by Cultural Survival on March 10, 2016
The international community has been reeling after the gunning down of Indigenous Lenca activist Berta Caceres of Honduras, well known and loved around the world for her dedication and commitment to her community, their lands, and protecting the environment. Last week on March 3th, Berta was assassinated in her home by a death squad, after years of documented threats and harassment by Honduran military and private security of the hydroelectric dam company DESA. Here are six concrete actions you can take to fight back for Berta and multiply the work she was dedicated to.
1) Ask the FMO bank to withdraw investment from the Agua Zarca project.
Berta stood up to corporations and helped delay the construction of the Agua Zarca dam which, if built, would destroy her community’s land and the Gualcarque River in Honduras. The dam was delayed due to protests for so long that investors started pulling from the project. As a result, Berta became a target for corporate spying, intimidation, and ultimately murder, simply because money wasn’t being made. This is why we are calling on the largest remaining investor of the dam, FMO (a Dutch Development bank) to join the Chinese investors Sinohydro and the International Finance Corporation in withdrawing financial support for this project immediately.
2) Call on Authorities to Protect Gustavo Castro Soto, murder witness and assassination target.
Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican human rights defender, environmental activist and long-time ally of Berta and COPINH, was also shot during the attack. Gustavo is the sole witness of the murder, and is currently being held against his will by Honduran authorities. In a note to some friends on March 6, Gustavo wrote, “The death squads know that they did not kill me, and I am certain that they want to accomplish their task.” Take action to ensure his safety by calling on Honduran, Mexican and embassy authorities demanding security for Gustavo, and to halt the criminalization against COPINH.
3) Call on the U.S. Department of State to take concrete steps
Berta was a vocal opponent of US backed 2009 presidential coup in Honduras. 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. She also opposed continuing US military bases on Lenca territory. The United States played has played a major role in legitimizing the 2009 coup and funding the right wing military government that has formed since. In 2011 Washington authorized $1.3 billion for U.S. military electronics in Honduras, and U.S. military expenditures for Honduras have gone up every year since 2009. Yet in the years since the coup, human rights violations in Honduras have increased at an alarming rate: roughly 150 environmental and human rights defenders have been killed. Berta was a strong opponent of US military presence in Honduras. The Department of State and the US ambassador to Honduras have issued statements of condolences to Berta Caceres family and condemning her death, but stop short of describing concrete steps being taken to address the underlying issues prompting her assassination.
Write to the US state department demanding the following:
Pressure Honduran authorities to ensure the security and prompt release of Gustavo Castro.
Support COPINH’s demands that the Honduran state sign an agreement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to send independent experts to conduct a clean, impartial, and transparent investigation.
Ensure that no US aid goes to military units repressing the Lenca people of Rio Blanco and encourage the Honduran government to withdraw the military from the zone.
4) Ask Congress to Suspend Funding for the Alliance for Prosperity
Berta was a vocal opponent against the Alliance for Prosperity, a plan for US funding to Central America was recently approved by US congress to provide $750 million in military financing and training million to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as to facilitate investment in extractive industries, including a massive gas pipeline from Mexico to Central America. But preconditions for percent of the total funds mean that countries will have to prove they are working to reduce migration and human trafficking, combat government corruption, and decrease poverty—just some items among a considerable list. The U.S. State Department and Agency for International Development, which are jointly in charge of administrating the money, will have to report to Congress by September 30 2016 on whether sufficient progress has been made, and if not, funding can be suspended.
5) Keep the pressure on through social media.
Tweet US and Honduran officials:
6) Spread the word
Share this list with family, friends, and networks, as well as the following statements from Berta’s family and colleagues:
Statement from the daughters, son, and mother of Berta Cáceres
Urgent denunciation by COPINH
2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140