The programme "Voices of the Earth" is a collaborative space between PBI, journalist Laura Casielles and Carne Cruda, whose objective is to make visible the struggles and resistance in Latin America so that the experiences of human rights defenders are valued and their voices are heard. These three episodes tell different experiences from Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala from the voices of the people that PBI accompanies in the territories.
5 years of "realtive" peace in Colombia
This first episode discusses the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords between the Colombian government and the former FARC guerrilla, which is now a political party. However, according to many human rights defenders, the agreement is nothing more than a formality written on paper, as it does not correspond to the reality of the Colombian people, especially in rural, indigenous and Afro-descendant territories. Violence, assassinations and forced disappearances have not stopped, so the work of human rights defenders continues more than ever.
Human rights defenders and activists in conflict zones are under threat from armed groups that are heirs of right-wing paramilitarism, and their lives continue to be at risk for calling national and international attention to what is happening in the country. PBI continues to accompany many defenders who have played important roles in the peace process, and whose work continues to be fundamental to achieving a different Colombia where human rights are respected.
Honduras is not a country for activists
In the second episode of the programme we are transported to what is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists; Honduras. According to the latest Global Witness report, in 2020 alone, a total of 17 human rights and land rights activists were murdered. However, the nightmare does not end there, thousands of reports have been processed about harassment, threats, disappearances of such activists.
The episode features Juana Esquivel, a land rights activist, and Donny Reyes, an LGBT activist. Juana talks about how criminal reforms in the Honduran government hinder her work, such as the fact that now the crime of trespassing can be updated not only on private property, but also on public property. In other words, you can be charged for demonstrating in the streets of the country. For his part, Donny talks about how he has faced abuses by the armed forces such as imprisonment, criminalisation and even sexual abuse.
The need for reform is undeniable. On 27 January this year, leftist candidate Xiomara Castro took office as constitutional president of the Republic of Honduras. It is therefore necessary to wait and see if this change of paradigm in the positions of power will bring light to the activists who face abuses on a daily basis. In this context, PBI continues to accompany human rights defenders so that their voices are heard and so that they can continue their work in the security they deserve.
Guatemala, the never-ending struggle of indigenous peoples
The fact that indigenous groups are a population whose rights have historically been violated is an undeniable fact, especially in a country like Guatemala, the country featured in the third chapter. Indigenous peoples have a long history of dispossession of their lands, according to Lesbia Artola, coordinator of the Comité Campesino del Altiplano. It is also mentioned that indigenous peoples have suffered displacement, genocide and crimes against humanity caused by colonialism for more than 500 years.
We also meet Virgilio García, displaced by the war and one of the coordinators of the Council of Communities of the southern coast of the country. Virgilio was forced to leave his home and since the 1980s as a result of armed conflicts within the country. Subsequently, a resettlement treaty resulting from the country's signed peace treaties was signed and displaced people were relocated to different parts of the country. However, Virgilio claims that this was a mere formality on paper and that the reality is far from this. No progress has been made with the project and people like Virgilio still cannot get the decent housing they were promised.
PBI accompanies indigenous communities who defend their cultures and rights in the face of multiple violations.