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“When the government tells us that we are not indigenous people, they are taking our culture away (...) we can´t accept that the right to prior consultation is limited to a few people invited to luxury hotels". This was Maura Eligia Duarte, of the Pech indigenous people of Honduras, during a mobilization outside the United Nations Office in Tegucigalpa, which protested against what is considered by Garifuna and indigenous organizations as the manipulation of the free, prior and informed consultation principle related to megaprojects in the territory.
"Now we have two dams in our territory and there are plans to build other projects that will affect the rivers that sustain us. There wasn´t any consultation for these other projects, and when we voiced our rejection, they excluded us, saying that we were not indigenous people", said Maura in an interview with Real World Radio.
The mobilization that took place in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras, on April 20th, aimed to express their rejection to the UN support to the prior consultation mechanism implemented by the Juan Orlando Hernández-led administration.
“Honduras is a country where the judicial system has collapsed. But native people will continue to defend our natural resources" (Miriam Miranda-OFRANEH)
ILO Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples was passed in 1989 and it is the main international instrument on indigenous people rights which has been ratified by over 22 countries as of 2016.
The Convention highlights the right to work of indigenous and tribal peoples and their right to land and the territory, to health and education. And it establishes that States and investors are mandated to carry out a free, prior and informed consultation for every project that could affect these rights.
"This Convention belongs to everyone, for those who are small, and for the big ones", said Maura, member of the Indigenous Women Organization of Honduras.
The demonstration was carried out in the framework of the presence of the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples´ Rights, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, of the Philippines.
During the demonstration, Real World Radio also interviewed Miriam Miranda, of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH, Garifuna), who highlighted that the Honduran government is aiming to impose its own criteria and interests to native peoples.
OFRANEH and COPINH have been excluded from the "consultation" process, denounced Miriam, while she reminded that several members of these groups are being prosecuted for defending their territories.
The Garifuna leader said that in the past years, several UN rapporteurs have visited the country, despite which the situation continues to worsen, showing that "Honduras is a country where the judicial system has collapsed. But native people will continue to defend our natural resources, not for us alone, but for the entire Honduran people".
And she said that in previous visits of Tauli Corpuz, Berta Cáceres, representative of the Lenca people, murdered in March 2016, had warned her about the constant threats against territorial defenders, sadly paying with her life the truth of her statements.
*We thank Andrés Molina, communicator of Madre Tierra – Friends of the Earth Honduras, for his collaboration on this report.
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