Workers of Canadian-owned "El Mochito" Mine On Work Stoppage, Blocking Entrance to Mine

Mining employees protest failure of Canadian company to pay negotiated salary. Photo from El Tiempo

Mining employees protest failure of Canadian company to pay negotiated salary. Photo from El Tiempo

According to articles published in the Honduran online newspaper El Tiempo, approximately 800 mining workers employed by Toronto-based company Ascendant Resources Inc. are on a work stoppage due to grievances over their wages. The work stoppage comes as Ascendent Resources recently took possession of the “El Mochito” zinc-lead-silver mine in December 2016 from the Swiss-Belgian company, Nyrstar.

Since January 26, El Tiempo reports that the miners were blocking the entrance of the Canadian mine to demand that the Canadian company pay negotiated salaries. Journalist Belkis Argueta writes: “workers demand that their employers increase salaries, otherwise, they will not return to work … a mining worker earns 120 [$5 USD] to a maximum of 150 lempiras [$6.25 USD] a day. According to the wage scale, they should earn far more money. Mining companies with more than 151 employees must pay 9,763.51 Lempiras per month [$407 USD). This is according to the wage scale approved for 2017 and 2018 in Honduras. But employees of the “El Mochito” mine earn barely 4,650 lempiras [$194 USD] monthly when all is well. And 3,360 Lempiras [$140 USD] when the work is not going well.”

After several failed negotiations with representatives of Ascendent Resources and Honduran Minister of Labour, mining workers organized a protest and were accompanied by local residents. It is unclear if a solution has been found and since early February, there have not been any reports on the status of the conflict. 

Canada Holds Conference for Military Leaders from Latin American Including Honduras

From February 6 to 10, the Canadian Army held the Conference of American Armies (CAA) in Toronto, Ontario. According to the Government of Canada's website, the CAA is "an opportunity for Army leaders from North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean to meet on a regular basis to discuss areas of mutual interest and share lessons learned. The CAA contributes to the security and democratic development of member countries, from a military perspective."

It is these types of conferences that demonstrate Canada's interests in training and coordinating with repressive regimes in the Americas, including the Honduran military, the institution that overthrew a democratically elected President in Honduras in June 2009. As many Canadians continue to falsely believe that Canada is a "peace-keeping" nation, the Canadian government sends Canadian troops to Honduras to train alongside U.S. and Colombian forces. 

"No Domestic Military Ops" banner protesting a military conference whose theme focused on "domestic operations". PHOTO: Michael Toledano. Photo taken from here

"No Domestic Military Ops" banner protesting a military conference whose theme focused on "domestic operations". PHOTO: Michael Toledano. Photo taken from here

The Honduran military representative participating in the Toronto-based conference, Coronel Gabriel Rixci Carcamo Bonilla, was the commanding Colonel responsible for the Honduran Third Infantry Battalion based in the northern town of Naco in the department of Cortes from August 2013 to 2014. This particular military base in Naco is of key strategic importance to foreign military training and the development and training of special military units created in the environment of severe repression in post-coup Honduras. In fact, the U.S. military has maintained a foreign operating base in Naco on and off since at least 2012.

The military representative currently participating in the military conference in Toronto, Canada with Latin American military figures was head of the Naco military base in Honduras when the Honduran Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) were trained in 2013. At the same time in 2013, the special hybrid military-police (SWAT-style) Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Groups, the "TIGRES" were trained on the base in Naco as well. The Military Police and the TIGRES were created to combat organized crime and the so-called "drug war" after the 2009 coup in Honduras but both units have been used extensively to repression the Honduran social movement and struggles in defense of natural resources and territories.

Both the Military Police and the TIGRES have been involved in gross human rights violations in Honduras since the 2009 military coup, and both forces have received training, funding, or have been vetted, either directly or indirectly (like via the Special military force FUSINA) by the United States military. It is worth mentioning that the TIGRES were present on Berta Caceres' final action against a dam project before her assassination in western Honduras when Caceres and COPINH went to protest, one again, the illegal construction of the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque river.

The military base in Naco, Cortes, is also the site of foreign training provided to the Honduran military and the above mentioned special hybrid security forces. Canadian military were present on the base in 2012, around the time that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the post-coup regime of President Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo. Shortly after, the FTA sparked the approval of a new Mining Law that greatly benefited the interests of Canadian mining companies. In the picture below, Canadian troops can be seen on the military base together with Colombia and American forces, two extremely problematic countries that have led the militarization of Latin America in service of North American imperialism.

The conference in Toronto and the presence of Honduran military on Canadian soil demonstrates Canada's clear foreign policy objectives of militarization and imperialism in complete disregard of basic human rights in Honduras. The Canadian government continues its support of the Honduran regime despite in-depth reports and documentation of extremely high levels of human rights violations, impunity and corruption.

The soldiers, sailors and airmen along with Honduran army soldiers members of the Canadian Armed Forces and Colombian military medical personnel of U.S. Army South's joint Task Force Tropic, commanded by Lt. Col, Robert L. Jones, Missouri, Joint Forces Headquarters, in Honduras to support the U.S. Southern Command sponsored Beyond the Horizon 2012, line up for the start of a Memorial Day 5K run or walk held at Forward Operating Base Naco, Honduras, on May 27, 2012. Picture found on This website

The soldiers, sailors and airmen along with Honduran army soldiers members of the Canadian Armed Forces and Colombian military medical personnel of U.S. Army South's joint Task Force Tropic, commanded by Lt. Col, Robert L. Jones, Missouri, Joint Forces Headquarters, in Honduras to support the U.S. Southern Command sponsored Beyond the Horizon 2012, line up for the start of a Memorial Day 5K run or walk held at Forward Operating Base Naco, Honduras, on May 27, 2012. Picture found on This website

PRESS STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 9, 2017

Activists disrupt international military conference in downtown Toronto hotel

Toronto. Over a dozen activists with banners and a sound system disrupted a special conference of the Conference of American Armies (CAA) this morning. The conference is a gathering of military leaders from North, Central and South America and is being held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto. The meeting, which was hosted by the Canadian Army, explored "domestic operations" as its primary theme, alarming activists who associate the CAA with the repression of political activists and land defenders.

"The state, and the military backing it, come down with brutal force on Indigenous peoples asserting their responsibilities to protect the water, as has been so illustrated in the camps of Standing Rock with the involvement of the National Guard," explains Jaydene Lavallee, a Métis organizer present at the hotel action. "This conference on 'domestic operations' is about armies of colonial states mobilizing to better defend industry from Indigenous people and their allies."

From La Guajira, Colombia to Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, militaries engage in domestic conflicts over resource extraction. The CAA, which was created as part of a Cold War strategy to increase collaboration with militaries in Latin America, is no stranger military involvement in internal conflict. Even today, CAA liason officers are linked to the repression of civilians in their own countries who are engaged in land defence struggles or political activism.

"In 2009, Hudbay Minerals had support from the Guatemalan military, including the feared “Kaibil” special forces, to carry out repression against local Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities and make way for Hudbay’s mining operations," explains Grahame Russell of the NGO Rights Action. "This includes the September 27, 2009 assassination of Adolfo Ich and shooting and paralyzing of German Chub."

Honduras-based coordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network, Karen Spring, points out that current CAA liason officers are linked to political repression in Honduras. Col. Gabriel Rixci Cárcamo Bonilla, CAA liason officer for Honduras, was the commanding Colonel responsible for the Honduran Third Infantry Battalion in the northern town of Naco from 2013 to 2014. During that time, the Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Groups, known as "TIGRES", and Honduran Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) both received training at Bonilla's base. Both units have been used extensively to repress Honduran social movements and struggles in defence of natural resources and territories.

According to Spring, "the conference in Toronto and the presence of Honduran military on Canadian soil demonstrates Canada's clear foreign policy objectives of militarization and imperialism in complete disregard of basic human rights in Honduras. The Canadian government continues its support of the Honduran regime despite in-depth reports and documentation of extremely high levels of human rights violations, impunity and corruption."

