International call to condemn the murder of indigenous leader Berta Cáceres in Honduras

The assassination of Berta Cáceres has galvanised environmental justice and human rights organisations around the world. The ENTITLE collective joins this international condemnation. Read more and sign the petition to show your support, to be used in mobilisations at Honduran embassies and consulates in the coming days, and at next week’s session of the UN Council of Human Rights in Geneva. 

Berta Cáceres, Honduran indigenous human rights and environment activist, on the banks of the Gualcarque River in western Honduras, where she, COPINH and the people of Rio Blanco have maintained a two year struggle to halt construction of the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project. This project poses grave threats to local environment, river and indigenous Lenca people from the region. The river is a source of water, food, medicine and spiritual identity for the Lenca people. Source: goldmanprize.org.

[Para la nota de prensa en castellano, ver aquí.]

Berta Cáceres, indigenous leader and spokesperson for the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras – COPINH) for over 20 years, was murdered on 3 March while she was resting in her home in La Esperanza, Intibucá, about 188 km from Tegucigalpa, by “unknown” gunmen.

Berta Cáceres was a firm defender of small farmers and indigenous peoples’ rights and an inspiring social activist, both at regional and continental level. She fought for social and environmental justice, particularly against mining megaprojects and hydropower plants.

Berta had warned many times about Free Trade Agreements as part of the machinery of impunity of transnational corporations. Berta committed her life to health and the land, against patriarchy and violence. She opposed the political coup of 28th June 2009; COPINH denounced the coup d’état as an instrument of violence serving transnational corporations to exploit resources and to repress the dissent of social movements. Berta also opposed US military bases on Lenca territory.

In April 2015, Berta Cáceres was awarded the Goldman Prize, one of the most prestigious awards for environmental defenders. The Prize highlighted her continuous work in defense of the Lenca territory against the Agua Zarca Hydropower Project, a project driven by the Chinese transnational SINOHYDRO and the Honduran company Desarrollo Energético Sociedad Anónima (DESA). The Lenca people had spent years denouncing  the violation of the human right to water as a source of life and culture by corporations, the military and governmental actors.

Berta Caceres in the Rio Blanco region of western Honduras where she, COPINH (the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) and the people of Rio Blanco have maintained a two year struggle to halt construction on the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric project, that poses grave threats to local environment, river and indigenous Lenca people from the region. She gathered with members of COPINH and Rio Blanco during a meeting remembering community members killed during the two year struggle.
Berta Cáceres with COPINH and Rio Blanco community members honouring colleagues killed during the two year struggle. Honduras’ violent climate is well known to many, but few understand that environmental and human rights activists are its victims. For over a year they withstood multiple eviction attempts and violent attacks from militarised security contractors and the Honduran armed forces, after setting up a road blockade to prevent DESA’s access to the dam site. Source: goldmanprize.org.

Berta Cáceres was a mother of four and was assigned precautionary measures by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). These measures, however, were not enforced by the state. Bertha has been assassinated by a state that protects the interests of local capital and transnational corporations that have ravished the territory. Bertha’s commitment to life, especially of those most in need, was the paradoxical reasoning behind the multiple trials, investigations and threats she faced.

The indigenous leader denounced death threats against her many times, something occurring in a generally violent context. 111 environmental activists in Honduras have been killed between 2002 and 2014, according to the 2014 report “¿Cuántos más?” by the NGO Global Witness. This makes Honduras the country with the highest rate of violence among the 17 countries analysed in the report. It also shows the architecture of impunity and violence of the large scale mining and hydroelectric businesses (among others) in favour of private capital, and of the complicity of governments. According to the Honduras-based organisation ACI-PARTICIPA (Asociación Para la Participación Ciudadana en Honduras) more than 90% of assassinations and abuses in the country remain unpunished.

We firmly demand that the Government of Honduras act:

  • To put an end to impunity and to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into the murder of Berta Cáceres, as well as the murders of all other social and environmental justice activists.
  • To suspend all projects that have been denounced by human rights defenders, among which are the hydropower plant Agua Zarca on Rio Blanco, and the Blue Energy project on Rio Cangel.
  • To put an end to the persecution and criminalisation of human rights defenders and to take all precautionary measures to protect the integrity and safety of its people.

We furthermore demand:

  • That corporations and financial institutions (including Siemens, Voith-Hydro, Dutch FMO and Finnfund) immediately withdraw their support and investments from the Agua Zarca Dam and other projects that have violated human rights, and that have not received the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples, according to ILO Convention 169.

We express our solidarity and extend our condolences to the family and close friends of Berta Cáceres, to the Lenca people, and to the people of Honduras who suffer her irreparable loss.

Finally, we call for an international peoples’ mobilisation and immediate denunciation of Berta Cáceres’ assassination in front of Honduran embassies and consulates all over the world, to express our repudiation of such crimes and our firm demand of justice.

Signatures in support can be sent to campaign@stopcorporateimpunity.org. Mobilizations taking place in your respective cities and countries over the next few days can be posted in this Facebook event.

See also: Urgent call for action to ensure the protection of Gustavo Castro from Mexico, the only witness to the Berta’s murder and a key person to make sure the truth about this horrible crime is revealed. Please sign the letter asking for his protection here.

Berta Caceres stands at the COPINH (the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) offices in La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras where she, COPINH have organized a two year campaign to halt construction on the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric project, that poses grave threats to Rio Blanco regional environment, river and indigenous Lenca people.
Berta Cáceres founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, to fight for their territorial rights and to improve their livelihoods. Source: goldmanprize.org.

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