Q & A
\"The loggers offer me bullets\"
Por Thelma Mejía
Deforestation claims 80,000 hectares of trees annually in Honduras. The fight to save this resource means confronting death, depredation and destruction, says activist Bertha Oliva in an exclusive conversation with Tierramérica.
Bertha Oliva's life was indelibly marked by the kidnap and disappearance of her husband Tomás Nativí, in June 1981, by government security forces. In 1982 she founded the Committee of Families of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), an organization she still heads today.
But two years ago she took on a new cause: defending the environment. The decision came after two ecologists were assassinated in the northeastern department of Olancho. A fierce battle against deforestation is under way there. An average of 80,000 hectares of Honduran forest disappears each year.
Q - What is the connection that unites the search for those who the government kidnapped and "disappeared" in the 1980s and the fight to defend the environment today?
A - The defense of life and the forest, particularly when they assassinated two ardent defenders of the environment in Olancho, Carlos Luna and Carlos Flores. That marked a new context for me.
Q - What does "life" mean for you?
A - It is everything. Water, forest, air. Life has been given to us to live, to give more of ourselves, not so much to receive.
Q - What do Andrés Tamayo and Osmín Flores -- two Catholic priests about to be expelled from Olancho for organizing the community to defend the forest -- symbolize for Honduras?
A - Two pillars of resistance. Without them Olancho would have run out of breath. From the pulpit they made the residents see that if nature dies there is no life. That is why I support them, even though the loggers offer me bullets because I am preventing their foreign bank accounts from growing.
Q - Loggers, forest and Olancho… What does that sound like?
A - Ahh! It sounds to me like death, depredation and destruction!
Q - COFADEH, which you direct, celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 30. What comes now?
A - We continue our struggle because in a country like Honduras, where we still have an authoritarian culture, the chapter on human rights is not easily closed.
Q - To what do you attribute the success of your radio program: "Voices against oblivion"? Is it the show's protest format? Or the need to preserve memory?
A - It is a mixture of the two, because for us looking to the past is to pay tribute to the future, from the present.
Q - Bertha Oliva - a radical or a dreamer?
A - A woman who is evolutionist and idealist, who wants to continue fighting for change and to defend life in this country.
* Thelma Mejía is a Tierramérica contributor.