The murder of Honduran activist Berta Cáceres on March 3rd has sent ripples through Latin American policy circles and those who had worked with her on environment, indigenous, or Honduras-specific causes. Within the United Church of Christ, she is remembered for her life's work, while those whom she met are mourning her death.
Berta championed efforts to protect indigenous peoples from the large-scale development projects that are being advanced in Honduras without consultation of communities and without concern for the environment. She organized communities in Honduras and across the world against the unconsented extraction of natural resources and in defense of the Gualcarque River, a sacred site of the Lenca people and an essential water source, against the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam. She was a much-loved leader of the diverse social movements in her country.
We urge a response from the State Department that is not business as usual but a profound change of direction towards improving the abysmal situation of human rights in Honduras. Act now – Add your name to the letter that will be delivered by United Church of Christ advocates to the State Department and Secretary John Kerry.
Dear Secretary Kerry,
We write in shock and deep sorrow regarding the murder of Honduran human rights and environmental defender Berta Cáceres, founder and general secretary of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). We urge a response from the State Department that is not business as usual but a profound change of direction towards improving the abysmal situation of human rights in Honduras.
We urge you to support an independent international investigation led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into Ms. Cáceres’ murder and to urge that the Honduran government invite and fully cooperate with such an investigation. Such an independent investigation is essential given the lack of confidence in the judicial system; reigning impunity, including for cases involving human rights defenders; and the emblematic nature of this case.
We support the call of Senator Patrick Leahy and others for an end to the Agua Zarca dam project, and the protection of the territory that Berta devoted her life to defending. And we urge the State Department to suspend all assistance and training to Honduran security forces, with the exception of investigatory and forensic assistance to the police, so long as the murders of Berta Cáceres and scores of other Honduran activists remain in impunity. The U.S. government must stand with those who are putting their lives on the line for the protection of human rights and the environment in Honduras.
Want to do more? UCC Rev. Deborah Lee was part of a delegation of advocates who met and worked with Berta, and had the honour of attending her funeral in Honduras. You are also invited to add your name to the Statement of Solidarity from the US Faith Delegation to the Funeral of Berta Cáceres.