22 March 2013
For years, the mountainous Nueva Esperanza community in Tela has been fighting to stop mining companies. Currently this farming community of 200 people is on permanent alert as since police visited on 13 and 18 February 2013 firing gunshots; on the second occasion the shots were at to dismantle a concrete chain the community placed on the path into the mountain. Such intimidating acts and the sudden surge of police presence with what appears to be daily harassment in this tiny community had made Nueva Esperaza determined to demand police to get out of their town.
Despite being so small, a group from this community joined the 200kms Caminata Por la Dignidad y Soberanía, Paso por Paso (Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty, Step by Step), that began on 25 February 2013 from El Progreso and La Esperanze, and arrived at the Honduran congress in Tegucigalpa on 6 March 2013, demanding for the abolishment of both the newly passed Mining Law favourable to mining companies, and the neocolonial model cities law. The new Mining Law for example. But, the demands fell on deaf ears, and the community members quickly travelled back to Nueva Esperanza to strengthen their resistance against the mining.
On 14 March 2013 around 50 people from this and surrounding communities took a walk up this mountain, in the rain and mud, to bear witness to the environmental destruction that has begun already, and of the rocks containing minerals. At the top of the mountain, some areas have been cleared of plant-life by burning and chopping, including areas where the environmental licence agreement outlined to be out-of-bounds for clearing of plants – that were within defined parameters of within 250 meters of where a river begins, and within 50 meters of a gorge.
The community identifies that amongst the instigators of mining in their community is business person Lenir Pérez with the company Alutech. Lenir is a son-in-law of Miguel Facussé, who is in possession of more land than anyone else in Honduras and whose palm oil company Dinant is implicated in accusations of murder for many of the murders of around 100 farmers in Bajo Aguán in the last 3 years, since the military coup.
The documents given in the last days to the community from the company state the company is called La Victoria, but while the names of companies appear to change all the time, this seems to just be part of the lack of transparency, to confuse those campaigning against mining. Similarly, the concession is to mine iron, but rumours are that they are after the gold.
On 21 March 2013, the mining company entered the mountains. The community is in permanent alert. When I asked a young woman of the community to explain the importance of stopping this mine, she pointed to the mud we stood on near the house, and referred to the beautiful mountain with its forests and rivers, saying with mining all that (forests and rivers) will be gone, and they would be left with nothing but mud. She said she seen that on TV, of what mining companies leave communities.
Community leader Enrique is just as absolute and dignified in his determination. He said he does not have many years left, but thinks about the future of the children growing up in the community, and would rather lose his life fighting to stop this. He said he would never say mining is good for his community, whatever they come to offer him.
La Nueva Esperanza, Tela, is one of the many communities in Honduras affected by the recent ratification of the Mining Law by the Honduran legislative and executive powers, which in effect had the authorities give the green light for many new mining concessions to go ahead.
12 April 2013
Just an update, that the community remains on alert 24/7 to respond and defend their territory, that police harassment and intimidation is constant and had included police firing gunshot in the last days, that there are ongoing meetings between community representatives, their advocates, council mayor, companies representatives including Lenir Perez (infamous Miguel Facussé’s son-in-law, this family member specialising in mines), and the leadership of the churches.