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Environmental Human Rights: News & Updates

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As Joe Biden begins his presidency, a majority of Honduran people continue to suffer the violence and oppression of the military-backed, drug-trafficking, ‘open-for-global-business’ Honduran regime brought to power in the US and Cdn-backed military coup of June 28, 2009 - during Biden’s first term as Vice-President during the Obama presidency. A courageous, community-led human rights and environmental defense struggle continues in Guapinol, where local people resist he illegal imposition of an iron oxide mine, suffering violence and criminalization by company-linked operators and the US and Cdn-backed Honduran regime.
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On January 21, a coalition of Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, and Campesino communities represented by the Inter-Ecclesial Commission for Justice and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, CIJP) published a statement addressed to the Biden-Harris administration outlining recommendations for peacebuilding priorities in Colombia. The recommendations include: a full commitment to the agreed terms of the 2016 peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), resume peace dialogues with the National Liberation Army (ELN) and advance humanitarian minimums, dismantle illegal armed groups following community input, enforce agrarian reform, implement illicit crop substitution programs, and strengthen rural judicial institutions.
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By the 1980s, the FARC had territorial control of the town of Palestina, Huila Department. Enrique Chimonja says: “what happened was repression and in some way the assassination and extermination of campesino leaders, [putting] a permanent fear in the population.” His own father (Tuliio Enrique Chimonja, age 33) was forcibly disappeared in 1983. “ Tulio Enrique Chimonja is one of many campesinos who lost his life — or in his case, enforced disappearance — for having found himself in the middle of an armed conflict,” Enrique says. Now, Enrique, his family, and other victims are occupying the mechanisms of transitional justice set up after the 2016 Peace Accord between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP to expand their search for truth and justice, and finally find Enrique’s father. Using these institutions, they hope to empower themselves and find closure for the tragedy that has marked their lives for over 30 years. It is not a perfect process, but Chimonja pushes forward anyway in a search for truth and to honor the memory of his father.
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By the 1980s, the FARC had territorial control of the town of Palestina, Huila Department. Enrique Chimonja says: “what happened was repression and in some way the assassination and extermination of campesino leaders, [putting] a permanent fear in the population.” His own father (Tuliio Enrique Chimonja, age 33) was forcibly disappeared in 1983. “ Tulio Enrique Chimonja is one of many campesinos who lost his life — or in his case, enforced disappearance — for having found himself in the middle of an armed conflict,” Enrique says. Now, Enrique, his family, and other victims are occupying the mechanisms of transitional justice set up after the 2016 Peace Accord between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP to expand their search for truth and justice, and finally find Enrique’s father. Using these institutions, they hope to empower themselves and find closure for the tragedy that has marked their lives for over 30 years. It is not a perfect process, but Chimonja pushes forward anyway in a search for truth and to honor the memory of his father.
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On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order revoking the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline permit issued by the Trump administration. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) and the Fort Belknap Indian Community (Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) Tribes) along with their counsel, the Native American Rights Fund, applaud the Biden administration’s action to revoke the illegally issued KXL permit.
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CONTENT WARNING- violent language quoted in tweet. An anonymous aggressor threatened 11 year old environmental activist Francisco Vera via a (now suspended) Twitter account. The individual tweeted a desire to "skin him" and "cut his fingers off". "These threats should help put a spotlight into the serious risks faced by environmental leaders, particularly in remote regions of Colombia,” Juan Pappier, Senior Americas Researcher for Human Rights Watch, said.
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On January 6, 2021, the former head of security for a subsidiary of the Toronto-based mining company Hudbay Minerals officially pled guilty in a Guatemalan court to killing a local Indigenous community leader and paralyzing another Indigenous man. This could have important ramifications for two lawsuits against Hudbay underway in Ontario that centre on the Sept. 27, 2009, killing and maiming of the Indigenous men. Mynor Padilla, the former security chief of CGN, a Guatemalan nickel-mining company that was owned by Canada-based Hudbay between 2008 and 2011, pled guilty to the crimes on Dec. 17, 2020, as part of an agreement struck between Padilla and his victims, among them Angelica Choc, the widow of slain community leader Adolfo Ich Chamán, and German Chub, who was paralyzed. On Wednesday, the court accepted and ratified the guilty pleas.
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Sandra Cuffe in Puerto Barrios

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The year 2020 was the most violent in Colombia since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016, with widespread attacks on social activists, trade unionists and former guerrillas in the peace process. The figures released by the INDEPAZ human rights NGO make for shocking reading. During the calendar year, 309 social activists and human rights defenders were killed (totalling 1,109 since the peace agreement was signed) and 64 FARC former guerrillas were killed (249 in total). There were also 90 massacres which claimed the lives of 375 people. Additionally, state security forces killed at least 78 people.

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