Kevin Ramírez is an environmental activist from the community of El Listón, Santa Barbara, the region of Honduras with the most hydroelectric and mining concessions.
Honduras is resource-rich and contains abundant supplies of iron, timber, gold, silver, and hydropower. Over the last few years the government has been pursuing a model of development based on the sale of land to foreign entities for extractive, hydroelectric and agribusiness projects.
In 2013, work began to build hydroelectric dams in the area. Use of explosives has created major environmental problems, polluting local water supplies and killing thousands of fish and other animals. The project has resulted in the privatisation of the water supply of over 15 different communities. Kevin funds ASODEBICOQ, an organisation that helps communities to self-organise and know their rights in the context of exploitative development. Since then, Kevin has received many death threats and his wife and fellow community leader Dirsa has been attacked with a knife to her throat. Kevin and Dirsa have recieved protection measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and have had to flee the area several times. Not one of the threats or attacks against them have been investigated. In fact, the mayor’s office continues to harass them and has even put a ransom on their heads.
Unfortunately this situation is shared by many Honduran environmental defenders, many of whom have faced criminal charges as a result of speaking out. The crime of sedition – the incitement of resistance against lawful authority – is being increasingly used to criminalise protesters. Arrests under this charge lead to immediate detention with no presumption of innocence. In most cases it can take years to prove innocence, by which time it is usually too late and the territory already invaded.
Kevin, Dirsa and countless other community leaders are acutely aware of the risks of the ongoing fight to defend their land, water supplies and common resources. But they continue to fight undeterred for the rights of people to their own land and a clean environment.