Tomás Gómez Membreño, who works for the Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organizations in Honduras, spoke Thursday on the effects of
U.S. involvement in Honduras on indigenous peoples. The S&B spoke with Gomez through an interpreter.
What do you do?
So, I work as part of a community organization among the grassroots within our community; I give workshops. We work in various communities to re-vindicate our identity; since the time of colonization they have wanted us to disappear. First, it was our language, then it was our culture. So we have tried to make change through this process of rescuing our identity.
We are part of a national and continental network and we need to unite our struggles and have international articulation. This is a neoliberal system that we know to be global and that is why we must globalize our struggle in defense of our territory.
We are anti-patriarchy, anti-neoliberalism, and anti-racism. And this neoliberal system is one that exploits and dominates us. We are not only in defense of our natural resources but all of these systems maintain people in submission, and this is how we began to re-vindicate our identities and our rights in defense of natural resources. Anyone who wants to participate can participate.
We take all this up in defense of our natural resources—our water, our forests, our air—that is put at risk by hydroelectric projects, mining concessions, air energy projects. We articulate how education should be in our country, and how the constitution should be in our republic, and we do this based on our cosmovision as indigenous people.
What campaigns have you launched?
As an organization we have launched campaigns against Coca-Cola, against US military bases in Honduras [also Burger King, McDonald’s—“fast-food garbage”—a privatization project called ‘Model Cities’] and Monsanto. Their genetically-modified seeds have affected our native seed varieties: the seeds of our communities. The problems this has generated include damages to our health and our bodies. It is ruining our land and exterminating our product. We have lost our autonomy and all of these chemicals have created ecological damage and sickness among the people. It’s not important to them if people are dying. So, that is why we have mounted these campaigns and invoked Covenant-169, because as indigenous people we should not have the influence of these multi-national corporations dictating the traffic of our products, because it continues to bring damaging health effects, effects to our environment, and threatens our food sovereignty.
This is all a very difficult situation for us. We have received threats. There are friends among us who have been killed because of their opposition to these projects— which have been passed through Congress, which has not wanted to hear our voice. When we have mobilized they have worked to identify people by taking photos and this is a form of intimidation so that people will not continue to defend our forests because they are afraid they will be killed.
We have proposed other policies against these politics of North American imperialism, and if there must be assassinations and if there is blood along the way, that is how it must be. And this has been the case.
How does the United States come into play?
When you look at it you say ‘God, what is happening here?’ The United States is giving aid to the police and the military supposedly to decrease the insecurity and drug trafficking, but what we see is that this is being directed against the people—just so these corporations can have their profit.
These policies lead to violence and crime in our communities. We are trying to create another environment that recognizes our relationships within our universe, which we know is Mother Earth according to our indigenous cosmovision. We aim to harmonize with one another and with our ancestors. This is our spirituality and this is our culture. This is our interest: to help to change our mentalities from violence and criminality amongst one another and countries. The lines that are painted are not real. We are one people, we share this is siblingship and we have common rights; we struggle for the common good in all of our countries. This is the different world we are trying to create that is possible: one with harmony and peace.