Omar Jerónimo

Interviewees: Omar Jerónimo
Interviewer: Martin Mowforth and Adam Lunn (Peace Brigades International, PBI)
Location: STavistock Hotel, London
Date: Sunday 21 June 2015
Key Words:Guatemala; human rights defenders; indigenous communities; land conflicts; the dialogue process; corruption

Martin Mowforth (MM): An interview with Omar Jerónimo, from Chiquimula in Guatemala.

Omar Jerónimo (OJ): In Guatemala.

MM: And also with Adam Lunn from Peace Brigades International, to talk about the violence of development. So, firstly, Omar, could you give me a little bit of background about your organisation, about what it does, by way of introduction, to introduce yourself?

OJ: OK, well my name is Omar Jerónimo, I am a Maya Ch’orti, a Maya people in Guatemala, in the east of the country, on the Honduran border, with Copán. We work on the issue of human rights, especially the collective rights of indigenous peoples and development; and also the right to food, of Ch’ortí children in the region. This leads to doing two basic things: – one concerns justice for the violations of territorial rights of the people; and the other is to develop productive economic possibilities in a territory which is deemed the driest in Central America, developing technologies which we adopt from our Mayan knowledge of the territory.

This is what I do, what the organisation is about; my educational training is in Economics and Human Rights, the two things which seem different but which are fundamental to our understanding of what is happening in this area.

MM: OK, thank you and could you tell me about the most common problems faced in this area, with these organisations?

OJ: Well, in principal, we are an organisation of indigenous communities, more than 70 indigenous communities. Of these, 7 indigenous communities are recognised by the state. We are in the process of getting recognition by the state, and these of course face, as do all the brothers and sisters in the country, a territorial dispute with businesses which want to establish hydroelectric and mining sites. Which are the two big economic channels of national and international capital. And, logically, far from being a possibility for development for the communities, in fact they are a tragedy for the communities. What we’ve had to face many times has been physical violence and emotional violence. Often we’ve had death threats, they’ve taken us to the courts, inventing crimes, they attack us, and they try to corrupt the communities. And often they even offer money for us to be assassinated. So, that’s development for the people, and for us it’s the biggest tragedy that could happen; and perhaps we could say that the most common theme, is not how much they attack you, but that five centuries later they still think of the Mayan people as like animals, that we don’t know how to think, that they can manipulate us, that they think we don’t know what’s good and what’s bad. And the companies and the rich people have responsibility for the country, have the right to decide for us how we should live and what’s good for us. We could say that the tragedy of five centuries is racism.

It’s a far cry from real development.

MM: Yes, 5 centuries of development. So, the developments at the moment are in the government’s discourse and with the companies. These are hydroelectric, mining and environmental developments? Do they have problems with the food manufacturering companies? With the farmers?

OJ: This region is one of the least productive, agriculturally speaking, in the region. It suffers from constant droughts, right now we are concerned because we are already in winter [the wet season] for food production and we are suffering another drought. These are beautiful lands, rivers, mountains, hills, but they are lands which after the Conquest were left to the Maya Ch’ortí people. These lands have two fundamental virtues, and that’s water, a river which is a benefit for the people, and, of course, precious minerals. That benefit for the people has also become a tragedy for the people since the economic crisis of 2007 when the companies turned their attention to producing energy, hydroelectric energy resources and the mining of precious metals. What’s happening here is not a dispute about territory, because a dispute is when we’re not sure who owns the land and we are fighting to see who stays there. The land we have clearly belongs to the Maya Ch’ortí people, and a company called: Tres Niñas Sociedad Anónima, belonging to the Pos Gutiérrez family, which is one of the most powerful families in the country. They own more than a hundred companies, multinationals, and they’re interested in creating two hydroelectric plants in about 15 kilometres of river, incidentally the only river on this land. And so the current disputes matter because of losing the water, the only water supply for this land. And the other, less crucial, concern is the issue of mining exploration licenses on this land. The companies are active in this but the owners of at least two important licenses called La Bandera and the other Cocóta are part of the Exmingua consortium and are doing a lot of exploration with companies based in Guatemala. So, there are constant attacks to discredit us and aggression coming from this company, Las Tres Niñas Sociedad Anónima, people who say that they work with them and many times with the support of the town mayors; and they even criminalise the workers of the Public Ministry in this region..

MM: Yes, it’s the same in El Salvador, the mayors are at the beck and call of the companies.

OJ: Totally.

MM: But are they are mixed up with families and foreign business too?

Because Las Tres Niñas, belongs to ..

OJ: To the Pos Gutiérrez.

MM: A family from here.

OJ: So, what happened is that right now Guatemala, for some years since we could identify where the investments came from, they established some arrangement where Guatemalan companies are associated with foreign companies; and it’s very difficult to say if there are foreign investments and where they come from. But normally the Pos Gutiérrez have investment relations with Spanish and English companies. Remembering that there is now an English company participating in investments in Guatemala together with a Colombian company.

So, in Guatemala there is a very close relationship between the distributor and the producer – many times they are the same. Unión Fenosa, precisely. Unión Fenosa which was Spanish and had investments in commercialisation and distribution, but also was investing in construction.

MM: Yes, it’s the same in Nicaragua.

OJ: And in Guatemala, where now ….

So, the banks create certain structures in such a way that access to information about who is investing, makes it very difficult for us, because also there exists a famous law in Guatemala, which is the secret bank. So nobody in Guatemala can find out who has or who is making any important bank transactions. In such a manner we can’t keep track of the transparency of investments. And this is a delicate question. What we normally say to European Governments and companies is: that no profit from money is good if it is stained with blood of innocent people. I cannot imagine eating bread covered with the blood of the people. And this is important – why? Because European governments demand transparency of information and the right of non-acceptance of violence towards the populace. This is the fundamental meaning for us.

MM: And the countries which influence them bring about national commitments.

OJ: Exactly. Totally, because there is the issue of not investing in companies that are not transparent. And that is a guarantee that we can only have, from the beginning, a political will from Europe to be in step with Human Rights.

MM: Indeed, a question that I must mention to you is land registry and is there a programme of establishing land titles? What is happening? Is it favouring the Mayas or not? I imagine it’s not.

OJ: In the Peace Accords they talk about the registration of properties. The historical problem and the greater problem, which results in many Guatemalan deaths is the agrarian problem. It’s an agrarian problem, difficult to resolve. From that they created the Registry, the RIC, the Registry of Property Information, which ought to work and be able to respond to these problems that arise from the process of land titling. Through this it also recognises that we, the Mayan peoples, exist in Guatemala, that we have our own form of organisation and property. And so it agrees that the community territories should be registered as communal lands. The Registry of property, real estate, the Registry of Land Property, the RIC – what it has done is to identify what the property is like, what are the difficulties it has. Then it informs companies which are interested in investing, gives the companies information but doesn’t give the communities information about the legal situation. This is a problem of serious corruption – it’s terrible that far from solving the conflict, it aggravates it. The Ch’ortí communities have had such an experience with the Land Registry, they’ve sought, legally, to register their communal lands in accordance with the law and its rules. And what we have found is that the RIC constantly delays the process. To date the RIC has not been able to make a single register of communal lands in Guatemala, not a single one.

MM: Is the registry not promoting individual cases?

OJ: Individuals. Individuals and not collectives because the discourse is always: you ought to register your lands individually, because in that way you will be able to buy and sell, or you could receive a credit. That’s the discourse which the Registry of Land Information constantly gives me; there is no possibility of considering within the process that property is a guarantee of development for communities and individuals; only a plot that can be commercialised and can have a compulsory purchase made on the people. That is the reality. In the end the RIC has become an institution which has the deepest distrust of the communities towards it.

MM: And does the RIC only have funds from the Guatemalan Government or does it have funds from the World Bank?

OJ: Its funds are credits from the World Bank. And other funds are joint, and jointly all the credits that it had for the Ch’orti territory were for the measuring of the community lands. In fact they haven’t managed a single community land measurement; the credit has been used up. And we have said to the World Bank that it cannot continue to finance irresponsible organisations. Because it not only corrupts the state institution but also it puts the people into debt without having any significant result in terms of the land. And this, perhaps, this year is going to be a process that we are going to engage various organisations in dialogue about this with the World Bank – how the awarding of credit should be.

MM: A more specific question: do you have problems with the timber industry too?

OJ: Yes, no.

MM: Yes? They do too, OK.

OJ: The Ch’ortí territory has one of the most important mountains of Central America and that’s El Merendo Mountain. This mountain, El Merendo, has a cloud forest, the fifth largest in Central America.

And it has a rich and unique ecosystem. And naturally it is an area that supplies drinking water to more than 300,000 inhabitants. And these inhabitants are at risk from logging companies like Aracel Alto, and some private fincas who sell valuable wood. They are constantly felling. The Ch’ortí communities and some rural groups, mestizos, from Secampa, have opposed this, and we have told the Government that it should be declared a protected area, a community administration, this unique space of forest, untouched and unique in the east of the country. Not to do it is to put at risk thousands and thousands of people. The response has been, constantly, that the State can do nothing. To jail leaders like José Pilar, Álvarez Cabrela who is a Lutheran priest who has been close to the communities and is alongside other community leaders who are constantly being threatened with death. And this, in total impunity. Many of the unknown who threaten us are relatives of judges, people inside the of the Public Ministry, friends of the Governors or deputies. So, essentially no, this corrupt system which is now also in dispute throughout Guatemala, and is taking to court various dubious locals and including even the President, is what provokes these constant ecological tragedies. One such is that happening now in Trigo la Pasión in Guatemala, which is causing 200km of contamination by palm oil.

MM: Yes. I was going to ask you about palm oil. I’ve seen it in Olancho in Honduras, and after after the coup d’état in Honduras, they took the liberty of starting their illegal activities again. And I was wondering if it’s the same in Guatemala, I imagine it is, for sure.

Another thing, a little difficult. What is the situation with regard to construction or the plans for hydroelectricity? What is the situation like?

OJ: One of the advantages of this territory is that the communities are very well organised. There are communities well known to each other. And they have not allowed these companies to begin working for nearly nine years. For nine years these companies have been constantly aggressive, constantly taking the leaders to the courts. At the moment we have two indigenous brothers in jail, accused of a killing that they did not commit. And the judge has sentenced them without proof. And so even with all this aggression, the companies haven’t managed to establish themselves. The communities believe that the best kind of company is one that isn’t able to enter the area, you see? Because if they get established they begin to have armed internal groups which then are against the communities. So these communities have understood that this has happened to their country. In the country the companies arrive, establish armed groups, begin to kill, to assassinate, to imprison. As in Santa Rosa where the Chief of Security is in jail. We have learned of these things, these stories from other territories, and we have undertaken a constant action not to allow them entry and to denounce the violence of these companies. In this way we don’t give any shelter in the region, and we are constantly calling attention to the municipal mayors, who even though they are in agreement with the companies, don’t give legal permits for them to become established. And the mayors know that the communities are not likely to vote for them if they give legal permission. And because of this they haven’t allowed them to give permissions. But it’s every day, every day a constant work and aggression.

MM: Yes. So, this, I imagine, is hard for the communities, for the people of the communities – they have to struggle every day, daily.

OJ: And every day they are under attack. Fifteen days ago, a son of one of the indigenous authority of Cuarecuche, a Ch’ortí mayor in Cocotá, they came into his house and killed him at night. And the question arises, Who was it? Well, people who work with the mayors who were in agreement with the company. Why did they kill him? Because, essentially, they didn’t agree with him. So, in the first declaration the assassin made to the Jury for the community, is that they paid me to do it. A value less than 10 euros in Guatemala. But when the Public Ministry made the accusation against the perpetrator, the assassin, they made it for minor offences. What is a minor offence? A minor offence is when someone treats me badly or someone who pushed me, and I can get off with a fine. However, in Guatemala a minor offence is murder!

MM: Incredible, incredible.

OJ: I said, the lawyers have acted in this.

MM: Can you refer these cases to the CICIG?

OJ: What happens is that the CICIG works on the issue of organised crime which is inside the structures of the State, without question. One such case is the customs fraud which has been one of the most important scandals in Guatemala to have raised the awareness of the people. The case of the Guatemalan Institute of Social Security, this type of internal criminal network that the mayors have, it’s probable that that’s how it started. On the issue of Human Rights, cases of people killed for their involvement in defending rights, don’t have any realistic chance of being investigated in Guatemala. There is a help system for people defending human rights, but I presented a case two years ago of a death threat which offered a hundred thousand dollars for my death. Well the two years have passed and no one has said whether they have investigated my case. So, if the defenders who can make denunciations get nowhere, then no, they are not investigating our situation. The brothers in the community are totally unprotected legally.

MM: So, are they able to make use of the resources of any international organisations?

OJ: Yes, this is important, when you were just talking about the networks, that the organisations of people who are collaborating. We appreciate this and appreciate it deeply for two basic reasons. Many people in America perhaps know us, but understand that there is a risk in this universal work, the work of defending human rights. And this is what we appreciate deeply. And secondly, sadly, those governments which could denounce what is happening in America and could discuss with governments which violate human rights are yours. You who could be here, who could make it across a network, perhaps electronic, to get closer to those who govern. Because for us, the only tool we have to defend ourselves is the accompaniment of organisations, international organisations for human rights. It’s our only tool. We cannot believe in the Guatemalan State, we can’t believe in anything more than our own community organised networks and in the solidarity and support of the organisations which accompany us.

MM: And, you have been an accompanier too, Adam – for a long time?

Adam Lunn (AL): In 2002.

MM: And so, how much time have you spent? And you’ve worked with ….?

AL: Well, I spent a year in Guatemala and now in the PBI office. And there I was working with the CCCND.

MM: And, your accompaniers have to be trained before going, and they spend a year there, always? Or ….?

AL: Yes, the voluntary period is for a year, and there are three training periods. (Difficult to understand and to hear.)

MM: My reason for asking is that I would like to write a little article about the PBI. So, it’s important to clarify for people that it’s not something you can do in a weekend. We need much more, it’s a solid commitment, very solid. And it’s not a short experience for students.

AL: A year, it’s a full year for the accompaniers, it’s quite a difficult year, isn’t it? Because it sometimes puts people into difficult moments of conflict. When aggressions occur they have to know that they are there for nothing more than observing the situation. It is perhaps one of the most important challenges of all.

MM: So, Omar, do you think that, when you return to your situation is it going to be a little better? Your level of threat or your level of danger? The same, I imagine, but, I suppose that the reason for my question is to ask if it has been useful, a good thing, this visit to Europe?

OJ: For us, the most important objective we have when we come is to tell the history of our communities. No, we don’t dream of anything more than telling, that our voice is heard elsewhere. That at least our version of what is happening is heard. Normally, it’s only the voice of the companies, of the governments, that is heard, but not the voice of the people. We make an effort to be the spokesperson of these communities. Perhaps we don’t do it well, perhaps we make mistakes, but perhaps when I get back I’m going to be able to say that we achieved the objective of giving the community’s version. With that I think that the objective has been achieved.

And secondly, if this happens, and we see the intimidations diminishing, we believe this is a good outcome, is it not? But, a lot of the time it’s not in the hands of the people outside or in our own hands, but rather in the thoughts of the people who attack us, right?. So, these are things which are difficult for us to gauge; we ask only that what we can tell is heard.

MM: Yes, so often. So, when you go back, I imagine that …. – what are your problems going to be, the biggest that you will encounter?

OJ: Yes, when last year I visited various other countries, and when we returned home, what we found was that the company was bad-mouthing us, saying that we were coming here to get money, that we were getting a lot of money. We could say it was a smear campaign, and these are always things that happen when we return. The important thing for us is that we know what we do. And to have the security of knowing that what we did was thinking of the community. So, it could be that when I get back I meet even worse attacks because they don’t like someone giving the version of the community. Or it could be that I find that the owners are thinking how they might get away with doing these things. Because an important thing that we ask of them is that it is important that they talk to the people truthfully, tell the people that that is what they’re going to do, what it’s for, what it’s not for. And if the people have the information as it is accept the project, then they do it with the information, aware of its effects. But if the people knowing the effects don’t accept it, it’s the company’s responsibility to accept that they don’t want it. And that is the basic formula of democracy, to respect the decision of the people.

MM: Yes, to go ahead being informed.

OJ: And this is what we constantly ask of the companies, we don’t ask anything else of them, only that they be honest and transparent. We believe that honest and transparent businesses are more useful than those which try to corrupt world systems.

MM: Thanks very much. Do you have reports for people?

AL: Yes, we have an operation called Alerts. And, a year ago we sent out an alert, specifically about the situation of resistance. We had a very serious case of attacks and threats, between March and November we had 109 cases. And every three days someone here is threatened, is slandered, and we sent out an alert about the high risk situation.

So, also there was and is a situation in Guatemala where last year we had a general deterioration of the general human rights situation. There were very, very serious situations where they weren’t just attacks, but also a violent displacement of the social organisation, an increase in criminal activities and also of denunciations against civil society.

MM: Perhaps you could add the name of ENCA to your email list. We have a list of people who are relatively active – relatively. We try to do a lot but we are all volunteers, but we are also active too; we try to respond to this kind of alert or action in general. So I could give you the email addresses of this group. I say this, because we have another group who are relatively inactive.

Alerts to this address go to more or less 20 to 30 people. The majority of them will probably respond. And the other thing is that, if there is news from your campaigns, your struggles, your problems, or whatever, I would like to give you my email as well.

OJ: Likewise I’ll write to tell you about it.




MM: And the problems there might be with the dialogue. I could explain a little about your experiences with the dialogues, yes?

Just a minute. (Voices and noises in the background)



MM: Maybe, Omar, you can explain a little about the process of dialogue with the communities affected by the disorders.

OJ: Firstly it needs to be said that dialogue is not perhaps the most appropriate word in Guatemala to describe the moments when we have tried to talk about the problems with the State, the companies and the communities.

Since 2004 I have participated in hundreds of roundtables where dialogue on particular issues has been established by addressing each theme, especially agriculture, mining, hydroelectricity, monocultures in the country. And always we finish with the feeling that these committees serve only to delay discussions, to identify those who are the leaders of the community and to be able to know what are the needs of these leaders and how they can be manipulated. It’s about being able to identify those who can be threatened later, imprisoned and criminalised. Or to identify particular moments, or type of language they could use – these people who are involved in the dialogue are those who threaten and it enables them to make a legal case against them. Very often it’s these people who are at the roundtable dialogues who later are captured and put in prison. So, there has never been a process of dialogue in Guatemala. And, it’s exactly because the communities are considered not to have any rights, they don’t have claims and it’s not necessary to have a dialogue with them.

And all our life we have believed that dialogue is the fundamental tool to construct democracy – it is our approach; and even after all the times we have been disillusioned after finishing talking, we have returned to the table. Not naively, not because we don’t know how the processes will finish, but because we believe it is a fundamental tool we have to use.

In the last three years of General Otto Peréz Molina’s government, the dialogue has suffered a deep setback in which the companies have become involved in these conversations. We believe that when we are talking about the future of these communities, the companies should not be involved, it should be the government and the communities. That is to say, it should be the government and the townspeople, not the companies and the townspeople. The government ought to be the guarantor of rights, and not the mediator of rights. And the Guatemalan Government has established itself as the mediator of rights between the companies and the communities. And very often a mediator favours the side of the companies. A State cannot take a stance in favour of a company, instead it should be a stance in favour of the wellbeing of the population, which is a substantial difference.

Secondly, a State ought to guarantee Human Rights and the rights of the population before the rights of whatever company. That hasn’t been the fundamental principle of conversations in Guatemala. Rather it is these principles which the processes of dialogue are always considering as a fundamental premise; that the communities don’t understand, don’t listen, don’t need to be informed, because they are not going to understand, that they are manipulated by leaders, by foreigners sometimes, by communists, and that it’s necessary to talk with these manipulators and not with the community. And in that way, they see it as the companies which have the solution to the problems of the communities. And so the dialogues are not to see what sort of dreams, objectives, aspirations, plans the communities have, rather it is to inform them that they are going to be evicted and prosecuted. There isn’t and there hasn’t been perhaps in Guatemala since the Peace Treaties, a single roundtable dialogue which has been a listening dialogue, for both parties to listen to each other and come to understand each other’s position. Instead they are essentially spaces where the companies can, with impunity, often threaten people. We have suffered in many arbitration roundtable meetings, in which the indigenous communities have been cited by the Public Ministry, and the companies with their lawyers, managers of the companies and lawyers are in the Offices of the Public Ministry to threaten community leaders in the Public Ministry. Saying to them “If you don’t let the companies get on with their work you are going to be responsible for all we have invested, then you will have to pay for it. And if you don’t pay you’ll got to prison”.

That’s how the dialogue finishes.

MM: Thank you for this …


René Wilfredo Gradis

Interviewee: René Wilfredo Gradis of the MAO (Olancho Environmental Movement)
Interviewer: Martin Mowforth
Location: Olancho, Honduras
Date: 28th August 2010
Theme: TBC
Keywords: TBC
Notes: Email interview. At the time of this interview, René was believed to be at the top of the death squad hit list in the department of Olancho.


Martin Mowforth (MM): Can you describe the actual situation of the MAO right now? (As a result of the coup and the expulsion of Padre Andres Tamayo)

René Wilfredo Gradis (RWG): The organisation has taken the decision to keep a low profile concerning the systematic violations of human rights, the assassinations of colleagues and the repression by part of the state. After the coup we have regressed as an organisation over 9 years’ worth of struggle, and possibly more. In the totalitarian government, where the timber merchants are part of this voracious group of businessmen in Honduras, there remains no other way in which to restate the strategies of defence of our natural resources. As an organisation we continue the struggle, but primarily we have to save our own lives, and for that reason we have lowered our public profile.

The exit of Padre Andrés Tamayo also weakened the organisation. He is a person recognised and invested with the authority of the church. In addition, he is a public person of international renown. To a certain extent this [his absence] weakens our organisation, but despite everything, and given the weakness, we continue struggling to defend our forests.

MM: As for the illegal felling, can you tell me if it has changed as a result of the coup?

RWG: Of course it has changed. With the government of Zelaya we had obtained: the approval of the Forestry Law, a prohibition to the cutting of wood in the valley of Telica, agreements for land registration, and establishment of a new normative technique for the execution of management plans, amongst other things. 15 days after the coup, the armed timber merchants supported by army personnel have entered the forests and are exploiting them in an unsustainable way; 100s of lorries with wood taken from Olancho. How is it logical for authorities in charge of the forestry administration and the operators of justice to serve these timber merchants so that they can legalise their actions and demobilize and intimidate the poor people who are trying to defend our forests?

MM: What has happened with the conversion of COHDEFOR to the ICF?

RWG: With this conversion, shamefully we only obtained a change of name of an institution as corrupt as COHDEFOR, because now they are demonstrating that the employees of ICF are more corrupt than those before, and that their employers are the managers of the timber companies.

When we struggled for the change of the institution, we thought that it would get rid of the corruption in forestry, and honest people would be placed at the forefront, but shamefully the circumstances created by the coup have benefited these voracious businessmen to position their employees to serve them as they please.

MM: Do you know anything about the current situation of Padre Andrés Tamayo (I know the Resistance is calling for his return).

RWG: I don’t know much, I only know that he is also using the strategy of not appearing in public too much, as he is one of the people pursued by the coup government of Pepe Lobo. If the resistance is demanding his presence, then he is one of the few people that can make the struggle advance. He has much credibility and is very giving to his people.

MM: What is your own current situation? Are you still working for the MAO? Also, can you explain your necessity to grow your own beans and corn etc, 20 km from your house? (Personally I have an allotment of approximately 1 manzana in which I cultivate my own vegetables in England, but it is only 5km from my house.)

RWG: My situation is equal to that of my colleagues of the struggle – it is difficult. On the one hand it is a social struggle and there is a need to defend our forests, but on the other hand we need to consider the survival of the family. At present there is no work, the economic situation is difficult, and because of this I have to go to work in the country 20 km from my house to grow my own food and resign myself to eat beans and tortillas. I dream of being able to lend more time to the struggle, but one must strike a balance between the family and the social struggle. Currently I have left the position of Coordinator [of the MAO]. I have resigned due to the situation; although I would be pleased to continue leading our organisation from the front. I have a child of 6 years, he is in school and I have to find something for his sustenance and education.

This is the sad reality of my country that we are passing through a disappointing moment, but we can do nothing else but to continue struggling because one day we’ll find a ray of hope which provides us with equality in our use of resources.

MM: Can you tell me something about the links which the Resistance has with international organisations? Or maybe relations with international organisations which you would like to have or develop.

RWG: I’m not familiar with this subject. I have participated in different activities after the coup, but I have not been in the leadership, but I see that they have many links with international organisations. With which? I don’t know, but yes they have them. At the moment it is essential to be able to count on international support, and I don’t have much information, but I believe that they are largely supporting this struggle from outside and the more alliances they have the better.


Juan Luis Salas Villalobos

Interviewee: Juan Luis Salas Villalobos: Producer of organic vegetables and spices and the Executive Secretary of the Costa Rican Organic Agriculture Movement (MAOCO)
Interviewer: Genna West and Martin Mowforth
Location: San José, Costa Rica
Date: 28th September 2010
Theme: Organic food production in Costa Rica
Keywords: TBC


Martin Mowforth (MM): Can you tell us about Maoco?

Juan Luis Salas Villalobos (JV): The organic movement in Costa Rica is turning ten years old. It was born through regional strategies, which came about due to the need for producers to come together and seek solutions to concerns. From there a strategy was formed in each region and later a national strategy, to find solutions to problems, each with three, five and ten year goals. There is still much to be done. We were very occupied making the organic agriculture law, working for four years doing advocacy and lobbying at the Legislative Assembly to ensure that a law was passed for organic agriculture. The law was passed and right now the regulations are being put into effect. This law has many benefits for producers and for the environment, because as well as strengthening the producers, it recognises environmental benefits, you know that the producers contribute to benefits for the environment from their activities. There are other aspects within the law which are still under way, such as bank loans, concessional credits according to the activity concerned, tax exemptions, exemptions for purchasing equipment, agricultural machinery and support for promoting and spreading organic farming.

In Costa Rica growth of organic farming has stagnated a lot, in recent years it has grown very little. It started to grow for export, but there came a time when exports did not grow much, so farming stayed there. It has not been exploited much in the domestic market. We have tried to encourage the local markets to promote organic production within the country, because we have seen that we only look for exports and our people are not entitled to what we produce, so we have to fight so that our neighbours can eat what we produce. We have worked on it; there are different places for selling in agricultural markets and markets exclusively for organic products. There has also been work on certification, so that the producers are trained and realise what certification is, what the standards are, what types of certification exist, and right now we are trying to implement participatory certification for the domestic market.

This is what we have been working with most. Right now I have the job of fighting for credit, because right now this is what we need most to produce, access to credit, along with production to be able to arrive at marketing the produce.

MM: what percentage of the total country’s agriculture is organic?

JV: 2.38% of national production is organic.

MM: It is relatively little in our country too, in all countries as well I imagine, but at least there are movements that are trying to promote it. The majority of people with whom you work are small producers.

JV: Small and medium producers.

MM: But are there big producers with whom you work too?

JV: Yes, what we are doing is not discriminating against anyone. The movement is not exclusive, rather it is inclusive, but the law was made for the micro, small and medium producers, therefore it is for those we fight. Anyone can join the movement, it is organic farming and there is not discrimination.

MM: How many organic markets are there in San José?

JV: In San José there are two markets exclusively for organic produce: one here, the Carmén de Paso Ancho neighbourhood, ‘la Feria del Trueque’, and another in the Aranjuez neighbourhood, ‘la Feria Verde’. They are both held once a week on Saturdays. Outside San José there is one in Turrialba and another in Upala. The rest are points of sale within conventional agricultural markets, like in San Ramón, Pérez Zeledón, Guápiles, Pavas, Coronado.

Genna West (GW): Do many people go to these markets?

JV: Not many people go to those which are exclusive to organic produce, but they do have their clientele and the product gets sold. In those for conventional produce, there is a great influx of people, but they come for other types of non-organic produce, because organic produce still needs to make a real impact and there needs to be a lots more awareness to get people to understand what organic farming is.


Lizandro [pseudonym]

Interviewee: Lizandro [pseudonym]
Interviewer: Martin Mowforth
Location: Centro de Amigos para la Paz, San José, Costa Rica
Date: 11th July 2010
Theme: TBC
Keywords: TBC
Notes: Lizandro [pseudonym] is a Honduran coup exile and a refugee in Costa Rica.  There were 27 exiled Hondurans being helped and supported by the Centro de Amigos Para la Paz


Martin Mowforth (MM): Can you give me your name, nationality and other circumstances. And can we use your name?

Lizandro:I am Lizandro from Honduras. I am here in San José, Costa Rica, and I have come here seeking refuge, fleeing the repression of the army, the police and the oligarchy of Honduras, for being an active member of the Popular Resistance in Honduras.

MM: How long have you been here?

Lizandro: We have been here about seven months. We arrived in January [2010].

MM: Can you tell me what happened immediately after the coup? First in your life and second in general on the streets.

