It’s not often that I revisit footage from stories that I’ve shot in the past as I continue to travel and roam this planet of ours trying to learn as much as I can - daily, to keep moving forward while remaining focused on investigating unfolding circumstances and new stories…(with just the bare basics - that fit in my tiny back pack).
A few days ago, however, I learned about the escalation of an appalling situation that is proving to be a relentless, shameful and a heartless attack on human rights and dignity.
A bit of the backstory:
In May last year, I was invited to join a small Canadian delegation of human rights observers and advocates travelling to Honduras, to witness the social uprising following the senseless murder of world-renowned environmental and Indigenous rights activist, Berta Caceres.
(RECOMMENDED READS: Learn more about Berta: http://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/berta-caceres/, and her murder here: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/murder-berta-caceres-part-calculated-plot-report-171031175751919.html, and here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/21/berta-caceres-name-honduran-military-hitlist-former-soldier)
We attended a three-day rally in the heart of Tegucigalpa, observed excruciating sadness and pain, then strength as we joined hundreds of people marching towards heavily armed police and military. We also travelled to meet with Berta’s community and family, and paid our respects in a small rural cemetery where this incredible woman was so needlessly and prematurely laid to rest.
“Berta no murió, se multiplico!” echoed loudly through the stadium, streets, alleys and dirt roads of the capital city and rural areas we visited that week….
Here's a brief video on what I documented from that portion (and what was reported by our delegation upon return to Canada's capital) of our journey:
During that trip, we also received a personal invitation from a small community living in western Honduras. Azacualpa, in La Unión, Copán, is home to a community of villagers living on the top, and around, a mountain being mined by Aura Minerals, a Toronto-based company (http://www.auraminerals.com).
The community has lived along this now scarred mountain range for about 200 years.
Since the arrival of Canadian miners in the region in 1983, a series of deals have been reluctantly brokered, followed by promises broken. From relocation procedures, adequate housing to social benefits, little has come to fruition as planned.
Regardless, this proudly-Canadian company is pushing forward. Salivating now over the potential gold deposits beneath an untouched portion of an already devastated mountain - a ridge, that is not only threatening the safety of the grounds near the community’s homes along the mountain range, but a section of the mountain top that happens to be the exact location of the Azacualpa cemetery.
Members of the international community have joined the community’s efforts to protect, denounce and resist the destruction of this sacred cemetery. Aura Minerals however, continues to act with impunity.
Rights Action, a non-profit organization documenting and working tirelessly to support the community in this struggle, published the following statement a few weeks ago:
“On September 5, 2017, Toronto-based Aura Minerals – supported by the Canadian government, Honduran government and military – began digging up the first of hundreds of cadavers, to entirely empty out this most sacred of places.”
Having seen this latest update only a few days ago…I searched through one of my two travelling external drives, and realized I did in fact have enough to provide you with a glimpse of our experience, as a small group of Canadians and Hondurans travelling to meet with people we were invited to see by its members and community leaders. Simply en route to meet with the Azacualpa community, at no point was anything that we were doing illegal.
In one of the world’s most corrupt and dangerous places for human and environmental rights defenders to be, I hope this video gives you an idea of what this Canadian company, and its “partners” didn’t want us to see.
To learn more about this struggle, I kindly urge you to visit: