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Tuesday, 21 October 2014
Mining Company's Security Threatens International Human Rights Observers, Terrorizes Communities in Honduras PDF Print E-mail
Written by Giorgio Trucchi | LINyM, Translation by Clayton Conn   
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 12:36

Armed thugs kidnap and threaten international human rights observers, in the midst of a community’s resistance and struggle against a mining project. "The terror we lived for two hours is the tragic everyday life in this town," says kidnapped human rights observer.

Source: Honduras Laboral

Orlane and Daniel, French and Swiss respectively, are international observers of the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH)¹.

On July 25, they went to the community of La Nueva Esperanza in the Atlantis department to fulfill their human rights observation mission amid a serious conflict that has arisen following the implementation of a new mining project².

Twenty four hours hadn’t even passed since their arrival, when the two observers were surrounded by armed thugs working for the mining company. They were threatened and forced into a vehicle that took them to another community.

"They were nervous, with red eyes, pointing their guns at us, saying that we had nothing to do there, and asking if we were communists. I thought that at any moment they were going to shoot us," Orlane Vidal recounted in an interview with LINyM .

For her, the most troubling thing in Honduras terrorized by kidnappings is that the horror they experienced for more than two hours, represents the tragic everyday life of thousands and thousands of people in that country. People who defend their lands and natural resources from the thirsty claws of a few company owners.

LINyM: What exactly happened yesterday, July 25?

Orlane Vidal: We arrived at la Nueva Esperanza on Wednesday afternoon and spent the night in the house of a woman named Concepción, who lives about a half hour drive from the community. She had just denounced the constant harassment and threats from the mining company trying convince her to sell her land.

The next morning the lady went out early and came back as 8:30, warning that there were gunmen in the community and possibly they were security guards for the Victoria Minerals Company. We tried to calm her down telling her that we would talk to them to see what they wanted.

Half an hour later 10 men arrived armed with rifles with their faces altered, red eyes, as if they were drugged, accompanied by about 12 or 13 workers of the mining company with machetes, who surrounded the house.

Daniel and I went outside, and the men pointed their guns at us, saying that we had nothing to do there, that we were hindering the work of the mine. They asked us several times why we tried to hide and if we were communists.

We explained our role as observers in Honduras and in the Nueva Esperanza community, but they increasingly became more nervous, until the point when they suddenly heard distant gun shots, provoking them to load their guns as they continued to point them at us.

LINyM: What happened next?

OV: Suddenly there were other employees of the company who apparently had been after the husband of Mrs. Concepcion, who came running, scared, to where we were. At this point we realized that the house was now surrounded by more than 40 men armed with rifles and machetes.

We spent almost an hour trying to calm the situation, however the supposed security guards got even more nervous and moved closer, telling us we had to leave with them. At this point I was afraid for what could happen to us.

Finally, we gathered our things and they made us walk half an hour on a dirt road to get to where a vehicle was waiting for us. The workers tried to be kind, while the guards continued to point their guns at us.

LINyM:
Who was in the vehicle?

OV:
It was a company car. Inside there was a person who could have been an engineer of the company, and there was also Wilfredo Funes, a member of the community that has always supported the mining project. In the back there were gunmen.

They started the vehicle and began to tell us not to come back to the community because something bad might happen to us. We tried to talk to them and asked who had sent the gunmen. They indirectly made us understand that it was the employer Lenir Perez.

While we were still at the house Wilfredo Funes was called and said: "The boss wants to talk to you." When we replied: "Who? Lenir Perez?" they realized that we knew who he was and the person hung up.

Finally they took us to the Nueva Florida community and there, with the support of Cofadeh and PROAH, we were able to return to Tegucigalpa.

LINyN:
Did you think your life was in danger?

OV: The armed men were out of control and very upset, nervous, as if they didn’t care about anything that was happening, or our lives. Then we heard the gun shots. At that point I thought they were going to shoot us and commit a masacre in the community.

However, what worries me most is what people in the community are going through. For us it was two hours of terror, but for the people there it’s something that never ends, it’s their everyday life.

In this sense, we must seize upon what happened to denounce nationally and internationally what is being experienced in this area. I have a lot of rage inside me and this will give us the strength to continue to do our job.

For more information and to take action visit the HONDURAS ACCOMPANIMENT PROJECT

 

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