Rafto Laureate 2015 Padre Melo and the research team ERIC-SJ visited Bergen this week with Esly Banegas of the rural human rights alliance COPA (Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares del Aguan) in northern Honduras.
The two veteran activists shared moving stories of a life-long struggle for human rights in a society largely run by narco-criminals, exploitative business, and corrupt politicians. The community of activists is motivated by bonds of solidarity created by the dangers they have to endure together, and a living Christian faith rooted in daily life rather than church dogma. They are part of a network built over decades where Church denominations, labor unions, rights organizations, and popular media work together to protect the rights of ordinary citizens and especially vulnerable groups.
The ousting and indictment of former President Juan Orlando Juan Orlando Hernández in late 2021, and his replacement by liberal progressive Xiomara Castro, has raised expectations for Honduras to take more effective measures against the extreme violence, corruption, poverty, abuse of land, and impunity for all sort of crimes in the country. With a weak parliamentary position a corrupt system of administration, and no state monopoly of means of violence, the results are modest so far. Recovery of Agrarian Reform Lands is only partially carried out, and land rights activists suffer brutal violence, eight people being murdered already in 2023.
Melo and Banegas emphasized the importance of international solidarity and the responsibility of international corporations and financial institutions to avoid feeding capital into the Honduran system of criminality and corruption.
The event at Litteraturhuset was co-organized by Rafto Foundation, Norwegian People’s Aid, and LAG Latinamerikagruppen i Bergen.