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On the fight for human rights and the refugee crisis next door

A woman from the Brazilian Amazon region protests for indigenous rights. Credit Rothko Chapel / Óscar Romero Award. AP
Ana Paula Hernandez

Ana Paula Hernandez

There’s another part of the world where civil strife and violence has fueled a refugee crisis – next door in Central America. Here in the U.S., we generally don’t call them refugees and instead prefer to call them ‘migrants’ … or illegal aliens, or worse.

For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we are talking with Ana Paula Hernandez, with the Fund for Global Human Rights in Mexico. Hernandez was in Seattle this week courtesy of several local philanthropies – the Northwest Global Donors Exchange, Pangea Giving, Channel Foundation and Jolkona – accompanied by two women activists from Honduras, Berta Caceres and Miriam Miranda. For their many decades of bold community activism, Caceres and Miranda received this year’s Oscar Romero Award (named for the Salvadoran Catholic archbishop who was murdered in 1980, likely by right-wing death squads who considered Romero’s social justice teachings subversive).

Honduras is often, for good reason, called the murder capital of the world and the violence is not only coming from criminal gangs but also from hostile government agencies, the military, police or even hired guns brought in to advance the interests of international corporations seeking to displace local communities in order to pursue mining projects or other extractive industries. Both Caceres and Miranda have lost friends and family in their decades of struggle to protect their communities. Humanosphere’s Tom Paulson followed them around earlier this week as they spoke to small gatherings at places like Centro de la Raza and elsewhere. Their stories are astonishing, inspiring and chilling, and we hope to write about them in greater detail in the near future. But for now, here’s more info about Caceres and Miranda.

Since neither Caceres or Miranda speak much English and Paulson’s español no es muy bueno, we asked Hernandez to give us an overview of the fight for human rights in Central America, the efforts by indigenous peoples to preserve their communities against some of the seamier sides of ‘progress and development’ and what we can, and should, do as Americans to support these very difficult, dangerous and much-neglected struggles.

As always, we discuss some of the week’s biggest news including the knee-jerk and irrational calls by some to close our doors to Syrian refugees in response to the Paris terrorist attacks, the energy dilemma of fighting poverty and climate change at the same time and a very short-lived celebration in which Paulson noted Africa was declared Ebola free thanks to the last known case in Guinea (a celebration which lasted about one day as new cases popped up in Liberia … a reminder that, except for smallpox, infectious diseases never really ‘end’).

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About Author

Gabe Spitzer

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago.