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Environmental Human Rights: News & Updates
April 18, 2020
How can you wash your hands with no access to clean water? You can’t. After decades of right-wing attacks on essential public services, like health care and water, many people in El Salvador do not have the access they need to protect their health in this critical time, much less easily carry on daily cooking and cleaning tasks. Join our friends at CRLN for an online conversation with water defense activist and national labor union leader Marielos de Leon to learn how organizers in El Salvador are advancing the struggle for water rights for all–-and the important role that international solidarity can play today.
RRN Case Update
April 1, 2020
January, February, and March RRN case summaries at a glance
On behalf of our 190 Rapid Response Network members, IRTF volunteers write and send six letters each month to government officials in southern Mexico, Colombia, and Central America (with copies to officials in the US). Who is being targeted? indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders, labor organizers, LGBTI rights defenders, women’s rights defenders, journalists, environmental defenders, and others. By signing our names to these crucial letters, human rights crimes are brought to light, perpetrators are brought to justice and lives are spared. Our solidarity is more important than ever. Together, our voices do make a difference.
March 27, 2020
IRTF full-time volunteer Quin Galvin participated in a recent Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective to Colombia to learn from social leaders in the movement for environmental justice. This delegation brought about the realization that our work as environmental actors goes beyond the individual-actions approach that dominates our understanding of "how to be environmentally conscious," and how participating in collective work towards environmental justice is the only way towards collective liberation. Traducción en Español aqui también.
March 24, 2020
“It looked like a war,” said one eyewitness as 1,000 National Police and Military Police violently dispersed a peaceful 88-day encampment of water protectors in October 2018. Eight injured, one killed. One year later, seven Guapinol River defenders were imprisoned and, in March 2020, still sit in pre-trial detention. What’s going on? A large-scale open-pit iron oxide mine threatens their water source and way of life in the Aguan Valley near the Atlantic Coast of Honduras. Carlos Leonel George, an ex-prisoner incarcerated for resisting the mine, says that violence will escalate if the company continues with the open-pit mine because “…without that water they won’t have a way to live. It’s not a joke for them. It’s about survival.” Juana Zúniga, a leader in the Guapinol community and wife of political prisoner José Abelino Cedillo, explains why residents have organized their resistance: “We fight so we don’t have to emigrate from our country. If we cease to fight against the mining company, there are 3,500 people who would have to leave the community.” Reinaldo Dominguez, ex-political prisoner and community activist, looks out over the construction site in the distance and tells the reporter, “We live in fear every day.” #FreedomForGuapinol
Skeletons in the Closets of World Bank & Inter-American Development Bank: March 13, 2020 marks 38th anniversary of Chixoy dam/Rio Negro massacres in Guatemala
March 13, 2020
The Chixoy dam was a very profitable investment project of the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in partnership with the U.S.-backed genocidal regimes of Generals Lucas García and Ríos Montt. To clear the way, over 30 Mayan communities were forcibly evicted up and down the river. The village of Río Negro was hit the hardest. The Guatemalan government killed more than 444 villagers over the course of five large-scale massacres in 1981 and 1982. (March 13 is the 20th anniversary of the massacre of 177 Maya Achi children and women.) Since 1994, the Rio Negro survivors have courageously pressured Guatemala’s corrupted legal system to put on trial, find guilty, and send to jail nine former Civil Defense Patrollers (PAC) and military commissioners, mainly from the neighboring village of Xococ. But these were merely the “material authors.” The “intellectual authors” have never been investigated or charged. Not one single military officer in the chain of command, who ordered and carried out the Chixoy dam massacres, was captured, tried and sentenced. Not one official or program officer from the World Bank and IDB was subjected to any investigation into the role of these “development” banks in partnering with the U.S.-backed genocidal regimes of Guatemala (1975-83) in planning and carrying out all aspects of the project. On October 20, 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights did find the Guatemalan government responsible for the Rio Negro/ Chixoy dam massacres and ordered the government to legally investigate the massacres and compensate surviving families. On November 8, 2014, then president and former army general Otto Perez Molina (now in jail on corruption charges) formally apologized on behalf of the government for the human rights violations and sufferings caused by the Chixoy dam project, and signed into law Decree #378-2014, “the Public Policy of Reparations for Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy hydro-electric dam project.” Thirty-eight years later, a measure of reparations has been paid to some of the Chixoy dam victims. But no justice has been done for the roles and responsibilities of the “intellectual authors” in the Guatemalan government, World Bank and IDB that promoted, designed, implemented and profited financially from the project. Pointing out the impunity and corruption of the authors and profiteers of the Chixoy dam crimes highlights the enormity of this global human problem. Across the planet today, governments, “development” banks, corporations and investors push ahead with “resource development projects,” violently displacing populations and destroying habitats, violating a wide range of individual and collective rights, and ravaging Mother Earth.
March 3, 2020
The Green New Deal (GND) calls for retrofitting our buildings to be energy efficient, a smart grid, electric cars, public transportation and more. How will the GND affect fossil fuel workers? Poverty wage workers? The Unemployed? Free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30pm for light refreshments and tabling information from area environmental groups.
March 3, 2020
Today is the 4-year anniversary of the indigenous land defender and feminist leader, Berta Cáceres brutal assassination. Berta was the co-founder of COPINH and was murdered for her brave fight in defense of the indigenous and sacred territories of the Lenca People in Honduras. Before her assassination Berta and COPINH fought against the construction of the Agua Zarca Project, a damaging dam of the Energetic Development Company (DESA). In early 2020, the Berta Cáceres Cause Observation Mission presented a new follow-up report on the year-and-a-half judicial process that culminated in December 2019 with the sentencing. This report emphasized that “[j]ustice in the Berta Cáceres case will not be fully realized until responsibility is established for the intellectual authorship of the facts of the case and for the various actions of delay and obstruction of the investigation and judgment.”
February 27, 2020
Around the country, the health and well-being of communities, and their children in particular, are threatened by corporations that pump toxic chemicals into the air. In this webinar, we will feature leaders from grassroots organizations in these fenceline communities as we learn what faith communities can do
February 27, 2020
A report today released by the United Church of Christ identifies the nation’s “Toxic 100” super polluters, naming the factories and facilities responsible for nearly half the toxic air emissions in hundreds of neighborhoods across 28 states. 98 of the Toxic 100 are within a mile of potentially vulnerable populations where lives are already defined by jeopardies and injustices. The industrialized southeast coast of Lake Erie in Ohio/Pennsylvania is home to 185 facilities, and four of those are among the Toxic 100. One of them is just 3 miles from our UCC national office in Cleveland.
February 23, 2020
Indigenous rights defender Julio Gómez Lucas is currently facing false criminal charges of incitement to commit crimes, participation in illegal gatherings of armed persons, protests, assault and attempted murder. The criminalization of environmental and indigenous defenders in Guatemala must end. Julio Gómez Lucas, a leader of the Maya Chuj community of San Mateo Ixtatán, is a member of the Peaceful Resistance of the Microregion of Ixquisis, an organization of indigenous communities formed in response to human rights violations committed by a hydroelectric company. He and his family members have previously been kidnapped and tortured because of his work in defense of land, water, and indigenous rights.