A version of this originally appeared on Thousand Currents.
“Everything becomes commonplace.”
Miriam Miranda, coordinator of the Garifuna Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), noted this reality multiple times during a recent dialogue hosted by Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund member Grassroots International and New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies about the struggle for the respect of human rights in Honduras.
What was Miranda referring to when she said everything becomes commonplace?
She was speaking about how her work, that of her community members and peers, is criminalized and delegitimized to the point where a constant state of harassment and repression is the new normal. This observation applies everywhere and to all forms of resistance.
It is happening today in Honduras, the U.S., and all over the world as the fight for human and environmental rights becomes a threat, and the activists become terrorists. The state then uses national security as a rationale for illegal surveillance, detention, and even prosecution, as well as criminalization of peaceful protest.
Miranda was also referring to how the continuous persecution of activists makes us immune to the impact of what it means to destabilize the lives of those defending our rights. This was a poignant note, as Miriam shared the table with daughter of slain activist Berta Cáceres, Berta Zúñiga Cáceres, who had just recently escaped an attack on her own life on the way home from a community visit back in Honduras. Zúñiga and her colleagues were lucky to escape unharmed. Since the political coup of 2009, roughly 123 environmental and resource rights activists have been murdered in Honduras, according to recent reports by Global Witness. Such attacks hardly make the news anymore, and successful prosecution of the crimes is rare.
But both Miranda and Zúñiga pointed out that the state of our relationships with each other and with the planet—based on extraction and the accumulation of wealth for the few—has also become normal. So normal that we are at the end of our energy resources.
Confronting this lack of resources, Miranda pointed out, is the punishment for our reckless behavior. We need to reconnect with our cultures, our people, and our planet in order to find our way back to the successful protection of resources and the respect of our human rights.
For Miranda and Zúñiga, we can reconnect and advance the legitimacy of human rights by identifying the ‘monster’ created by the collaboration of power-holders such as the military, corporations, governments, and organized crime entities (especially those involved in perpetuating the drug war). They said we must call these threats by name, and work together across issues, movements, and spaces.
Zúñiga further called for all of us who are, claim to be, or want to be allies, to use the influence we have here in the US to:
- show solidarity with communities in the Global South,
- support the critical work of activists,
- push investors in harmful international projects to divest, and
- support legislation that cuts US military aid and promotes the respect of human rights around the world.
In particular, Miranda pointed out,
“We can’t change the world and deal with climate change if all the work is done in the South…It’s time for the work to be done here in the U.S.”
Hilda Vega is the Director of the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund (a collaboration of four funders, including Grassroots International) at Thousand Currents and a fellow at pfc Social Impact Advisors. She has nearly 20 years of experience in philanthropy; racial and economic justice; grantmaking strategy development, implementation and evaluation; sustainable development, particularly in Latin America; resource development (with individuals and foundations); human rights; women’s rights; social entrepreneurship and impact investing; drug policy reform; and climate justice, both in the US and Latin America.