Honduras: Focus on Friends of the Earth Honduras
Juan Almendares, FoE Honduras, talks about violent evictions and environmental justice
First of all, I consider myself to belong to the people of Honduras and to humankind with all the rights that brings.
They say we were “discovered” more than 500 years ago, but the reality is that we had already discovered ourselves. For in the veins of my people runs a rainbow of blood: the indigenous peoples of Honduras and the English-speakers of African descent, mixed with other families from different parts of the globe.
I was born and raised in an environment of poverty and violence, where alcoholism and prostitution flourished. When I was six years old, the government ordered all the schoolteachers to make us witness the execution of a prisoner. I still remember the trauma of seeing how they blew out the brains of this person who had been deprived of his freedom. When I was eight, someone was commissioned to assassinate my father, in order to take away a piece of his land, and I saw him almost decapitated. As a child I saw campesinos (rural workers) at the United Fruit Company kill each other with machetes while under the effect of alcohol, and saw soldiers assassinate the campesinos. I later learned that the banana companies had salaried assassins on the payroll.
I was educated with ideas borrowed from the North. I did part of my studies in the United States , where I felt the racism in my living flesh, but I also got to know the solidarity and the generosity of those North American people who opposed the wars in Vietnam, Central America and Iraq. I have learned to differentiate between the conductors and managers of imperialism and the beautiful solidarity and conscience of the people.
I was condemned by the death squads in my
country for defending human rights and
environmental justice, for helping poor
people and for having an anti-imperialist
conscience. I am still alive thanks to the
solidarity of my compatriots in the North
American, European, Third and Fourth
read a testimony from Juan
About the honduras
Honduras is a multi-ethnic country, rich in culture, biodiversity and mineral resources, but is at the same time one of the most impoverished in Latin America because of colonialism and post-colonial plunder. In the international sphere we are remembered as a “banana republic” or as a “country for sale”. For centuries we have been occupied, evicted and exiled from the land and our culture.
It is paradoxical to be a nation that exports food and yet one of the most malnourished in Latin America . They have imposed ‘the hamburger', the ‘hot-dog' and ‘pop-corn' on us and polluted and stolen the land. “For one mouthful, a fish dies”; whenever a culture is lost, sovereignty dies.
Wood exports have stolen the water, the air and the forest from us. Throughout history, Honduras has been under economic occupation by banana, mining and tobacco companies. Banana monocrops amount to a green desert, because they have destroyed and flooded the forest with the pesticides and dioxins contained in the millions of nonbiodegradable plastic bags that dress the banana clusters in a country of naked and barefoot children. Due to the economic, political, cultural and military occupation and due to trade agreements with the US and other hegemonic countries, economic inequality continues, resulting in poverty for more than the 80% of the population.
The government's policies have included privatization and anti-humanitarian concessions, based on an authoritarian, fascist and militarist ideology. This has lead to diminished welfare expenditure in health and education while expenses in police and military security have been increased.
Parallel to this has been promotion of the idea that the cause of violence in Honduras is children and young people. A policy and ideology of “zero tolerance” has been developed. Death squads assassinate children and youths daily, in a policy of social cleansing. It is estimated that 549 minors were killed in 2002 and 370 in 2003, (House Alliance, 2003). In April of 2003 the police and army killed 69 prisoners in the Porvenir La Ceiba jail. The crime still goes unpunished.
It is estimated that from 1994 to 2001 2.3 million hectares of forest has been destroyed. Most of the forest destruction is associated with wood export companies. Agents contracted by these multinational companies have been accused of attacks on campesinos and native organizations. The Centre for Prevention of Torture (CPTRT), which I currently run, has had its premises raided, its members assaulted by paramilitary forces, theft and damage to its computer systems, telephone and electronic interference and death threats to its members.
During the Nineties, Tacamiche was a village half a century old. 123 families (421 people) had occupied lands abandoned by the Tela Railroad Company (a branch of the Chiquita Banana company) for almost half a century. By order of the banana company and in a common agreement with the government, more than one hundred houses and 200 hectares of maize and beans were destroyed by military tractors. I was a witness to the more than 200 tear gas canisters thrown; which not only made us cry but also burned children and caused three women to miscarry. After more than a year living in an area similar to a concentration camp, the people of Tacamiche were relocated to another area, having lost almost fifty years of culture and family life.
environmental justice and human rights
The case in Honduras shows how the violation of human rights is deeply linked with environmental justice. Combining the fight for environmental justice with the popular movement, human rights and international solidarity is an urgent necessity. The suffering is so great that for the poor, in the language of capitalism, dying costs more than living.
Love and solidarity should become the forces that build peace, environmental justice and human rights. This Conference declares its solidarity with the defenders of human rights and with the environmentalists of Colombia and the rest of the world and it also extends this brotherhood to all the Colombian people that suffer the consequences of the expansion of capitalism and injustice. Let the fight become a love poem to humanity and Mother Earth and let uniting different cultures become a reality.