want dams, mining, wind turbines, repression," one sign reads at the protest.

The Lenca people of the Rio Blanco sand in protest on the steps of the court house in La Esperanza.

A Garifuna woman shows her yucca plantation in Triunfo de la Cruz on community held land being closed-in on by land barons seeking to develop resort hotels and houses on the Caribbean coast. 

Garifuna women harvest their yucca.

Garifuna women's cooperative that makes the yucca into cassava bread.



Prison in La Ceiba, Honduras

Political prisoner Isabel Morales (Chavelo) in prison in La Ceiba on August 17, 2013. 

'Evil' African palm tree plantation. 

African palm fruit.

Brother of Greogio Chavez, a campesino in the community of La Panama in the Aguan Valley whose brutal murder was never investigated by the state. but was like committed by Facusse's hired men.

Siria Valley has been devastated by Canadian-based Goldcorp, which left the community with water contaminated with heavy metals.