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Home About Us Equipo Sur Stories of Honduras Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty arrives at Honduran Congress
Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty arrives at Honduran Congress PDF Print E-mail

After 10 days of walking, on Wednesday, March 6th, the Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty Step by Step arrived in the Honduran capital. The walkers had set off from three different locations, joining together on Honduras` principal highway and growing in number as we neared the capital. We had walked through hot days and endured surprisingly cold nights, with many only having a sheet to cover them. Yet the spirits were high and the support along the way was incredible. At the end of a day of walking, we would arrive in a community close to the main road, where the community meeting room, school, health center, or other structure would be opened to the growing number of walkers to sleep in. People brought food, offered to take walkers to their homes to bathe, and shared their musical talents. Watch a video from the walk here.

On the sixth day, the walkers reached the Soto-Cano Military Base, which is home to the US Southern Command´s Joint Task Force Bravo and 500-600 US soldiers. Also known as Palmerola, the military base was the heart of US military operations in Central America during the 80s and is said to be at the center of the current US drug war in Central America. Armed members of the US military were just inside the gates and seemed to be waiting for the walkers to arrive. There were also a number of non-uniformed personnel visibly watching the group as they paused for a protest at the gate of the military base, calling for the US military to get out of Honduras.

As we entered the capital, hundreds more joined the walk, coming from near and far, in groups and as individuals. As the walk wound through Tegucigalpa, the security team expertly guided the ever longer line of walkers through the traffic. Finally, we arrived in front of the National Congress, where speakers from the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MUCA), the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) and others presented the demands of the walk.

The three principal demands were repeal of the new mining law, repeal of model cities, and freedom for campesino leader Chavelo Morales, but these are connected to a whole series of demands related to the rights of communities to land on which to live and support themselves, their right to natural resources and freedom from foreign exploitation and contamination of their resources, and the right to speak out without being criminalized or persecuted.

After sleeping overnight outside the National Congress, the planton continued the next day. Then the walkers prepared for the final journey by foot, from Congress to the Supreme Court to demand freedom for Chavelo Morales, when we learned that the President of the Supreme Court`s Criminal Chamber, which has Chavelo`s case, was willing to meet with a delegation.

Chavelo, a member of the community of Guadalupe Carney in the Bajo Aguan, has been imprisoned since 2008 because, in the words of the Jesuit-run Radio Progreso, ˝because the justice system in Honduras imprisons those who the powerful decide should be prisoner. ˝ A former National Police Commissioner and his family members want the land where Chavelo's community lives and it certainly seems they have had influence on the court decisions against Chavelo so far, given that he was sentenced to 20 years despite there not being real evidence against him. The delegation explained to the Supreme Court representatives how Chavelo was imprisoned for almost 4 years without a sentence in direct violation of the Honduran Penal Process code, that Chavelo and his lawyers weren’t even informed about the sentencing hearing to be able to defend him, the numerous delays of the case, the lack of evidence against Chavelo, and the intimidation and attempts on Chavelo's life even in prison. After listening to the delegation, the Supreme Court representative agreed to schedule a preliminary hearing in the case for the first week of April.

Those who had made the 200 km trek were excited with this step forward as it otherwise probably would have been years before this preliminary hearing, additional years that Chavelo would languish in prison with his health deteriorating. Thanks to all who e-mailed and called the Supreme Court!

There are still much to be done in Chavelo's case and it is important to counteract the influence of money and power with grassroots pressure. Click here to the sign the petition for Chavelo's freedom that will be delivered to the Supreme Court.

 

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