COVID Update: Honduras

COPEMH – (Honduran Middle School Teachers’ College)
PRICPHMA – (First Professional College of Honduran Teachers)

Central American women teachers held a virtual meeting to learn about how the health crisis is impacting their work, their students and communities. CoDev was asked to join the conversation and today we share with you an update from 2 partners; the Honduran High School Teachers’ College @COPEMH and the First Professional College of Honduran Teachers @PricphmaSeccionalDos.

In Honduras as of April 17, 426 have tested positive for COVID-19, and 41 people have died.1

On March 14, the government declared a state of emergency, prohibited gatherings of over 50 people and established a curfew between 3:00pm and 9:00am.

The current health crisis comes on top of historical debt that the government has with the Honduran people, in terms of basic public services, plus the high levels of corruption that had already been denounce; as in the case of the $21 million CAD that was looted by government authorities from the Honduran Institute of Social Security in 2014.

In some cases, doctors and healthcare workers are being threatened by authorities if they provide information such as the number of confirmed cases that are not “official” or if they don’t have the proper personal protection equipment. In other instances, healthcare workers are being stigmatized by their neighbours due to their contact with vulnerable patients. If that is not enough, we are also on alert for Dengue Fever and the Zika virus.

Teachers received instructions from the Secretary of Education to move towards teaching online and distance learning, but many of the families and communities, even teachers, don’t have access to wifi or the internet. In terms of pre-school education an important element is the socialization of children but under quarantine measures, children don’t socialize with their teachers or classmates. The government is expecting teachers to work from home, but there are no clear instructions on how that will play out. So far, only a national television channel has been established to provide classes through broadcast, without considering the communities who don’t have access to a television or electricity.

In secondary education, teachers are being asked to work with gang members and youth in conflict with the law by including these vulnerable students in the new distance learning through WhatsApp, placing teachers at a greater risk of extortion.

There are many students and communities experiencing hunger and job losses, particularly in the department of Cortes, which is the industrial capital of Honduras. Many sweatshops in the free trade zones have closed. There are workers whose vacation time or vacation pay has been taken away, and although labour lawyers ensure us that this is illegal, it is the owners of big businesses who make the laws in Honduras. In certain locations, communities are blocking traffic to ask for food, and others believe it is better to die from hunger than COVID-19.

The Ministry of Education is also offering new contracts across the country to individuals who are not trained as pre-school teachers or have any education background. There are more than 100 teachers who are not being paid. These are teachers who have worked for more than 20 or 30 years and are being asked to go to the capital to resolve their administrative issues. Many, particularly rural teachers, don’t have the money to make that trip. If they did, they face blockades and heavy military presence in the streets with many reports of abuse of power. Authorities continue to “warn” that thousands will die due to COVID-19, but we are also seeing that they are taking advantage of the health crisis to implement “social cleansing”. Women who defend their territories continue to be killed, like Iris Argentina Alvarez from the department of Choluteca.

The fear of becoming ill, of not being able to circulate freely even during “allowed hours”, the recent increase in basic food costs and the lack of job stability, particularly for those contract and informal workers, is generating a great deal of stress, anxiety, agitation and the disruption of mental health. The majority of pre-school teachers are women. Now more than ever we need to take care of each other, and exercise sorority.

CoDev’s programing with COPEMH and PRICPHMA is centered on developing and expanding Non-Sexist and Inclusive Pedagogy in Honduran high school and pre-school classrooms. This work is supported by @BCTeachersFederation, @ABteachers and @surreyteachers.


COVID Update: Costa Rica

COSTA RICA – SEC (Union of Educational Workers of Costa Rica)

Central American teachers have been checking in with one another through virtual meetings, CoDev was gladly invited to join the discussion and today we bring you a brief report from our Costa Rican partner the Education Workers’ Union @sindicatosec.

In Costa Rica as of April 17, 649 people tested positive for COVID-19, 34 of these are foreigners, 24 people have recovered, and 4 have died.1

On March 16, the government declared a state of emergency, closing public institutions including schools, for an indefinite period of time; suspended work contracts, and issued information on social distancing and hand washing to reduce the risk of infection.

In November 2019 the Executive presented Congress with a Bill called “solidarity contribution”; a tax on wages and pensions, for May, June and July, which help finance a plan to support workers who lost their jobs due to current health crisis.

Mobility and travel restrictions are strict with an increase in fines for vehicles circulating between 10:00pm and 4:00am from $56.00CAD to $245.00CAD. The only exceptions are for cargo transportation, emergency services and media. During Holy Week, only those with assigned plate numbers will be allowed to circulate. In addition, the government created a Medical Centre for COVID-19 patients only.

According to our education partners, the government favours projects from companies both inside and outside the free trade zones in order to add flexibility and reduce working hours. Big businesses and corporations have been pardoned their debt with the National Treasury. It was also announced that the annual wage increase for workers will not happen this year and workers with accumulated vacation will be forced to use it. IN some cases, and others will have to take anticipated vacation time.

The Ministry of Education is offering online teaching training through various platforms beginning at the end of April. SEC and the Women’s Secretariat are demanding the government ensure free WIFI and internet access for students and teachers in order to implement distance learning.

