Berta Cáceres: Indigenous leader one more victim of US-approved coup in Honduras

The Alliance for Global Justice is outraged that almost seven years after the Obama White House and Clinton State Department supported a military coup in Honduras to oust its democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, Hondurans continue to be killed for political reasons. This time it is our friend and indefatigable indigenous rights and environmental activist, Berta Caceres. Today, March 4, would have been her 45th birthday.

Berta was the founder and General Coordinator of COPINH, the Lenca indigenous rights and environmental organization that has fought bravely against the coup-spawned governments and transnational corporate land grabs in indigenous territories for mine, dam, and tourist projects. The government response has been to attempt to criminalize COPINH and its leaders. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued “protective orders” to the government of Honduras to protect Berta’s life in the face of numerous death threats. The current de facto government of Juan Orlando Hernandez ignored the protective orders and in the wee hours of March 3, 2016, at least two armed men broke into her home and shot her dead. Now the Honduran government may be attempting to frame another COPINH leader in the murder.

This Alert includes:

  • A statement by the Honduras Solidarity Network about the murder. Alliance for Global Justice is a charter founding member of the HSN.
  • Two important action alerts which we urge you to sign and circulate: 1) A Witness for Peace Action Alert calling on US to stop all aid and and 2) An urgent action alert for Gustavo Castro, still in danger!
  • An announcement of an AfGJ human rights delegation in June which will visit the community where Berta was murdered.


Honduras Solidarity Network On the Assassination of Berta Cáceres:

With indignation and sadness, the organizations that form the Honduras Solidarity Network of North America denounce the assassination of Berta Caceres, leader of the indigenous Lenca organization COPINH and a tireless fighter for social justice and for the defense of the environment and indigenous territories. Recognized around the globe for her leadership and spirit in 2015 she received the world’s leading environmental award the Goldman Environmental Prize. Many of our members knew Berta and have witnessed first hand her courage and integrity. We join the multitude of voices in Honduras and the world raised against this outrage.

Berta became an activist when she was still a teenager and continued even in the face of violence from the government and oligarchy, arrests and threats. After the 2009 coup, Berta and COPINH took up an important role in the resistance movement despite the unleashing of a ferocious repression against that resistance and the peoples’ movement in Honduras and against leaders like Berta.

After the coup, attacks on the indigenous and campesino communities in Honduras escalated as land grabbing by the government, the oligarchy and international mining and hydroelectric companies increased. Berta and COPINH are in the forefront of the struggle of the indigenous people for their land and a number of COPINH members have been assassinated and others arrested and threatened during this struggle.

Over the past few weeks, repression and threats escalated. On February 20th, Berta and other members of COPINH and the community of Rio Blanco were physically threatened by police and military trying to stop a peaceful activity in defense of the Gualcarque River which is threatened by a hydroelectric project of the Honduran company DESA with international financing. On February 25th another Lenca community supported by COPINH was violently evicted from their land.

We strongly support human rights defenders in Honduras and internationally in demanding that there be a serious and complete, independent international investigation of Berta’s murder so that all those involved are identified and brought to justice rapidly. We reject any attempt to criminalize the leaders and members of COPINH. Berta was a recipient of an order for protective measures by the Inter-American Human Rights Court due to the constant threats and harassment against her and we are concerned and angered to hear pronouncements by Julian Pacheco, Minister of Security at a press conference this morning that can only be seen as an attempt to sidestep responsibility for her security and to blame the victim of this political crime.

We have read the communique of condolences issued by the US Embassy in Honduras earlier today and can only say that, “actions speak louder than words”. The US government has been and is the main economic and political support for the governments in power since the 2009 coup, including the current government of Juan Orlando Hernandez. The US government bears its own responsibility for the militarization and downward spiral in all spheres of life in Honduras, and for the grave human rights situation. We reiterate the demand that US aid and training to the Honduran security and military apparatus be stopped immediately because it, in action, supports human rights violations such as the murder of Berta Caceres.

We express our most profound condolences to Berta Caceres’ family, her organization, her community, and the Honduran people and their organizations in struggle as well as our own determination to redouble our solidarity.

March 3, 2016

The Honduras Solidarity Network of North America
The HSN is made up of more than 30 organizations in Canada and the United States.

WfP Action Alert: Sign and Circulate:

Tell the State Department: We Demand Justice for Berta

Click here to send this letter to US Ambassador to Honduras, James Nealon

Dear Ambassador Nealon:

With great grief over the brutal assassination of Lenca leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), Berta Cáceres, we write to urge you to use your diplomatic resources to (1) support an international investigation into the murder and (2) end the U.S. involvement in one of the struggles Berta and her organization led — the Agua Zarca dam being built by Honduran company DESA in Río Blanco, Honduras.

Tragically, this is not the first death in the indigenous struggle against the Agua Zarca dam. In July of 2013, Indigenous leader Tomás García was killed at the gates of the construction site by a member of the First Battalion of Engineers, a unit commanded by School of the Americas graduate, Col. Milton Amaya.

Maycol Ariel Rodríguez García, a 15 year-old who was part of COPINH and involved in a land recuperation process, was found dead with visible physical wounds and injuries on Oct 29, 2014. His death was made to look like an accidental drowning.

