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Supporting Movements in Honduras Following the Assassination of Berta Cáceres

April 2016

This month Grassroots International has been able to make several grants to movements in Honduras that are organizing in response to the assassination of Berta Cáceres, an indigenous environmental leader who was killed on March 3. Plus, we’ve added our voice (and thousands more!) to calls for justice for Berta and her community – and several financiers have pulled out of the controversial dam project threatening the Lenca peoples’ sacred and beloved Gualcarque River.

Co-founder and coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Berta was assassinated in her home after long facing threats and even criminalization for her efforts to stand for the rights of Mother Earth. She led COPINH and indigenous Lenca communities in the struggle to protect the Gualcarque River against the Agua Zarca dam project – a project headed by DESA Corporation which would privatize and pollute their river. For years she did this work in the face of ongoing threats of violence and death.

Her death, however, has not killed her movement. As her friends and allies have been saying, “Berta did not die. She multiplied.”

Grassroots International joins people around the world in calling for the Honduran government to allow for an independent investigation into her murder to be conducted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. We also call for international investors to pull out of the Agua Zarca project. In response to international pressure, we celebrate that two companies –  Dutch development bank FMO and Finland’s Finnfund – have already suspended their activities in Honduras.

For years Grassroots International partners the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) and La Vía Campesina Honduras have been close allies to COPINH, understanding clearly that they are all in the same struggle for human rights and the rights of mother earth. As soon as news spread of the assassination, OFRANEH organized a caravan to travel across the country to join with the members of COPINH – to be together in support and solidarity, and to strategize around what the movements need to do going forward.

Despite their amazing strength, indigenous and peasant movements in Honduras are still under great threat. On March 16, just two weeks after Berta’s murder, another leader of COPINH, Nelson García, was also murdered while supporting people who were being forcibly evicted by the government, and on the same day a member of La Vía Campesina Honduras survived an assassination attempt when a gun man tried to shoot him in the head but shot his hand instead.

In recognition of the vital work of COPINH and other grassroots groups in Honduras, Grassroots International recently made emergency grants to these frontline movements:

  • COPINH to cover expenses related with their members’ physical security and legal protection, transportation to meetings, food and lodging.
  • OFRANEH to support massive mobilizations organized by OFRANEH and other indigenous movements on March 17th and 18th. This mobilization took place to demand justice for Berta Cáceres and to call for:
    • The immediate withdrawal of the DESA Corporation from Lenca territory and an end to all concessions for hydroelectric dams, mining projects, extraction of hydrocarbons, and Special Development Regions on indigenous lands
    • Demilitarization of indigenous lands
    • Freedom for Gustavo Castro, the sole witness to Berta’s assassination
    • Immediate passage of the Law for Prior, Free and Informed Consultation, which Berta Cáceres was directly involved in developing
  • The Via Campesina-Honduras to cover expenses related with physical and legal protection, transportation, food and lodging for mobilizing their bases to support the indigenous movements during the mass mobilizations on March 17th and 18th.

Thanks to the generosity of US supporters, we will make additional grants soon to support the work of our partners and allies in Honduras, who are working under such difficult circumstances to defend the human rights to land, water and food.

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