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Honduras: Environmentalists urge government to adhere to the Escazú Agreement

Radio Progreso

Sept 10 2022


Given the reality that Honduras is experiencing, one of the most dangerous countries in the world to defend human rights, land, water and forest, the communities and territorial organizations demand that the Xiomara Castro government adhere to the Escazú Agreement, considered the most important pact in terms of environment that guarantees rights to human rights defenders.

Honduras did not sign or ratify the Escazú Agreement, despite the fact that it was one of the countries that actively participated in its negotiation in 2018. On April 22, 2021, on International Mother Earth Day, the Escazú Agreement entered into in force. Currently 24 countries have signed it and 13 have ratified it. Honduras is still in time to join.

The communities and organizations that make up the Honduran Network for Escazú call on the authorities to make history, and for Honduras to become one of the countries that truly bets on the protection of natural resources and life.

“We ask to move from discourse to practice,” Reynaldo Domínguez, the community leader of Guapinol in Tocoa, Colón, who has been criminalized for opposing mining exploitation in the Carlos Escaleras National Park, told Radio Progreso.

Reynaldo, together with other colleagues, participated in the international forum "Honduras for Escazú, advancing towards environmental justice", organized by the Network for Escazú with the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights OHCHR and the European Union in Honduras.

The environmentalist believes that officials should stop talking nice and commit to action, in tune with the demands of the communities affected by mining and hydroelectric plants.

Reynaldo is concerned that the Guapinol case, which was a campaign promise by the president, remains unresolved despite the fact that all the elements exist to cancel the mining concession that is in the hands of businessman Lenir Pérez, who continues to cause damage irreversible to the San Pedro Rive

According to the Vice Chancellor of the Republic Gerardo Torres, the Escazú agreement is on the desk of the Foreign Ministry and the President, ready to send to the National Congress, however, they are waiting to finalize the consultations with public institutions and private companies.

“Like any treaty, it must be consulted with the institutions involved with it. In addition, the agreement obliges us to consult with private companies, which began two months ago,” he said, without specifying when the country will be ready to join the agreement 

Escazú represents a legal instrument that provides States with sufficient tools to defend human rights in the face of the great challenges of the extractive model and climate change

The president of the Constitutional Affairs Commission of the National Congress, deputy Ramón Enrique Barrios, said during his participation in the forum that it is not enough to sign the agreement, it is necessary to make significant reforms to the current Penal Code that criminalizes the environmental struggle.

The deputy assured that they are also reviewing some mining concessions that were granted during the government of Juan Orlando Hernández, in national parks exceeding the established limits, as is the case of Guapinol. The congressman believes that in the coming weeks they could advance to repeal these concessions and make the reforms that the Penal Code and other environmental laws need.

For the environmentalist Cristopher Castillo, representative of the Honduran Network for Escazú, the discourse of the current authorities is contrary to the actions they have in the communities that demand the cancellation of extractive projects, as is the case of the Minister of My Environment Lucky Medina.

Cristopher, along with other residents of the south of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, have mobilized to demand a stop to the contamination of the Choluteca River caused by the operation of the poultry company "El Cortijo". They have been victims of aggression, threats and a criminalization process.

In an interview with Radio Progreso, Castillo said that they have visited the facilities of Mi Ambiente so that the environmental authorities put a stop to the discharges of waste that the poultry farm continues to carry out without any sanction.

However, the response of the current environment minister has not been consistent with the president's speech, and far from having real rapprochements with the communities, he avoids attending to them every time the population protests.

The communities that participated in the international forum Honduras for Escazú concluded that the government of Xiomara Castro has the historic opportunity to vindicate itself with the population that defends life, water and territories. It has the opportunity to fulfill its promise to guarantee a sustainable society with environmental justice, which involves adhering to the Escazú Agreement, and declaring the national territory free of mining.