Two activists scaled an art installation in front of the office of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) information office in Washington D.C. as part of protest calling on the U.S. government agency to cut support with a controversial dam project in Honduras.
USAID is supporting the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River, which was one of the projects opposed by the Lenca people and famed Honduran Indigenous rights defender Berta Caceres, who was recently assassinated, allegedly as a result of her activism.
The two D.C. residents, Jake Dacks and Nico Udu-gama, unfurled banners which read: “USAID stop funding murder in Honduras” and “Berta Caceres, Presente!”
“We stand in solidarity with our dear comrade Berta and the Lenca people and all Hondurans who are valiantly resisting displacement in their territory,” said activist Jake Dacks in a press release.
“If USAID is serious about involving communities in development, they will listen to the Lenca people and stop working the DESA-Agua Zarca hydroelectric project immediately,” he added.
Caceres was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her organizing efforts against the Agua Zarca mine.
In response to community opposition, a major partner in the dam project pulled out in 2013. One of the project's funders, the International Finance Corporation – the World Bank’s private sector lending arm – also pulled out citing human rights concerns.
USAID, however, continues to support the dam project, despite the recent assassination of Caceres and an earlier killing of community activists Tomas Garcia in 2013.
The U.S. government aid agency has been routinely criticized for using its programs to support the U.S. government's foreign policy goals above the needs of communities.
After a 2009 coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya, the post-coup government pursued a development strategy that deliberately set out to court transnational companies to build hydroelectric projects and open mining operations, such as the Agua Zarca dam.