SGVCC Exhibit 2022 – Honduras
The Guapinol Community Protects Its River
March 2019, Northern Bajo Aguán region, Honduras
After a large mining concession was illegally granted at the protected source of their water, the Guapinol community has been fighting to save their river. They have faced ongoing threats and retaliation and have worked hard to bring their reality to the attention of the international community. In this photo, an elite Honduran army battalion arrives with weapons out to protect mining interests and to threaten the community as they gather along Rio Guapinol with foreign observers.
In 2017 and 2018, many thousands of people from Central America joined “migrant caravans” and headed en-masse towards the southern border of the US. The sheer number of people was alarming to many and caught the attention of the world. Most caravans originated in Honduras, and a large percentage of those traveling north were Hondurans, although many joined from El Salvador and Guatemala also.
In early 2019, a delegation of 75 interfaith leaders and social justice advocates traveled to Honduras with the specific purpose of better understanding the root causes of this mass migration. The planning was coordinated between groups in the US and HN that had long standing ties. Our hosts in HN had decades of human rights experience with the communities whose rights were being violated and had deep knowledge of the complex histories and current threats and dynamics.
At meetings with community groups and women’s groups in various regions of the country, our delegation always asked what we, as US citizens, could do to influence our country to act in ways that would be helpful to their situation. The answers were always simple and unequivocal. Make your government stop supporting coups (2009) and make your government stop funding the Honduran security forces. This money does not provide security to Honduras communities and citizens. It provides funding and training to security forces that protect the corporations and oligarchs that mine the natural resources that threaten the rivers, that grow trees for Palm Oil that threaten the land, that attempt to build mega-dams and tourist destinations that will displace entire communities (many of them indigenous) that have inhabited the land for centuries and beyond. At the same time that corporations and the elite are being protected with security funding from the US, the people of Honduras are the prey of gangs and victims of police and security force violence and threats. Women face the additional threat of domestic violence in an extremely patriarchal society. All of this is met with near total impunity.
At the end of 2021, in a potentially game changing shift in the fortunes of Honduran communities, Xiomara Castro was elected President of Honduras. Taking office in January of this year, she became the country’s first female president and quickly identified her administration’s top priorities: participatory democracy, protection of human rights, combating corruption, and improving economic growth and quality of life for Hondurans. Her challenges will be massive, but the potential for positive change is something communities in Honduras haven’t felt for a very long time.
An Elite Army Battalion Protects the Mining Company
March 2019, Rio Guapinol – “Security” forces threaten communities that are trying to protect what they need to survive. Their abuses are treated with near 100% impunity.
Families of Guapinol
March 2019, Rio Guapinol
“We know how bad things can get. So, we keep united, keep looking after each other, caring for our compañeros and compañeras, basically living in fear. But we are united.”
Families At Risk
In San Pedro Sula and across the country, parents are extremely protective of their children in public spaces. Escalation of gang violence, kidnappings, gang recruitment, extortion and death threats, lead many parents to the US border with their children.
March 2019, San Pedro Sula
“Fuera JOH” (pronounced Hō) has become the battle cry in many Honduran communities. JOH is Juan Orlando Hernández, the president of Honduras from 2014 to January 27, 2022. Fuera JOH means Out with Juan Orlando Hernández, and is a response to the deep corruption, violence and impunity that mark his years as president.
Ni Una Muerta Más – Not One More Death
March 2019, San Pedro Sula
A young girl holds a picture of Berta Cáceres, the much respected Lenca indigenous leader and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015. She was assassinated in 2016 for her opposition to a dam project that threatened her region. Cáceres was one of many Honduran land and water protectors killed in the past decade, leading Global Witness to declare it the most dangerous country in the world, relative to its size, for activists protecting forests and rivers.