PBI-Honduras accompanied CEHPRODEC lawyer Donald Hernández on the risks faced by environmental defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On December 8, Nueva Tribunas reported on the work of Manos Unidas, the Spanish Catholic Church Organization “for the aid, promotion and development of the most disfavoured and developing countries.”

Manos Unidas partners with the Honduran Centre for Community Development Promotion (CEHPRODEC).

The article begins with a quote from Donald Hernández of CEHPRODEC who says: “I feel just like a number; someone who could easily be eliminated if we did not have the accompaniment of Peace Brigades International.”

From 2016 to 2019 alone, Frontline Defenders has documented that 79 human rights defenders have been killed in Honduras.

Hernández is a Honduran lawyer who specializes in criminal and environmental law, with a particular focus on mining in Latin America. He is a member of the Latin American Lawyers’ Network, a network that works against the negative impacts of transnational extractive companies in Latin America. He also facilitates the National Coalition of Environmental Organizations and Networks (CONROA), an organization that represents more than 40 environmental organizations.

CEHPRODEC has been accompanied by PBI-Honduras since May 2014.

The article further quotes Hernández who says:

We inform communities of the illegal concessions that the State grants to extractive projects in indigenous territories and we also train them on their rights.

When communities react and mobilize, threats, attacks, and then the criminalization and persecution of community leaders begin. There are currently more than a hundred people retaliated against in the country for issues related to the defense of the territory.

The villagers are accused of usurpers and sometimes terrorism or sedition, so they are sent to jail for three or four years until trial, long enough for companies to install the extractive project in the territory.

For defenders it is very hard not to know if the motorcycle behind it is the one they said they were going to send to kill them… but this doesn’t stop us.

If we have certain security measures, imagine the unprotection felt by a Lenca indigenous leader – such as Berta Cáceres, who was killed in 2016 – who lives in remote rural areas and opposes a major project that aims to move the riverbed that has been cared for by indigenous communities since time immemorial and which is essential to their survival.

A PBI-United Kingdom webinar this past June included actors Juliet Stevenson and Christopher Colquhoun reading the words of Kevin Ramirez Vasquez, an environmental activist from Honduras, who said:

“Donald Hernandez points out that since the 2009 coup Honduras has declared itself open to business and encouraged foreign companies to take up mining concessions. Powerful Honduran families who supported the coup have also been granted to concessions to rivers for hydroelectric developments for periods of 50 years. A Canadian company that has been operating in the region for ten years has brought environmental devastation. More than 60 families have been diagnosed with metal contamination in their bodies.”

To read the full article that is also on the Manos Unidas website, please click here.

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