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BACKGROUND

The Conference of American Armies (CAA) was created in 1960 by U.S. commander-in-chief of Southern Command, Major T.F. Bogart and played a large role in U.S Cold War strategy in the Americas. According to Long Island University professor and author of "Predatory States" J. Patrice McSherry, the CAA created communication systems for these armies to collaborate. This laid the groundwork for Operation Condor, which in turn led to the killing, torture, and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people while supporting military governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Today, militaries across the Americas are active in campaigns of repression against civilians in their own countries who are engaged in land defence struggles or political activism.

Canadian Army press release about the Conference of American Armies (CAA) meeting: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1185839

Detailed backgrounders on military violence in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Colombia available upon request.

One land defender's story of repression, criminalization and arrest: Young Garifuna woman arrested for reclaiming ancestral land

On November 11, 2016, Garifuna leader Medalime David Fernandez was arrested and tortured by Honduran police and soldiers from the U.S.-trained navy based in Puerto Castilla. The arrest occurred in the community of Guadalupe, one of six Garifuna communities in northern Honduras in the Trujillo Bay region. At the time, Medalime was being charged with illegal possession of land (usurpation) by Canadian tourist company CARIVIDA.

After Medalime was violently detained, the charges were dropped shortly after in a judicial process supported by the Garifuna organization, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH). There are still similar charges and arrest warrants out for three other Garifuna leaders from the same community. The attempt to criminalize and terrorize the Garifuna leaders come as residents, mostly youth, participate in a land reclamation effort to protect ancestral Garifuna lands that have been stolen by Canadian and American large-scale tourist developers.

On throughout the Trujillo Bay region, Garifuna land is being stolen and later sold in real estate offices and via presentations to interested buyers in Canada and the US. The land “developers” target working or middle class families looking to purchase cheap tropical properties to build their vacation homes. Many North American buyers do not understand the context in which they are purchasing their vacation lots. The Garifuna lands have illegally wound up in the hands of foreigners through several acts of corruption involving Honduran authorities and institutions that violate the collective rights of the local Afro-indigenous population.

From CARIVIDA's website at www.carivida.com. The website outlines CARIVIDA's plans to "develop" the lands that are being recuperated by Garifuna youth. None of the infrastructure mentioned in the video has been built and the company finds itself in a major land dispute with local Garifuna communities.

From CARIVIDA's website at www.carivida.com. The website outlines CARIVIDA's plans to "develop" the lands that are being recuperated by Garifuna youth. None of the infrastructure mentioned in the video has been built and the company finds itself in a major land dispute with local Garifuna communities.

The lands where CARIVIDA hopes to build a resort and villas, was purchased in 2013 by the company’s general manager, Canadian citizen Patrick Daniel Forseth. The lands are located in Guadalupe, the most western Garifuna community on the bay. Guadalupe is located in the municipality of Santa Fe in the department of Colon. CARIVIDA also owns a restaurant and café “CARIVIDA Club Café” in close proximity to the new cruise ship dock in the adjacent municipality on the bay that was built by another Canadian company, Banana Coast owned by Canadian “Porn King” Randy Jorgensen. Jorgensen is known as the largest tourist developer in the Bay and is implicated in significant legal battles led by Garifuna communities supported by OFRANEH. Recently, Jorgensen was prohibited from leaving Honduras as a criminal case against him proceeds in Honduran courts. He is being accused of illegal possession of Garifuna land.

The piece of land that CARIVIDA allegedly owns in Guadalupe is close to one of Jorgensen’s developments – Alta Vista. Patrick Forseth is a family member of the owners of Tranquility Bay Beach Retreat, located approximately 45 minutes from Forseth's alleged land in Guadalupe. Patrick and his father, Larry Forseth are both pilots and provide a chartered flight service to the Trujillo Bay for potential foreign buyers interested in the many large-scale tourism projects in the areas including those of the companies NJOI, Life Vision Development, CARIVIDA, Marea. Almost all of the mentioned companies are building on stolen Garifuna land that is being permitted by corruption and impunity that are rampant in Honduras.

