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Two human rights activists, Orlane Vidal from France and Daniel Langmeier from Switzerland, were kidnapped by gunmen in Nueva Esperanza, Honduras. Both international observers working for the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH) were kidnapped for two and a half hours by men with fire arms and machetes.
Langmeier told Real World Radio about the incidents of July 24: “First they surrounded us, they insulted us saying we were communists, that Venezuela was paying us our salary, and when they released us they told us that if we came back they would disappear us in the forest and that if we said anything about what happened they would harm the people of Nueva Esperanza”.
The incident happened amid a struggle led by the peasant community of Nueva Esperanza against a mining project in the area. Vidal and Langmeier were staying at the home of a family that had received threats for refusing to sell their lands to Minerales Victoria company. Armed groups have been watching the company’s work in the property of Lenir Perez for two months now. They have scared people and they have intimidated those who refuse to leave their lands. After their release, the two members of PROAH filed a report before the authorities but so far there has not been any response.
Langmeier told Real World Radio about the kidnapping and about the current situation in Honduras, four years after the coup d’état staged by Roberto Micheletti and the country’s military forces. He spoke about the failed State, where problems like drug trafficking, corruption and violence against people are very common.
In response to this situation and to requests by the community of Nueva Esperanza, PROAH has been present in the area since September of 2010 by disseminating information, issuing international alerts and visiting the area. Since early 2013 the people of Nueva Esperanza have been suffering repression and intimidation as a result of their peaceful resistance to the mining project. The local residents were neither informed not consulted about the project. Besides, some peasants have decided to abandon their lands and leave as a result of the pressure to sell their lands.
The Project of Minerales Victoria is part of the new Mining Law passed on January 23 under which nearly 300 concessions are planned in nearly 15% of the national territory. The law has serious repercussions: granting populated lands and evicting communities. Companies have propriety in the use of water. Technical and financial information are private and therefore stays under the companies’ or the government’s control. There is lack of free, prior and informed consultation to the communities that would be affected by the projects. The consultation processes are provided under ILO’s Convention 169, ratified by Honduras.
Langmeier said there is “a discredit and criminalization campaign by the State against human rights defenders. PROAH launched an urgent action to demand the immediate withdrawal of the gunmen from Nueva Esperanza and measures to stop the harassments and threats against the members of the community.
“No queremos ser mártires, no queremos que hayan más mártires en este país, pero también hay una responsabilidad histórica de hacer valer la palabra y demostrar que tenemos derecho a la construcción de un mundo mejor. Y no podemos huir a esa responsabilidad”, dijo a Radio Mundo Real la dirigente garífuna Miriam Miranda, coordinadora de la Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH).
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