Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016



Disturbing news from Tegucigalpa this week. The famous, internationally awarded activist Berta Cáseres was shot to death in the middle of the night in her home. Her murder surprised no one. She was on the 'Inter-American Commission for Human Rights' list for 'People with Multiple Death Threats.' To protect her, Cáseres was placed under the protection of the Honduran Army. Unfortunately...they were the ones who likely carried out the killing.

Why did this 44 year-old woman have so many haters? Simply put, Berta had the nerve to stand up for her people and their land rights. She appointed herself spokesperson for the 150,000 Lenca indigenous group, who have inhabited Southern Honduras since antiquity. They survived Mayan invasions. They survived the wrath of Spanish conquistador Pedro the Cruel. So the Lenca acted accordingly when in 2006, massive construction equipment suddenly appeared in the Rio Blanco Province.

It turns out the dredging barges were part of a joint venture by Chinese conglomerate SinoHydro and a shady local company named DESA. The latter had 'negotiated' the rights to build hydroelectric dams on the Gualcarque River. International law clearly states that local residents must be included in such decisions, especially when they involve a people's main source of food and water. Berta's protests were effective. Both companies admitted wrongdoing and withdrew from the Lenca region.

In addition to angering private companies, Berta has also gained the ire of the Honduran government. With financial help from the USA, the Honduran Air Force wants to develop sizable tracts of Lenca land as well. Specifically, they want to build an army base and expand an existing naval port. Again, Cáseres organized and won. But the victories come at a staggering cost. Next to her lifeless body was her Goldman Environmental Prize on the bookshelf.

The sad truth is that Honduras...the original Banana Republic...has always been saddled by arrogant political and economic intervention from the USA. Within 50 years of independence from Spain, the United Fruit Company arrived and negotiated lucrative land deals with corrupt presidents. They continue to clear rain forest, plant cash crops then move to a new plot when the soil is exhausted of minerals. Although the company changed its name to Chiquita, they have not changed business practices: In 2007, the company pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting a Colombian terrorist organization.

Remember, there is a lot of death behind the fact that you never pay more than a dollar per pound for bananas. Honduras' rate of 90 murders per 100,000 people is the highest in the world!

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