Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A small victory - for now

Tuesday, May 29, more than 600 people closed the international highway between Santa Rosa de Copán and Ocotepeque in the town of La Labor, Ocotepeque. At the same time, a delegation from the area, including the mayor of La Labor, was in Tegucigalpa meeting with members of congress.

This is not the first time that people in the area have taken the highway. A number of years ago the people fought successfully against a threatened mining operation in the area.

The issue is related.

Near the town of La Labor is a National Biological Reserve called Guisayote. It is a major source of water for the region.

A local congressman has proposed changing the status of the area to a National Park. That sounds innocent, especially when advocates are claiming that this will help the area by allowing for ecological tourism or will help them buy more land to protect.

But many local people fear that the change will allow parts of the area to be opened for mining concessions.

And so the people are struggling for their lands and their natural resources.

The highway blockade (toma de carretera, in Spanish) began at 3 am with about 75 people. More arrived as the day progressed; I have heard between 300 and 600 came. All seems to have been peaceful. 

A reporter challenged the 300 or so police who arrived not to use violence against the people, since there were old people and students among the demonstrators. He noted that the wife and children of one of the policemen were among the many who were blocking the highway.

Two diocesan priests accompanied the action.

The blockade was ended when the news came that Congress will not proceed with the law to change the status of Guisayote.

A small victory for the people. Hopefully the politicians will be true to their word, but that is to be seen.

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