All of these companies are owned by foreigners that know one another or have business dealings of some form with one another. Together, they are working to build a major tourist economy in Trujillo Bay or a Honduran-style Cancun. Many of the companies use the same lawyers and have attempted to evict Garifuna communities or land reclamations that attempt to recuperate the land that has been taken over and stolen from them.

Below is the transcription of an interview conducted by the Garifuna community radio station in Santa Fe, Radio Lumalali Giriga 94.7 FM on November 12, 2016. 

We are live and direct for Radio Lumalali Giriga 94.7 FM for our Facebook page “Santa Fe Giriga News”. We are with Medelime David Fernandez who was the victim of capture orders requested by the company CARIVIDA for the reclamation effort that is being carried out on lands of the Guadalupe community. Tell us what happened on November 11, 2016.

Medeline being held in a prison cell in Trujillo. Picture by OFRANEH

Medeline being held in a prison cell in Trujillo. Picture by OFRANEH

Medalime: Thank you for the opportunity to express this feeling. Yesterday, the raid was carried out between 4:00 and 4:15 pm when we were doing chores - the women were carrying firewood and the men cutting wood. In that moment, I received a call and I was given a heads-up that some police patrols were coming here [to the land reclamation area]. I didn’t immediately pay much attention to it because for various days, patrols had passed directly through here to Betulia because there had been problems with the hydroelectric dam [a dam that is being constructed to the west of the community of Guadalupe on the Betulia River]. So I continue doing what I was doing, when I went back to the area, I saw the patrols were here and they were coming into the land like they were going to capture a drug trafficker. So I continued and right way I was surprised thinking “damn, who are they here to take” without imagining that it was me that they wanted to arrest.

So I got closer to the kitchen area where we normally meet because its located at the entrance of the land reclamation and the police began asking for identification. As they know, no one carries identification in a land reclamation process but with this excuse they came into the area. At the same time in the corner, Mr. Roman Denardez [CARIVIDA security guard] was pointing me out so that the police could capture me. So to kill time, I made a phone call to a comrade to tell him to notify the community and then I immediately called our mother in this struggle, Miriam Miranda [General Coordinator of OFRANEH].

In precisely this moment, I was struggling with the police because my son was present at the site where this was all occurring, watching everything that was happening. I was making calls to Miriam to give the community time to come to the reclamation because all of this occurred within ten minutes. While I spoke with Miriam, they were dragging me [to the patrol cars] and I was struggling with them. When the police couldn’t handle me, a navy soldier that was completely hooded started to drag me, immediately I was able to break free. Then another naval soldier who was not hooded but was heavily armed, grabbed my right arm and put a gun to my head, so I said to him “are you going to kill me here because here there aren’t any drug traffickers, thieves, and much less dogs.” That was precisely the moment when I started to do what they said, I don’t know, I don’t know how I got it together but I did.

They let me go and when they did, I heard my son cry and yell and I totally lost control and I started to oppose them again. At no time did it cross my mind that they were going to hit me but there was a lot of physical, psychological, and verbal aggression. So I left walking towards the patrol car, crossed the small stream [that separates the land and the road], and once being in the patrol car, two of the naval soldiers came over and started saying things in a derogatory manner and they told me that they would put the hand cuffs the tightest way possible. When they couldn’t handcuff me – I flatly opposed it because I am not a delinquent. I am a young woman, a leader that demands her territory and defends it like a warrior because I need a piece of land where I can live.

So I totally opposed [what they were doing] and one police officer put a pile of traffic cones [used by the police for traffic stops and check points] on my head and started to twist my neck and a navy soldier was kicking me once I was in the police patrol car. Then, the other comrades that were captured left in the first patrol and I was put in the last one.

So this is how everything happened and here I am, always firm, I trust the struggle, it gives me a lot of strength, and force to continue in this struggle because as I have said, this is the first operation we are going to do. I have to defend my territory with tooth and nail and I am ready to give my life for it.

A message that I want to give to women and youth is that they come here and accompany us because this is the beginning of a large battle. Remember, as Garifuna, we are in the government’s plan but nevertheless, they want to displace us, kill us, but we have our rights and as Garifuna, the owners, land holders of these lands and we have to reclaim our territories.

Question: Medalime, when the police got here, did they say why they wanted to take you or how did they know that they were looking for you in particular? Did they present you with capture orders that they were supposedly carrying out?

Medalime: At no time did they present me with an order and with the help of Mr. Ramon Hernandez as I already mentioned, he pointed me out and that’s how they were able to identify me. But they did not show me any judge’s order nor did they give me a chance to talk to them so that I could have handed myself in, in a voluntary manner. They did everything with force as if I was a delinquent and because of that, that is why I defended myself.

Question: How do you feel and what were the conditions that they [the judges] put on you in the hearing today in the Trujillo courthouse?

Medalime: In the hearing today, they told me that every 15 days I have to go to the courthouse and sign before a judge, that I cannot be at the site of the land reclamation and also they told me that I cannot leave the country, but the lawyer is working on this and no one is going to arrest me and take me out of my house because this is my house and I will defend it well.

Question: How do you feel with the support you have received from the community of Guadalupe and the rest of the Garifuna population that identifies with you and that has been in solidarity with the struggle that is being carried out?

Medalime: I have more strength, more force and with more courage in order to continue defending my struggle.

Question: What is your final message for our followers and listeners?

Medalime: Let us unite, that with union there is force, we as Garifuna, we can, we have capabilities and we have all the courage to continue in this struggle. This is my message, especially for the women, for the youth. Continue informing yourself and continue trusting and believing in our leaders, and we have to believe in our leaders. Strength is in unity.

 

Seven Individuals Accused of Participating in Berta Caceres’ Murder & Attempt Against Gustavo Castro

According to the Honduran press, the first four individual suspected to be involved were arrested on May 2, 2016, two months after Caceres’ was assassinated in her home and Mexican activist, Gustavo Castro survived an attempt against his life. When detained, their homes were also raided.

FROM EL HERALDO

FROM EL HERALDO

1.     EDILSON ATILIO DUARTE MEZA (25) – Employed as a construction worker (albañil), however the media has reported that Duarte Meza is a former soldier but these allegations have not been proven.

2.     SERGIO RAMON RODRIGUEZ ORELLANA (48) – Employed as the Manager of Social, Environment and Communications for the internationally-financed company constructing the Agua Zarca dam, Desarrollo Energeticos S.A. (DESA)

3.     MARIANO DIAZ CHAVEZ (44) – An active mayor in the Honduran Armed Forces stationed at the Primer Battalion of Special Forces, and an instructor for the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP)

4.     DOUGLAS GEOVANNY BUSTILLO (39)  – Retired lieutenant of the Honduran Armed Forces and former head of security for DESA.  

Then a fifth person was arrested shortly after the initial four. The press reports that the Public Prosecutor’s office issued a warrant on May 6th for Emerson Duarte Meza’s arrest when on May 2 during the raids and detentions of the four accused a revolver caliber .38 was found in his home. It is unclear the exact day he was arrested.

5. EMERSON EUSEBIO DUARTE MEZA (25) – The twin brother of Edilson Atilio Duarte Meza, also arrested for being involved in the assassination.

A sixth person was arrested on September 8, 2016 in the village of El Ocote in the municipality of San Pedro Zacapa, Santa Barbara

6. ELVIN HERIBERTO ORELLANA (21) – Honduran press claim that Orellana was the individual that shot at Gustavo Castro. Very little information has been made public about how he fits into the group, his role, etc.

A seventh person was arrested on January 12, 2017, in a barbershop in the city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

7. HENRY JAVIER HERNANDEZ RODRIGUEZ (25) – A former military soldier. It is believed that Hernandez Rodriguez was one of the individuals that broke into Caceres’ home and participated in the murder.