Amid widening violence and ongoing protests, members of the Honduras National Police force—including those within the U.S.-trained units known as the Cobras—say they are refusing to obey orders from the right-wing government of the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, who has used the security forces to crackdown on demonstrators and imposed a curfew amid allegations of voter fraud in recent elections.
“We want peace, and we will not follow government orders – we’re tired of this,” a spokesperson for the police told reporters outside the national police headquarters on Monday. “We aren’t with a political ideology. We can’t keep confronting people, and we don’t want to repress and violate the rights of the Honduran people.” Continue reading →
“We are fighting for our lands, for our water, for our lives,” Jakeline (right), who has received death threats for protesting mining in Colombia, told Global Witness for the report. (Photo: Global Witness)
Last year was the deadliest in history to be an environmental activist, according to a new report that found, on average, nearly four people were killed per week.
Defenders of the Earth, released by U.K.-based human rights group Global Witness, lists the names and locations of 200 environmental advocates who were killed around the world. While the report found Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines were the nations with the most murdered environmentalists in 2016, Honduras has been the deadliest country for environmental activists over the last decade. Continue reading →
The civil rights group had filed an emergency request for the meeting in January, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Photo: Karla Cote/flickr/cc)
The U.S. failed to show up to a human rights hearing in an “unprecedented show of disrespect to the international community,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Tuesday.
In a surprise move, the government ditched a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an arm of the Organization of American States, where the ACLU had planned to drill officials on the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration; its ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries; and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), among other issues. Continue reading →
Let us wake up! Let us wake up, humankind! We’re out of time. We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction.
These are the words of Berta Cáceres, the community organizer, human rights defender, environmental activist, indigenous Lenca woman, leader and rebel who was shot dead one year ago, on March 3, 2016, by unidentified gunmen at her home in La Esperanza, the capital city of the department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras.
Berta was a co-founder of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), an organization fighting neoliberalism and patriarchy in Honduras and working for respect of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples in particular. She was a long-term opponent of internationally funded exploitative development projects in indigenous territories in Honduras, such as the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, set to be built on the territory of the Lenca people in the Río Blanco. Continue reading →
A prominent Honduran leader of a rural land rights movement was killed on Monday night in what supporters claim was an assassination organized by wealthy landowners.
Jose Angel Flores, president of the Unified Campesinos Movement of the Aguan Valley, or MUCA, had been under police protection since March, teleSUR reported, after the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights ordered the Honduran state to protect him from death threats in 2014. Continue reading →
Members of COPINH hold a rally in Honduras during an international day of action for Berta Cáceres in June. (Photo: COPINH)
Another Indigenous environmental activist has been killed in Honduras, teleSUR reports.
The activist, identified as Lesbia Yaneth Urquía Urquía, was abducted and found dead near a municipal dump with severe head trauma on Wednesday.
Urquía was a member of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Indigenous rights group founded by slain activist Berta Cáceres. Urquía “fought against the building of hydroelectric power plants on Indigenous land,” according to teleSUR.Continue reading →
Justice for Berta Cáceres demonstation, Washington DC. Photo: Slowking4 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons
It appears the United States government is not the only one in the world with a ‘kill list.’
According to new reporting by the Guardian published Tuesday, U.S.-trained special forces units within the Honduras military are operating an assassination program—complete with a hitlist comprised of names and photos—that targets social justice and environmental activists with “elimination.” Continue reading →
Today, March 8, 2016, is International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is “Pledge for Parity” and will be recognized around the world as women gather in discussion, workshops, rallies and through outreach programs to not only celebrate the achievements of women in the past, but to also encourage future endeavors and accomplishments.
Pledge For Parity. We thought throughout the last year about who, while aligning with the mission and values we hold to, best represented the struggle of fighting for equality, be it gender, nationality, economic or ethnic in orientation. The goal with this year’s theme is to raise global awareness and bring women center-front in roles of governance, leadership, employment and opportunities in education. Efforts are also being made to eliminate gender-specific issues such as child brides, female genital mutilation, honor killings and other forms of female oppression and dehumanization to exert control.
Women have led the way in activism as well. If it were not for Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center in Flint. Michigan, the world might still not know of the lead-poisioned water crisis still unfolding there. Without Jane Kleib and her efforts with Bold Nebraska, there would most likely be a really ugly pipeline being installed in Nebraska. If it were not for the life of Rozerin Chukar, we might not have a full understanding of the tragedy unfolding in Turkey’s SE region. All these women are considered worthy of the honor of our International Woman of the Year award.
Unfortunately, something occurred last Thursday that simplified our task, leading to our first and hopefully last posthumous nomination for International Woman of the Year.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Our 2016 International Woman of the Year award goes to Berta Cáceres, the co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). An internationally known indigenous and environmental activist and organizer, Berta was assassinated in her home last Thursday. Democracy Now! ran an excellent piece on her the morning after she was assassinated; we’ve taken the liberty of republishing it here:
Honduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres has been assassinated in her home. She was one of the leading organizers for indigenous land rights in Honduras.
In 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). For years the group faced a series of threats and repression.
According to Global Witness, Honduras has become the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental campaigners were killed in the country.
In 2015 Berta Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. In awarding the prize, the Goldman Prize committee said, “In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.”
HONDURAS–At approximately 11:45pm last night, the General Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. COPINH is urgently responding to this tragic situation.
Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources.
Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people.
Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.
Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated. In Rio Blanco on February 20, 2016, Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH’s work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta Cáceres had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.
Since the 2009 military coup, that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm–most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.
Journalists and media workers continue to confront relentless pressure as they do their jobs, according to a survey of the verified incidents reported to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project. Image via X-Index.
From targeted bombings to fatal crossfire, the year 2015 was violent and deadly for journalists around the world, particularly those based in the Americas and Middle East, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said Friday.
According to a survey by the organization, at least 109 journalists and media workers were slain by “targeted killings, bomb attacks, and cross-fire incidents.”
While the Charlie Hebdo media workers killed in 2015 perhaps had the highest profile, the plurality of those struck down were lesser-known nationals of the Americas (27) followed by the Middle East (25), Asia-Pacific (21), and Africa (19).
Joel Aquiles Torres, owner of the Honduran TV station Canal 67, was one of those killed. He was “shot dead while driving his car in Taulabe in the department of Comayagua on 3 of July,” according to UNESCO.
Ali al-Ansari, an Iraqi journalist for Al-Ghadeer, was killed “while covering fighting between the Iraqi security forces and militants of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the Muqdadiyah area north of Baghdad,” IFJ reports.
“Sadly, there were scores of unreported killings, and unless the journalist is a well-known by-lined correspondent the world barely notices,” said IFJ president Jim Boumelha in a statement accompanying the report.
“Journalism is put daily to the sword in many regions of the world,” Boumelha continued, “where extremists, drug lords and reckless warring factions continue murdering journalists with impunity.”
The IFJ’s findings follow a separate round-up released earlier this week by Reporters Without Borders, known by their French acronym RSF.
According to RSF, which uses different criteria to establish their conclusions, at least 110 journalists around the world were killed in 2015 “in connection with their work or for unclear reasons.” The organization said it can definitively conclude that 67 of those people were “targeted because of their work or were killed while reporting.”
Most journalists directly targeted, or killed for unclear reasons, hailed from Iraq, Syria, France, Yemen, and South Sudan respectively, RSF revealed.
The organization noted that the majority of journalists knowingly killed in 2015—64 percent—were struck down outside of what is recognized as an official war zone. What’s more, last year’s grim tally brought the number of journalists killed since 2005 to 787.
While IFJ and RSF both reached slightly varying conclusions, both organizations agree that journalists across the globe are inadequately protected.
According to Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, the organization’s reports over the last quarter century “have clearly shown that journalists and media staff have become easy targets because there is very little respect for national and international laws that are supposed to protect them.”
After an irregular entry into Mexico near Ciudad Hidalgo, to move north through the country, to the US border, many Central and South American migrants begin their journey in Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico, the railhead of the freight train known as ‘La Bestia’ (The Beast), climbing atop of the rail cars, exposed to the elements and extortion by criminal gangs lying in wait along the route. Vendors sell food, water and cardboard pallets to lie on for the journey.
A year after President Barack Obama launched a program to grant asylum to Central American children fleeing violence or seeking to reunite with family members, the statistics are in: not one child has made it to the U.S. through that initiative.
New analysis by the New York Times published Thursday reveals that the Central American Minors Program, established last December, received asylum applications from more than 5,400 children in countries like El Salvador and Honduras, most of whom are seeking to escape street gangs or sexual assault—but none of them have been accepted.
In fact, only 90 children total were even interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security, and only 85 qualified for any sort of refugee status and even they remain languishing because their paperwork has not been filed.
“Really, it’s pathetic that no child has come through this program,” Lavinia Limón, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants nonprofit, told the Times. Referring to administrative officials, she added, “I wonder if it were their child living in the murder capital of the world, whether they would have more sense of urgency.”
The Times writes:
The Central American Minors program also allows the Department of Homeland Security to grant a two-year temporary entry into the United States for children who do not qualify as refugees. Those immigrants must apply to renew their entry status every two years and are not eligible to pursue American citizenship.
Obama announced his plan in response to the groundswell of young refugees making the dangerous and often-deadly trek across the U.S. border in massive numbers last year. But as immigration and human rights experts noted at the time, the program’s heartening promises of assisting vulnerable children did nothing to address sluggish bureaucratic roadblocks and ignored the U.S.’s own role in fueling the refugee crisis.
As Ivy Suriyopas, co-chair of the anti-trafficking group Freedom Network, explained in an op-ed last year:
[A]lthough the number of unaccompanied minors dropped in August, the 4,000 slots allocated for refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean for fiscal year 2015 is grossly insufficient.
In June alone, more than 10,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S. border and in the ten months since October 2013, nearly 63,000 children have been identified at the border.
With so few spots and so many refugees, the Times wrote on Thursday, it’s little wonder the program has failed so completely.
“We need to fix the program so that it works and so that children have a real opportunity to get protection,” said Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “They have to make the program workable. Right now, it’s not workable.”
State Department officials defended the delays, saying it was important to move slowly to avoid making mistakes. And principal deputy assistant secretary of state Simon Henshaw said the department was preparing to interview more than 400 children next month.
But that means little to children who are stuck in a violent limbo while their applications wait for processing.
“They have set up an elaborate, bureaucratic, step-by-step system,” said Limón. “The children are in danger, and they can’t wait. It’s just sad, and, I think, indefensible.”