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Council of Canadians condemns the murder of Berta Cáceres


Cáceres: “We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action.”

The Council of Canadians condemns the murder of Berta Cáceres.

The Guardian reports, “Berta Cáceres, the Honduran indigenous and environmental rights campaigner, has been murdered, barely a week after she was threatened for opposing a hydroelectric project. Her death prompted international outrage at the murderous treatment of campaigners in Honduras, as well as a flood of tributes to a prominent and courageous defender of the natural world. The co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (Copinh) was shot dead by gunmen who entered her home in La Esperanza at around 1am on Thursday. Some reports say there were two killers; others suggest 11.”

Our ally Friends of the Earth-Mexico activist Gustavo Castro Soto was also injured in the attack.

The article adds, “Last year, Cáceres – who is a member of the Lenca indigenous group, the largest in Honduras – was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her opposition to one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, the Agua Zarca cascade of four giant dams in the Gualcarque river basin. The campaign has held up the project, which is being built by local firm DESA with the backing of international engineering and finance companies, and prompted the withdrawal of China’s Sinohydro and the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation.”

In June 2013, the Council of Canadians responded to a call from Friends of the Earth International and signed an open letter demanding the release of Cáceres who had been illegally detained by the army and police while en route to a protest against the proposed Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam.

The Guardian also highlights, “Between 2010 and 2014, 101 campaigners were killed in Honduras, a higher death toll relative to population than anywhere else, according to the study How Many More? by NGO Global Witness. It said a disproportionately high number of them were from indigenous communities who resisted development projects or the encroachment of farms on their territory.”

The Council of Canadians has argued that Canadian investments are contributing to social conflict in Honduras, particularly in the mining, export manufacturing and tourism sectors.

The Canadian government provided technical assistance and support for the General Mining and Hydrocarbons Law, passed in Jan. 2013. Notably, the new mining law lifted a seven-year moratorium on new mining projects and earmarks 2 per cent of the royalties paid by extractive companies for a Security Tax to help fund Honduran state security. The law paves the way for new mining projects which have given rise to increased conflict and militarization of affected communities where mining projects operate. According to the Honduras Documentation Centre, 52 per cent of all conflict in Honduras is rooted in natural resource management.

In Feb. 2014, we joined with other civil society organizations from Canada and Quebec to express our concern that the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement would further undermine human rights and democracy in Honduras. Since the 2009 military coup against democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, violence and repression have reached an all-time high. Along with Cáceres, human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, members of the LGBTQ community, the Garifuna, Indigenous people, union leaders, farmers and journalists are being systematically threatened or killed.

Today, the Council of Canadians signed an open-letter with Common Frontiers, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, the United Church of Canada, the United Steelworkers and others condemning Cáceres’s murder.

The funeral for Cáceres will be held tomorrow.