Lizandro: Before the coup there was joy in the people, because we had never had a president who would walk amongst the people. At first we thought that he was like all the other presidents. Mr. José Manuel Zelaya, constitutional president to date, because that is how we Hondurans see it. At least 85% of Hondurans think so, and before the coup there was a great joy in the people and we were anxiously waiting for the 28th June 2009, because we knew that we were changing for a better life. We felt happy knowing that we were going to vote on a fourth ballot to decide whether or not we wanted to be consulted. Of course we want to be consulted about everything that happens in the country. The country belongs to the Hondurans, not to the oligarchy that is completely foreign. Immediately afterwards there was going to be a change in the Constitution because we know ex-presidents that have become millionaires at the expense of the people, of companies that have borrowed money from the people and have gone into liquidation, of banks like the General Investment Corporation [la Corporación General de Inversiones] run by foreigners, including Flores Facussé, Ferrari, other foreigners who do not come to mind at this moment. They ran this bank, they bankrupted it, cynical, because until they sold the building of the bank, we remember because we are still paying that money.

We arrived to vote at the fourth ballot and unfortunately on that day the coup happened, which I now realise, through deputies and trusted people here in Costa Rica, that four days before the coup it was known here in Costa Rica that there was going to be a coup in Honduras. So we believe that they are the same people. In fact, ex-presidents of Honduras have companies here in Costa Rica. José Leonardo Callejas has companies in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala. He has investments in Mexico, less in Honduras, where he robbed all the money with which he goes around with influence everywhere.

He walks around enjoying our money, with our wealth from Honduras. We do not like it, and that is the root of the poverty in Honduras. We are not poor; we are miserable in Honduras, with so much wealth, but belonging to only ten families, who are unfortunately all foreigners.

MM: Can you tell me about the protests in the streets after the coup and if you were involved in the protests?

Lizandro: As soon as we realised, at a few minutes past five in the morning, that there was a coup, the people took to the streets to see what was happening and we realised that we were already under siege, that we were not allowed to be on the streets; but the people were on the streets and ignored the call of the tyranny, because it was a military coup, oligarchic, and in which Cardinal Rodríguez and Evelio Reyes of the Evangelicals were also involved and in agreement that the coup was the best thing that had happened in Honduras. Also Ramón Custodio, from human rights, said that he did not know how so many people from the Resistance were falling dead on the streets of Honduras because the bullets being fired by the army and the police were made of rubber. From that moment we nicknamed Ramón Custodio ‘rubber bullet’. We saw that the firefighters were not collecting the dead; we saw that the Red Cross was not collecting the dead from the streets, but that the same people, instead of supporting the people, they carried arms, tear gas, they carried prisoners in the ambulances, because there came a time when the police could not cope with carrying so many prisoners, so many injured, that is, so many people, because with an entire population, even if they are soldiers, they are never going to beat us. We beat them because we tired them out. They were awake for 24 hours and we were resting, continuing, and taking turns. We walked in the streets day and night to demonstrate to the world and the international community that we were not, we are not, nor will we continue to agree with the policy of the current dictator in Honduras.

MM: What is happening with your job, your company in Tegucigalpa?

Lizandro: I worked in printing, my wife in another company. I always kept on with the protests, from the very moment of the coup I never stopped going to the streets every day to protest against the government. I am an active member of the Popular Resistance and on 12 August 2009 I was arrested in the Central Park and taken to the Támara penitentiary in Tegucigalpa; and it was then when a group of lawyers joined forces against the coup and it was them who litigated for us to be able to leave.

At the moment of the arrest, they took me by force, they beat me, tortured me, chained me, handcuffed me and then we disappeared for nine hours. The human rights bodies did not know where we were, nor our families. But we realised that we were in the Cobra Squadron, a squadron where the 3-16 were trained by officers trained by the School of the Americas of the United States. It is a special squadron for torture. There we were tortured, we were savagely beaten, we were asked where the weapons were, who was paying us, if we were being paid by Hugo Chávez, Mel Zelaya, who it was that was paying us. No one pays us, it is something that comes from the heart for the love of Honduras, for the love of the people of Honduras and to live in a State under the rule of law; that is how we want to live. Right now, with this Pepe Lobo, it is not a State of law, there are no laws in Honduras; it is a lie.

We continued, and until a lawyer from the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), after going three times to the Cobra Squadron, he ran into the official from Madrid and said to him “official, I have a call on my mobile from one of the police who says that the boys are being detained here. If you do not tell me the truth I am going to make it known internationally that you want them to disappear.” So this was how the official reacted a bit. He was one of the torturers there and he was the boss, he gave in and let the lawyer from COFADEH in, who began to see how we were, after nine hours of searching for us, and he saw that among the detainees were people injured, fractured, badly beaten, deprived of oxygen, in a pretty bad state. We had been put in an army car; the floor of the car we left covered in blood. Then by the request of COFADEH, a Red Cross ambulance was called. They arrived; they just looked at us, bandaged some of us, then the Official from Madrid said “they are fine”. At midnight we were taken to Code 7, a police station in Tegucigalpa in Dolores, always with hands and feet chained and shackled, like criminals. There they started torturing us again and they put us in cells.

From 2 pm when we were taken prisoners, until midnight, we had no water or food and we were given a real beating whenever they felt like it. We were hungry and thirsty. At midnight, by demand of the lawyers – at that time we had a front of lawyers led by the lawyer Neftalí – we appeared before a judge. The judge ruled that 11 of us would go to the Central Penitentiary. We left the meeting, we were handcuffed and put in the cells again and at 2.30 am we were taken to the Penitentiary in Támara, Tegucigalpa. We received a visit from an official, whose name we could not make out because the part of the shirt where the name is engraved was always covered up, and they began to torture us again. We got there at 3.20 am, we were completely soaked with buckets of water. That official ordered the police to bring plenty of water and wash us again and again with all our clothes and shoes on, and we were beaten, for at least one hour and 45 minutes. They laughed and told us “look, Mel Zelaya is with two women over there in Nicaragua and look at you here, you will no longer be doing that”. I always said, “it doesn’t matter, leave that to him, he is no longer president, but we will keep fighting”. To speak there at that time was not thinking in the same way as them and so they continued to beat us. We gave up speaking and just let them beat us and they threw water on us whenever they wanted to.

So this is how it was and how we entered the premises of the Penitentiary and until the fourth day we had the right to wash ourselves, during that time we did not have a bed, a sheet, a pillow, we had to sleep on the wet floor, not even in the cells but in the corridors. We had to ask for permission from the other detainees to sleep on the floor because there was not even any floor space on which to sleep. I happened to sleep on one of the stairs, sitting there. So this is how it was during the time I was kept prisoner. We watched nervously as the officials and police came in at 11, at 12, at 1 am, at 2 am, who will be taken today, who will be killed today, and who will they take to torture. There was a psychosis of fear because we knew nothing of the outside world; we were cut off; we thought that at any moment we would be taken off to be disappeared or tortured to get some truth out of us. A situation of terror.

MM: How long were you detained for?

Lizandro: We were there from the 12th until the 20th. We went to the Court five times. Each time it was the same, with feet and hands shackled and chained. Those were moments of terror and fear, because we were told that we would have to spend 30 to 40 years in prison and so we almost started to demand that the lawyers bring us the good oficios so that we would be able to leave. They told us “we have everything to win, but the oligarchy, the police and the army have the power right now and we cannot do much, but we are doing everything possible to remove them [or ‘get you out’ [sacarlos] – not sure if talking about the police / oligarchy/army or the prisoners]”. So they kept on working, with us always in solitary confinement. People came to see us at the Penitentiary – the Commission on Human Rights, from Brazil, from Spain, from Canada, from the United States – we told them everything that had happened to us and what was happening to us. They were aware of our situation. Those who have experienced firsthand the repression of the coup, we hope that they are working for us and for the people of Honduras.

MM: Are your family still in Honduras?

Lizandro: Yes, they are in Tegucigalpa. But the people that are active in the people’s movement have no right to work, no jobs, nothing. They are asking me to help them, but I cannot work here. The Government of Costa Rica does not allow me to work. If not, we will not have work to live, I cannot live by begging. There are people who support me [Friends Peace Centre, San José] and that is how I have been getting by. I do not know how it will be in the future. Right now we are processing documents, you just do not know. I am a foreigner in a country where I cannot demand anything, only do as they say.

MM: Are you still receiving news from Honduras, from your friends, your family, and from the newspapers? What do you think is happening?

Lizandro: The people are still in the streets, with the knowledge of all the deaths that there have been: professors, teachers, shoemakers, builders, carpenters, doctors, lawyers, journalists, disappeared. Like any oligarchy, everything is entangled with drugs, they say that they die for settling the scores. That is what the police said, because that is what the oligarchy tells them to say. But no, it is part of the popular movement and they do not like the people demonstrating so they look for ways to keep them quiet, to silence the people’s thinking. These people have to be eliminated, and they are eliminated by their death.

MM: Could you mention the importance of COFADEH and other similar organisations?

Lizandro: Immediately after the coup, all the human rights bodies, like CODEH, TPTRT, COFADEH, announced that they were available for the people 24 hours a day. When someone was arrested, they were present. They were ready to defend the people and we are very grateful to them because they condemned it, and as soon as they knew something, they were there; and the people are aware of this and it has been taken into account. Not so with the other traitor, Ramón Custodio, the ‘rubber bullet’, who put himself in their favour.

We trust in those organisations, we now see how they work and support us, otherwise there would have been more deaths, because there are many people around the whole country, not just in Tegucigalpa, but also in San Pedro Sula, in Copán, in La Ceiba, in Progreso, Tela, Trujillo, Colón, La Esperanza, Intibucá, Choluteca, who are in wheelchairs, there they are for history, to judge the military, like Romeo Vásquez, who hopefully one day I will be able to see die, to pay for the great number of deaths there have been and for the many crippled people who are walking around on crutches. They have caused great terror and they have to pay for it. I would like to see them in Rome paying for their crimes, Micheletti, all them, that would be a great joy for the people.


Radio Victoria

Interviewees: (from left in photo) Oscar Beltrán, Cristina Starr, Manuel Navarrete and Elvis Zavala (all of Radio Victoria)
Interviewer: Conducted by members of the CIS election observer delegation
Location: Cabañas, El Salvador
Date: 29 January 2014
Theme: TBC
Keywords: TBC
Notes: Both Spanish and English versions are presented together as the Spanish conversation was translated by Cristina Starr during the meeting. In many cases, especially where the speaker talks at length, Cristina summarises rather than translates.

Comments are noted with [inaudible + time] for inaudible speech. It is noted that the translation done by Cristina Starr is in conversation with Oscar Beltrán, but some of the Spanish male voices during the first 3 minutes of the recording are unidentified. Times within the recording are occasionally given in brackets.


Cristina Starr (CS): Translating for Oscar Beltran: So my name is Oscar Beltrán and I’ve been working here for [inaudible 0:19]. I’m one of the founders of the radio and I do that full time, but I come here every week. I’m part of the four of us and a couple of other people who are part of the collective, that is kind of the leadership of the radio, so we don’t have to regularly have a group collective that runs the radio together.

Spanish Male Voice: Bienvenidos, buenas tardes, a la red de Santa Marta más de 17 años acá en este Proyecto y soy locutor y encantado de tenerle acá, gracias.

CS: Translating: So, welcome everyone. Good afternoon and welcome to Santa Marta. I work on the air team, we support [inaudible 1:21] and I have worked here for 17 years with this radio.

Spanish Male Voice (Jesus): Buenas tardes soy Jesús, vivo en Sansuntepeque y Brian me invitó para acompañar a la delegación de ustedes. Trabajo con él en cárceles y, éste me da gusto que hayan venido a conocer nuestro proyecto [inaudible].

CS: Translating: My name is Jesús and Brian invited me to join you all today. I work with him in prisons and I’m pleased that you’ve come here to get to know about our project [inaudible 1:56 – 2:02].

Elvis Zavala (EZ): Buenas tardes mi nombre es Elvis, eh, soy de Santa Marta, una comunidad como a 8 o 9 kilómetros de acá. Tengo ya 15 años recién trabajando en la radio y estoy en la parte de, coordinando la parte de educación y la parte de dirección de la radio también.

CS: Translating: Hi, my name is Elvis and I’m also from Santa Marta which is a community about 8 or 9 kilometres from here, and I have also been working here for 15 years at the radio station and I work on the educational production area.

Martin Mowforth (MM): [2:41] Y el perro?

CS: [inaudible 2:43 – 2:50] And she has a very interesting [inaudible 2:53 – 3:04]

Spanish Male Voice: Creo que vamos a dividir en algunos momentos, algunos momentos la charla, y uno tiene que ver con la parte de la historia, como nace el proyecto comunitario, la otra tiene que ver un poquito con la situación por la que ha pasado la radio a partir del trabajo que ha hecho. Y de nuevo plantear un poquito las proyecciones también que tenemos con el proyecto comunitario con la Radio Vitoria.

CS: Translating: So we’re going to divide our presentation into moments, so one will be, you know, how the radio started, what its origin is and then we’ll go on to talk about the more difficult time that we went through at the radio, and then what we are doing now.

Oscar Beltran (OB): Bueno, empiezo primero: la radio, Radio Victoria nace en Santa Marta en 1993, el dia que hace su primero transmisión al aire.

CS: Translating: So, the radio entered the community of Santa Marta in July 1992, that’s the first day we went on the air.

OB: Pero, ya el proyecto de la Radio Victoria venía desde mucho antes porque siempre estabamos discutiendo como tener un medio para comunicarnos. En ese momento solo se hablaba a Santa Marta, pero ya cuando se logra concretizar el proyecto, ya también se está visualizando como no ponernos solo al servicio de Santa Marta, sino de la mayoría de comunidades que, donde pudiese llegar la señal.

CS: Translating: So in the beginning we transmitted in Santa Marta and the idea was that we were going to be a radio for Santa Marta, but as the project really became a real project when we went on the air, we began to think that this is something of benefit to more communities, and so that’s when we thought about coming out here.

OB: Entonces fue una iniciativa de Santa Marta porque creíamos que ya estaba llegando el, la finalización de la guerra pero necesitamos también tener medio para comunicarnos internamente cualquier cosa que pasara en cualquier punto de la comunidad. Porque sabemos que los medios tradicionales no se iban a poner al servicio de la comunidad, entonces es como la primera razón en la que se piensa en el proyecto de Radio Victoria.

CS: Translating: And so the radio began in Santa Marta, with the idea that the war was ending and it was a way to communicate on a local level and that the big commercial media never really talked about what was going on in the rural communities and so that was the kind of idea. I would also add that it was a time of transformation from the civil war to peace and having a means of communication available to the community.

OB: Y, bueno la Radio Victoria ya hace su primera transmisión, ya después de haber un poquito más de un año de haberse firmado un acuerdo de paz en el Salvador, y decíamos bueno también es importante que los medios de comunicación jueguen un papel en este proceso de democratización en el que va a entrar el país, a partir de la firma de los acuerdos de paz.

CS: Translating: And so the radio started just a little, about a year after the peace accords were signed, and we thought that this was a really important moment in history to be participating in this transformation.

OB: Y eso se traducía para, para nuestra práctica comunitaria el hecho de abrir espacio dentro de la radio para que comunidades que casi ni se sabía que existían durante el tiempo de la guerra, incluso hubo gente que quizás pensó que desaparecieron esas comunidades, pero que seguían existiendo. Entonces el proceso de dar a conocer todas las condiciones en las que habían quedado, porque por un lado el Gobierno estaba planteando que el país ya estaba en paz, y nosotros estamos diciendo que era mentira. Acababa de firmarse el proceso pero era necesario atender las necesidades graves que había en las comunidades.

CS: Translating: And so there are a lot of communities that people didn’t know what had happened to them during the war, and thought they had maybe disappeared, and they began to participate with the radio and the radio opened its doors to them. A lot of people said well, you know now we have peace and the peace accords had been signed, but what it wasn’t was this kind of beginning of a process so conditions were still very difficult and the communities said the idea was a bit – oh, all of a sudden you’re [inaudible 8:20] – no, you’ve still got to address the difficult conditions that people were living in within the communities and that’s part of what the radio began to address.

OB: Gente que no tenía acceso a educación, gente que se moría porque no tenía atención médica y en todo que removía hasta un punto en el que podían atenderle se morían también porque no había acceso a las carreteras, entonces tenían que cargarle en hamacas y, y, todo eso por supuesto era difícil. De esto no se estaba hablando en los medios tradicionales, entonces era importante ponerlo porque era unas apuestas también que tenía que hacer el Gobierno a partir del proceso que se entraba.

CS: Translating: So there were communities where people didn’t have access to education, people died because they couldn’t get to healthcare, they couldn’t get to a road or a car, and then trying to find a way to get a ride and by that time many people had died; these were situations that were never reported in the regular media and so the radio began to talk about this.

OB: Ya hasta ese momento ya se había trasladado la radio para este punto, y el moverla a un punto como este que es más alto que Santa Marta, no solamente era por el tema de altura sino también porque consideramos que era un punto donde siempre pasa la gente que viene de las comunidades, entonces es estratégico poner la radio donde las comunidades podían pasar porque me sentía parte, como un medio de comunicación interna entre las comunidades. No había teléfonos para llamar, una comunidad tenía que mandar un aviso desde una comunidad a la otra, tenían que caminar horas. Entonces la radio facilitaba que esa forma de comunicarse porque pasaban dejaban una nota o alguien pasaba por la radio y, y tenían las puertas abiertas. Nosotros habíamos dicho: la gente no tiene que sentir que tiene barreras para accesar a la radio, a un micrófono de la radio. Entonces era, fueron están las razones por las que se consideró este como un punto estratégico para que la gente pudiese ir entrando a la radio.

CS: Translating: And so that’s when we moved from Santa Marta up to Victoria because Santa Marta was down in a valley and Victoria is the highest point in Cabañas. This was not only because of the altitude of Victoria, but also because it’s a place where people come from all different communities, and so here at the radio we’ve always had our doors open and always made it easy for people to come in and have access to the microphones. Before if somebody wanted to communicate for longer, they would have to go walking for hours and hours, but now they come here and they can [inaudible 11:13 – 11:18] opportunities.

OB: Y, bueno, creo que la radio, la población empezó a encontrarle sentido a la radio. Primero no estaban acostumbrados a, a hablar frente a un micrófono, entonces también el equipo de la radio tenía una tarea de ir enseñando poco a poco a la comunidad a aprender a hablar frente a la radio, porque uno normalmente no está acostumbrado a hacer esto. Y a parte los medios de comunicación, por lo general, tiramos la responsabilidad a la gente, decimos nosotros acudimos, los micrófonos, abrimos los espacios, pero la gente no quiere participar. Es mentira, la gente no está acostumbrada, entonces no lo va a hacer. Entonces hay que irle enseñando y diciendo como puedo aprovechar el medio de comunicación. Y era así como la gente comenzaba a encontrarle el sentido porque dejaban anuncios e iban moviendo rápido toda la información que ellos querían transmitir.

CS: Translating: So people began to find that they were here maybe on experience or work for them because they would come here and they would bring messages, but also we were beginning to show people, you know – come on in, you can sit, you can talk to us on the mic – people weren’t used to talking in front of a microphone, but you know we would encourage them and we would talk with them and we would say look, if your family hears your voice then you’ll feel more confident about what the message is, or your relatives or whatever, and so little by little, little words and the traditional commercial radio, you know it’s not that easy to get into the transition pattern and talk about words or quotes, but here we encourage that because that’s probably what the community radio is about, being open with people.

OB: Y, en ese momento cuando ya la gente comienza a ir dándole luz por la calle, y ya no, no era solo un espacio para escuchar, sino que podía venir participando, siendo parte del equipo de la radio. Eh, comienza a haber toda una interacción y por supuesto que las instancias del Gobierno empezaban a sentirse presionadas porque estaba saliendo información que ellos no consideraban importante pero que afectaba la, las apuestas que ellos estaban haciendo de cara al desarrollo del país. Porque traían organismos internacionales y eran San Salvador como las ciudades más importantes que les mostraban, pero no les venían a mostrar toda la situación de cada comunidad que había en el país otros lugares. En la medida que la radio lo estaba haciendo público, estaba afectando a los intereses del Gobierno.

CS: Translating: So the radio began to talk about the conditions that people were living in and what was going on. This wasn’t so convenient for the government because when international people were found with aid they were shutting down the big cities, but wouldn’t really go out and share the aid with the people who lived in the countryside, so the radio began to trivialise that; what the situation was, what peoples’ lives were like and what conditions they lived in; and that wasn’t convenient at the time.

OB: Estamos pues cuestionando incluso que como era posible que en la firma de los acuerdos de paz no se hubiese negociado la presión psicológica a toda la gente del país que participo en ese proceso directamente o que se vieron afectados por todo el, el proceso de la guerra. Porque la guerra en el Salvador se registra como una de las 10 guerras más violentas en el mundo. Entonces, ¿Qué impacto pudo haber generado la promulgación? Pero no sé, no sé, no se negociaron en la firma de los acuerdos de paz, es por eso que incluso a estas alturas toda la administración que tiene el país tiene que ver también con esa, esa mala negociación, esos malos procesos que se llevaron para finalizar la guerra del Salvador.

CS: Translating: So we all spoke and people began to question the peace accords and nothing was talked about in that about the psychological effects of this war, because it was a war that was heavily dressed as one of the ten most violent wars in history. How’s it possible that people didn’t take into consideration the effects that people had suffered through this war and who were affected by the war, travelled to gain [inaudible 15:54] and that’s part of why people are suffering right now because the psychological effects were not taken care of.

OB: Y, bueno, la verdad que no espero mucho de la reacción del Gobierno. El Gobierno empezó a hacer una campaña en la que estaba desacreditando a los medios comunitarios, tratándoles de, de radio guerrillera, radio comunista, y como en el proceso de la guerra todo eso se había tergiversado, estos los conceptos habían sido mal utilizados. Entonces, eran conceptos de terror, entonces decir la radio guerrillera era asustar a la población. Y bueno al lado de llegar a cerrar las radios comunitarias acá en el país.

CS: Translating: So the government began to react and began to call the community radio – it was Radio Victoria that existed at the time – all kinds of names like guerrilla radio. It got to the point where the government shut down the community radio stations that existed at that time.

OB: Y, bueno el Gobierno, la intención del Gobierno en ese momento fue, bueno si la gente, para votar la radio, para comprar equipo es tan caro, le pegamos un golpe como este, le quitamos los equipos, aquí se muere toda esa iniciativa de las radios comunitarias. Pero se equivocaron porque fue al contrario, fue como que le dieron más realce todavía al tema de, de la radio comunitaria, porque medios internacionales, incluso, se interesaron por el atropello que se estaba dando en este país a los medios comunitarios, sobre todo reventando un derecho tan fundamental como es la libertad de expresión.

CS: Translating: So the government thought that by coming in and taking our equipment that they would limit our resources to be able to continue on, but actually that plan backfired because that gained a lot of attention, and understand that we would put a demand into the Supreme Court that the constitutional side of it, because as Oscar said, it was a violation of freedom of expression, and so instead the disappearance gained more attention.

OB: Fue también un momento para darnos cuenta que la gente, se estaba apoderando ya de estos proyectos de radio comunitaria, porque la gente también salió a la calle a exigir que se devolvieran los equipos a las radios comunitarias. Eso también muy fuerte, el apoyo, porque dijimos bueno parece que no estamos haciendo nada en vano, la gente si está valorando nuestro esfuerzo y está saliendo a la calle para defendernos.

CS: Translating: People also showed what the radio meant to them, because people went out into the street in protest and that had even more of an impact because the government saw all these people in a protest march saying we want our equipment back, so our community radio can function.

OB: Y bueno, el tema incluso llego a otros países como Estados Unidos, al grupo progresista, muy progresista que enviaron cartas también presionando a la Corte Suprema de Justicia, que ¿Cómo era posible que después de haber firmado un acuerdo de paz, se estuviese violentando de tal manera la libertad de expresión? Y un derecho tan fundamental como es la comunicación. Entonces que se diera un fallo a favor de las radios comunitarias. Y se dio algo, pero la verdad es que no fue, que no fue nada significativo porque aunque hicieron una pequeña modificación de la ley, nunca se, esta, ni pusieron que existen las radios comunitarias legalmente en este país.

CS: Translating: And all these people from the United States were saying how is it possible that you have signed peace accords? You’re violating people’s right to expression and freedom of communication, and eventually there was a modification, and I would add that the Supreme Court ruled that our equipment should be returned and we went back on the air.

OB: Si, bueno, y aunque no se podía regresar como, como se los llevaron, y muchas veces tampoco se los entregaron, porque no usaron los métodos más adecuados para llevarse los equipos, ellos cargaban, tiraban los equipos. Entonces son equipos que no se pueden tratar de esa manera, y con un medio golpe se dañan, entonces el estado tampoco resolvió.

CS: Translating: [inaudible 21:05 – 21:12] Some of our equipment was returned damaged and it wasn’t a very well dealt with situation.

OB: Y, ¿Qué fue lo que logramos legalmente? Solamente que modificaron la ley donde decía que en el país existía un medio de comunicación de cobertura local, y solo cubre los municipios; de cobertura departamental, cubre un departamento; de cobertura regional, dos o tres departamentos; y de cobertura nacional. Entonces en el fondo no cambiaba nada, y las radios comunitarias tenían que seguir sobreviviendo y compitiendo con la lógica comercial cuando nuestro sentido comunitario no va con la lógica comercial de la comunicación. Entonces, no hubo nada significativo realmente para la radio comunitaria.

CS: Translating: So what have we really achieved? The law, where the deal was recommended that there was local radios for townships or departmental radio stations. The regions that we ended up covering always continued to compete with the traditional commercial radios in the country, and so have never been recognised as community radio.

OB: Pero en lo, peor lo que nos mostro que el Estado estaba buscando la forma de como quitarnos, cerrarnos las puertas a las radio comunitarias fue que, una vez ya que se logro ese acuerdo, lograron hacer esa pequeña modificación de la ley. Nosotros como asociación de radio comunitaria, que eramos un equipo mucho más grande, hicimos gestiones a nivel internacional para obtener los recursos, para poder comprar las frecuencias porque nos daba una, se nos decían que podíamos funcionar pero no se nos daba una frequencia para funcionar. Entonces, quedábamos igual. Y, y bueno lo sorprendente que cuando llegamos a obtener unos recursos, pero vamos ala radio nacional para que nos alquilen una frequencia, nos dicen que el aire está saturado y que no pueden vender una frequencia a la radio comunitaria.

CS: Translating: So in that time, after the radio returned to the air, we created a national community radio station, and after the radio we sat down and talked on the air as we had gotten a lot of attention, we were able to get funds from different aid organisations and where we had the resources to buy a frequency that we could use for community radio, because we were never authorised a frequency – we would just go from one frequency to another, and finally when we did have the resources to buy a frequency and we wanted to set up a community radio, they [national radio] said, oh sorry we have cut the frequencies for community radios.

OB: Y bueno, ocurrio también pensar en algunas personas de confianza de la asociación que fueran a presentarse como, como empresarios que estaban interesados, en poner, en tener su radio para su negocio. Y efectivamente lo hicieron, llegaron y dijeron: mire somos 3 empresarios que estamos interesados en una radio, tenemos el dinero para comprarla, cuesta tanto y aquí esta la frequencia disponible. Y se vendio la frequencia, asi es como hemos logrado tener esta frequencia la 92.1.

CS: Translating: So what we did is we found some people that we had a lot of trust in, and sent them in as if they were business people that wanted to start up a new radio and have a frequency. They were like well, here’s your frequency and some money towards it, and that’s how we were able to get a frequency on 92.1 and that’s the frequency that many community radios throughout the country are on.

OB: Y bueno, creo que ahí teníamos un reto grande tambien porque eramos mas de 10, de 10 proyectos, de radio en todo el país. Y era ¿qué vamos a hacer? Solo tenemos una frequencia y somos como 10 proyectos. Entonces, dijimos bueno, si hemos estado criticando la forma tan centralizada como funciona la comunicación, entonces con lo poco quehemos logrado conseguir hay que buscar una manera de centralizar la comunicación. Y asi fue como se empezó a distribuir la frequencia 92.1 en diferentes puntos del país, que ahora hay como 17 proyectos de radio en una sola frequencia en un país tan pequeño.

CS: Translating: So then we were faced with how we were going transmit on that point with ten different community radio stations, and how would we work it out so that we can all transmit on one frequency over the country, but we do have interference problems that we have with 17 different radio projects that use the same frequency.

OB: Y, bueno ahi, eh, nosotros consideramos este, que desde que nace la radio hasta el 98 que fue como una etapa en la que era una lucha tanto por sobrevivir y casi no nos preocupamos por ponerle tanto contenido a la radio, sino mas que la radio comunitaria no se quiere en el Salvador.

CS: Translating: And really from 1993 to 1998 we consider it our kind of ‘survival stage’ where we were struggling to keep our heads above the water, because we were being attacked by the government and the difficulties meant that we didn’t have the space or the chance really to put our concentration into the content of our programming.

OB: Y bueno creo que eso, es mas o menos un resumen de, de la historia y asi comenzamos a ponerle un poco mas de cabeza, como ir estructurando nuestra programación y como ir respondiendo también a las necesidades que tienen las comunidades de comunicarse.

CS: Translating: So that’s kind of the history of the radio and then we moved into another station where we really did start to put a lot of energy into the programming of the radio and the needs of the communities and how could this radio station really be of use to them.

OB: Bueno, quizás, voy a encontrar un poquito a mis compañeros sobre, mas sobre la parte que ha significado para la radio, asumir una carrera como esta de ponerse del lado de las comunidades y defender los derechos comunitarios.

CS: Translating: So now maybe we will talk about what it meant to the radio to see inside of the communities and to give them the rights, to see what we professionals value.

Manuel Navarrete (MN): Bueno, quizás empezar tambien diciendo lo importante que es Radio Victoria, ha sido una radio escuela, aca han pasado cientos de jóvenes, que deseo que hemos llegado aca, aca hemos aprendido a hacer radio, a ser locutores, a ser presentadores, a ser periodistas, que puedo poco le hemos enseñado al que no sabe nada y eso ha sido la tónica del proyecto.

CS: Translating: So something really important about Radio Victoria is that it has been a radio school; there have been hundreds of young people that have passed through here that started at zero and somebody who knows something about somebody else, and that’s the way the dynamic has been working here since we began.

MN: Ahora hay muchos jóvenes que han sacado sus carreras universitarias, viven y trabajan en otros proyectos pero siempre están ligados a la radio, Porque siempre el deber de colaborar con este proyecto, pues que les enseño mucho.

CS: Translating: So there are a lot of young people who now have degrees from universities and who are working on other projects, but they still feel a commitment and a love for the radio because this is where they began.

MN: Bueno, Oscar ha mencionado una parte importante y creo que tambien para nosotros después de obtener una frequencia, cuando eramos mas grandes ¿verdad? Que empezamos a poner un contenido a la radio y empezar tambien a acompañar a las comunidades mas de cerca, a visitar las comunidades, ahí nace un proyecto interesate de radio, radio, historia y camino a las comunidades que es ir a la comunidad a conocer su realidad y de esta manera tambien a través de la radio poder dar a conocer las cosas buenas que hay en las comunidades pero tambien hacer la denuncia publica de todos aquellos proyectos que durante décadas las comunidades nunca obtuvieron.

CS: Translating: I think Oscar said something really important which is when the radio began to concentrate on the content of what we were putting out and how we were involving the communities, and we began with a project also that involved Radio Victoria going to the communities and seeing the conditions that people live in and what their lives were like and what they had been able to achieve, but also the kind of promises that local authorities had made to them and then had never completed.

MN: Y algo que es importante, es que, la población del departamento de Cabañas, por tradición es gente muy conservadora, eh, muy tendente a la derecha digamos, y cuando empieza la radio de hacer un trabajo de llevar a la gente la buena noticia de Derechos Humanos, empezamos a llevar las noticas, y tambien programas que hablen de todos estos temas, empieza una serie de situaciones de parte de políticos de dentro del departamento, que no veian bien o no ven bien ese tipo de trabajos que realiza la radio.

CS: Translating: So Cabañas is a department that is known to have a very conservative population and people have traditionally been aligned with the right wing, but when the radio began to do this work of visiting communities and putting out local news and producing community programmes that talk about what the reality of what is going on locally, that the local government began to say ‘what are they doing, this isn’t good that this has happened’.

MN: Y muchos de ellos en lugar de ver a la radio como una aliada estratégica para poder desarrollar proyectos con las comunidades, le ven como una amenaza y empiezan a criticar nuestro proyecto y a descalificar el proyecto de Radio Victoria, tildándole de radio guerrillera, radio cuchillo y muchos diciendo que esta radio tiene que desaparecer de aca de Cabañas.

CS: Translating: And so they began to say what’s going on here, and they began to disqualify the radio stations and say that there radio stations shouldn’t exist.

MN: Y es ahí como empiezan a llegar amenazas al proyecto de la radio en el año 2006, si mal no recuerdo, pues, por medio del teléfono nos llaman y nos dicen callense, ustedes muchos hablan, debido a que tambien hay procesos electorales. Siempre educando, quizás no como educar a la gente, pero si como informar a la gente ¿verdad? sobre la importancia que tiene el votar, pero el votar de una manera consciente ¿verdad? Analizar bien las propuestas de cada candidato en este, para alcalde, para diputado o para presidente, que ya no vengan y nos engañen ¿verdad? con esa propaganda barata que siempre andan los políticos. En este momento fue una coyuntura electoral y nos llaman aca al departamento de prensa y nos dicen: callense, porque sino se callan vamos a matar a uno de ustedes. Fueron como las primeras amenazas que recibimos antes del proyecto, pero nosotros no los vimos tan serio.

CS: Translating: So it was around 2005 or 2006 when we first began to receive some threats, as the government saw us as a threat to them, and so people began to call the radio because we were doing campaigns, we were doing electoral campaigns and we would say it’s important to vote, but not ‘just to vote’, but to analyse what the proposals said, and to think about what is best for your situation – something that never really used to happen in this country – and because of that we began to get phone calls, and a phone came in where this woman said “shut up, shut up, you better shut up or we are going to do something to you, so you just better stop talking.”

MN: Bueno y una serie de situaciónes pero que a la larga nosotros eso no nos retuvo. Pues siempre el reto de que el proyecto, cada dia, cada año será mejor, y trabajar de la mejor manera para la gente, porque siempre hemos tenido claro que nuestro deber son las comunidades. Y todavia están pendiente en esos años aca en nuestro departamento pues había proyectos de minería a los cuales el Gobierno había dado permisos de explorar, de explorar el proyecto de la mina, la mina El Dorado, nosotros como radio siempre tocamos estos temas. Pero llego un momento en que nos detenemos y empezamos a explorar ¿Qué es la minería? ¿Cuáles son los beneficios que traen la explotación de mina? ¿Cuáles son las cosas, tambien, que nos afectarían en la explotación minera en nuestro departamento? Y empezamos a brindar información a la población, miren estos son beneficios de la minería y empezamos a ver ejemplos, de proyectos que se han explotado en South America, aquí cerca en Honduras, el valle de Siria, y a contra razón del mundo, realmente la minería lo que trae es muerte y destrucción.

CS: Translating: At first with these people, we didn’t really pay much attention and we continued our work and we continued to accompany communities with their struggles, and then the mining company began to explore in the area and began to talk about it and ask questions. So we wanted to find out about mining and about the profits, and what the consequences might be.

MN: Y de esa manera pues empezamos a informar, a informar a todos y a acompañar consenso que la misma comunidad estaba haciendo, y organizar y empezar a protestar en contra de esos proyectos en el Departamento de Cabañas. Y precisamente en el 2009 se da un hecho triste, lamentable, aca en el municipio de San Isidro en donde secuestran y luego asesinan a un, a un ambientalista, un amigo, compañero. No se si ustedes habran oído hablar de, valga la redundancia, de Marcelo Rivera. Era un hombre que se puso en contra de estos proyectos en el departamento, y denunció a políticos, alcaldes, ejecutivos de derecha que estaban aliados con la compañía Pacific Rim, para poder explotar esa minería.

Entonces fue un hecho que a nosotros nos lleno de tristeza, y también fue pues un reto, porque Radio Victoria acompañaba a la comunidad en ese momento critico, cuando desaparece Marcelo Rivera, Radio Victoria dispone de dos periodistas, tres periodistas perdón, que andaban acompañando a la comunidad en la búsqueda de Marcelo Rivera. Porque la policía no quería, no quería hacer el trabajo, no querían investigar esta situación.

CS: Translating: So the communities were all organised around the issue of gold mining and trying to say that this is what we want and what we think of the mining company. We continued to educate ourselves with the company communities and organising protests, and it came to the point in June 2009 a very tragic and sad event happened which was that Marcelo Rivera was kidnapped and disappeared and for two weeks people were searching for him, and really it was the community and this family – the police were not involved – and we had three community correspondents that were accompanying the search. Eventually, his body was found at the bottom of a well, there were signs of torture and he had a been a community activist and environmentalist. He worked in the Casa de Cultura as a teacher, and he was a friend of the radio and had been part of our cultural events, our anniversary, our popular arts festivals, so it was a really tragic and shocking thing for us when we found this guy.

MN: Despues de la búsqueda intensiva de la comunidad, la radio, las organizaciones que se unieron, después de una semana se encuentra en un pozo el cuerpo de Marcelo, todo morado, o sea una muerte horrible, terrible, que se le dio al ambientalista, a este compañero. Y como radio pues nuestro deber informar, acompañar e informar, y al mismo tiempo denunciar ¿verdad? El trabajo pasivo de las autoridades del departamento de Cabañas, de la polica nacional civil, y es asi como que empiezan las amenazas a llegar a estos compañeros que andaban acompañando a la comunidad de San Isidro en la búsqueda de Marcelo. Fueron además de anónimos a sus casas en donde le decían que dejaran de estar haciendo su trabajo, que se retiraran de la radio, que sino pues los iban a asesinar y contaban los lujos de barbarie de, asi como matamos a Marcelo, asi los vamos a asesinar a ustedes tambien, retírense, no les queremos ver que estén en la radio, que anden metiéndose en cosas que no les importan.

CS: Translating: So Marcelo’s body was found tortured at the bottom of a well and his job was to warn people about what was going on and to announce what was going on, and the people that began to receive death threats – they came to their doors and their houses, and on their cell phones saying you know, we’ve got lots of details about what they were going to do. So they should stop working at the radio, and they should stop giving out support otherwise they were going to end up like Marcelo.

MN: Y allí empieza una persecución a muchos lideres comunitarios, a organizaciones sociales, al personal de Radio Victoria, desde esa fecha, desde lo de Marcelo, empieza, seguido venían anónimos, cartas, correos electrónicos, aca a nosotros a radio. Y recordamos un dia, que es bien histórico para nosotros, que es un 29 de Julio, si mal no recuerdo, que ¿Por qué es histórico? Nosotros, la verdad, habíamos ido a Sensuntepeque, a un encuentro deportivo y la compañera que quedo aquí en la radio nos llama sobre las 5 de la tarde y nos dice. Miren, aquí me han llamado y me han dicho que van a venir a prender fuego a la radio y que me van a secuestrar. O sea que una guerra psicológica terrible. En ese momento nosotros no sabíamos que hacer. Lo primero que hicimos fue ir a la policía nacional civil, pedirles que, que nos acompañaran a nosotros a la radio y luego a Santa Marta y que también vinieran a ver que estaba pasando en la radio. Pero, igual, cada denuncia que se hacia, la policía no le ponía la importancia necesaria a la situación que estaba dando con nosotros. Hasta ese momento, muchos de los que trabajamos en ese proyecto, estábamos totalmente nerviosos, muchos decidieron de momento yo me voy, porque están amenazando a mí, están amenazando a mi familia, entonces ¿yo que hago aca? Y muchos pensamos en ese momento, bueno entonces yo también, porque es bien tremendo cuando uno llega a la casa y en la radio se esta programando un, uno de los anónimos que nos enviaron en donde dicen, miren: usted hijos de …. y por ahí van diciendo un montón de cosas, sino se salen de la radio les vamos a asesinar, vamos a asesinar a sus hijos. Una guerra psicológica tremenda.

CS: Translating: It got to the point where, one day, about a month after Marcelo was found, we started to receive – because our anniversary is on the 15th July and we dedicated our anniversary that year to Marcelo and then everybody [inaudible 44:54], and they [presumably pictures of the tortured body as a warning?] would come on cell phones, they would come through emails, they would come under your door, and mention lots of people, written grossly with lots of details and people were nervous and panicking to this day, when everybody is on the radio went to [somewhere??] except for Isabelle who stayed here to premiere the music, and she was in the studio and she was sending something to Ecuador, when somebody says to Isabelle, “oh hey Izzy, you’re all alone now, huh? I’ve been watching you right outside and I’m ready to get you and I’m going to burn down the radio and I’ve been following you all day; this morning you went to San Isidro, you’ve been to this place, that place, and we’re outside right now and we’re going to get you.” So she calls up the people at the radio and says I don’t know what to do, I’m freaked out – this is what they’ve been telling me and they’ve been following me – and what the radio does is says, look, we want some help because we’re receiving these threats.

MN: En muchos de los correos se nos decían, les vamos a dar y nos mencionaban cantidades enormes de dinero, que dejaramos de estar trabajando aca en la radio. Incluso al compañero Oscar le decían, vos sos el directo despedir a Pablo, despedir y empezaban a mencionar nombres, incluso a Cristina, esa gringa. Unas, eran unas, una serie de cosas que nos ponían, en que pensar, de verdad. Yo en es ese momento dije, yo me voy de la radio, yo ya no voy a seguir aca, ya no soporto, es una presión horrible, terrible. Pero ese dia, a mi me cambio, a mi me cambio ese dia 29 de Julio, porque cuando nosotros llegamos aca de Sensuntepeque, encontramos aquí a la comunidad, se habían movilizado, la comunidad y habían venido aquí a la radio, y encontramos a toda la gente aca en la calle. ¿y que es lo que está pasando? Hemos escuchado que quieren quemar la radio. Y nosotros estamos aca para defenderles a ustedes y si vienen a quemar pues que nos quemen a todos. O sea ver la comunidad con esa determinación y esa decisión de defender un proyecto de radio como este. En lo personal a mi me animo, y en ese momento yo dije bueno si, en esta lucha no estoy solo. Aparte de mi están los compañeros, compañeras, esta la comunidad. Al final uno se decide, y bueno si me asesinan haciendo algo que es un bien común, es un bien para todos y todas, pues yo me resigno y que me asesinen. Y desde allí para aca pues decidi seguir en el proyecto y fue terrible, porque fue hasta el 2000, si mal no recuerdo el 2012, que recibimos la última amenaza. Que fue terrible porque nos ordenaron un plazo, les dejamos una semana para que ustedes se vayan de la radio y se vayan …


MN: Y del departamento. Si ustedes no lo hacen vamos a empezar a asesinarlos, sino podemos a ustedes a su familia, o sea, algo horrible, horrible.

CS: Translating: So it was a very difficult time because communities were pressuring us and saying that she shouldn’t have stayed there alone, and why are you exposing yourselves to these dangers, what are you doing? Personally, when I heard about Isabelle I was like I’m out of here, I not going to continue with the radio, I can’t do this anymore because I’m too scared. What happened was that we came back and we came to the radio and went down to the community of Santa Marta, that the radio is under threat to be burned down and when we arrive here, there are always people out in the streets being there, waiting there to defend the radio, and they said if they come to burn down the radio, they are going to have to kill all of us first. And so I said, okay, I’m not alone in this – all of these people are with me, and if they’re going to assassinate me, they can assassinate me because I’m doing something that’s good for the community and I want to continue on. [Inaudible 1:25-1:32] That was the beginning of 2012, and I’m continuing with the project in [Santa Elena? 1:36], and we battled through really difficult things, for example, I will say that I was here and there is another place, Paulo who is part of a news team has been waiting for years here at the radio, we could not do it because people came and started walking round his door in the middle of the night, saying “Paulo, come out, we want to talk to you.” Oscar has had people outside of his house, Elvis had people outside manipulating their guns, and you know these are things that, well it’s one thing to receive a piece of paper or something on your cell phone or email, to actually have people outside your house in the middle of the night is so terrifying. So we’ve all been through that, and I’ve received phone calls overnight from Paulo saying, “They’re outside my door, they’re calling my name and I don’t know what to do” – these are situations that we’ve had to come round and figure out what to do, and also know that the most important thing is to keep the radio on the air [Cristina speaks Spanish 2:47-2:57]. Yo lo he arreglado un poco, he hablado de casos personales, algunos mensajes en la noche, todo lo que nos ha pasado.

MN: No, y otra cosa que es importante quizás que compartir con ustedes, que antes que llegara la empresa al Departamente de Cabañas, las comunidades vivian con armonía, con hermandad, y con esa, con esa cosa que nos une ¿verdad? A la gente que vivimos en cantones. Pero luego que llega la empresa, que empieza a dividir a la gente de las comunidades, empieza a ofrecer dinero a algunas personas lideres y luego empieza a crear división entre los que apoyaban la, a la empresa y la gente que estaba en contra de la minería de la explotación de minas en sus comunidades. Y empieza a haber esa rivalidad y luego ya no se ven como vecinos, e incluso familiares ya no se ven como familias sino como enemigos. Y en ese, en ese tema, luego surgen tambien pues asesinatos ¿verdad? Pues que, que van relacionados con la misma lucha ambiental en contra de la empresa minera aquí en el departamento. Y se dan asi, pues asesinatos como el de Dora Alicia, una madre pues que venia del rio con su niño y embarazada, le salen al camino y la asesinan y a ella, al feto y tambien le barrigan al niño que lleva en brazos. Antes tambien se daba el asesinato de Don Ramiro, casos pues tristes y lamentables. Todo por defender la vida, por defender los recursos naturales, por defender que no se contramine la única fuente de, de algo que tenemos aca en el Departamento.

CS: Translating: So why the things would happen, is that before the Pacific Mining Company came into Cabañas, people lived pretty harmoniously and people were comfortable, but when the mining company came they began to do things like, offer some people money to work with them or to co-operate with them, but somebody else would say, whoa wait, that’s not your land, that’s my land and there was difference within the communities and [inaudible 5:13] was created, and then there was – so Marcelo was found at the beginning of July and at the beginning of August, Ramiro Rivera was shot in the back eight times, and somehow survived, but four months later in December he was ambushed with people holding machine guns and he had two motorbikes with him, but they only had pistols, so he and one other civilian were both killed. A week later Dora was coming back from Washington because she was eight months pregnant and she had her two year old son in her arms, and she was shot in the back killing her and her baby, and her two year old son was wounded and bled. So these are the kind of situations that are happening to environmental activists, these are people that have spoken out against the mining company, and every time we have denounced these assassinations or assassination attempts, we get raining down of threats again.

MN: Yo creo que lo más triste y lo más lamentable de toda esta situación es que, las autoridades no han hecho su trabajo. La fiscalía general que es la encargada de investigar de oficio todas las amenazas. Nosotros de todo pusimos denuncia, porque siempre nos decían es que ustedes tienen que denunciarlo pero tienen que hacerlo formalmente. Pues íbamos a la Fiscalia, formalmente cada quien a poner su denuncia, pero ahora hoy que es 29 de Enero del 2014, no tenemos una respuesta de quien nos está amenazando. Y con los casos de los asesinatos, en el caso de Marcelo dijo que era por cuestiones pasionales; en el caso de los ambientalistas Doña Alicia y de Don Ramiro que eran problemas entre vecinos, y hasta ahí llegaron las investigacions. Capturaron a hechores materiales, pero no han capturado a ningún hechor intelectual en los asesinatos. Nosotros siempre hemos exigido a las autoridades y a la misma Fiscalia, que queremos que no nos corresponda pues, que nos diga, porque en su momento hasta se nos quiso acusar que nosotros mismos nos estábamos autoamenazando. Y esa era triste y por un momento de zozobra que nos estuviesen diciendo los investigadores ¿no será alguno de ustedes que esta haciendo eso? Yo se lo dije a un investigador: si ustedes creen que eso es asi, son nosotros nos sometemos todos a que nos investiguen uno por uno, a ver si es asi. De verdad no dijo nada.

CS: Translating: So the sad thing is that now it generates 2014 and we went through all of the processes [inaudible 8:32-8:39] and even though they announced everything, people would come here and interview us over and over and over, and there has never been a response – no-one has ever come and said, you know, this is what we investigated, this is what we found – nothing! In fact, it got to the point where they said well maybe there was nothing. Until, we said fine come and investigate us [inaudible 9:08-9:17] it’s something, so you know, after all this time we never had any response to our process.

MN: Y el Estado reaccionó a esta situación gracias a la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos quien hizo presión, y gracias tambien a una alerta que se hizo también a nivel Internacional. Y había siempre de organizaciones amigos y amigas de Radio Victoria y otras organizaciones que empezaron a presionar al Fiscal y al mismo Presidente de la Republica, enviando muchas cartas. En las cuales exigían a la Fiscalia, al Presidente, que actuarán, que investigará esta situación y es asi como ciertas medidas cautelares a algunas personas de la radio. Y hasta ahora podía tenemos algunos que andamos ahí con un policía, con un protector, y es algo bien difícil adaptarse uno, que está acostumbrado a andar libremente sin que nadie lo ande viendo que es lo que hacer ¿verdad? Y luego dejar que andase de esa manera y tener que andar con un policía siempre, donde quiera que uno va, es su sombra. Horrible, terrible pero que en su momento lo vimos importante hacerlo para poder salvarguardar nuestras vidas, aunque eso hay mucho entre dicho ¿verdad?

CS: Translating: So basically, we continued in that situation without receiving any response and we got a lot of international support from a lot of letters, embassy and national campaigns, saying people have sent letters to the attorney general and they sent us copies of the letter, but we’d get around ten to fifteen letters every day for a while and they were from all over the world, and we did a campaign on the radio and we asked people from all over the world to send messages and say you know, we’re here and we’re listening and we’re watching what happens to Radio Victoria, and you know, with all this pressure the human rights offence office also responded to us. We received some protection that we couldn’t possibly receive some of the people that had protectors and bodyguards since 2009, which is also a very difficult situation because that someone will be with you 24 hours a day and they will be stuck to you, and it stops you from doing what you want, anytime and all the time, and they’ll be writing everything down and you don’t even really know who they are, you don’t know what they’re writing down. It’s very, very difficult. Yet, at the same time, if we denounce these protectors, it’s like saying “forget it, everything’s fine,” and we’re not willing to let this case just disappear without ever having this kind of response; it’s a very complicated situation.

MN: Bueno quizás decirle dos cosas. Una es que la empresa Pacific Rim, en su momento vino, aca a la radio, a querer poner publicidad que nos ofrecia, si mal no recuerdo 8,000 dolares mensual por poner publicidad en la radio a favor de la minería. Y también nos ofrecieron, este edificio estábamos empezando a construir, nos ofrecieron hacer este edificio de dos o tres plantas, y que la empresa lo hacia. Yo creo que ahí fuimos contundentes de responderles de que ni por todo el oro que sacaran de aquí de la mina El Dorado nosotros le íbamos a pasar una sola cuña a favor de la empresa. Porque en ese momento andaban confundiendo a la población con esto de la minería verde que, que ayuda, que el medio ambiente, o sea una total farsa ¿verdad? Y el otro caso, es que hay una compañera nuestra, que debido al acoso, la seguian todos los días de personas que llegaban a su casa y le metían terror, ella pues al final, pues no soporto, era madre soltera tiene un niño y lo mismo la obligación de buscar, la seguridad que ella saliera del país, y ahora se encuentra en Alemania, debido a toda esta situación tan terrible que estamos pasando nosotros el personal. Y creo que esa posibilidad ha existido para todos, porque vinieron de la Unión Europea, bueno si ustedes quieren, quédense exilados a un país empecemos los tramites, empecemos. Pero el objetivo no es ese, yo creo que el objetivo nuestro siempre ha sido claro y es el de estar aca en Radio Victoria, y estar aca sirviéndole a nuestra gente, sirviéndole a la comunidad y no irnos, ni dejar el proyecto que se muera. Yo creo que ahí estamos bien claro el personal ahora.

CS: Translating: Just to remind you as well that the Pacific Rim Mining Company came to the radio whilst we were filming a project, and offered us US$8,000 a month to put advertising on the radio, and we said that we were not going to do that and they were doing these campaigns and confusing people, telling them that they were ‘green’ and very ecological, and we all know that El Salvador is a country full of volcanoes and earthquakes, and we’re talking about using cyanide to take the gold out of the ore, and also to divert all these other toxic metals going into the atmosphere. Well, how are we going to store all this cyanide in a country where we have earthquakes and tremors all the time? So we said you could take all of the gold out of the ground in Cabañas, but we will never put any of your advertising on our radio because it is environmentally bad for the country, and for the health of the people; and we’ve also had people from all over the world giving international support and found out about an organisation in Germany that offered asylum for a while to politically persecuted people, and they took her in and since she’s been part of that programme. Then the European Economic Community came to the radio and said that if you want asylum in this country, we can sign you up right now and facilitate that, but that’s not what our objective is – our objective is to be here; accompanying the communities and helping the communities, to help the transformation of this country to better their conditions and better their lives, so we have to be here, we’re not looking to go and live somewhere else.

MN: De haberse explotado la mina, 1% del oro explotado era para el municipio, 1% para el Estado Salvadoreño y el 98% se iba para Canada.

CS: Translating: So the mining company were able to move their mine here. The deal was that 1% of their products would go to the municipality, 1% would go to the national government, and 98% would leave the country and go to their pockets. So a good deal for that company, and a bad deal for the people here.

MN: Un negocio para le empresa, no para el pueblo.

Y por eso que es que el 2014, hoy el 2 de Febrero [fecha de la elección] está en juego mucho. El Gobierno que le dio el permiso de exploración a la empresa fue el partido ARENA. Entonces, quiere decir que si la derecha vuelve al poder, y en sus posibilidades puede, darle el permiso de explotación a la empresa, lo puede llegar a hacer.

CS: Translating: So that’s why February 2nd [election date] is really important because the party that gave declaration to the mining company to come and do exploration, was the ARENA party, and if they come back into power it is very possible that they will bring the mining companies back and begin the actual mining.

MN: Porque gracias a esa lucha se paro, se paro ese proyecto, pero no hay una ley en el país, y esa ha sido la exigencia de las organizaciones sociales y ambientales, que los diputados y diputadas aprueben una ley que prohíba de una vez por todas cualquier tipo de explotación de minas aca en el Salvador, pero eso no existe.

CS: Translating: Because the organisations that people were organising once the mining arrived, the committee have been able to stop the mining here at the moment, but what we all want is a law that puts mining in a country so tiny where the water is so vulnerable here, there should be a law that they cannot deal with.

MN: Somos un país chiquito, y explotar minas en nuestro país significa muerte y destrucción para sus habitantes que somos la mayoría, que somos pobres.

CS: Translating: So we’re a very small country and carrying out metallic mining in this country would mean destruction and death for the majority of people who have themselves to support.

[Applause – mixture of voices]

MN: Ah bueno, si, no se quedaron asi, fue a …, como nosotros pertenecemos a una Asociacion que se llama: La Asociacion de Radios y Programas Participativos de El Salvador, ellos fueron a la dirección ejecutiva a San Salvador, llegaron con el mismo paquete. Mire nosotros le vamos a dar mucho dinero, y allí ofrecieron mucho mas, yo no recuerdo la cantidad, pero queremos que ustedes le digan a Radio Victoria, a Radio Victoria y a todas las radios comunitarias que pongan nuestros anuncios, nuestro comerciales en todas las radios. Nosotros supimos, hicimos una carta, elaboramos una carta asi de reacción inmediata y la enviamos a la dirección ejecutiva explicando porque habíamos rechazado ese tipo de propuestas, porque va en contra de nuestros principios como radio, y que la rechazamos y que tambien le pedíamos a la Asociacion que no diese permiso a ninguna radio de poner esa publicidad. Y gracias a Dios lo hicieron asi, y no se pacto anuncio de Pacific Rim en ninguna radio comunitaria.

CS: Translating: So they moved into our national community radio association in San Salvador, and they offered even more money to them and they also turned them away. Importantly, everybody [inaudible 21:59] that money all the time, but we reacted and wrote a letter to our associations and said, you know, these people are advertising destruction and we cannot be part of this – do not allow them to put advertising on any of our radios; and we were able to stop them.

CIS delegate: I have two questions. When we were at MUFRAS, we heard about Rodrigo and Ramiro as well and what we heard was that apparently when he was shot for the first time that he recognised one of the employees was from Pacific Rim. What sort of – and after he was shot the second time it was the same person, but that person left the country?

CS: It wasn’t the same person.

MM: No, it didn’t say that.

CIS delegate: Oh we didn’t know who shot him? Oh, okay.

CS: He was killed the second time, so there would be no way of knowing.

CIS delegate: But there is no way that the person from the first time was there?

CS: I think he was in jail that time.

CIS delegate: He was in jail? He was found?

CS: Yes, but not for – I mean he was really [inaudible 23:20] that time. If you want to be part of – I’m not going to answer you – but if you want to be part of the [inaudible 23:33] club, we have relationships with our friendships and send out information sometimes and if you would like to be on our emailing list, just put your name very clearly please [laughter] because sometimes we can’t target people. [Starts speaking quiet Spanish]. La pregunta es que cuando Ramiro, le dispararon, me dice que el reconoció al que disparo y que era un empleado de Pacific Rim, porque Ramiro lo reconoció ….. no sabe que estaba en la cárcel …… [Ininteligible]

MN: Si, este cuando el compañero Ramiro, cuando él, bueno a él le asesinaron le pusieron una emboscada en un lugar estratégico, en el cual pues no, no conocieron a nadie de los, de las personas que en su momento hicieron el hecho. Pero luego cuando les capturaron si se supo que fueron jóvenes, pandilleros que habían sido contratados para llevar a cabo, sicarios ¿verdad? Contratados para hacer el asesinato. Hasta ahí se sabe, no se sabe quien los mandó porque creo que es lo triste aca, de que siempre los hechores materiales de todos estos asesinatos pues quedan impunes ¿verdad?, los intelectuales que son las personas quienes mandan hacer los asesinatos, y claro. Y la primera vez que atacaron al compañero pues si reconoció al muchacho, que era un empleado de la empresa y luego cuando se dio el asesinato el estaba preso.

CS: Translating: So the first time Ramiro was shot in the back of the legs, so he did recognise who it was and it was a person who was working for Pacific Rim and he was in jail for four months, but when Ramiro was ambushed and killed it wasn’t a very strategic spot where these guys came out all of a sudden and they had machine guns and they just shot him, and eventually they were charged, they were like gang members, hired killers, and this is what we have. It’s the material actors are also arrested and put in jail, but we never hear about who had ordered it, so it never goes beyond just the material actors, it’s never been investigated further.

CIS delegate: But from the first time, was there not a much clearer link between –

CS: Because he recognised the killers.

MM: ¿Todavia tiene sus guardaespaldas, sus protectores? Y ¿estan, agentes locales de la polica o no? Do you still have your bodyguards, your protectors? And are they local police agents or not?

MN: No, nosotros pedimos eso en un principio que queríamos que anduvieran con nosotros personas de confianza, pero no fue posible. Además que las personas que andan con nosotros, hay un contingente dentro de la policía nacional civil que son PPI, ¿no es cierto? Nosotros pedíamos ese tipo de policía, porque hay mucha gente conocida que incluso es de la zona, pero se negaron. Lo que ahora hoy pues son policía que normalmente se utilizan para cuidar a personas con militariados o testigos militariados o que andan cuidando pandilleros que son testigos claves de hecho pues. Ese es el régimen que nos están aplicando a nosotros, o sea que al final las personas que andan con nosotros ellos hacen actas. Cada vez que hacemos cambios ellos ponen en esa acta desde cuando uno llega aca, todos los movimientos que uno hace. A donde va, con quien va, con quien se reúne, a que hora come, o sea.

CS: Translating: The question was that we saw this [inaudible 28:35-28:39] we had to get the local police and though they’re not up to the same as a special unit, which is actually used for key like – what do you call it when you have a – witness, it has to be under protection because they have special information and I don’t know what you call it?

CIS delegate: A witness protection or something like that.

CS: Yeah like a witness protection come round, instead they really had to pay attention to sources and stuff, and we had Oscar’s with a part of the police that’s called protection for important people and if you are one of those important people you can say who you want to be your protector, and that’s what we wanted to be when we’re not important people, but we wanted to have people that we knew and that we trusted to be our bodyguards, and not complete strangers that we would have problems with them.

CIS delegate (Lenora Yarkie): How about three more questions and then we do have to get on our way to the ADEC office.

CS: OK, I just want to give a very brief explanation of some of the really positive things that the radio has done [inaudible 30:00-30:07]. Si por las amenazas, han continuado en la radio.

MN: Yo creo que eso es lo, algo interesante, nosotros no nos hemos tenido, como les dije al principio siempre vamos tratando de ser mejores y mejorar los contenidos e incrementar la denuncia pública, pues al final creo que las mismas comunidades son quienes lo hacen. Y algo que es bien curioso pero interesante a la vez, que a pesar de que la radio desde 2009 hasta 2012 hubieron amenazas continuas, había jóvenes también que venían con solicitudes, yo quiero formar parte de la radio. Y claro nosotros les preguntábamos pero y en toda esta situación de, de amenazas ustedes … Si, si, si vengo es porque siento el compromiso de querer estar en un proyecto como la radio. O sea que, hay mucho joven ahí también valiente que tiene ganas, y asi han ingresado muchos jóvenes a pesar de este período triste de verdad, de guerra psicológica, que no ha tenido miedo, y han llegado al proyecto de radio.

CS: Translating: So, I think that we haven’t changed our pamphlet and we have continued and increased our announcing of situations of really where we receive the announcements in the communities and we put their voices on the air in order to do that and really I think people have more ….


Fundación Prolansate

Interviewees: Eduardo Zavala, Executive Director of FP and Dennis Sierra, Director of Jeannette Kawas National Park
Interviewer: Martin Mowforth
Location: Tela, Honduras
Date: 17th August 2010
Theme: Area protection; threats to the environment.
Keywords: NGO | conservation | Caribbean coast | Garífuna | plantations | monocultivación | land invasions | palm oil | drug trafficking | tourism | fishing


Eduardo Zavala (EZ): The Prolansate Foundation was founded in 1989 by a group of people from Tela, who had observed that we had a wealth of natural resources but that there was no authority responsible for its protection. It was then when Jeannette Blanca Inés Kawas, along with others, and supported by the Peace Corps of the United States initiated the formation of a group. Once formed, the group gave it a name, and the foundation was legally established in 1992. It obtained its legal status, which is a requirement of our country, and it began to operate with a legal structure, based on an approach which takes into account the participation of communities and advocacy in public policy and decision-making, so that the people benefit as much as possible.

Our main aim is to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants of the river basins. This depends on the point of view from which you look at it, because for some people it will be that we are going to restrict the exploitation of certain resources, and for other people we are going to protect the resources. So, it depends on the particular viewpoint, how our vision is interpreted. But our vision and mission has been focused on that, improving the quality of lives of people, through giving them a good place to live, a good environment, conserving species, and preserving the quality of the environment.

Prolansate has six programmes: community development, eco-tourism, environmental monitoring and conservation, environment education, project management (financial sustainability of the organisation) and technology transfer. This last programme is responsible for working more closely with communities in agriculture and production. We focus on these programmes to deal with the issues.

As an institution we have evolved, we have changed, because in 1992 when we started out, our mission was purely environmental, it was to protect the fish, to protect the birds, the jaguar; but at that time the role of participation of civil society or of communities within the system of protection was not so clear. Then we moved forward in time and we have added aspects which give us greater integrity in our work.

Now we work in programmes relating to health, vulnerability, climate change, or be it, on issues which although they had links to our work before, they were not part of our mission. So we have evolved because to survive you must. Donor policies have changed – they say “we want you to work in this”, so we have to go along with it. Also today civil society is more aware, the people do not sit quietly, as noted before. Nowadays people in the communities make demands, they educate themselves, they read, they learn about the laws. This has forced us to make these institutional changes.

Martin Mowforth (MM): Could you explain the main problems facing the foundation?

EZ: We analyse the problems from three perspectives: economic, social and environmental. On the social side, since three years ago we have had a number of serious and delicate problems. We have a group of people who constantly try to invade the core area of the parks, that is, the areas which are off-limits, which belong to the State and are for preservation. So we have different groups of people, motivated by political and economic interests, that want to invade the land so that they are given land titles which then later they can sell. There is a strong land market here. Unfortunately people have been acting wrongly and illegally.

On the environmental side, we have problems related to the accelerated degradation caused by humans – for example, changing weather patterns. The birds usually come on certain dates, but now all the cycles have stopped. We also have soil erosion in the upper parts of the river basins, which will end up in the lagoons, sedimentation has been filling up the lagoons. We also have an accelerated rate of coral reef death, due to suspended sediments. We are also introducing new species, invasive species, like the lionfish which is very prominent here in the bay.

On the economic side we have the tourism project Los Micos, which is currently the largest in Central America, the largest investment in Central America. It is an opportunity for Tela, for the park itself, for certain aspects of sustainability; however, the omission of a social side in the project since its start is the biggest problem, because it causes the people to speculate on land values, prompts the invasion of areas near the projects and abnormalities start to occur at the local level.

MM: With regards to Astaldi and Los Micos project, are there conflicts between Astaldi and the Garífuna communities, and between the Garífuna communities and the Foundation? And is the Foundation working with Astaldi?

EZ: Los Micos project consists of three main parts: the private part, which is the largest, the part of the government, which is considerable, and then the Garífuna part. The Garífuna are part of the project, they have seven per cent. The others have some 51 per cent and those, some 42 per cent. So the private part holds the majority, second the government and in third place the Garífuna communities.

To implement the project, they established a company, joining the government and private enterprise, and created a joint venture called Tela Bay Touristic Development (Desarrollo Turístico Bahía de Tela, DTBT). Then they contracted a construction company, which is Astaldi. We, as Prolansate, are outside. We are part of the project because it is within the national park, but we deal with the municipality, SERNA, which is the country’s environment authority, the ICF, which is the forestry authority, the Institute of Anthropology and History, Ofraneh, the organisation for Garífuna communities. We are auditing these people, Astaldi and DTBT, with regards to the project. It is in this sense we participate.

Clearly there is a conflict between the Garífuna communities and the project, but there comes a point where you could say, what is it that the Garífuna people are asking for, because there has been no clarity from the communities who say “we, as Garífuna communities want this and that”. Maybe within the project the needs of the Garífuna communities that have been posed are based on the needs that certain people in the communities have expressed, which are not the needs common to all, but those which suit this person or that person.

So the project has been addressing a series of needs that have been expressed by the communities, however there are other issues such as the social side and participation. That is, the participation of the Garífuna communities in the project is not yet clear. We do not know what this participation will entail, what the real benefit will be, or the repercussions of participating in the project, so in this regard there is still no real clarity between the Garífuna communities and the project.

MM: Yesterday we were with Ofraneh and they said that no other organisation or government ever listened to them.

EZ: I respect Ofraneh’s mission and vision, but about 90 per cent of their views I do not share, because our vision is rather more to promote development, social development tied to economic development. But that of Ofraneh sometimes wants social development without the inclusion of the economic aspect. I do not understand how we are going to secure a quality of life without promoting work or investment – that is what I cannot understand. Yes, logically there are differences between Ofraneh and Prolansate, well because we are different institutions, but we have a common goal.

Ofraneh sometimes use our technical reports, because we have produced a series of reports in which we say Los Micos project is going to affect the humidity in this or that, the Los Micos project will affect such issues. We have produced very comprehensive reports in collaboration with other institutions and universities. But when we represent a restricted (limitante?) Prolansate, we are no longer an ally and they see us as an enemy. Ofraneh have accused me of promoting the sale of land, but quite the reverse, we have supported the Garífuna communities in not dividing their titles, in preserving this heritage for their children, that is in our interest. And the interest in working with the Los Micos project is for that. It is to try and settle as much as possible, because as they say, you can make a greater change from the inside than the outside. With this we see eye to eye with Ofraneh. Ofraneh does not have the support of all the Garífuna communities. In Tomabé they do not have much support, in San Juan yes, en Triunfo de la Cruz there are two boards, one which supports Ofraneh and another which the community elected. There is a conflict between them and Ofraneh and a Garífuna organisation would be better off reconciling interests, as the issue at hand is not fighting among themselves, but rather confronting something else which is a threat.

So, with Ofraneh, yes we have had some differences because it holds a very extreme position. I believe we can no longer be saying “don’t touch here, don’t fill here, don’t do that”. I believe we can no longer do this because the times have changed for good. Let us remember also that there are political and economic interests and there are projects which will go ahead regardless. So to avoid that it is better to say: it is ok for the investment to go ahead, but it has to abide by the environmental laws, with the management plan, with the international conventions, the ILO Convention 169, the Ramsar Convention, the Biodiversity Convention, among others. As institutions, it is very important that we take an integrated perspective and point of view and do not just focus ourselves on one thing in particular, because that would lead us to make errors.

MM: Can you talk a little about the cultivation of African palm. I know that is a problem too.

EZ: In addition to the invasions that have occurred through this area [pointing out area], we have the pressure caused by the cultivation of African palm, which for many years has been increasing because of a government law passed which encourages the production of energy from biofuels. So the people saw that it was more profitable to cultivate African palm than to have cattle and other things. So the change in land use began. African palm has had the greatest impact in the south-west. There we have a number of campesino unions or community cooperatives that have been increasing the cultivation of palm, and in the areas of Los Cerritos and Agua Chiquita. In the San Alejo sector they have not increased cultivation of palm.

It is rather ironic, because in Los Cerritos and Agua Chiquita there is a lake and a lot of mountains which for many years we have been fighting to reforest and [there has been] nothing, no interest on the part of the communities. What happened? All this has contributed to soil erosion and sedimentation in the lake. And what has happened with African palm? All these hills are now covered in African palm. So we have noticed a reduction in erosion. Or, in some cases the palm has functioned as a protective cover, but the use of pesticides increases. So we have not yet measured the increase in concentrations of agrochemicals.

Also, there was a comprehensive study done last year by Juan Carlos, about the impact of African palm in the entire north coast corridor. The problem with African palm is that it promotes monoculture; it does not encourage diversification or an approach based on biological corridors. So, in certain cases African palm causes a disruption of the biological corridors and has prompted a monoculture approach. Certain species can disperse and it can attract others. But the greatest impact it has on protected areas is in the southern and western areas and we have some cases of palm in the core protected area, caused by the birds or another type of animal that has [XXXX].

MM: One thing that Dennis explained three or four years ago is that African palm is slightly better than livestock, as it allows for migration [of animals].

EZ: Definitely, because with livestock what they do is knock down all the trees and plant grass, and also the ground is trampled. The point is to get a balance. The important thing is to not look at or demonise African palm or demonise tourism, but rather see how you can make a livelihood for a family, because if you go to these communities that benefit from the palm then you will see that they live very well, they have all the comforts, their economic situation is better than it was before. So you say, the people benefit from the protected area. The important thing is that this is carried out under a regulated framework, but here comes the role of the government in trying to regulate these matters, because it is the government itself that provides the incentives for it. So they should try and create policies and structures to prevent the situation getting out of hand.

Eduardo leaves and the interview continues with Dennis

Dennis Sierra (DS): The national park and its zones of influence are well defined. The Inés Kawas Park is a delta of the two big rivers: one is the Ulúa River which flows into the Caribbean Sea, and the other is the Chamelecón River which forms the boundary of the park. For many years the banana companies tried to colonise the park – the whole Sula valley. So this ecosystem here is connected from the Alvarado Lake which is in Puerto Cortés up to the Tornabé Lake. It is a single ecosystem, because ecosystems do not have borders. It all forms part of this delta.

MM: Another question about the case of Jeannette Kawas. Was it last year or the year before when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights opened the case again?

DS: The ruling has already been made. The government of Honduras accepted responsibility for the death of Jeannette. It is an international case and it was a death which went unpunished. Her family is being compensated by the government but that does not make Jeannette return. But there are no culprits, that is the problem, which is why the government took responsibility.

Because of tourism, the rich people in this country now want to seize the land of the park, using all means at their disposal to acquire this land, which is national land. As there is a lot of corruption here, they appear with titles issued years before. I say to them “why didn’t you declare your land years ago?” In 1998 we had a meeting with all the people occupying this territory. To those living in the area, the government gave all rights. But since 2000 a whole lot of owners have been appearing, wanting the government to compensate them or wanting to develop projects. That is why we have been condemned and sometimes we have been made vulnerable, because here people personify other people … because they are a nuisance to them.

MM: Could you expand on these threats which you have received?

DS: In the area, because of being close to industrial activities and the cultivation of African palm and banana, the soil is threatened. This is land where the water table is very near the land surface, because it is wetland. All these channels you see here are manmade, to try and lower the water table. This channel is called Martínez and cuts the protected area in two until it comes out at the sea. This was done about 100 years ago. In that time there were no environmental laws in Honduras. The Environmental Law dates from 1994. These companies came and gave out concessions for these public lands. From the railway line that comes here, they grabbed 5km from the right side and 5km from the left, and they could do whatever they wanted – they could knock down all of the trees here, cut the wood, because that is what they had been paid for by the State, and planting. These companies were the United Fruit Company, which has already left these lands, and the Cuyamel Fruit Company, which worked from Cortés up to the border with Guatemala, the Standard Fruit Company. They are American companies which were granted these lands concessions over 100 years ago. The concessions ended and this left a big problem, as now there is no railway.

MM: When did the concessions end?

DS: About 20 years ago. Some of the area was inhospitable, and still is. There are parts where there are lots of mosquitoes, dengue, malaria, because it is wetland, but the people who worked for the multinationals stayed, and here the communities that are on the map emerged, the villages that were born here such as San Juan, Tornabé, Marion, Kilómetro 4, Kilómetro 15, Ramal del Tigre. It is called Kilómetro 4 because this is what the banana workers called it, these were banana plantations. In the years after they stopped growing bananas, they grew a lot of plantain, but independently.

The land, which was already ready for agriculture, with the drainage and irrigation systems, has been used for various crops, for example teak and melina, fast-growing timber. Later this was replaced by palm. For between 25 and 50 years now, the land has been dedicated to the cultivation of palm. Right now there are farms which are being renovated, because after 28 years of cultivation, they are no longer productive. So they are returning to planting palm because there is a palm oil factory. They have the whole infrastructure in place.

MM: This factory belongs to Miguel Facussé?

DS: No, Miguel Facussé is over on the Sopo side. On this side we have Agrotor which is a public limited company, not a multinational. There is another company called Hondupalma, which belongs to some campesinos, a collective – it is on this side of El Progreso. And when you come on the road there is another company called Coapalma which belongs to independent producers, which also has its own factory and its own infrastructure for processing oil. They make soap, margarine and a range of products from palm oil. Also the quality of palm has improved. I am an agronomist. They have been improving the plant to make it more resistant to humidity, to the water table, to make it more productive, to produce up to three years, and to produce larger fruit to make better use of the oil. They have genetically improved the variety of African palm.

One of the things which I like to talk about, because I studied agriculture, is the Lancetilla Botanical Garden, the birthplace of African palm in Latin America. Here African palm was born in United Fruit Company’s laboratory. Lancetilla Botanical Garden was born from the United Fruit Company, and has species from around the world: mangosteen, rambutan, these are from Asia. I studied in Brazil and the Brazilian technical experts had to come here to Honduras to see the techniques of cultivation, to see how to produce more per hectare, how many plants per hectare, which species were being planted. And then people also came from Malaysia to study here, at San Alejo, the cultivation of dende or African palm. Even Malaysia improved the variety of African palm and now the Hondurans are bringing varieties from Malaysia to plant here.

MM: Does the Foundation have programmes on climate change?

DS: We do not have a defined programme, but Prolansate is an active member of IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and there is a technical office for the Mesoamerica region from Panama to Mexico. This office has the expertise and they are informing us of activities on climate change. With NOA there is also a change in cooperation and thanks to this cooperation we have been solving problems that we ourselves would not have been able to solve without the technical expertise necessary for the environmental issues we face in the corridor that we are managing.

From Trujillo there are several NGOs that are organised in a network. There are about ten organisations: Prolansate, Funapid, Fucawua, Fucsa, Fundación Nombre de Dios. They formed a network to look at the issue of climate change. They inform us and we inform Tela civil society about the problem of climate change. They also do monitoring. There is a state organisation called Copeco (Comisión Permanente de Contingencias en Honduras), which is also at the forefront of this, with satellite photo footage – there are people well-trained in it. We know that in Central America we are in a vulnerable place. Right now we are in the hurricane season, for example, so we are on the alert. We are part of that. We have some early warning systems; we have some shelters (casetas) here in agreement with the municipalities of Puerto Cortés and Tela, where there is a Copeco office, so we are exchanging information with them in case of any emergency that might happen, because there are always problems when managing these rivers.

MM: Can you explain the problems with fishing? I explained to Eduardo that yesterday we spent some time with Ofraneh, and they explained the problems faced by the fishermen and conflicts with organisations.

DS: Throughout our Caribbean coast, we have a number of villages, and these people use the resources, but there has not been any standard for regulating the use. Unfortunately, Honduras is a disorganised country. We are in the process of ordering, and the people do not like it when order and regulations for use start being put in place. The fisheries are over-exploited in all of the Caribbean, not only in Honduras – the same in Nicaragua, and in Guatemala the problem is much more serious than in Honduras. Here we have a lot more resources than in Guatemala. Belize, which is a country where fishermen are well organised.

I say this because we as Prolansate work in protecting the Gulf of Honduras, which is much bigger, and so we have connections. Currently, Prolansate is the secretariat of the trinacional, some 89 organisations working in the coast part, for the protection of an ecosystem much larger than this, the Gulf of Honduras. It concerns four countries: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. All the animals that move here, that large biomass is related, they move in the Gulf, and all the users who are around the Gulf make use of this, but there are different closed seasons for fishing. About five years ago we started coordinating the fishing closures to happen at the same time, not at different times. What happened before, when Belize had the closed season the fishermen could not fish in the waters of Belize, but the Hondurans and Guatemalans went fishing to Belize, and Belize has an English law a lot stronger than ours. So the Belizean patrol would capture these fishermen, take their fishing tackle from them, the vessel, everything, and take them prisoners. And on that Ofraneh said nothing, they stayed quiet.

MM: The problem for the Garífuna is that if there is a ban for several months, what do the artisanal fishermen do? Because they do not have any other means of survival – that is their livelihood.

DS: We are aware of the Garífuna. When we have a closed season, what stops is the commercialization (marketing?). Why did Honduras name these areas Jeannette Kawas? Because these sites are very important for maintaining the biodiversity of the sea. In these coastal lagoons the mangroves are like the birthplace where the fish are born or for species such as shrimp or snails, the larvae come out from these lagoons and into the ocean, but if we come and fish in these areas where they reproduce … but here there are also people, fishing communities, all those villages dedicated to fishing, because it is a resource. Here then we start to make regulations and say to them, “you cannot fish within 50 metres of the lagoon, it is prohibited”, because they are taking away the small fish, they cannot throw their nets (chinchorros) in the biological corridors. They are used to throwing their nets in the mouths of the lagoons and the rivers, which are biological corridors and maintain the life of the sea species, of the lagoon and of the rivers. So we put regulations in these zones, measuring a kilometre here and a kilometre there, and trawling is prohibited, fishing with hooks is permitted, and with atarraya, so that the species can make their life cycle. But without the use of nets, only small nets.

This was discussed with the fishermen, not imposed, because they themselves were aware of the problem. Now there are many fishermen, not like before. The number of fishermen has doubled due to unemployment, for whatever reason, those that are not doing anything at home become fishermen. Many of them here are not even registered as fishermen, because the government requires that all Hondurans born in Honduras have to present themselves at the Directorate of Fisheries to register as a fisherman and they have to pay for a small license, it costs around $2 for a fishing license. A fisherman makes $2 in a day, easy.

The fishermen are not organised, we at Prolansate have tried to organise them. We have two cooperatives that are more or less organised, but there are a lot of people. We want to work like in Belize where there are fishermen cooperatives that work really well. We have had exchanges between the Honduran and Belizean fishermen so that those here learn how to manage the resources, because here the problem is they have the resources and they cannot manage them and they want to do the same things that their great-great-grandparents did. At that time the problems we have now did not exist, there was no climate change, there was no overpopulation, there was no drug trafficking, well, a whole lot of things, and the people did what they wanted and there was no law.

Currently this country has a Protected Areas Law and the Garífuna want to continue doing things like their grandparents did. When they come they want to fight. I tell them “you are not from these countries, you came from Africa and you have to adapt to the laws of this country, you are Honduran”. Our natives were displaced by them, the true natives of Honduras were the Tolupanes, the people that inhabited the coast from here. The Garífuna were people that lived on the islands and mixed with the Indians that lived on the islands, but they came here to the coasts and displaced the tribes who were not warriors, they were harvesters. I know the history well, I am a good friend of the Garífuna, I have even defended them with regard to their territories, because they are also under threat of being displaced, but they too have to comply with the laws of the country; they cannot stay isolated, they have to be integrated to see the problems which they have, because they have a whole lot of problems like their ethnicity, which came from outside, because they do not really come from here; they came from outside, from Africa, and they came because the Spanish brought them as slaves, but they showed themselves in San Andrés and came to the coast of Central America. Even recently we supported the celebration of 213 years of having the Garifuna communities here in the park, in Río Quinto, Saraguaina, Tornabé and San Juan. We have Garífuna communities and they are protected within the park, but they must also abide by the regulations of the management plan which specifies how to use the resources in a sustainable way. So those here have to adapt to that management plan.

These organisations, Ofraneh and Odeco have their headquarters in La Ceiba, and sometimes they want to impose things on the villages here who are sometimes not in agreement, as has happened in San Juan and in Tornabé. Ofraneh wants to come with their lawyers and put regulations on the ethnic group, and they do not want to accept it. They say, “no, that does not suit us”. It suits Ofraneh but it does not suit Tornabé, because they are the ones that live there. This has come about a lot with the development of tourism. There is fighting between them, between Ofraneh and Odeco which are the two Garifuna NGOs, but which look out for their own interests, not the interests of the people of Tornabé or the people of San Juan; so sometimes they turn against each other within the same community.

As stewards of the resources in that area, we look at this problem and we tell them, “the problems in your communities and with your ethnic group, you sort out”, we cannot intervene, but for the problems with the resources, yes we can intervene, because we have to come and regulate it.

We have problems with shark species for example. The shark is a species that is being threatened throughout the whole coast of Honduras, because people without a license come from Jamaica and elsewhere. They arrive at the black communities and then fishing becomes underground because they start fishing illegally but with the consent of a fisherman from some village who is taking money in return. After drug trafficking, illegal fishing and other matters related to fauna is the most profitable. Then they kill the sharks and just take away the fins, dumping the carcasses.

The other day we did a tour because a big boat came from Jamaica. I found more than 100 shark carcasses of various species, with only the fins cut off. I have photos. That is the problem with illegal/underground fishing. Not all the communities do this, but yes there are people from here that do it and we have to find out which people. Then they turn to Ofraneh and Odeco to ask them to defend them. It is enough to say that they are Garífuna, who are an ethnic group and we cannot regulate them because they are within their own territory; and then come the conflicts. We have to struggle with this, and come out as best we can, because this is engaging in conflict, and conflict is not good.

Because of this we have some surveillance committees within the community, so that the people that consider themselves smarter than others do not do this, and so it is reported to the authorities, because Prolansate is not an authority. This type of problem arises with resource management. We have illegal fishing, poaching. Having this large area of land where people live and coexist with wildlife, we are going to have these types of problems.

MM: We have heard a story yesterday from Ofraneh about the problem of … over there where a Garifuna was killed by soldiers.

DS: That incident was in the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cuero y Salado (Fucsa)

MM: They wondered if Fucsa has the right to carry soldiers and shoot at the fishermen, even if the fishermen are doing illegal things. Do the administrative organisations have that right?

DS: They do not have the right to kill. No-one has the right to take the life of another human being, because there are always circumstances and human error. Fucsa is an area which is very well operated, but there is a very enigmatic species there, the manatee. They do not have a large lagoon, there are small lagoons and here the manatees live. There the area is smaller than in Jeannette Kawas [National Park]; they have a contingent from the naval base; they are in the mouth of the sand bar; there is a wildlife refuge. It is not us who are in a park. A wildlife refuge is a stricter category, because it refers to looking after the manatee and the manatee leave the sea and enter the lagoons and the channels.

Many years ago, the people here from Triunfo de la Cruz travelled in canoes with outboard motors up to Tres Bocas, in the sand bar area of the Rivers Cuero and Salado, usually going at night. As Hondurans, we cannot ignore the drug trafficking that goes on in this area. There are armed groups, not only military, but also from the paramilitaries. One does not know who they will run into when travelling in the sea at night. That military contingent from the Navy is a patrol of four soldiers who are assigned to patrol the area so that the manatees are not killed. They check to see if the boats are carrying manatee. I know because one of my guards was over there with those fishermen and apparently the soldiers confused the boat for drug traffickers, so they stopped the boat, but apparently they the fishermen took no notice and they were shot. That is the story I was told. They shot a fisherman.

I cannot hide the fact that many of the fishermen fish … cocaine paste, because the planes fly by here and throw out packages [bultos], and many fishermen are collecting these … because they get paid and they get involved. We cannot do anything. Already they have got hold of the people involved in that drug trafficking. Like in Mexico where right now there is a drug trafficking war on the border, the personnel here are told to check all the boats to see if there are any drugs and fishermen are not exempt from this inspection. If I am stopped and I refuse to stop and make off running, then the army has the license to shoot at me. That is what happened there.

It is not that the fishermen want to catch the manatee, but as they fish in the mouths of the rivers and throw a trawling net around the mouth, that is in a protected area, and that constitutes a crime. But they do it because it is a biological corridor and there are many species, so when they bring in the net – it is a net that they pull in by hand, it is hard work, it is not an easy job – they get a number of species and sometimes the manatee comes in the net, and many times because it is dragged the manatees die young, then the fisherman with the dead animal knows he has committed a crime and wants to hide it. Or he butchers the animal and makes it into meat. But it is not that they go there specifically to hunt manatees.

I had the opportunity to work at lot with fishermen from Triunfo de la Cruz. We were even having an influence on the community so that they would not capture or eat the manatee, because it is a species in danger of extinction. Many fishermen were cooperating, but not all, there are some who resist it because they say the manatee was eaten by their grandparents, that it was used to cure disease. The issue becomes problematic when there is a law. Manatees in the Garífuna culture are enigmatic animals that are used for medical matters, they say that it has a rich fleshy meat. We have to understand the cultural significance as well. That was an isolated incident, perhaps through no fault of my colleagues there, because I have had such problems here. They come and fish in the estuary of the Martínez channel. There in the Martínez channel there are manatees which enter the channel and go out to sea, and if you throw a net and catch the manatee and there is a small manatee, that manatee is going to die, and that is what happened there. I had a resource guard in the area and he sent a note, that a manatee was killed and eaten. I dismissed the guard, because I cannot tolerate a person who is working with me in conservation, who then participates in the eating of manatee, because he has a commitment to the organisation. I cannot go to the Quinto River and eat a manatee, I am not part of that.

Our job is not easy, we have to deal with people, and all people are different, and with natural resources, how to conserve these resources. We must start educating our communities in how to manage the resources. The problem is that we have the resources and we cannot manage them communally, although they say that they can. Although they lack education, our communities are very willing to be educated, our communities are not stupid, the Garífuna are not stupid, they know what they have, but as the proverb goes, it’s good fishing in troubled waters [un río revuelto hay ganancia de muchos pescadores], so sometimes we cannot confuse the interests of Prolansate. This business of natural resources is broad and there are many actors – NGOs, cooperatives, private companies, people in organised crime, government people, from the army – we cannot ignore them.

