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Solidarity in Spirit and the Streets

Over the last several weeks, I’ve come to see that solidarity can be a gritty, challenging, dig-deep-into-your-spirit kind of thing. But above all that, solidarity can be dangerous, and it matters.

On Thursday, March 17 movement organizations in Honduras showed the world – and most especially the Honduran government – what solidarity looks like. Fierce. Smart. Unrelenting.

On that day, organizations and communities of indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and small farmers all came together, flooding the streets of Tegucigalpa with chants, dance, ritual and demands for justice in the wake of the brazen murder of Lenca indigenous rights leader, Berta Cáceres, and other members of her organization COPINH (the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras).

Meanwhile, thousands of US allies and supporters have mobilized and demanded an impartial and transparent investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into Berta’s murder; and the achievement of her work – an end to illegal and immoral mining and dams in Honduras, and respect for the rights of communities to land, water and dignity.

One group that sent busloads of protestors to Tegucigalpa for the action is Grassroots International’s partner OFRANEH (the Black Fraternal Order of Honduras). Like COPINH, OFRANEH knows loss and intimidation, as members of the Afro-descendant Garifuna communities resist  post-coup land grabs for projects like agrofuel plantations  and tourist resorts. They, too, have suffered criminalization, arrest, violence and even killings.

That’s why the members of OFRANEH did not hesitate to pile into buses to stand shoulder to shoulder with their Lenca sisters and brothers. As Miriam Miranda from OFRANEH says, “We want our children to breathe clean air for generations to come. We want to have rivers. We don’t just want to wash our clothes. We also want to be able to drink the water, to be able to have water in our homes! That is the struggle we are fighting. For that, they kill us. For that, they killed Berta Cáceres.”

Below is a letter from OFRANEH describing their decision to mobilize on behalf of Berta and her community.  This is solidarity.

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Why We Mobilize with Berta Today – OFRANEH

Sambo Creek, March 17th, 2016, Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras, OFRANEH

Berta is not dead. Her spirit lives in all of the rivers of Honduras and the world that are threatened by a backwards idea of development that favors the blood-thirsty political and business elite, whose antiquated vision calls the death of rivers “clean energy.” We have walked alongside Berta on many paths and the struggle to defend our territories and cultures in the face of the devastating aggression of neoliberalism has been one of our most important bonds. They want to convert the natural resources on indigenous lands into commodities to be auctioned off, without any consent from our peoples, who they see just as statistics who can be dismissed.

Honduras since the coup d’état has become a political laboratory, where the ruling elite have used hideous techniques of social containment and control to get rid of us and maintain their fierce grip on power, making use of the intentionally-provoked violence and bloodshed that is embedded in our society. The execution of Berta is a desperate act by a villainous government that has been unable to neutralize her spirit of struggle or defense of the Lenca people’s territory from the bankers and business people who traffic in death.

Berta’s struggle was rooted in the defense of the Lenca territory and culture and the empowerment of women.

The central axis of her activities revolved around the Right to Prior, Free and Informed Consultation. It is a right that has been scorned by the various government administrations, which haven’t thought twice about their attempts to give away territory and put our cultures up on the auction block.

The assassination of Berta has corroborated her own denunciations of the persecution that the “authorities” and executives of the DESA Corporation carried out against her for years. Now it seems that her death is being used as a pretext to intensify the strategy aimed at destroying COPINH and annihilating its leaders.

We Demand:

  • An exhaustive investigation by an independent international panel into the assassination of Berta Cáceres
  • The immediate withdrawal of the DESA Corporation from Lenca territory and the cancelling of all concessions for hydroelectric dams, mining projects, extraction of hydrocarbons, and Special Development Regions on indigenous lands
  • Demilitarization of indigenous lands
  • Unconditional freedom for our brother and compañero Gustavo Castro
  • Immediate passage of the Law for Prior, Free and Informed Consultation, created by the Indigenous People’s Observatory with direct collaboration by Berta Cáceres
  • Nullification of unilateral decrees regarding extractive and hydroelectric projects in indigenous territories
  • Re-working of the Alliance for Prosperity, which is a false solution to the migration conflict
  • Recognition of COPINH as the organization responsible for the oversight of its territories.

Berta lives on and the struggle continues.