Date: Fri, 30 Oct 98 23:47:30 CST
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Most nonviolent actions suspended and new accord signed
South and Meso American Indian Rights Center (SAIIC), 23 October 1998
On Oct. 11th, 1998, some 5000 indigenous and black initiated nationwide nonviolent protests to encourage the Honduran Government to fulfill its promises under the May 1997 Accord signed by then-president Carlos Roberto Reina. That Accord specified land turnovers to the Indigenous, outlined ways to protect human rights, and detailed plans to respond to urgent social needs of the most marginalized members of this poor nation. The protests included holding 24-hour vigils at the United Nations Headquarters in Tegucigalpa, the National Congress building, the Consulate of Portugal (where President Carlos Flores participated in the VIII Iberoamerican Summit), and the Vatican Embassy. A Hunger Strike took place at these last two locations. Outside the capital, Garifunas protested at the Land Reform office in La Ceiba, and members of the Maya Chorti nation occupied the entrance to their Ancestral Ceremonial Grounds at Copan Ruinas as well as three tracts of land held by large landowners in the Department of Ocotepeque.
The 19 point Partial Agreement signed last night between the Government and Indigenous/Black leaders outlines ways the Government plans to turnover more land, respond to human rights, protect the environment, and other concerns, but it is sorely lacking.
In previous years, the Honduran Government has signed a number of accords with the Indigenous and Black leadership. It has had a poor record on compliance. For this reason, the Confederation of Autochthonous Peoples of Honduras (CONPAH) have not ruled out reinitiating direct nonviolent actions in the future to ensure that the Government lives up to its word. Members of the Maya Chorti will allow the public to have access to the Ceremonial Grounds at this time, but will probably maintain vigil near the entrance until key components of this recent agreement are put into practice. It is likely that the peaceful encampment of three areas of land in Ocotepeque will continue, since so little has been offered by the Government.
The May 1997 accord grants 2,000 hectares of land for the Chorti in Copan and 7,000 hectares in Ocotepeque. To date only 363 hectares (18% of what was promised) have been granted in Copan and 161 (2.3%) in Ocotepeque. If the Government lives up to this latest agreement in the coming weeks, it will have turned over 1,354.5 hectares (68%) in Copan, but only 400 (5.7%) in Ocotepeque. For this reason, it is likely that the Indigenous will keep taking actions to persuade the Government to live up to its promises.
Threats Against International Workers
When the peaceful demonstrations began two weeks ago, some right-wing politicians and media accused international religious workers of being the prime movers behind the protests. They called for their deportation. Among them was Alvaro Fernadez, named as a Guarantor in the 1997 Accord and supported by Caritas, a Catholic Social Ministry. He has accompanied the Chorti people in Copan for years. In the wake of recent protests, efforts are continuing to seek his deportation. He has suffered a great deal of intimidation from large landowners in the area, including having the nuts of the wheels of his vehicle loosened.
This past week, another international member of the Commission of Guarantors was the target of intimidation. In a visit to Copan, Andres Thomas Conteris, whose human rights advocacy work in Honduras is sponsored by the United Methodist Church, was the target of surveillance by large landowners. A unknown man associated with Rafael Gonzalez, the landowner who is the primary suspect in the April 1997 killing of Chorti leader Candido Amador, approached Thomas- Conteris and photographed him and his vehicle even after being asked not to. Later that night a car with darkened windows with two men inside was parked directly in front of Thomas-Conteris' residence in Tegucigalpa. He was not home at the time, but guests staying there felt very intimidated. These actions and others have been denounced to the authorities.
But more than any threat against international workers in Honduras, it is the Indigenous and Black peoples who most suffer from threats and intimidation when they take peaceful action. When the limelight from this most recent set of protests dims, the danger will increase for the native people who continue to strive for justice.
CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY.
Please write to express your support for the just demands of the Honduran Indigenous and Black people and urge the government to fully comply with the May 1997 Accord, especially in Ocotepeque. Ask that there be no repercussions against international church workers who have been accompanying the Indigenous and Black peoples, especially Alvaro Fernandez. Most importantly, insist that the autochthonous peoples be protected from possible reprisals by large landowners.
Embassy of Honduras: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Write or Fax:
Ing. Carlos Flores Facusse, Presidente de la Republica, Casa de Gobierno, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Fax (504) 237-8521 or (504) 235-6949
Excmo. Prof. Rafael Pineda Ponce, Presidente del Congreso Nacional, Palacio Legislativo, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Fax (504) 238-6040
If you would like to make a contribution to this worthy cause, economic support is very much needed (tax deductible in the US) Please send copies of your solidarity correspondence or write to us for more information:
Honduran Indigenous Support Group
South and Meso American Indian Rights Center (SAIIC)
Home Page: http://www.nativeweb.org/saiic
For more information about SAIIC, send an empty email message to: email@example.com