By: Journalists on Foot (Periodistas de a Pie)
The Caravan will tour more than 5, 000 kilometers from this country (Honduras) to New York. Photo: PieDePágina
Honduras, the largest expeller country of Central American migrants, which has the most violent city in the world and one of the spaces of major citizen struggle and resistance, is the scene of the start of the Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice that will tour 5,000 kilometers, to New York, to demand a debate on the anti-drug policy that has left death, dispossession and misery in this place.
TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS. – It’s Holy Sunday. Dozens of people and human rights defenders are headed to the start of the Caravan for Peace, life and justice, a long walk through America that will seek to debate the policy of the war against drugs, impelled from the United States.
The start of the Caravan, which will tour more than 5,000 kilometers from Honduras ta Nueva York, coincides with the anniversary of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), one of the strongest groups of struggle and resistance in this bruised country.
The road to the starting place, in this Central American capital, is tapestried with the face of Berta Cáceres, an indigenous leader and environmentalist, human rights defender and the founder of Copinh, who was murdered in her home 24 days ago because of her work.
Because of that, this Holy Sunday is very special. Because in the face of Berta, on the anniversary of the Copinh and in the path of the Caravan is symbolized the citizens’ indignation over the violence, but also the resistance of a people that seeks to live in peace.
This long walk through America, which seeks to arrive in New York on April 18, on the eve of the start of the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) –that after 18 years will discuss drug policy again- seeks to open a dialogue between the civil society of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and the US about the war against drugs policy, which has left hundreds of thousands dead, displaced, arrested and disappeared in the region.
Ted Lewis, of the Global Exchange organization, that organized this walk, is confident that the Caravan is an unprecedented opportunity to review and reorient national drug policies and the future of the international framework for the control of drugs at a time in which there is a strong debate in the United States about criminal justice and a recognition of Michelle Alexander’s thesis about the New Jim Crow (legalizing discrimination).
“It is a very important time and in fact we are in contact with the two presidential campaigns to invite them to the final event,” pointed out Lewis, who emphasized that the Caravan also coincides with the start of the Democratic primaries.
Thirty activists from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico also participate, and Sebastián Sabini, a deputy of the Frente Amplio Party of Uruguay, who has come to explain the reasons that led them to legalize the use of marijuana in that country, as an alternative measure for confronting drug trafficking and the consumption of illegal drugs.
“Militarization and repressive apparatuses don’t lead us to a better place. There are countries that are realizing that it doesn’t work,” the deputy Sabini said, who warns that the greatest risk that the [current] policy is extended in the region is narco-politics.
Honduras is a country of 8 million inhabitants and one of the poorest in Latin America. It is the principal expeller of Central American migrants to the United States because the country did not achieve recovering from the economic disaster that Hurricane Mitch left in 1998 or from the political effects of the State coup in June 2009, when Manuel Zelaya was deposed.
“We are starting to see things happen here that have already happened in Mexico,” considered Thelma Mejía, an experienced journalist, referring to the infiltration of narcos and power groups and politicians.
Thelma refers to the case of the Rosenthals. In October 2015, the United States Treasury Department determined that Jaime Rosenthal -founder of the Continental Bank, ex Vice President and one of the most powerful families in Honduras-, his son Yani and his nephew Yankel were “specially designated drug traffickers” according to the Kingpin Law. It was the first time that a bank outside of the United States was classified in this category.
The problem in Honduras is a mix of criminal power, of transgression, of gangs like the Maras and of institutions.
But people in Honduras are fed up and following Berta’s fighting example and that of other human rights leaders, they have provoked the earth to move:
In 2016 the Mission for support against corruption and impunity (MACIH) will start to function and will be installed in the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations. Besides, it will be the commission for watching over the funds of the Alliance for Prosperity, an agreement signed between the United States, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to impel development and stopping migration.
Perhaps because of all that movement –of resistance and violence- the Caravan started in Honduras. In their walk through this Central American country, it will tour La Ceiba, Progreso, San Pedro Sula –the most violent city on the continent—and La Esperanza, where the Lencas resist.
Carlos Sierra, a Honduran, a member of the Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (Ciprodeh) and of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, opined that the Honduras government is obliged to dialogue with groups that it has not wanted to hear: environmentalist leaders, like Berta, the indigenous and migrants.
“The fact that the Caravan starts here, besides making all the problems visible, can favor that the theme includes whether what has been done in the fight against drugs has or has not gone well.”
As part of the launch of the Caravan, the Forum of organizations was held in this capital. Sandra Maribel Sánchez, of Radio Progreso, a space for migrant support, spoke in the Forum.
“If they don’t kill us with a shovel blow, they’ll kill us with hunger,” she said.
She, like the rest of the participants, considers that the war on drugs –the theme of this Caravan- is a State policy, a war that through terror and militarization seeks territorial control to remain communal wealth.
In this forum the idea resounds that anti-drug policies have in their bowels the legalization of dispossessing territory.
“We are the countries to the South (of the United States) who put up the deaths. If we don‘t initiate a discussion about new anti-drug policies no one else is going to do it,” emphasized Sabini, the Uruguayan politician that traveled from further south to share the experience of his country with the rest of America.
Participants of the countries that make up the Caravan are in agreement on something: at some point the war on drugs became a war against people. And here in Honduras, the people are losing.
Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee