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/ : UNICEF, 2014.
- Honduran Indigenous Leader Berta Cáceres
Assassinated, Won Goldman Environmental Prize
Statement from SOA Watch:. March 03, 2016
- HONDURAS–At approximately 11:45pm last night, the General
Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her
hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke
down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening
in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. COPINH is
urgently responding to this tragic situation.
Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in
Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous
rights, particularly to land and natural resources.
Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that
swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife
and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El
Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for
Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993,
she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous
Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats
posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their
territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.
Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land
struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks,
violence and repression towards Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and
the communities they support, had escalated. In Rio Blanco on
February 20, 2016, Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the community
of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a
peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the
construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed
Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH’s work
supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta Cáceres had
received countless threats against her life and was granted
precautionary measures by the InterAmerican Commission for Human
Rights. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by
COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.
Since the 2009 military coup, that was carried out by graduates of
the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an
explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that
would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the
country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating
a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To
meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects
around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting
communities. Repression of social movements and targeted
assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world’s highest
murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have
been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces
and impunity is the norm–most murders go unpunished. The
Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran
police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for
the Honduran security forces continues.
- Press Release From COPINH on Berta Cáceres Death. March
Thursday March 3, 2016, La Esperanza Intibucá Honduras
Berta Cáceres, founder and General Coordinator of the Civic
Council of Popular and Indigenous Honduras (COPINH), and Gustavo
Castro Soto, of the organization Otros Mundos AC / Friends of the
Earth Mexico, the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining
(REMA) and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Mining Extractive
Model (M4) were victims of an assault with a firearm that resulted
in the death of Berta and serious injury to Gustavo. The assault
was perpetrated inside the home of our colleague. A group of armed
men entered through the back door forcing the door open, and shot
at both comrades.
The first shots hit Berta, leading to her death. Gustavo Castro
received two bullet wounds, one of which grazed his cheek and the
other, his hand. He fell to the floor feigning his death. Scared by
the situation, Castro left the scene and sought refuge in a secure
place where he notified others about his situation and later
received help from his fellows at COPINH.
Between 7:30 and 8:00 am, the police and the army arrived to check
the crime scene and confirm the death of Berta, as well as several
colleagues, family, and friends who watched on with indignation as
the experts and authorities acted with arrogance.The chief of
investigation approached the scene with an aggressive attitude
provoking a verbal confrontation with the fellows of the
organization. Similarly, while leaving the crime scene, the police
insinuated that the incident was a robbery. Berta’s body was
wrapped in plastic and thrown to the back of a gray van devoid of
any identification pertaining to a public institution; without
respect for the deceased companion, the mourning family, or the
In the course of the morning, Aureliano Molina Villanueva of San
Francisco Lempira, COPINH militant base, arrived at the scene and
was required by the National Preventive Police of La Esperanza
Intibucá to testify. Due to the insistence of the friends
that Villanueva not meet this requirement, he was accompanied by
his father Aureliano Molina and brother-in-law. He was taken to the
police headquarters in town and so far is being held as an alleged
suspect in the murder. When asked what the charges are against him,
the organization was told that there are no stated charges but they
have 24 hours to do an investigation. Berta’s lifeless body
was transferred to the office of La Esperanza’s District
Attorney around 9:00 am, after which it was moved to Siguapeteque
and finally to Tegucigalpa for autopsy. Gustavo decided to wait for
the arrival of the prosecutors for ethnic groups to give his
statement due to a lack of confidence in the judicial institutions
of Hondura. He refused to testify before other bodies. He was not
treated by a doctor until noon. During the course of the afternoon,
the prosecutor for ethnic groups arrived where Gustavo had taken
refuge to make his testimony. Then he was taken to the district
attorney’s office where he remains now.
In spite of the ongoing investigation by the prosecutors in the
area, COPINH demands a clear investigation to be conducted
independently of the Honduran state, doubting its credibility.
Members of COPINH report that they have been threatened since
December by people self described as hired hitmen by the Company
DESA. In the last six months, they confirm that Berta received
threats constantly. These threats escalated in intensity, with
bullets shot at the car, and messages and direct verbal threats
from the army, the police, the mayor Raul Pineda, and the Company
During the morning of the crime, the Ministry of National Security
declared that Berta was given precautionary measures by the Inter -
American Court of Human Rights Commission. However, they claimed
that the director had rejected such protection and that at the time
of the attacks, she was found in a house not registered as her own
and therefore could not be guarded. Thus, the authorities disclaim
their obligation to protect Berta from any attack and blame her for
her own death. At the same time, it is possible that the strategy
of the judicial institutions is to blame the partner Aureliano
Molina Villanueva for committing a crime of passion against Berta,
in addition to fabricating evidence to point to other members of
the COPINH as guilty or accomplices of the crime.
At this time, COPINH is on high alert, fearing for the safety of
Gustavo Castro and the members of the organization who live under
constant harassment for opposing the dispossession of their
territory. This attack is a clear sign of the increasing repression
of people who fight for nature and oppose the transnational
companies that plunder Honduras.
We call for national and international solidarity to continue
taking action to help stop and denounce the aggressive policies of
the state, the privatization strategies of transnational and
systematic violation of the rights of the Lenca people.
We call for peaceful but forceful demonstrations of our autonomy
and self -determination. We continue mobilizing in defense of the
common good of nature.
We reaffirm our struggle for the Gulacarque River!
We reaffirm our commitment to life!
We demand justice!
We demand an end to impunity!
We demand an independent investigation with international judges
We demand the immediate departure of the paramilitary unit
“Los Tigres” from the White River!
We demand to stop training and paramilitary activity supported by
foreign governments throughout the country!
We demand to stop the persecution of those who defend the rights of
indigenous peoples and of the entire society!
We demand the necessary changes in our country!
We demand the respect for life!
- Honduras Urgent Action for August 2013
Brief: COPINH (Honduras) leaders face trumped up charges to break
the back of 140+ day road occupation which has effectively stopped
the installation of a hydro electric dam project on the Sacred
Gualcarque River in Lenca Territory in Rio Blanco, Honduras. Lenca
People: No means No! (Indigenous peoples have an internationally
recognized right to collectively be consulted and approve or deny
proposals for use of their lands, under ILO Convention 169)'
The Agua Zarca Dam and Lenca Communities in Honduras: Transnational
Investment Leads to Violence against and Criminalization of
Indigenous Communities. / : Annie Bird, Co-Director, Rights Action.
October 3, 2013.
- How many
more? : 2014's deadly environment: the killing and
intimidation of environmental and land activists, with a spotlight
on Honduras / : Global Witness, 2015.
Global Witness found cases of killings of environmental and land
defenders in 17 countries in 2014. Central and South America
account for more than three quarters of all deaths with 88 out of
the global total of 116 killed. The rest are mostly from South East
Asia whilst three deaths were recorded in Africa and one in
Brazil is again the worst-affected country with 29 killings
occurring in 2014. Most of these relate to the conflict over the
ownership, control and use of land. Colombia is the second most
dangerous country with 25 killings – more than half whose
victims are indigenous people, struggling to defend their ancestral
lands. The Philippines accounts for 15 deaths in 2014 -
predominantly at the hands of paramilitary groups defending mining
interests - whilst Honduras continues to be the hardest-hit country
per capita with 12 deaths. Many of the killings in Honduras and
other Central America countries are a result of the struggle
against hydropower dams and their impacts on local communities.
- Pueblos indígenas de Honduras. / : Unidad Coordinadora
Pueblos Indígenas en América Latina y el Caribe
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