DESA’s Agua Zarca project has been mired in human rights abuses including but not limited to the violation of the right to free, prior and informed consent from which other human rights abuses have precipitated. In attempts to impose the dam against the will of the Lenca people, DESA – in collaboration with the Honduran government and hired private security forces and in direct support of the U.S. government – has used death threats, intimidation, violence, militarization, police harassment, arbitrary house searches, and even murder (as above mentioned). In response to the Lenca opposition to the dam, the Honduran police and then the Honduran military were deployed to Rio Blanco, with the military living and operating out of DESA’s installations.

DESA has contributed to the heavy militarization and environment of impunity in Rio Blanco; hiring private security guards and, according to COPINH, even paying the bail for the murderer of Tomás García’s (who has yet to serve a single day in prison). DESA’s media campaign strategy as part of a larger criminalization campaign against COPINH also led by the Honduran military, labeling the organization as violent and even blaming them for Tomás García’s murder.

The U.S. is funding the specialized military unit Los TIGRES, a military unit that focuses on counter narcotics and criminal gang activity, that has been present in Rio Blanco protecting the interests of the private company, DESA. Moreover, the U.S. Agency for International Development has partnered with DESA’s Social Investment Programming to essentially buy consent of affected communities through charitable projects. We demand an end to the U.S. government’s financial and material support of DESA through USAID’s MERCADO project.

We demand a full, transparent and immediate international investigation into Berta Cáceres’ murder. We also ask you to fully investigate Los TIGRES that are receiving U.S. government material or financial support, as well as all other U.S.-funded units operating in Rio Blanco, to determine if they are or have committed human rights abuses in Rio Blanco.

Urgent Action: We urge immediate protection for Gustavo Castro, injured during the assassination of Berta Cáceres

Our friend and colleague Gustavo Castro Soto was injured during the attack. Gustavo is Mexican and a member of the organization Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth-Mexico, the Mexican Network of Mining-Affected Peoples and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model (M4). Gustavo survived the attack and has become a key actor in the investigation into the murder of our friend Berta.

Berta and Gustavo are two people known for their role in international social and environmental struggles, evidence of their dedication to defending the rights of Indigenous and campesino peoples, who have accompanied processes of organized and peaceful resistance to prevent territories within Mesoamerica from being appropriated by regional governments at the service of the neoliberal project being implemented through extractivist projects, considered projects of death.

In the context of the terrible assassination of the much loved Berta Cáceres, we call on the government of Honduras to pay immediate attention, to intervene, and to follow up on this devastating moment for the Honduran people. We also call for all legal and political measures possible to guarantee the immediate protection of our friend and colleague Gustavo Castro so that, once he has given his testimony to the Honduran state, he can safely return to Mexico.

Right now, it is fundamentally important to guarantee the life of our colleague Gustavo Castro given the risk he faces a key witness to this horrible assassination.

The security of all of the members of the Coordinating Group of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) must also be guaranteed.

Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model
Mexican Network of Mining-Affected Peoples
Otros Mundos Chiapas


Take Action
1. Make a phone call! Contact the numbers below asking that Gustavo Castro Soto be released and guaranteed a safe return to Mexico.

Honduras Embassy in US
Jorge Alberto Milla Reyes
1014 M Street, NW Washington, DC 20001.
Telephone: 202.506.4995, 202.450.3146
Fax: 202.525.4004

US Embassy in Honduras
Ambassador James D. Nelson
Embajada de los Estados Unidos de América Avenida La Paz, Tegucigalpa M.D.C., Honduras
Telephone: 011 (504) 2238-5114, 2236-9320
Fax Number: 011 (504) 2236-9037

**Emergency Services: Email: with EMERGENCY + (brief description) in the subject line. Please note that this mailbox is monitored during working hours only. For after-hours emergency assistance, please call our hotline at (504) 2238-5114 [then dial 4100]. During business hours, please call: Phone: (504)2238-5114 ext: 4400

Honduras Embassy in Canada
151 Slater Street, Suite 805-A, Ottawa ON KIP 5H3, Canada
Telephone: (613) 233.8900, +1.613.233.8900
Fax: (613) 232.0193, +1.613.232.0193

Honduras Embassy in Mexico
Calle Alfonso Reyes #220, Cuauhtémoc, Condesa, 06170 Ciudad de México, D.F., México
Telephone:+52 55 5211 5250

2. Sign and share the petition


AfGJ delegation to Honduras: Human Rights Accompaniment for Communities in Struggle, June 27-July 6, 2016

Alliance for Global Justice will be leading a human rights delegation to accompany COPINH and the other Lenca indigenous communities that Berta struggled alongside. After a few months when furor dies down, the forces of repression will again feel free to operate. That is the time international delegations will be most important. The AfGJ delegation will be in Honduras to accompany the indigenous and campesino struggles to protect their lands, rivers and lives. We will elevate the demands coming from the grassroots and bring this information back to the US government.

The delegation will also visit other communities that face the similar repression and human rights violations as they struggle to protect their land from extractive industries, tourism mega-projects, and agribusiness expansion.

At this critical time when the Honduran government and oligarchy, aided by international financial institutions, and US government, military and “development” aid, continue their repression, political persecution and human rights abuses unabated, international accompaniment is vital. This is an opportunity to use our North American privilege to do something positive. These delegations do save lives.

June 27-July 6, cost $1100. Email to request an application or for more details.