By Radio Progreso, UUSC Partner on April 2, 2019
In late February, a dozen people were arrested in Honduras for protesting an illegal, extractive mining project that poisoned clean water sources for 14 local communities. The 12 defendants were originally charged with “usurpation of land” for their protesting of the project, but the charges were then upgraded to arson, robbery, and unlawful association with criminal intent. Thanks in part to international attention and advocacy, the charges against the 12 defendants were dropped on March 4. UUSC partners Radio Progreso and Foro de Mujeres por la Vida were key to mobilizing the communities to help free the Guapinol 12. This is a reflection from Radio Progreso immediately after the exoneration of the activists, on what can be learned from their success.
The whole world knows. The political calculation of big business—in cahoots with politicians—was to neutralize the environmental and human rights defenders, dismantle the organizations of the Aguan Valley, and thus discourage the communities and their leaders from continuing to defend the Earth’s wellbeing and human rights.
Nevertheless, after days and nights of tension, pressures, anguish, uncertainty, threats, and legal struggles, truth and justice triumphed. And this triumph left us with various lessons that we recognize here as a harvest, because the road ahead is a long one.
First lesson: Triumphs are possible when men and women have profound faith in what they’re doing, when they don’t sell out and can maintain the integrity of their ethics, humanity, politics, organizational commitments, and spirituality. This kind of spirit is what existed in the activists who were called up before the judicial system.
Second lesson: The core power of the social, community, ecclesial, and base communities already existed, and it helped shape and prepare these companions of ours who are now free after the threat of incarceration. Organizations have tremendous power.
Third lesson: The solidarity and presence of grassroots communities (environmental, human rights, feminist, youth, church, farmers, indigenous and black groups) all made the liberation of the accused into their own struggle, and thus made the case of Guapinol into a national struggle. Through hours, days, and nights, stoically putting up with little food or shelter, hundreds of people from different zones throughout the country: all of them stood up to defend and support their comrades from Guapinol.
Fourth lesson: The professionalism, commitment, and presentations of the team of lawyers were critical. Convinced of the innocence of those they represented, this team dedicated their whole selves to the defense of justice. Without giving any thought to what it could cost them in exhaustion and in the risk to their careers, without expecting high fees and risking both privilege and employment, they confronted the powerful institutions that serve the established order, and won.
Fifth lesson: International solidarity, which was expressed not only with letters and communications, but with face-to-face support, both inside as observers and outside the courthouse building [with families and supporters]. These are great women and men, whose commitment to universal human rights was part of our victory.
Sixth lesson: The power of an alternative media that put pressure on corporate media for their silence. They wove a network of communication through the popular alternative radio stations, the social networks, and international distribution with messages, information, and analysis that permanently and finally broke the media siege.
And finally, a seventh lesson: To swim against the current, including against the violence of the powerful, and to maintain faith in the triumph of truth and justice before institutions organized to protect the corrupt and those supportive of extractive industries, has shown anew that David can beat Goliath. We have affirmed that “only when the poor believe in the poor” do they succeed. The walls of the powerful are not impregnable.
May we recognize these lessons in order to continue the struggle until the whole wall comes tumbling down.
Photo Credit: Paul Fitch