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Defending Indigenous Territories and Waters in Honduras
By Nikhil Aziz
September 16th, 2013
Whether it’s life imitating art or the other way around, the assault so dramatically captured in the Hollywood blockbuster film Avatar (2009) is not pure fiction. The reality is that countries and corporations that are hell-bent on extracting every last resource from the earth continue their relentless assaults on indigenous people, their land and waters, their cultures and ways of life, Whether it’s Afro-Brazilians on the Sao Francisco river in Brazil, Dongria Kondhs on Niyamgiri mountain in India, or Lencas in Honduras’ Rio Blanco territory, they all are facing not only the threat of displacement and devastation but violence, intimidation and even, in some instances, assassination. Such was the case of Tomás Garcia in Honduras who refused to move from his ancestral lands which had been illegally acquired for a hydroelectric dam project.
Following the various speculative bubbles that have burst spectacularly in world markets, multinational corporations and the governments and international institutions beholden to them are fast realizing that extracting or appropriating natural resources – often garbed in the language of “progress” and “development” or “national interest” – are sure ways of making profits. And having already caused immense damage to ordinary working people in the developing world as well as in the US during the housing crisis, these same forces are now pushing forward with extractive greed despite the dangers of global warming and climate disaster.
And so, there is a renewed push for lifting barriers to “trade” through secretive free trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that corporations get to write the rules of while legislators (ostensibly our representatives) don’t even get to review. As well, there is wholesale land grabbing through damaging legislation such as the very Orwellian titled “Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill” in India.
The struggle of the Lencas of Rio Blanco in Honduras is no different. Grassroots International ally COPINH (Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) has been at the forefront of organizing the Lenca people in that country. And it has been in the thick of opposition to the assault on their traditional territories. Beverly Bell of Other Worlds was recently in Honduras accompanying COPINH and its members who confront danger every day. She wrote a dispatch for the Huffington Post, including pictures and documentation of the land grabs underway, and the violent repression endured by indigenous and peasant leaders standing up for their rights.