I am a person that when I am working with the military, I do not leave them alone. You have to be there, otherwise there could be some problem, because these people often do not have defined interests and we cannot forget that we are a corridor through which thousands of tonnes of drugs pass to the north and a lot of planes work at night. About ten years ago I used go patrolling during the night, but since about five years ago I have not patrolled because there is a lot of trafficking in the night and we are in a vulnerable area. We have no police presence and sometimes the police themselves are not reliable. So, we live in the uncertainty of not trusting our own authorities. We have said this to the government ministers, that the police themselves there are problems, and in the military too. If some incident happens for X reason, it is necessary to open an investigation, to find out why Jeannette was killed for instance. Why was Jeannette killed? This is the question I ask myself. Jeannette was a person like you, like her, who lived here at home, and who came to protect this forest that still exists, because as things stand there are many people who do not want that forest. They want quick dollars, because we live in a consumer society where the faster we get money the better. I personally very much regret the death of Jeannette, I knew her personally. Many times I advised her, I said to her: you can’t do that like this – this is when all the newspapers of Honduras take photos of you, there is your photo and whatever person that wants to can identify you, and it is very easy to kill you for 500 lempiras.

These are all the problems that we face and we are aware of them.

Right now these people come and I say to them, why did you not legalise your holding when the park was created, and not until now, when there is plenty of investment. The Garífuna community itself is being displaced, because there are two ways of being displaced: one by force or murder, or with money, and ill-gotten money at times. So, we are faced with a big challenge, to maintain our communities and develop them sustainably or these things will disappear, so the fight is that. In fact sometimes working on this, you can get disillusioned that there is no equity. Governments speak of equity and it is just lip service. Here there is much poverty, even though we are rich in resources.


Jesús López

Interviewee: Jesús López, Administrator of CESTA (Salvadoran Centre for Appropriate Technology)
Interviewer: Martin Mowforth
Location: San Marcos, El Salvador
Date: 7th February 2014
Theme: An informal interview about drugs, gangs and crime in Central America
Keywords: TBC
Notes: Interview conducted as part of a tour of CESTA’s Eco-Bici Centre. Also present were Eric, one of CESTA’s mechanics and Fátima Haugstveit, a Salvadoran/Norwegian international observer at Salvadoran elections.

Jesús López (JL): We are working with young people here in San Marcos. Here in San Marcos we have a project – we are working with all the science networks.

Fátima Haugstveit (FH): aha.

JL: This means the science networks each have a teaching centre with a science teacher and this science teacher comes here to CESTA. In the last year they came, we had twelve sessions and we gave them support in all areas of the environment. Really like a course in reinforcement for them. The idea is that they transfer their knowledge to their students. But also we work with seventh, eighth and ninth grade students. And, in the formation of groups we form ecological groups and they develop many activities with the young people from awareness raising to parades, marches, demonstrations etc.

FH: mmm.

JL: So this is what we are doing in the communities. We have different types of projects: health, nutrition, eh.. solid waste, water …. and organisation. Because the idea is that the different communities, eh.. they might take them on. Now, apart from all this, we have what we call political communication and publicity, where the communities who have conflicts or various situations in their locality come and they are supported, firstly in the process of knowing what the problem is, secondly in making a complaint. They provide practices for them that they can use in different instances, eh … and to make any complaint or a request for support either to the mayor, the legislative assembly. So they use many means of communication.

FH: yeh.

JL: Almost every, every one or two weeks at the press conference presenting an issue.

Martin Mowforth (MM): mmm.

JL: Some, depending on the occasion, have more, as it were, more importance. For example, mining is one thing that took the focus like … (XXXXX). idea. And since June last year, it focussed on toxicity. The poisons here in San Listal (?), right? While others are still driving the other issues. So they use them in the teaching workshop. Shall we go?

MM: yes.

JL: The teaching workshop is a component within the whole project of CESTA here, in the area of promoting the bicycle as an alternative. As an alternative means of transport.

FH: aha.

JL: So here we enable young people.

FH: aha.

MM: aha.

JL: Young poor people. We have been doing this for five years, with young people from poor backgrounds.

FH: aha.

JL: For the past five years, because of the violent situation in which young people live, we started to accept young students who study in the morning and come to the school in the afternoon, or vice versa, they study, they come, come to CESTA in the afternoon because they study in the morning.

FH: si.

JL: Currently we have just finished school in December, that is (why) we don’t have any young people (at the moment).

FH: aha.

JL: There aren’t any young people.

FH: Yes, they haven’t started classes.

JL: We start from February and yes, until March.

[A lot of traffic noise and machines]

JL: Here we start to repair bicycles, new bicycles.

FH: Aha.

JL: We received support for a project to be able to bring new bicycles, but in doing this we realised, eh …, we had this … offer from some partners from the United States and Canada to send us used bicycles.

FH: Aha.

MM: Yes.

JL: And it’s that which, eh … and it’s that which we are ….basically we pay the freight. (very windy)

MM: Ah? Yes.

FH: And are you interested in this?

JL: Yes, this is what we do.

FH: No, but are they interested in receiving used bicycles?

JL: Of course, of course. (The projects) receive ….  Because in Norway there are many.

FH: Yes, yes. Do they receive containers? Yes? How many each month?

JL: A very curious thing happened to us, since 2008, 9, 10, we had a problem not receiving any, we were not receiving (them) because in the United States something happened, something happened in the United States, you see. The crisis was coming to the United States and they could not send bicycles, only one container per year.

MM: Yes

JL: And we had been receiving seven, eight containers per year. So then we didn’t receive any. So from then, really, we were looking for other options, because the partner who we had was very, was very sensitive, was asking for exclusivity, that is to say, “I’ll send them but you won’t receive any more”. We talked to him and we said, look, if you cannot send us more bicycles, eh.., eh.., we’re going to look for other options and we will find other options. And last year we received nine containers.

MM: Nine

JL: Nine containers, yes.

FH: But were they interested in receiving more? Or was that sufficient?

JL: Yes, yes, yes. No. We are interested because eh.., precisely for this reason that folks are running around Canada right now, you see. A good one [a cockerel crowing about in the background] is a Canadian and a French woman, who lives in Canada. They have come to make a documentary about how to use the bicycle which has been discarded in the North, as it were.

FH: Aha.

JL: Here in the South, regarding the bicycle, they travel around making a documentary about the bicycle project. Just now. for example, they are working in El Puerto, known as El Triunfo.

FH: Aha

JL: They are operating in El Puerto, El Triunfo, making a documentary because they want to see the area where the bicycle is used a lot, the principal means of transport. (noise of animals in the background)

FH: Yes, yes.

MM: But also, you know, we know their uses. I remember on my last visit the eco-bike taxi, the eco-bike, the eco-bike …recycler.

JL: Yes, we have them.

FH: Can I take a photo?

JL: Yes, yes, of course, of course. So, here, eh ..we were surprised last year. We were not expecting a big quantity of bicycles. So, suddenly, they offered us two containers and we thought: do we say yes or do we say no? Because that would overload us with bicycles. Because we had our options: to say no, with a risk that we would not be given future possibilities, as one doesn’t know how things are going to be the following year. So we decided to say yes, even though we were already overloaded with bikes.

FH: Yes, yes.

JL: Yes, really.

FH: But are there many bicycles for children?

JL: Yes. What happened is that, in the case of children, we provided bicycles from a recreational standpoint, really. And as you will learn, for example, the night cyclists were working with a group who were making night runs, three hundred going out every Thursday, three hundred people including men, women and children, every Thursday to cycle. So we are moving many of these bicycles into rural areas.

FH: Ahum.

JL: In the rural areas, we have, for example, different options. There are people who come to buy bicycles here (XXXX) and bicycle parts, so it pays, (XXXX) the bicycle project pays well. But there are communities who don’t have the means to pay and we give them the chance to, it means some subsidise the cost of the others, so to speak. He who pays more subsidizes he who cannot pay much, you see.

FH: Yes, yes, certainly.

JL: So the bicycles which came to us in November and December overloaded us a little, right.

MM: Yes, and is the disabled caretaker still here?

JL: Carlos Montes. You haven’t seen him? You haven’t seen Carlos Montes?

MM: Yes

JL: Carlos Montes is a disabled person. He’s specifically working for the promotion of rights of disabled people.

MM: Ah. Aha.

JL: We had a project where we wanted to make wheel chairs.

MM: Aha.

JL: We were supported well, supported by ‘Motivation of England’

MM: Ah, yes, yes.

JL: ‘Motivation of England’, helped us with a project to make and distribute about three hundred wheel chairs. And, through them, we saw for ourselves that it was important not only to give the wheel chairs but to change the way people thought about disabled people. And also that people with disability should reclaim their rights. So today we are at the position of being supported by SCIAF of Scotland.

MM: SCIAF, yes.

JL: They help us, they help us in this, in this project where we enable people with disabilities to ask and, and, and … achieve their rights. We are at this stage, for example, there are some laws which have been approved in El Salvador but don’t work for disabled people. That is to say, for every 25 people there are one or two disabled people that the law doesn’t work for. So, this is a part of the work that we do. We have a workshop here, which just now, as I want to explain, isn’t functioning because the school stops in December until the end of February. In March we start with a new group, right.

MM: Yes.

JL: So, that’s that. Let’s go. Here we have, good, well all the bicycles that have come to us, and the oldest and rarest bicycles, that we are collecting and we have called the bicycle museum.

MM: Yes, yes.

JL: This we have called the bicycle museum, the oldest bicycle we have is this one. Some Canadian friends came and helped us to go through all the bicycles. And this one was found to be from 1940.

MM: Ah, yes. Cousand Flyer. He, he. Tremendous!

JL: And this tricycle is from 1950, this one.

MM: This one?

JL: Yes. This one. Yes, no this tricycle.

MM: Yes, yes, but I am reading.

FH: And what is it?

JL: Ah, it’s a bicycle which has just arrived, which is, which has a motor.

MM: Ah, yes.

JL: With a motor incorporated.

MM: I have seen one of those in San Salvador.

JL: Oh yes?

MM: Yes, but with a very small motor.

JL: If you would like to come here to the (XXXX). Some guys are still staying here, after the school has finished, they have stayed preparing some bikes.
[Music and sound of motors]

MM: Good. I’d love to.

JL: This is the school that we have. [Louder music and noise of motors]

FH: And are these for sale?

JL: Yes, yes. Are you coming? Some bicycles are supplied like this, without repair. Others come into the production process (XXXX) [a lot of noise from motors] Some projects, because we have the idea that we subsidize some of CESTA projects which do not have resources.
[Voices, people talking and motors working, a constant background noise]

MM: Impressive. Greetings

Voices: Greetings.

MM: Greetings.

MM: A smile please. Ha, ha. Perfect! Thank you.

FH: (XXXX) I didn’t think much, but …. (XXXX) (unintelligible)

JL: Yes, no, no, alright, when the people come and see all this, all the groups who come from wherever.

FH: Can I take a photo?

JL: Come, and, and, and … yes (noise of motors) places and see, so.. see the work being done. For example, if you had more time, we could have gone to the different communities where other work is being done, natural resources, eh, of every type that is done. In some conservation things, for example in Batinana (?) we help the conservation of Manlio. We help with community organisation. In other places, in other places with erosion, in other places with toxicity, in other places with mining. Here, for example is the bicycle focus.

MM: Yes, yes. And I remember a visit a long time ago, probably ten years ago, to your Eco-Cojute.

JL: Cojute?

MM: With different young people and technical production, cultivation, yes.

JL: We have Cojute, there it is working well. Today it has been used a little more, because we visited there, last year, not in 2012, we had a bi-annual conference here of the ‘Friends of the Earth International’.

MM: Ah, yes, yes.

JL: We had about 150 people from different places, from 72 different countries beyond Cogutepe, you see. Where the bi-annual assembly was celebrated. And so, the centre remodelled itself a little to have capacity for 110 people, to sleep 110 people in this place.

MM: Eh, a year ago, more or less, I heard of a state of emergency in Pajilla de Iquilisto (?) of the Pecicillos eh.

JL: That was last year.

MM: Yes.

JL: That was all in the Bajo Lempa sector (?) including San Luis del Talgo, San Luis Talgo, all this was in a state of emergency because of the toxicity situation – poisons.

MM: Yes, and what is happening now?

JL: Eh, different organizations, including CESTA, addressed the government and some parliamentary groups, GANA, well all the groups except ARENA, approved a reform to ban 53 or 55 poisons, right.

MM: Yes.

JL: They approved it but President Fumes stopped it.

MM: Ah.

JL: And until it happens, we are still, waiting. We believe, the FMLN was pushing and then stopped a bit, we are hoping that after the elections start again, it will continue again in a better manner.

MM: So, after the elections.

JL: Yes, and we hope that it will be about prohibiting those toxins which are the most damaging. But some states, well the Mayor of Iquilico (?) I have been talking a lot about, about that, this is causing a lot of damage.

MM: Yes, yes.

JL: And much is attributed to kidney disease in the area.

MM: Right, yes.

JL: We, the associates are working very hard on this front.

MM: Um, yes, good, good. Good work. They have the same problem around Chichigalpa in Nicaragua. Because of the sugar cane plantations.

JL: Yes.

MM: And also. kidneys, cancer of the kidneys.

JL: We have, there is a problem there, there is a boy in Iquilico (?) who has this problem right now. Eh, we help and

MM: And the majority are young men, yes.

JL: So this is how it is, the young guys who have stayed here are those who have come to stay from the different schools, you see, yes.

JL: For example, the newest is him, is him and him, the newest, they have already spent a little time here, and they are doing well.

FH: Yes.

JL: Eric, he has been here about three years with us but he is the one who does the quality control.

MM: Aha, three years or thirteen?

JL: Three, three years here with us. How many years have you been here, Eric? Three years?

Eric (E): Three or four.

JL: Three, three years. So, eh, if you have the chance come back to see how the operation of the school and everything is going. Or another year, or if you can send us bikes, as I was talking to you before about wanting to send us bikes.

FH: We could, we could, hopefully it would be possible.

JL: Yes, I went to a German co-operative who told me the same, gave me dates and told me that they were sending bicycles to Africa. But they said they had a problem, that sometimes Africa could not pay the freight at any time and we have a container here and we have to do something, send it to another place. This happened to us last year that some counterparts wanted to send to Africa and I don’t know which part of America and I cannot remember at the moment. So they asked us Can you do this? Can you do this? And we … we’ve worked out it, so that we won’t be left without bikes. without bikes.

FH: Can I take a photo of them?

JL: Certainly.

FH: Can I take a photo of them?

JL: Eric, can they take photos? Yes,…. yes, he,he.

FH: Look. And, didn’t they make you a prosthesis?

E: No

JL: He doesn’t like prostheses.

Another man: I had a wooden one which snapped and a metal one which they made for me, it fitted me well but I haven’t used it ever.

JL: And the other one which you didn’t like, you said.

E: No, I used it.

FH: But, notice that it stays beneficial, then. If I, yes, ok, it is a good exercise but it’s necessary to have a good leg as well.

E: No, not if it’s catching on my waist.

FH: It’s very …. Yes, of course. [Noise of motors]

FH: But, doesn’t it help you? Eric, the prosthesis?

E: Eh, it was smaller and the socket was too big, so it didn’t fit me well and I left the stump. So now I’ve thrown it away [motor noise] and the (XXXX) [A lot of motor noise and voices]

FH: Good.

MM: Perfect, thank you.

JL: I, I know about some things, sometimes not much, because it is on the administrative side but all other CESTA projects I read about in the reports that we prepare for everything. But this, eh if sometimes you have the chance to come for longer and could visit the communities where we are working, agricultural, farm workers (XXXX).

MM: Yes, the next time I come, I, I would like to arrange an appointment.

JL: An appointment? Certainly, certainly. in advance.

MM: And a visit sometime to the Cojute Centre, but the next time. I represent ENCA, E.N.C.A.. In English it is the Environmental Network for Central America, an environmental network for Central America, which sends our bulletin to CESTA every four months, it’s a network of organisations, relatively small, and a base which is not only environmental but socio-environmental therefore. And, in the past, in 2001 we sent a group to study environmental problems in El Salvador and we visited here and talked to Ricardo Navarro. He gave us a workshop (XXXX), a workshop, a seminar. Ah, so, yes, but because, it was many years ago, so the next time, yes, the next time. We are simply only here this time.

JL: Visiting?

MM: No, for the elections as observers, us two, so, at the end of the process, we have only, in my case, only two days before we have to go to Managua, tomorrow. And I didn’t realise, ah, I didn’t realise that I had, I would have time to visit, therefore, that explains my slowness and delay.

JL: That’s fine, that’s fine. It doesn’t matter.

MM: And, look, what is your name?

JL: Jesús, Jesús López.

MM: Jesús. And your position here?

JL: I am the administrator of CESTA.

MM: Pardon?

JL: Administrator.

MM: Administrator. OK, perfect. Thank you, Jesús, perfect.

Recording Two

JL: Ah, there are 7 sets so that they can share between two, two young men at the same time. But most of them, then, are already quite obsolete. We have some Canadian compatriots who are going to buy some more for us for the disabled men, a set for in, either the ruined arm or the one they grab (with). So we are going to buy one set for each, one for each one, one for each one.. And some tools, all the tools they are wearing (using), so they are going to be renewed, but it’s either too … (noise of motors). And so we have 15 young men, to each one we give transport and groceries. When they live far away we give transport and groceries, when they live nearby just groceries.

FH & MM: (Nodding along with the conversation) Yes, yes, aha.

JL: Here we have a place, for example, for some time we have had people from various communities who come to stay here. We have here a space where they can sleep as well. Or when some cooperative comes, they can also sleep here. So we give this to each young man.

MM: Bigger. (more)

JL: And to others we give, we give, for example, those who have already finished school and have stayed, we pay them for, for, for repairing the bicycles, you see. So, that’s it, eh.

FH: And those who are going, who are leaving (the school), are going to do the repairing, do they have another place?

JL: Ah, Yes, we have the sales room, what happens is ..

FH: Do they sell them?

JL: Yes, of course. The compatriot who is (normally) here in the sales room is right now with the Canadian compatriots, who are going to make the documentary, it’s, making it for El Puesto el Triunfo. That’s why he isn’t here.

MM: Ah

JL: But here we have the sales room. That’s to say, we, for example we each have, eh, for each bicycle that comes here we have a, we have an inventory process. We make an inventory and we have this shop… for spare parts.

FH: Aha.

MM: Really

JL: This shop for spare parts (run by) one of the young men who is here, and here is the sales room.
MM: Aha.

JL: This is the sales room.

Recording Three

JL: But look, because, here we have bought tools which can be used for all sorts of things, and used for keys and these things. You can buy these here but tools like chain extractors, rod pullers which are specifically for the bicycle, it is difficult to find these here. Or buy them but it’s not happening.

FH: Aha.

JL: Well, it’s happens but it takes three months, two months.

FH: Yes.

JL: Really. (loud music) So the the specific tools to repair bicycles is what costs us money because we sent off to buy some pieces for extractors three years ago.

FH: Umm, aha.

JL: Which is what we have been using but they are already worn.


Hector Berríos with CIS

Interviewee: Hector Berríos of MUFRAS-32
Interviewer: Conducted by members of the CIS election observer delegation
Location: Cabañas, El Salvador
Date: 29th January 2014
Theme: The operations of Pacific Rim / Oceana Gold in El Salvador and the consequential human rights and environmental abuses.
Keywords: TBC
Notes: Translated in real time by Brian Rude


Hector Berríos (HB): Y ese es nuestro conflicto.

Brian Rude (BR): And that’s our conflict.

HB: Aquí mismo donde ustedes están sentados en el subsuelo hay mucho oro.

BR: So here where you are seated, the subsoil has a lot of oil, earth and gold. [Laughing]

HB: Esta región de San Isidro, es parte de la zona norte de nuestro país.

BR: Here in San Isidro we are part of the northern part of our country.

HB: En la zona norte de nuestro país está la reserva acuífera.

BR: So here in the northern part, we have the water table, the water reserves.

HB: O sea que tenemos, la poquita agua que tenemos, la tenemos concentrada en la zona Norte.

BR: So the little water that we have is concentrated in the northern part of the country.

HB: Pero tambien tenemos que donde está el agua este el oro.

BR: So the situation is that where we have the gold, we also have the water, or the reverse, where we have the water we have the gold.

HB: Entonces la crisis económica mundial nos generó crisis local a nosotros.

BR: So the general global crisis has generated local crisis for us.

HB: Los Gobiernos de Derecha de este país invitaron a las empresas mineras venir a invertir para sacar el oro.

BR: So the right wing governments invited the mining companies to come and explore and search for gold.

HB: Pero esto tenía venia aparejado de muchas reformas legales.

BR: So along with this came a lot of legal reforms.

HB: Y de muchos convenios internacionales.

BR: And a lot of international agreements.

HB: Que nosotros no entendíamos para que eran.

BR: But we didn’t understand what those were all about.

HB: Estados Unidos promovió mucho el tratado de libre comercio con Centro America.

BR: The United States promoted the free trade agreement with Central America a great deal.

HB: Al ir informarnos un poco nosotros vimos que eso atentaba contra la soberanía de nuestro país.

BR: So analysing that, we realised that this was a threat against our sovereignty as a nation.

HB: De manera inconsulta los Diputados de Derecha lo aprobaron.

BR: So the congress people on the right approved it without consulting the population.

HB: Hoy tenemos el resultado de eso.

BR: And now we’re seeing the results of that.

HB: Demandas millonarias a nivel internacional acogida al tratado de libre comercio.

BR: So now we have law suits worth millions of dollars based on these free trade agreements.

HB: Lo bueno de la globalización es que las luchas trascienden de lo local a lo nacional a lo regional y a lo internacional.

BR: So the good part about the globalisation is that the struggles also start with the local and they go to the regional, then the national and the international levels.

HB: Y de repente cualquiera se puede sorprender que una lucha de mujeres y jóvenes de un pueblo de San Isidro, ¿Qué está haciendo esa lucha, discutiéndose en Washington?

BR: So we have a struggle that’s being fought by the local youth or women, it expands and then it’s being thought about and discussed in Washington.

HB: Como no tenemos agua (voces y ruido de sillas). Como no tenemos suficiente agua, nosotros cuidamos nuestros ríos.

BR: So since we don’t have enough water, we look after our rivers and care for them.

HB: Y en el año 2004, alcaldes de Derecha e Izquierda, quisieron hacer un botadero industrial de basura en línea recta a 500m de un rio.

BR: ¿De Dercha e Izquierda?

HB: De Derecha e Izquierda, juntos querían hacer el proyecto.

BR: So the mayors both left and right wing wanted to work together to create a garbage disposal centre within 500 metres of the river.

HB: Nosotros nos opusimos porque iba a contaminar un rio donde mucha gente va a pescar para su alimentación, va a lavar, va a recoger agua y también tiene riegos para sus cultivos.

BR: So we opposed this because this is the river that people go to, to use water for consumption, to wash, to irrigate their fields and for fishing.

HB: En esas discusiones un alcalde nos dijo: ustedes se quejan tanto de la basura y no hacen nada cuando les van a explotar el oro.

BR: And so one mayor said well you fight against what we’re doing with the garbage, but you don’t say anything about the gold mining.

HB: Nosotros no sabíamos nada de los proyectos mineros.

BR: We didn’t know anything about the mining projects.

Lorena: ¿en qué año fue eso?

HB: Eso fue en el 2004, 2005. Finalizando el 2004 e iniciando el 2005.

BR: It was at the end of 2004, the beginning of 2005.

HB: Y es así que organizaciones locales comenzaron a investigar que era la minería.

BR: So local organisations began to investigate what this was about mining.

HB: Y todos escuchábamos las bendiciones de la minería.

BR: And we all heard about the blessings of mining.

HB: Trabajo, desarrollo, progreso, industria.

BR: Work, development, progress, industry.

HB: Organizaciones locales como SIC, ALES y MUFRAS comenzaron a investigar de que se trataba.

BR: So local organisations (SIC, ALES and MUFRAS) started to investigate.

HB: Hablamos con otras organizaciones a nivel nacional.

BR: We talked with other organisations at the national level.

HB: Y comenzamos a conformar un espacio que hoy llamamos Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica.

BR: So we organised what we call a National Roundtable (La Mesa) Against Metallic Mining.

HB: Y solicitamos al Medio Ambiente que nos dieran información sobre la minería, proyectos mineros.

BR: So we researched and asked the environmental groups to do some research and inform us about the effects of metallic mining.

HB: Ahí nos encontramos con un estudio de impacto ambiental de la empresa.

BR: So we found a study about the effects and business of mining.

HB: Un estudio de 1800 paginas en inglés.

BR: A study of 1,800 pages in English.

HB: Diseñado para que lo entienda un especialista.

BR: Designed for a specialist to understand.

HB: Nosotros nos sorprendimos porque ni sabemos inglés ni somos especialistas.

BR: So we were surprised because we don’t know English and we’re not specialists.

HB: Entonces lo que hicimos prestar.

BR: So we had to borrow.

HB: Nos dijeron que no los podíamos llevar.

BR: And they said we couldn’t take it.

HB: Le dijimos que queríamos sacar copias a todo el estudio para que alguien (Voces interrumpiendo y preguntando donde fue esto).

English Female: So where, from who? So where did –

BR: This was from –

HB: Era el, ya esta, era el Pacific Rim pero en el Ministerio.

BR: Yeah, the business of the Pacific Rim had made the study and it was in the ministry.

English Female: Oh the mining company’s study.

BR: Of the environment, yes. And they couldn’t borrow it or take it, or copy it, make copies.

English Female: Was it an environmental assessment or impact assessment?

BR: From the business, yes.

HB: Solicitamos autorización para fotocopiarlo.

BR: We asked for authorisation to photocopy it.

HB: Nos dijeron que no podiamos

BR: They told us we couldn’t.

HB: Entonces, dijimos que íbamos a fotografiar página por página.

BR: So we said we were going to take photographs of it, page by page.

HB: Nos dijeron que era prohibido.

BR: Prohibited, they said.

HB: Entonces nosotros dijimos aquí pasa algo, eso era obvio.

BR: Something is going on here – that was obvious.

HB: ALES una organización hermana local

BR: So ALES, our local sister organisation.

HB: Hace contacto en Guatemala con un especialista minero.

BR: Contacted a mining specialist in Guatemala.

HB: Con el doctor Robert Morales

BR: Doctor Robert Morales.

HB: El ha trabajado mucha de su vida para las empresas mineras.

BR: He’s worked a lot of his life with mining companies.

HB: Hoy es consultor independiente.

BR: Now he’s an independent consultant.

HB: Y hace estudios sobre la, los estudios de impacto ambiental de las empresas mineras.

BR: So he does studies on the environmental impact studies of the mining companies.

HB: Entonces los compañeros nuestros fueron a visitarlo a Guatemala.

BR: So our colleagues went to Guatemala to talk to him.

HB: Para que él pudiera venir a leernos el estudio y que nos dijera que es lo que estaba

BR: So he could come and read these studies and tell us what was going on.

HB: El determina dos cosas importantes.

BR: He determined two important things.

HB: Uno es que el estudio de la empresa Pacific Rim no determina el impacto de la actividad minera en el agua superficial ni el agua subterránea.

BR: So he discovered that the Pacific Rim study didn’t really come to any determination about the impact on either the surface water or the water underground.

English Female: So was he able to have access to the report?

BR: Yes, that’s what he discovered.

HB: Y lo otro que determina que es que no le ha consultado a las comunidades de Cabañas al realizar el proyecto

BR: And the people of Cabañas had not been consulted about carrying out this project.

HB: Ese es el origen de nuestras luchas.

BR: So that was the origin of our struggles.

HB: Comenzar a informarnos de que se trataba.

BR: So to begin to inform ourselves what it was about.

HB: Paralelo a eso la empresa minera estaba agarrando agua de nuestros ríos de forma directa.

BR: So alongside that the mining companies were taking water directly out of the rivers.

HB: Entonces, en el proceso de exploración que es para determinar donde está el oro, se consume mucha agua.

BR: So during the process of exploration, which was to discover where the gold was, they were consuming a lot of water.

HB: El agua es un lubricante para que los taladros no calienten demasiado.

BR: So the water is a lubricant so the drills don’t overheat.

HB: Pero el agua se estaba escaseando en algunas comunidades.

BR: So the water was becoming scarce in a lot of communities.

HB: Y la gente salía y buscaba quejarse con la Alcaldia, con la policía, con Media Ambiente y nadie le hacía caso a nada.

BR: So the people would complain to the mayor’s office, the police and environmental groups, but no-one would pay attention to them.

HB: Eso fue lo que fue dando las condiciones de nuestra resistencia.

BR: And so that set the conditions for our resistance.

HB: Las empresas mineras estaban avanzando y nadie nos escuchaba.

BR: The mining companies were moving ahead and nobody was listening to us.

HB: Y lo primero que se hizo es comenzar a visitar pueblos mineros.

BR: So we began to visit the mining people and communities.

HB: Por parte de una organización hermana nuestra se sacaban delegaciones para Honduras, para Valle de Siria.

BR: So through our organisations we began to visit other communities being affected by mining in Honduras, in the Valley of Siria.

HB: Llegabamos a ver los impactos de la minería como eran.

BR: So we could see the impact of mining and what was happening there.

HB: Y fuimos descubriendo lo peligroso para la vida que es esa actividad.

