MAC/20: Mines and Communities

BRIEF REPORT REGARDING THE INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED IN THE DEMONSTRATIONS FOR A NEW MINING LAW IN HON

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

BRIEF REPORT REGARDING THE INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED IN THE DEMONSTRATIONS FOR A NEW MINING LAW IN HONDURAS

CIVIC ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY (ACD)

Yesterday, July 17, thousands of people gathered in different geographic locations around Honduras to take part in peaceful demonstrations for the ratification of a new Mining Law that looks out for the benefit of people and communities, and not simply reforms that leave many voids that favour the transnational mining companies.

Demonstrations took place in the following places: San Marcos, Ocotepeque; Santa Rosa de Copan, Copan; Colonia 6 de Mayo & La Flecha, Santa Barbara; Siguatepeque, Comayagua; Catacamas, Olancho; the central park in San Pedro Sula, Cortes; the Municipal Office of Danli, El Paraiso; and below the National Congress building in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. Unfortunately, in the 6 de Mayo neighbourhood and in Siguatepeque, the situation changed unexpectedly when national police agents used aggression and force against the protestors. Repression included beatings, tear gas, high pressure water, and, more seriously, the use of guns, leaving dozens of people wounded and/or detained. Furthermore, police confiscated photographic and video cameras used to capture images of the abuse of authority.

In the end, the incidents left approximately 59 people arrested, 1 police agent and 17 protestors wounded. Among the latter are: Geovany López (16), Lucio López (46), Eliseo Mejia (25) Lázaro Ardon (55), (face disfigured), Freddy López (16) Antonio Sánchez (60) Giovanni Mejia (18), Cruz Aguirre (62) Dionisio Calderón (47) Eliseo Quintanilla (20) Jesús Bautista (52), Francisco López (50) Trinidad Perdomo (20), Julio Cuellar (49), Gunshot wounds: Elder Carranza (20), critical condition; Anael Antonio Henríquez (27) and a 65-year-old elder whose whereabouts are unknown.

We hereby publicly refute the declarations by Departmental Chief of the Preventive Police, Silvio Edmundo Inestroza, who claimed that Elder Carranza is a member of that institution. This is false; the youth in question is a humble farmer who participated in the demonstrations. The incidents described above demonstrate the little tolerance of repressive State entities towards the citizens who peacefully demanded a new Mining Law. As always, the justification of the police is that the protestors were armed and wounded each other, further suggesting that it was the demonstrators who began the violent acts. It is worth pointing out that at the moment of the police attack, the protestors were praying. Under attack, people simply sought to defend themselves and to seek refuge in nearby houses, from which they were violently removed.

At the same time, the Negotiations Commission – comprised of Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos, Purificacion Hernandez, Father Rudy Mejia, Francisco Machado, Martin Erazo, Roger Escober and Pedro Rodolfo Arteaga – began meetings with the Commission from the Executive branch that prepared the Mining Law proposal, led by Nelson Avila, Presidential Advisor on Economic Matters. The group then traveled to the National Congress to meet with: the entire congressional dictamen commission led by Arnoldo Avilez; members of Caritas and Auxiliary Bishop Juan Jose Pineda Fasquelle; representatives of the Secretariat of Natural Resources and the Environment, including Minister Mayra Mejia; representatives of the governmental mining directorate DEFOMIN, led by Director Roberto Elvir; and representatives of the Non-Metallic Mining Association, among others. At this meeting, the central aspects of the Civic Alliance for Democracy's demands were incorporated. Furthermore, this preliminary agreement is conditional on an exhaustive revision of the entire text of the Law, while the Mining Commission committed to respecting the incorporated apsects as well as new contributions.

Following these advances, a meeting took place with part of the Directives of the National Congress, headed by Congress President Roberto Micheletti Bain and Secretary Jose Alfredo Saavedra. Dictamen commission representatives Arnoldo Avilez and Ramon Velasquez Nazar were also present. Congress President Micheletti ratified the agreements and promised to invite representatives of the Civic Alliance to the discussion of the law in the Congress, scheduled to begin on August 14th. Micheletti requested theseal and leave of Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos, whosealed his commitment with a closing prayer.

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