The cry for justice for murdered Honduran environmental leader Berta Caceres will be amplified on Wednesday as international solidarity activists protest outside Honduran embassies in cities around the world to demand a “stop to death, impunity, and injustice” in the Central American country through a global day of action spearheaded by Caceres’ Lenca Indigenous movement.
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Movements of Honduras, or COPINH, which Caceres cofounded over two decades ago to defend Lenca land, natural resources and sovereignty, has called for international support for two key demands to ramp up pressure on Honduran authorities to take urgent action on the human and Indigenous rights crisis.
First, the action calls for an independent, international team of experts — led through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—to “immediately” get involved in the case to ensure a partial and thorough investigation in the name of getting to the bottom of the “vile crime.”
Caceres’ family and movement members have demanded an independent probe since day one, expressing skepticism in the local justice system to carry out a reliable investigation given its track record of corruption, impunity and botched cases. But Honduran authorities have not answered their calls and have instead largely excluded family and colleagues from the process.
Second, the international protests will also demand the “immediate and definitive cancellation” of the Agua Zarca dam project being built without the consent of the local Lenca community in Rio Blanco. Caceres reported dozens of death threats and other harassment in the years prior to her murder, including at the hands of agents allegedly linked to the company behind the dam, the private Honduran energy firm Desarrollos Energeticos SA, better known as DESA.
For COPINH, these demands are key, as they claim that Honduran authorities have so far acted in the name of “assuring that this crime will go unpunished.”
On the day of action, famed Colombian human rights defender, peace activist, and former Senator Piedad Cordoba will accompany Caceres’ family in Honduras.
Meanwhile, COPINH leader Tomas Gomez, who has filled Caceres’ vital role in the organization, will be in Washington, D.C., to join the local rally and pressure Congress to suspend security aid to Honduras to stop being complicit in the country’s systematic and fatal human rights abuses.
Gomez recently told teleSUR that the harassment and threats against COPINH and the Lenca community in Rio Blanco near the site of the contested Agua Zarca dam, have increased since Caceres’ assassination on March 3.
Concessions for hydroelectric projects, mining exploitation, and other corporate projects on Indigenous and campesino land have ramped in the wake of the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup—which then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped secure—along with a severe downward spiral of human rights and increasing violence against activists.
Last year, the human rights organization Global Witness declared Honduras the deadliest country in the world for land and environmental defenders.
Caceres’ murder has become a high-profile symbol of the profound post-coup crisis in Honduras and high levels of government complicity in the repression, criminalization, and murder of anti-neoliberal resistance activists.