BR: So we began to discover how dangerous this was for life and the base of mining.

HB: Y fuimos, fuimos buscando más información o que alguien nos capacitará sobre el tema.

BR: So we went looking for more information and tried to educate ourselves about mining.

HB: Antes en nuestras comunidades las empresas mineras andaban como andar por su casa.

BR: Before this, the mining companies went round our communities as if they were right in our own homes.

HB: Eran los que tenían el poder, eran quienes tenían la plata y andaban con buenos carros por todos lados.

BR: They got the power, the money, they drove around in nice cars.

HB: Las mejores fiestas de nuestro pueblo fueron cuando las empresas las pagaban.

BR: So the best parties and festivals in our towns were when the mining companies paid for them.

HB: Pagaban bebida de gratis, comida de gratis y mucha música.

BR: They provided free drinks, free food, free music – a lot of music.

HB: Claro, la gran mayoría de nuestra gente desconocía totalmente que era la minería.

BR: So, clearly most our people didn’t know a thing about mining.

HB: Pero además de eso reparaban los techos de la Iglesia.

BR: Besides that, they repaired the church roof.

HB: Pintaban las escuelas.

BR: They painted the schools.

HB: Regalaban anteojos para toda la gente.

BR: They gave glasses to everybody.

HB: Hacian fiestas infantiles.

BR: They had children’s festivals and parties.

HB: La Comunidad los adoraba, los quería.

BR: The communities adored them.

HB: Entonces hablar en contra de ellos era muy delicado.

BR: So to speak against them was rather delicate.

HB: Pero nosotros a la par tambien íbamos estudiando que es la minería.

BR: So alongside that we were still studying what the mining was about.

HB: Y ahí aprendimos que las empresas mineras cuando llegan a las comunidades hacen estudios socio-antropológicos que les permiten ver todas las debilidades de nuestras comunidades.

BR: So we discovered that these mining companies also do socio-anthropological studies to discover all the weaknesses of our communities.

HB: Entonces ellos llegan y comienzan a promover fiestas, regalos, para nuestras comunidades.

BR: So they come and they offered parties and gifts to our communities.

HB: Pero eso tiene una intención.

BR: So that comes with an intention.

HB: Es dividir la comunidad.

BR: To divide the community.

HB: Antes ellos debatían con nosotros abiertamente.

BR: Before that, they debated with us openly.

HB: Y nos llamaban ignorantes.

BR: And they called us ignorant.

HB: Que no tenemos estudios para decir si es bueno o malo.

BR: And we don’t have the studies or basis to say whether it’s good or bad.

HB: Todavía nos lo siguen diciendo solo que más elegante.

BR: So they keep saying that but now in a more elegant way.

HB: Pero hoy mucho tenemos ya conocimiento.

BR: So now we do have knowledge.

HB: Y sabemos que tipo de desarrollo es él que queremos.

BR: And we know what kind of development we want.

HB: Para el 2009, estaban las elecciones.

BR: In 2009, we had elections.

HB: Era el cambio de Gobierno.

BR: There was a change of government.

HB: Las empresas mineras han sido promovidas por el Gobierno de Arena.

BR: So the mining companies stepped in, promoted by the Arena government.

HB: Los Alcaldes nuestros eran promotores de Arena. De Arena y de la empresa Pacific Rim.

BR: Our Mayors were promoters serving Arena and also Pacific Rim.

HB: Promovían las actividades de la empresa.

BR: They promoted the activities and vision of the company.

HB: Los Alcaldes hablaban a favor de este desarrollo.

BR: So the mayors spoke in favour of this kind of development.

HB: Los sacerdotes locales de la Iglesia Católica también.

BR: The priests of the Roman Catholic Church, the local ones, also spoke in favour.

English Female: So when he is saying the mayor spoke, does he mean before the election or after the election?

BR: El Alcalde ¿antes o después de las elecciones?

HB: El actual es el mismo, no se ha logrado.

Recording Two

HB: El Dia del Niño, él se viste de payaso, de Cipitio de celebrar el Dia de los Niños.

BR: So on the Day of the Children, he would celebrate and dress as a clown or ‘de Cipitio’ a legendary figure, and celebrate with the children.

HB: La gente que tiene una necesidad va y lo busca.

BR: Anybody who had some need would look for him.

HB: Esas cualidades de él, lo habían llevado a ser el referente del FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation) a nivel departamental.

BR: So these qualities had led the FMLN to seek him out as the figure to go to at the departmental level.

HB: El es un líder natural.

BR: He’s a natural leader.

HB: Pues el desaparece de una reunión, no sabemos más nada de él.

BR: So he disappears for a meeting and we didn’t know anything more of what had happened to him.

HB: Lo buscamos la misma comunidad.

BR: So our own community searched for him.

HB: Hablamos con la policía, con el Ministro de Justicia y Seguridad de ese entonces Manuel Melgar.

BR: We spoke with the police, with the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Manuel Melgar.

HB: Que nos ayudará a buscar.

BR: And that they would help us search for him.

HB: Nadie nos hizo caso.

BR: No-one would take us seriously.

HB: Era la misma comunidad que salía a buscarlo.

BR: So our own community had to go out and looked for him.

HB: Todas las mañanas, todas las noches.

BR: Every day, morning and night.

HB: Efectivamente lo encontramos.

BR: Indeed we found him.

HB: Lo encontramos en un pozo de agua.

BR: They found him in a water well.

HB: Lo habían asesinado.

BR: They had assassinated him.

HB: Y lo habían asesinado de una forma que impactara a la comunidad.

BR: And they’d assassinated him in a way that would impact the community.

HB: Él estaba amarrado con nylon sus manos.

BR: He was tied up with nylon rope round his hands.

HB: Le habían quebrado su quijada y le habían metido la mano en la boca.

BR: So they broke his hand and thrust his hand in his mouth.

HB: Le habían arrancado las uñas de sus pies y las uñas de sus manos.

BR: So they had ripped off his toenails and fingernails.

HB: Mantenía las uñas de sus pies.

BR: Oh, he still had his toenails.

HB: Y había sido ultrajado.

BR: He’d been whipped very hard.

HB: Torturado, o sea.

BR: He’d been tortured.

HB: Fueron los hermanos de él, con otros amigos de la comunidad, en los que me incluyo.

BR: So his brothers and others from the community, including me.

HB: Quienes encontramos el cuerpo.

BR: Who found his body.

HB: La policía no quería sacar ese cuerpo.

BR: The police didn’t want to remove his body.

HB: Cuando ellos bajaron al pozo, dijeron que ahí no había nada.

BR: When they went into the well they said there was nothing there.

HB: Pero, una señora nos había confesado que ella vio que ahí estaba metido un cuerpo.

BR: But a woman had witnessed that there was a body there.

HB: La presión nuestra hizo que fueran a traer bomberos.

BR: Based on our pressure, they went to bring the fireman in.

HB: Y el bombero confirmo que allí había un cuerpo.

BR: And the firemen confirmed that yes, there was a body there.

HB: Al sacar el cuerpo, era el cuerpo de Marcelo.

BR: So when they pulled it out, they discovered that it was the body of Marcelo.

HB: Su hermano Miguel, quien me acompañaba.

BR: His brother Miguel who was accompanying me.

HB: Me decía que ese no era el cuerpo de su hermano, entro en una negación.

BR: So said that it wasn’t his brother’s body and he was denying it.

HB: Eso nos llevó a que hiciéramos el ADN del cuerpo.

BR: O sea a él le dijeron eso.

HB: Si, al hermano, el no Miguel me decía que no era el hermano. Lo que hice es, bueno yo quizás para explicarle un poco, he sido, soy abogado. He trabajado en la Corte Suprema de Justica por casi 9 años, y también fui investigado de delitos de cuello blanco en la policía.

BR: So Miguel himself was denying –

English Female: Miguel is the brother?

BR: Yes, and Hector is a lawyer who was working in the Supreme Court, investigating white collar crimes.

HB: Eh, fui cuota del FMLN para la policía nacional civil.

BR: So he was part of the FMLN component of civil national police.

HB: Entonces, por eso, Miguel, el hermano de Marcelo, me pedia que le ayudara a resolver eso que estaba pasando.

BR: So Miguel had asked me to help him in resolving this case.

HB: Entonces, gestionamos el ADN.

BR: So we went to investigate his DNA.

HB: Y cuando, hicimos el trámite en la ciudad de San Vicente, para hacerle el ADN, nosotros vimos el cuerpo de Marcelo.

BR: So when we went to do this test in San Vicente, we saw Marcelo’s body.

HB: Yo lo saque de la cámara fría que estaba.

BR: So I took him from the cold bed that he was in.

HB: El médico que hizo la autopsia me permitió verlo.

BR: So the physician who did the autopsy let me see him.

HB: Yo le pregunté en ese momento la causa de la muerte.

BR: So at that moment, I asked him what the cause of death was.

HB: Y él me dijo que era por asfixia.

BR: So he said it was for asphyxiation.

HB: Le habían quebrado la tráquea.

BR: They had broken the trachea.

HB: Y luego nos fuimos para San Salvador a pedir el ADN.

BR: So then we went to San Salvador for the results of the DNA test.

HB: A medicina legal.

BR: For forensic medicine.

HB: Y el Doctor Miguel Roso, amigo nuestro era jefe de esa unidad.

BR: So our friend Doctor Miguel Roso was head of that unit.

HB: El se comprometio en ayudarnos.

BR: He committed himself to helping us.

HB: Y inició el proceso de ADN.

BR: He initiated a DNA test process.

HB: Yo lo fui a visitar un día después.

BR: So I went to see him a day later.

HB: Y le pedia de favor que acelerara el proceso de la investigación.

BR: And asked him to accelerate the process of investigation.

HB: Y él me dijo, el me respondió, con gusto lo hiciera, pero el cuerpo de Marcelo ya no está en medicina legal.

BR: He said he would be glad to do that, but Marcelo’s body was no longer there for him.

HB: Hablé con el fiscal encargado del caso.

BR: So I spoke with the attorney responsible for the case.

HB: El fiscal me dijo que el cuerpo estaba todavia en la cámara fría.

BR: So he said the body was still in the cold chamber.

HB: El medico de medicina legal, me dijo desaparecieron el cuerpo.

BR: And the doctor from forensic medicine said they had disappeared with the body.

HB: Entonces no nos daban una respuesta.

BR: So we didn’t get a clear response.

HB: Hablé con algunos magistrados de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, que investigarán.

BR: So I spoke with some magistrates from the Supreme Court of Justice to investigate this.

HB: Ya que, como trabaja con alguno de ellos tenía ese contacto.

BR: So since I worked for some of them I had that contact.

HB: Con la doctora Mirla Perla.

BR: With Doctor Mirla Perla.

HB: Y ella confirmó la versión del médico, el cuerpo ya no estaba.

BR: And she confirmed the version of the doctor that the body was no longer there.

HB: El único que podía ordenar llevarse el cuerpo era el fiscal.

BR: The only one who could order the removal of the body was the attorney.

HB: Y el fiscal decía que no sabía.

BR: The prosecuting attorney I should say, and he said he didn’t know anything about it.

HB: Y no se sabe en ese momento quien ordenó, pero lo fueron a enterrar a una fosa común.

BR: So we don’t know who was responsible for this, but the body was found in a common grave.

HB: Ese día en la tarde me reuni con el fiscal y con el jefe de policía.

BR: So that afternoon I met with the prosecuting attorney and the police cheif.

HB: Me acompañan los dos hermanos de Marcelo Rivera.

BR: And both of Marcelo’s brothers accompanied me.

HB: Y ellos nos explican la muerte de Marcelo.

BR: So they explained Marcelo’s death to us.

HB: Y dicen que Marcelo fue muerto porque era homosexual.

BR: So they said that he was killed because he was homosexual.

HB: Que buscando sexo, es que se arriesgo y pasó lo que sucedió.

BR: So he was out looking for sex and he took a risk and that was what happened.

English Female: This was what the brothers were saying?

BR: This was the explanation that was given by the police chief and the prosecuting attorney to the brothers.

HB: Y nos dicen que le habían disparado con una arma de fuego.

BR: And that they had shot him with a weapon, a gun.

HB: Que Marcelo se había luchado con los jóvenes.

BR: That Marcelo had struggled with the youths.

HB: Entonces cuando sacamos el cuerpo de Marcelo, Marcelo tiene unas heridas en su cabeza.

BR: So when they took the body out, he had some wounds on his hands.

HB: Entonces yo le pregunto sobre las heridas al fiscal.

BR: So he asked the prosecuting attorney about the wounds.

HB: Me dice el fiscal, Santiago Hernández.

BR: So the prosecuting attorney, Santiago Hernández.

HB: Hay que como él era muy fuerte le pegaron con un martillo.

BR: So because he was very strong, they hit him with a hammer.

HB: Pero yo se, tengo ese conocimiento, que el martillo genera un golpe contuso.

BR: The hammer would produce a different type of wound.

HB: Es más a más fuerza es para abajo, es un hoyo.

BR: So it would form a hole, and the impact would be downward.

HB: Y esas eran unas líneas.

BR: And these were lines.

HB: Le sigo preguntando, digo

BR: So they keep asking him.

HB: Entonces, ¿como es que muere Marcelo?

BR: How did Marcelo die?

HB: Y me dice que Marcelo se va herido huyendo y va a morir lejos.

BR: So he was trying to escape wounded and he made it quite a distance.

HB: Que luego los jóvenes lo encuentran y por eso es que lo atan y lo tiran.

BR: So that’s why they grabbed him and tied him up, and threw him in the well.

HB: Yo le digo a él que tiene muchas contradicciones.

BR: So they said this is full of contradictions.

HB: Primero que la escena del crimen no se ve improvisada.

BR: First of all, we see that the scene of the crime has been improvised.

HB: Cuando sacamos a Marcelo sacamos guantes de látex que usan los médicos con los que estuvieron trabajando quienes le metieron ahí.

BR: So we found latex gloves that the physicians used and those were there at the scene when they put him in the well.

HB: Le digo que las uñas de Marcelo de sus manos, no las tiene.

BR: So he didn’t have his fingernails.

HB: Me dice el fiscal que por la humedad del pozo las boto.

BR: So the prosecuting attorney said that it was because of the humidity of the well that he lost his nails.

HB: Le digo yo que las de los pies las tiene.

BR: But he said, well his toenails are still there?

HB: Cuando uno comienza a descomponerse lo hace en círculo y comienza por el estómago de manera circular que es uniforme.

BR: So when a body starts to decompose it happens in circles starting with the stomach and happens uniformly in concentric circles.

HB: Le planteo que no, su hipótesis no es creíble.

BR: So his hypothesis was not believable.

HB: Sin embargo, le digo que nos de unos días antes de que el haga publico esto.

BR: So they asked that they give us a few days before making this public.

HB: Porque queremos recuperar el cuerpo de Marcelo.

BR: We wanted to recover Marcelo’s body.

HB: Y la mama está muy enferma sufriendo por la perdida.

BR: And his mother very ill, suffering from her loss.

HB: Eso fue en San Salvador a las 4 de la tarde.

BR: That was in San Salvador at 4pm.

HB: Nos veníamos trasladando en vehículo luego de San Salvador para acá.

BR: So then we brought him from San Salvador to here.

HB: Y me llaman por teléfono y me dicen que en las noticas de las 6 de la tarde hay conferencia de prensa de la Fiscalia y la policía diciendo las causas de la muerte de Marcelo.

BR: So they are saying that in the 6 o’clock news, there was a press conference, where the police chief and the prosecuting attorney are explaining the death of Marcelo.

HB: Lo que el Fiscal no sabe que, en mis manos yo ya tengo el borrador de la autopsia del médico.

BR: So the prosecuting attorney didn’t realise that I already had the rough draft of the physician who had done the autopsy.

HB: Que establece las causas de la muerte.

BR: That explained the cause of death.

HB: Y dice que es por asfixia.

BR: And that was because of asphyxiation.

HB: Y dice que las cortaduras en su cabeza son post-mortem

BR: And the wounds in his head are post-mortem.

HB: Las hizo el bombero cuando comenzó a buscar el cuerpo.

BR: So those were caused by the firemen searching for the body.

HB: Y no tiene ningún impacto de bala.

BR: And he has no bullet wound.

HB: Y eso lo digo publico, nos lleva a una confrontación.

BR: So that was all made public, so we were having this confrontation.

HB: Pero además nosotros hemos investigado, en el caso concreto yo investigue él caso de Marcelo por nuestra via.

BR: So we had also investigated concretely the case of Marcelo through our own means.

HB: Y tengo testigos que estuvieron en la cárcel donde estuvieron los autores materiales del asesinato de Marcelo.

BR: So we have witnesses in la cárcel?

HB: En la cárcel, en la cárcel.

BR: In the prison where the material authors of the murder of Marcelo was also present.

HB: Donde estos confesaron la cantidad de dinero y las armas que les dieron por asesinar a Marcelo.

BR: Where they explained how much money they were paid and the weapons they were given to assassinate Marcelo.

HB: Encontré un lugar donde se hayo la evidencia donde lo estuvieron torturando a Marcelo.

BR: So I found the place and the weapons they were using to torture Marcelo.

HB: Eso se lo informe al Director de Inteligencia de la Policía Nacional Civil, a nivel nacional.

BR: So I explained this to the head of the investigating department of the Civil National Police at the national level.

HB: Al comisionado Howard Cotton.

BR: To the commissioner Howard Cotton.

HB: Y él me dijo que dejara de estar entorpeciendo la investigación.

BR: And he told me to stop interfering with the investigation.

HB: A la fecha no hay capturados por la autoría intelectual del asesinato de Marcelo.

BR: So to date, there have been no arrests made in terms of the intellectual author of the death of Marcelo.

HB: Solo se capturo a un grupo de jóvenes que fueron quienes lo asesinaron.

BR: Only the youths have been arrested who were sent to assassinate Marcelo.

HB: Coincidencia en el 2009 entran a mi casa en la madrugada estando mi esposa y mi hija en la segunda planta.

BR: So a coincidence in 2009, they enter my house where my wife and children are present on the second story.

HB: Nos ponen un, nos ponen un químico que nos, nos durmió, a mí me durmió pero estaba consciente, o sea sentía lo que estaba pasando.

BR: So they planted a chemical there that put me to sleep, but I was still aware of what was happening.

HB: El tipo que entra a la habitación nuestra orina en el baño que tenemos ahí.

BR: So they guy who headed the room, urinated in the bathroom that we have there.

HB: Amordazan a mi esposa y a mí.

BR: He gagged my wife and myself.

HB: Nos dejan en la parte de arriba.

BR: He left us above.

HB: Y se roban los celulares, las USB, las dos cámaras de video, una cámara fotográfica, el CPU, toda la documentación, una caja donde tenía la vinculación de los alcaldes y la empresa.

BR: So they stole my cell phone, two video cameras, another camera, USB memory sticks and my files that had the evidence and connections between the mining company and the local politicians.

HB: Nos destruyen toda la parte de la parte baja de nuestra casa, la destruyen.

BR: They destroyed the whole lower floor of our house.

HB: Y nos dejan señales, como fotografías de mi hija con una caricutara de Bob Esponja, y me ponen con tiza para lustrar zapatos, en medio de la foto ‘que Dios te Bendiga’.

BR: So they left photos of my daughters with SpongeBob –

HB: Que Dios te Bendiga, con betún con lo que se lustra, me pusieron en el piso, la foto de mi hija, una caricatura y en medio me pusieron ‘Que Dios te Bendiga’ y abajo una de Monseñor Romero.

BR: And then below that a photo of Monseñor Romero and God bless you, with pictures on the floor – it was a sinister threat.

HB: Para nosotros fue algo muy fuerte.

BR: For us this was something very strong.

HB: Para la guerra, quizás por mi edad, muy pocas veces tuve miedo.

BR: Because of the war and my age, I seldom felt fear.

HB: Porque no comprendía realmente el mismo hecho, que yo era un niño adentro una guerra.

BR: Because as a child I didn’t feel the reality of war.

HB: Pero esa noche, esa noche si tuve mucho miedo.

BR: But that night I really experienced real fear.

HB: Por mi esposa y por mi hija.

BR: For my wife and my daughter.

HB: Mi hija tenía meses de nacida.

BR: So my daughter was just a few months old.

HB: Al trabajar en la Corte y trabajar para un Magistrado de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, me mandaron seguridad en cuestión rápido, un vecino me auxilio con un teléfono.

BR: So because of having worked for the Supreme Court and working for a magistrate of the Supreme Court, they sent security right away and a neighbour assisted me with the phone.

HB: Llegó la policía, la seguridad de la Corte, y no encontraron nada.

BR: So the police came and the Court magistrate didn’t find anything.

HB: En esa colonia donde yo vivía era privado, había seguridad por las entradas.

BR: So in that area of the neighbourhood where I lived there were security at both ends of the street.

HB: La seguridad dice que no vio entrar ni salir nada.

BR: And they said that they hadn’t seen anyone enter or leave.

HB: Efectivamente los tipos entraron con una llave a la casa.

BR: So evidently the people had a key to enter the house.

HB: A la fecha no sabemos quién fue.

BR: To date, we don’t know who it was.

HB: El laboratorio científico de la PNC dice que ellos habían usado guantes de latex para no dejar huellas.

BR: So the police investigation said that they used latex gloves so as not to leave fingerprints.

HB: Alli comencé a comprender que, en el problema que me había metido.

BR: So then I began to understand the problem that I had got myself into.

HB: De ese hecho a la fecha, como familia tenemos, como alrededor de tres atentados.

BR: From that day to the present, we’ve had three attacks against our family.

HB: Tenemos medidas cautelares de la omisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.

BR: So we have protective measures provided for us by the Inter American Court for Human Rights.

HB: Tenemos seguridad permanente en nuestra casa.

BR: We have permanent security at the house.

HB: El año pasado, antes de llegar a la casa mi esposa es interceptada en un carro de último modelo y le es robado todo su caso, sus documentos, todo.

BR: So last year my wife was intercepted coming home and all of her belongings were stolen.

HB: Todo lo que nos ha pasado lo hemos denunciado en la Fiscalía General de la República.

BR: Everything that has happened to us we have denounced to the attorney general.

HB: En este último caso un vecino nuestro tiene cámaras de video.

BR: With this latest case, the neighbour has a video.

HB: Allí quedo grabado el hecho de que le robaron los documentos, tarjetas del banco y un expediente que ella llevaba.

BR: So it’s all there on video, what they stole; her documents, all the files that she was carrying with her.

HB: Al dia siguiente encontramos, nosotros, las tarjetas del banco.

BR: The bank cards we found.

HB: Cerquita de nuestra casa.

BR: Close to the house.

HB: Pero no encontramos ni el expediente, ni sus documentos.

BR: But we couldn’t find her personal documents or the files.

HB: Ni a la fecha la Fiscalía no nos toma una declaración.

BR: And to date the attorney general or the prosecutor hasn’t taken a declaration from us.

HB: El muro de la impunidad en este país es muy grueso.

BR: The wall of impunity here in this country is very thick.

HB: Hay mucho porque luchar.

BR: We have a lot to fight for.

HB: En el 2009, igual un empleado de la empresa Pacific Rim, le dispara a un activista contra la minería en la zona de Maraña.

BR: In 2009 one of the employees of Pacific Rim –

HB: Un empleado de la empresa Pacific Rim a Ramiro Rivera.

BR: shot Ramiro Rivera

HB: Él es de la colonia Maraña, de la comunidad Maraña. Si, aquí en este departamento.

Matin Mowforth (MM): ¿No es el hermano de Marcelo?

HB: No, no es un hermano. Tienen el mismo apellido pero no son hermanos.

BR: He’s not Marcelo’s brother, he has the same last name, but he’s not related.

HB: A este señor le asigna dos guardaespaldas, dos policías.

BR: So they assigned two police bodyguards to this guy.

English Female: In what context was he shot?

BR: ¿Y en qué contexto le dispararon?

HB: En el 2009 después de las elecciones todo lo que estoy contando pasa después de las elecciones que gana el FMLN.

BR: So after the 2009 elections.

HB: Se dan una serie de ataques a activistas.

BR: Won by the FMLN there was a whole series of attacks against activists.

HB: A el, le asignan dos policías.

BR: So two policemen were assigned to him as bodyguards.

HB: Es el 20 de Diciembre. Molinar ¿Qué fecha fue 20 o, si 20 de Diciembre que lo asesinan? ¿A Ramiro?

Spanish Male (Molinar): 22.

HB: 22. El 22 de Diciembre él va en su vehículo con un amigo y los dos guardaespaldas.

BR: So the 22nd of December he was in his car with a friend and the two bodyguards.

English Male: So is he the Pacific Rim employee?

BR: No, he was shot by the Pacific Rim employee.

English Male: And who is he, sorry?

MM: He’s an anti-mining activist.

HB: El se recupera del primer disparo.

BR: He recovers from the first shot.

HB: Y luego le asignan guardaespaldas, policías.

BR: And then the assigned bodyguards, two policemen.

HB: Ya andando con ellos, en el mes de Diciembre del 2009, antes de llegar a su casa, es ametrallado con fusiles 5.56 que son de uso privativo de las fuerzas armadas.

BR: So he was shot travelling with his friend on the 22nd December 2009, he was shot by a machine gun 5.56, which is used by the military.

HB: Asesinan a Ramiro en esa fecha.

BR: So they assassinated him on this occasion.

English Female: With the bodyguards in the car?

BR: Con los guardaespaldas dentro del carro?

HB: O sea la capacidad de fuego de fusiles superan a la capacidad de las pistolas de los guardaespaldas.

BR: So the power of the weapon that was used to kill Ramiro, was greater than the power in the pistols used by the bodyguards, the firepower.

HB: El 26 de Diciembre del 2009, asesinan a Dora Alicia Sorto.

BR: And on the 26th December, Dora Alicia Sorto is assassinated.

HB: En la zona de Maraña.

BR: In the Maraña area.

HB: Ella es una activista también contra la empresa minera.

BR: She’s an activist too against the mining company.

HB: Y ella tiene 8 meses de embarazo.

BR: She’s 8 months pregnant.

HB: Por lo que le paso a Ramiro había mucha policía en la zona.

BR: Because of what had happened to Ramiro there were a lot of police in the zone.

HB: Ella viene del rio, de lavar.

BR: She came from washing clothes at the river.

HB: Trae a su niño de dos años en brazos.

BR: She was carrying her two year old child in her arms.

HB: Y su guacal de ropa.

BR: And her bag of clothes.

HB: Hubo alguien que paso en medio de la policía.

BR: So she walked in front of the police

HB: Y le asesto alrededor 4 disparos en su estómago y uno en el pecho.

BR: And they shot her with four shots in her stomach and one in her chest.

MM: ¿La policía?

HB: No, la policía no se fijó quien era.

BR: The police didn’t notice who it was.

English Female: Just going back to the first guy, what happened to the Pacific Rim, was this the security guard, or the guy who was initially shot by the Pacific Rim employee. That’s the context I want to understand; was there like a protest or did somebody just walk up and shoot him?

BR: ¿Y que, que paso con el empleado de Pacific Rim? ¿Disparo y porque?

HB: Él le hace un disparo a Ramiro por la espalda, y se va a huir.

BR: So he shot him in the back and then fled.

HB: No lo capturaron, no, él se fue, pero Ramiro lo identifico dijo quien era.

BR: Ramiro identified him and knew who he was. ¿Por nombre?

HB: Si por nombre lo dijo, o sea que el al primer atentado sobrevive.

BR: So he survived the first attack and knew who it was by name, yes.

HB: En el segundo es que ya no.

BR: And the second he didn’t survive.

English Female: And what happened to the Pacific Rim employee?

BR: ¿no le paso nada el empleado?

HB: No, sabemos que esta por el país.

BR: We know he’s out the country.

HB: Pero paralelo a esto, a todos los periodistas de Radio Victoria los han amenazado que los van a matar.

BR: Besides this, all the journalists from the Radio Victoria have been threatened and that they will be killed as well.

HB: Llegan a sus casas y dejan los anónimos o les mandan cartas a los padres de los jóvenes diciéndoles lo que les va a pasar.

BR: So they send anonymous notes to their homes or to their parents telling them what will happen to them.

Spanish Female: Vamos a pasar por allí estos días.

HB: Jajaja, ahí les van a contar.

BR: So we’re going to Radio Victoria after lunch.

HB: Entonces ellos también sufren esa campaña de terror.

BR: So they suffer this terror campaign as well.

HB: Todo eso pasa en el 2009.

BR: That was all in 2009.

HB: Es una presión muy fuerte hacia nosotros.

BR: There was very big pressure against us.

HB: Se rompe la paz que vivíamos en esta comunidad.

BR: So that broke the peace that we were used to living with within this community.

HB: La grande coincidencia que todos somos activistas en contra de la empresa Pacific Rim.

BR: So it leaves the impression that we are all activists against the Pacific Rim company.

HB: Después de ser un pueblo, que casi no tenía violencia, se generaron hechos de violencia muy fuerte.

BR: From being a community that hardly ever experienced violence, we became a community that began to suffer a lot of violent incidents.

Spanish Male: No sé si le podría explicar un poco de las elecciones.

HB: Ah si, si, si.

Spanish Female: Explicar un poco también de, de las cosas con la policía.

HB: Si, hay mucho que hablar y muy poco tiempo.

Spanish Male: Porque ellos vienen como observadores, sabe.

HB: Si, para otro hecho que se da en el 2009 aca.

BR: So another thing that happened, this is something I’m asking him to explain that happened with the elections in 2009.

HB: Es que se celebrar las elecciones. Y acá, se paran todas las elecciones a nivel local, por municipio.

BR: So in 2009 we were celebrating the elections, and here locally the elections were stopped.

HB: Nosotros eramos parte de la estructura del FMLN.

BR: We were part of the FMLN structure.

HB: Defendiendo el voto.

BR: Defending the vote.

HB: Yo era el jefe de centro del FMLN.

BR: So I was the FMLN chief at the voting centre.

HB: Y siempre nos gana ARENA.

BR: And ARENA always wins here.

HB: Pero nadie quiere al Alcalde.

BR: But nobody wants the mayor.

HB: ¿Y entonces como lo gana?

BR: So how does he win?

HB: Y descubrimos que trae camiones y picas de hondureños.

BR: So we realised that he was bringing truckloads and pick-up trucks full of Hondurans to come and vote here.

HB: Y las cajas que les digo de documentos que me robaron, era esa caja con esos documentos.

BR: And the box of documents that they stole from me was precisely that box of documents.

HB: Nosotros llegábamos con la cámara de video cuando la gente estaba votando.

BR: We came with the videocamera when the people were voting.

HB: Y le decíamos ¿tu dónde vives?

BR: And asked them where did they live?

HB: Y no sabían responder.

BR: And they didn’t know what to say.

HB: ¿Quién es tu familia?

BR: Where is your family? They didn’t know how to answer.

HB: No sabían responder. Pero esto era una fila de hombres y mujeres con camisas del partido de ellos.

BR: There was a long line up of people in ARENA t-shirts.

HB: Y le decíamos muéstreme su identificación y nos sacaban las tarjetas de Honduras.

BR: So they asked for their ID and they would pull out ID from Honduras.

HB: Eso lo documentamos.

BR: So we documented all of that.

HB: Y entonces los que están aquí, todos los compañeros que están, como otros que faltan, decidimos tomarnos el pueblo y suspender las elecciones.

BR: So we decided to take the town and to suspend the election process here.

HB: Quizás no era el acto más correcto.

BR: Perhaps it wasn’t the most correct act or action.

HB: Pero quizás para nuestra dignidad era necesario denunciar y evidenciar lo que estaba pasando.

BR: But for our own dignity it was necessary to take evidence and make it clear what was going on.

HB: Y lo paramos, paramos las elecciones, fue noticia a nivel nacional.

BR: So we stopped the election and that was national news on the national level.

HB: Y mostrábamos las pruebas.

BR: And we showed the evidence.

HB: Entonces lo que volvieron a hacer es a repetir las elecciones.

BR: So they repeated the elections here.

HB: Pero eso ya fue en otras condiciones.

BR: In other conditions.

HB: Metieron miles de policías en este pueblo.

BR: Thousands of police came to this town.

HB: Y varios de los lideres locales andábamos como policías a cargo para que no fueran a hacer nada.

BR: So a lot of us locally too, as if we were police to make sure that nothing would happen.

HB: Y aunque nosotros denunciamos a los hondureños de venir a votar aca.

BR: And even though we denounced the Hondurans who came to vote here.

HB: El Tribunal Supremo Electoral jamás los saco de la lista.

BR: The Supreme Electoral Tribunal never removed them from the voters list.

HB: El padrón. Entonces, había muchos observadores como ustedes ese día acá.

BR: And a lot of observers like you were here that day.

HB: Y la cúpula de ARENA, aquí estaba ese dia.

BR: And also all the heads of the ARENA party.

HB: La cúpula a nivel nacional.

BR: And the national leaders of the ARENA party.

HB: A ellos les interesa mucho este municipio.

BR: They were very interested in this municipality.

HB: No por los 11,000 habitantes.

BR: Not for the 11,000 inhabitants.

HB: Porque no alcanzan ni para un diputado.

BR: We don’t even have enough people for one congress person.

HB: Pero si por el negocio que puede haber.

BR: But because of the business that could happen here.

HB: Ese dia ganaron nuevamente ellos.

BR: So that day they won again.

HB: No podíamos hacer nada.

BR: We couldn’t do anything.

HB: Y todos los que estaban en el padrón podían votar.

BR: And everything was in the voters lists.

HB: Votar, ejercer el sufragio.

BR: Oh, they could all vote.

English Female: Was the ruling because they were born in Salvador and living in Honduras like it’s been allowed in this election?

BR: ¿Se lo permitieron porque habían nacido aquí?

HB: No.

Spanish Female: No, no habían nacido aqui.

HB: No, o sea lo que se hace, o hacían, hoy no sé, pero hacia el 2009, lo que ellos hacían, como somos país, departamento fronterizo con Honduras, ellos tienen comunidades aliadas.

BR: So what would happen is that because we are a neighbouring department to Honduras they have allied communities.

HB: La gente nos decían que les pagaban a algunos 50, a otros 25 dólares por venir a votar.

BR: They were paid 25-50 dollars to come and vote.

HB: Más la comida.

English Woman: So, on what basis did this new electoral tribunal say that they were allowed to vote, make a ruling before the next election?

BR: Porque el Tribunal dice que si pueden votar ¿Por qué permiten eso?

HB: Ah, es porque el padrón es preparado por las Juntas receptoras locales.

BR: So the voting list is prepared by the local voting committee.

HB: Y acá, como el Alcalde ha gobernado eso, el con mucha anticipación se prepara y prepara estas comunidades.

BR: The mayor with a lot of event time worked with these committees to prepare the lists.

HB: Y lo que hace es agregar estos nombres, los agrega como si son de este pueblo.

BR: So they had them as if they were from this town.

HB: Y les otorga el DUI.

BR: And he gives them a document.

HB: El documento único de identidad.

BR: A unique identity document as if they were from this town and could vote here.

HB: Y la ley dice que si apareces en el padrón electoral, y si tienes DUI, pues puedes votar.

BR: So the law says that if they appear on the voters list and they have the corresponding ID, then they can vote.

HB: Aunque no seas Salvadoreño, pero si tu apareces en el padrón y tienes DUI, puedes votar.

BR: Even though you’re not Salvadoran, but if your document matches up with the voters list, then you can vote.

HB: Aquí ha habido un esfuerzo por limpiar ese padrón.

BR: It was in an effort to clean up that voters list.

HB: Yo ya no, nosotros ya no nos metemos en eso.

BR: We don’t get involved with that any more.

HB: Hemos luchado mucho, pero creo que los partidos políticos muchas veces no les interesa eso.

BR: We struggle a lot, but the parties aren’t so interested in that.

Male English Voice: Can you ask him if the international observers here saw any of this going on, or was there a report about it or was it just something that he and other people noticed that the observers just didn’t have enough knowledge to know about it?

BR: Pregunta si los observadores internacionales se fijaron en eso también para no, ¿existe un informe?

HB: Existe un informe.

[Many voices talking over each other]

Spanish Female: De los observadores aquí, en este tiempo.

HB: Si que con Leslie, tenemos años ya trabajando.

BR: We have worked with Leslie for years so they have a report.

HB: Y con el actual procurador de Derechos Humanos.

BR: And what the current ombudsman –

HB: El vino aquí a visitarnos.

BR: He has come and visited us.

HB: Es amigo personal

BR: He is a personal friend of mine

HB: Y él era como Delegado de las organizaciones de Derecho Humanos, para ver los centros de votación.

BR: He was the one responsible for looking at the Human Rights aspect of the voters.

HB: Nosotros ya sabíamos a lo que íbamos.

BR: We knew what we were doing.

HB: Y con Marcelo Rivera, y otros compañeros, tomamos el acuerdo que si nuevamente mirábamos llegar a todos los hondureños, donde llegaban ellos íbamos a pitar y íbamos a comenzar a denunciar. De repente en todas las mesas receptoras de voto estábamos pitando, estaban en todos lados.

BR: So with Marcelo Rivera and other people, we decided what to do. If we noticed that foreign Honduran voters were coming to vote then we would blow the whistle, so that’s what we did; we went around blowing the whistle.

HB: Nos amenazó la policía para que habilitaremos el centro de votación.

BR: The police threatened us so that we would reopen the voting centre.

HB: Nosotros corríamos el riesgo.

BR: We were running a risk.

HB: Lo que queríamos era denunciar lo que sucede en este pueblo.

BR: We wanted to denounce what was happening in this town.

HB: Es un pueblo aparentemente muy pacifico.

BR: It appears to be a very tranquil community

HB: Pero con intereses muy fuertes.

BR: But with very strong interests

HB: Ustedes van a estar de observadores.

BR: You’re going to be oberservers.

HB: Para nosotros es muy importante estas elecciones.

BR: For us, these elections are very important.

HB: El FMLN, es la esperanza de mucha gente de aquí.

BR: The FMLN is the hope of many people here.

HB: Pero este FMLN, no ha querido comprometerse con prohibir la minería.

BR: But this FMLN has not wanted to commit itself to prohibiting mining.

HB: Maricio Funes se comprometió.

BR: Maricio Funes committed himself.

HB: Hoy el FMLN no nos quiere defender.

BR: So now the FMLN doesn’t want to tend to this issue.

HB: Y el problema es que la industria minera está en todo el continente.

BR: So the problem is that the mining industry is in the whole continent.

HB: Gobiernos de Derecha e Izquierda le apuestan al desarrollo del extractivismo.

BR: So the governments of the left and the right have gotten involved in this activism for mining promotion.

HB: Nosotros fuimos a buscar, personalmente, a los candidatos que tienen mayores posibilidades.

BR: So we personally went to look for the candidates who have greater possibilities.

HB: Conseguimos 20,000 dólares para un foro que ellos discutieran y fijaran la posición frente al pueblo en el tema.

BR: So we raised 20,000 dollars to set up a forum where they could pursue what the results might be in terms of local mining.

HB: Ni ARENA, ni Unidad, ni el FMLN quiso discutir públicamente el tema.

BR: So ARENA, nor FMLN, nor Unidad wanted to publicly discuss the mining issue.

HB: No se quieren comprometer con temas estratégicos.

BR: They don’t want to commit themselves to strategic themes.

HB: Eso es muy grave.

BR: This is very serious.

HB: Países como Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras tienen la apuesta del Desarrollo Económico sobre explotaciones minerales.

BR: Countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras have strategic plans in terms of mining development.

HB: Y los ambientalistas son perseguidos en esos países.

BR: And environmentalists are persecuted in those countries.

HB: Yo soy una persona de Izquierda.

BR: I am a person of the left.

HB: Nací, y crecí dentro de la Izquierda.

BR: I was born and raised in the left.

HB: Ayer en una entrevista de radio les decía, a quienes me entrevistaban, el FMLN debe de firmar una ley que prohíba la minería.

BR: So I said on a radio interview yesterday to the person interviewing me, that the FMLN should sign a law preventing metallic mining.

HB: Porque? Porque de seguro las comunidades nos vamos a seguir organizando y luchando en la calle, independientemente quien llegue a la presidencia.

BR: Because certainly we as local communities will continue to organise and protest in the streets, it doesn’t matter who wins the election, we will continue to protest mining.

HB: El derecho a un futuro trasciende cualquier ideología.

BR: So our future transcends whatever ideology.

HB: En este país no existe condiciones para seguir viviendo.

BR: In this country, we don’t have conditions which guarantee our continuing life.

HB: Pero los Gobiernos y los Diputados le siguen la plana a Estados Unidos.

BR: But the governments and legislators continue with the plans of the United States.

HB: Aquí se aprobó el Asocio para el Crecimiento.

BR: Here it was approved the agreement ofGrowth.

HB: El Asocio público-privado.

BR: The agreement of private-public enterprise.

HB: Se incrementan las políticas del tratado de libre comercio.

BR: The free trade agreements are enlarged or expanded.

HB: Se firma el convenio con la Comunidad Europea.

BR: The agreement with the European Union was signed.

HB: Pero han sido incapaces de firmar una ley que garantice el derecho humano al agua.

BR: But they haven’t signed a law that would guarantee a right to water for the population.

HB: Este país no tiene ley que regule el derecho humano al agua.

BR: This country has no law that regulates water usage and supply.

HB: No tiene ley que asegure la alimentación adecuada de nuestro pueblo.

BR: We don’t have a law that assures the population of an adequate food supply.

English Woman: But doesn’t that come under human rights? That’s not in the constitution, is that the issue?

BR: ¿Si no se incluye eso como parte de los Derechos Humanos? ¿Pero no está en la constitución?

HB: No es, hemos planteado nosotros el movimiento social con el procurador de Derechos Humanos, planteamos estas propuestas de ley y la reforma constitucional.

BR: So we’ve proposed these changes to the law as constitutional reform.

HB: Y no la quieren discutir.

BR: And they don’t want to discuss it.

HB: Eso nos da señal a nosotros que tenemos que seguir resistiendo.

BR: So that’s the signal to us that we have to continue resisting.

HB: Independientemente quien este en el Gobierno.

BR: Independently of who is in government.

HB: Pareciera que tener cierta ideología es todo bueno o es todo malo.

BR: It would seem that having a certain ideology is all good or all bad.

HB: Pero aquí estamos interesados en sobrevivencia.

BR: But here we’re more interested in survival.

HB: Pero no solo nosotros: Guatemala resiste, Honduras resiste.

BR: But not only us: Guatemala resists, Honduras resists.

HB: Pero ustedes también, tengo amigos de ustedes que resisten contra la Texaco, contra la Chevron que contamina sus lagos.

BR: So I have friends amongst you too that resist against Texaco, against Chevron, that pollute your lakes.

HB: Estamos en un momento que debemos de unirnos.

BR: We are at a moment where we should unite.

HB: Debe de prevalecer la solidaridad de los pueblos que garantice la vida de las presentes y futuras generaciones.

BR: So solidarity should prevail that would guarantee the life of future generations.

HB: O sean las transnacionales que succionan tu sangre o son tus hijos y tus nietos.

BR: Or it may be the transnationals who suck the blood of our children and grandchildren.

HB: Uno puede pensar que solo aquí sucede esto.

BR: One can’t believe that only happens here.

HB: En el mismo 2009 en México las empresas mineras asesinaron a Mariano Abarca Robledo después de presentar una denuncia formal.

BR: In Mexico in 2009, they assassinated this activist after presenting a lawsuit.

HB: En Chicomoxuelo en Diciembre del 2009, asesinan a la líder Betty Cariño quien anda, en lugar de guardaespaldas, anda dos extranjeros que son quienes la acompañan para su protección.

BR: In December 2009 too, they assassinated Betty who didn’t have two armed bodyguards, but two international accomplices to protect her.

HB: El modus operandi de las empresas es lo mismo.

BR: The modus operandi of the companies is the same.

HB: No les interesa la vida de los seres humanos.

BR: They are not interested in human rights.

HB: No existe tal responsabilidad social.

BR: The social responsibility does not exist.

HB: Por eso es necesario que prevalezca el amor, mostrado en la solidaridad de los pueblos.

BR: So that’s why the love of solidarity needs to prevail among the people.

HB: Es necesario definir en este momento a que prevalezca el derecho al futuro de las niñas y niños de nuestros pueblos.

BR: It’s important to ensure that the right to life for our children prevails.

HB: Hoy ya no te demanda un estado a otro estado a nivel internacional.

BR: Now they don’t send you from one state to another at the international level.

HB: Acá en este país las empresas transnacionales nos han demanda en el CIADI, empresas al estado.

BR: So now its here, in this country the company has a lawsuit against the state.

HB: Uno puede creer que la empresa Pacific Rim se esta debilitando.

BR: One should think that the Pacific Rim company is weakening.

HB: Pero ellos también creen en la solidaridad.

BR: They too believe in solidarity.

HB: Y llaman a una empresa mas grande.

BR: And they call in a bigger company.

HB: Y traen a Oceana Gold que viene a oxigenar económicamente, especialista en conflictos sociales.

BR: So they call in Oceana Gold to help them to energise them, a specialist in social conflict, so they invite them to come and support the struggle.

HB: En otras palabras, tenemos mucho porque seguir luchando.

BR: So in other words, we have a lot of reason to continue struggling.

English Woman: So I just have a question here – you say there is no law here prohibiting mining, but I thought there was some sort of moratorium that was passed and that was the reason for the lawsuit.

BR: Dice que no hay una ley en contra de la minería, pero ella tenía la idea de que si hubo un moratorio, algo previniendo la explotación y por eso está la demanda.

HB: No, hay una ley que permite la minería en este país.

BR: No, there is a law that permits mining in this country.

HB: Lo que hizo el presidente Funes es, exigir los requisitos administrativos a las empresas.

BR: What I said was that the administrative requirements be completed by these companies.

HB: Para seguir haciendo los procesos de exploración.

BR: In order to be able to continue with the exploration processes.

HB: Según el Ministro de Economía, Armando Flores, ninguna ha presentado los requisitos necesarios para hacerlo.

BR: So according to the environment minister Armando Flores, none of them have completed those requirements.

HB: Lo que la empresa Pacific Rim y la Commerce Group utilizó para demandarnos a nivel Internacional es que Funes ha dejado, no permite a ellos pasar a la otra etapa que es la de explotación.

BR: So what the Pacific Rim and Commerce Group are basing their case on is that Funes had not allowed them to move onto the exploitation phase.

HB: Y se apean al tratado de libre comercio.

BR: And they base their claim on the free trade agreements.

HB: El cual en el capítulo 10 sobre inversiones, permite demandarnos por lo que ellos dejaron de ganar.

BR: So it allows them on the basis of clause 10 that they can launch a lawsuit on their lost profits.

HB: Ellos han distribuido las ganancias del 100%, el 2% es para el Estado del Salvador.

BR: So according to their arrangements, of their profits 2% would be for El Salvador.

HB: O sea que de un dólar, un centavo es para este Municipio y un centavo es para el Gobierno.

BR: So for one dollar, one cent would be for this municipality and one cent would be for the Federal Government.

HB: Pero aclarar que a nosotros no nos interesa esa ganancia.

BR: But just to clarify, we are not interested in that earning.

HB: A nosotros nos interesa cuidar el rio y la poquita agua que está, que no se vaya a contaminar.

BR: So we’re concerned about protecting the river and the little water we have and not contaminating it.

HB: Para sacar, para sacar el oro del subsuelo necesitan hacer ciudades aquí abajo donde estamos sentados.

BR: So not only to draw the water out of the subsoil, they would need to make cities from where we are sitting.

HB: Sacar toneladas de roca.

BR: Withdrawing thousands of tonnes of rock.

HB: Luego esta roca la hacen como arena.

BR: And they make it like sand.

HB: La bañan con cianuro.

BR: And they wash it away with cyanide.

HB: Y el cianuro se despega de la roca, hace que el oro se depegue de la roca.

BR: And that causes the gold to dislodge from the rock.

HB: Pero para eso es necesario utilizar mucha agua.

BR: But that process requires a lot of water.

HB: Lo que una familia consume en un año, ellos lo consumen en un día.

BR: What a family would consume in one year, they would use in one day.

HB: Pero además nos dejan todo eso contaminado.

BR: But besides, they leave us contaminated water.

HB: El cianuro es un químico altamente toxico.

BR: Cyanide is an extremely toxic chemical.

HB: Utilizado en países industriales bajo estrictas condiciones de seguridad.

BR: So in industrialised countries it is used under very strict conditions and rigorous rules.

HB: Según algunos estudios un grano del tamaño de arroz de cianuro es capaz de matar a un caballo.

BR: So according to studies, cyanide equivalent to the size of a grain of rice could kill a horse.

HB: Aquí se van a utilizar toneladas de toneladas de cianuro para disolver la roca.

BR: Here they would use tonnes and tonnes of cyanide to decompose the rock.

HB: Ese es el escenario que tenemos nosotros, en esta comunidad.

BR: So that’s the scenario that we have in this community.

HB: Sé que andan con un tiempo corto.

BR: They have a very short time.

HB: Tienen otras visitas

BR: We have a short time.

HB: Así que si tienen preguntas o comentarios antes de irnos a almorzar.

BR: Si en el folleto que nos dieron da la impresión que tenemos que visitar 32 organizaciones esta tarde. Vamos a estar corriendo.

HB: Si tienen algunas preguntas o comentarios.

BR: Do you have any questions or comments?

[Background comments begin rather than the informal discussion]

English Female: So the dispute is really about completing these administrative procedures or not.

MM: Yes, that’s right. Basically it’s an unofficial moratorium. I think after this election it’s unlikely to change, he’s kind of hinting that none of them [electoral parties] are interested in a law which will prohibit.
[Language transition] ¿y podemos comprar camisetas?

HB: De estas no tenemos porque las hemos dado todas.

Martin Mowforth – OK, gracias.

Recording Two

[Conversation begins with discussion on Oceana Gold]

HB: Australia. Nueva Zelanda.

BR: In Australia, New Zealand.

HB: Entonces a nivel de informes de Derechos Humanos ha sido señalada por violentar los derechos humanos de las comunidades en los países donde ellos han estado.

BR: So they’ve been pointed out as abusing human rights in the communities where they have worked.

HB: En la página de ellos una virtud que ellos dan, destacan de ellos es capacidad de resolver conflictos sociales.

BR: So in their webpage, they promote themselves as having capacity to resolve social problems.

HB: La pregunta es ¿Cómo lo resolverán?

BR: The question is, how would they resolve them?

HB: Las empresas mineras Canadienses, Estadounidenses, Chinas, son de las más violentas que hay.

BR: The mining companies, whether they are from the United States, Canada or China, are the most violent that exist.

HB: Se aprovechan de la necesidad de los pueblos.

BR: They take advantage of the necessities of the communities.

HB: Trabajan mucho con el sicariado.

BR: They work a lot with paid assassins.

HB: Un delegado de la Embajada de los Estados Unidos me pidió a mi que le comprobara eso.

BR: One of the delegates from the United States embassy asked me to prove that.

HB: Le dije que no es mi responsabilidad.

BR: I said it wasn’t my responsibility.

HB: Es del Estado.

BR: It’s the state’s.

HB: Mi compromiso es con la comunidad.

BR: My commitment is with the community.

HB: Cuando iba para Washington a denunciar a la empresa, la embajada de los Estados Unidos del Salvador me canceló la visa.

BR: When I went to Washington to denounce this, the US embassy here cancelled my visa.

HB: Tenía visa para 10 años

BR: I had a ten year visa.

HB: Solo fui a presentarme a la Embajada porque CIEL, que es una organización de abogados, me mando a dejar unos documentos de tramite, que tenia que llevar para Washington.

BR: So I went to the embassy because a member of being in an association of lawyers, I had some documents that I was going to take to Washinton, so I went to the embassy.

HB: En estas cartas que CIEL mandaba iba detallado a que iba yo a la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos en Washington.

BR: So in those documents it detailed what my purpose was in going to the American court in Washington.

HB: Y decía presentar caso en contra de la empresa Pacific Rim versus las comunidades de Cabañas.

BR: So it was to present this case, Pacific Rim versus the communities in Cabañas.

HB: La joven de la embajada de Estados Unidos leyó.

BR: A young woman from the United States embassy read this.

HB: Me dijo permítame pasaporte

BR: She said give me your passport.

HB: Le presenté el pasaporte y se fue.

BR: So I gave her my passport and she left.

HB: Regreso como a los 30 minutos.

BR: She came back in half an hour.

HB: Yo muy contento que viajaba pronto.

BR: And I was very content that I would travel soon.

HB: Solo saco algo y me lo sello.

BR: And she took a seal and stamped the passport.

HB: Y mi visa dice, en, pues, en ingles cancelada.

BR: And my visa says cancelled in English.

HB: Le pregunte yo a ella porque me la cancelaba.

BR: I asked her why it was cancelled.

HB: Me dijo que no tiene porque dar explicaciones.

BR: She said there was no need to give an explanation.

HB: Entonces, me di cuenta del poder de las empresas mineras.

BR: So then I realised what power the mining companies have.

HB: Pero es mas fuerte el poder de la solidaridad.

BR: But the power of solidarity is stronger.

HB: Ustedes pueden hacer mucho en sus países.

BR: You can do a lot in your countries.

HB: En sus universidades.

BR: In your universities.

HB: Ustedes son la esperanza de nosotros para poder seguir luchando.

BR: You are powerful to continue struggling.

HB: Con una gestión de ustedes a nosotros nos da mucho ánimo de continuar.

BR: So the pressure that you can exert can give us a lot of hope.

HB: Con visitas de ustedes.

BR: With your visits.

HB: Con cartas de ustedes a los congresistas.

BR: With your letters to your political reps.

HB: Patrocinando una investigación.

BR: Sponsoring an investigation.

HB: Acompañando este esfuerzo.

BR: Accompanying this effort.

HB: Vamos a demostrar que los pueblos son más fuertes que las empresas transnacionales.

BR: So we’re going to demonstrate that the people are stronger than the transnational companies.

HB: Ya lo hemos hecho.

BR: We’ve already done it.

HB: Lo seguimos haciendo.

BR: We continue doing it.

HB: Y debemos de trascender de esta lucha en diferentes países a detener las transnacionales.

BR: Then we should transcend through the struggle to block the transnational companies.

HB: El agua, la tierra, los recursos naturales son para nosotros, para los seres humanos.

BR: The land, the water, the natural resources, for us for human beings, for the people.

HB: Para los hijos de ustedes.

BR: For your children.

HB: Para los nietos de ustedes.

BR: For your grandchildren.

HB: No podemos dejar que las empresas transnacionales ocupen esos recursos para financiarse perversamente.

BR: We can’t let transnational companies use those resources to get ahead perversely.

HB: Jamas había visto yo las cataratas del Niagara congeladas.

BR: I’ve never seen Niagra falls frozen before.

HB: Nueva York sufriendo estos grandes frios.

BR: New York is suffering from this great cold.

HB: Los lagos más hermosos de Estados Unidos contaminados.

BR: The lakes, the most beautiful lakes in the United States are contaminated.

HB: El calentamiento global no lo sufren las empresas.

BR: The global warming isn’t suffered by the businesses.

HB: Son figuras abstractas jurídicas.

BR: They are abstract judicial figures.

HB: El calentamiento global lo sufrimos nosotros.

BR: Global warming is what we suffer.

HB: Por eso es necesario hacer un alto.

BR: That’s why it’s necessary to put a stop to it.

HB: Y tomar una decision

BR: And make a decision.

HB: Buscarle sentido al sinsentido de la vida.

BR: To look for the meaning of life.

HB: No podemos seguir en el consumismo de nuestras sociedades.

BR: We can’t continue with the consumerism of our societies.

HB: Nos estamos acabando el planeta.

BR: We are using up our planet.

HB: Es necesario comenzar a rescatarlo.

BR: It’s necessary to start to rescue it.

HB: Solo es muy difícil.

BR: Alone it’s very difficult.

HB: Pero que seguro que con ustedes vamos a ganar.

BR: But we’re sure that with you, we’ll win.

HB: Muchas gracias.

[Round of Applause]

HB: He sido puntual.

English Woman: Muchas, muchisimas gracias Hector, muchísimas gracias.


Berta Cáceres

Interviewee: Berta Cáceres, leader of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Peoples of Honduras
Interviewers: Dominic McCann, Kerstin Hansen, Juliette Doman and Michael Farley
Location: Intibucá, Honduras
Date: March 2010
Theme: COPINH; resistance; indigenous knowledge.
Keywords: TBC
Notes: The reader is referred to Chapter 4 of this website for news of the award of the Goldman Environmental Prize to Berta Cáceres for her leadership of COPINH’s struggle against hydro-electric power projects in Honduras, and in particular for a link to a video clip of her acceptance speech.


Interview Team (IT): It would be good if we could talk about the COPINH project regarding the arboretum – for example, what herbs are you thinking of sowing?

BC: Although it would seem like a small project, for us in COPINH it’s an important project. First, because it’s important to recover and reconstruct our ancestral knowledge from the communities, and that’s very valuable for us. It’s one of the reasons for being for COPINH; it’s like a pillar for us; it’s not an isolated thing; it’s the very basis of COPINH. You have to see knowledge in much the same way as culture, it’s under threat for sure, from the free trade treaties, from the association agreements between Central America and the European Union because it’s one of the strong issues leading to privatisation.

So the project also represents an opportunity for the communities to recover and strengthen themselves, because they already have it. For example, in Montaña Verde, Plan de Barrios, to have and strengthen the sowing of plants such as the palm of pacaya, which is one of their own foods of these communities – it’s very nutritious, it whets the appetite, it does loads of things. Indeed, in the central zone of Montaña Verde (which is a wildlife refuge) there are troops of spider monkeys, howler monkeys, white face monkeys – it’s very important because it’s also food for them. So, the pacayas and capucas are plants which are in danger of extinction. For us, it’s normal to eat them, they’re good, they’re bitter. They are also curative plants and they help the digestion. All the medicinal plants, like manzanilla, horse’s tail, el boldo, the snapdragon, the good grass, the valerian; roots, like for example the skunk plant which is used for sinusitis, and lots of other plants, for example for coughs, for intestinal infections, for diarrhoeas, for example, guayaba leaves which cure diarrhoea. In an emergency, where there is no doctor and no medicines, or maybe if there are doctors and medicines, the doctors don’t know these things.

So, that is to share amongst the communities of Montaña Verde, Plan de Barrios and the Utopia centre, which for us is a really important centre, where the idea is to develop sample species in the medicinal plot.

IT: So, the first project is going to develop in COPINH and then in Utopia?

