PSI condemns the assassination of indigenous leader Berta Cáceres in Honduras

07 March 2016
Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres
Public Services International (PSI) joins other organisations in the task of collecting signatures for petitions to use at demonstrations in front of Honduran consulates and embassies and at the Session of the UN Human Rights Council scheduled for next week in Geneva.

The PSI believes it is clear that Berta Cáceres was a victim of transnational corporate greed to take control of public assets and the alarming increase in the figures for femicide, which is trying to silence women in public and private life.

PUBLIC STATEMENT

4 March 2016, Planet Earth


Berta Cáceres, indigenous leader and representative on the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH) for more than 20 years, was assassinated by "unknown" armed men in the early morning of Thursday 3 March while sleeping at her home in La Esperanza, Intibucá, 188 km from Tegucigalpa.

As well as being a determined defender of the rights of the Honduran peasant and indigenous movements, Berta Cáceres was an outstanding and inspiring activist at the regional and continental level. She fought to promote social and environmental justice and, in particular, resistance to large mining and hydroelectric projects.

As well as clearly identifying free trade treaties as yet another instrument to ensure the impunity of transnational companies, Berta fought for health and for land and against violence and the patriarchal system. She opposed the 28 June 2009 coup, because COPINH believe the coup was a violent initiative to promote the interests of transnational companies interested in plundering public assets and repressing social organisations. In addition, she firmly rejected the installation of United States military bases in Lenca.

In April 2015, Berta Cáceres was awarded the Goldman prize, one of the most prestigious environmental prizes in the world, for her work in defending Lenca territory threatened by the violence and damaging effects of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric construction project led by the Chinese transnational company SINOHYDRO and the Honduran company Desarrollo Energético S.A. (DESA). For years now, the people of Lenca have been denouncing the violation of their right to water as a source of life and culture against harassment by companies, paramilitaries and the government.

Berta Cáceres was the mother of four daughters and was under the protection of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) so the Honduran government should have taken steps to protect her. However, Berta was assassinated by a state that safeguards the interests of local and transnational companies that have been trying to take control of territories and public assets. Her fight to defend the lives of the most disadvantaged people was the reason why legal proceedings were initiated against her on several occasions and why she was persecuted and threatened.

in a context of generalised violence, she repeatedly complained of receiving death threats: 111 environmental activists were killed in Honduras between 2002 and 2014 according to the report "How Many More?" published by the English NGO Global Witness. Out of 17 countries analysed by this report, Honduras was the country with the highest level of violence. This shows the architecture of violence and impunity built by the large mining and hydroelectric companies and others to promote the interests of private capital and their allies in government. According to the Honduran NGO, ACI-PARTICIPA (Association for Citizens Participation in Honduras), more than 90% of cases involving the killing and abuse of human rights defenders in Honduras have not been resolved.

We demand that the Honduran government:

  • Put an end to impunity and investigate the assassination of Berta Cáceres and all her colleagues who have fought for social justice and the environment.
  • Ensure the integrity, freedom and human rights of Gustavo Castro de Soto and Aureliano Molina, Berta Cáceres' partner.
  • Suspend all projects denounced by human rights defenders, including the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project on the River Blanco and the Blue Energy hydroelectric project on the River Cangel.
  • Seek the withdrawal of companies  and institutions involved in the construction or funding of projects where complaints have been made about human rights violations and where no prior consultation occurred, contrary to the requirements of ILO Convention 169.
  • End the persecution and criminalisation of human rights defenders and ensure compliance with interim protection measures.

We express our most profound condolences to the family of Berta Cáceres, to all her comrades in struggle and to the people of Lenca for these horrible events.

We call on citizens to immediately mobilise and protest at the embassies and consulates of  Honduras throughout the world to demonstrate their condemnation of this crime and their demand for justice.

Please send your signatures to the following e-mail address: campaign@stopcorporateimpunity.org

We have also created a Global Campaign Facebook event and we invite you to add your publicity notices for any demonstrations that will be taking place over the next few days.

For more information:

Petition (in Spanish) for the protection of Gustavo Castro, wounded during the assassination of Berta Cáceres

An article published by the Guardian 

Video of the award of the Goldman Environmental prize to Berta Cáceres in 2015

Also see