Eighty percent of elementary and secondary teachers are women; many are heads of their households and will have to add these new tasks to their regular unpaid domestic and care work. A health crisis should not lead to another social crisis.

SEC’s Women’s Secretariat’s work to empower women and improve their participation with their union is supported by @BCTearchersFederation.

Further update on actions: As a measure to ensure food security, SEC’s Cooperative, which normally provides school materials for every level of education to teachers and parents, is now also responding to the health emergency by offering up to 50% discount on food hampers and deliveries to all affiliated members and public in general.


CoDev Online Event

Join CoDevelopment Canada

for an online fundraising event

Get your tickets here!

Spotlight on Colombia: Cultures of Resistance

Saturday, November 7, 2020
3-5PM (Pacific Time)

Share in an afternoon of solidarity with our Colombian Partners, featuring presentations
and cultural activities from the Buenaventura Strike Committee and
the Association for Social Research and Action (NOMADESC)

We invite you to listen, learn and ask questions. This is an exceptional opportunity to hear directly from our partners about what is taking place in southwestern Colombia in the midst of the global pandemic.

Individual Tickets: $35

“Tables” of 10: $300

“Tables” of 30: $750

Purchase your tickets now!

CoDev, Cafe Etico & covid-19

Special Message to CoDevelopment Canada’s Supporters, Members and Partners
Regarding Operations During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Dear Friends,

In accordance with the advice of BC’s Public Health officer, CoDevelopment Canada is taking steps to maintain social distancing and reduce opportunities for the Covid-19 virus to spread. At the same time, we recognize the importance of maintaining support for our partners in Latin America who will face huge challenges in the coming months.

As of Monday, March 23, most CoDev staff will work from home. CoDev has set up remote computer connections for all staff and established an online meeting routine that should enable us to conduct most of our business this way. However, the CoDev offices will remain open with skeleton staffing, and orders for Café Etico can still be filled. The general office phone line will still be answered, and all staff will continue to regularly respond to messages sent to their CoDev e-mail addresses.

Office hours will remain 9 AM to 5 PM,

This work routine will remain in place until Tuesday, April 14. Prior to that date, we will reassess the situation and decide on whether to extend it, or adopt a new model.

We hope that these measures will serve to strike a balance between reducing the likelihood of contracting or spreading the virus, while maintaining much-needed solidarity with all our partners in Latin America and their struggle for social justice, human rights and sustainable and equitable development.

We thank you all for your patience and understanding in these challenging times.

Indigenous Guatemalan Activist speaks out about Vancouver Mining Corporation in Guatemala

Demonstration in support of Xinka communities outside the Beatty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia. The museum is named for Panamerican Silver founder Ross Beatty.

By Wendy Santizo, (Education Program Director, CoDevelopment Canada)

Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy is the spokesperson for the Indigenous Xinca Parliament in Guatemala. CoDev had the honour to translate for Luis during two public events to raise awareness on how Xinca communities are engaged in a political and legal fight to protect their ancestral territories from corporate greed.

Since 2007, when Canadian transationals first began to promote the construction of a large silver mine in their traditional territories, Xinca communities have held cultural and educational events to raise awareness of the environmental impact of the extraction of gold, silver, lead and zinc on their land and water. They exchanged experiences with communities affected by the Vancouver-based Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in San Marcos and held protests before government authorities. Once the El Escobal mine was opened, they organized peaceful protest encampments outside the main gates and blocked roads to mining traffic.

Luis explained that based on the 1996 Peace Accords, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 169, and municipal codes, Xinca communities in Jalapa, Jutiapa and Santa Rosa have held numerous community consultations on whether they accept the mining projects, to which over 98% clearly said NO.

The mine was originally developed by Tahoe Resources, a spin-off of Goldcorp, but was purchased in early 2019 by Pan American Silver, a Vancouver-based transnational that has attempted to cultivate an image of environmental responsibility.

Opposition to the mine has been met with repression and violence, including the military occupation of the region in 2013, the wounding of several protesters by Tahoe Resources gunmen, and the assassination of several community environmental activists. Merilyn Topacio Reynoso, Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, Ronal David Barillas Diaz, Angel Estuardo Quevedo and Laura Vasquez are some of the community leaders opposed to the project that have been killed.

Luis, who was injured in April 2013 when Tahoe Resources security guards opened fire on protesters, said that Canadian mining companies in Guatemala violate indigenous rights, negate that indigenous communities even exist in eastern Guatemala, disrespect ceremonial grounds and deny that water has rights.

Xinca communities are demanding respect for the Peace Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous People, strict adherence to ILO Convention 169, respect for the right to protest and respect for their traditional ways for electing representatives.

During his presentation, Luis described the day he witnessed his community come under a shower of tear gas canisters and heavy beatings by national police. That was the day he decided to become a lawyer. Luis urged students at UBC’s Allard School of Law to study hard and graduate, and use all their knowledge and skills to defend indigenous communities in British Columbia who are also opposing extractive projects on their sacred and un-ceded territories.

Luis said that Pan American Silver’s El Escobal mine in southern Guatemala continues to operate despite a 2017 Constitutional Court order to suspend all activity until a process for free, prior, informed consultation of affected communities is conducted.

For more information on Pan American Silver’s El Escobal Mine:

Xinka Parliament: Ministries have failed to execute consultation over Escobal mine