BC: The project is going to develop in the communities.  In Utopia, there is already an appointed part for this, but I think that the development is going to be simultaneous.

IT: What are the most common illnesses in the communities?

BC: When talking about this, it is necessary to mention the historical context in which the indigenous people have lived in Honduras, the Lenca people in particular.  This was one of the communities where colonisation had the most disasters.  The Lenca community was one of the communities where there were strong indigenous rebellions / uprisings during the Spanish invasion and the conquest; one of the biggest in Mesoamerica.  The way that they resisted was to stay in the territory, which was different from the other communities who resisted by residing as nomads in the territory and the jungle.  In other geographic regions, which long favoured them, for example, in the whole of the Mosquitia region where there were more than 4 indigenous communities.  The Lenca community persisted, so the invasion, the conquering, the aggression from the Lenca village was more, because they stayed there, supporting and defending their territory.  The marginalisation, exploitation, ransacking, killing, the aggression against their culture and against their cultural practices, for me, is one of the most serious human rights violations.  Here we must also mention that apart from the structure of the colony and its institutions, so that they become republicans, they follow the pattern of subjugation against indigenous people, all of the institutions, all of the system, including the church.  This church is a criminal against indigenous villages.  The church demonised the cultural practices of the Lenca community in Honduras, which here in Honduras were very strong – there were tremendous cases.  The church began to take away their language – the Lenca language was thought of as very difficult as it was a complex language.  The Spanish and the mixed race people couldn’t learn it.  It was a colonial policy to learn the colonial languages in order to conquer them, but in the case of the Lenca community they couldn’t.  So, they wanted to impose the Nahuatl language, because this language dominated, but the Lenca community didn’t want to learn it.  They were, however, forced to learn Spanish.

In a more recent context, a situation that we now have here, for example, is that of the Spanish and Italian bishops – these were disasters.  One of the bishops is Lunardi, an Italian bishop that came here and undertook a tremendous ransacking, well, we don’t know, nor is there an inventory of everything that was here, but it is believed that he took Lenca scripts that we have not been able to find very easily.  So, now the Italian government say that they are the heritage of the Italian community. All of the ceremonial, spiritual and healing practices of the Lenca community that above all were conceded and multiplied by the women and the elderly were criminalised. The church (not only the Catholic but also the Evangelical church), and until recently a few priests say that it is Satanism and witchcraft.  They condemn the indigenous for practicing these ceremonies, which are very important as they are healing ceremonies.  It is a complex concept of healing, not only physical but spiritual healing.  It is healing of the Earth, of water, of the living forests, of the spirits.  The Lenca community’s practice of healing the Earth is strong.  And the practices not only cure the Earth, but thank it as well.  All of this has to be seen with the body and with the health of the Earth.

So, as a result of all this subjugating here, the communities’ living conditions are some of the most critical in the country, and even the continent.  Here, the Lencan indigenous municipalities, like San Marcos de la Sierra, are some of the poorest municipalities in the continent.  This has been denounced by COPINH – a health authority has never said this.  Communities such as San Francisco de Opalaca, Dolores, San Marcos de la Sierra, were decimated by Chiagas disease, and this is related to poor living conditions, housing etc.

Other diseases are respiratory (here these are tremendous); gastrointestinal diseases; and here there is another thing, malnutrition, which is the product of poor nutrition and poor living conditions.  Also, here there are many skin diseases, in some communities there is still a lot of tuberculosis.  There are cases of syphilis, cancer, many cases of skin cancer in some places, which is perhaps related to old mining.  Some Cuban doctors told us that in some places they suspect that there is something in the water consumed by the community.  There is blindness due to malnutrition, parasitism, and a terrible thing; infant and maternal mortality is very high in this region, it is one of the highest in Honduras, along with infant malnutrition.

So when we arrived in San Francisco de Opalaca as COPINH, it was called San Francisco de Opalaca because it was with the fight of COPINH that we managed to acknowledge it, there was not one child with a normal weight.  When I ran these workshops I was shocked that there was no doctor there, even though a child was dying from diarrhea every two or three days.  There were also fungal diseases, and plenty of skin fungus, which is very common.  There are many plants, tree bark and leaves which are good for this, or for the lice.  The mud, which is not a plant, but the mud here is used to heal, and for other common practices of the Lenca people.

IT: Who came to work on this project? To cultivate the plants?

BC: The members of COPINH; we wanted to involve the elderly and the young people as well – this combination is an important one.  But it is going to be Pascualita Vazquez, an elderly woman, and a colleague of Montana Verde.  She is an indigenous teacher; she graduated from a course in indigenous education, which was also an achievement of COPINH, so that she can work with school children.  And also the whole of the community that want to be involved.

Also, Alba is going to help, because we need someone systematic, and in this we have problems.  So Alba can help us a little, and Melisa who is another colleague, who has worked a lot with health issues.  Alba is Italian, Melisa is a Honduran colleague, a feminist, who works with other organisations and with COPINH.

IT: It is good that there are so many women.

BC: Men are also involved in this community, and in Utopia as well.  In the Lenca village in the past, it was normal for men to be involved in these roles, but as time has passed these roles have been left to the women.  Although there are elderly people that know a lot about medicine, not only about the plants, but also how to handle, for example, if somebody breaks a bone – if it is not fractured, they can repair it.  They also know about spiritual health.

IT: So, they are also going to teach about spiritual health?

BC: Yes, that cannot be detached, for us there cannot be one thing without the other, because they heal the houses in which people live.

IT: So, part of the project includes the elderly teaching the young people how to use these medicinal plants, and how to prepare the medicines?

BC: That is it.  We have a small school for the young people, this has already been done.  The idea is that the elderly give classes to the young people, they pass on the knowledge.  This is one of COPINH’s more formal projects and it is very popular among the young people – it shows what can be done in the village, in Plan de Barrios.  The young people have a lot of participation in COPINH, in all areas of our work.

IT: Why herbal medicines, why medicinal plants, instead of chemicals?

BC: Firstly, because it is an ancient practice of the Lenca people, it is ours; there is a lot of knowledge and a lot of wisdom and we know that the herbal medicines are effective in many cases – people have proved this over hundreds and hundreds of years.  The majority of communities do not have a doctor, and it is the people in the community that heal and that are aware of health issues and how to cure them.  Another thing is that plants are an integral part of life for us and using them to cure is natural, it is how it should be.  The other thing is that we, as an organisation, fight against the neo-colonialism in which we live, and we know that health is a vital part.  The issue of health is important in the communities.  We as COPINH have had long struggles with this issue.  We are against the systems of death that privatisation of health services impose.  Public health services become more inaccessible in this country when they are privatised.  There is logic behind neo-colonialism which imposes and makes a person believe that they cannot live without chemicals, that they must depend on them, which generates a large profit.  The big pharmaceutical companies are stealing the genetic information of plants and animals, including genetic information from indigenous villages.  The American ‘gringos’ have already done this to the Kunas in Panama and to the indigenous in La Mosquitia. Even here as well.  The gringos come with medical brigades, they say, mixed with fundamentalist churches, and they bring practitioners to work on the indigenous.  Often, they bring military gringos to do this, and to combine with the church.  And once they are gone, then come the Yankee troops of Palmerola with military armies, they call themselves ‘New Horizons’.  The last time that they came; they called themselves ‘Beyond new horizons’.  After this, after the fundamentalist church, after the medical brigades had left – who brought with them a mountain of chemicals and drew blood samples, for example in Yamaranguila, they took blood samples from indigenous people without telling them what it was for, and they forced the indigenous from Azacualpa without telling them anything; ONGs, agencies like World Vision. World Vision has taken them to be sterilised, but they have not told them what sterilisation is. So, they will have been sterilised without consent.  So, they have violated the right of indigenous women to decide what is right for their own bodies, if they do or do not want to have children.  If they want to be operated on then that is their decision, they shouldn’t be taken for fools.  After this happened, then came the transnational mining companies, hydroelectric dams and granting proposals for rivers, for territory, so it is a very unequal fight.  For us these struggles against the free trade treaties are vital, the issue of health is vital, and it is an issue which has been put here by the biggest pharmaceutical companies and universities as well, because the gringos send people from universities to investigate why and how we use each plant, and they take this information back to the university, who then sells the information to the big pharmaceutical companies.  This has happened in the case of La Mosquitia with Bayer, and the gringo universities have come to do studies.  That’s why, for us, the recovery, the practice, the strengthening of natural medicine is not a thing of fashion, and it is not something we do to make Utopia look good.  No, it is a fight of resistance, a political struggle that goes beyond sowing plants; it is something deeper and more profound.

IT: You said that genetic information has been extracted from the indigenous people of Central America, for example the Kunas in Panama and the Mosquitos in Nicaragua.

BC: The Mosquito in Honduras.

IT: So, could you talk a little more about this?

BC: Well, the Kuna reported this many years ago.  They claimed that the US army had extracted DNA from the indigenous people and that they had a bank of genetic information in the USA.  The Americans are saying that they use it to research why the Kuna people have more resistance to certain diseases than white people, or, I don’t know, why they are more vulnerable to these diseases.  I don’t know, to know what further reason they keep them.

Again, the Mosquitos claimed that the US universities, and I think that also this claim went public, that they were drawing information to take to the universities in the USA.  Now I can’t remember the name, but the pharmaceutical companies are selling it.  They have taken it from here. For example, the allegations from Yamaranguila – they went to take blood from people; they were gringos from medical brigades, they said, and they were also military gringos.  The indigenous didn’t know what the blood was being drawn for; they were never told anything; no examination to say that it was to find out if they had anaemia or something like that.  They took blood from the children.  And so, why do the gringos want this?  Additionally, they didn’t do anything afterwards which was for the good of the health of the community.  The theft that was undertaken in the indigenous villages by the transnational companies and the gringos, and worse now that they have put a military base in the Mosquitia region, in the Barra de Caratasca, which has been strengthened after the coup, they did business with a transnational oil company and they have put the military base there.  For a few years we have been alleging this and they have said that it does not exist.  Today they have installed a runway, a radar and everything.  They say that it is to combat drug-trafficking, but we know that this is a lie; they want to invade and loot our villages.  The threat is not only to Honduras, but also to Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Cuba, because the location is very strategic; in geopolitics this is very important.  But not only this, in Mosquitia, apart from the human and cultural richness that exists there, there is a lot of rich biodiversity; so they are threatened.  It is like a small Amazon, and the richness that is there is amazing.  There is also a lot of oil, and before nobody said that Honduras had oil.  The gringos said that there was no oil, but a few years ago a crazy Russian was walking through here lost, and he passed through Mosquitia and then made remarks to the media to say that “there is oil in Honduras”.  I don’t know who he was, or what studies he had done, but he said it.  The next day the gringos left, saying that he was lying.  In Honduras there is oil, and the indigenous have always known this, in the same way that we know which hills have gold, but here the people have never had such greed that they want to destroy the earth.  But the gringos have to come to guzzle what they can and to say that they are going to exploit such a thing.  So I believe that all of this is more related to the logic of death, of looting, and the huge threat to the biodiversity than it is to the health of the community.

IT: It would be good to talk a little about the coup and Honduran politics.  How do you see the future of resistance in Honduras after the coup?

BC: The resistance is seen as a concept in the community, it has to do with a social and political movement which has a lot of credibility, a lot of confidence in the people. There is an extraordinary group of volunteers which has a number of treasures, one of which is diversity.  I believe the diversity is what secures the unit, because we can say that the unit is united but this can be just words on a page, but in practice, or should it be in action, the practice maintains this unity, and this has been one of the Honduran achievements, that we recognise that we are diverse.  Here in Honduras, long ago, no one dared to openly criticise the leadership: the religious elite, the powerful military leaders, or the religious practices.  So, recognising all of these things and having the capacity to see that we are all indigenous, blacks, women, feminists, intellectuals, poets, artists, musicians, writers, people from urban areas, or from rural communities, farmers, workers, young people, gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual, in the other ways that the village was organised and we didn’t realise, that is, from the traditional concept of organisation, for example, it didn’t look like the market ladies were organised, or that the women selling chewing gum and cigarettes were organised.  I believe that this jump has been incredible, and I see the potential for resistance from here on.  I also look at the challenges: one is to make sure that the resistance does not become an electioneering place, being a social and political movement.  Politics is more than just elections, because what we have done is to make a historical political action plan.  So, if the Front is reduced only to elections, then the resistance is going to die.  But, if we conceive it as a political and social movement, in which one of the strategies, but not the only strategy, is an electoral political front, the people will warm to that.  If this is done correctly, without losing sight of the social and political movement, then it will be a great strength.  But not only this, another thing is the construction of the power of the people because we cannot continue saying that we are going to take the power.  For us in the COPINH it is not that, it is to build power and to use it, because the power of the people does not win elections. To go to the Executive and to be in the government and have a colleague that is the president: this is not the power of the people, it is more than this, and it is built from the base up, from all of the bases of resistance.  But each one of these constructions of concepts is diverse, in the same way that the resistance is diverse, and it is complex to articulate all of this.  For example, the construction of the concept of community power in indigenous villages is different to the community power that exists in urban areas, and it is different to the community power of feminists or intellectuals or academics.  The construction of power is rejection, for example what you saw in San Francisco de Opalaca, the position of communities deciding on their strategic natural resources and the autonomy to decide that they do not want a hydroelectric dam, this is the construction of community indigenous power, because it has to do with their identity, their culture and their world views.  So, I see that with the resistance there is a challenge to articulate all of this and instead of this being a weakness, it is an asset.

The other element is the National Constituent Assembly.  This people are determined to change; we may have ceased to be news in the world, but here we continue to work towards something.  We are progressing and understanding that the fundamental objective is not the National Constituent Assembly.  The fundamental strategic objective is to re-establish this country and one of these elements is the construction of popular power, which is the National Constituent Assembly.  A community which is democratic, popular, characterised by its people, where the people provide the content, content that arises from their historical claims.  What? For example, the water: the people here say that in this exercise that we had with the Constituent Assembly, in its texts, we wanted water to be a human right, a common good, an inalienable right, without limits for the Honduran people, and where privatisation and outsourcing are prohibited by the Assembly’s order.  This content is a challenge to the structures: the political structure, the tax structure – they touch the foundations of the injustice in this country.

There are various elements to this reorganisation: the reorganisation has not been built with a good constituency, not a good constitution, because this can be pretty well written but the process of reorganisation is a process of profound economic, political and social transformation.  It is an action against the dominant culture, for example, patriarchy. We have fought strongly as COPINH and as women, even within our own Front, above all in our organisation / structure because understanding it is to dismantle these forms of domination, not only capitalism but also patriarchy and racism.  It is a serious thing, it is hard.  But the Front has already positioned itself as a social and political movement which is willing to dismantle these forms of domination.  This is an important breakthrough, but now we need to internalise this and put it into practice.

Here in Honduras everything was normalised, there is a Government of reconciliation and national unity.  There is a Truth Commission: they are the same criminals that are there, amnesty and Porfirio Pepe Lobo’s projected vision for the country is a project of domination which in 2038 will be a strategy for the gringos, and that strategy will continue.  For example, the strengthening of the gringo bases in Honduras is not accidental: it is no coincidence that they are distributing the country’s wealth to the transnational corporations, or they are complaining, as we popularly say, that today the transnational companies have more impunity than ever, to operate and do as they please.  The gringo strategy of selective repression, assassination, murder, torture, surveillance, has been suffered by organisations like COPINH.  In other words, they are the same people that took part in the coup; this regime of Pepe Lobo is an heir of the regime of the coup.  The rulers of this country are the same people that took part in the original coop.  Pepe Lobo is just a puppet who wants to present a smiley face to Obama, while massacring the people.  Like Obama is massacring the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, or all of his policies against the Colombian people.  More military bases in Panama, an invasion in Haiti.

I think that everything has to do with an imperialist annexation project across our continent which is at a historical moment of struggle for emancipation.  The gringos know this and they want the resources that we have.  They want our knowledge, our wealth, they want cheap labour, they want our forests, our water, oil, gold, silver … they want whatever they can take from here. They want … the latest technology, they want the oceans, and for this they send the fourth fleet in to the seas of this continent where they threaten all of the liberation processes of the continent.  All of these alternative projects of the communities inconvenience ALBA.  I believe that this continent is in crucial times, for life or for death.

IT:  What is the question of the political left in quotation marks, like Cesar Ham?

BC: Oh my god. In the stage of maturity which the Honduran people have reached, to know and to recognise who are with the people and who are not and who act by pure opportunism. This faction of the UD (Democratic Unification), because we must make a difference, there are people from the base of UD who are very militant in the Resistance and who never shared what César Ham did in guaranteeing the regime as the heir to the coup, guaranteeing the idea of the coup, that’s what he did. And he is there as a puppet, as the Minister of the National Agrarian Institute because the oligarchy knows that the agrarian issue, the territorial and land issue

are hot issues in Honduras. Obviously they place there a figure who has a leftist image, and that is with the intention of dividing us, of tearing us apart.

But the Honduran people know who are with the people and I believe that he is already feeling the cost of having acted as he did. He’s finding it harder every day and, well, in the recent case of the Bajo Aguán and the colleagues of MUCA. The Honduran people are fed up with the traditional political parties. When I say traditional, that doesn’t just include those of the right, but also those who say they are of the left, because they act in the same way as those parties, exactly the same; there is no difference. They say that we are the electorable people; that’s not certain. In Honduras before the coup the level of abstentionism was growing because the people didn’t see any option, neither in the party of the left nor in the party of the right. They wanted to build their own thing and to feel it.

So, I think that now he’s there, I don’t think he’s a loss for the Resistance.

IT: What’s the situation been like here in La Esperanza during the coup d’état and as it is right now? Are there any repressive forces here?

BC: Since the coup, in fact since before the coup, since the day when COPINH first arose, we’ve suffered a lot of harassment and repression. We’ve had five of our colleagues assassinated for their defence of water, forest and land. We’ve had colleagues tortured, condemned to 30 years in jail, colleagues who have had their eyes taken out, who have had their legs beaten by groups of soldiers. Also, colleagues harassed. We’ve suffered campaigns to discredit us; they say that narco-trafficking finances us; those gringos from Palmerola have said that COPINH is an organisation with terrorist tendencies, that we are financed by the FARC, ETA, and who knows who else. If that were the case we’d be millionaires. With a delegation of gringo activists who came here and were at Palmerola, they even told them that COPINH was a threat not only to the security of Honduras, but also a threat to the security of the US government. That made us laugh – it’s so ridiculous – but at the same time it’s also worrying because it gives us an idea of what they are thinking.

Before the coup, for years COPINH had demanded that Honduras should be a member of ALBA, since ALBA was first created. In fact since before Mel Zelaya, and when Mel came to power and took the initiative we supported him. We backed Mel Zelaya in the initiatives which benefitted the Honduran people, but we didn’t stop being critical of him. We supported Petrocaribe, ALBA, the increase in the minimum salary, we mobilised against the Air Force to recover the ballot boxes, for the 4th vote, on the day of the Consultation – many COPINH people were active before the coup. We supported his veto of Congress’s decree to prohibit contraceptive pills, a clear violation of the rights of women, a decree promoted by Opus Dei. Mel Zelaya vetoed that law and didn’t allow it to pass. Opus Dei is one of the architects and financiers of the coup d’état.

For the Popular Consultation, from the start we knew that it was an action that could set the Honduran people off on a process of struggle for a National Constituent Assembly. We were conscious of that and we had a first meeting for the re-founding weeks before the coup d’état. It was labelled: First National Meeting for the Re-Founding of Honduras with more than 400 delegates. The people said what type of Constituent Assembly they wanted and what type of Constitution. Indigenous people, women, workers, youths, the agricultural sector; they discussed issues of justice, equality, dignity, sovereignty, self-determination, autonomy, independence, tons of things. After that meeting, as COPINH we held a mobilisation to Tegucigalpa, and there we took over the Public Ministry because they wanted to prohibit the Consultation. They did the usual things and we denounced the threat of the coup d’état. In our communication we called on the Honduran people to prepare themselves for a popular insurrection – we did that before the coup. Our colleague Salvador Zúñiga said to Mel various times, “watch out for the coup d’état”. He said about the Armed Forces, “they’re going to run a coup d’état,” and he didn’t believe him. He said it to him lots of times. Mel agrees now, when we saw him afterwards in Nicaragua and elsewhere, he agreed and referred back to it, “I remember when Salvador told me.”

With all that, in and around the coup, everything was militarised; they put out the Tenth Infantry Batallion and they surrounded Utopía. They threatened the radio stations, they threatened us that they would capture us; they went to take the ballot boxes away because we were in charge of them. They wanted to pick up the more than 100 colleagues from El Salvador who had come as international observers. We had split them up between eight different towns and cities, and they wanted to detain them, and they took away their bus. Those spoilers, the military, ‘chafarotes’ we called them, were on the streets with machine guns – it was like a war.

It was hard to get to Tegucigalpa to join the protests. Salvador and many colleagues left on foot from here for Tegucigalpa. Here the electricity was off, we didn’t know anything that was going on. You couldn’t hear Radio Globo. We didn’t hear what was happening in the morning, only what some colleagues told us by telephone. We didn’t hear about meetings from anyone, but we knew that we had to go to Tegucigalpa. So we went, and we kept ourselves there day and night for five months with a large contingent of colleagues. For months we defended the Venezuelan Embassy and we took part in all the daily marches and all the actions. We went to El Paraíso department, on the border with Nicaragua, where they arrested some of our colleagues, women, indigenous people, old people – the military took them off to prison and said they had to register them because they were hiding arms in their vaginas – a huge abuse, and very racist. The coup increased racism and abuse against women. We have denounced all this. Here, a young indigenous colleague who operated the radio at that time was threatened no less than 20 times. They told him they were going to cut out his tongue. To the radio station that we have in San Francisco Lempira, the colonel called threatening that they were going to set fire to it, but the communities provided a self-defence for it and looked after it.

For us here it’s been really hard, but we are fulfilling this historic role because we are in an historic moment in which the people call upon us to reconstruct and re-found this country. So, as COPINH, we’ve tried to be coherent with our objectives and principles, to dream of a more just and more human fatherland, people, country and society.

Here the coup supporters wanted to do a couple of marches, but they didn’t get more than 100; they couldn’t do it, they couldn’t walk more than three blocks because the people from the barrios and the markets came out and …???…, [maybe something like ‘blocked their headway’ as we say. Also, Micheletti and Romeo came here before the elections – the only public place that Micheletti went to was here. He chose La Esperanza and Romeo brought army reservists from all over the country – there were no more than 800. And they offered them money; many of them didn’t know why they had been summoned, they thought that it was to be paid their salaries that they hadn’t been paid for some time. They lied to them, they told them it was to pay their delayed salaries from their retirement; they were given 100 lempiras, which is like five dollars, and they gave them a white t-shirt and trousers which had been given by the maquila owners. They laid a large military siege. But for them it was a great failure because if it was a national meeting for all the reservists and only 800 came, to offer them pay and to lie to them was a failure.

The other thing is that presidential candidates were not able to carry out a normal campaign here the people didn’t let them; they followed them wherever they went. They did things from throwing eggs at them to occupying the places where they were going to have meetings, and they wouldn’t move themselves. Beforehand, there were gatherings here with no less than 5,000 people, up to 10,000, with no more than 200 in favour. Pepe Lobo came to talk at a school, and surrounded there, he talked about the danger which not just the Resistance represented, but also COPINH.

It’s hard. We’ve had to take everything out from COPINH, we’ve had to take out the radio and hide it. We know they are watching us. Before the coup, armed men with guns, cell phones, short-wave radios came to our houses to threaten us. They threatened our children and all the family. They spoke to us on the phone and by post to COPINH. They twice shot at Salvador in the apartment where he lives, and they have followed him. They’ve been to COPINH to interrogate our colleague, Felix, who looks after it. They went behind the radio transmitters. They wanted to find out about our colleagues from other countries who work in COPINH. One of them works here, he’s a journalist, and during the coup he covered it as a journalist, and they beat him up, splitting open his head, and they stole his camera. He’s Chilean. It’s been hard here.

One other thing, the role of the agencies. We note for example that in the coup, today you’re either with the coup or against it, and for the cooperation agencies it’s the same, they’re either with the coup or against it. So we’ve observed that the agencies have defined themselves [in these terms] and those that have been committed to the people and which are genuinely in solidarity with us have been with us and have not abandoned us. And that’s good – their presence. We’ve brought over colleagues from other countries, even from the US, so they’re put with Utopía as well because we had some gringo colleagues there, activists who helped us with the radio station and who dared to do this with us. The international presence has helped us. We know that this can cost you your life. Loads of colleagues have been killed, for example, Walter, Vanesa, they were very much in tune with us. The colleague from Aguán, the journalist, the other teacher colleague from San Pedro, came to COPINH’s activities. It’s not easy, but we will carry on.

IT:  What do you think you’ll be doing over the next few months with the grassroots and campaigns?

BC: In COPINH we are in the middle of a period and in the middle of that coup, in December we have our General Assembly. We realize, and we hear from all our communities, that we need a time for a breather because we have not really rested at all, we’ve had no respite and this is reflected even in our bodies. Everybody’s ill, with gastritis, one of us has got facial paralysis, there are other consequences of the coup. We check the role of COPINH and the coup, and we realise that all our projects, the ones we were so keen to develop, have all fallen behind. It’s because we’ve concentrated on the struggle against the coup, on defending ourselves and on surviving. But we’re in a period of mending COPINH of reviewing everything. There’s been a lot of understanding of organisations that support COPINH. Some are from Norway, for example, APN or Rights in Action who accompanied the Honduran people during the coup, and organisations from Italy that accompanied us. We’ve spoken with them and they are aware of what has happened to us.

Now we have determined that we shall follow on with the struggle against the coup and what it represents and for the re-founding, for a National Constituent Popular and Democratic Assembly, debating issues on popular construction and promoting events like those we are developing. For this second meeting for the re-founding we have put forward the debate around the theme of anti-patriarchal, anti-racist and anti-neoliberal struggle. At the same time it falls to us to confront those shitty transnationals, those businessmen – we’re fighting against all that, but also it falls to us to confront those businessmen here on our own ground – that’s difficult, to be involved in all that. And at the same time to be in Opalaca, with Terra, Inversa and …???…, and again in the community of San Rafael, Inversa and Terra are again there – mining companies here, mining companies there, causing land conflicts. We have 20 land conflicts which are tense and we can’t find any solution for them.

To maintain our radio stations, to strengthen them, to provide follow-up for youth projects, the herbolarium, to carry out a diagnostic survey of the education of the Lenca people, with projects of indigenous professionalisation, with the issue of womens’ struggles, with the project of COPINH’s Womens’ Healing and Justice House, the Popular Womens’ Court – we have all this planned. And to work for the Resistance throughout this zone, to strengthen it, and moreover the international work that COPINH does, whilst at the same time we are driving the Convergence of the American Peoples’ Movements, which has six important axes and which clearly overlaps with COPINH. We are also involved in the anti-dam fight and in the struggle against the US military occupation in the continent. So we are coordinating the Third Hemispheric Meeting Against the Militarisation of Colombia. The Second was here – COPINH called it, we were the hosts. So, I don’t really know how we do it. We’ve lost even the dream. Those coup leaders have rid us of our dream even. It’s not easy. Those fuckers have changed our life, from family life to organised life as a people.

IT:  Are you working with other organisations, like COFADEH?

BC: What happens is that since before we had a real affinity in our work, as with COFADEH on the issue of human rights for example, when Amnesty came they invited us. We then invited them to our events and we had an exchange. We support them in things like training and interchange of experiences. With OFRANEH the thing is that we have a common struggle with the indigenous and black people and their sister organisations, we have a political coincidence and very similar visiols, so that helps us all. After the coup, it was even more so, and here we have had to form one major bond – we’ve looked out for one another – there’s a wealth of human solidarity which we didn’t think about before. We didn’t think we were capable of it and so it was difficult for us, and now we are working all the time on the theme of the coup’s impact, we’re always monitoring it and making national and international denunciations.

IT:  Regarding Zelaya, do you think that one day he’s going to return to Honduras and that he might have some influence on happenings in the future?

BC: It’s not that he’s going to have or has influence. Initially he was a folkloric person in this country, but he changed – the coup changed him and his family and you have to understand that he’s not a type that comes from the left, from a social movement. He comes from the rural land-owning sector, the large landowners. But he underwent a great change. Now he could be a very positive element for the Resistance, for the re-founding project, if he could de-link himself from the Liberal party, if he took another step to leave it and if he came closer to the Honduran people – that would be very good.

And I perceive that that’s what the Honduran people want, wherever he goes the people expect a lot of him. He’s going to come back, that man is going to return, and when he enters the country it will be through here, through this frontier with El Salvador. When he enters here for the embassy he’ll pass through here, through this frontier, and I feel that Mel has the perspective and the desire to carry on, to follow through. But if he does come in he will always be threatened and they are quite capable of killing him, or of putting him in prison, and of exhibiting him to humiliate him as they wanted to do from the first day when they got him out in his pyjamas, in fact they want to humiliate him, to make an exhibition of him in his humiliation – they are going to want to do that.

So, I think he has a great potential to influence matters. There are many people waiting for him to say whether he will be thrown out of the Liberal party or whether he will stay there. If only he would take a step to leave that oligarchic, oppressive and coup-minded party, that would be really good. Definitely that man still has great charisma, what he says and does carries a lot of weight.