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14 March 2016 | Interviews | Water | Criminalization of COPINH | Free Honduras | Land grabbing | Resisting neoliberalism | Human rights | Gender | Climate Justice and Energy | Social activists at risk | Berta lives on!
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On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday there will be several demonstrations in Honduras in response to the murder of Lenca indigenous leader Berta Caceres, former Coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).
"There´s a great unity. What´s more important is that there is a strong coordination with human rights organizations, indigenous peoples, black people and also peasant and intellectual sectors. I think that this movement is incredibly strong" said Juan Almendarez, of the Movimiento Madre Tierra - Friends of the Earth Honduras, in an interview with Real World Radio.
He also highlighted the "global uproar" in response to the murder of Berta and in solidarity with Mexican activist Gustavo Castro (who witnessed the murder and is now being denied permission to return home by the Honduran authorities) and his family.
According to Almendarez, on Wednesday there will be a huge mobilization organized by the National Coalition of Environmental Networks (CONROA), which gathers over 30 organizations and where social communicators, some students and teachers, peasants and indigenous people will also participate.
In addition, on Thursday and Friday there will be demonstrations carried out by other organized sectors, such as Garifuna indigenous people, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), among others.
Nevertheless, "we are all united and these are different expressions of solidarity and national uproar for environmental justice", Almendarez highlighted. He also took the opportunity to thank Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) and Friends of the Earth International organizations for their support.
Almendarez insisted on the need to punish those responsible for the murder of Berta, for the situation experienced by her family and the persecution of COPINH. Nevertheless, he thinks it is necessary to provide a wider framework of the current situation in Honduras. About this, he said that "human rights violations and the persecution of indigenous sectors prevail in Honduras, especially against the Lenca people, OFRANEH and all sectors of the ethnic diversity of the country". He also highlighted the "persecution against the peasant sector" which is undergoing a "psychological war" that is threatening "some important leaders of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguan".
The environmental activist also expressed his concern over the "lives of all social leaders in a highly militarized country, where there is really no respect for justice or human rights". In particular, he called attention to the life of Salvador Zúñiga, also an indigenous leader, and Berta´s husband for over 20 years.
The international pressure and solidarity over Berta´s death and the restriction of Gustavo’s (coordinator of Otros Mundos Chiapas - Friends of the Earth Mexico) movements in Honduras has been "fundamental", stated Almendarez. But "we need to continue fighting, we need to continue exerting pressure for international visits by human rights organizations, professionals, intellectuals, international lawyers (...) and also demand more international cooperation in the framework of justice, ethics and respect for human rights". "The detention of Gustavo Castro, really, in my opinion, as a witness, as a victim, makes this a case of psychological torture and inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment", said the representative of the Movimiento Madre Tierra.
The environmental activist also said that the brother of Gustavo Castro and his lawyer are in Honduras, meeting with representatives of several sectors of society and open to meet with the national government.
Almendarez highlighted that there isn´t an official report about the investigations conducted over the murder of Berta. However, he said that "it is important to have some kind of dialogue with the authorities". Along these lines, he highlighted that he is trying to generate a space for dialogue between a group of renowned figures of Honduras and the government "for a report to be submitted and to proceed with Gustavo Castro´s freedom, to stop the persecution against indigenous sectors and to investigate the company DESA (responsible for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project COPINH is resisting and that had Berta as the main leader of the resistance) because the government has done absolutely nothing". Berta and COPINH denounced several times that they were being threatened by representatives and gunmen of the company.
At the end of the interview, Almendarez made a national and international call "to fight for justice, peace and human rights".
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