We have suffered recent physical aggression from the employees of the corporation Energetic Development, SA, DESA, property of the Atala family, during a territory control exercise during the international solidarity campaign to the Gualcarque river, as part of the International Gathering “Berta Cáceres Lives,” after the spiritual and intercultural ceremony for our compañera Berta Cáceres. People were wounded and seriously injured.
It occurred around 5:00 PM, after our compañeras and compañeros from COPINH and some national and international participants of the International Gathering “Berta Cáceres Lives” had peacefully retired from the ceremony and were walking towards San Francisco de Ojuera to take rides back to Tecupigalpa.
Around 20 employees and DESA supporters, most of them in apparent states of inebriation, ambushed the peaceful walk, hitting us with sticks and stones–including foreigners and children. The aggression was done in plain sight [by the patient] national police and military assigned by the government of Juan Orlando Hernández to support DESA.
The corporation DESA has threatened COPINH and at the International Gathering “Berta Cáceres Lives in a public forum published on April 12 on their site:
This behavior is reoccurring, exemplified by public threats our compañera Berta Cáceres received, days before she was murdered, and within the context of protogenocidal action against COPINH and the town of Lenca. Threats made by this corporation were made under the blanket of impunity offered by the Public Ministry, the national police, and the military.
The aggressors mentioned that they wanted to find Tomás Gómez, the new General Coordinator of COPINH, while they shouted loudly, “Let’s attack him! He’s the one that’s stayed behind.” They have threatened by first and last name Sotero Chavarría (who was injured with stones), participant of the General Coordination of COPINH.
Amid the aggressors’ screams they told the victims, “We have killed the fly and now the plebs are left,” referring to compañera Berta Cáceres.
COPINH mentions also that it holds the United States government responsible for their financial and logistic support to the military and police, who are dedicated to protecting the property of the Hydroelectric Project Aguarazca, in the Gualcarque river, within the policy of demonizing COPINH and the town of Lenca from the government and from DESA, and the lack of response by the government to this call to end the methods of repression and murder against the Honduran people, it makes you accomplices of those behaviors.
It is also worth noting that aggression occurred in the same place when, on February 20 , armed men (union and employees) of DESA, military, and police wanted to kill Berta Cáceres. She herself and COPINH made that fact known, but the authorities did not respond. Eleven days later our compañera Berta Cáceres was murdered in her own bedroom.
Berta’s death was the fifth murder committed against people opposing the hydroelectric project, in the violent zone of the Republic’s Constitution, the OIT Convention 169, the International Pact for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Convention for the Prevention and Sanction of Genocide, and the Penal Code of Honduras.
COPINH makes it known to the national and international community that it holds the state of Honduras responsible, as well as the DESA corporation, the Atala family, the municipal corporation of San Francisco de Ojuera, for the recent aggression against the participants of the International Gathering “Berta Cáceres Lives,” who are still trapped in a danger zone. We make an urgent call to the international community to demand that the Honduran government stop the genocidal exercises against the town of Lenca and COPINH which are done to plunder the land for commercial gain for the Honduran government and its officials.
With ancestral strength from Icelaca, Lempira, Mota, and Etempica our voices are lifted, full of life, justice, liberty, dignity, and peace!
San Francisco de Ojuera, April 15, 2016
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) is an Indigenous Lenca organization made up of 200 Lenca communities in the western Honduran states of Intibuca, Lempira, La Paz, and Santa Barbara. COPINH was born in 1993 when the Indigenous and popular movements in the Honduran state of Intibuca came together to stop logging and advance popular struggles. Today, COPINH encompasses 4 states in western Honduras and struggles for the rights of the Lenca people, including environmental, cultural, economic, social, health, education, and Indigenous rights. COPINH defends the Lenca territory and our natural resources as part of our Lenca cosmovision of respect for Mother Earth.
For over 20 years, the Lenca people organized in COPINH have defended our communities and natural resources from logging, dams, mining projects, and other megaproyects that would destroy our way of life and environment. We have stopped at least 50 logging projects that would have deforested our land and forests and 10 hydroelectric dams that threatened Lenca communities, including the huge Tigre Dam project on the border of Honduras and El Salvador. Together with other Indigenous organizations we successfully pressured that the Honduran government to ratify ILO Convention 169 on the Rights of Indigenous People, which includes the right to free, prior, and informed consultation of Indigenous communities about projects that affect us. COPINH has also successfully fought for the creation and funding of health centers and schools in Lenca communities.
COPINH has also worked to obtain communal land titles for Indigenous communities as a way of defending our territory and natural resources from incursion and destruction. We have won over 100 communal land titles, which are governed by community land councils, as well as the creation of 2 Indigenous municipalities and the declaration of protected zones to prevent logging.
Through General Assemblies COPINH has also taken a strong position on women´s rights and works to address machismo and promote respect for leadership of women in our communities and organizations. COPINH acts in solidarity with many other struggles and is active in national and international struggles and networks.
In 2009, a military coup removed Honduras´ president and ushered in an era of repression, militarization, violence, and repression of social movements. Those who seized power following the coup have set about imposing an extreme right-wing neoliberal agenda, especially the privatization and selling off of Honduras´ natural resourches to corporations for profit. A new Military Police has been created in addition to the police and military which already patrol the country, and these security forces in addition to private hitmen are used to terrorize and murder those who defend our natural resources and communities from being plundered and destroyed. COPINH struggles for life, for defense of Mother Earth, for Indigenous autonomy, and for a world where the rights as Indigenous people and all people are respected.