Today, Tuesday March 29, the Azacualpa Environmental Committee in Copán, Honduras issued the following alert regarding the continuing criminalization of dissent in their communities and the ongoing threat they face from the expansion of Aura Minerals’ San Andrés mine into their 200-year old cemetery.
On Monday March 28, nineteen community members traveled to the city of Copán for a hearing over charges that the state laid against them for illicit association following a peaceful protest at the San Andrés mine in 2014. For some community members, getting to Copán requires hours of walking and travel time.
Upon arriving, the nineteen learned that the courthouse had suspended the hearing, with no future date to reschedule. From the community’s perspective, this is a way to prolong the tiring process of criminalization against their peaceful struggle in opposition to the expansion of the San Andrés mine into their cemetery.
As a result, community members are protesting today against the criminalization of dissent and against Aura Minerals’ efforts to destroy their community cemetery. Given the presence of national policy, military and private security guards at their protest, they are deeply worried about their own security.
Please respond by sending an email to Aura Minerals with a copy to your member of parliament urging that no one be hurt or harassed, that the criminalization stop, and that the company respond in good faith to the community’s demands. The Committee is also specifically calling on Aura Minerals to send its general mine manager together with the mayor of Union to the protest to talk with the people. See the community’s Janury 24, 2016 statement for their full list of demands.
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The Canadian government took advantage of the increasingly deadly conditions for people fighting for their land and a healthy environment in Honduras in order to improve conditions for mining companies immediately following the June 28, 2009 military-backed coup.
Months after the coup, Canadian authorities began lobbying for an end to a seven-year mining moratorium on new mining permits through the development of a new mining law. Canadian overseas development aid was granted for technical assistance on the law, which was approved in January 2013.
Since its approval, two legal challenges have been presented against the law, which fails to incorporate the demands that affected communities and civil society organizations had been fighting for for many years prior to the coup.
Between 2010 and 2014, over 100 people fighting for land and a healthy environment have been murdered in Honduras, with many more threatened or criminalized. Most recently, the murder of Lenca Indigenous and environmental activist Berta Cáceres has drawn international attention on the nightmarish situation for communities all over the country.
Following Berta's murder, many Canadian organizations have been demanding that the Canadian government take concerted action to address this situation.