Two months after the COP 21 climate talks in Paris, where countries agreed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in the German city of Bonn, the G8 nations are pressed to increase their contributions to the Green Climate Fund in order to finance mitigation and adaptation projects in the particularly vulnerable nations of the Global South.
Some 9000 km away, in the Honduran town of Marcala, western Honduras, Ana Miriam Romero gave birth to a baby son on February 2. Her joy at becoming a mother again was quickly overshadowed by the knowledge that she and her husband, Rosalio Vazquez Pineda, no longer have a home to return to. Four days earlier, on January 29, a gang of police and paramilitaries set fire and razed their humble, straw-roofed dwelling to the ground, destroying all of the couple’s meagre belongings. According to CEHPRODEC, a Development and Peace partner, the purpose of the attack was to defend a controversial hydroelectric dam project, funded by international climate funds.
As president of the San Isidro branch of MILPAH – the Indigenous Lenca Movement of La Paz – Rosalio Vazquez has spearheaded community resistance to the Los Encinos project, which threatens the community’s food and water supply. CEHPRODEC is supporting MILPAH in defence of the Lenca’s rights.
Water pipe connecting to the new dam.
The Lenca are one of Honduras’ eight indigenous peoples, and they are among the poorest of the poor in the country. In Marcala, the government has confiscated 102 hectares of their land for hydroelectric projects, failing to consult with the Lenca beforehand, as is their obligation under ILO Convention 169, an international treaty ratified by Honduras.
MILPAH supports the efforts of the Lenca majority to defend their land and demands that the Lenca be consulted prior to the implementation of any project. The grassroots movement is active in a particularly violent area of Honduras, where arms circulate and paramilitaries and paid assassins defend the interests of the mighty. The hydro-electric concessions in this area have been awarded to one of the most powerful women in Honduras, Gladys Aurora Lopez, vice-president of the Congress and president of the ruling National Party.
In 2015, a total of 20 Lenca leaders were murdered in suspicious circumstances, and the Lenca are subject to constant threats and intimidation. For example, Rosalio Vazquez has been falsely accused of murder of another indigenous man, despite the fact that there is already a man in prison for the murder and the MILPAH leader has a solid alibi with witnesses who can testify that he was not in the bar where the murder took place.
His wife, Ana Miriam, did not have an easy pregnancy. On 22 October 2015, during her 24th week, the family home was illegally raided at dawn by police and military, who beat family members, including Ana Miriam and her pregnant sister-in-law, who lost her baby. Ana Miriam ended up spending a week in hospital and her baby survived.
On Friday 12 and Saturday February 13, CEHPRODEC will organize a caravan for Honduran human rights. During the entire weekend, indigenous and peasant organizations will parade through the streets of Marcala, attend the peasant-indigenous Mass, and participate in a cultural event to draw attention to the plight of the Lenca. The event will call on the Honduran government to respect the Lenca’s lands and heed a call by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to provide protection for Ana Miriam and Rosalio Vazquez, as well as other threatened leaders.
You can show your solidarity by signing the international petition started by CEHPRODEC and by sending a short message in French, English or Spanish to Ana Miriam Romero, Rosalio Vazquez, and other members of MILPAH on Facebook page.